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Steam Turns 15 Today: The First Games We Bought on Valve's PC Marketplace

It's Steam's 15th anniversary, so we dove into our purchased history to track down when we started using the platform.

Feature by USgamer Team, .

Steam has hit its 15th anniversary. Way, way back on September 12, 2003 following a beta, Valve formally unleashed its online game-distribution platform. It was an unassuming platform at first, and over the decade-plus it's been around it's since become a beast. Arguably it remains the home for PC-centered video games today.

Of course nowadays, Steam isn't alone in the game-selling race. There's also GOG, Origin, Battle.net, the indie-friendly itch.io and Humble Store; even Twitch has started selling games directly. Despite more options to buy games than ever before, Steam (and Valve in turn) is undeniably a juggernaut today, for better or worse. So to honor the game distributor on its 15th year thriving, we dove into our respective purchase histories to dig up the very first games we bought on Steam. The results will surprise you. (Or they won't.)

Kat Bailey Editor-in-Chief

BioShock, 2009

I thought my first Steam game might have been Sins of a Solar Empire, but nope, Sins of a Solar Empire was on Stardock's own platform, back when that was a thing. According to my purchase history, my first two purchases were two first-person shooters: BioShock and Far Cry 2. And I was pretty late to the party on both of them.

Living in Japan from 2006 to 2008, and with a crummy Dell laptop to boot, I actually missed the first wave of Steam popularity. It wasn't until I got a solid gaming laptop and moved back home that I dipped a toe in the waters of digital distribution. I forget where I first saw BioShock, but I remember how much the opening scene blew my mind: the plane crash, the murky waters, the lighthouse in the distance. The graphics were beyond anything I had seen to that point. I had to play it.

Steam ended up being my first true foray into the "HD generation." It was where I discovered Call of Duty 4, BioShock, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and others. It was the last time that I can remember truly having my mind blown by a graphical revolution.

Nowadays my Steam intake tends to be limited to indies and strategy games: basically anything that I can't easily play on a console. But at the time, it was the most reliable way to play the big games that I had missed, often at a solid discount. I will always think of it, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, as my first step into a larger world.

Tom Orry Managing Editor

Half-Life 2, 2004

Funny story: My personal Steam account became the property of the company that bought my old company, so every game I purchased (and the Steam Press Account privilege added later) is now lost to me. While I can't definitively say what the first Steam game I bought was, I'm pretty sure it is Half-Life 2, by way of the Half-Life 2 Collector's Edition Tin. For reasons unknown to me now, I bought numerous versions of this set, which now sit high on a shelf in my mother's house, a permanent reminder of the precious account I'll never see again.

Half-Life 2 was pretty great, wasn't it? Those barrels that moved around with actual physics, the headcrabs, not being able to move more than a few feet in Ravenholm before saving due to a near paralysing fear. If my first Steam game was in fact something completely different, I apologize and give you permission to completely disregard everything I've just said.

Mike Williams Reviews Editor

Dragon Age: Origins, 2009

Ah, those were the days, back when games published by Electronic Arts were readily available on Steam, as opposed to Origin. My first purchase on Steam was actually a pre-order of the Digital Deluxe edition of BioWare's fantasy series. I went from not playing many of their games to being a big fan over the releases of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect. I believe the real impetus behind my purchase was actually armor for the upcoming Mass Effect 2, but you also got the Stone Prisoner downloadable content, giving you access to Shale as a party member.

My next purchases all look to be tiny titles from my first Steam sale in December of that same year. I picked up Evil Genius, Time Gentleman, Please!, Ghost Master, Audiosurf, and Indigo Prophecy up for a song. Five days later, I followed that up with Bioshock and Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box. So, my early purchases on Steam were spread out a bit.

At this point, I'm probably the person on USgamer's staff with the biggest Steam collection, as most of the others don't have a gaming PC and don't play PC games all that often.

Caty McCarthy Features Editor

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, 2011

Judging from Amnesia's release date, I was still a year late to the hype. But I remember the hype being so real for Amnesia. I don't remember where I played it, because this was when I just had my old Macbook Pro and I assume it was able to run on that. I never finished Amnesia though. It was too scary, and very novel for its time. I remember getting it after watching a bunch of videos of people screaming while playing it—sort of the dawn of Let's Plays and streaming—and it looked funny, so I thought I'd give it a shot. It's not funny.

Before Steam, I was almost exclusively a console player, minus downloading freeware games for my family's shared PC while growing up. Steam opened up my eyes to a whole new world of games. In the years that followed my purchase of Amnesia, other games I bought were Hotline Miami, Gone Home, and Papers, Please. The early 2010s sure were a good time for indie games. In 2015, I started buying games very frequently on Steam because I finally had a gaming PC. (This was also around when I started out in the industry, so codes galore.) The rest is history, I guess.

Nadia Oxford Staff Writer

Final Fantasy VII, 2013

I can't remember which E3 saw the unveiling of Final Fantasy VII for Steam. It might've been 2011, 2012. All I remember for certain is we all thought Square Enix was about to announce a Final Fantasy VII remake, and boy, did we get psyched out. Good times, good times. Anyway, I went ahead and bought Final Fantasy VII for Steam sometime later. I also downloaded the patch that replaces its spotty music with the PSOne soundtrack (I've since been informed the quality of Final Fantasy VII Steam's soundtrack is dependent on your soundcard. This is why I'm a console scrub. I'm lazy and easily intimidated).

While Final Fantasy VII was the first game I bought for Steam (according to my purchase history, anyway), one of my earlier writing jobs involved reviewing casual hidden object games and adventure games. Steam was a major font for these titles back before mobile phones became powerful enough to handle them. So while my personal Steam account pegs my first purchase as 2013, the company account I used back in the day probably has my first Steam download at 2009 or so.

Matt Kim News Editor

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, 2011

The first game I ever purchased on Steam was Amnesia: The Dark Descent back in my first year of college. My dorm-mates and I all chipped in for a digital copy so we could play together in the dorm living room and find out what all the hype was about, of which there was a lot.

I was never much of a PC gamer until recently, so my Steam catalogue only really started blowing up these past two years. Funny enough, my first gaming memory is on the PC. My first family PC in Korea came with the Fifth Element video game pre-installed, and I remember playing the hell out of it. I wonder if that's on Steam?

Hirun Cryer Guides Editor

I have never purchased a game on Steam. I’m sorry.

Jake Green Guides Writer

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, 2017

I picked up my first gaming PC early last year when I started to focus on games writing, so I’m pretty new to the scene. I remember being pretty broke at the time, especially after buying the PC, so I mostly subsisted on any free codes that publishers were willing to throw at me, mostly obscure indie games and visual novels. The first game I bought on Steam for real though was PUBG. What first struck me wasn’t the quiet tension that the game excels at, or the allure of a win. Instead, I found myself completely baffled by the controls.

I’d never used a mouse and keyboard in shooter before. It was like learning a new language, though I remember being impressed by the extra tactical advantage that being able to move the camera separately from my character was (and after years of being firmly on the console side of the PC master race debate, it was painful to admit just how much better aiming with a mouse is). There were moments when I wanted to throw in the towel and get an Xbox Controller instead, but I stuck with it. My first Steam game will always remind me of getting my WASD training wheels, and never again will I ridicule someone for picking up a controller for the first time and not immediately being able to use it.

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Comments 20

  • Avatar for SomeKindaWizard #1 SomeKindaWizard 9 days ago
    Zeno Clash, 2009, forgot about that one.
    Cool world and narrative, and the first-person combat was refreshing, not a bad time at all.
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  • Avatar for SimonGreedwell #2 SimonGreedwell 9 days ago
    Evidently on December 23rd 2009 I bought Mirror's Edge, Medieval II: Total War and Chronicles of Riddick Dark Athena for $16.77.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #3 NiceGuyNeon 9 days ago
    I played on PC in the late 90's and early 2000's but then dropped out from it in favor of Xbox, GameCube, Xbox 360, and Wii before I left the blue ocean and paid subscriptions to rejoin the PC world in 2009.

    And in 2009 I decided I wanted no DRM in my games, which made it very difficult to play some games, and my definition of DRM includes very obvious DRM like Steam even if it isn't as ridiculous as some of the crap that was put on other games. But I could only last so long, the future was inevitable and I was a relic of the past. I jumped in with the unwashed masses in 2011, lasting a whole 2 years without Steam, as I installed Fallout: New Vegas. Since then I've pretty much accepted that this is Valve's world and I'm just living in it.

    Piece of shit Valve.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #4 link6616 9 days ago
    My first steam game(s)... let's look. In order

    2010 Audio surf (it didn't run on my netbook)
    Knights of the Old Republic (Still never got past the first planet)

    First steam winter (well summer for my hemisphere at the time) sale comes, I get
    Deus ex collection
    Indie 2d pack
    Lucasarts adventure bundle
    The orange box
    Time Gentleman please
    Emerald city confidential
    Recettear an item shop's tale.

    A solid start

    Not to get too off topic, but I'm confused by Jake's part.

    "though I remember being impressed by the extra tactical advantage that being able to move the camera separately from my character was"

    I don't really play console shooters much myself, but I always thought it was one stick to move and one to aim... Which seems to be seperate? Am I just fundamentally interpreting his text wrong?
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #5 Lord-Bob-Bree 9 days ago
    Huh, I too remembered Sins of a Solar Empire being my first Steam game, but yeah, it wasn't on Steam. My first was KotoR in 2010.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #6 WiIIyTheAntelope 9 days ago
    I don't even need to look it up as I remember creating my steam account solely for the purpose of buying Audiosurf.

    And yet, if you ask me what I had for dinner last night I would have no idea.Edited 2 weeks ago by WiIIyTheAntelope
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #7 LunarFlame17 9 days ago
    Huh. Apparently I bought Morrowind and Oblivion on August 3, 2012. Weird. Don’t remember that. I also have Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Maybe I should buy a PC at some point so I can play those games.

    Update: I also have a game called Starseed Pilgrim? Bought it on July 13, 2013? No idea what that is. I have no recollection of that name at all.Edited 2 weeks ago by LunarFlame17
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  • Avatar for link6616 #8 link6616 9 days ago
    @LunarFlame17 The great steam tradition is to buy games and not play them. Maybe it's best to continue that?
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #9 LunarFlame17 9 days ago
    @link6616 Oh I am definitely upholding that tradition. I’ve bought at least a dozen games from Steam, and I’ve never played any of them!
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #10 SatelliteOfLove 9 days ago
    Aug. 27th, 2011: Dungeons of Dredmor

    Fleshsmithing: Other men work in clay, steel, or wood. We call them squeamish.”

    And such good tuuuuuuuuuuunes (seriously, someone new hire Matthew Steele now that Gaslamp Games is kaput). Edited 2 weeks ago by SatelliteOfLove
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #11 LBD_Nytetrayn 9 days ago
    Not much of a PC Gamer, but I've got a collection. First game I got was Portal, as a gift in June 2011.

    My first actual purchase? Looks like it was Ryo Hazuki DLC for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed In 2014.
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  • Avatar for tvsadam #12 tvsadam 9 days ago
    Half-Life 2, activated on January 23, 2005.

    I actively remember installing Steam for the first time to play it and wondering what the hell this extra crap was getting between me and whacking stuff with a crowbar.
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  • Avatar for Pandalulz #13 Pandalulz 9 days ago
    Heh, I share two of the games on here. I first experienced Steam when I bought Half Life 2 on physical discs and it made me install the thing, which was super annoying at the time in August of 2005. Why do I have to install this dumb software? Who remembers the ugly olive drab color scheme?

    The first game I bought digitally on Steam was also Bioshock, when it went on its very first deep discount in June of 2008. And I never did beat it, because I upgraded my PC soon after and discovered there was a huge glitch in the game where it wouldn't run on a particular sound chipset on certain motherboards under Windows 7. Either the game would instantly crash to desktop, or you could use the -nosound tag and the game would run, but obviously, with no sound. PC gaming never change... I re-bought the remaster collection on PS4, so someday I'll beat Bioshock, lol.Edited 4 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by Pandalulz
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  • Avatar for Number1Laing #14 Number1Laing 9 days ago
    The first game I bought was Half-Life 2, in a collector's edition of sorts that came with a t-shirt. That forced me on the service but I think the first game I bought, a year or two later, was VTM Bloodlines. I remember buying a game or two on other services, which are lost in time, but I could play Bloodlines today if I wanted to.
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #15 Iliya-Moroumetz 9 days ago
    The Orange Box.
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  • Avatar for funktron #16 funktron 9 days ago
    I signed up to Steam via the Orange Box, but according to my purchase history, the very first game I bought on Steam was Audiosurf, followed by Plants Vs. Zombies. Both great games.
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  • Avatar for Dorchadas #17 Dorchadas 9 days ago
    The Orange Box was what got me onto Steam, but it wasn't the first game I bought on Steam.

    Looks during the 2009 Christmas sale I bought Trine, Audiosurf, Braid, Beyond Good and Evil, and On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness eps 1 and 2. Of those, I've played and beaten all but OtRSPoD, which is a pretty good ratio.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #18 yuberus 8 days ago
    The Lucasarts Adventure Bundle in 2010. Wherein I've played through a good chunk of the Dig and a bit of Loom, but have never actually tried the Indiana Jones games.
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  • Avatar for robertchesley19 #19 robertchesley19 6 days ago
    Peggle Deluxe in 2009.
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  • Avatar for Brotoles #20 Brotoles 4 days ago
    My first Steam game was Half-Life 2 in 2005, but the physical copy... At that time, Steam was a real mess, and I had a dial-up internet connection, so you can imagine what a hassle it was...

    The first game I bought THROUGH Steam was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Ultimate Edition, in 2008.

    After that, I became a "little" addicted to Steam sales, and nowadays I'm one game away from having 1500 games
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