This article was originally published during the 2016 Steam Summer Sale, and has been refreshed for 2017.
Steam sales: the wonderful, terrible times when PC gamers around the world struggle to keep their wallets safe from the allure of discounted games. We try so hard to resist, but we always succumb to something. Every Steam sale brings with it hundreds of great games on sale for absurdly cheap prices, but even among those deals there are standouts: those deals that simply seem too good to be true. After picking out some of our favorite games from the most recent summer sale, we decided to look back on the Steam sales of years past to pick out the deals that were way too good to pass up.
Here are the most ludicrous Steam deals of all times, still spoken of in whispers and campfire stories on subreddits and deal forums across the web.
Left 4 Dead 2
Date: December 2012, 2013
Christmas Day 2013 Valve decided to leave their own digital present beneath the proverbial tree. Those who didn’t already own Left 4 Dead 2 could download it for free. Steam occasionally hosts “free weekends” where players can try out a new game for a couple days, but this was different. Anyone who installed the co-op zombie shooter could keep it in their libraries forever.
Deal: 91% off ($49.99 down to $4.49)
Date: January 5, 2013
Open world crime drama Sleeping Dogs has maintained a cult status since its release in 2012, but some fans also reminisce about the time they nabbed the game for 91% off during a Steam sale. The discount was the result of a pricing error and was active for a scant 30 minutes, but Redditors and Steam forum-goers gush about the deal to this day.
Square Enix/EIDOS Complete Pack
Deal: 88% off (48 games for 74.99, saving $532)
Date: February 20, 2011
Perhaps the single best deal Steam has ever had, the Square Enix Complete Pack went live on February 20, 2011. It offered a whopping 48 games for just $74.99, saving buyers $532 in all. As you might suspect, the pack contained quite a few duds (the Kane and Lynch games and DLC come to mind), but there were solid deals there. Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition, Battlestations: Pacific, Just Cause 2, Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition, Supreme Commander 2, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light chief among them.
Deal: 90% off ($10 down to $0.98)
Date: November 19, 2008
While the name Valve is now practically synonymous with Steam, there was a day when Half-Life was their only claim to fame. As the game that put the development studio on the map, Valve thought it fitting to offer the game for a mere $0.98 on its tenth birthday. Since the game also sold for $10 at the time, the discount also marks one of the few times a major game sold for 90% off. It’s still on sale for $10, though in recent Steam sales you can usually grab many of Valve’s games on the cheap.
Square Enix Holiday Surprise Box
Deal: Five mystery games valued at $80+ for $9.99
Date: December 9, 2015 and March 11, 2016
A publisher apparently set on selling their games for as little as possible, Square Enix run two of these deals just four months apart. Notable, in part, because of their 87.5%+ discounts and the fact that they're mystery boxes, Square put both on sale about a week before they announced which games buyers would actually get.
Deal: 50% off ($60 down to $29.99) two months after release
Date: November 27, 2012
Dishonored was well-received when it launched in October 2012, so it was a bit strange to see it marked down 50% to $29.99 a month and a half after release. That kind of deep discount is usually reserved for major flops as publishers and developers try to snag some more customers. But this just went down as a lucky buy during Steam's Autumn Sale.
Deal: 50% off ($60 down to $29.99) two months after release
Date: November 24, 2012
Dishonored wasn't the only steal in Steam's 2012 Autumn Sale. Borderlands 2 also fell to just half its retail price after two months on sale. Seeing as it remains one of the highest-rated games on Steam (we loved it too), it was a great buy for those who still had money left to spend after Black Friday.
Deal: 73% off ($60 to $13.59) four months after release
Date: December 21, 2012
Maybe it was fear of the apocalypse, maybe it was just an insanely good buy, maybe it was THQ’s liquidation, but either way Darksiders II dropped to just $13.59 four months after release, marking the single fastest drop for a major release that we could find. For Darksiders fans, it definitely paid to wait for this one.
Deal: 83.33% off ($60 to $7.49) nine months after release
Date: Dec 19, 2013
While its price drop wasn't as quick as Darksiders II, you could grab Bioshock Infinite for $10 just nine months after launch. That's particularly notable because Infinite was in development for five years and a notoriously expensive project. While many other games eventually see prices slashed to the bone, Infinite has yet to drop below $7.49 more than four years on. Count yourself lucky if you managed to nab this one.
Deal: 90% off ($50 to $5) a year after release
Date: July 13, 2012
As one of the most-liked games on Steam, it's a wonder Valve's been so diligent in getting Portal 2 into more hands. Surely with its reputation people would pay top-dollar to play, right? Well, in any case, Valve will give it to you cheap. A year after Portal 2 launched in 2011 at $50 it went for 90% off.
Deal: Over 100%
Okay, so these aren’t real deals, but they still give bargain hunters a short adrenaline rush. It's a relatively common occurrence (especially in non-English speaking territories) for games to come up with discount values of 150% off or more. The error seems to happen when people setting sale prices aren't attentive to switching currencies. For example, when you take $10 off vs. taking £10 off. In any case, it's been the source of quite a few threads on Steam's forums and the subject of quite a few hilarious screenshots. Alas, Valve doesn't allow users to ever redeem these deals because Steam won’t add games with a negative price to your shopping cart.
Every time there’s a major sale the Steam forums get a few threads talking about how there are games that are over 100% off, complete with perennial jokes about trying to buy as many as possible and walking away with billions. Just last year Dark_Knight said, ”I thought having 130% discount on a game will give me 30% of the games price to my steam wallet :P”
It’s a nice dream, Dark_Knight.