The best worst-selling games on Steam
Steam isn’t exactly forthcoming with sales data. That’s why third-party websites and apps have taken to tracking information across the world’s largest game storefront. Now that we’re through with the year-end games lists and talking about 2017’s best titles, I think there’s maybe a lot of attention we could be paying to that the very bottom of Steam’s bargain bin: the games that sold so abysmally, there’s got to be something special about them.
Who has ideas that are so good that they have completely failed to find an audience? Who is churning out nearly bot level derivatives of more successful titles? What is even the point of making a game (or multiple games) if not a single person plays it? If a clicker falls in the forest, what is the point of forests?
To take a snapshot of what clings to the undercarriage of gaming, I used SteamSpy and a few other resources to explore these titles. On SteamSpy, I had to click through 187 pages (out 743) listing 2017 releases just to find games that had a sale tracking of one unit. Let’s agree that third party trackers don’t have the strongest track record and that it is entirely possible that these numbers ignore entire methods of ownership. That’s why I’ve reached out directly to each publisher behind each of the games featured to double check on sales, and anything we hear back will be updated within the piece.
That said, what hellscape do we live in where two out of every seven games released in the past year were not even clicked on once by an actual human? How is it possible that no one will play games with names like Super Rampage Samurai or Runes of Avalon: Path of Magic? It’s unfathomable. (Unfathomable is, unfortunately, not one of the games for the void.)
Additionally, there’s a hundred or so games that SteamSpy reports sold more than a non-zero amount, but that also have an error range of plus or minus 700 units sold. Which should say a lot about the giant grain of salt we should take these trackers’ data with. That said, we focused on a few titles that seem backed up by user reviews as possibly not being played by more than just the developers and their families. Here’s what we found at the bottom of the sea.
EMPYRE: Lord of the Sea Gates
Steam Description: “New York in 1911 is flooded. Avenues are now canals, rooftops are now the streets and slowly the buildings crumble into the sea. Life is precarious here. But Manhattan has endured and transformed into a collection of City-States. Now a new crisis threatens and the city needs your help!”
This isometric RPG looks like an original Fallout if it was lacking in any features besides fighting and where everyone stood in the same jagged pose that betrays a lack of any animation. There’s some nice music and a lot of varied environments but the trailer also betrays a lack of either English or perhaps knowing what “selling points” are. One line brags about “fast combat & resolution” which is odd and another brags that is uses authentic settings despite being an alternative universe game.
The commenters say this shot for Wasteland 2 and completely missed by releasing a linear, joyless, funless title that includes game ending bugs. Sounds like fun, but not $30 of fun. One of the sales lines reads: “Art of Barter System: Barter weapons for weapons with traders. No money allowed.” Like most of the other material here, I have just enough questions to maybe come back to this one later while drunk and adventurous.
Nash Racing 2: Muscle cars
Steam Description: “Nash Racing 2 is minor indie racing game which contains 3 gamemodes: Race, Timetrial and Open World cruising. Lot of cars and over 10 tracks.”
This is maybe the most unintentionally hilarious videogame trailer I have ever seen. I feel lucky, and perhaps a blessed member of God’s children, to have stumbled across this late on a Saturday night. There is a moment that seems to bragging that cars in this game can stop. Could they not stop in Nash Racing 1? Literally no one knows. Also this is part of the sales pitch: “Open world: Open world tracks you can just cruise in different tracks/Open World maps or try to find hidden oxygen system which is hidden somewhere in the open world and when a level is finished then the player goes back to a garage. This game mode is just for fun and testing cars and driving in open worlds. 2 open world in first version.”
This is the first of what we’re hitting in this list where there are between 1000 and 1700 possible purchases on steam, and for a game that has sometimes traded at as little as fifty cents per sale: Sure. Sure, why not. Who among us does not own Bad Rats? If car racing stuff was my bag and I didn’t care that it was shovelware, sure.
Steam Description: “In MineDrill Redux you and your family live in a house outside the city hustle. But to survive you need water, and finding water is not a simple task. Mine down your way to the water layer and collect various ores. Sell them or craft new items to upgrade your machine speed, fuel tank or storage capacity. Find treasures and earn achievements. Install pipes to get fuel or choose the electric engine powered by the sun. Plant crops to get resources and trade for better ones. You got 25 advancements to unlock so you should start crafting! Is your choice how you achieve the final goal!”
The original game listed here has been removed, and replaced with a Redux release of seemingly the same game, but now with the tag of -Redux and also containing an Early Access disclaimer. Can you keep releasing and unreleasing a game? In the Early Access world, this is absolutely a fair move. Can you release something that looks like Video Game Maker was used to recreate levels of The Incredible Machine and use those assets to rip-off Terraria? Yeah, that’s all cool too. This game brags about having more than fifteen kinds of blocks! Fifteen, you rubes! How delightful is that?
I kinda thought we’d find more interesting stuff than this, but oh boy, it’s really just a lot of rip-off crap, isn’t it? (Too late to turn back now, Brock. -ed)
Lantern of Worlds
Steam Description: “Lantern of Worlds is a game of storytelling and adventure based on Arabian mythology and the tales of 1001 Nights. It is inspired by older games like the Quest for Glory series, Eye of the Beholder and Lands of Lore.”
All of the text in this game uses Papyrus. I’m not writing anything else about it.
Here’s one of the best Steam comments I’ve ever seen: “I like the idea and atmosphere about the game, but there are too much beautiful flirty women here, just give some nice flirty men also!”
Tell me about it. Seriously, tell me about it, because I’m not playing this. We’re back to an RPG where there’s no animations and, again, too many beautiful flirty women. There’s also a blurb here about how this is only the first game in a planned series of games and I feel a twinge of pain knowing that someone’s dream is being crushed here.
Ugh. A sales point is “six different voice actors” with an exclamation point. I’m not trying to be mean here but c’mon, read the room.
Civil War: 1861
Steam Description: “Civil War: 1861 covers the opening battles of the American Civil War. The game covers both the small and large actions of that momentous year, starting with the battle at ‘Big Bethel’, on to the comparatively vast engagements at ‘Bull Run’ and ‘Wilson’s Creek.’ In 1861 both sides have plenty of volunteer recruits who, though enthusiastic, lack battlefield experience. On the weaponry side much of the equipment still belongs to the Napoleonic Era with a plethora of muzzle loading, smoothbore artillery. Many of the commanders, who most would identify as the leaders the civil war armies, are still junior officers in the engagements recreated in this game. Command the Union or Confederate forces in these key battles. Can you change history? Good luck and on to battle!”
This is what I’m upset to see: a seemingly highly functional and pretty polished looking game. It’s a hex warfare time period battle simulator thing and it was obviously built for a mobile device but, like, it’s an actual game made by real humans that seems to be, at worst, fine. This is also a genre of game that just doesn’t have that many releases. I understand that some are detailed in that hundreds of hours per battle category and obviously no indie is going to stack up against that. Games can fall through the cracks. This isn’t for me, but after drudging through some trash, seeing non-trash is a real bummer.
Delicious - Moms vs Dads
Steam Description: "The moms are testing the dads’ mettle in this fun take on an age-old debate! Who will end up victorious? ♂️ ♀️ We’ve all been there, whether as parents or kids – why aren’t chores split evenly in the family? Why does one person always seem to do almost everything (❗) and, most importantly, what can you do about it? Emily and Patrick face (and answer!) this question in Emily’s newest story, Moms vs Dads! ♂️ ♀️