Laptop games – the 12 best low-spec PC games – For The Win

Science & Technology

If you’re looking for some cozy laptop games, you’ve come to the right place. Not everyone has access to a supercomputer to play PC games, but there are plenty of options out there even if you have a machine that’s on par with your toaster in terms of raw graphical power. Indie developers are creating some of the best experiences in gaming right now, and their games aren’t walled off behind expensive graphics cards and beefy gaming rigs. Lovely. 
Because we’re nice, we’ve hand-selected some of the best laptop games you can play right now. Not only will almost any PC run these titles, but they’re mostly pretty cheap to pick up on Steam as well, which is always a bonus in These Times. Anyone who plays games should at least experience everything on this list at least once. In no particular order, let’s dive in. 

What if you were a private detective who creeps around and slaps people unconscious with doors? It’s a question we ask ourselves every night, and Gunpoint provides the answer: it would be extremely fun. This is a 2D stealth game where you can rewire levels, turning every door and light switch into a potentially deadly weapon. Outside of that, you can pounce on unaware enemies and punch them to sleep, each click of the mouse raining down meat-based violence on their soft, pixelled faces. There’s a slapstick comedy to the immediacy of Gunpoint’s violence that you just can’t get anywhere else, and that’s what gaming is all about: lovely, lovely violence.

Manage a starship as it tries to escape a fleet of enemies, navigating through star systems and dealing with threats – from asteroid fields to aggressive slug aliens – and opportunities – from valuable salvage to friendly slug aliens – along the way. FTL might have a minimalist, top-down visual style, but there’s a lot going on when you look beyond its basic graphics. Ship on ship combat is more tactical here than it is in most games where you take direct control – aiming at weapon systems to take them offline, cutting off an enemy’s oxygen supply, and sending over a boarding party are just some of your options. It’s a game about putting out fires – sometimes literally, by opening the airlock doors and starving the flames of oxygen – while juggling metaphorical hand grenades. 

In a Tim Burton-esque paper world, you’re forced to survive, learn the rules and, oh, don’t starve, by the way. In a market completely saturated with survival games, Don’t Starve managed to carve out a unique niche. This isn’t some dull post-apocalyptic Earth where buff men in combat fatigues try to crack open cans of out-of-date beans – this is an alien, incomprehensible world that’s filled with threats you must study and learn over multiple playthroughs. And just when you think you’re getting comfortable – boom, you just found a new way to die. Death here means starting again from scratch, and your only progression is the knowledge you gained before your untimely demise. 

What can anyone even say about this game that hasn’t already been said? Who hasn’t already played it? Minecraft is a cultural phenomenon. It’s a game that is all games. One part survival sim, another part boundless creation engine, it’s a place where you can be almost anything you want, as long as it’s made out of blocks. 

Chill out, do some fishing, grow some crops, and chat up the local populace in Stardew Valley, a lovely little game about inheriting a farm and being a big, flirty git. Whether you want to become a money-hungry tycoon or the town’s favorite philanthropist, Stardew Valley will accommodate your greed/grace. On top of that, it’s one of the best 2-player games around. 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t usually like card games, you’ll lose dozens of hours to Slay the Spire regardless. It’s Just One More Go: The Video Game. Every single run feels distinct, and you constantly unlock a flow of new cards and items that get your mind racing about what you might be able to accomplish on your next attempt. It’s a strategy game with a dash of luck, but it never feels unfair. 

If you really don’t like card games, here’s a different flavor of strategy for you. Into the Breach gives you a squad of mechs and some kaiju to battle in grid-based, turn-based combat. It’s like chess, but cool. If punching overgrown insects into mountains doesn’t sound appealing, consider changing your entire outlook on life and have a word with yourself. 

Most RPGs have you play as the chosen one as you battle against some deity, but Disco Elysium places you in the urine-soaked shoes of a deadbeat cop who’s caught in a spiral of self-destruction. You’re tasked with solving a murder that’s tied up in a union dispute, but the real story at the core of the experience revolves around self-discovery and recreational drug use.

If that last one was too cheery for you, consider being a border agent for a fictional Eastern Bloc country. Your family is starving, your wages are pathetic, and you have to juggle your own needs against the plights of the people coming through the border. Will you sacrifice your professional integrity for personal gain, or will you stand steadfast and do it by the book? When your food supply at home begins to run low, you might not have a choice. And what happens when empathy takes over reason? It might essentially be a playable spreadsheet, but Papers, Please is a powerful, memorable game stuffed with moral dilemmas. 

OK, that last one was a bit heavy wasn’t it? How about a little violence, as a treat. Hotline Miami is a stylish, top-down shooter where you have to murder people as brutally and efficiently as you can. Throw hot oil over someone’s face, grab a bat, kick down doors, and pull out a shotgun – all while synthy beats pulsate over the action. But what’s this? You’re forced to walk back through the carnage you created at the end of each mission and reckon with your own brutality? Oh, now you feel bad? Boohoo, loser. OK, we promise we’ll give you a happy game next. 

The American prison system is big business and you’re a cog in the corporate incarceration machine. Build your own prison dystopia in this management game about erecting and running a slammer. Toy with the lives of your inmates or try to solve institutional problems that also exist in real life. See? Cheery. 

Controlling a group of people who just crashlanded on an alien planet was never going to be easy, but it’s even more difficult when you realize that every single one of your colonists has needs, and sometimes these needs conflict. One person’s horror at seeing a dead body is another psychopath’s joy. Whether you want to create a colony of slavers, cannibals, body modders, or religious zealots is up to you, but RimWorld will constantly surprise you no matter what route you take.
If that’s not enough for you, some of the titles on our list of the best indie games will do the job.
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF
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