What are the best Steam games? Valve’s beloved digital marketplace has been the go-to platform for PC gamers for much of the last decade, marauding our wallets with seasonal sales and silently taunting us with the dozens of unplayed games in our library – we can’t help but feel comfort in its warm embrace.
The store is home to an enormous number of games – around 30,000 at the most recent estimate – with over 600 releasing each month according to SteamSpy. But which are the best Steam games? Given the numbers, it’s all but impossible to boil Steam down to a list of the ten best games, But we’ll give it our best shot.
We’ve aimed to include some of the best games on Steam, but also games that are heavily associated with the platform, whether they boast a hefty modding community on the Steam Workshop or never miss out on a Steam sale.
We’ve been busy analyzing what makes a game a Steam game. How many viewers does it average on Twitch? How large and vocal is the community? How old is the game? Most importantly, though, is the “feel.” There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that the steamiest of Steam games exude. You know it when you feel it, inhale it, and let it caress your grey matter, kind of like a sauna for your brain.
And so, what follows is a list of the ten best Steam games – Father Gabe be blessed.
At any given moment, there are close to 600,000 people playing Dota 2 according to Steam Charts, and an average of around 70,000 viewers on Twitch. These numbers don’t even include The International, Valve’s annual Dota 2 tournament that takes place in August. Last year, TI boasted a prize pool of over $25 million and pulled in nearly 15 million viewers at its peak. Without hyperbole, the popularity of Dota 2 helped birth the very concept of esports. So even if you don’t consider it the best, there’s no denying that Dota 2 is one of the biggest Steam games, and an integral part of the platform’s identity. If you’re starting out, check out the best Dota 2 heroes for beginners.
Counter-Strike started life as a Half-Life mod and has since developed into one of the biggest esports titles in history, with a large and dedicated community. Today, the CS:GO pro scene continues to go from strength to strength, with players like S1mple and Tarik drawing hundreds and thousands of viewers weekly.
Related: Here’s all the latest on the new CS:GO update
There’s also a flourishing economy associated with CS:GO’s weapon skins that can be found on the Steam marketplace where players can sell and buy cosmetics for their favorite guns. So not only is CS:GO made by Valve, it also makes use of Steam’s built-in item trading system – it’s impossible to imagine this incredibly competitive FPS game on any other digital store.
In March, Grinding Gear Games released Synthesis, the newest expansion for its action-RPG Path of Exile. It adds a host of new features and content, including a reworked spell system and new league play. But the mad thing is Grinding Gear Games release an expansion of this size every three months It’s this relentless pace that makes Path of Exile one of the best Steam games, especially given the Diablo 4-shaped hole in the action-RPG market.
Also notable is the business model PoE touts. It’s free to play, with a host of microtransactions available should players want them. The developer has always been upfront when it comes to freemium content. Grinding Gear’s commitment to transparency regarding pricing and game updates that’s rare among triple-A publishers. And what could possibly be Steamier than that?
Do you like hats with your Steam? Good, because Team Fortress 2 has plenty of them. Too many, it could be argued. This team-based multiplayer shooter has been kicking around for well over a decade now, and for good reason: the colourful art style, the nine distinct classes, a rotating pool of fan-favourite maps, and constant updates help keep the game fresh and exciting. Did we mention the hats?
Team Fortress 2 may not boast the esports scene of Counter-Strike, but the community behind the game is just as enthusiastic and help make it one of the best multiplayer games on PC. Like CS:GO, Team Fortress 2’s presence on Steam is marked by a bustling marketplace and extremely active forums. For many, Team Fortress 2 is the first game they think of when they think of Steam.
Before Fortnite ruined dancing forever and Respawn tossed their hat into the ring with Apex Legends, there was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The battle royale game that captured mainstream appeal launched on Steam in 2017 and claimed the record for most concurrent players in January of 2018. That number, by the way, is 3.2 million people playing PUBG at the same time. If that’s not Steamy, we don’t know what is.
PUBG may have since been eclipsed by other games on Twitch and outside of Steam like Apex Legends and Fortnite, but here it continues to rule the battle royale roost. With surprise cross-promotions, plenty of new PUBG maps, and hundreds of cosmetic rewards to chase, PUBG is a modern Steam classic.
What began as a simple mod for Half-Life 2 – we’re spotting a trend here – has blossomed into a massive spectacle of absurdity and player creativity that occasionally defies description. Less a game and more of a sandbox game, Garry’s Mod gives players access to Valve’s Source engine so that they can create their own games, scenes, and animations. It’s also responsible for an untold number of viral videos and absurdist memes featuring Team Fortress 2 characters. It may not have breached the mainstream consciousness like Dota 2 or PUBG, but Garry’s Mod is just as important to the history of Steam.
Rust isn’t just one of the best survival games, it’s also one of the best Steam games going. You start with nothing but a rock and a torch, and must gather resources to build shelter, hunt animals, and craft supplies. Using the rock to cut down trees slowly snowballs into gathering metals from the ground to build weapons and other useful things. This must all be done while managing your character’s hunger and thirst as well.
The presence of deadly wild animals creates a strong sense of tension, but the real threat is other players. Rust is a multiplayer-only game, which means you’ll have to face humans if you’re to survive. With a comfortable place inside the top 10 on Steam Charts and Valve’s revolutionary Early Access program to thank for its success, Rust and Steam go hand in hand.
If you’ve ever dreamt about taming dinosaurs in order to pursue your nefarious goals (and who hasn’t, really?), then this Steam survival game is for you. You begin stranded on an island living side by side with prehistoric beasts, and must survive by building a shelter, gathering resources, and, eventually, taming Ark dinosaurs. Equal parts survival game and MMORPG, Ark lets you live out your wildest dinosaur-based fantasies. Countless Ark mods have also transformed the game in weird and wonderful ways, whether that’s refined RPG systems or replacing every dino with a different Pokémon.
Another one of the free Steam games, Warframe is a co-op action game for those of us who live for the grind. You control a warrior known as a Tenno, and must don your Warframe armor in order to fight various space factions across a galaxy. The story missions will help you learn about the universe you occupy, but the true Warframe experience lies in the endgame grind for better gear, more refined Warframe builds, and making your frame as fashionable as possible.
The gameplay loop centered around strengthening your Tenno is gloriously addictive. Players level up their character and equipment by completing missions, with powerful weapons and new types of Warframes serving as the carrot that keeps you coming back for more.
There’s something incredibly wholesome about seeing Euro Truck Simulator 2 sharing company with the dinos of Ark and the hectic combat of Warframe on the list of most played games on Steam. Apparently, in a gaming landscape ripe with non-stop shooting and action, there’s plenty of room for a truck driving sim.
What makes Euro Truck Simulator 2 a quintessential Steam game is its consistent – and admittedly confusing – popularity; it can regularly be found in the top 20 most active games on Steam. Perhaps it’s the niche genre, or the calming nature of hauling a load of steel from Zurich to Torino in the dead of night.
Read more: Check out our list of the best PC games
What makes Steam so beloved by the PC gaming community is the sheer variety of gameplay experiences available. And while not everyone enjoys the same games, there are a handful of titles that we can all agree embody the spirit of Valve’s storefront. The above examples are characterised by strong communities, historical influence, and exciting experiences. And they all call Steam home.