Christmas might be over, but it’s not too late to grab lots of awesome retro PC games for cheap in the GOG 2021 Winter Sale. The holiday sales are always the biggest for most digital storefronts, and this year is no different. I like to dig through places like GOG and Steam to find some obscure deals for gamers looking for something new (or in GOG’s case, old) to play.
While GOG has plenty of newer games, they are best known for being the place to grab really old PC games. GOG is unique in the sense that they often apply patches and tweaks to make really old games work better on modern hardware. This is why I always recommend people buy games that are about 15 years or older through GOG over Steam. Given the platform’s retro PC game reputation, most of my recommendations will be games from the ’90s and early ’00s.
One thing to note is that GOG runs daily flash deals. Bear this in mind before making purchases. If a game is on a flash sale, that is the cheapest it will ever be during the sale. Sometimes its safest to wait for the last day of the sale (in this case, January 5th) to make sure you don’t buy something that ends up even cheaper later on.
Here is a list of 15 good deals from the GOG 2021 Winter Sale:
Massive Development/Ravensburger Interactive Media
$1.49 (75% off)
The AquaNox franchise, along with its predecessor Archimedean Dynasty, helped pioneer the largely forgotten 6DoF shooter genre. The series is notable for having lots of interesting lore to dig through as well. Set long after the Earth’s surface has become uninhabitable, the last remnants of humanity fight over resources in advanced submarines packing heavy firepower. Archimedean Dynasty, AquaNox, and AquaNox 2: Revelation are $1.49 each right now, so just grab the whole lot if you want some old school 6DoF action. Avoid the recent reboot though, it wasn’t very good.
$5.99 (60% off)
Freedom Fighters is a classic third-person shooter that was saved from abandonware status last year by IO Interactive. This rerelease is actually pretty robust, with proper support for higher resolutions and modern technology. The game lets you live out your inner Red Dawn fantasies as you lead a resistance group during a Soviet invasion of America. It’s not a particularly complex squad-based tactical shooter, but it still holds up moderately well for its age.
World in Conflict: Complete Edition
Massive Entertainment/Vivendi Games
$2.49 (75% off)
You can’t bring up Red Dawn fantasies in the realm of video games without talking about World in Conflict. This spiritual successor to Massive’s own Ground Control series places you in command of a ragtag group of American troops holding back Soviet forces during WWIII. It has a surprisingly good campaign, and I spent tons of time in the skirmish and multiplayer modes back in the day. As with many GOG releases, this Complete Edition includes the expansion pack.
Act of War: Gold Edition
$3.99 (60% off)
Act of War is another classic military RTS from the early ’00s. Like World in Conflict, its remembered for having a fairly decent plot and campaign, if rather cheesy with its live action cinematics. At its core, Act of War is a fairly traditional base building RTS, but it does feature some pretty innovative mechanics. You can capture POWs and interrogate them to gain map data, and the way Act of War handles fixed-wing aircraft is still fairly unique for a base building RTS.
Surreal Software/Midway Games
$2.49 (75% off)
I had completely forgotten about The Suffering until I was browsing GOG for deals. Not because it was a bad series, but because it sadly only produced two games before being forgotten about. The Suffering was a unique shooter with horror elements back in the day, due in no small part to its morality system that led to one of two endings. You can buy both games for less than the price of a fast food meal, so check them out if you missed them back in the early 2000s.
Tiger Hill Entertainment/Midway Games
$2.49 (75% off)
Stranglehold is another Midway classic I had completely forgotten about before rediscovering it on GOG. Stranglehold billed itself as an authentic John Woo experience, and that’s a fairly accurate description of the game. While it wasn’t directly based on a movie, it served as a sequel to the ’90s classic Hard Boiled. Stranglehold was one of those rare licensed games that bucked the trend at the time, and was actually really good. It’s totally mindless bullet time-fueled gun fu action with a straightforward Hong Kong cinema plot. It’s just a shame that the planned franchise was cut short by Midway’s demise.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast
$3.49 (65% off)
While licensed games are normally awful, Star Wars is usually another one of the rare exceptions. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast is from what many gamers would consider the Golden Era of Star Wars video games. The Disney trilogy was still in the far future, and LucasArts was churning out tons of Expanded Universe stuff. Kyle Katarn’s entire game series was great, but Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast is probably my favorite, alongside Jedi Academy. Grab them both an experience some of gaming’s best lightsaber combat.
Star Wars Empire at War: Gold Pack
$6.99 (65% off)
While on the subject of Star Wars games, Empire at War is probably the best RTS the franchise has produced. Empire at War is one of the few times Star Wars has dipped into the 4X genre. The empire management mechanics and ground battles are okay, if a bit simple and boring. Where the game really shines is its cinematic space battles. There is even an entire UI mode devoted to letting you watch X-Wings and TIE Fighters dogfight while capital ships exchange barrages. The space battles alone are worth the entry fee, and the game has tons of mods out there too.
Painkiller Black Edition
People Can Fly/Dreamcatcher Interactive
$1.99 (80% off)
I will never not recommend Painkiller Black Edition in a GOG sale article. Painkiller is an absolute classic, and it has basically everything you could want from a boomer shooter. Fast-paced action, interesting enemy designs, loads of secrets to find, and tons of awesome and creative guns. People may meme about the “shurikens and lightning” gun, but every single weapon in Painkiller is unique, loads of fun to shoot, and useful. Painkiller Black Edition still holds up today, though unfortunately the other Painkiller games aren’t nearly as good.
SWAT 4: Gold Edition
Irrational Games/Vivendi Universal Games
$4.99 (50% off)
If you prefer your shooters to be slower and more tactical, then SWAT 4 remains the genre’s gold standard. So many tactical shooters have tried to emulate the experience provided by SWAT 3 and 4, and almost all of them still fall short. SWAT 4 is the perfect mix of planning and tactical squad-based action. While most shooters want you to shred everything in sight with a hail of automatic fire, the SWAT series forces you to play far more conservatively. You actually have to apprehend suspects, and you have to watch out for hostages before shooting. SWAT 4 has tons of custom missions and mods out there to extend the game’s life well past the campaign, too.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
GSC Game World
$5.99 (70% off)
SWAT 4 might be the gold standard for classic tactical shooters, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is one of the best when it comes to more survival-focused games. The franchise has always been a great mixture of horror, survival, and intense tactical shooting, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat is probably the best of the three. Its more polished for sure, and fixed many of the major complaints people had about the other two games. It also has tons of fantastic mods if you want an even more miserable survival experience.
$2.09 (65% off)
Metal Fatigue is a really obscure old RTS I remember finding in a bargain bin as a kid. It’s so obscure that for the longest time I thought I may have been the only person who ever played it. It’s a mech-based RTS with a lot of really unique ideas. You build your mechs by combining different torsos, arms, and legs, and parts can be cut off and stolen. Each of the game’s three factions have their own unique selection of weapons and technology. Another unique concept is that the game’s maps are actually three levels at once. Besides the surface level, each map has an orbital and subterranean level that certain units can freely traverse between.
Arkane Studios/JoWooD Productions
Long before Dishonored was even an idea, Arkane made their video game debut with Arx Fatalis. Set in a vast cave system in a fantasy world where the sun has died, Arx Fatalis features multiple endings and outcomes based on your actions. The game’s most noteworthy feature was its innovative magic system. Learning new spells involved collecting and combining runes. These spells were cast by drawing runes with your mouse. While the UI as a whole was a bit clunky, the gesture-based magic system was really unique for the time.
Sacred 2 Gold
Ascaron/cdv Software Entertainment
$3.74 (75% off)
My potentially controversial political opinion of the day is that Sacred 2 is probably one of my favorite action-RPGs. I don’t care how many games media outlets called it mediocre when it originally released, I put a ridiculous amount of time into this game on the Xbox 360. Sacred 2 isn’t as flashy or in-depth as some other Diablo-style action-RPGs out there, but it does have fun classes and a massive world to explore. It also doesn’t take itself very seriously, and has a secret in-game concert by the German power metal band Blind Guardian.
There is a caveat though: Sacred 2 is very unstable on PC. The developer was going bankrupt as the game was still in development, and it’s a miracle the game even got released at all. You will need to seek out community patches and obscure fixes to highly specific problems to get this game working properly.
Avernum: The Complete Saga
$3.59 (70% off)
Finally, we come to Avernum: The Complete Saga, a collection of classic RPGs that probably represents the biggest dollar-to-content value of this list. The Avernum saga is perhaps the best-known series by Spiderweb Software, an indie developer that has been around since the early ’90s. This series of deep RPGs are set in Avernum, an underground penal colony where the Empire disposes of all their undesirable elements. Throughout the series, you will go from just another prisoner doomed to die in Avernum’s harsh world, to a revolutionary looking to reclaim your life and freedom.
This is a bundle of all six of the original Avernum games, as well as a collection of standalone adventure modules. This is a ridiculous amount of content for less than $4. Each of these games can keep you occupied for between 30 and 60 hours for a “standard” playthrough. If you try to find every secret and side quest, you can extend that playtime even longer. Just be aware that these games are extremely heavy on the text and reading.
Did you buy any games during the GOG Winter Sale? What other great deals have you seen that you’d recommend to others?
The is Niche Deals. In this column, we regularly cover new and upcoming deals, discounts, and more for video games. Let us know if there’s a deal we should cover!