Steam, Half-Life, and Gabe ‘Gaben’ Newell – these are probably the first things that come to mind of most people who are associated with the broadly defined gaming community whenever someone mentions Valve. But Valve is much more, and today we’ll take a closer look at one of the most successful companies in the gaming industry.

Valve Corporation didn’t start out small. It was founded in 1996 by Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington – two millionaires who earned their little fortunes with honest work at Microsoft. After accumulating enough wealth they decided to quit Redmond’s giant and look for a new and exciting way to develop their careers. They came up with an idea to team up and start their own company, which was meant to focus on game development. They called it Valve.

Speaking of Valve games, Valve created several true gems, including the above-mentioned Half-Life and Counter-Strike series, but the company released more titles it can be proud of. Below we present you with a list of the best Valve games you should give a chance if you didn’t already.

Half-Life 2

Release year:2004
Genre:FPS

HF2 is basically Half-Life on steroids – it takes the idea and mechanics known from the original game and adds new elements to further enhance the gameplay.

Half-Life 2 - fightting

The game follows the story of Gordon Freeman who is tasked with fighting back the multidimensional Combine empire that conquered the Earth. The main innovation was the use of the Source engine, which allowed to implement physics-based puzzles and other similar elements in the game.

Key features


  • Detailed physics simulation
  • A diverse set of smart enemies
  • Many optional areas

Portal

Release year:2007
Genre:First-Person Puzzle

Portal was and still is, a truly brilliant production. It revolves around solving puzzles in a 3D environment.

Portal - gameplay

As a test subject in the Aperture Science laboratory, you will be tasked with utilizing the so-called portal gun in order to find a way to get to the room’s exit. The portal gun can create blue and orange portals, depending on which mouse button was pressed to create it. Once two different portals are placed, they form a passage – entering one portal makes you exit from the other.

Key features


  • Physics-based 3D environment
  • Numerous increasingly difficult puzzles
  • Single-player only

Portal 2

Release year:2011
Genre:First-Person Puzzle

While Portal was sometimes described as a proof of concept and more of an experiment than an actual game, Portal 2 is the real experience, though opinions on the matter vary greatly.

Portal 2

Portal 2 is simply bigger, longer, and adds a lot of new mechanics to the original game, notably tractor beams and various surface gels that alter player’s movement. There is also a multiplayer mode that allows to play the game together with your friends – and it is probably one of the best multiplayer experiences you will ever have.

Key features


  • Return of GLaDOS artificial intelligence
  • New gameplay mechanics
  • Engaging optional multiplayer mode

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Release year:2012
Genre:FPS

Counter-Strike franchise unofficially started back in 1999 as a simple Half-Life mod. It went a long way to become what it is today, through the widely known CS 1.6 and the revamped CS: Source.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

CS: GO, just as previous games from the series, is mainly played online and it focuses on conflicts between teams of terrorists and antiterrorists. The most common game mode is the bomb defusal, where terrorists are tasked with planting the bomb in the designated area, while antiterrorists have to secure the place, kill the enemies, and defuse planted bomb before it explodes.

Key features


  • Team-based gunfights
  • Dynamic gameplay on closed arenas
  • Heavily focused on multiplayer

Half-Life

Release year:1998
Genre:FPS

This is where it all started. This is what allowed Valve to gain its reputation and what shaped first-person shooters into something we know today.

Half life - gameplay

If we compared Half-Life 2 to a breath of fresh air in the FPS genre, then Half-Life would be the reason we can breathe in the first place. The first part of Gordon Freeman’s adventure is considered by many as the best Valve game ever created, but it’s hard to tell if it truly is by today’s standards. Certainly, nostalgia plays a huge role in judging the title, as well as how innovative the game was in the old days, and for us, that’s enough of a reason to put the game on the list.

Key features


  • Immersive world and seamless narrative
  • Demanding puzzles that require creative solutions
  • Dangerous enemies

Dota 2

Release year:2013
Genre:MOBA

Who could ever imagine that Defense of the Ancients, a simple community-created mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, could gain so much attention it will one day evolve into a full standalone game with hundreds of thousands concurrent players fighting every day?

Dota 2

The reason might be that the gameplay is addictive, and the rules are simple – just choose your character and utilize his unique abilities to help your team win in real-time 5 vs 5 group battles. Don’t be fooled, however, as there’s much more strategy involved than meets the eye.

Key features


  • Dozens of characters to choose from, each with his own unique abilities
  • Further role customization with the use of various items
  • Heavily focused on multiplayer teamwork

Team Fortress 2

Release year:2007
Genre:FPS

This team-based multiplayer FPS will keep you engaged for hours to come. In TF2 you can choose your character from a variety of classes, and each of them plays very differently from the others.

Team Fortress 2

For example, the Scout is a fast runner who relies on close combat weapons such as baseball bat and shotgun, while the Spy can disguise as an enemy player and may stab the opponents in the back to instantly kill them. The game puts a strong emphasis on teamwork, and it features a lot of humorous elements.

Key features


  • Fast-paced dynamic combat on closed arenas
  • Various playable classes, each with a different playstyle
  • Meant to be played online

Left 4 Dead 2

Release year:2009
Genre:FPS/Survival Horror

If fighting hordes of zombies is your thing, then you should definitely check out Left 4 Dead 2. The game focuses on cooperative gameplay, allowing you to form a team with up to 3 other players and reduce the zombie population by working together.

Left 4 Dead 2 gameplay

What’s worth mentioning is the AI Director 2.0, which is a function meant to provide a constant, dynamic challenge. The way it works ensures no two games are played the same, which significantly increases the title’s replayability.

Key features


  • Zombie apocalypse setting
  • Dynamically changing difficulty
  • Strong emphasis on cooperation

Valve Complete Pack & The Orange Box

Valve Complete Pack - Left 4 Dead 2

Valve games can be purchased in convenient bundles, which allows saving some money if you are interested in getting multiple different titles from the company. These are the Valve Complete Pack and The Orange Box.

The first one, as the name might suggest, packs all Valve games together. The Orange Box, on the other hand, focuses on Half-Life 2 and its expansions and throws original Portal to the mix. There is also Team Fortress 2, but the game became free-to-play back in 2011, meaning you no longer need to buy it to play it.

Summary

Valve’s first game, Half-life, turned out to be a huge success – so huge, that it’s now even considered a major milestone in the history of first-person shooters. It was something that allowed the company to grow even more rapidly. In order to squeeze every penny from the title, over the next few years Valve released three expansion packs to the game, all of which were critically acclaimed.

After publishing several other games, including the iconic Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic, Valve decided to also create its own publishing platform. It was mandatory to make sure all players were up-to-date with the latest patches when playing together, but no third-party company was interested in helping Valve in achieving this goal. Valve had to resort to its own solution, giving birth to something that’s currently known as the world’s biggest digital storefront platform – Steam.

Portal 2 - lasers

At first, Steam was just a simple tool meant to provide players with an easy and convenient way to keep their Valve games updated and organized. It was optional to use, but shortly after became required to run Valve games. At that time it was obvious, that Valve’s insatiable hunger couldn’t be satisfied by focusing exclusively on game dev. In order to expand the scope of its activities, Valve decided to start negotiating contracts with third-party publishers and developers.

That’s how Steam turned into a publishing platform and digital store we know today, offering not only Valve games and updates anymore, but also games developed by other companies. Later on, Steam also allowed indie developers to self-publish their own games, which was an amazing opportunity for people taking their first steps in the gaming industry to reach a wider audience with their creations.

Left 4 Dead 2 - fighting

Valve didn’t develop too many games, especially in recent years, at least comparing to other similarly-sized companies. It’s worth noting, however, that in most cases whatever game Valve releases, it somehow manages to hit the jackpot and becomes the bestseller. It’s a perfect example of quality over quantity approach, which makes it only natural for us to encourage you to try out their past releases in case you missed any.