We’ve all been there.
A brand new game comes out with state-of-the-art
graphics, a compelling single-player campaign,
and competitive multiplayer.
Then, you check the specs: the game is great,
but your computer isn’t powerful enough to
There are plenty of great games out there
that’ll run just fine on almost any machine,
your underpowered PC included.
“I’ve given her all she’s got, Captain!
If I push her any more, the whole thing will
It may not have the detailed 3D environments
of modern day Harvest Moon games, but Stardew
Valley doesn’t need them.
Developed entirely by one person, Stardew
Valley is stuffed full of content rendered
in simple but lovely 16-bit-style graphics.
Developing the game in 3D probably would’ve
been impossible, but the game’s pixel art
was easier to produce.
That meant developer Eric Barone could devote
more time to the things that make the experience
extra-special, like the nuanced farming system,
the delightful characters, and the world’s
many, many mysteries.
The presentation might be simple, but Stardew
Valley is a sprawling and complex world any
computer can run.
A cyberpunk espionage story, Jazzpunk stars
secret agent Polyblank who works for a top-secret
His missions are absurd and nonsensical, including
stealing a cowboy’s mechanical kidney, smuggling
pigeons, and facing off against Jazzpunk’s
big bad in a high-stakes mini-golf match.
The game barrages players with non-sequiturs,
subtle pop culture references, and a healthy
dose of absurdist humor.
The developers carefully honed and tweaked
each joke in order to wring out the maximum
number of laughs.
As a result Jazzpunk is hilarious, and its
low-budget, anything-goes vibe has a lot to
do with that.
In 80 Days, a whimsical take on Jules Verne’s
classic novel, players must navigate a journey
around the globe as quickly and cheaply as
Every stop along the way has its own characters
to meet and mysteries to unravel, and it’s
easy to get distracted and completely blow
80 Days’ developers estimated that players
would only discover about three percent of
the game’s content during a single playthrough.
Thankfully, replaying the adventure is a pleasure,
not a chore.
Not only does the game have many adventures
to discover, but the 750,000 word script sings.
After all, there’s a reason why the Telegraph
named 80 Days one of the best novels of 2014,
and why it won the Writers’ Guild of Great
Britain’s video game award that same year.
“I can’t deny the fact that you like me.
Right now, you like me.”
The artwork might be lo-fi, but Owlboy is
simply gorgeous, and almost entirely handmade—there
aren’t any post-processing effects propping
While the game’s developers toiled away
during the game’s nine-year development period,
critics and players alike salivated over the
tantalizing, colorful screenshots, dreaming
of the day when they could finally take Owlboy
to the skies.
During the game, Owlboy never speaks, but
his expressive and smooth animations tell
players everything they need to know about
the game’s mute hero.
Plus, the complex background art reveals subtle
clues regarding Owlboy’s past, at least if
you’re paying attention.
“Will, what are you doing?”
“Looking for the hidden picture.”
“If you stare at these things long enough,
you’re supposed to see some kinda hidden,
Craving a decidedly old school game?
Sonic Mania is for you.
It doesn’t have the visual panache of its
modern counterpart, Sonic Forces, and you
won’t find extra features like a custom character
creator or a meme-inspired t-shirt; What you
will get, however, is a creative, speedy platformer
that recalls Sonic’s earliest days, when his
supporting cast was still small and his world
was still two dimensional.
Like Sonic’s original Genesis outings, Sonic
Mania doesn’t need a supercomputer to run.
Yet the game is still full of pits to leap
over, traps to avoid, rings to collect, and
obstacles to speed around.
Honestly, what more could a Sonic fan want?
A sci-fi action-adventure that leans heavily
on exploration and discovery, Axiom Verge
is a lot like the classic Nintendo game which
inspired it, Super Metroid.
This title is full of secrets to discover
and cool and innovative gadgets to use.
The world and enemy design are fantastic,
and dripping with moody sci-fi elements throughout.
Coupled with some dangerously clever boss
fights, Axiom Verge comes close to surpassing
its inspiring predecessor.
Axiom Verge wrings as much atmosphere out
of basic tech as possible.
Good art design is timeless, and this action
adventure can prove that on any machine made
in the last few years.
One glance and you know: Cuphead looks amazing.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the playful,
raunchy, and chaotic 1930s cartoons that inspired
the game, you can’t deny that nothing in modern
gaming that looks quite like this.
But here’s the secret: Cuphead’s graphics
aren’t actually that hard on your system.
Of course, the hand-drawn characters were
difficult for the developers to bring to life.
In terms of what’s actually happening while
you play, Cuphead isn’t much more complicated
than other classic side-scrollers.
That means that this platformer will run well
on your underpowered rig, removing any and
all obstacles towards enjoying one of 2017’s
best games—aside from your own lack of skill,
“You’re gonna bust the record!”
With charming but simple graphics, and combat
that combines turn-based strategy with fast-paced
“bullet hell” sequences, Undertale won’t turn
In fact, the entire game was made with RPGMaker,
a low-tech game platform that’s often associated
with cheap, poorly-made products.
Despite that, Undertale manages to do something
that other, bigger-budget RPGs didn’t: radically
change the genre, and challenge conventions
left and right.
This title is so innovative, strange, and
different that it’s sparked an entirely new,
Figuring out how to get through the game without
killing anyone or anything can be a massive
challenge, and if you mess up and decide to
start over, Undertale remembers what you did
before and changes the story accordingly.
A Hat in Time
It’s pretty rare to find a 3D platforming
games on PCs, never mind a good one, and A
Hat in Time is just as quirky and weird as
Graphically, A Hat in Time is a lot smoother
than Super Mario 64.
Meanwhile, its twisted world infuses elements
from Psychonauts and Doctor Who with other
genre tropes to create something that feels
both familiar and strange.
Best of all?
A Hat in Time is built on the same engine
as Unreal Tournament 3, a game that’s over
a decade old.
Simply put, you can play this game.
And you probably should.
“Shut up and take my money!”
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