Games aren’t cheap to make and aren’t cheap to buy. This is widely known fact, and it’s true…to an extent. Although there are many games with extremely high budgets with millions and millions pumped into creation, it’s not the only way games can exist.
Similarly, while there’s no shortage of $60 games with another 60 bucks worth of DLC, but there are also many indie games that cost much less and, bizarrely, can deliver much more entertainment than big-budget-bonanzas.
To celebrate both sides of the “low cost games” phrase, this list brings to you a few games made on relatively small budgets, and some games which can be bought on the cheap. Sometimes even both are true at the same time, but no matter what you’re in for hours and hours of excellent entertainment.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the list of..
(Deceptively) Simple Games that Made Millions
|Dishonored - Definitive Edition||2012-10-11||Action||Arkane Studios||71%|
|One Finger Death Punch 2||2019-04-15||Fighting||Silver Dollar Games||86%|
|Vampire Survivors||2021-12-17||Indie||Luca Galante|
|Darkest Dungeon||2016-01-19||Indie||Red Hook Studios||85%|
|Super Meat Boy||2010-11-30||Indie||Team Meat||82%|
|Among Us||2018-11-16||Social deduction||InnerSloth|
|Minecraft Windows 10 Edition||2015-07-29||Adventure||Mojang||13%|
|They Are Billions||2017-12-12||Strategy||Numantian Games|
|Castle Crashers||2012-09-26||Adventure||The Behemoth||0%|
|The Stanley Parable||2013-10-17||Adventure||Galactic Cafe||33%|
|Puyo Puyo Tetris||2018-02-27||Casual||Sonic Team||90%|
|Dead Cells||2017-05-10||Action & Shooter||Motion Twin||57%|
|Hollow Knight||2017-02-24||Action & Shooter||Team Cherry||45%|
|Totally Accurate Battle Simulator||2019-04-01||Indie||Landfall Games||31%|
|A Hat in Time||2017-10-05||Adventure||Gears for Breakfast||52%|
As far as getting the most bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat Vampire Survivors.
It’s possible, this list proves it, but if you like game with simple controls and complex hidden layers, this might be exactly what you need. VS has simple, 16-bits graphics, which not only lends it a lot of retro-charms, but also makes it run smoothly even as there are hundreds of enemies swarming your position.
Unfortunately for them, you’re a tornado of projectiles, weapons, and magic, at least if you’ve grabbed the right gear during the typical ~30 minute run. Your character attacks automatically according to personal and weapon traits, but you still need to navigate the map to grab loot chests and fixed items, unlock secrets, and generally stay at a safe distance from deadly, unholy hordes.
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Dead Cells is a game a fair bit more demanding than Vampire Survivors, being much more reflexes-oriented and action-based.
If you aren’t afraid of challenge and inevitable return back to Square 1, this side-scrolling roguelike/platformer might be up your alley, especially with its stylized pixel art, sense of humor, and gameplay polished to perfection over updates and expansions.
As a shapeless blob of cells dumped into sewers under a prison, you need to find a new body to possess and then fight your way out, discovering the nuances of your situation along the way. There are several areas to hack and slash through, plenty of enemies, and a tight combat system which makes conflict extremely satisfying, and reasons for failure easy to discern.
One Finger Death Punch 1 & 2
|Developer:||Silver Dollar Games|
Back to overwhelming simplicity hiding endless enjoyment, we present to you One Finger Death Punch.
The trick is in the title, because it can indeed be played with just one finger, but using twice that number is going to provide a better experience. It only makes sense: it’s a side-scrolling 2D game with enemies running at you from both sides, and each click is a punch that wrecks one HP bar.
OFDP is a fantastic game for pretty much everyone who likes simplicity, rhythm games, and value reflexes and precision, since button-mashing is a bad idea, and so is striking out of range. In addition to snappy controls, the animations are polished, and inspired by martial arts by default, but there are also various weapon pick ups and special attacks giving this stick figure fighter extra flair.
Broforce is one of the most fun side-scrolling arcade platform games you could play, especially if you have friends to enjoy it with.
It’s a perfect proposition for people with fondness for action movies of old who don’t take them very seriously. With characters like Rambro, or Dirty Brory you’ll be playing as genre legends turned into silly, exaggerated sprites in a loving (and mocking) tribute.
On top of that, the levels are deliciously destructible, to the point where you might actually end up being unable to progress because you wrecked the terrain so much. Thankfully, the stakes are quite low, the destruction is so fun, and seeing the special abilities of different Bros is a strong hook, especially if you play in co-op. Especially now, with the Forever update in with extra stuff.
We’ve spoken about a few relatively simple-seeming games, so it’s time to ramp things up a bit.
Set in a whalepunk original setting, Dishonored puts you in the boots of a supernaturally empowered assassin on a mission of revenge or rescue, depending on how brutal you choose to play it. Each mission gives you a specific objective, some clues, and lets you find your own way.
The powers and gadgets at your disposal can interact with each other and the environment, which can make for really creative solutions to that pesky “nosy guard” problem. The game is quite objective-oriented, but this assassination sandbox nature means that you can spend a lot of time replaying the missions and finding new ways to do something cool or entertainingly complex.
Minecraft is a voxel-based sandbox game that gives players a huge randomly generated world for them to have fun in.
There’s no real objective, so you can play the game however you want, but you’ll probably spend most of your time exploring, mining, shaping the surroundings around you, and building whatever you want, block by block.
The game is extremely popular even today, and it’s not uncommon to see Minecraft references in other games. There are also tons of real Minecraft-related merchandise, so you can buy yourself a plushie creeper who’ll haunt you at night, for example. But at it’s most basic, Minecraft presents a lot of bang not an affordable amount of buck and you could play if for years and stay entertained.
Sandboxes are quite popular when it comes to games with a good return of investment, so it’s not surprising to see yet another one on the list.
Although those who didn’t have the opportunity to play Terraria could probably say by looking at screenshots that it’s just a 2D Minecraft, it would be criminally unfair, as the two are entirely different games.
Terraria puts more emphasis on adventure and boss fights. Most of the game’s content is locked behind the bosses that need to be defeated before you can progress further – only when you succeed, you will get access to new resources, events, and powerful craftable gear that will help you tackle more difficult challenges.
Stardew Valley looks like a cozy, simple farming sim, and it is, but it’s also more complex than it first appears.
There is a simple story that explains your current situation and gives you a long-term goal, but how you achieve it it’s mostly up to you. On top of that, it’s a great option for everyone who looks for a wholesome, upbeat, friendly game about doing something worthwhile and productive.
Your main job in SDV is to restore the farm you inherited to its former glory, but also to find peace and tranquility in the titular region. There are different seasons that force you to plan ahead on what to grow and when, and there are various events in the nearby town throughout the year. There’s also combat, crafting, cooking, and more – all of that shown through beautiful pixel art.
There are not too many games that give us the opportunity to become a border-crossing immigration officer.
Papers, Please focuses on the fictional country of Arstotzka, inspired largely by communist Eastern Bloc states. Papers, Please is a simple puzzle game with pixel-art visuals, but it not something for people looking for a charming, wholesome, or funny experience. It’s not that kind of game.
You are tasked with checking documents of those who wish to cross the border – check if the documents are real and valid, ask for the necessary permits, investigate for discrepancies, and so on. The game also has numerous moral choices – people will beg you to let them in, but breaking procedures puts your family in danger. Will you have the courage to say ‘yes’ to people in need?
Among low-cost video games, one can’t forget about Undertale – quite a unique RPG, where you don’t even need to fight to complete it.
Undertale is a role-playing game, but also, somehow, a bullet-hell. Despite its simple graphics, it feels like a real adventure, and it’s perfect for every genre veteran, as it questions and challenges quite a few of genre staples in interesting ways.
Repetitive sequences are limited to the very minimum, so every minute of play is a new experience. There are puzzles to solve, charismatic characters to meet, and reflex-based combat minigames to master. Add a lot of humor and funny dialogues to the mix, and you get a game that you won’t soon forget. And the game is very ready to call you out on your reloads and murders, so be ready.
If you’re wondering if there’s a cool inexpensive game that’s worth buying right now and that can be played together with friends, then Among Us could be one of the possible answers.
Among Us is a simple game, where players meet together on one of several sci-fi-themed areas with one goal in mind – to find impostors hiding among them. Unless, of course, you’re an impostor yourself.
All players get a list of tasks to complete, such as fixing wires or stabilizing spaceship’s systems, while the impostors have to sabotage their work and kill everyone. The game requires good social skills, as players have to report what they were doing when a disaster occurred – fail to convince them you’re telling the truth and you get vented, even if you’re not an impostor.
The Stanley Parable
There are amazing games that started simply as mods for other popular games, and The Stanley Parable happens to be one of these.
The Stanley Parable is an interesting story-based video game with gameplay focused entirely on exploration and simple interactions with the environment. The idea is to follow the narrator’s narrative – or not – and see what happens.
The narrator comments on your almost every action, and it’s quite hilarious to listen to him talking when things are not going the way he planned. The game has several endings and some hidden secrets for you to discover, so you’re guaranteed to have a lot of fun. If you enjoy metanarratives and tight comedic writing, The Stanley Parable must go on your wishlist.
Super Meat Boy
If you’re looking for the ultimate platform challenge, then picking Super Meat Boy would be an obvious choice.
Super Meat Boy is a platform game, where you will be playing as a raw cube of meat as he tries to rescue his romantinc interest, another cube of meat. It sounds silly, and it is, but it’s also insanely fun – at least as long as you find dying over and over again to be fun.
It’s not an easy game and if you don’t have godlike reflexes, then probably you’ll swear and curse a lot during play, but it’s worth noting that usually, the harder something is to do, the more satisfied you’ll be once you finally manage to do it. The game’s responsive controls and gruesome, but helpiful way of marking where you failed on previous attempts make the experience smoother.
When speaking of high bang-for-buck games, you can’t forget about Castle Crashers – a side-scrolling hack and slash that can be played together with up to 3 other players.
It’s a great party game, but it can also be played solo. The story is rather simple – rescue four princesses and restore order in the fictional medieval kingdom. Nothing unusual, but it’s not the story that matters the most here.
Castle Crashers features over 20 different playable characters earn levels and grow stronger as they beat more opponents and complete more missions. Combat focuses on utilizing combo attacks and special abilities unlocked as the character levels up, but there’s also a selection of weapons to find and use to increase your chances of surviving even the seemingly impossible encounters
They Are Billions
Finally, there’s They Are Billions – a surprisingly absorbing combination of strategy and base defense.
If you ever played Stronghold games, but you wanted more challenge and maybe a different setting, then They Are Billions is the answer. It’s set in a steampunk post-apocalyptic universe overrun by zombies and your task is to build defenses, and keep the horde at bay.
What makes the game unique is its ability to simulate thousands of zombies simultaneously. Thousands of zombies can appear on the screen at any given time – as you can see, the word “horde” wasn’t an exaggeration and you’ll need to really plug all the weak spots in your walls and firing lines, or the last remnants of humanity won’t last long against the tide.
Generally speaking, the more it costs to develop a game, the more polished such game will be once it’s finished, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes the game turns out to be a complete failure, despite having an extremely high development budget, but sometimes it’s the other way around – the game that was cheap to develop starts to make a lot of money.
Great low-budget games are usually made by indie developers, who naturally don’t have as much money at their disposal as bigger companies do, forcing independent developers to think creatively and come up with interesting gameplay ideas that can be developed and delivered as fast as possible. Time is money, which means that the faster the game can be completed, the less money will be required to fund it.
Making an interesting indie game is not an easy task, because developers have to make sacrifices during the development phase – sometimes they can’t afford to spend too much time on the game’s visuals, sometimes the music will suffer, and sometimes the story will be nonexistent. That’s why most indie games are made in pixel art 2D or low-poly 3D – these styles can look amazing even if one doesn’t pour hundreds of hours into making them.