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Great PC Games to Play on Low-Spec Systems

Not all PC games require expensive graphics cards and massive rigs. Here are 16 great PC games that you can play on a typical budget system - or even a laptop.

While most people think of PC gaming as the domain of gamers with beast-like rigs, bristling with graphics cards and a water-cooling system that looks like something from a giant desalination plant, the reality is, many great PC games have extraordinarily low system requirements.

How limbo-low are we talking? Well, something that can run perfectly well on a cheap standard laptop or desktop built within the last few years. Some of these games are PC versions of console indie games, but many remain only available on PC (and Mac and Linux), and range from indie games as well as classic games. Some

Below is a selection of popular and critically liked games that fit these criteria. Although their system requirements still vary (and are available on store pages), all of them should at least run on a system with a dual core processor, a basic dedicated graphics card (or a recent edition of Intel HD Graphics), and a couple gigs of RAM. If you're still not sure, the list details which ones have free demos.

PC Exclusives

This point and click serial is currently on its second episode, and is recommended for those who like reading as well as gaming, such is the depth of its narrative
Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero is a point-and-click adventure game structurally similar to Telltale's The Walking Dead. It's spread across five acts -- two of which are available as of this writing. The acts are on sale individually or collectively in a season pass.

Reviews compare Kentucky to classic adventure games, but also call it more interactive narrative than game. Players follow a traveler who must explore secret roads in the caves beneath the state of Kentucky. Kentucky is pretty much about exploration and its writing, the latter of which has received most of the praise heaped upon the game.

  • OS: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Demo: None
Gunpoint is one of the best low-spec PC games released this year

Gunpoint

Gunpoint is an adventure game more based on puzzles and stealth. The main mechanic in its 2D levels is that you're able to jump great lengths, stick to walls and ceilings, and rewire devices like light switches, doors, and enemies' weapons. For instance you can wire a light switch to open a security door, or a guard's gun to turn out the lights in order to trick enemies. The game encourages players to play around with this system to discover their own ways to sneak through environments. Gunpoint also features a noir-inspired story centering on espionage, murder, and mystery, complete with rain-soaked backdrops, trench coats, and smooth jazz music.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: Steam, Official Website
A mashup of classic games, Rogue Legacy is a classic side-scrolling arcade adventure

Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy is a roguelike that uses elements from Metroidvania games, randomly generating side-scrolling castles for you to explore. The new character you start with every time you die is the next family member in the bloodline, who may occupy one of a few classes and have varying attributes like nearsightedness, abnormal stature, or dyslexia. The game starts off pretty brutal but let's you upgrade your character with gold and becomes pretty addictive due to this and its randomization.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: Official Website, Desura
Proof that it's not all fun and games on a starship. Well, it is... until your crew get sucked out of a hull breach

FTL: Faster Than Light

One of 2012's most critically-acclaimed games, FTL is a roguelike where you command a space ship crew through randomized star systems, encountering enemy ships, traders, distress beacons, and new crew members along the way. Each death and restart gives you the opportunity to play with a new ship and new crew.

Combat has you not only make offensive and defensive decisions, but also manage where your ship's power goes as well as internal conditions like fires and oxygen. FTL is difficult and addictive in the same vein as Rogue Legacy.

  • OS: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Demo: None
Wargames don't all have to be complicated numbers and inexplicable icons, as Unity of Command demonstrates

Unity of Command

Realistic PC strategy games (also called Wargames) at a glance can look like some of the most complex known to man, but Unity of Command takes that genre and gives it a more accessible face. It's actually not extremely different from Advance Wars or Fire Emblem, managing to carry the same addictive nature in its turn-based gameplay. Unity just puts that gameplay style on top of the realistic backdrop of Stalingrad. Late last year the developers also released an additional campaign in its Red Turn DLC.

  • OS: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Demo: Steam, Official Website
If you fancy playing something a little different, CTHCC is a break away from the usual PC fare

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

Have you ever wanted to play Persona 3 or 4, but only the social links and day-to-day life segments? That's basically what Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is. It plays out the daily life of a high school student trying to start a comedy club over the course of spring break by recruiting friends. Players explore a town and converse with characters while balancing life tasks like homework, jobs, and different hobbies. Living and breathing on its unique characters and dialogue, Cherry Tree is kind of like the video game equivalent of a high school TV series.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: Steam, Desura, Official Website

Another point and click adventure, and another game that features a robot as its main protagonist. But Primordia has a charm all of its own
Primordia

The developer of the recent iOS release Gemini Rue, Wadjet Eye games, has been known for its contributions to reviving classic-style point and click adventures over the last few years. Its latest PC game, Primordia, takes that gameplay to a unique new setting.

Players follow a traveling robot (voiced by Bastion's Logan Cunningham) who ends up in a metropolis in a world where robots took over after humans disappeared. The quest eventually turns into a search for the truth about what happened to them.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: Official Website
Mount and Blade is a great twist on the wargaming genre, and its vibrant modding community continues to add interest with some really cool new updates to the game

Mount and Blade

This medieval mercenary simulator puts players in the middle of a fictionalized sandbox world and tasks them with building an army and negotiating alliances or conflicts with various warring countries. Battles play out in real time where players can lead dozens of characters into the fray.

Mount & Blade has had a few expansions adding features as well as different historical settings. The game is more famously known however for its many mods adding more settings and features to the game. There's even a Star Wars mod.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: Steam
All the fun of a Diablo-style game, but with none of the bloated spec requirements

Torchlight II

The original Torchlight from a group of former Diablo developers gained some notoriety on Xbox 360 but the sequel remains PC-only. Torchlight II is a much bigger game than the original, adding not only multiplayer but also a thicker quest.

No longer confined to one town and a bunch of dungeons, the sequel takes players to various areas across the world and many more dungeons with an all new range of character classes. The original game's character retirement feature has been replaced by the ability to play New Game plus several times.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: Steam, Official Website

PC Versions of Console Games

Hotline Miami is a brutal, tough, bloodbath of a game. Definitely one for more experienced players

Hotline Miami

One of 2012's most critically acclaimed indie games, Hotline Miami is one of the most intense top-down 2D shooters in recent memory. Its extremely fast-paced one-hit-death gameplay is made fun by instant respawns and a uniquely gruesome combat system.

Hotline Miami is especially praised for its brutal depiction of violence set against a surreal storyline. The techno-synth soundtrack alone get's almost as much praise as the game itself, and is available for separate purchase on PC.

  • OS: Windows, Mac
  • Demo: None
If platforming and puzzles are your thing, FEZ is a safe bet for many hours of enjoyable gaming

FEZ

One of Xbox Live's most well known games, FEZ is an adventure platformer all about solving puzzles. It takes graphics styled after old 2D games and gives them a unique 3D twist, requiring players to explore side-scrolling environments from multiple angles.

FEZ's puzzles require a lot of exploration and extremely deep investigation of its environments, eventually requiring players to decode the secrets of the game's world at large.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: None
If you grew up gaming in the 80's, this GTA parody packs plenty of laughs

Retro City Rampage

Retro City Rampage is basically a celebration of 1980's media in the form of an NES-style Grand Theft Auto parody. Much of the praise for this game goes to its clever use of pop culture references for that era, so players who remember the 80's will definitely get a lot out of it.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: None
Proof that the point and click adventure category is far from dead. Machinarium is a real charmer - and brain-tickler

Machinarium

Machinarium is a point and click adventure in the classic sense but made in a more modern age. Set in a world populated by robots (not unlike Primordia actually), the game is known and has gotten awards for its storyline and especially its detailed, high resolution art.

  • OS: Windows, Mac, Linux (official website only)
  • Demo: Steam, Desura, Playism, Official Website
Metroid meets Indiana Jones in an old-school game with brutal, old-school levels of difficulty. Prepare to die. A lot.

La-Mulana

A rare case of a Japanese indie game getting western exposure. La-Mulana takes at least part of its inspiration from the NES game Spelunker. It's sort of a Metroid-type platformer with an Indiana Jones aesthetic and a crushing difficulty curve that asks players to learn the old school way -- by dying repeatedly.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: None
Edge looks simple, but beneath its straightforward graphics are some mind-bending puzzles

Edge

Edge gained a bit of attention on iOS due to some issues with copyright over its title, but also quietly launched on Steam in 2011. That version contains both the original game as well as the expansion Edge Extended. The game is a sort of isometric puzzle platformer where players control a cube that rolls over obstacles to get through intricately-designed levels while acquiring points. The challenges show a surprising amount of variety with the simple game mechanics at hand, which includes things like switches, balancing on moving walls, and mechs. The graphics also manage to be simple but also colorful and flashy.

Other than achievements, the main advantage of the Steam version is the possibility of playing it with a keyboard or a controller, which feels more accurate and reliable than a touch screen.

  • OS: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Demo: Steam
Only got a minute to play? In that case, half-minute hero gives you plenty of time for a quick game

Half Minute Hero

Half Minute Hero is a game where you have to finish an entire RPG in less than 30 seconds. You have to explore the world map, run through single-second battles, upgrade your character, and eventually defeat the villain all under a time limit.

The version offered on Steam is advertised as the definitive one, with all the various modes and other features from the PSP and Xbox 360 versions including HD graphics. This game actually includes what it calls multiple RPGs that each must be completed under a ridiculously short time limit.

  • OS: Windows
  • Demo: None

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