It’s a dance we’ve all done. A PC only has so much storage, and games are only getting bigger. A day inevitably comes where installing a new game demands some hard drive triage. For one to enter, something must leave. But which mighty storage hog do you uninstall? Is that liveservice game worth the eighty gigs? Will your friends ever even want to play that triple-A shooter that’s eating half your SSD?
We can’t make those hard decisions for you. But we can recommend games to make the most of your valuable disk space—games that can fit in the narrow cracks between behemoth installs. Here’s 10 games small enough to secure their safety on your hard drive the next time you’re cleaning house.
This throwback to Duke Nukem 3D’s FPS level design (and engine) is proof that hi-res 2D graphics and 3D environments can still play remarkably well together. Compared to its other retro FPS contemporaries Dusk and Amid Evil, it’s astonishingly tiny installed: a mere 100 megs. At least half of that space must be devoted to Ion Fury’s cheesy one-liners. It should’ve left its sense of humor back in the ’90s, but its hand cannon and secret-filled levels are welcome in this century.
Caves of Qud
Release date: July 2015
Minimum storage requirement: 2GB
Steam page: Link
Beneath its traditional roguelike exterior, Caves of Qud is a rich tapestry/fever dream of procedurally-generated science fantasy, of doing Water Rituals with dog-people and dying to sentient plant life. While its Steam listing recommends 2GB of storage space, my install sits at a scant 589MB. Probably because my insistence on both playing permadeath characters and testing my mettle against every variety of cave crab means I never keep many concurrent saves. But that just gives me more opportunities to see a new randomly generated world, with its own history and lore. Hard drive space well spent.
Crusader Kings 3
Sure, Crusader Kings 3 might not have the kind of 3D graphics that gobble up hard drive real estate. It is, after all, mostly menus—there’s not much to look at, aside from your little troops marching around the map and the smarmy faces of your simulated dynasty’s countless disappointing sons. But if you tasked me with simulating the entirety of medieval politics down to the county level, alongside an intricate web of interlocking systems that allow, for example, the cannibalization of the reigning Pope, I can assure you I’d need more than eight gigabytes. Also, a bunch of people who know how to do that.
Deep Rock Galactic
While I love risking the ceaseless hordes of violent insects in my expeditions, I can’t help but feel that they’re a pretty reasonable response to Deep Rock Galactic’s interplanetary stripmining effort. At least the space dwarves don’t dig too greedily or too deep on the hard drive. In exchange for fewer gigabytes than one hand could count, you don’t get just an imminently replayable romp through the randomized depths of Hoxxes IV.
More importantly, if my quick math is sound, you’ll also get over 20,000 possible combinations of space dwarf facial hair cosmetics. Still waiting for the season when the dwarves get to unionize, though.
The Lord of the Rings Online
I know, I know. Bear with me. Sometimes you get hungry for an MMO action bar, but you don’t want to invest a monthly fee or a hundred gigabytes. While it’s by far the heftiest chunk of storage on this list, the 32GB that The Lord of the Rings Online demands is a light load compared to its competitors. It’s nowhere near the prettiest MMO experience in 2022. But if, like me, you’re an ex-Tolkien kid with occasional lapses in recovery, it’s the biggest available sandbox for Middle Earth nostalgia. And thanks to a recent broadening of its freely available content, more of The Lord of the Rings Online’s 15 years of expansions and updates can be played for free than ever.
No Man’s Sky
Don’t let that review score dissuade you. Since its launch in 2016, No Man’s Sky has gotten bigger with every update—an impressive feat for a universe that’s already functionally infinite. Thanks to the magic of procedural generation, that intergalactic expanse can pack itself into little more than a dozen gigabytes. If you’re seeking relaxed roaming across the final frontier, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bang for your storage budget.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 has that specific flavor of roguelike magic where lucking into a wild set of upgrades doesn’t just make your current run more exciting. It makes the next—and the next after that, too—more appealing. You might not get the same combo of bleed procs and chain lightning that left half the map taking damage over time with a single attack. But if that took just a couple of ukuleles and daggers, what else is possible? (The answer is a lot. And it’ll only eat 4GB.)
Dune: Spice Wars
Release date: Apr 2022
Minimum storage requirement: 4GB
Steam page: Link
Spice Wars is an Early Access game, so it’s probably a realistic expectation that its storage requirements will inflate somewhat over time. But for now, it’s a capable 4X game that’ll only run you a gigabyte per X. It’s got spice. It’s got worms. It’s got so many resources to juggle that you’ll probably need a half-dozen losses under your belt before you’ve got a clear picture of what each one does, and I mean that fondly.
Release date: Dec 2021
Minimum storage requirement: 250MB
Steam page: Vampire Survivors
The totally-not-Castlevania roguelite Vampire Survivors isn’t just a surprise phenomenon. Thanks to its delightful carnival of purely pixelated carnage, it also clocks in at just under a quarter of a gigabyte in required storage. On an empty terabyte hard drive, you could pack in roughly 4,000 discrete Vampire Survivor installs. I don’t know why you would. But the option is there. Otherwise, it’s a worthy choice for any spare crannies on the hard drive that need filling.
Release date: Feb 2021
Minimum storage requirement: 1GB
Steam page: Link
If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’ve put some time into viking Minecraft. But after trying to stitch together a pair of slacks from trollhide while wandering beneath the distant boughs of the World Tree, maybe you’d be as surprised as I was on seeing that Valheim was only occupying a single, modest gigabyte on my hard drive. Yes, beneath all that pretty lighting tech the polygon levels are pretty simple, hovering somewhere around the old school Runescape mark. But that won’t make your hand-crafted viking hall any less lovely.
Dark Souls: Remastered
Release date: May 2018
Minimum storage requirement: 8GB
Steam page: Link
Sure, it’s a not-so-recent remaster of an 11 year old game. But I dare you to find another eight gigabytes with this many distinct weirdo NPCs and accompanying audio for their inevitable unsettling laughter. Plus, with all the bullshit you have to deal with in Blighttown, it’s a technical marvel that it can fit on any hard drive at all. If Elden Ring was your first entry into the genre, Dark Souls is a piece of history worth revisiting—and a full 50GB lighter, too. We just have to hope that the multiplayer comes back at some point.