With everyone keeping a close eye on their wallet these days, we need to keep an eye out for hidden treasures in the bargain games bin. I have not only been there, but I have come back with 50 games under twenty dollars, either new or previously owned, that you need to grab, or you need to stay away from. These are not in any particular order, so pay attention to the tidbits for each, as I have played almost every one of the games on this list, so I can easily give you the pros and cons. And this list doesn’t include them all. There are hundreds of them out there, waiting for you to try them out, so don’t be shy. The only thing you can lose is a bit of time and minimal cash.
Note: These range from E for Everyone to M for Mature. Make sure you check the ratings before buying them for younger gamers.
1. Rise Of The Argonauts
This is a timeless story, and they did a fairly good job of recreating it from myth into a half decent video game. I only had one major quibble with this title: There’s no mini map, which means that any time you’re trying to find your way you need to pause and go into the map through the menu. And you’ll need to, a lot. Otherwise, the controls aren’t too bad, the story is good and the graphics are decent for the time it came out.
2. Clive Barker’s Jericho
In true Clive Barker fashion, this game is literally a journey on a horror-filled expedition with everything from psychic powers to shooting demons.
3. Too Human
This game is a take on the Gods of Olympus from a different perspective. They are shown as technologically advanced,and not only is this a hack and slash game; it also has RPG elements, such as customizing armor and weapons in your inventory,and making your way through a very strange interpretation of mythology.
4. The Darkness
With the sequel out for a few months now, starting this very interesting story and first person horror game should definitely be on your To Do List, if you haven’t grabbed it already. With an interesting story, decent graphics and a cross between Noir storytelling and hellish fiends under your command, take a peek next time you’ve got the extra ten dollars.
This game was a bit of a surprise for me. At the lowest price I’ve ever paid for a videogame, this one was not only interesting, but funny and more challenging than I would have thought. You play a demon hunter who is literally immortal. Not only can you not die, you can be hacked to pieces and your severed head can roll around, grab the other pieces of you and put your body back together. Add to that a fairly intuitive control system and a lot of snarky jokes and you have a five dollar treasure that can help you wile away the time.
6. Spider-Man 3
One of the better incarnations of the lovable and witty web-head, its open-world lets you save random people, follow the movie’s storyline or clean up the city of various gangs as you do your acrobatic feats of heroics all for under twenty dollars.
Score: 9 / 10
7. Shadows Of The Damned
It does not get any more “M” for “Mature” than this game. Horror and gore mixed with a sarcastic demon hunter and his pet demon and the road through hell to save the woman he loves. This game has a lot of dark themes and lots of graphic violence and nudity, so absolutely NOT for minors. The game play is fun and the jokes hilarious, though some are just plain silly. At around six dollars, this is a very decent game and I kind of loved it.
8. Alone In The Dark
I was surprised how much I immediately loved this game. The story is compelling, there’s a nice suspense/horror feel to every moment and I loved how they treated the “coming back from saving and exiting the game” as if it were a series. It actually does a “Last time on…” and gives you a quick recap in television style of what’s been going on. Add to that the demons being unleashed from hell, the survival during horror-film feel and the great story and you’ve got to wonder why this game didn’t make it bigger. It even has a movie based on it, starring Christian Slater. They changed the movie’s plot though.
9. Splinter Cell: Double Agent
This game series has always been representative of the best stealth games around. This one is no different. And it’s now under ten dollars, so if you don’t have it yet… Go get it! Score: 9/10
10. Prince Of Persia
This version is the one with the entire game looking like a painting, brushstrokes and all. It was a beautiful rendition and a good story. While I prefer the Sands Of Time trilogy, this game is wonderful as well and well worth the small amount of cash.
11. Dark Void
Another surprise from the bargain bin. I didn’t know how to feel when I was looking at this game. It looked like a strange version of The Rocketeer and it sort of is except you’re trapped in an alternate dimension and you meet Nikolas Tesla and it’s all kinds of steampunk awesomeness. Under ten dollars and definitely fun.
12. Devil May Cry Series (1 – 4)
There is no hack and slash more well-known and renowned than Devil May Cry. And if you haven’t heard of Devil May Cry at this point, you may want to look for the original and its several sequels. You are the son of a demon and a demon hunter. You basically protect earth and make sure they don’t take over. Now is a good time to check them out, since they’re coming out with a reboot of the series soon.
13. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
This game follows the story of Darth Vader’s student. Not only is the story interesting and the gameplay fun, but Sam Witwer is the voice and model for the main character. You may know him his turn as Aiden on Being Human and he was also Doomsday on Smallville. Awesome actor and they did an absolutely perfect job recreating him for the character in the game.
14. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2
The story of Darth Vader’s padawan continues in this sequel. After the events of the first game and bringing incredible graphics to add and a second light saber to fight with, my only problem with this sequel is that it is very short. Voice cast came back, Sam Witwer included and just an all-around awesome sequel.
This first-person shooter has an interesting premise and beautiful graphics. I was a little disappointed at how very short it is, but it does allow you to fight for either side of the war, being either part of the existing security force or part of the resistance that is fighting for freedom against them. I don’t know how good the multiplayer aspect is, but the single-player aspect is good enough for the under twenty price.
16. Condemned: Criminal Origins
This is a very odd game, and I confess I haven’t played all the way through, which is why I haven’t checked out its sequel (also under twenty dollars by the way). You’re an investigator and trying to solve some murders when suddenly you are under suspicion as well and there are some occult aspects to the game as well. If you like mysteries and odd storylines, this one is for you.
17. Dead Rising
After having a good experience with grabbing Left 4 Dead from the bargain bin, I tried Dead Rising and was sorely disappointed. You’re a photographer stuck in a zombie-infested mall. You have the main quest of taking awesome pictures of anything that is noteworthy and you are also trying to survive. You can grab things from the different stores at the mall, including changing into different outfits and using anything from a skateboard or baseball bat to a piece of metal pipe to swat the zombies to death and save as many people as you can from them. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of your weapons break after a while, even the metal pipe, so it can be quite frustrating and not at all realistic. While it is under ten dollars, unless you love zombies and don’t care that your aluminum baseball bat only survived killing four zombies, you might want to pass on this one.
18. Mercenaries 2: World In Flames
I loved the first Mercenaries game, so when they came out with another I was quite excited. For some reason, I couldn’t get into this one like I did the first. It’s mostly about taking revenge on someone who, after you do a job for them, stiffs you and tries to kill you. Obviously, this isn’t something you relish, so you are slowly making your way to being able to get them.
19. The Bourne Conspiracy
Based on the books not the movies, this game was surprisingly challenging. The hand-to-hand combat is especially challenging and the story is as compelling as a game as it is in the movies and books. Great game for the price.
20. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion /Bioshock
This was the strangest match up I’ve ever seen, but definitely a good pair of games. For under twenty dollars, you get two extremely good games. Oblivion needs no introduction, especially since the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim has become a huge sensation. Bioshock is an interesting story, creepy little girls, steampunk technology and suspense all in the depths of the ocean somewhere in the remnants of an underground city.
Score: 9/10 for both games.
21. Velvet Assassin
This is a very strange game, with an interesting storyline based on true events. The oddest thing is the use of morphine for a rush of drug-induced speed and this idyllic dreamworld that replaces the real world while the drug is at work. Otherwise, it’s a good stealth-based game and, for less than ten dollars, it’s definitely a must-try.
22. Rogue Warrior
I was curious when I picked this up, especially since it is based on the life of a real person. The game is similar to Splinter Cell in controls and style and it’s full of snark and wit. If you want to sneak around and kill people while your character makes jokes, this is one for you to check out.
23. Alpha Protocol
I included this game in my Top Ten Stealth-based Games and for good reason. The price of this game is ridiculously low. With controls and gameplay like Splinter Cell, different possible endings due to conversation choices and some customization options in appearance and skills, this game is a huge recommendation from me for those who love sneaking around.
24. The Saboteur
This game is so much fun, and also included in my Top Ten Stealth Games. The old music, the perfect old cars, the blowing up Nazi soldiers and freeing the people of France, all makes for a great game. It is “M” for “Mature” for a few different reasons, including the violence and the ability to unlock nudity, so keep the youngsters away from it. But when they’re not around, definitely check it out.
With a Japanese anime feel and Devil May Cry-like controls and battles, you are a witch trying to find clues to your past, with angels and demons as enemies and allies. The game has a lot of adult themes and some almost nudity, so probably not for younger gamers. The gameplay is fun and the music is addictive, even when you don’t want it to be (including two versions of Fly Me To The Moon).
This is an absolutely fantastic game… sort of. It has good graphics, a great story, but it is very short. It is based on a “what if” scenario where North Korea has invaded the United States. The backstory is compelling and well thought out. If you don’t mind being able to get through the whole game in just a few hours, it’s well worth the price.
27. Fairytale Fights
This game is absolutely silly. You are one of four fairytale characters fighting to get your story back from someone who’s stolen all the happy endings. But you don’t do it nicely, you do it all crazy-psycho-gore-filled cartoony. It’s definitely not for young kids, but it’s a blast for anyone old enough to know that the gratuitous violence is only for humorous effect.
This game has a very unusual premise, but it is an excellent RPG with a hack and slash feel and an interesting story. Magic, shadow demons and trying to save your daughter. What else do you need for under fifteen dollars?
29. Fighters Uncaged
This is a fun game for those who have Kinect. The controls are a bit iffy until you get used to the height necessary for the different kicks and punches. I suggest sticking to training for a while until you have the hang of it, since the actual fighting is tougher than you’d think. If you want a kickboxing-style Kinect challenge, this isn’t bad for under twenty bucks.
30. Dante’s Inferno
This game is awesome on so many levels. Not only is this based on one of the most well known and interesting books ever written, the style, controls and the feel of it are beautiful and the different levels of Hell are represented in gruesome and graphic detail. Another “M” for “Mature” game, I consider this to have been one of the best games to come out in 2011.
31. Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
Another beautiful incarnation in the Prince Of Persia series of games, Forgotten Sands is a great example of a game that is incredibly under-priced. The graphics are beautiful, the fighting is fun and the story exciting. And I think I saw it for under ten dollars.
Based on the movies, you play a young new recruit to the group and make your way through a dozen different levels with both familiar characters like Slimer, Viggo and Mr. Stay Puft. It is surprisingly fun, and the controls are easy to learn. Definitely a good PG game for anyone and everyone who loves Ghostbusters.
33. Fable 2
I can never stop saying good things about the Fable series of games. For a run down of them all, check out my Fables: The Journey review, which includes a retrospective into the stories of all the games. Fable 2 was the first one you could play as a boy or a girl, introduces having a pet and is as fun as it is long.
34. Fable 3
The second to last incarnation, this one starts you as a Prince or Princess. Your faithful pup as a sidekick and everything we love about the previous games plus more customization and a great story, this is a definite must grab for under twenty dollars, especially with The Journey out already and Fable 4 coming out next year.
35. Saint’s Row 1 & 2
These games are awesome. If you love Grand Theft Auto, these are right up your alley. You can get them individually for under ten dollars each, or get the two-pack with both for just under twenty dollars. Great story, great character customization, including gender in part two, this game is a good one for shooting, stealing cars and making sure everyone knows how awesome you are.
This is another third-person shooter and hack-and-slash game, similar to Bayonetta or Devil May Cry in gameplay. The story is fun, the controls are intuitive and the gameplay exciting. Well worth the twenty bucks and definitely replayable.
37. Final Fantasy XIII
For lovers of Final Fantasy, the latest incarnations have amazing graphics and not a bad
storyline. I’m sorry to say I haven’t been able to play this or its sequel myself, so no rating from me – but feel free to weigh in in the Comments if you’ve played it. I’m told its biggest flaw is that it’s very short.
38. Final Fantasy XIII-2
The sequel and latest incarnation, it continues the storyline and adds some content and plot to its predecessor, which was too short. Once again no score, as I haven’t played this one either.
39. Batman: Arkham Asylum
If sneaking through the shadows and knocking out the Joker’s goons while trapped inside a dark insane asylum sounds like fun, grab Arkham Asylum. For about ten dollars, you can control the Dark Knight and make sure Joker’s fun ends with a THUD! BAM! and/or THWAP!
40. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
This entire series of games has revolutionized first-person shooters, along with its competitor Battlefield. Lucky for those of you who haven’t tried it out yet, the first in the series is now a bargain bin jewel waiting to be snatched up.
41. Mass Effect
This series is amazing, and if you haven’t played it you need to start here. As Commander Sheppard (male or female), you can not only try to save the universe, you can customize what you look like, your past and how people regard you and be a paragon of good or a renegade rogue depending on your choices.
42. Mass Effect 2
The sequel and continuation in Commander Sheppard’s story, the graphics are improved, the few annoyances from the first game are gone and the story just keeps getting better. Mass Effect 3 is now out in stores, so grab this one and prepare for the great third game in the series.
43. Mirror’s Edge
An older game, this takes first-person games into a very strange and awesome place. The game’s story is great and its gameplay is very challenging. You are trying to solve a murder and uncover a conspiracy in a futuristic city where you need to almost defy the laws of gravity running, jumping and fighting your way through all in first-person. If you want a game where you feel like you’re right there in the action, this is absolutely for you. Score: 8/10
44. Splinter Cell: Conviction
The last in the Splinter Cell series so far, the game is challenging, beautifully rendered, and the story is just amazingly good and complex. Hiding in the shadows, innovative style different from the previous incarnations, this is just a beautiful game and a steal for under twenty dollars.
45. L.A. Noire
While not strictly Noire-style, this game is a great example of Grand Theft Auto meets CSI with a touch of Law & Order. With realistic facial expressions and detailed characters, you need to be a master not only of finding the clues and figuring out the plot of each criminal case, you need to be a good judge of who’s lying and who’s telling the truth and which approach will work best with which personality type. Add some personal intrigue, some old Hollywood style and a semi-open world to explore and you’ve got a fantastic game for a truly amazing twenty dollars.
46. Red Dead Redemption
For the gunslinger in all of us, this third-person RPG has a good strong story, intuitive controls, beautiful graphics and enough side-quests and optional challenges to keep anyone busy for a good long while. So whether you’re trying to make the Old West safer (or more dangerous, depending on your choices) or following Leonard Hofstadter’s lead and just playing it to “take a walk and clear your head,” this game is still a steal at under twenty bucks.
47. Assassin’s Creed
This series of games is a phenomenon. I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t played it yet, but if you love it and don’t own it, or have somehow missed the bandwagon, I invite you to climb on for under ten dollars. Following the story of a young Assassin named Altar, you begin a journey that takes you into a war that has been hidden from the world since before the time of the Crusades. The graphics are beautiful, the story complex and compelling and the gameplay is to die for. Or, actually, to kill for.
48. Assassin’s Creed 2
The sequel and continuation of the story, this one follows Ezio Auditore in Renaissance Italy, as he battles his own Templar enemies in search of revenge and justice. It also continues the modern day story of Desmond, our main character and the fight as it goes in current times. With Assassin’s Creed III out now, not only can you find this game for under twenty dollars, no doubt its sequels will see a price drop soon as well, so keep a look out for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations when you can.
49. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Last in the list, but certainly not least, Deus Ex takes us to a future where medicine has evolved enough for people to be augmented in previously unimaginable ways, from increased agility to the ability to slow your descent from a fall to keep you from being injured. You are an ex-police officer working private security for a large corporation and this takes you around the world following a complicated and brilliant storyline. With different ways to pull off your missions, from stealthy to messy, this game has a little bit of everything. Definitely well worth the price.
As you can see, the bargain bin is filled with more treasures than trash and you should give a try to anything that sounds like your style of gaming preference. And while I wish you all good gaming, remember to poke your head out every once in a while, too. You never know what you might miss.