15 of the Best Steam Games You Can Play on Weaker PCs

15 of the Best Steam Games You Can Play on Weaker PCs

PC gaming might offer cutting-edge graphics and gameplay, but most players do not own a high-end gaming rig. In fact, according to a recent survey by VPN Overview, the average Steam user only has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card and older quad-core Intel CPUs. A setup like that can only play about 41 of the top 100 games on Steam. And if your hardware is older or less powerful, your options are even further limited.

That doesn’t mean you can’t play great games, though. Thanks to a robust indie development community and legacy support for older titles, there are tons of awesome PC games on Steam with low system requirements that almost any computer can match — even tiny productivity laptops that were designed to run Microsoft Office and little else, or outdated desktops still running Windows 7 or 8.

Finding those games can be tough, however. Steam lets you check if your PC’s hardware is compatible with games, but checking every game on the service is a tedious task. To help make the search easier, we’ve put together a list of 15 great games available on Steam that run on weaker PCs and laptops. Most of these are games I can personally vouch for, but if not much here catches your eye, try following Steam curators that focus on low-spec gaming recommendations. Here are a few to get you started:

The games we picked should run well on most machines with average-to-low specs. Also note that some of these games will play better — or even require — using a USB controller, or even an external mouse if you’re on a laptop, so take a moment to double-check the system requirements listed on each title’s Steam store page to confirm you have the proper hardware to run the game before you buy.

Terraria

Terraria is a 2D platformer with deep crafting mechanics, RPG-style character-building and loot-collecting, and a robust multiplayer mode. Sure, that might sound like a 2D Minecraft clone, but the gameplay experiences are much different. Terraria is more focused on exploring ever-deeper into the procedurally generated caverns, dungeons, and mysterious ruins running underground. While the game received its final large-scale content update in 2020, there’s still almost a decade of content for new players to enjoy, and there’s still a massive online community that can join you in your adventures if you want company.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a charming farming sim that includes light action and role-playing elements. The game opens with the player inheriting their grandfather’s farm in a small town. You’ll spend your days cultivating your farm, interacting with the citizens of Pelican Town, and venturing into the nearby caves to battle slimes and mine resources. The money you earn from farming, fighting, and completing other tasks can go towards decorating your house, upgrading your farming operation, and buying gifts for your friends (and love interests) in town. Stardew Valley is the perfect chill game to play while unwinding in the evening, but there’s lots of content to enjoy if you get invested. It’s an impressive little adventure — especially considering it was made by just one person!

Into the Breach

This turn-based strategy is a perfect example of how a seemingly simple set of gameplay mechanics can be unexpectedly complex. Into the Breach tasks you with preventing a world-ending invasion by giant insects using a squad of giant mechs, fighter jets, tanks, and more. Each action you and your enemies take can have unexpected side effects, like knocking a monster into a nearby building. However, you’re able to rewind a set number of turns in case things don’t go your way, or you think of a different strategy. You slowly build your mechs and pilots up over the course of each campaign, but at some point, these bugs will likely overrun your squad. If that happens, you’re able to select one of your souped-up pilots to jump back in time to the beginning of the campaign and attempt the whole thing over again.

Loop Hero

Loop Hero is another rogue-lite strategy game that inverts the classic role-playing game genre. In this world, a necromancer has turned reality into a fragmented void. The main character is an amnesiac adventurer who is slowly “remembering the world back into existence.” It’s a novel concept that is reflected in the gameplay, which sees the hero walking in a randomised loop, fighting monsters, and collecting gear and cards along the way. However, instead of controlling the hero directly, the hero’s actions play out passively. You manage the hero’s equipment and can pause their movements, but that’s the only real control you have of the character. Players instead place cards along the loop that change the hero’s adventure, like boosting their stats, spawning enemies, or removing obstacles. Resources you collect during each expedition are taken back to camp to expand your arsenal.

Undertale

Undertale is a novel RPG that might look simple in screenshots, but it’s brimming with interesting ideas and lots of heart.

You control a young child who falls into a monster-filled underworld. However, these monsters aren’t the usual combat fodder in most RPGs — each one has a personality, and some even have entire storylines. While a single playthrough is only a few hours long, the story has multiple endings that will change depending on how you interact with the various creatures of this world, so multiple playthroughs are encouraged.

That said, Undertale is a game best experienced with as little foreknowledge, so go in blind if you can and play the way that feels right to you — you can always try another choice next time.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Skyrim might be the most popular game in the Elder Scrolls series (with good reason), but Morrowind is the series at its most unique. From the landscape dotted with giant mushrooms, volcanoes, and villages made of insectoid husks, to the deep storyline that turns the “chosen one” trope on its head, Morrowind was the last time Bethesda leaned into its creativity and got weird with its open-world RPGs.

Fair warning, though: Morrowind is an old game and it will look and play like one. Luckily, there’s a massive library of mods available that can add new quests, spruce up the visuals, and even add modern quality-of-life changes if you want them. But even if you simply play the basic unmodded game, you’ll be treated to one of the most interesting and open-ended role-playing adventures ever made.

Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is an RPG for those who prefer strategic combat and gritty dungeon-diving over sweeping stories. The game takes cues from old-school dungeon crawlers (of which there are also plenty available on Steam) sending your party into dangerous crypts and caverns teeming with traps and monsters. But instead of dizzying 3D labyrinths, Darkest Dungeon’s, er, dungeons are presented in a 2D-side scrolling perspective featuring striking graphic novel-inspired art.

Darkest Dungeon’s other standout mechanic is its emphasis on your party’s psychological reactions to what they encounter while exploring. For example, tripping a trap may discourage a character, while seeing a teammate take a critical hit in battle may embolden another to protect their friends. These moments play out more like a tabletop game, where managing each character’s sanity is as important as maintaining their HP.

The Final Fantasy Series

The Final Fantasy series is one of the most beloved Japanese RPG franchises. There are so many Final Fantasy games available on Steam, and each one is its own standalone adventure with unique characters, stories, and gameplay systems, so it’s impossible to pick just one game to represent the entire franchise. Luckily, many of the Final Fantasy games on Steam are playable on older hardware. The early games (Final Fantasy I-VI) will likely play best, but FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX aren’t that taxing, either. Everything from Final Fantasy X onwards, however, will likely be unplayable on weaker PCs and laptops.

As for specific recommendations, Final Fantasy 6 is commonly thought of as the “best” in the series, and the upcoming Pixel Remaster version will likely be the easiest to jump into (the Android version is also available on Steam, but it’s ugly). Final Fantasy 7 is probably the most popular thanks to its unique sci-fi setting, iconic music, and for being the first 3D game in the series. Personally, Final Fantasy 5 is my favourite of the early-era games thanks to its deep and customisable job system. Whichever game(s) you decide to play, each one includes helpful optional settings like speeding up or turning off random battles, enabling invincibility, and more.

Chrono Trigger

Originally released on the SNES, Chrono Trigger is often considered the best Japanese RPG of all time. The Steam version was admittedly underwhelming upon release, but Square Enix has released numerous updates, and it’s now arguably the best version you can play. The game’s acclaimed storyline sees the hero Chrono hopping through time with his party of friends to stop a world-ending calamity. Time travel is hard to pull off, but Chrono Trigger is one of the few fictional stories to use the plot device well. But the true heart of this game is its main cast of playable characters.

Chrono Trigger’s gameplay is equally impressive. The game was one of the first RPGs to ditch random encounters for on-screen enemies, giving players more agency over when they engage in combat. That said, combat is enjoyable, using an active time battle system akin to Final Fantasy, but adds positional advantages and multi-character combo attacks that make each fight deeper than your average roleplaying game.

Caves of Qud

Caves of Qud is a hardcore roguelike RPG with unparalleled depth. The game is set in a far-future Earth after numerous apocalyptic events have left the land ruined. Life has been mutated — or cybernetically enhanced — but water is scarce, acting as Qud’s primary form of currency (known as “Drams”). The graphics hew close to the classic roguelikes from the ‘80s and ‘90s and use low-bit pixel art, but the simple visuals only enhance the immersion, letting you fill out this strange world with your imagination. It also frees up resources for the game’s power procedural generation algorithms to fill each run with unique ruins, monsters, items, quests, NPCs, and more.

While Qud is a roguelike — and a brutally hard one at times — an adventure mode was recently introduced that lets players experience the game without the threat of permadeath. It’s also been in active development since 2015 and is still receiving regular updates, so new features and more content may keep showing up for months or years to come.

Fez

Fez is a 2D puzzle-platformer that plays with perspective-shifting — in more ways than one, too. Players can rotate the camera in 3D to change the layout of each level. Doing so can unveil hidden collectibles, create new platforms, and more. It’s hard to explain, but highly intuitive once you’re playing. Each puzzle is smartly designed, the graphics and music are charming, and there’s an entire hidden meta-puzzle for you to solve that extends beyond the game itself. This is another that’s best played without knowing much ahead of time, so if this vague description sounds interesting, jump in and try to experience the game with as little outside input as possible.

CrossCode

CrossCode is a sci-fi action-adventure RPG that’s perfect for fans of SNES-era RPGs and anyone nostalgic for old-school MMOs. You’ll take the role of Ayla, who is a player in a fictional VR MMO known as CrossWorlds. Ayla is unable to speak and lacks any memories of her life outside the game. Thankfully, she meets several other players along the way that join her quest to recover her true identity. While this is a single-player game, the numerous references to online multiplayer games and NPCs run around exploring make the game almost feel like a real MMO at times. The gameplay focuses on fast-paced action combat, completing quests for NPCs, and exploring the world’s large, 2D environments. You also explore several Zelda-like dungeons filled with puzzles and tough bosses.

Half-Life

Half-Life revolutionised the first-person shooter genre when it originally released. This sci-fi shooter puts players in the powersuit of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist at the secret Black Mesa research facility who inadvertently initiates an alien invasion. Players fight against strange aliens and government operatives sent in to eradicate the other-worldly threat — and all witnesses. Each level mixes shooting, platforming, and physics-based puzzle-solving.

Often described as the “thinking man’s FPS,” the original Half-Life was one of the first FPS games to meld its story seamlessly into its gameplay. Prior games cordoned off their story in interstitial sequences between levels or optional data logs at best (if there was any in-game story at all), but Half-Life’s events play out in real-time, never taking control away from the player. When the Xen invade, you witness the carnage first-hand. Of course, that’s now the standard for most story-focused shooters, but Half-Life’s presentation was ground-breaking at the time — and it still holds up today.

Doom

The old-school Doom games are the quintessential run-and-gun first-person shooters. There’s not much story to these games beyond “Demons are invading, go shoot ‘em.” But it doesn’t need one. The fast-paced gunplay, while anachronistic at times, is still incredibly fun, and both games are shining examples of non-linear level design. Stages are winding mazes through military facilities and hellish dimensions filled with secrets, grotesque demons, and giant guns to shoot said demons with.

There are several ways to buy these games on steam, but the Doom Classics Complete bundle includes Doom, Doom II, the Master Levels for Doom II expansion, and Ultimate Doom, and is the best value. And if that’s not enough demon-slaying, an HD release of Doom 64 is now available on Steam, as well, which is the sequel to the classic trilogy originally made for Nintendo 64, and an excellent addition for fans of the classic games in the series.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is a gorgeous 2D action-platformer that was made by just two people: designer William Pell and artist Ari Gibson. Like other “Metroidvania” games, Hollow Knight features a massive non-linear world, set in a ruined kingdom known as Hallownest, and home to a charming cast of cartoon bugs. Players explore the world, finding new weapons and abilities that unlock more of the map as they play. You’ll also uncover the mysterious lore surrounding this strange land and its inhabitants. Hollow Knight can be a tough game, with combat that takes notes from the notoriously difficult Dark Souls series and plenty of platforming challenges to overcome, but it’s a rewarding experience.

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