The best Early Access games give you excuses to play right now, while making it worth your while to check out the full release. But it’s not always easy to tell which ones can or will provide both. That’s why we’ve collected this list! We wanted to provide a look at some of the best games in Early Access — the ones you really ought to play throughout 2020 and beyond.
These are all games you can pick up and play to have a fantastic time, even without worrying about the final release date. Most of them feel tailor-made to return to every few months. Others are just self-contained tastes of promising things to come. Let’s take a look at them in our lest of the best Early Access games to watch in 2020!
You May Also Like:
- Nobody Told Me About Temtem, Which Looks Like More Than a Pokemon Knockoff
- 11 Indie Games From PAX South to Keep Your Eye On
- ‘Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem’ Carries On the Detective’s Digital Legacy
Hades might already be the best game Supergiant has ever made — and it’s not even done yet. The roguelike action game stars, well, the son of Hades, Zagreus, as he fights his way out of the underworld again, and again, and again. To aid you, there’s a set of wildly distinct weapons you select at the start of each run, plus a number of boons offered by the gods as you progress.
You might get a spear that does fast, consecutive thrusts, or can be thrown at a distance. Then mix that second move with divine poison, allowing you to peck away at enemy health without getting into melee range at all. Or maybe grab a Captain America-style shield and let Athena juice it with the ability to not just block, but to deflect projectiles back at foes. There’s a ton of variation available for every kind of build. And the customization only gets deeper with each new update.
Speaking of updates, it’s very impressive how much story the makers of Pyre, Bastion, and Transistor cram into each new dollop of content. Zagreus can chat with denizens of the afterlife and give them gifts. That includes the undead workaday bosses he beats down on various floors. It’s just business, you see. They don’t have anything against him personally! The end result is a beautiful blend of Supergiant Games’ two best qualities: potent action and charming characters.
Where can I play it? After a brief stint as an Epic Games Store exclusive, you can now download Hades on both the EGS and Steam.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is a very different roguelike than Hades. It does away with a traditional story almost completely in favor of tense, constantly escalating action. The titular “risk” involved refers to the game’s difficulty. The longer you play, leaping from one zone to the next through portals guarded by bosses, the harder things get. Luckily there are about 10 cubic butt-loads of loot to help you on your way. The first Risk of Rain excelled at giving you gobs of ridiculous, random items to customize your playstyle — like a banjo that shoots electricity, or a teddy bear that blocks damage. The sequel is no exception.
That being said, the first game was also a 2D platformer. Risk of Rain 2 is a third-person shooter with graphics straight out of the original PlayStation. It seems like a jarring transition, but it’s really… not! The game changes planes without sacrificing a shred of the intensity or flow that made the original a hit. Plus its roguelike nature means that, as it adds new classes, items, and enemies with each update, it never feels like you’re playing an incomplete version of the game in Early Access. It’s more like unlocking fun new surprises on subsequent runs. As you might be able to tell from other games on this list, that’s a match made in heaven.
Where can I play it? Risk of Rain 2 is one of those rare Early Access games on just about every modern console. You can get it on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch.
This one comes with some pretty serious caveats. GTFO is one helluva hardcore game. The developers, partly comprised of folks who worked on the Payday series, make no bones about that in the marketing. There is also “no matchmaking at the moment,” meaning you need to either get some friends aboard or hit up the game’s community for teammates. It’s a cooperative game, after all, with a strong focus on timing and assigning roles.
It’s also interesting a hell. GTFO is a grimy, gritty take on the objective-based Left 4 Dead formula — where resource management and caution are key to progressing. Players work their way through a facility infested by monsters whose heads open the wrong way. You use a mix of stealth and shrieking “oh god we fucked up” to pick your way from one locked door to the next. It’s tense, challenging, and a lot of fun to watch other people screw up. Time will tell if there’s enough variety in the mission structure, as the team releases new levels via its “Rundown” system, to give the game staying power.
Where can I play it? This one is currently available on Steam, and nowhere else.
If you like Pokemon, odds are you’ll be at least interested in Temtem. The audaciously ambitious creature collecting MMO competes directly with the monolithic house that Pikachu built. It features all the battles, breeding, and collecting you would expect from Pokemon. Then it streamlines and deepens those ideas in all the ways different parts of the audience have requested for years. Breeding better monsters is a more transparent process than ever. Meanwhile, battles include concepts like a banning phase, for the extremely hardcore at heart.
Despite all the technical complexity, the game is still very charming. Temtem has a fun, cel shaded art style that feels wholly separate from the Game Freak franchise.
Where can I play it? Temtem is available on PC via Steam and the Humble Store. Console versions are forthcoming.
Griftlands is one of the latest releases from Klei Entertainment: the prolific creators of Don’t Starve and Oxygen Not Included. Although this one shares a bit more DNA with Invisible, Inc. and Mark of the Ninja. That is to say you’ll recognize the art style immediately. Even so, the gameplay is a pretty big departure for the studio. Griftlands is a deckbuilding game in the vein of Slay the Spire and Steamworld: Quest.
That’s a lot of legacy to live up to, but Griftlands manages to set itself apart. That’s partially because every run of the game (yes, it’s another roguelike) features two separate decks. One is built for battle: allowing you to bounty hunt your way across a sci-fi wasteland and survive random encounters against monsters. The other deck lets you negotiate. You can argue for better pay or to make targets come in quietly. This results in unique outcomes to specific missions, which is exactly the sort of thing a roguelike should allow for. It’s also nice to see another game searching for ways to work plot and characters into the exploding genre.
Where can I play it? Griftlands is currently an Epic Games Store exclusive (meaning it’s only on PC). There should be a Steam version in June 2020.
Bright Memory is an odd little game. That seems partly intentional, thanks to its zany player powers and over-the-top references to games like Dark Souls. It’s a first-person shooter at heart, though, with a focus on chaining together abilities like a grappling hook and telekinesis. There’s also a combo system that lets you chase high scores — in the vein of Devil May Cry or Bulletstorm. That’s one way to extend the lifetime of what is currently a very short experience. It’s also dirt cheap, at just $6.99, which makes it easy to justify as a curiosity if nothing else.
Another part of what makes the Bright Memory stand out is that it was made by just one person. And you can definitely see it in some of the game’s rough edges. Even so, it punches far above its weight with impressive graphics and tight, if slightly repetitive action.
Originally designed as an episodic game, Bright Memory is now essentially being reboot as a single, new product called Bright Memory: Infinite. Though it sounds like players who buy into the Early Access version (what used to be episode one) will get the full release for free. That’s neat!
Where can I play it? You can get this one on Steam or GOG.
Subnautica: Below Zero
This standalone expansion to the first Subnautica practically feels like a sequel at this point. It’s a touch cheaper than the original, but features all the pieces you might expect. The first-person survival game puts an even stronger focus on story (the thing that initially drew me to the original). There’s quite a lot more tension, too. Below Zero sports a number of massive, deadly, and unconquerable enemies that get in the way of you building and exploring undersea bases — which gets your blood pumping in the best way. More above-ground antics, thanks to the frigid ice environment, also help it feel unique from its predecessor. Even if it didn’t, this is one formula I’m happy to take another dose of.
Where can I play it? Pick this one up on the Epic Games Store, Steam, or Humble. The first game got PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, as well, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Below Zero also hits consoles.