Steam often feels like an endless repository of content. And frankly, when I can drop in and spend $15 on an entirely forgotten Xbox platformer like Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy (which was just ported to PC this month, more than a decade after its initial release), that reputation is justified. Seemingly everything is on Steam, except for the things that are about to come to Steam.
But that isn't always the case! Over the years a small cadre of games have either been purged from the database, or are floating at the sub-zero depths of the trending page. Steam, like any other trading post, has its rarities and curiosities. Here are 10 games that you should take a collector's pride in if they happen to be sitting in your library.
God bless the dregs of Steam. As a cliché millennial I often find myself eulogizing the dogshit Flash games on Newgrounds that were the go-to after school time killer for every teenager across the planet from 2004 and 2009. Mobile phones and a professionalized free-to-play economy have killed that scene dead, but there are still some enterprising dreamers on Steam who are keeping the tradition alive. Trident Game Studio is a Ukrainian developer with, (what appears to be) a legion of bought Twitter followers and a barely functioning 2D sidescroller called Hooligan Vasja to their name. I found the game by paging through all 511 pages of the top-selling Steam charts until I reached rock bottom. I'm not sure if Vasja is truly the worst-selling game on the platform right now, but it's at least in the picture.
You, a delinquent teen in an orange hoodie and a backwards cap, scurry up a pipe fixed against an infinitely tall skyscraper. You're equipped with a slingshot, and take aim at the cats and old ladies leaning out the windows. Along the way, you'll run into some superbly incongruous bullet-hell bosses. This is annotated in the trailer with the words "FACE YOUR FEARS, BECOME A HOOLIGAN." Just for the record, that's extremely bad advice!
Trident are at least honest enough about their product to price it at 99 cents, so if you're interested in owning a repurposed flash game in 2017, the barrier of entry is low.
Ashes Cricket 2013
I'm not the type to shit all over the game development process—lord knows it's far tougher and more frustrating than any consumer or critic is willing to concede—but still, I have to imagine that cricket is the easiest sport to simulate in a videogame. I mean, it's cricket. How many animations do you really need to make a functional cricket game? The A.I. routines can't be that complicated, right? You'd think so, but apparently the nuances were too tough for the developers at Trickstar Games.
To be fair, the disaster of Ashes Cricket 2013 transcended the sport itself; this was one of the buggiest, most fundamentally broken games ever released to the public. Entire frame sequences were missing, which meant that NPCs would liberally teleport into their batting stances or swing animations. Sometimes characters would be turned away from the pitch, wind up for a throw, and magically toss the ball in a completely different direction. It was a marvelous, incomprehensible trainwreck, and the game was pulled from Steam (with a formal apology and a refunding offer) six days after release.
If you happened to buy a copy in the brief window it was available, congratulations, you own an extremely rare, extremely bad cricket game.
If you know your videogame history, you're probably aware that Blizzard wasn't always the international juggernaut that they are today. Yes, once upon a time, the company whose characters are iconic enough to power a Hollywood film made modest Super Nintendo games for kids. The best remembered of those early games is probably The Lost Vikings—who are routinely referenced in Blizzard's other franchises—but don't sleep on Rock 'N Roll Racing. Ask anyone who's played it: that vintage car-battler was awesome.
In 2013, someone on the internet who loved Rock N' Roll Racing put his "tribute" to the game on Steam. It was called Motor Rock. Unfortunately, that tribute was closer to an out-and-out remake of the original game, and the extremely rich executives at Blizzard were not inclined to hand over their intellectual property to a couple of kids with a dream. Motor Rock was taken off the marketplace a week after its release, and developers Yard Team now host a freeware copy on their website. Guys! It doesn't matter how much you love a particular game! You can't just make a sequel on your own terms!
Ride To Hell: Retribution
You've probably heard of this one. Between the hilariously narrow motorcycle sequences, the half-baked combat, or, let's be honest, the mind-blowing sex scenes where developer Eutechnyx keeps both parties clothed for some bizarre reason, Ride To Hell: Retribution has entered a strange realm of iconic, Big Rigs-esque infamy. That's honestly not a bad place to be. There are a lot of awful videogames, and only a select few are cherished for their incompetence.
Eutechnyx apparently didn't get that memo, because Ride To Hell has been scrubbed from Steam. Personally, I'm envious of anyone who managed to snag a copy; its badness burned twice as bright, but only half as long.
This might be my favorite game on this list, because I love a good, old-school new-hardware cash-grab. Remember the eight billion trashbag Wiimote minigame compilations that were ubiquitous at your local Target around 2007? Eat your heart out. I have not played Escape VR, but it's occupying the same real estate as Hooligan Vasja on the Steam bestsellers list, so you know we're in some rarefied territory. As far as I can tell from the trailer, you're wandering around an extremely dim, brown cityscape that looks built out of the Unreal 2 engine. There's exactly two reviews on the Steam page, and both are piquantly heartbroken and negative.
"I played this for 6 minutes, in that time I found nothing to do except walk through an abandoned western style town, the movement is slow is tracked by head direction rather than controller direction," reads one.
"The game is called escape but you aren't traped [sic] anywhere you can walk off into a feild [sic] and off the edge of the world into space. DO NOT BUY," reads the other.
I don't recommend being the third person who's disappointed by Escape VR, unless you want a permanent artifact of how terrible early Oculus software can be.
The War Z
The War Z was one of the first major Steam faux pas in videogame history. It's hard to remember now, but there was a time when the public at large took every bright-eyed indie campaign at face value—long before we were all burned multiple times. The War Z was particularly craven; posturing as a replicant DayZ, complete with a 100 square-kilometer map set in a living, breathing Colorado. The reality was closer to a rudimentary, PS2-tier open-world mess that alienated every customer that OP Productions managed to seduce. Executive Producer Sergey Titov didn't help matters by conducting several combative, unapologetic interviews with an understandably leery press, at one point blaming unhappy readers for "misreading" the project's intended scope. The game was pulled off Steam by the Valve ombudsmen, and in 2013 it was re-released with the new title, Infestation: Survivor Stories. If you somehow have original The War Z -code lying around, that's awesome. I just hope it doesn't make you feel dirty.
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma
Right now, if you go to the Afro Samurai 2's website, you'll find a pleading, anxious statement from publisher Versus Evil's General Manager, Steve Escalante. "Despite our best efforts, Afro Samurai: Revenge of Kuma Volume One did not meet the quality standards that we require," it reads. "As a result, we have decided to voluntarily refund the purchase price of the game and its associated Trilogy pack with our sincerest apologies. We have also decided to cancel all future Afro Samurai episodes."
The 2009 Afro Samurai game wasn't a classic by any means, but it was a functioning piece of software that people seemed to mildly enjoy. The sequel, released six years later in 2015, was rife with braindead combat, awful platforming sequences, and ridiculous production issues. Mike Fahey at Kotaku noted that after the first chapter, he'd already inexplicably maxed most of the skill tree. What? That aforementioned statement made it clear that Versus Evil knew their product was trash, so the game was purged from Steam and developer Redacted Studios was immediately ejected into outer space.
This is a weirder one, because it doesn't come attached with any huge public controversy or outcry, but right now it's impossible to find the 2013 movie tie-in Star Trek action game on Steam.
You probably don't remember this game, because A) you're likely not a 12 year old who buys movie games anymore, and B) it wasn't even released alongside the generally adored Star Trek reboot, and was instead forced to carry water for the generally debased Star Trek: Into Darkness. Regardless, yes, there was a videogame, called Star Trek, in which you wrested control of Kirk or Spock and shot your way through a bunch of boring environments for about five hours. It was bad in a very silent way. Bad in the way the Rugrats Movie game was bad. And that's okay. I'd much rather be disappointed by a third-person Star Trek shooter, than, like, No Man's Sky.
Be it a rights issue, or a programming hiccup, or someone pressing the wrong button at Paramount, Star Trek has been pretty much scrubbed from the internet. So if you happen to count that game among your Steam library, you're in luck! That extremely unremarkable campaign is now a historical curiosity.
There are worse games than 007: Legends on this list, but perhaps none more disappointing. Activision set out to recapture the bygone glory of the N64 classic Goldeneye (which was a doomed conquest to start, because that game is bad), and they arrived on the other end with an unforgivably generic FPS with a thin Bond veneer. It was like a 007 mod for Modern Warfare 3, or something.
Everyone hated it, and a few months after release developer Eurocom bit the dust. In that wake, 007: Legends, along with myriad other Bond games, were purged from the Steam database. If you own it, take pride in being able to replay the endlessly annoying boss battles over and over again.
So this is a weird one. Right now you can go buy a copy of Paranautical Activity: Deluxe Atonement Edition on Steam for a couple bucks. And you'd be happy if you did that, because it's a rock-solid FPS roguelike with a witchy, neon pixeldust aesthetic. But, as you might imagine, the "Atonement Edition" is a re-release. What did Paranautical Activity have to atone for? Well…
The original developer of the game, Code Avarice, was lead by a guy named Mike Maulbeck. He had butted heads with Steam's infrastructure a number of times, and his frustration bubbled over in 2014. Steam was labeling Paranautical Activity as Early Access, when it was already in its final build. Maulbeck was annoyed enough by the mistake to complain on Twitter, issuing a death threat to Discount Jesus himself, Gabe Newell. He didn't really mince words: "I am going to kill Gabe Newell," it read. "He is going to die."
Maulbeck said it was a joke, but Valve were less charitable and pruned the game from Steam. It's an eternal warning, really; don't threaten Newell, he is more powerful than you can ever imagine. A year later Code Avarice transferred the rights and assets of Paranautical Activity to a new developer called Digerati, and an updated version of the game with the "Atonement" disclaimer hit the marketplace.
If you own a vanilla copy, count yourself lucky, because you're literally in possession of a piece of software that tempted the righteous retribution of the most powerful man on the internet.