Valve originally released the Early Access route in March 2013, which lets developers fund their game with the help of customers who can also give feedback during development. Minecraft was developed in a similar way, with the game being available for purchase during the alpha and beta before the official release in November 2011.
Early Access on Steam has gathered criticism since launching, with developers not finishing their games, or in some cases letting people buy a game that doesn’t work. While this has been a problem, games like Nuclear Thrones, Assault Android Cactus, and Prison Architect have used Early Access to their advantage to create enjoyable games. Here are great examples of games that are currently in Early Access that are already worth your money and time.
Starbound has been in Early Access for just over 2 years now, and if you have seen Terraria before you will have a slight idea of what Starbound is like.
It is a 2D game with a pixel art aesthetic that emphasizes exploration, with an infinite amount of generated planets for you to come across through multiple saves. There are currently 7 races you can choose from, each with their unique ship design and armor abilities. While exploring you will have missions to accomplish, whether ones linked to the main story or others given to you by NPCs.
It’s also possible to play the game with your friends, which could make the game even more fun. Starbound will cost you $14.99 currently on Steam.
Stranded Deep is a single-player open world survival game that currently has approximately 86.6% positive reviews, and includes sharks instead of your typical zombies.
You are stuck in the Pacific Ocean, and the world around you is procedurally generated so that you won’t always get the same playing experience. There are multiple biomes that can spawn, including islands and different levels of water. You can get around the ocean with craftable rafts, although your exploration could potentially be affected by weather and hunger.
The different species will cause you trouble, though they are just a small part of trying to survive in the middle of an ocean. Stranded Deep will cost you $14.99.
If you are a fan of the horror genre and have ever wanted to scare your friends in a multiplayer game, Dead Realm is an Early Access game you will want to look at.
Dead Realm has over 2800 reviews with around 86.5% of them being positive. The game is multiplayer only and is best played with friends. One player becomes a ghost and tries to catch and haunt the other human players in the level.
This is an especially good option if you are wanting to create YouTube videos or stream multiplayer games on Twitch, with the very popular VanossGaming working with the developers as a creative director. You can pick up the game for $14.99.
Out of the list of early access games gathered beforehand, Besiege had the highest percentage of positive reviews at 97%. It has been available since January.
Besiege is a single-player experience which is based around physics and building. You are given different scenes, and you have to create a machine that will inflict the most amount of damage to your surroundings. Your creativity may be rewarded with destruction, or the machine may blow up in your face and fail.
Besiege will cost you $7.99, which is definitely worth it if you want to be creative with blowing up medieval scenes, while making Michael Bay proud.
Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark: Survival Evolved is one of the most popular Early Access games currently available on Steam, because a lot of people like the idea of having pet dinosaurs.
Ark is a multiplayer survival game, similar to other popular titles like DayZ, H1Z1, and Rust in that regard. There is an emphasis on dinosaurs, with over 50 species that include the dodo and the newly added Thylacoleo. Taming dinosaurs isn’t even your main concern; you will still have to keep your thirst and hunger in check, adding an extra dynamic to the gameplay.
It is also one of the first games to release on the Xbox One as part of their Preview programme, if you would rather play with your friends on the console. It is currently $29.99 on Steam, and is expected to release on 2nd June 2016.
With approximately 94.4% of its reviews being positive, Speedrunners is a very popular 4-person multiplayer game to play with friends.
With support for both local and online multiplayer, Speedrunners has one camera view while everyone runs through the level. There are power-ups you can use to move quicker, and others that can affect the other players if it hits. When players fall too far behind they are knocked out for the rest of the round, and the last person standing is the winner. Rounds are short, with the overall winner being the first to obtain three wins.
The developers have released YouTuber skin packs to go with the ones that are already part of the base game, so if you want to play as Markiplier or PewDiePie you have the chance to do so. Speedrunners will cost $14.99.
Space Engineers is best described as a sandbox game that takes place in space, and has been in Early Access since October 2013.
There are different ways in which you can start off, but you will find yourself mining meteors and building brand new equipment at your home base. You can build your own ships to traverse the universe, with a lot of room to be creative in the design. However, the game’s physics can punish you as well, so be careful if you are mining by hand.
You can choose to play Space Engineers by yourself or with your friends, and it can be picked up for $24.99 on Steam.
Plague Inc: Evolved
Plague Inc: Evolved is a game inspired by the free Flash game Pandemic 2, and it does a great job at expanding the idea behind it.
The game gives you 10 different types of diseases to take over the world with. You can come up with your own intricate strategies to achieve your goal, while trying to make sure that a cure is not created before everyone has been infected. There are also unique scenarios, as well as custom diseases from the Steam Workshop that you can try and spread.
For $14.99, there is a lot you can do in this game. Plague Inc: Evolved also now has competitive multiplayer, where the world has two diseases trying to take over.
There are other Early Access examples that could have made this list, so if you have a favorite that you feel should be on this list, let is know in the comments!