Top 5 Bang-for-your-Buck Games

LA Noire releases on May 17th, but after that, we have 3 months of virtually no big releases, as is typical of the gaming industry during the summer months.  Sure, there's Duke Nukem Forever (which I refuse to believe is actually coming out), but nothing really big to grab your attention.

So here are five games that, for moderate price, will see you through the summer.

5. The Orange Box   Price: $20  (Recommended PC)

Two years ago, this would've been much higher.  The Orange Box was released by valve in 2007, containing three new games:
Hal-Life 2 Episode 2
Team Fortress 2

Along with these, it also contained Half-Life 2 and Episode 1.  The HL2 series is one of the best FPS' ever made, with the main game taking around 15 hours to complete, and then around 4 for each episode.

Portal is no longer a novelty, and has been overshadowed by it's sequel released last month, but if you havn't played either game, you should really treat yourself.

Team Fortress 2 is the king of class-based combat, and Valve continues to support it.  While the other games on the list are just as good across any platform (more or less), TF2 is really only worth it on PC/Mac, as the console versions have been left un-updated from the inital release.


4.  Just Cause 2   Price: $20-30

It may have some of the absolute worst voice acting I've ever heard, but I'll be damned if this isn't a damned-fun game.  This is what a sandbox game should be.  As Rico Rodriguez, players are sent to the island of Panau by an unnmaed US agency to end a dictatorship.

But who cares what you're supposed to do?  I have the game on onLive, have put over 20 hours into it, and am only about 1/4 through the story.  You literally have an ENTIRE ISLAND as your playground, for you to run through, shoot up, fly around, whatever you want.

My personal favorite memory was flying a plane straight towards a military base, jumping out, then grappling on as it flew into the distance.  My aim was perfect and the plane nailed an oil depot, destroying half of the base as Rico was sent flying by the force of the explosion.  


3.  Fallout 3: Game of the Year   Price: $30-40  (PC has mods, otherwise unimportant)

Fallout 3 was my game of the year for 2008, and it's easy to see why.  An epic tale of a young man sent into the irradiated wastes ins earch of his father, along the way saving DC from a tyranical ruler.  This is good stuff, and to do everything will take at least 100 hours, and multiple ways to play give even more legs.

The GOTY edition also included all 5 DLC packs:
Operation Anchorage
The Pitt
Broken Steel
Point Lookout
Mothership Zeta

Anchorage and Zeta are the weakest by far, and I personally regret paying $10 apiece for them as DLC.  The Pitt is enjoyable, though has even more bugs than the main game, which seems ridiculous but is true.

Broken Steel is the big one, increasing the level cap by 10 and allowing players to continue past the ending.  It also provides true closure the main ending lacked.

But by far the best is Point Lookout, which adds an entire landmass to the map.  Scarier, grittier, and more intense than the main plot, PL is not only the best expansion for Fallout 3, but one of the best ever made.  Which leads me to...


2.  Grand Theft Auto 4: The Complete Edition   Price: $30  (360 or PS3 recommended)

GTA 4 narrowly lost to F3 for my GoTY 2008, but in the DLC round scored a resounding knockout.  The main story, which will take between 30-50 hours to beat depending on whether or not you go for 100%, is absolutely superb.  

The best story of any GTA game, the player follows Niko Bellic, a slavic immigrant who comes to Liberty City (NYC) to escape his troubled past and deliver some justice.  Before long, he gets mixed up in the city's criminal underworld, and is forced into a world of violence and lunacy.  GameTrailers put it best in their review:
"GTA 4 is the drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll of videogames."

Included in this edition are the two dlc, 'the Lost and the Damned' and 'Ballad of Gay Tony'.  These two fill in the gaps in Niko's story from the perspective of two other characters, Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez respectively.  So well do these tales intertwince, that it's obvious Rockstar had these DLC planned from the start.

LatD features a motorcycle crew, and BoGT is all about the glitzy nightlife of Liberty City.  Both will take around 20 hours to complete, and are superb in every way.


1.  Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Game of the Year Edition   Price: $20-30

Before there was Fallout 3, there was Oblivion.  Many claim Fallout to be superior to ES4, but I think this largely depends on the players preference: fantasy or scifi.  In fact, though I generally lean more towards the SciFi end, I have a hard time deciding which of these two games I enjoy more.  

The story here is typical of fantasy games, though as always bethesda does a good job covering the stereotypical plot and setting with superb characters, dialogue, and writing.  The map is enormous, and if you have only played the Fallout games, breathtakingly beautiful, particularly in comparison to the arid wastes of post-apocalyptia.

The game will take a healthy 60 hours to complete, but up to 150 to completely experience. As far as classes, there is a lot of flexibility, and the player can even craft their own based on preset traits and talents.  My favorite is a variant of the battlemage preset class I call the 'Achilles', with emphesis on Blade, Willpower, and Heavy Armor, so I can combine damaging fire spells with full contact battle.

Included are two DLC, Knights of the Nine, and the Shivering Isles.  Shivering Isles, a full expansion, offers over 30 hours of bonus content, and is still available for the same price as the GoTY edition of the game (stupid MS pricing).  Knights of the Nine clocks in a little shorter at around 12 hours, but is arguably the better of the two, with a more gripping story and heavier gameplay.  That's not to say Shiv. Isles is bad, it's like choosing between crab and lobster.


Hopefully someone out there will read this and will pick up one of these games.  Sure there are other great games out there that offer a brevy of content (SC2), but these are the best deals you'll find at low prices.  So while you wait for Gears 3 to come out on Sept. 13, chill out and enjoy one of these fine titles.

brodyitis's picture

Great post. I got the Orange Box for $15 These are all great games, but I would have to put Orange Box on top.

pfro's picture

I love just cause 2. i know some people will hate it. it is just so fun and the map is huge but travel is a brease(?) with the hook and chute combo. (except over water)

Josh Kowbel's picture

I would put the Dragon Age: Ultimate Edition up here as well. It includes:

  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
  • All other DLC content packs

One could easily sink a couple hundred hours into the game if they were going for full completion. For less than $50, it's a total steal.

iWINuFAIL's picture

Considered it, but I only wanted two RPGs, since not everyone plays them.  I wanted a little more variety.

GLaDoS 96's picture

KOTOR 2 is probably low priced by now, that was a great game.

MarioDragon's picture

Oblivion, Shivering Isles, and Knights of the Nine is 100+ hours of gameplay if you complete every single quest in the game (which I have done), something that I did in 60 hours in Fallout 3 with expansions, which kind of bothered me that it was so much shorter and had many more expansions.. Either way, any game with Betheseda anywhere on it is an instant buy for me.

NightShroud's picture

Yes, but Fallout's atmosphere made it worth it. But honestly: I find Oblivion the better game.

SevSeth's picture

Definitely add The Witcher: Enhanced Edition up there.  It's only $10 on Steam, though the bugs and glitches do make it a questonable purchase...

AinEstonia's picture

The Orange Box definitely offers the most "bang-for-your-buck".

iWINuFAIL's picture

The problem with the orange box, as I pointed out, is that the longetivity of it is derived mainly from TF2.  While it is an amazing game, not everyone will enjoy it, and it is really only worth playing on the PC.

The Witcher is great, but once again I wanted to limit this list to 2 RPGs, and Bethesda's definitely offer the most gameplay, in addition to being consistently exceptional.

pfro's picture

I appreciate all this thought, great list

brodyitis's picture


You must have loved Rogue Warrior

Sangyerians's picture


John Tarr's picture

I've spent significantly more time playing Starcraft 2 than any other game in the last year. At $60, it's a steal.

I also second Minecraft and the 2 Bethesda titles. The DLC for Fallout 3 and Oblivion really push those games into 100+ hour territory. Great article!

mRam's picture


Good call

Jevrio's picture

I've spent about 7-800 hours playing CoD4, but my favorite game in this list must be Fallout 3. Oblivion is great to with a few mods, but I never really got sucked into it. Will try to complete before Skyrim tho.

iWINuFAIL's picture

In hinsight, I should have had SC2 instead of JC2, since both just cause and GTA are sandbox games.  However, JC2 IS both cheaper, and more widely available, as can be played on PS3, 360, PC, and even Mac via onLive.

Solifluktion's picture

Starcraft 1 would be my #1.

~15€ (well...25 Deutsche Mark back in the day ;) ), Several Thousand hours of fun.

Henke911's picture

very very nice article! i totaly agree, but it's too sad that i've already completed all of them. Hugely amount of time spent on 'em

VashTheStampede's picture

I agree with everything here but I have to say that Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is my #1. 300+ hours and still going strong

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