20 hidden gems to grab before the Steam Summer Sale ends

Golden Treasure dragon
(Image credit: Dreaming Door Studios)

As the Earth feels like it's careening closer to the sun, the threat of your wallet being obliterated by hot discounted games increases year upon year. The last big Steam sale feels like it was just weeks ago, though according to our record of Steam sale dates it was back in March. But countless great indies have still landed since then. If you’re tired of predictable mega-budget triple-A stuff, I’m here with some funky fresh new ways to drain your bank account and free time.

To ensure that you’ll be finding only the deepest, freshest cuts here, I set these rules:

  1. These games haven't been featured before on PC Gamer
  2. They're recent releases, launching no later than 2022
  3. They're notably undersold, with very few Steam user reviews
  4. They're as broad a range of genres and styles as possible
  5. They are all generously discounted, within reason
  6. I've played every one of them and can vouch for their quality

And because rules are made to be broken and word limits shattered (hey, wait a second... -Ed), I included an extra five from just outside those bounds that are equally worth your time and attention. I worked hard to make sure you'll discover something here that you've never heard of before. Keep gaming weird, and if you're still hungry for more, check out my Spring 2023, Winter 2022,and Summer 2022 roundups. Most of the games featured there are on sale again now. 

Xross Dreams

Price: $14.99/£11.69 (40% off) | Developer: Starlight Studios Games

Xross Dreams is a lot like Puyo Puyo Tetris, but more. Tag-team between 10+ characters, each one playing a different but mostly familiar puzzle game, plus a couple all-new concepts. It’s gloriously weird, surprisingly tough, and what it lacks in visual polish (due to its charming rough n' sketchy art) it makes up for in scope and mad creativity. There’s a beefy singleplayer story, your usual assortment of arcade, puzzle & training modes, plus a few more esoteric features like an intricate dog-petting system. International play should be no problem too, as the game has fighting game-grade rollback netcode.

Shout-outs to the soundtrack—a catchy assortment of arcade-friendly high-energy beats.

Hand of Doom

Price: $6.69/£5.69 (33% off, also Nice) | Developer: Torple Dook

Don't be fooled by the grimdark aesthetics. Hand Of Doom is a comedy game—a playful tribute to the era when goofy low-budget FMV video was integrated into 3D action games in the likes of Realms Of The Haunting. As a hooded cultist trapped in a binding contract to the Wizard King, you're sent off on a quest to learn spells, secure powerful artifacts and occasionally throw fireballs at people that annoy you. It's more of an exploration and point-and-click adventure than anything, but there's some very mild FPS combat in here too. The vibe might not land if you're too young to remember the games it's riffing off, but there's lots of fun characters and goofs along the way. 


Price: $12.49/£10.49 (50% off) | Developer: WILD WITS 

A turn-based squad tactical roguelike RPG with an unusual fantasy setting and a gorgeous watercolor paper collage aesthetic. You're leading a band of adventurous lizard-folk to save the world from a creeping curse, fighting monsters and rival tribes along the way in hex grid combat heavy on strategy and positioning. As well as unlocking new features and content each run, dying means that the spirits of your previous party can accompany the next group for support.

Aetheris is currently in early access, but the full version will be rolling out in just a few months. At this price, it's easy to get in on the ground floor—the main story is all in place, they're just going to be fleshing out the details and balance from here.


Price: $5.59/£4.39 (60% off) | Developer: Alexander Taylor

With Zachtronics on indefinite hiatus, a hole has been left in the world. Sokobot is one of the better attempts to fill the void left by Spacechem and Opus Magnum's creator, pairing Sokoban-style block-pushing with low-level robot programming. Place little robots, give them a looping chain of instructions, then tweak and tune until they can build 10 target objects unsupervised. As with the best games of its kind, there's no one 'right' answer to a given puzzle, with scoring done through end-of-level histograms tracking your efficiency against several metrics. The developer has already rolled out one free expansion featuring new sticky gel blocks. Here's hoping there's more to come. 


Price: $12.95/£10.19 (40% off) | Developer: Digital Kingdom 

A great little arcade game with some very lightweight roguelike elements. Controlling a bit like a shmup but without the shooting, your goal is to race across the water, scooping up and delivering packages while dodging incoming fire. While you can submerge to keep yourself safe, the ability is best used to trick enemies into shooting, blowing up or otherwise sinking each other. Great in short bursts and runs perfect on Steam Deck. The stark cel-shaded aesthetic, fantastic sense of speed and chunky yellow player vehicle also give me strong Redline vibes—a film that I feel absolutely everyone should experience at least once. 

24 Killers

Price: $14.99/£11.61 (25% off) | Developer: Happy Shabby Games 

Almost a decade after PC Gamer first featured it, 24 Killers is finally out and bears little resemblance to its past prototype form, thus exempting it from my first rule. What was once a 'whodunnit life sim' is now a wholehearted tribute to cult classic 'anti-RPG' Moon, with a strange dreamlike setting and a charming claymation/CG art style. You play as a ghost possessing a dead soldier, tasked by a cosmic octopus to rescue, befriend and share photos of all the weird monster-folks living in a bunker beneath your tropical island home. It's an unusual game of time and resource management, minigames, exploration, some adventure-game puzzling and hanging out with your weird monster pals.

Other than Moon, there's nothing much like it.

Sorry We’re Open

Price: $3.99/£3.34 (50% off) | Developer: oates

Working retail is a horror story, and that's something Sorry We're Open understands all too well. While this short but darkly satirical management RPG does have supernatural threats to fight, haunted shopping carts and terrible customers from beyond the grave, most of the horrors you'll encounter are painfully real. Face dehumanization, cold corporate management, chaotic coworkers and the stresses of organizing your fellow employees.

If you like this one, consider checking out its pizza-themed predecessor, No Delivery, which is about as far from Five Nights At Freddy's as you can get while still being about a cursed Chuck E. Cheese-alike. 

Grand Cross: Renovation 

Price: $7.49/£6.39 (50% off) | Developer: Eternal Sphere 4 

Most shmups are about precision bullet dodging and the thrill of being one tiny mistake away from death at all times. Grand Cross is a spectacular, visually overloading power trip instead. You've a generous regenerating health bar letting you make a few mistakes and a risk/reward mechanic in spending your life firing the Sun Blade, a gigantic, overpowered laser cannon. Burn through bosses directly, or swing it 360 degrees like a sword to clear entire screens and waves of bullets. So armed Grand Cross is not hugely difficult, but replayable thanks to a fun overkill-based scoring system and two alternate guest ships from other games, each with entirely different mechanics. 

Stuffo The Puzzle Bot

Price: $7.49/£6.37 (25% off) | Developer: Hapatus Ltd 

I am not the greatest at puzzle games. I will admit that I am unlikely to beat every last challenge in Stuffo The Puzzle Bot, but I can still appreciate just how smart it is. You're a lonely robot in a sea of little block-puzzle islands. Your sole method of interaction is picking up and placing blocks, and your goal is to get to the exit, optionally picking up a bonus item along the way. Simple, until you're juggling the properties of hydraulic pushers, teleporters, energy beam-emitters and more in your head. Thankfully the puzzles are bite-sized and never have too many moving parts, making victories frequent and satisfying. 

Producer 2021

Price: $5.49/£4.76 (44% off) | Developer: Stuffed Wombat 

Producer 2021 (ironically released in 2022) is what happens when you leave an NES-style graphic adventure festering at the bottom of a rusty dumpster for over 30 years. A short (but quite replayable) dark comedy adventure through the world of corporate employment and parasitic worm-based computing. Kinda like Cruelty Squad for people who like their suffering to involve more reading and less getting shot in the face.

While the intentionally garbled visuals are an acquired taste (I love it, but I'm weird), I cannot imagine anyone disliking the fantastic soundtrack from Umurangi Generation composer, YouTube video-essayist and fellow aficionado of weird and obscure games ThorHighHeels. 


Price: $1.99/£1.59 (60% off) | Developer: FossettGaming 

It's not one of my indie roundups without a retro FPS. This time we're sneaking in some premium PlayStation 2 nostalgia with TimeShifters, a loving tribute to the original (and highly quirky) Goldeneye successor TimeSplitters, for under two dollars. Much like the game it's riffing on, the solo campaign initially seems bite-sized, but higher difficulties add extra objectives and further complicate battles, encouraging return trips. But the campaign is only part of it. There's a bunch of arcade challenges, silly minigames and even Workshop support. Oh, and of course there's online multiplayer, although sadly no bot support, so you'll have to bring your own friends. 

Vacant Kingdom

Price: $5.99/£4.35 (25% off) | Developer: shru 

Part of the fun of writing these lists is the discovery. Vacant Kingdom is one I stumbled upon while researching this article and it's a joy to play. A fusion of Zelda-style adventuring, puzzling and twin-stick bullet hell combat, buoyed further by some genuinely funny jokes. While the bullet patterns are often impressive (especially during the boss fights), they're not especially challenging to dodge around, and there's a slow-mo power to help you weave between the denser waves. There's a full suite of accessibility options if needed, so fast reflexes and precise aiming ain't a requirement. It'll last at most a full afternoon—around 5 hours, give or take. 

Research and Destroy

Price: $8.99/£7.53 (55% off) | Developer: Implausible Industries 

A lightweight and accessible take on the squad tactics genre, cribbing notes from XCOM's strategic map layer and Valkyria Chronicles' combat. While turn-based, each of your trio of ghost-busting super-scientists gets a limited amount of real time to act each turn, controlled like a third-person shooter. Movement, aiming and shooting drain time and some defeated enemies drop more, giving it an action-adjacent feel, but with time to think. It also has online and excellent split-screen co-op, letting a whole second squad join the fun. Great for introducing newcomers (or young'uns) to the genre, especially given the silly writing and goofy cartoon aesthetics. At the time of writing, this one's also on Game Pass. 

Wonderputt Forever

Price: $4.89/£4.16 (51% off) | Developer: Damp Gnat 

It's a scientific fact that golf is a game with quality inverse to its scale. Regular golf? Wasteful, slow. Minigolf? Great, fun with friends. Micro-golf set in tiny pocket worlds? Clearly the best. Somehow, despite being the sequel to an old Flash classic (covered by Richard Cobbett long ago), this modern iteration flew under most people's radars. A pity, because it's astoundingly charming, featuring three visually spectacular, shapeshifting main courses, each taking a weird and unpredictable journey through time and space introducing new mechanics along the way. Once that's done, there are 400 challenge holes with their own twists, a bunch of unlockables, alternate game modes and of course scores to chase. But mostly, this is worth playing to relax. 

Dice Tribes: Ambitions

Price: $6.99/£5.03 (30% off) | Developer: Sprouting Potato 

Dice Tribes won't be winning any awards for its thrilling presentation—a brown screen filled with little brown cards and dice—but it can devour your time if you give it half a chance. A fun fusion of tabletop worker-placement games, solitaire dice placement and Dicey Dungeons' escalating galaxy-brain dice manipulation. With about 30 turns per game, you're aiming to invest your dice pool wisely to build up resources, open strategic options and generate more dice in order to fulfill one of many endgame 'ambitions'. The clever part comes from how varied those ambitions can be, with one of the most complex being a dice-based naval exploration minigame, if you're aiming to find a new continent.  

5 Bonus Recommendations

Phoenotopia: Awakening 

Price: $8.56/£6.74 (55% off) | Developer: Cape Cosmic

Indie Zelda-likes are 10 a penny, but very few games take inspiration from the much-maligned Zelda 2, the side-scrolling middle child of the series. Phoenotopia: Awakening takes that formula (random encounters on an overworld map and all) and refines it into something a little more modern, with some Metroidvania-ish elements, Souls-like heft to its combat and slightly Immersive Sim-like puzzling, often letting you bodge your way through using clever physics and item interactions. The difficulty might turn off some (make sure you cook plenty of food before wandering into a fight), but if you can deal with the challenge there's a lengthy world-trekking adventure here at a bargain price.  

Golden Treasure: The Great Green

Price: $9.99/£7.74 (50% off) | Developer: Dreaming Door Studios

If prose-heavy RPGs (Citizen Sleeper, Roadwarden, King Of Dragon Pass, etc) are your thing, you might have overlooked this gem. Golden Treasure is a dragon life sim, starting with your first sparks of awareness within your egg, hunting small animals via minigames and turn-based combat, escalating to stomping around your own domain and potentially steering the fate of all dragon-kind. Being a very non-human protagonist, its take on morality might take some getting used to, but the writing is great. Despite being quite lengthy for a single playthrough, there's plenty of replayability here, with wildly different story branches and outcomes to explore. 

Fates Of Ort

Price: $5.99/£5.11 (60% off) | Developer: 8BitSkull

I don't think I've played an RPG quite like Fates Of Ort. The chunky isometric aesthetics are very Amiga-adjacent, but the combat is refreshingly creative. You control a lone wizard, normally a difficult type of character to play if you've got a big spellbook to manage, but Superhot rules apply here. Time only moves when you do, letting you dodge projectiles, aim perfectly and pick exactly the right spell to use at any given moment. It's not a huge game by RPG standards (maybe 15 hours for the main story), but a major update added a post-game challenge area for the OG Shadow Wizard Money Gang crew to flex their spellcasting. 

Waves Of Steel

Price: $14.99/£11.61 (25% off) | Developer: TMA Games LLC 

Naval combat tends to be slow, complex and geared towards those with intense attention to detail. Waves Of Steel… is not. A big, dumb tribute to Koei's little-known Warship Gunner series (which I loved), this is absurdity on the high seas. More arcade game than sim, you get to build your own ship, stick hundreds of guns on it and fight comically huge fleets and some even more out-there bosses along the way. Want a carrier that spews out more planes than is physically possible? A hybrid battlecruiser/skateboard that kickflips onto enemy vessels? Or to just ram stuff with a big drill? When the whole world is explosions, I can easily forgive the slightly drab flat-shaded ships. 

Copy Kitty

Price: $4.05/£3.19 (75% off) | Developer: Nuclear Strawberry

Wrapping up with one near and dear to my heart. Copy Kitty is a platform shooter inspired by classics like Gunstar Heroes, but with very destructible levels and a complex (but satisfying) weapon system. You can carry three basic weapons, and fuse any duo or trio of them into an exponentially more powerful and spectacular hybrid attack. It's a surprisingly beefy game, with hundreds of bite-sized stages, an endless arcade mode, a New Game Plus mode that continues the story and remixes every level. There's also some deep secrets, and a second playable character with their own story and wildly different mechanics. The icing on the cake is a level editor with Workshop support and hundreds of community-made stages.

Dominic Tarason
Contributing Writer

The product of a wasted youth, wasted prime and getting into wasted middle age, Dominic Tarason is a freelance writer, occasional indie PR guy and professional techno-hermit seen in many strange corners of the internet and seldom in reality. Based deep in the Welsh hinterlands where no food delivery dares to go, videogames provide a gritty, realistic escape from the idyllic views and fresh country air. If you're looking for something new and potentially very weird to play, feel free to poke him on Twitter. He's almost sociable, most of the time.