12 great PC games not to miss in December

Take to the skies, explore uncharted lands, and beat the snot out of teeny-tiny worms in December's mid-tier and indie picks

call of the sea norah

Roll up! Roll up! It’s time for our monthly list of lesser known PC games releasing over the next few weeks that you should absolutely take a peek at. We are rapidly approaching the final bend in what has been an absolute marathon of a year. 2020, we’re sure you can agree, has been a bit of a swine. However, rather than bogging ourselves down in a mire of despair, let’s celebrate the year’s end with the joyous gift of videogames.

There’s one obvious triple-A behemoth due to release next month, with CD Projekt Red assuring us that Cyberpunk 2077 will definitely, actually, really this time not be delayed again. But if triple-A behemoths aren’t your thing, there are plenty of mid-tier and indie games that would make fine additions to your Steam library due in December. And, in the spirit of giving, we would like to share with you, dear reader, an eclectic collection of exactly these curated curiosities.

If you’re chomping at the bit to get into Demon Souls but the PS5 fairy said no, then do we have some Soulslike alternatives for you in Chronos: Before the Ashes, and Morbid: The Seven Acolytes. If you perhaps fancy giving the ol’ noggin’ a good tease, then the mysterious disappearance of the explorer husband you never knew you had in Call of the Sea may be right up your alley. If you long for a good strategy title, then either 4X wargame Shadow Empire (which we rather enjoyed), or the layered experience of Empire of Sin may be to your taste. And who needs Cyberpunk 2077, really? When you can instead swap Johnny and his silver hand for the two adorable faces of PHOGS!’s hungry hounds, Red and Blue?

Whether you’re looking for 4X or RPG, story-driven adventure or battle royale, we’re pretty darn confident that our December games list will feature something that you’ll want to sink your teeth into. Here are 12 great PC games not to miss in December.

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‘Try again, fail again, fail better… but this time slightly older.’ This is the mantra which Darksiders 3 developer Gunfire Games is trying to encapsulate in atmospheric RPG Chronos: Before the Ashes; the full PC release of 2016’s VR title, ‘Chronos’.

The game actually serves as a prequel to 2019’s Remnant: From the Ashes, and is summarised as “a hero’s lifelong quest to save their homeland from a great evil.” In a tantalising twist on traditional Soulslike mechanics, Chronos: Before the Ashes boasts its own conceptual spin involving timey-wimey *waves arms* stuff, with the protagonist progressively ageing each time they are slain within the labyrinth they are trying to escape. Finally, we can profess that a particularly rough boss fight is literally ageing us 30 years. However, with age comes wisdom, as well as a growing attunement to magic in place of that youthful nimbleness. If you have the time to learn more, then here is the game’s Steam page.

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Set in the throes of 1920s Chicago – a period hallmarked by the Prohibition – Empire of Sin will see players embodying an… entrepreneurial mob boss in their attempt to gain control of the city’s booming criminal underworld. Romero Games’ latest is a strategic and tactical layer cake, encapsulating turn-based combat, traditional RPG elements, and even characteristics from the empire-building genre.

So layered is the experience promised by the studio that players can go from managing their turf topographically like a game of mobster Monopoly, to ejecting rival gangs from prospective rackets in an XCOM-like manner. Will you become a Bugsy Malone-esque baller, or end up with pie on your face? If you fancy splurging out, then you can do so right here. Or, if you want to know what the word on the street is first, then here’s our Empire of Sin review.

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If Project Wingman disguised itself with thick-rimmed glasses, a novelty moustache, and a big trench coat with a ‘Hi, I’m Ace Combat’ name tag on it, we wouldn’t doubt it for a second. According to developer Sector D2, this arcade-style aerial combat title will let players “dogfight, strike, and fly through combat zones based on an alternate history of Earth.” Earth isn’t the only ‘alternate’ part, either, as Project Wingman will also pit you against “exotic weaponries such as railguns and geothermal-powered armaments.” Spicy.

Promising over 20 different aircraft and over 40 unique weapons, Sector D2 is throwing everything and the kitchen sink (probably) at players hoping to fight their way through Project Wingman’s two core gameplay pillars: a campaign mode – wherein players proceed through a series of story-driven missions – and a conquest mode. The latter of the two is a tactical territory capture game which incorporates almost roguelike elements. In conquest mode, players earn money from waves of increasingly beefy enemies – including “giant mechanised fortresses” – which can then be spent on maintaining and upgrading your plane. These funds can also be utilised to hire mercenary units for extra fighting power. By the sounds of things, you’re going to need it. If you wish to take to the skies, then you can acquire your target through Project Wingman’s Steam page.

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It’s been 15 years since Team 17 first brought Worms to our screens. 25 glorious years of blowtorching, pneumatic drilling, cluster bombing, fire punching, dynamiting, banana bombing, dragon balling, *big breath*, homing missiling, bazookering, and ultimately surrendering to our clearly more talented friends. So what better time is there than now for Team 17 to depart from the series’ turn-based formula? That’s right, Worms Rumble isn’t a turn-based strategy game… it’s a real-time, 32-player battle royale.

The implications of this shift are huge. No longer will we have to sit and watch in horror – a car-crash in slow motion – as a holy hand grenade is deftly Kobe’d into the hands of an unsuspecting allied Snuffit, securing its place in Worm heaven after it, well, snuffs it. In Worms Rumble, Snuffit can dodge, and Snuffit can flee, and Snuffit… can not snuff it. Team 17 will also be including a whole host of extra features, including challenges, community events, and customisation options, which you can learn more about by taking a jetpack over to the game’s Steam page.

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The influence of the Spaghetti Western subgenre has been felt fairly strongly in pop culture of late. Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 blockbuster ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, for example, makes clear allusions to Sergio Leone’s classic works. Additionally, Star Wars fans currently enjoying the second season of The Mandalorian can also perhaps feel Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man with No Name’ permeating the enigmatic character of Din Djarin.

Honig Studios, however, has gone one step further, and seeks to encapsulate the spirit of the Spaghetti Western in its entirety in El Hijo – A Wild West Tale. Following a bandit attack on their camp, El Hijo’s mother leaves the six year-old boy in the safety of a secluded monastery. However, the game’s young protagonist has other ideas, and escapes on a quest to reunite with her.

Grounded in cunning and deceit, the spirit of the Spaghetti Western manifests in the game’s core stealth mechanics. Meanwhile, the boundary-pushing violence found within the subgenre over more traditional Westerns is replaced by the playful schemes of an innocent child, with players gaining access to an “arsenal of tactical toys to bypass and distract diverse desperadoes” as the game progresses. If you are a stealthy stealthster with a penchant for puzzles, then mosey on over to El Hijo’s Steam page.

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Those familiar with Furi will be overjoyed to know that developer The Game Bakers has a new title on the way, except this time round, swordplay has been swapped for smooching. Haven follows the story of Yu and Kay: a couple who have escaped from their home planet in the hopes of beginning a new life, far removed from the restrictions of the Apiary. After crashing on a mysterious new world, these star-crossed lovers must now explore their new habitat together in order to rebuild their ship, and continue their flight. As if their task isn’t monumental enough, Haven’s darlings are thrown into a fight for survival as agents of the Apiary are sent to capture the runaways. And, as it turns out, the native inhabitants of Yu and Kay’s makeshift home aren’t all friendly, either.

As much as Haven seemingly focuses on blending resource gathering and management with real-time RPG-based combat, these core mechanics are intertwined with the game’s driving force: love. Indeed, the trials and tribulations Yu and Kay are set to face throughout their journey will put the sanctity of their bond to the test. The game’s combat revolves around rhythm, playing on the synchronicity of its two protagonists in order to maximise damage output. In fact, even basic actions such as cooking up a meal can help develop the couple’s relationship, while a cheeky post-combat kiss will restore your HP. If celestial romance is your vibe, you can pucker up right here.

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Who can take a Soulslike, sprinkle it with Lovecraftian horrors, and cover it with gore even Cronenberg would wince at? Apparently, Still Running can in its new horrorpunk-infused isometric ARPG, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes. Morbid will see players embody the last surviving Striver of Dibrom. As a Striver, your sole purpose is to vanquish the Seven Acolytes, “accursed and powerful beings, possessed by malevolent deities called Gahars.” Sounds positively Gaharstly to us…

In order to defeat such foul beasties, it’s imperative that our Striver has the right equipment, which is why Still Running touts the inclusion of over 25 unique weapons, including melee and ranged options. If gruesome, lore-driven Soulslikes with tons of stabby shooty variety are your taste, then you too can become an acolyte of Morbid right here.

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PHOGS! gives off big Human Fall Flat energy, except in this physics-based puzzler you are not a human… you are a dog. And instead of having feet, there is, instead… another dog. Red and Blue – the conjoined canine protagonists of this bouncy, borky, bitey adventure – must navigate three puzzle-laden worlds themed around their three favourite things: food, sleep, and play.

PHOGS! will see players chomping their way through Food World, snoozing their way through Sleep World, and chewing their way through Toy World. And for added immersion, developer Bit Loom Games has even made it so that two players can experience PHOGS! on a single controller. Don’t be a silly sausage (dog) and miss out when the game drops on December 3, have a paw at the Steam page link. PhogChamp.

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Shadow Empire may have already been released on publisher Matrix Games’ in-house store earlier this year, but that’s not going to stop us from sliding in a recommendation as it finally hits Steam on December 3. VR Designs’ turn-based 4X wargame is ambitious in scope. Alongside its exploratory, resource management-focused nature – typical of a game of this genre – Shadow Empire also envelops elements of character development traditionally found in RPGs.

Meanwhile, procedural generation can be found at every level of the gameplay: “it is not just the planets that are procedurally generated, your equipment, vehicles, leaders, location, and more are variable.” Everything you need to know and more can be explored right here on the game’s Steam page. If you’re in the market for other 4X titles, then check out our list of the best 4X games on PC (which also just so happens to feature Shadow Empire).

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What do you get if you slap together Bioshock, Firewatch, and Sea of Thieves under a pneumatic press and switch it on? Well, from what we can see in the trailer for Call of the Sea – Out of the Blue’s maiden voyage into the great gaming ocean – we may have just found the answer. Set in 1930s South Pacific, this story-driven adventure title follows Norah, the wife of a missing expeditionary, on the trail to find her husband.

After strapping a couple of sea turtles to her feet (citation needed) and crossing the ocean in pursuit of her husband’s seemingly doomed expedition, Norah now finds herself on what the studio describes as “a lush island paradise – a nameless, forgotten place, dotted with the remnants of a lost civilisation.” Usually, unnamed islands featuring lost civilisations also come with numerous brain-busting puzzles as standard. Don’t ask us why, they just do. And, indeed, Norah’s quest will be fraught with such devilishly finicky obstacles as she delves deeper into the island’s secrets, and gradually pieces together her husband’s fate. If the Great Husband Hunt of 1934 is one unsolved mystery you would like to see put to bed, then slide your sleuthy self over to Call of the Sea’s Steam page.

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Close your eyes for a moment. Now, I want you to imagine Pokémon. Now I want you to imagine Pokémon as a Metroidvania, wrapped in a Terraria-esque 16-bit art style. (If you’re still reading this you definitely didn’t close your eyes, but that’s ok, we forgive you.) This is the monster mash-up that underpins Monster Sanctuary: a monster taming title which is finally set to leave Early Access on December 8.

The game’s scope initially seems pretty simple, as highlighted on its Steam page: “choose your spectral familiar and follow in your ancestors’ footsteps to become a Monster keeper and save the Monster Sanctuary.” Grab a monster, save the sanctuary. Sorted. However, Monster Sanctuary’s world only expands outwards as you explore, leaving you in need of a little bit of extra help. Fortunately, to aid you on your journey, the game also boasts a plethora of skills, monster talent trees, plus over 150 items and pieces of equipment. Developer Moi Rai has also stated that, upon its full release, Monster Sanctuary will have 101 monsters available for players to tame in their grand quest. Gotta tame ‘em all.

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A beautiful Mediterranean island is in need of helping hand in ustwo games’ latest release, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure. You play as Alba, a little girl on a trip to see her grandparents over the summer. The plan for the next few months is to relax and spend time exploring the island – until Alba spots an animal in danger. She decides to go on a mission to save the local fauna, inspiring a movement that could get the entire island involved. Though she’s only a child, Alba’s actions have the potential to start an ecological revolution.

You’re basically playing as a younger Greta Thunberg before she starts pointing the finger at massive corporations for the climate crisis. If that doesn’t tempt you, we’re pretty sure that escaping to a secluded island in this dumpster fire of a year will. Explore this handcrafted island with your trusty mobile phone – discover every animal, experience a heartwarming story, and enjoy a nice holiday during a time when such escapes are hard to come by in real life. Head on over to the game’s Steam page to find out more about this island getaway.