If you could only keep games in your Steam library that sparked joy, what would remain?

In the much-discussed Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the host uses her signature KonMari method, subject of her best-selling book, to help tidy up people's homes. It's a familiar reality TV format where the transformation from chaos to order is accompanied by intensely earnest confessionals from those whose homes are subject to this extreme tidying. Kondo herself is charming, but the format of the show lends the whole thing a disquieting slickness. There is nothing that enough small boxes won't fix. The techniques, though, and their potential effects on people's well-being, are interesting to ponder.

Here's more on what KonMari means. The ultimate principle on keeping or throwing out possessions arguably comes down to this: "Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy."

Now, for no particular reason, it's time to make this about PC gaming! Let's apply these principles to your Steam library. If you KonMari-ed your Steam library, what would remain? What would you keep in your library if you could only have games that you truly enjoy? Maybe you already manage your library ruthlessly with the Favorites function in Steam, or maybe it's a mess of 900 games that you can't be bothered to sort through, even though you're almost certain you'll never play 90 percent of them.

Our answers are below. Let us know yours in the comments!

Andy Kelly: Euro Truck Sim 2, LA Noire, Deus Ex, and not much else

There's a lot in my Steam library that I would immediately throw out. Ancient, long dead MMOs, games I got in Humble Bundles that I don't care about, and about a million betas, demos, and other loose ends. I would love an option to ruthlessly excise a game from my library, but I guess Valve would just have a headache trying to deal with all the people who accidentally deleted games they didn't want to. Anyway, as for games that spark joy, Marie Kondo-style, there are a few.

Alien: Isolation, of course. I replayed this recently, and I don't think I'll ever stop. It has a firm place in my all-time top five. Euro Truck Simulator 2 as well. That's a game I'll be playing forever, and get hooked on all over again a few times a year. I'd also hang onto Deus Ex, because even now I'm finding new ways to play that game, creaky visuals and all. And here's a bit of a weird one: L.A. Noire. I absolutely love that time period, and that game is the closest I'll get to existing in it, which brings me back to it more than it probably deserves. But as for all those other games? Get them in a bin bag. They mean nothing to me.

Philippa Warr: Friendly or energetic games

Leaving aside the many, many issues I have with ascribing disproportionate value to immediate joy (especially when it comes to media), I think my KonMari-ed Steam Library would be dominated by games which offer a sense of child-like wonder and delight. Gently friendly things, or energetic things with brilliantly uplifting music. You'd find Slime Rancher, Burly Men At Sea, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Proteus, L U N E, Megaquarium, Subnautica, No Man's Sky, Starwhal, Super Hexagon, Portal 2, SEGA Bass Fishing, A Good Snowman...

But that would be to pass over games which rouse far more complex feelings. There's the aching loss of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, the contradictory comforting horror of Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies, the fascinating oddness of My Organic Garden, the breadcrumby tease and resolution of Return of the Obra Dinn, the absolute frustration of Stephen's Sausage Roll, and the emotional maelstrom of the first season of Life Is Strange. 

I think Marie Kondo has spoken about the "spark of joy" being more like a thrill. I think that's a more helpful way of thinking because it then doesn't preclude this latter category of games. But then why call it a "spark of joy" at all? Joy and that peculiar electricity of a thrill are not the same thing. And both are so rooted in the present that they absolutely refuse the possibility that you will grow into a game, or find value in it later, or even just slip into a different mood, taking comfort or joy in a subtly different type of play.

Andy Chalk: Battletech and a few others

I have a lot of games installed that I'm never going to play again. It's been almost a year since I finished Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition but it's still on the drive, and so is the Classic edition, because I am lazy and slovenly. But nearly all of them could be washed away with no real regrets. I think I'd keep a few of the games that "sparked joy" when I played them: Hob, Far: Lone Sails, Cradle, Bret Airborne, Night of the Rabbit, Kentucky Route Zero, Talos Principle. But it would be for the memory of the experience rather than the presence of the game itself, because what are they now, really? Words in a list on a screen. So they could probably go too, as long as you're not going to purge their existence from my brain. Battletech, though, I'm still working on that. It stays. 

Fraser Brown: Elite Dangerous, Warframe, and a bunch of strategy games

I’ve got 859 games in my Steam library, apparently, which is obviously a ridiculous number. I don’t even want to think about how many of them sit there unfinished, many even untouched. I’m trying not to treat games like obligations, so all the ones I keep feeling pressure to finish would probably have to go in the bin. Almost every survival game would have to go, too. There’s no joy there. 

I’d want to keep my junk food games, like Warframe. The grind and time investment is bad for me, I know, but the combat just makes me so happy. That might change—I’m still just scraping the surface—but it would be nice to have one evolving game in my library. A wee vice. I’d need to keep Elite Dangerous, too. I need my space holidays. 

There are lots of games I’ve already spent countless hours enjoying that I’m not remotely done with. Most of them are excellent storytellers. Crusader Kings 2, Endless Legend, Stellaris, Sunless Sea—they’ve still got yarns to spin. Most of them are strategy games, too, and that’s not surprising. Formulating plans or solving tactical puzzles feels meditative, even though they’re sometimes just as deft at evoking stress as joy. 

Wes Fenlon: Depressurize

Clutter in my Steam library doesn't really bother me, because there's really only one way I navigate it, at this point: I type in the name of a game until it pops up, and then I play it. It's rare for me to be scrolling through, thinking about what to play. But I do have a recommendation for anyone looking for a more zen scrolling experience. Download and run Depressurizer, a powerful organizational tool for your Steam library. Depressurizer can automatically sort every game in your library by its listed Steam genre or tags, which I find handy for basic tidying up. I use the genre method, but also specifically added in categories for games tagged 'multiplayer' and 'shooter,' since those weren't specific genres. You can also create your own categories and build much more complex filters, if you want—like categorizing games by year, but excluding a genre like like MMOs from that breakdown. This one's for all you micro-managers out there.

Joanna Nelius: Mostly narrative games

The majority of the games in my Steam library are narrative adventures, or have some seriously amazing/scary stories. I'm just as attached to them as I am my actual library of books in my room. The Vanishing of  Ethan Carter, What Remains of Edith Finch, Inside, Pollen, Firewatch, Oxenfree, Life is Strange, Dying Light, Abzu, Soma, Outlast, Masochisia, Alien: Isolation—all of those have hit my emotional core in various  ways. I could never part with them even if I never play them again. By  keeping those games around, I get to hopefully spread the same joy I got out of playing them to others. It's like being able to lend a book to a friend straight from my personal library; it brought me joy, and now it will continue to bring me joy if it can bring someone else joy—even if that joy is born out feeling like you'll have an aneurysm if one more scary thing pops out from a dark corner. 

Tyler Wilde: Rocket-powered battle cars and not much else

This, from our CMS image archive, can only be Tyler's Steam library.

This, from our CMS image archive, can only be Tyler's Steam library.

If I only kept the games I play regularly, or plan to play in the near future, my library would consist of Rocket League, Chess Ultra, Ratz Instagib, Slay the Spire, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and Euro Truck Simulator 2. I could live with that, but I'd be sad to toss out the option to play Stalker: Call of Pripyat, or whatever, if the mood ever strikes me. I'll probably never finish it, or West of Loathing or Rain World or Nier: Automata, but dammit, I'm comforted by the notion that I might. On some rainy Saturday, maybe? What a nice time I'd have. I refuse to rob myself of the idea of having that nice time that I probably won't have.

Chris Livingston: My singleplayer comfort games

I have so little room on my drive already that typically to install a new game I have to remove an old one. So it's already pretty tidy in here. If I had to seriously hack away at my library I could, quite honestly, lose a lot. But I'd keep my comfort games, games I've played tons of and still like to dive into now and then. All of my Bethesda RPGs, Half-Life 1 and 2, Portal 1 and 2, and Far Cry (only 2). Cities: Skylines, and Duskers would have to stay because I like to pop in on them once in a while. And DayZ, (I know it's multiplayer but it feels singleplayer a lot of the time.) And Super Mega Baseball 2 because it's almost baseball season. I'd hate to lose something like Dishonored because I really love it, but I played it so much back then I probably won't play it again.

Samuel Roberts: A bunch of immersive sims and stealth games

I have such good intentions when I buy a new game on Steam, but looking at my most played entries, a pattern emerges: I fuckin' love games where you can choose to be stealthy or go in all guns blazing. Your Hitman games, Dishonoreds, Metal Gear Solid 5, Deus Ex. These are the games I truly love, and come back to again and again. What a shame that these genres are a bit out of fashion these days. Guess I'll have to learn to love more open world games with quest markers and living shooters.

I could cut most of the rest, as long as I could also keep a few RPGs. 

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.