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The Top 10 Games Worth Picking Up in the 2014 Steam Summer Sale

Over the past few years, there has been a wonderful explosion of independently produced video games- in the first six months of 2014, more games have been released on Steam than in all of 2013. In case you’re new to gaming, know that the annual Steam Summer Sale is legendary, since Steam is the premiere digital distribution platform for games.

As a game journalist, this is fantastic (and frightening) to think about- it means that there’s a lot more to cover, which is great, but it also means that some stuff is going to fly beneath my radar. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and I’m obligated to sleep for at least one or two of them.

For gamers, the explosion of games is fantastic- if you can imagine a game, it probably exists. Still, it’s no good if you don’t know that it exists. That’s where us game journalists come in. Having spent plenty of time with plenty of games, here are ten that I can recommend picking up in the 2014 Steam Summer Sale. In case you’re seeing this article a little early, thanks to a leak, we know that the Summer Sale starts on June 19, 2014.

1. Steamworld Dig: Steamworld Dig is one of my favorite games on the 3DS, and the PC version of the game is both gorgeous and plays very well. In the game you play as Rusty, a steampunk robot who has inherited his uncle’s mine, along with a mysterious secret that leads him on a journey to discover… Something. What, you think I’d tell you what he discovers? Well, I won’t. You have to play the game and find out for yourself.

I absolutely loved Steamworld Dig for having great gameplay- it’s a bit like a mix between Terraria and Metroid- as Rusty, you dig deeper and deeper through semi-randomly generated levels, picking up ore and taking care not to get slain by the vicious worms and other creatures that inhabit the mines. The game’s not particularly lengthy, though it has quite a bit of replayability thanks to the level generation. Also, there seems to be a sequel in the works; while there’s no word on when it’ll be ready, now’s a great time to get into the game.

Steamworld Dig is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

2. The Bridge: If you’re a fan of Braid, you’re obligated to play The Bridge. The Bridge is a puzzle game that combines the work of M.C. Escher with the joys and frustrations of puzzle platforming- the end result is a gorgeous, trippy experience with lots of replayability. While there’s plenty of challenge in The Bridge, it’s not absurd or unfair in its difficulty- that being said, prepare to think outside of the box. In fact, forget the box. Prepare to think in extra dimensions once you’re done with this game.

Aesthetically, The Bridge is marvelous as well- there’s a great sense of atmosphere that comes out in both the visuals and the music- it’s dark, strange and on the whole a wonderfully crafted experience.

The Bridge is available for Mac, Windows and Linux, as well as for the Xbox 360.

3. Kerbal Space Program: Kerbal Space Program is a game that I have a hard time letting go of; it’s challenging, complex, and always keeps me coming back for more. The game is challenging for a reason; Kerbal Space Program employs actual rocket science- this, however, doesn’t overly complicate the experience. I’ve been able to play the game at my own pace and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, from building rockets that explode on the launch pad to creating ships that sail around the sun- all the while, I’ve been learning about actual rocket science.

The funny thing about Kerbal Space Program is that, as of writing this article, the game’s not even finished. There are a few bugs, and some features have yet to be implemented. Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic game whether you catch it on sale or not. It’s one of the few games that I think is worth buying unfinished because frankly, I’m satisfied with it in its current state. Kerbal Space Program is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

4. Race the Sun: One of my personal favorites from 2013, Race the Sun is a fantastic and fast-paced procedurally generated racing game that puts you on the surface of an unusually geometric world with a simple goal: don’t get caught by the sunset. Your craft is solar powered- the longer you stay in the sun, the longer you stay in the game.

The beauty of this game is in its simplicity- it’s a thing that doesn’t really look that great in screenshots or videos, but plays incredibly well. The simple, clean, minimal aesthetic feels fantastic when you’re actually playing the game as well- it lends an air of mystery. Be sure to check out our reviewRace the Sun is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

5. FTL: Faster Than Light: If you somehow haven’t heard of it, FTL: Faster Than Light, know that it is a fantastic roguelikeset in the fictional depths of outer space. It takes after all sorts of classic sci-fi- if you’re a fan of stuff like Star Trek, you absolutely must check out FTL. In case you’re unfamiliar with the roguelike role-playing game, know that each time you play, everything is set up semi-randomly- you never know what you’re going to encounter as your ship shoots across the galaxy. Your goal? Simple, deliver some information from one end to the other. As they say, it’s not the destination, but the journey- along the way, you’ll run into space pirates, hostile psychic slugs and giant angry rock men.

Besides having a neat, ever-changing story and fantastic gameplay, FTL recently received a major update from the devs- it added new scenarios, aliens, and other features, all for free. If you haven’t already bought the game, I advise you to do so straightaway, unless for some reason you dislike science fiction and fun. FTL: Faster Than Light is available for Mac, Linux and PC as well as iPad (though at the time of writing this article, Steam isn’t selling games for that last platform).

6. Robot Roller Derby Disco Dodgeball: Probably the strangest game I’ve had the pleasure of playing lately, Robot Roller Derby Disco Dodgeball is exactly what it sounds like and at least twice as fun. In Disco Dodgeball, you’re a robot on roller skates playing dodgeball with a bunch of other robots. Gameplay is a little reminiscent of Quake- it’s extremely fast-paced, easy to get into but difficult to master.

It’s definitely weird, but it’s also a lot of fun, and available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

7. Luftrausers: I had been looking forward to this game for quite some time- I’m a fan of Vlambeer, and was absolutely sure that they’d do a good job on Luftrausers. I was wrong- they did a great job on Luftrausers. In Luftrausers (which is as fun to say as it is to type), you control a plane flying out over the ocean on a secret mission. Your goal is simple: fight off enemy planes and boats, and don’t get shot out of the sky.

The aesthetic of Luftrausers is really something special- it’s styled after much older games, but made with current technology- simply put, it looks really good. If you’re a fan of arcade styled games, you absolutely must check out Luftrausers- it’s fun and addictive. Be prepared to come down with a case of “just one more round” syndrome. Luftrausers is available for Mac, Windows and Linux, as well as the Playstation 3 and Vita. Be sure to check out our review!

8. Secrets of Rætikon: This is another game that I had been excited for, and with good reason. In Secrets of Raetikon, you play as a beautiful (and strange) bird creature in a gorgeous world that- no surprise here- is full of secrets. The natural element of the game reminds me of a fantastical version of Shelter- there’s some strange familiarity in the way that both games handle animals as living, breathing things, with their own behaviors and such.

Secrets of Raetikon is available for Mac, PC and Linux.

9. Ether One: What would happen if the dream-entry technology of Inception were inserted into a video game with the visuals of Bioshock Infinite and a unique take on the time-honored adventure game? You’d get Ether One, a game that has been on my radar ever since I first caught wind of it. My love of To the Moon and my excitement over the game’s dreamy visuals in its initial teasers managed to catch my attention and keep my attention.

While it’s easy to compare the game to Dear Esther, as it seems to share a certain narrative quality with the aforementioned, Ether One is a much larger overall experience with actual gameplay. The puzzles in the game are clever, intuitive and blend well into the story. There are seemingly endless little sidequests that don’t follow the rigorous, grinding structure of the “sidequest” as we’ve come to know it. Ether One is a very different game, and it’s probably the prettiest one on this list. At current, it’s only available for Windows PC, but there are plans to bring the game to Mac.

10. Transistor: The newest game on this list, Transistor is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve played all year. It strips the cyberpunk aesthetic down to its core and dresses it back up with gorgeous, flowing art nouveau. Visually it’s a winner. The story is pretty interesting as well- you play as a famous singer named Red whose voice has been stolen from you by shadowy figures. You team up with a talking sword- the titular Transistor- and you hit the town.

Transistor has gameplay that, initially, seems rather similar to Bastion but quickly becomes impossible to play the same way; rather, in Transistor, you have to shift into a special strategy mode that allows you to lay out a plan and watch it performed at high-speed. It’s a little like Frozen Synapse with more real time elements. Supergiant Games has done a fantastic job on Transistor- it is not to be missed.

Transistor is available for Windows PC.

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