Cost Effective Games to Wait Out An Apocalypse

Cost-effective gaming

At the moment, it seems like almost every country is suffering badly from restrictions on travel and work. It’s likely that you’re caught in the trap of needing new entertainment, while also having to keep a close eye on your budget. Today I’m going to cover a number of games and apps available now across PC, console and mobile. The list will look at cost-effective purchases, Some free, some cheap, and all with a view to getting the highest number of hours at the lowest costs. However this does come with some caveats.

Firstly, Prices, availability and Game Pass inclusion are all correct at the time of writing (April 2020). These are obviously subject to change. It’s also worth bearing in mind that these prices are based on digital official stores, and outside of sale prices. This means it’s likely that you can find even better deals for physical or third-party sites, and even within sales on the stores themselves.

As a note, of course I can only base this list on games and apps which I’ve tried myself, so some of your favourites may well be missing. Take a moment to hijack the posts on social media, and let the world know of any games you play where you’ve got really good value for money.

Elite Dangerous

Available on: PC (£39.99) / PS4 (£44.99) / XB1 (£39.99)
Age Rating: PEGI 7 / ESRB Teen

Elite Dangerous was always going to be right at the top of my list. After playing since Xbox release I have nearly 3,000 hours in game. All together, with the pretty low price points, this is working out at roughly £0.013 per minute of play time.

A space flight simulator, Elite drops you into a challenging galaxy of 400,000,000,000 star systems. Armed with a handful of credits, a small space ship and a huge sandbox, it’s up to you to blaze your own trail. It can be a really tough game to get into, but for sci-fi fans who love a challenge and fairly realistic physics, this is one for you.

Elite offers the opportunity to do pretty much anything you like. Mining, Bounty hunting, piracy, exploration, politics, trading, and even just rolling around the galaxy shooting at whatever you feel like (including other players). The title has come on a fair way since its release a few years ago, with ongoing development and new content still on the way. There’s likely to be another paid expansion this year bringing some more game changing content, however the base game and horizons can provide amazing value for money.

At a relatively cheap price already, Elite is often on sale on steam and consoles. The price provided above is for the Deluxe edition which includes both the base game, and the Horizons expansion which is highly recommended.

Reviewed: 06-03-2017

Life is out there to be found among the stars

XCOM: Enemy Within

Available on: Android (£4.59) / iOS (£4.99)
Age Rating: PEGI 16 / ESRB Mature 17+

After thrashing XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 over on console (also not bad shouts to get good value for money) I was really pleased to find a solidly built mobile game available at a budget price. Enemy Within is a standalone follow up to Enemy Unknown, which won the PC Gamer Strategy Game of the Year award in 2012

As well as simply having XCOM on a mobile platform, I was happy to find many additions to the title I played on Xbox 360 with new abilities, weapons and equipment, enemies and story elements. As a cheap way to get some robustly designed and well executed turn based strategy, I absolutely recommend taking a look over this one which you can currently pick up for under a fiver on both platforms.

Archero

Available on: Android (Free) / iOS (Free)
Age Rating: PEGI 3 ESRB Everyone

This is one of those weird times where I’ve actually found the game to be better than the ads you’ll see on Facebook. Archero is a free to play mobile title which I’ve sunk a lot of time into over the past few months, and is a great little pick up and play game which is easy to get to grips with.

Simply put, you’ll control a single archer, dragging the screen to run, and letting go to shoot. As you kill enemies you’ll earn coin which will allow you (when you get back to the main screen) to upgrade your weapons, equipment or character. Between levels you’ll have the opportunity to select one of three randomly chosen upgrades allowing you to shoot faster, hit harder, or survive longer.

Essentially on each playthrough you’ll have to try and get a little farther each time, and after dying will lose all upgrades and start the level again. There are ads in the free version of the title of course, but I’ve found overall that the game is worth putting up with them.

Dead Cells

Available on: PC (£21.99) / PS4 (£19.99) / XB1 (£19.99 / GP) / Switch (22.49)
Included in: Xbox Game Pass
Age Rating: PEGI 16 / ESRB Teen

A beautiful procedurally generated Metroidvania style title dungeon crawler. Dead Cells is another title where you’ll slog through, improving slightly and proceeding a little father each time you die. Fast action, great music and completely addictive gameplay mean I’ve put a lot of hours into this one. with procedural generation, every time you play through you’ll face a different layout in each of the various levels. with some really hard bosses, and of course increasingly difficult enemies, Dead Cells is great for pick up and put down gameplay.

Reviewed: 07-08-2018

Dead Cells is far from realistic, but beautifully captured

Planetbase

Available on: PC (£11.39) / PS4 (£11.99) / Xbox (£12.49)
Age Rating: PEGI 12 / ESRB Everybody

Relatively lightweight, but with a price to match, Planetbase sees you take on various planets to build new human settlements. This is another one which I was pleasantly surprised with on release, and with the current prices it’s definitely one I’d say to pick up for city building strategy fans. Planetbase plays like a stripped down Surviving Mars. Even with this in mind it far outstrips what I would expect for a relatively tiny price point.

A good variety of different planets are available, each of which have their own challenges. You’ll need to build, maintain and manage your own base, ensuring oxygen, food and ongoing progress. with some light trading mechanics involved as well once you build a starport there are definitely some suitable challenges here to suit all abilities.

Reviewed: 26-04-2017

Alien Isolation

Available on: PC (£29.99) / PS4 (£29.99) / Xbox (£29.99)
Included in: Xbox Game Pass
Age Rating: PEGI 18 / ESRB Mature 17+

Alien Isolation released way back at the beginning of the current generation. Even with that in mind, this still holds up as one of the greatest survival horror titles in recent years. Playing as Ellen Ripley’s daughter, the journey starts on a mission to retrieve the flight recorder of the Nostromo. Looking to find what happened with her missing mother, 15 years after her disappearance, you’ll be flung into a world of intrigue, as well as beautifully executed stealth horror.

Aboard the abandoned Sevastopol station, you may not be surprised to hear that the mission doesn’t go to plan. Alien Isolation, as you might guess by the title, is based very much on slow and lonely progress. Far removed from the action adventure of Aliens, Isolation instead holds much more firmly to the original film. It’s a tense journey on your way to completion, but with a good number of hours partly thanks to slow and stealthy progress, I think this one is a great buy.

Reviewed: 12-02-2015

Hitman 2 Starter Pack

Available on: PC (Free) / PS4 (Free) / Xbox (Free)
Age Rating: PEGI 18 / ESRB Mature 17+

While only containing the first episode of the new latest Hitman series, the starter pack is free on all platforms. After being a fan of Agent-47 for the past 20 years, I’ve really enjoyed both of the new series. While it is only the Hawke’s Bay episode included, there are a number of ways you can go about the exhumation of your target. Of course, this is completely outside the fact that it’s a great game which is absolutely free.

There is a real danger with the Starter Pack of getting sucked in, and following up with a purchase of the full season. Both seasons one and Two of the Hitman reboot have (in my opinion) been absolute crackers. I would say if you’re going to get into it, start with the first season as not only will this be cheaper when you pick it up, it also builds the story nicely.

Reviewed: 23-11-2018

Jurassic World Evolution

Available on: PC (£34.99) / PS4 (£36.99) / Xbox (£39.99)
Age Rating: PEGI 16 / ESRB Teen

I may be a little biased on this one as I have a huge emotional connection to the title. Jurassic World Evolution is a park builder which sees you working over the five islands, building your own Jurassic Worlds. I’ve sunk over 200 hours into this one, and the price here has dropped a fair way since it launched in 2018. If you’re a fan of park builders, and especially the Jurassic franchise, this is almost certainly one for you.

I was very proud to be invited to LA for the launch of Jurassic World Evolution, so I will admit that my utter love for the title isn’t based solely on the gameplay itself. However even with that in mind, there’s not much I can knock it down for. The visuals are great, controller mechanics wonderfully optimised, and the soundtrack is out of this world. The five islands each come with their own unique challenges, and after completing the main campaign to 100%, I still had the challenge modes to conquer as well.

The DLC for the title is also pretty cost-effective as well, and I’ve been happy to see additional content which can add well to a title. While these packs do give more buildings, challenges, dinos and more, the base game on its own is still great to pick up and play.

Reviewed: 29-06-2018

New Star Soccer

Available on: Android (Free / £3.99) / iOS (Free / £3.99)
Age Rating: PEGI 12

This is a title which I started playing as a free to play, but felt was really worth the money to remove ads. Not because the ads were too prolific, but simply because it is a title which I’ve had an awful lot of fun with. As a single player, you’ll be managing your life both on and off the pitch. With a fairly simple control mechanic in matches you’ll need to set up and score goals, as well as supporting your teammates.

Outside the match you’ll need to manage sponsorship, contracts, personal relationships and more. It’s a mobile game, so it’s not as in depth as some, but it’s definitely worth looking at the free version on either store. From the same team I’ve also played New Star Cricket very lightly, which has much the same feel.

Everspace

Available on: PC (£22.99) / PS4 (£24.99) / Xbox (£24.99)
Included in: Xbox Game Pass
Age Rating: PEGI 7 / ESRB Teen

Where Elite fills my need for slow and realistic, Everspace knocks it out of the park with fast arcade action. Everspace has a decent little story to follow, and some cracking sci-fi gameplay included. With all that wrapped up in a package which is easy to pick up for a quick 5 minutes whenever you get chance, it’s a great little buy. With command of a small space craft, you’ll progress through various levels with some pretty stunning backdrops. Crafting your way through the levels, you’re looking to progress as far as you can before biting the proverbial bullet.

After biting it (and you will) you’ll get the opportunity to upgrade your ship and pilot, allowing you to get a little further with your next attempt. You’ll also unlock new customisation options, and blueprints along the way. Helping to craft new and better weapons, power ups and defences. Another title which has great replay value built in, and which I’ve got a lot of hours in since release.

Reviewed: 07-10-2016

Everspace includes fast arcade gameplay in beautiful environments

Titanfall 2

Available on: PC (£17.99) / PS4 (£17.99) / Xbox (£19.99)
Included in: EA Access
Age Rating: PEGI 16 / ESRB Mature 17+

One of those cases where the follow up was simply so much better than the original title. Titanfall 2 brought the game to new platforms as well as bringing in a great story mode. With a single player campaign, as well as online PvP and PvE multiplayer, Titanfall 2 ticks a lot of boxes. Bringing a large number of hours, as this one was released a little while ago it’s getting pretty cheap these days.

The only slight drawback for this one is that it’s released on PC on Origin. While I really don’t mind it personally (I need it to play Theme Hospital and C&C) I know that can be a bone of contention for some. As a silver lining to this though, it is included within the EA Access subscription if you have it.

Reviewed: 07-11-2016

Astroneer

Available on: PC (£23.79) / PS4 (£24.99) / Xbox (£23.74)
Included in: Xbox Game Pass
Age Rating: PEGI 7 / ESRB Everyone

Astroneer is a hugely cute title with a pretty surface that almost hides some quite deep mechanics. This title is all about planetary exploration and is great to play solo, or with friends. Setting down on a planet, you’re looking to build, explore and create. Quite similar in that respect to Minecraft, Astroneer brings some beautiful if unrealistic graphics, and a fairly nice learning curve.

Cities Skylines

Available on: PC (£22.99) / PS4 (£34.99) / Xbox (£31.99)
Age Rating: PEGI 3 / ESRB Everyone

The spiritual successor to SimCity, Skylines is a great and expansive title which you can sink some good time into. With various different maps to build on, and a number of expansions (should your heart be swayed) you can lose a good number of hours into this one. There are some great and detailed choices to make not just on which buildings go where, but also on policies set within the city and even within zones too.

The control system on console has been wonderfully optimised, making it a pleasure to play. Again this is one that I and Athena have both sunk some hours into, and one which I’d definitely recommend, even outside looking at just play time vs cost.

Reviewed: 03-05-2017

The Surge

Available on: PC (£17.99) / PS4 (£15.99) / Xbox (£17.99)Included in: Xbox Game PassAge Rating: PEGI 18 ESRB M-17+

This one is a little dated now, and has a successor out as well – The imaginatively titled The Surge 2. Especially at the lower price point, this original entry into the franchise is still a great title. On top of that of course, the age and availability of the sequel both mean that this one has dropped in price, making it an absolute steal.

The Surge is a soulsalike adventure with a tech based twist. If you’ve played the FROM Software Dark Souls adventures you’ll know exactly what you are in for. Tough gameplay, with an intricate and well executed control system. Hugely challenging for those who want it, this is a title which is difficult by design, and with no easy options.

Reviewed: 16-05-2017

the surge includes some great crafting and customisation options

Railway Empire

Available on: PC (£39.99) / PS4 (£47.99) / Xbox (£33.49)
Age Rating: PEGI 3 / ESRB Everyone

Railway Empire is a great look at the history of American rail, as well as a great management sim. In charge of connecting the various real world locations, your empire will also look to build or purchase commodities and other businesses as well. There are great evolution options for your equipment as well as progression in story and locations.

This is a great sim for fans of strategy builders, and can give some great play time. It’s cheapest over on Xbox, and sadly the price inflates quite a lot over for folks playing on PlayStation. It’s definitely worth shelling out at the lower price points, and even possibly up for PS4, though it would be a stretch to say it’s utterly fantastic cost benefit at that point.

Reviewed: 26-01-2018

Surviving Mars

Available on: PC (£26.99) / PS4 (£24.99) / Xbox (£24.99)
Included in: Xbox Game Pass
Age Rating: PEGI 7 / ESRB Everyone 10+

Imagine Cities Skylines, with all the challenges brought by colonising Mars! This one is very similar to Planetbase in concept, but brings many more details. With more management options, this really in depth title is a great one for those who like to keep close control. Releasing a couple of years ago, it does mean that the price has dropped a little, and can be picked up for a great cost when compared to the hours you can sink into it.

Again, this is one which has had the console controls beautifully optimised. Fans of city building strategy will be at home here, and if you’re as much of a perfectionist as I am you’ll spend a long time trying to perfect your colony design.

Reviewed: 15-05-2018

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2 Comments on Cost Effective Games to Wait Out An Apocalypse

  1. love this list. Downloading Everspace now! I have never considered The Surge. I see The Surge 2 is on XGP at the moment I’m wondering if I an skip the first one without any major issues?

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