Out of curiosity, I decided to do some analysis on my Steam library to find out which games have given me the most “bang for my buck”. I hoped that I’d be able to use the Steam Gauge site, but unfortunately it does not know how much I paid for the game, only the default price, and most games I’ve bought in sales at some point or another.
So I decided to do this myself. I took the top 50 games in my library by play time, which resulted in a threshold of >12 hours playtime. Note that this does not necessarily mean they are my favourite games, as some games, like Firewatch, I only have logged 10.8 hours on, despite having played them 3 times through. This analysis is intended to be hyper-objective and not take into account how much I actually enjoyed the games, which means it’s hopelessly flawed, but that’s not the kind of thing to stop me having fun with numbers, is it?
I then cross-referenced with my receipts to grab the amount I paid for each game. There were 7 games that I was unable to find the receipt for, and a couple of other games where I purchased them in a bundle, so a certain amount of handwaving was required. That said, let’s do the best with what we’ve got.
These are the games for which I have logged the lowest cost-per-hour.
Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition
|Time played||298 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.017|
|Steam store link||Fallout New Vegas|
Fallout New Vegas is an open world RPG FPS released in 2010. It should be no surprise that this game is at the top of the list. It’s currently got the highest logged number of hours of any game in my library. I’ve played the vanilla game through in its entirety repeatedly, which probably makes up for at least half of the hours here, and then modded playthroughs comprise the rest. When people ask me what my favourite game of all time is, this is the title that leaps to mind. I bought the ultimate edition (which also includes the excellent DLC content) in a Steam sale, but even if I had paid full price for it, with this number of hours played I’d still have an excellent overall cost per hour.
|Time played||259 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.027|
|Steam store link||Terraria|
This is one of the first games that I owned on Steam, which I purchased back in 2011 when I owned a computer with very modest gaming hardware. I suppose I was sold on the “It’s Minecraft, but 2D” comparisons. I quite quickly racked up over a hundred hours playing multiplayer with my friend Jamie. It was my top-played game in my Steam library for a long time, until Fallout New Vegas toppled it. It then had a bit of a resurgence last year when Karen, Bernard and I spent many hours playing multiplayer on it. A remarkable thing about this game is how much the developers have continued to improve and extend it, after its initial release.
|Time played||263 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.033|
|Steam store link||Stardew Valley|
Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, but it’s also so much more than that. Despite only picking this game up in August last year, I have sunk countless hours into it playing multiplayer with Karen (and, to a lesser extent, Bernard). This is one of the few games on this list that I’m actively playing at present, so that 3.3p per hour is continuing to drop on a week-by-week basis, and I’m fully expecting this to leapfrog Fallout New Vegas at some point.
Saints Row The Third
|Time played||50 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.040|
|Steam store link||Saints Row The Third|
I picked up this game for an absolute bargain, at the suggestion of my friend Jamie who suggested we do a multiplayer playthrough for a video series on his YouTube channel. If you so desire, you can watch the series here. It’s a great fun game, very much in the “Grand Theft Auto” mould, but one of its great strengths is how well it integrates multiplayer into the story mode. You can play the main story in multiplayer co-op and enjoy it just as much as if you were playing in single player.
Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition
|Time played||33 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.048|
|Steam store link||Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition|
This is an open-world action adventure game set in Hong Kong. It tends to draw comparisons with Grand Theft Auto, though this one actually has a much stronger story and much less focus on stealing cars and shooting people (though there is quite a lot of hand-to-hand combat). Again, you can pick this game up for an insanely low price if you wait for a sale, and I heartily recommend it.
|Time played||36 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.055|
|Steam store link||Mass Effect|
Another game that is high up the list by dint of providing dozens of hours of gameplay for a couple of quid, this is a superb RPG action adventure third-person shooter set in space. I picked up this (and its sequel) for a steal, and enjoyed both thoroughly. I’ve never played the third game in the series – for a long time, it wasn’t on Steam at all. It is now available on Steam, but you have to install EA’s Origin launcher to play it. I’ve installed Origin launcher once before and it was dire. While I want to play Mass Effect 3, I don’t want to play it that badly.
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
|Time played||39 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.061|
|Steam store link||Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic|
Again, dozens of hours of gameplay from a game that frequently goes on sale for less than the price of a pint. This is a role-playing game, and it is admittedly showing its age a bit. The graphics are quite chunky, the combat I found a bit tiresome, but the story is superb. This is considered by most to be one of the best Star Wars video games ever made, and was made by the same studio who made Mass Effect. There’s a lot of similarities between the two.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
|Time played||37 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.067|
|Steam store link||Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas|
You may be noticing a pattern here – games that offer 30-40 hours of gameplay for a single run through, picked up in sales for about £2. GTA San Andreas probably needs no introduction from me – I originally owned this on the PS2 over 15 years ago, and bought it on Steam a few years ago to replay it.
Grand Theft Auto V
|Time played||124 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.085|
|Steam store link||Grand Theft Auto V|
Interestingly, despite having paid 4 times as much for GTAV as I did for GTA San Andreas, the cost per hour is very similar because of the total time played. GTAV is a bit of an odd game, in that it is now 8 years old, but because it is still the most recent Grand Theft Auto game, and because of the fact that Rockstar continue to make money hand over fist from the online component, it still has a regular price of £25 and is generally never available for under £12.49. The only reason that I was able to pick it up so cheaply is that it was in a special sale that gave me an extra £5 discount, I can’t remember exactly why. That said, it still represents decent value for money, as the single player story is pretty good and will give most players 50-80 hours for a single playthrough, assuming you don’t just rush through the main story.
Lego: The Hobbit
|Time played||42 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.089|
|Steam store link||Lego The Hobbit|
This is a game that Bernard and I played together, and had we only completed the main story then it would not have made it onto this list. However, we were enjoying it quite a lot, so we went back and completed all side quests and gathered all collectibles, bringing the total playtime up to 42 hours, and the cost per hour to about 9p. That said, since both of us were playing on one copy, if you were to consider the adjusted cost per hour per person, it would be only 4.5p.
These are the games for which I have logged the highest cost-per-hour, though do bear in mind that these are all games that I’ve spent over 12 hours on, so while they are relatively poor value for money, that doesn’t that they are bad games, by any stretch of the imagination.
Kerbal Space Program
|Time played||13.8 hours|
|Cost per hour||£1.449|
|Steam store link||Kerbal Space Program|
This is another one of my earliest purchases on Steam, and basically makes it into this spot on the list by dint of having been played for long enough to pass the 12 hours threshold, and the fact that I paid full price for it. It’s a very good game, which has a lot to teach you about orbital mechanics and space travel, but after nearly 14 hours of it, I had my fill. It’s not to be sniffed at, and £1.50 per hour of entertainment is very reasonable indeed. These days, the regular price is £29.99 but it is often available on sale for £7.49.
Life Is Strange 2
|Time played||16.9 hours|
|Price paid||about £21.00|
|Cost per hour||£1.243|
|Steam store link||Life Is Strange 2|
These days I don’t often pay full price for a game, which is one of the reasons why I tend to get such a good cost-per-hour. I also tend to eschew current games in favour of playing games that are a few years old with a really good reputation. I have very little interest in paying £40 for a brand new game that has lots of hype but no guarantee of actual quality. I keep a backlog of about 3-6 unplayed games in my Steam library, and top this up whenever there’s a sale on. However, this only applies to the games I play on my own. It’s harder to sustain this backlog for the games that we play together as a family. This is for a few reasons:
- Harder to find games that meet all of our needs. We like:
- couch co-op games (eg Castle Crashers, Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime)
- multiplayer co-op games with low system requirements that will run on Karen and Bernard’s laptops (eg Stardew Valley, Raft)
- “walking simulators” or other heavily story-driven games where the two people watching can get just as involved as the person holding the controller (eg What Remains Of Edith Finch, Life Is Strange)
- puzzle games that encourage discussion and brainstorming (eg The Witness, Return Of The Obra Dinn)
- The games we all like tend to be much shorter (2-10 hours) so the backlog shrinks quicker
- Less likely to play a game to completion. With three of us playing, there’s a much higher chance that a game will get abandoned early on because someone’s not getting on with it
As a result, while I can get by without ever paying full price for a game for myself, the same is not true of the games we play together. And, as I noted with Lego The Hobbit above, if we look at cost per hour per person, it’s really only about £0.41 for this game. It’s a pretty good game, if you like walking simulators (which basically means a fairly linear, quasi-interactive story with some light puzzle elements but not really intended to present a challenge), though nowhere near as good as the original Life Is Strange.
|Time played||13.4 hours|
|Cost per hour||£1.193|
|Steam store link||Heaven’s Vault|
Another game that we paid full price (or near full price) for because the three of us wanted something to play together. Bernard lost interest very quickly but Karen and I played it through to completion, though I think that by the end our interest was waning a bit too. It’s an incredibly memorable game, with elements of exploration and archaeology and hieroglyphics, but it can feel a little sluggish at times. Adjusted cost per hour per person (assuming two players for the majority) would be about 50p.
|Time played||14.6 hours|
|Cost per hour||£1.034|
|Steam store link||Quest Hunter|
Similar story here, Karen and I wanted something to play together straight away so I bought this for £15. If I’d been able to wait for a sale, it would have been £6 about two weeks later. This game is an action RPG with beat-em-up elements and lots of dungeon crawling, and we’ve only just recently completed this the other day. Adjusted cost per hour per person is 52p.
|Time played||15 hours|
|Cost per hour||£0.799|
|Steam store link||Assetto Corsa|
I bought this to scratch my itch for a driving game, and it’s hard to be dissatisfied with 15 hours out of a £12 investment.
Really Bottom Games
I was conscious that by limiting the analysis to games that I’ve played more than 12 hours on, it would have a huge bias towards the games that I’ve enjoyed the most. So I decided to eyeball my Steam library beyond the top 50 for some games that I’ve spent fewer than 12 hours on, but that I remember paying a relatively high price for. And again, this is not about hating on bad games, so I haven’t included anything that I only played for a short while and then gave up.
|Time played||1.6 hours|
|Cost per hour||£4.681|
|Steam store link||ABZU|
This was an absolutely gorgeous game, an underwater experience that was very linear and more about being led through an environment than surmounting challenges. I suppose you could call it a swimming simulator. It still has a £15 standard price tag which feels frankly bonkers for such a short game. Adjusted cost per hour per person for three players is still over £1.50.
What Remains Of Edith Finch
|Time played||2.1 hours|
|Cost per hour||£3.924|
|Steam store link||What Remains Of Edith Finch|
Very similar to Abzu here – very short game, very high price tag when not on sale. It’s another walking simulator, but I think that this game has more to offer than Abzu. Whereas Abzu undoubtedly has the better environments, this game tells a superb story and has some very interesting controller mechanics. Adjusted cost per hour per person for three players is about £1.31.
A Way Out
|Time played||6.4 hours|
|Cost per hour||£3.905|
|Steam store link||A Way Out|
This is the game that I installed the Origin launcher for, and it gave me a hell of a time. Just starting up the game became a huge chore that I didn’t look forward to, because it took repeated attempts to get it to work. The reason why we were willing to pay full price for this is that it is a split-screen co-op story-driven game, which are fairly hard to come by, and so quite relevant to our interests. The downside is that it’s only two player, so Karen didn’t feel as immersed in this as Bernard and I did, so I’ll give it an adjusted cost based on 2.5 players, which comes out as £1.56 per hour.
I also wrote a review of this game because I had a lot to say, not all of it positive.
|Time played||4.6 hours|
|Cost per hour||£2.524|
|Steam store link||Telling Lies|
This game is the follow up to Her Story, a detective puzzle game which we all enjoyed and in itself represented pretty good value (2.7 hours for £1.99 between 3 people = 24.5p per hour adjusted). We had quite high expectations for this, which is why I perhaps paid more for it than I might usually. It was a bit underwhelming, and the adjusted cost among 3 people is about £0.84 per hour.
|Time played||3.3 hours|
|Cost per hour||£1.815|
|Steam store link||Tacoma|
This is a walking simulator set aboard an abandoned spaceship. Funnily enough it was released just a few months after Prey, which has some thematic similarities, but is a totally different genre (RPG FPS, 47.1 hours, £6, £0.128 per hour so didn’t quite make it into the top 10 above). Not a bad game, but not one of the greats. If you’re big into walking simulators, then I think you’ll enjoy it, but there are better walking sims out there. Adjusted cost per hour per person for 3 players is £0.60.
Looking at the games above, it seems that most games that we played through to completion fall within a range of 5p per hour to £1.50. How does this compare to other common activities?
|Activity||Duration||Total Cost||Cost Per Hour|
|Going to the cinema||About 2 hours||£10 per ticket||£5.00 per hour|
|Music festival||3 days||£300||£5.00 per hour|
|2 games of 10 pin bowling||About 90 minutes||£12||£8.00 per hour|
|Falconry Experience||3 hours||£49.50||£16.50 per hour|
|Paddleboarding||45 minutes||£15||£20.00 per hour|
|Horse riding||1 hour||£30||£30.00 per hour|
|Lap dance||5 minutes||£40||£480.00 per hour|
Hope this helps! And well done if you actually read this far.
Ah, I’d have liked to see knitting in that final list.