PC gaming is awesome. But the requirement to invest hundreds (or thousands!) Of dollars in expensive hardware to get the most out of it isn’t. This is doubly true when a confluence of circumstances means finding a decent graphics card is a business roughly comparable to finding the holy grail in El Dorado.
So if you’re using a more practical, low-power laptop, or your desktop’s best years are behind it, you might be looking for a few games that you can play on a machine that doesn’t double as a radiator. As I’ve been doing for the past several years, I’ve put together the best PC games of the year that you can run on just about any Windows computer, no graphics card required.
Here are my choices, in no particular order.
Moving is boring. As someone who has done it (oh my gosh) fifteen times in thirty years, I feel like I can confidently witness this. But nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction you get when all your stuff is finally unpacked, every piece of junk in your life in precisely the right place. Unpacking is a game that tries to capture this experience.
It’s an irrepressibly cool game, encouraging the player to tweak the music and lighting to create a state of Zen organization and personalization. Nerds who need all their miniatures and gaming accessories such on the shelf will be especially delighted when a room is completed.
Unpacking is $ 20 on Steam, GOG, and Humble. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.
A lot of “remastered” games have felt pretty lackluster lately, putting a hefty price tag on an older game and calling it a day. That’s not the case with this true remaster of the beloved SNES classic. Actress was a weird mix of side-scrolling hack-and-slash with city building games (literally your villagers will beg you and you will protect them from natural disasters).
The reinvented Renaissance is a bit controversial, as not all fans of the original like the remixed combat and new tower defense mechanic. But as a throwback to a game that was shockingly unique for its time, it’s worth a look for fans of the 16-bit era. The soundtrack, available as a modern orchestral score or flashback opus, is a highlight.
Renaissance actress is $ 30 on Steam.
Top-to-bottom pixelated action-RPGs are easy to find these days. dungeon stands out from the crowd with gorgeous pixel art and a dark sci-fi story deeper than a mine shaft. For those who really want to chew on a unique world and protagonist, dungeon delivered.
Along with its slowly unfolding world and storytelling, the game also offers some deep systems to jump into. Your spooky gamer character upgrades his abilities and weapons by swapping his own organs. This is what I call self improvement!
dungeon is $ 20 on Steam. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.
Tales of Cries
On more or less the artistic pole opposed to dungeon, Tales of Cries is a bright and colorful take on classic Japanese RPGs. Well, one JRPG in particular: the trigger of a stopwatch, as this one also has a tone of time travel and time-based powers. Come for the beautiful 2D art inspired by the anime, stick around for the old-fashioned turn-based group combat.
The game uses a mix of 2D and 3D graphics to show you its past, present and future settings on the same screen in a unique exploration mechanic. But don’t worry, as some of its animated segments get so over the top they would Final fantasy blush, the gameplay won’t suffer even if your machine hits some of the simple polygonal elements.
Tales of Cries is $ 40 on Steam, Epic, and GOG. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.
Story-based romance sims aren’t for everyone. But what if you could have a cute encounter with a sweetheart who then transforms into an awesome sword, then do some dungeon crawl on your first date? This is the original premise of the mix of genres behind Friends dungeon, dividing the difference between dating simulation and hack-and-slash roguelite from top to bottom.
The different weapons offer different approaches to combat in the dungeon sections, and as is the theme, different choices of personality and gender identity in their human forms. The art is charming and at times sizzling by simulated dating standards, and the same can be said of the full voice cast. Improve your relationship and you will improve your combat prowess, and vice versa. While the fight isn’t exactly a revolution, it’s certainly enough to carry the unique premise.
Friends dungeon is $ 20 on Steam.It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass.
Axiom Verge 2
The original Axiom Verge was a shameless love letter to Metroid – and that wasn’t a bad thing. The sequel doubles down on that, almost literally, with a dual card system that lets you constantly switch between the player’s main character and his robo-buddy in another dimension.
The contrast between the two characters allows for a refreshing approach to exploration and puzzle solving. While the combat and pixel art aspects of Axiom Verge 2 don’t go past the original, definitely worth a visit for fans of the Metroidvania genre who want to see some new ideas in-game.
Axiom Verge 2 is $ 20 on Epic.
At the sea
The adventure genre is full of murder mysteries. At the sea overturn this concept: you play as the murderer, and the goal is to keep your crime hidden. You’ll have to maneuver around a ship filled with curious passengers using your conversational skills, preventing them from discovering your guilt until you reach your destination and flee.
Agatha Christie’s detective novels are an obvious inspiration, but playing the role of a charming murderer offers refreshing inspiration for both the genre of the game and its literary ancestors. You can try to run investigators around in circles, or if you’re feeling particularly devious, try pinning the crime on a scapegoat and getting away with it.
Overbadvice is $ 15 on Steam and GOG.
Loop hero is… well, a game that defies description. It’s partly a base builder, partly an idle game, partly Dark souls-Inspired by RPG. You are a hero in a dark fantasy that spins around in a 2D loop, but you don’t directly control movement or combat. Instead, you’ll gradually fill the map (remember, according to lore) with locations and features that you’ll unlock as your hero gets stronger.
Eventually, if you survive long enough, your little fantasy world grows larger, as the monsters you fight gain in challenge. There’s a random element of trial and error to falling tiles and loot, but players who like to dig through stats and slowly discover a world will dig it.
Loop hero is $ 15 on Steam, Epic, GOG, and Humble.
In Dungeons & Dragons, your attacks, defenses and other interactions are often determined by the generation of random numbers in the form of dice. In Wild myth, random generation is basically the whole world: everything from your fantastic protagonists to your world-shaking conflicts is procedurally generated.
There is a lot of charm in the webcomic style art, and the combat and progression systems are straightforward with a few interesting quirks. The biggest draw is the ability to follow the entire lives of your heroes, creating multi-generational adventure games with relationships, children, and grandchildren. You’ll run out of random things to see, but it’s still a fun ride for tactical RPG fans.
Wildermeyth is $ 25 on Steam.
This 2D game is so aggressively cute, you might think it’s designed for kids. But zen, Zelda-Inspired gameplay surrounds a surprisingly deep storyline, which you’ll unlock as you color the setting in black and white with your magic brush. Excellent 2D design and music help keep the player engaged.
The in-game artistic options unlock in delightful and intricate ways, though the design eschews conventional combat for exploration and puzzle-solving. One appealing aspect of the game world is that your painting is permanent – you’ll see the fruits of your art work staying consistent as you progress through the story and the map.
Chicory is $ 20 on Steam.
Michael is a former graphic designer who has been building and tweaking desktops for longer than he wants to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.