How to Play Video Games Without Going Broke
Gaming is an expensive habit, including PCs, consoles, peripherals, and the games themselves. These tools and services will help you save on gaming favorites. Gaming is a fun but pricey hobby. Once you have a gaming PC or console, new titles can set you back about $60 each, not […]
Luckily, there are ways to play games on a budget. Some of the most popular online multiplayer titles are free to play, as are popular esports titles. For everything else, though, you’ll have to spend money. The good news is that there are ways to make those purchases hurt a little less.
Digital game storefronts from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo frequently offer discounts, as do platforms such as Steam, GOG, and Itch.io. Check back frequently to score something good, or add what you want to your wishlist to get notifications when they’re on sale. Steam has seasonal, week-long discounts; its summer sale just wrapped up but keep an eye out for more discounts in November and December.
If you can’t be bothered to scour the web, IsThereAnyDeal aggregates sales across the internet and can show you who has the cheapest price at any given moment. On Reddit’s r/GameDeals, users vote for the best deals, pushing them to the top of the page. Major retailers tend to post their deals in this subreddit, too.
Twitter users can also look to @videogamedeals and @Wario64 for frequent updates about game deals. Just be ready to pounce when you find something you like.
If you need help tracking the best deals, these browser extensions can help navigate your favorite websites:
- Augmented Steam works with the Steam store to show the best prices across multiple storefronts, the historically lowest price, and regional price differences.
- Amazon Assistant will compare prices across the site to ensure you get the best deal and serve up notifications when something you are watching goes on sale.
- Invisible Hand provides you with real-time price comparisons, and can find you the best deal right from your Google search.
- Opera GX is a browser for gamers that includes many settings and features for gaming. The GX Corner is the built-in homepage that includes, among other things, an aggregation of deals from around the internet and a list of games you can play for free at any given time.
Buying in bulk is a popular way to save money on all sorts of goods, so why not do it with games too? The trick is finding bundles that are worth your time.
Humble Bundle is a good place to start. It offers pay-what-you-want bundles on games, comics, software, and more; a portion of what you pay goes to charity. Humble Bundle rotates bundles out every few weeks, but if you look at the right time, you can end up with new games for just a few bucks.
(Disclosure: PCMag parent company Ziff Davis owns Humble Bundle.)
Music lovers have Spotify, anime fans use Crunchyroll, and comic book fans have Comixology. It’s only right that gamers have their own subscription services.
Xbox gamers can subscribe to Xbox Live Gold, which offers access to online play, a new selection of digital games each month, and 50 to 75 percent off select titles. Subscription options start at $9.99 per month. Another choice is Xbox Game Pass, which offers hundreds of games for $9.99 per month for Xbox or PC.
PlayStation owners have PlayStation Plus, which offers online multiplayer action, free PS4 games, and exclusive discounts for $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year. PlayStation Now grants you access to hundreds of PS4, PS3, and PS2 titles for $9.99 a month.
Nintendo Switch Online starts at $3.99 a month for individual accounts; a family membership is $35 per year for up to eight people. Subscribers get access to online play and a growing collection of classic Nintendo titles from the NES and Super Nintendo.
Electronic Arts has two services: one for consoles and one for PCs. EA Access, for PlayStation and Xbox, is $4.99 a month or $29.99 annually for a library of EA titles, early access, and special discounts. Origin Access Basic offers limited early access and many of EA’s PC games for $4.99 a month or $29.99 a year. Origin Access Premier provides full early access and a larger selection of titles for $14.99 a month or $99.99 a year.
Tap into Ubisoft’s library of PC games, plus early access titles, with Uplay+, which costs $14.99 a month.
One of the weirder choices out there is Utomik, which focuses on family-friendly gaming with a deep selection of hard-to-find titles from Disney, Warner Bros., Sega, Epic Games, and more. It’s $6.99 per month for one user or $9.99 per month for up to four people.
Humble Choice is a subscription service from Humble Bundle that allows you to choose up to nine games to keep from its Humble Trove selection of titles. You also get 20 percent off at the Humble Store. The more you pay, the more games you can keep, but it maxes out at $19.99 a month or $179.99 for the full year.
If you don’t have a powerful enough machine to play PC games, streaming is a viable alternative. Provided your internet service is robust, you can tap into remote servers for a monthly price rather than shell out for a pricey gaming PC.
Our Editors’ Choice for game-streaming services is Shadow by Blade, which lets you remotely access a powerful Windows 10 machine from any other PC, Mac, or Android device for a lag-free gaming experience. It starts at $11.99 per month and goes up from there, depending on the bells and whistles you need.
Similarly, Nvidia GeForce Now lets you play many games from your Steam library on nearly any device. It has a free tier that limits playtime to one-hour sessions, but if you pay $4.99 a month you get extended gameplay and priority access.
Stadia got a lot of attention because it’s a Google service, but while it offers a high-quality gaming experience on your phone or PC, gameplay lags on TV and the launch library and pricing structure are disappointing, we found in our review.
While gaming has largely gone digital over the last decade, there is still value in buying physical games. You don’t eat up storage space on your console, and you can sometimes snag a discount when opting for physical over digital.
For instance, at the time of this writing, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age were each $49.99 on the Switch eShop, but Amazon had each title listed at least $10 cheaper. Resident Evil Triple Pack, meanwhile, was on sale for under $40 on Amazon. This title is not available in the eShop, so if you bought Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 separately, it would end up costing you $60.
Another option: buy used. Amazon listings often include products sold by independent sellers, while sites like eBay, Shop Goodwill, eStarland, JJ Games, and even Craigslist can help you score a deal.
Instead of buying a ton of new games, try a free-to-play title. Popular picks like Dauntless and Brawlhalla; multiplayer battle royale favorites like Call of Duty: Warzone and Fortnite and esports titles such as Dota 2 and League of Legends don’t cost anything to get started.
A number of games that are paid on other platforms, meanwhile, offer free mobile versions, including including Bastion, Civilization VI, Fallout Shelter, Forgotten Anne, Hearthstone, Oxenfree, and Valiant Hearts.
Many digital storefronts also offer free games as an incentive to use them more frequently. To better compete with Steam, the Epic Games Store typically offers one or two free games a week; just sign up and claim your prize. Amazon Prime subscribers also receive access to Twitch Prime benefits, which include free games and loot.