Steam Early Access games might not always be polished, but numerous titles are certainly worth checking out. From indie horror games to sequels to big titles, there are tons that you can already try for yourself. Which titles are the best to play before 2022 kicks in? Let’s find out.
What Is a Steam Early Access Game?
If you’re a new PC player, you might be confused by the Steam Early Access program. Just what is Steam Early Access? How are games under this category different from regular games?
To put it simply, Steam Early Access games are primarily incomplete or unpolished games in beta that people can play. Through this system, users can play an unfinished game and give developers proper critique and feedback.
Of course, there are many variations to this definition as developers release their game in early access for different reasons. Not all are seeking to simply release in Steam Early Access to get better feedback. Regardless, however, almost all of these will be beta games that are either unfinished or unpolished or both. Hence, if you’re asking if early access means you get the full game, then the answer is: no.
Given that, you might be bewildered about why on earth people pay to play Steam Early Access games. After all, they’re just beta games, and yet you still need to pay for them, right? Well, there are perks to playing Steam Early Access games. The biggest one, by far, is the price.
This is because Steam Early Access games are generally cheaper than what they would be priced at after launch. If you pay for a beta game in early access now, you’ll be able to own it at a discount.
12 Best Steam Early Access Games to Get Before 2022
Without further ado, here are the best Steam games in 2021 that are still in early access (in alphabetical order).
1. Baldur’s Gate 3
At first glance, you might think Steam Early Access games are solely for indie developers and unknown titles. However, titles like Baldur’s Gate 3 — one of the best games on Steam early access available — prove that notion wrong. Despite being a big title, it’s something you can download pre-release — and it has a lot going for it.
If you loved the franchise’s previous titles, you certainly shouldn’t miss out on Baldur’s Gate 3. It showcases tons of new features that the previous game didn’t have including a new turn-based combat system. Moreover, it gives fans a glimpse into the next title without waiting for the official launch.
In Baldur’s Gate 3, you’ll form a party and dive into the Forgotten Realms rife with fellowship, survival, and sacrifice. Like any good RPG adventure, it’s full of strange abilities, an expansive story, and tons of great characters.
Steam Early Access games come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. They can range from action-packed RPGs to turn-based strategies to first-person shooters. This time in BeamNG.drive, you’re faced with a driving simulation game unlike any other.
Sure, the game might not seem like anything special at first glance. However, there’s more to this single-player racing simulator than its first impressions. Through BeamNG.drive, you get to experience realistic driving without the restrictions of real life. You can pick and customize your favorite vehicle, control every component, and race to your heart’s content. What’s more, with BeamNG.drive’s real-time and true-to-life vehicle simulation, you’ll never look at racing games the same way again.
In addition, there is also tons of other content packed into the early access. For example, there are tons to discover in 12 different environments with varying terrain for different cars. You can also try out different game modes including scenario missions, free roam, and time trials.
Games like Stardew Valley, Minecraft, and Animal Crossing have become large titles despite their relatively laid-back gameplay mechanics. Hence, it’s not surprising to find Craftopia — a Steam early access game doing something similar — rising in popularity.
Through Craftopia, you can expect tons of gameplay mechanics from the aforementioned games and more. You can farm, hunt, explore, and cast tons of spells in its cozy, beautifully designed world. Moreover, it has open-world and survival elements all baked into the game. No doubt it’ll be fun for tons of folks, especially because it’s also available in Japanese and Chinese.
However, do note that the game can be clunky or buggy because of its early access nature. Nonetheless, despite that (and a few bad reviews because of misunderstandings), it’s still a game that’s certainly worth playing.
4. Dyson Sphere Program
What would be the implications if you could harness a star’s power by enclosing it in spherical structures? That’s precisely the theoretical idea Freeman Dyson popularized in the 1960s. However, wind the clock forward to 2021 and there are still no Dyson Spheres — in real life, that is.
Sure, a game about the Dyson Sphere might not be as thrilling as the real deal. Nonetheless, it’s certainly a great way to think about resource and energy management if we get there someday. Through the Dyson Sphere Program Steam preview release, you can explore that idea and much more.
In the game, you help let humans live right on the sphere all the while living by harnessing solar energy. You can build custom spheres according to what you like and manage the resources you have to keep things afloat. Moreover, you can even eventually build AI, explore different planets, and manage an entire empire.
If you liked the old movie, “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids,” then Grounded will certainly appeal to you. That’s because the game allows you to explore the dangerous world of a beautiful backyard as a tiny, shrunken human. You can build a base, protect your comrades, and survive using nothing but your resources and skill through the games. This entails that there will be tools, armor, and weapon crafting systems all baked in.
Moreover, there’s some fighting involved along with a reactive world that changes based on your actions. If ants never challenged you before in real life, they’ll prove to be a worthy foe in this game. Check it out if you love anything that has to do with survival, adventure, and ant-sized living.
Games in beta are usually unpolished but that doesn’t mean the flaws aren’t worth putting up with. In GTFO, the flaw is pretty huge but well worth it for those who have tried it out. What’s the flaw, you might ask? It requires a team to work but it doesn’t have a matchmaking feature “at the moment” according to the developers.
As a result, GTFO players will either have to convince their friends or find strangers in online communities to play. However, once they do, they’re in for the time of their lives. That’s because the game is intense in the best way possible.
In it, you make your way through a monster-ridden facility to accomplish certain missions. The best way to do it? Stealth, resource management, and a lot of cursing. If you love survival horror games and multiplayer dynamics, you certainly shouldn’t pass this one up.
7. Gunfire Reborn
First-person shooter (FPS) and RPG elements don’t always mix in most games. However, Gunfire Reborn breaks the stereotype and throws in a bit of both. Through it, you get to experience adventure in classic level-based fashion while switching between heroes with different skill sets.
The game adds tons of awesome features RPG and first-person shooter players might enjoy. These include randomly dropped weapons, unique abilities, and the choice to play in the multiplayer mode of up to four. The reviews are great and the visuals are stunning in all their cartoony glory. If you love the fast-paced nature of FPS games and the magical abilities in RPGs, give it a go.
8. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Fans of Mount & Blade have been waiting for years — both patiently and painstakingly — for Mount & Blade II. Unfortunately for the fans, the game has yet to be officially released. However, there is some hope for them because it’s already out through Steam Early Access.
With Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, you get to experience the beauty of the first game with tons of improvements. The highlight is still, undoubtedly, the gameplay in its intricate and action-packed battles. However, the game does retain the strategic management and arcade elements the previous title featured.
Overall, Mount & Blade II is a great blend of RPG, strategy, action, and simulation. Plus points for those who are into medieval settings and sandbox-type games. If its sequel status was the only reason you wanted it, then rest assured you’re guaranteed a good game, too.
For as long as humanity has been around, interest in the supernatural has never faded. Regardless of the times and culture, we seem to be intensely fascinated by things beyond the physical realm. That’s precisely what the premise of Phasmophobia seems to be about.
Throughout the game, you can play cooperatively with friends and explore several haunted locations to look for ghosts. With all the right equipment on hand and the courage to move forward, you gather evidence of the supernatural. However, the task isn’t easy as the ghouls hide their existence and try to hinder players as much as possible.
With that said, Phasmophobia might seem like your regular ghost-hunting game. However, its cooperative nature, the ability to use your voice to interact with ghosts, and suspenseful gameplay make it thrilling. Moreover, it’s fairly affordable for what you get and there have been tons of updates over time.
We’ve had our fill of Ocean adventure games throughout the years but that doesn’t mean we can’t have more. Raft is certainly one example of why the genre and theme are still very much alive. Whether you’re playing alone or with others, you’re faced with none other than the dangers of the ocean. Yes, that means sharks and other threats lurk about — even bears, surprisingly.
In addition, Raft isn’t just about warding off the many threats of the ocean but also survival as a whole. It forces you to scavenge and gather materials to build your floating fortress. You can fish for debris, craft equipment, and weapons, build up your skills, and more in this exploration adventure game. Can you survive and thrive in this Steam Early Access game? There’s only one way to find out.
Satisfactory is more than satisfactory as the first-person, open-world Steam Early Access game is jam-packed with tons to do. Within it, you can explore a strange alien planet and use what resources you have to survive. You can build factories, automate and optimize processes, and much more to help yourself thrive.
In addition, there’s also some combat baked into the game as you fight off strange monsters in this unknown location. It’s not a primary part of the gameplay but it is necessary, especially during the early stages. Moreover, you can even do it with friends if you ever get tired of playing by yourself. The game is highly recommended if you like adventure, exploring an open-world area, and building things.
When Vikings, hunting, and combat all come into play, you just know you have a masterpiece on your hands. At least, that’s what we hypothesize given Valheim’s massive rise in popularity. It became one of Steam’s best sellers at one point — and we understand why.
Through this open-world survival game, you get to explore a vast land as you survive, hunt, and build your base. The end objective is to defeat 5 major bosses in the form of Norse mythological creatures. Of course, you’ll have to navigate the world around you first before you can get there. Thankfully, however, the game is somewhat forgiving in the survival aspect.
As you may expect, gathering resources and surviving the harshness of nature are the core parts of Valheim’s gameplay. However, it’s the mystery baked into the experience that truly makes the game shine. Moreover, it’s visually stunning, so you’ll never get bored even just by looking at the game.
How to Download Early Access Games on Steam?
Now that you know which games releasing soon are the best, it’s time to learn how to download them.
Thankfully, the platform makes it an incredibly straightforward process to download Steam Early Access games. You can do it the way you would any other game. Simply purchase the game you want through the Steam shop. Afterward, a window should pop up offering to let you download the game. If you miss the pop-up, you can also launch the game through your games library. The download menu should open up and allow you to download the Steam Early Access game in all its glory.
How Do You Find Early Access Games on Steam?
Sure, we’ve listed 12 of the best early access games in 2021 that you can download. However, you might be hungry for more despite playing everything on this list. If you want more Steam Early Access games, check out this link on their website to browse their library. This tab should show you the top sellers out of all the early access games on Steam. However, you can also switch filters by viewing the games according to New & Trending, What’s Being Played, and Upcoming.
What to Consider When Buying Early Access Games
There are hundreds or even thousands of Steam Early Access games available on the platform. However, not every early access game will work well or will be worth buying. With that said, you might ask, “what steam game should I buy?” What green or red flags are there to watch out for before you should play a Steam Early Access game? Here are just some of the primary things to consider.
A Definite Release Date
One of the biggest downsides to Steam Early Access games is that it’s not an “official” game. They’re mostly still under development and are, therefore, not always polished. Of course, you might say that waiting for the official release solves that problem, and you’d be right — sort of.
Unfortunately, not all Steam Early Access games push forward toward completion. Some developers abandon the project altogether, leaving you to suffer from a clunky, buggy, and incomplete game. Hence, it’s always important to look for a game with a definite release date so you’re sure there’s a payoff.
Game developers should read the Steam Early Access rules and abide by them pretty well before launching a game. However, because indie developers are usually the ones making early access games, they’re not always reliable despite the rules. Of course, we can’t blame them, because games are difficult to develop and polish with a small team. However, just note that indie games are more likely to have bugs and glitches which might hamper the experience.
Regular Game Updates
The abandonment of Steam Early Access games is not unheard of in this industry. That’s why it’s always crucial to double-check if the game gets regular updates before you buy. It’s the best way to ensure that the developers will continue to work on it until release. Don’t let your investment go to waste on a game that has potential but won’t fulfill its promises.
Early Access In-Game Bonuses
Some Steam Early Access games provide bonuses to those who jump into it before the official release. Granted, it’s not a necessary feature but it’s a great perk to have for believing in a developer’s project. With that said, check the description for any in-game bonuses you might get for buying the game early.
While you’ll rarely find free early access games on Steam, they are generally much cheaper than full games. Consider the price before you jump into an early access game. If it’s too high, then the developer might be charging you too much with little content given its nature. On the other hand, it could be priced that way to attract a more dedicated fan base. With that said, make sure to research the game thoroughly to ensure it’s a worthy investment.
Why Buy Steam Early Access Games?
So, can you play Steam games early? The answer is: yes. However, the better question would be, should you buy Steam Early Access games? There are tons of potential downsides to buying new early access games — that much is true. However, there are also a couple of perks to it.
One of the largest reasons why players purchase early access games is to help with public beta testing. It might not seem like much, but the act of contributing to game development can be fulfilling for players. Moreover, it doubles the excitement for the official launch because you can see the game grow from “infancy” to “adulthood.”
In addition, it’s also just fun to play popular early access games and get in on the fun early. Phasmophobia is one example of a game that’s in early access but has already made waves in the community. Moreover, it also doesn’t hurt that many Steam Early Access games are cheaper, so that’s another bonus.
Try Out Steam Early Access Games Today
There are tons of Steam Early Access games available right now. However, it’s not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s why it’s important to look for reviews before getting into a game. We hope you found this list helpful and that you can enjoy some of the best picks before 2022.