So you're looking for games to play on your old computer. Diverting hobby funds a more dangerous hobby like motorcycling? Looking for a new use for your spreadsheet-machine? Far too thrifty to spend capital on something with no foreseeable return on investment, perhaps? Whatever your reason for seeking gaming software that'll run on a low end PC, you'll be happy to know that fun need not be tossed out with the latest of visual bells and whistles. If your rig meets Windows 7's hardware requirements, chances are you can find a recent release that interests you. These are some of the best of the least demanding, each a top choice for those playing on the cheap.
FTL: Faster Than Light
In space, no one can hear you swear. Except your crew. They're going to be hearing a lot of it.
You bear a message of dire importance and it's imperative that you deliver it to allied command. In your way stands a galaxy full of hostile star ships, interesting encounters, and celestial dangers, each generated randomly. Unfortunately, the pursuing rebel fleet is on hot on your tail. Earn scrap, upgrade your craft's subsystems and armaments, and engage in pausable real-time battles to scrape toward your destination. Be careful, though: success is far from guaranteed, and it's one death 'till game over. No more touring the stars for you. You're done. Start over!
Engage your music on a new level. The psychedelic puzzle-racetracks of Audiosurf are adapted straight from your music, creating a unique level for every song. Whether you're choosing from the packaged stable of aural selections or setting the game loose on a track you've brought with you, the experience will never repeat itself. Unless you're into looping the same song over and over until you're sick of it. In which case, consider the sanity of those around you and wear headphones.
A goofy noir game of "creative infiltration". You're a freelance spy whose clients want sensitive and secret information. Naturally, it's guarded by laser beams, fancy locking mechanisms, and men with guns. But fear not: your trenchcoat-clad figure possesses extraordinary leg power and an ability to rewire a building's electronics with which to solve each stage. Leap many stories in a single bound, fall from great heights, and generally rocket yourself around at speeds no normal man could survive to escape with your prize.
Low spec computers and point and click games are a match made in budget-player heaven. The static backgrounds and two dimensional figures characteristic of most games in the genre should be a cinch. Machinarium is no different. Aside from being a personal favorite, the ragged and rusted junk-yard sculpture designs are a terribly appropriate pairing if you don't mind some playful self-deprecation.
Gather around, young and old, for a multi-generation obsession like no other. This charming block-builder possess a diabolical recipe for mass appeal that, whether you feel it was stumbled upon or purposefully concocted, still retains its potency. Its vapour of imagination rendered in cube is borne on mechanically effortless winds. If you dare to venture where creepers roam, be sure to take an alarm clock with you. Your prior engagements will thank you.
The collectible trading card came from the folks who brought you the worldwide phenomenon of dungeon raiding and orc-slashing. You know the one. Even if you've never played World of Warcraft, an unsettling number of the creatures and abilities in Hearthstone are likely familiar. It's billed as a simpler, faster game of deck building and dueling than something like Magic, and it's free to play, should you be interested in a taste of the genre. Just keep tabs on what micro transaction temptations might be inching toward your purse strings.
The licensed XCOM sequel of recent years is, while most assuredly a fantastic game, a bit more taxing on the ol' girl. If you're hankering for some strategic extra terrestrial-blasting action and that feeling of never having enough cash, however, there's a spiritual successor on the market that's considerably more machine friendly.
Resuming an 1980s setting, Xenonauts saddles you with the responsibility of governing the efforts of a multinational effort to repel the invaders and managing the movements of troops in individual encounters. Firefights follow a system of time units, rather than turns, allowing a great deal of flexibility beyond firing a single shot and sitting still.
It may not look the part, Torchlight 2's super-saturated maelstrom of monsters and destruction is wonderfully conducive to more humble machines. Each click provides a flurry of feedback from the bright flourishes of impressive spell effects to zombie bodies popping in oh-so-satisfying ways. This rock-solid take on action RPGs was crafted by a number of the folks responsible for Diablo 2, the widely-agreed upon king of the genre, and lives up to its pedigree quite nicely.
Fancy a bit of the ol' ultra-violence? If the drug deal gone bad in the early minutes of Scarface were distilled and trickled, with all its blood spatter and 80s flair, into a top-down action game, you'd end up with something similar to Hotline Miami. Mix in a dash of bizarre David Lynch and you're on the right track. The action here is quick and messy, meeting the player's human-like durability and frequent deaths with quick restarts. Checkpoints are frequent enough to enable an oddly engaging puzzley trial-and error approach to solving stages.
A game about fake chemistry. You step into the clean white sneakers of a Reactor Engineer, someone responsible for programming machines that break down molecules and reassemble them into something more desirable. Your company has a quota to fill. Sate their greed by constructing repeating frameworks laden with all the exact instructions required to assemble the correct product, then coordinate them with the other reactors in the line. Easy to understand, but starting a new stage can become incredibly daunting.
SpaceChem is categorized as a puzzle game, but it's more aptly described as problem solving – there is never a single correct answer. Never even a few. You have a set of tools and an enormous amount of latitude in concocting and optimizing your own unique solutions, and it's immensely satisfying to see the products of your mental strain fall into alignment.