It’s that time of year again: leaves are falling from trees, pumpkins are being carved, people are enjoying dressing up in costume… and Steam is having an autumn sale.
This year, the event is being labeled the “Steam Scream: The Revenge”, and is much more focused on spooky games than previous sales. Don’t worry, there are still a huge amount of game discounts available to you: I highly suggest checking out the full list for yourself, especially the category that lists out all the games with free demos.
With that being said, I’ve pulled together a list of games I’d personally recommend from the sale. For the most part, these games come from smaller studios and are very specific experiences. They are games you can buy affordably even when not on discount, but feel like steals during this sale. While there are some additional games I’d love to recommend (Limbo is only 99 cents?!), I haven’t personally played them so I’ve left them off this list below. Again, I highly recommend taking a look for yourself before the sale ends on November 2nd.
With that being said, let's start off talking about some brain eating fun!
Zombies, Zombies Everywhere
I know that as soon as you bring up zombies in some gaming circles, you immediately get many people rolling their eyes while others start rubbing their hands together in glee. It’s true, there are many, many zombie games out there, and it's absolutely wild how many different genres these shambling horrors find themselves in.
To help myself organize this list, I have an internal “survivalist-to-action-hero” sliding scale for zombie games: some of these are all about making you endure the day-to-day survival of the undead apocalypse, while others come across more as power fantasies where it can take hundreds of the dead to take you down. In this sale, I can recommend five across this range.
The first game is Project Zomboid, and it sits, way, way over at the far end of the ‘survivalist’ spectrum of zombie titles. This is a game where forgetting to cover your hand when breaking a window can kill you due to infected cuts from broken glass. As my friend Adam puts it: “The amount of relief you feel just finding a can opener in Zomboid is scary”. You can play cooperatively with friends or face the ever-growing hordes alone. This is a game that purposefully ramps up the difficulty with each day you survive: zombies only shamble, a slow, glacial tidal wave as your ability to scavenge the surrounding landscape gets tougher and tougher.
Zomboid is a game you play because you love details and the creeping sense of doom. Ever want to survive zombies for days only to be killed from a house fire? This is your game.
Project Zomboid is currently on sale for $13.39 and is a great game for those who aren’t afraid of micromanagement. It is a slower game, one where small mistakes can turn into horrific death spirals. Combat is clunky and awkward, the game has been in early access since 2013… and it has one hell of a fan base. This game might not be for you, but if it grabs your attention, prepare to get sucked in.
Another zombie game that is very granular is 7 Days To Die, but for very different reasons. This has a first person view rather than bird’s eye, and many people will immediately think “Minecraft, but zombies” on first inspection. They aren’t wrong: in your first hour playing, you’ll be punching trees for wood, making a stone axe, and start tearing apart locations nearby for supplies.
7 Days has a bit more action to it - combat is simple, but can become hectic as you explore more and more dangerous buildings. You start off with just primitive tools and slowly work your way into being able to craft your own bullets and even vehicles! This is a game for people who love the idea of taking everything apart and building large bases. You’ll need those bases too: one thing that 7 Days To Die does is send a massive horde out to test your ability to defend yourself every… well, seven days.
7 Days To Die is a Minecraft sandbox. Play on procedurally generated maps or the original, this is a game all about enjoying what you build and how you do it... All while enduring a constant undead threat. One or two bad bites is all it takes.
I have been playing this game on stream this month and am honestly surprised at how much it’s hooked me. I really love the “game state” system, where it gets more difficult based on your level and how long you’ve managed to live for. I’ve played some great co-op games where you feel like you have everything under control, then suddenly end up infected again and again thanks to surprise zombies in closets. Currently on sale for only $5.99, but the real prize is you can buy two copies for less than ten dollars. This is definitely a winner to play with friends.
Even More Zombies, But Now You’re An Action Hero
These next zombie suggestions fall more into the action game category: you are more likely to survive a jump scare, more able to combat roll your way to safety. If you are looking for more frenetic action instead of careful planning and building, this is your category.
First up is a personal favorite, the State of Decay series. This is a third person over-the-shoulder action game that’s all about surviving a zombie apocalypse that works hard to blend in a few survivalist elements. One of its crowning achievements is that it puts you in charge of a small community of survivors banding together. If you die, you die permanently… but as long as you have another survivor, you just take over as someone else.
Indeed, juggling the needs of a community is what sends you out into the dangerous world. You don’t so much have individual food/water meters like a survivalist game, but your max health and stamina decrease as your character tires. This encourages you to swap perspectives: one day you might be an ex-military tough guy, while the next you are a quieter, sneakier ex-accountant armed with only a crowbar and crossbow. Each character can level up and even specialize, keeping the gameplay loop fresh.
The original game is only $9.99 right now, with State of Decay 2 half off at $14.99. You can buy both as a bundle, and both are great for different reasons. The second game is certainly more polished and has a lot more options. There’s multiplayer co-op which can be a blast and gameplay is really centered around building up a community, making someone a leader, and finishing a questline. Survivors can gain legacy status, letting you start a new community on a new map with a few people already leveled up and armed to the teeth. With there being multiple difficulty ratings, holiday events, and developers still adding new features, there is a lot to love here.
In comparison, the first game is… smaller, maybe even messier. The developers were still figuring things out - but I still love it. It’s single player, and while the gameplay is still based on an open world, it has a story and is less sandbox. You start the game coming back from a camping trip to find the world gone to hell, and now you have to escape the county. It’s fun, it’s charming, and I appreciate the story. Both games have alternative modes and extra stories… if you get either game, you are getting your money’s worth of content.
The original State of Decay is a little dated, but a wonderful experience. The soundtrack by Jesper Kyd is a wonderfully eerie backdrop as you search for a way out of Trumbull Valley.
Finally, the most actiony of the zombie titles here: Dying Light 1. Originally released in 2015, buying the game now gives you nearly every single expansion and DLC update they put out since then. It's currently 80% off, clocking in at only $10 dollars. I played it last month for streaming community night and found myself really liking different take on a zombie apocalypse. Trapped in a quarantined city with survivors desperately looking for medication, you use parkour and rapid movement to stay above the fray. You are certainly an action hero in this game, but don’t let that get to your head: when night starts to arrive, you’ll certainly feel the pressure and the scariness close in at least once.
With that, we are finally free of the zombie subgenre! With five games down, time to switch to a different sort of monster…
Vampyr: A Beautiful Mess Of A Monster Game
Vampyr is a very strange game. Made by Don’t Nod Entertainment - the folks behind Life Is Strange - the game merges the developer’s focus on player choice with some third person action. Trust me, the first time I was able to impale my foes on spikes made of blood, I felt a wonderful thrill that I hadn’t been expecting from a game about hard choices.
Set in 1918 London, you play a doctor that has newly been infected with Vampirism. You are a man of science who is trying to stay a man of science against a backdrop of misery and decay. The spanish flu has laid low the entire city, and you wander the streets, talking with survivors and fighting the desperate monsters and humans alike still out prowling the night.
Vampyr is at its best when it makes you feel consequences. An early district has NPCs easily harvested as they cling to life in a dilapidated hospital. The game asks if you are willing to take such easy prey.. and if you are okay destroying an area of London to do so.
The voice acting is top notch, the atmosphere is wonderfully oppressive, and the combat isn’t half bad. The best parts are how when you get to particular parts of the story and make a choice, it’ll end with an entire district either slowly recovering or broken beyond repair. The problem is sometimes it just doesn’t quite all come together - the combat can get repetitive by the end, and taking the ‘good’ path of trying to drink as little NPC blood as possible makes the game progressively harder. It’s fitting, but can be frustrating.
Still, the game is currently 80% and is only $7.99 to buy. At that price, I feel like this is a fantastic game to experience, as there isn’t another one quite like it.
Carrion: When You Really, Really Want To Eat Everything In Sight
I bought this game, beat it in about five hours, went on to 100% every achievement in the game, and didn’t regret a minute of it. Carrion is a short and sweet ‘reverse horror’ game where you get to be the alien bioform that absolutely demolishes an unsuspecting population of scientists and guards.
A sort of metroidvania, you control a sentient pile of eyes and teeth that devours anything in its path, slowly growing more powers as you unlock a wordless story and eventually try to escape. Its positively euphoric as you horribly eat an entire room of ‘innocent’ scientists, and therapeutic when you manage to take down guards with flamethrowers. It’s got some fun puzzles, some great moments, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. At only $5.99, I can’t recommend this one enough.
Subnautica: The Prettiest Scary Game You’ll Ever Play
Subnautica is the easiest game to recommend from this entire list while also being the toughest. I would rate Subnautica as one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life. If you trawl through steam reviews and comments online, one sentiment continuously shows up: “If I could delete my memory for one game to experience it again for the very first time, it would be this one.”
For that reason, I’m going to keep things brief. You are an engineer who crash lands on an alien ocean planet. Your objective? Find a way to get back home.
Colorful, bright, and occasionally terrifying. This is a game all about exploration and experiencing the world for yourself - if you are interested, look up as little as possible and jump right in.
From the first moment you dive into the water, this game will hook you. A mixture of amazing ambiance, eclectic music, and the breadcrumbs of a plot is irresistible. You might have seen a lot of jokes about thalassophobia online about this game, and they aren’t exactly wrong: this is a game that capitalizes on humanity’s eternal fascination and aversion to the depths and dials it to 11. It might not have been made to be a horror game, but I had some fantastic scares playing this game, some amazing moments where I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest. At the same time, it’s absolutely beautiful.
It’s currently half off at $14.99, as well as its sequel, Below Zero. If you haven’t played them before - don’t look anything up, don’t watch trailers, don’t watch streamers reacting. Go buy the game, and see for yourself why this is game is one of the best.
Everyone Needs A Spooky Moment Sometimes
You have until November 2nd at 10 AM EST to take advantage of all of these sales! Again, I highly recommend you take a look through the full list for yourself, especially the demos. These sales are a great way to give yourself a chance to try something new or find a developer you’ve never heard of. If you have any favorite recommendations, feel free to add them below for anyone else still out there looking for a little pick me up at the end of October.
Happy Halloween everyone! Good luck game hunting.