The Best SteamWorld Games

The SteamWorld series has twisted and turned around various genres across its six games, never settling for repetition, conformity, or ‘the safe option’. By contrast, SteamWorld’s endearing success has been its willingness to reinvent and experiment, leading to some of the most engaging indie games in the past 15 years.

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Despite switching up its core gameplay formula from game to game, SteamWorld’s western steampunk aesthetic is easily recognisable in gaming circles. Most importantly, the SteamWorld series has maintained a consistent level of quality across its games, showcasing the talent of its developers to effortlessly adapt to whatever genre they pull from the hat.

6 SteamWorld Tower Defense

Stop The Humans From Taking The Robot’s Jobs

Humans enemies following a path in a field.

Of all the places for such an iconic indie game series to get its start, a DSiWare title is certainly a unique one. SteamWorld Tower Defense is the often forgotten first game in the SteamWorld series — an unfortunate fact that isn’t helped by the game never seeing a launch outside of the Nintendo DS’s now-defunct online store.

The game is a perfectly enjoyable tower defense game that delivers more of a challenge than other games in the series. If you can somehow track down a system with SteamWorld Tower Defense still installed on it, you’re in for a good time. Hopefully, it sees a re-release on modern systems sometime down the line.

5 SteamWorld Quest: Hand Of Gilgamech

A Role-Playing Fairy Tale Set In The SteamWorld Universe

SteamWorld Quest party next to a shop.

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech takes the series in an exciting new direction by adding in role-playing elements, a turn-based battle system designed around deck-building, and a story that leans more into the whimsical than other games in the series.

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That story stands as one of SteamWorld’s strongest, with a pair of main characters who you grow a real connection with across their journey. With stellar visuals and a fulfilling deck-building system, hopefully this isn’t the last game to use the SteamWorld Quest name.

4 SteamWorld Build

A City Building Simulator With A Distinctive SteamWorld Twist

Bird's eye view of SteamWorld Build city in a desert.

SteamWorld Build allows you to create and manage your own settlement of robots, factories, and as many burger shops as you wish. However, that’s only half of SteamWorld Build, as the game also has you mining below the surface–collecting resources, fending off enemies, and discovering the lost parts of a rocket ship.

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While the game does take a bit of time to really kick into gear, once you get into the rhythm of managing the ever-growing demands of your city both above and below ground, the experience becomes immensely rewarding. SteamWorld Build is another worthy feather in the series’ cap, showcasing yet again that no matter what direction the developers want to take these games in, they know how to deliver the goods.

3 SteamWorld Dig

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

Rusty in a dimly lite cavern.

While it’s not the first game in the series, SteamWorld Dig was the first game to really make a splash amongst gamers. And for good reason, as this 2D mining platformer features a gameplay loop that is still so enjoyable to return to a decade later.

You play as Rusty, a robot who digs deeper and deeper into the earth in search of his lost uncle. To achieve this, you collect gems that can be traded in for more powerful mining tools, allowing you to explore new layers of this bizarre subterranean world. No matter where you pick up SteamWorld Dig, you won’t be putting it down anytime soon.

2 SteamWorld Heist

Will Steal Your Heart Away

Purple laser being shot around a level filled with robot enemies.

In 2015, the SteamWorld developers put the series through its revolving door of genres once again and came out with SteamWorld Heist — a 2D tactical shooter brimming with style and personality. The story is reminiscent of Firefly, with a ragtag group of smugglers battling their way through a series of challenges culminating in an epic space adventure.

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The score deserves a mention, as its composition and arrangements takes the best from both traditional western and science fiction music. And while it may take a few battles to get used to SteamWorld Heist’s main mechanics, it won’t be long before you are ricocheting bullets around levels like a total pro.

1 SteamWorld Dig 2

The Series’ Crowning Achievement

Dorothy running in a desert filled with signs and cacti.

It’s interesting that the only direct sequel in the entire series is also the most complete SteamWorld game ever made. SteamWorld Dig 2 takes everything that made the first game so rewarding, and builds on its ideas with a greater focus on Metroidvania design and a gripping narrative.

This time, it’s Rusty who has gone missing, and it’s up to his friend Dorothy to dig up the truth (pun intended). The upgrades are all immensely satisfying, the controls are as tight as they’ve ever been, and the sense of progression is as finely tuned as an Aristobot.

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