GOG.com (the company formerly known as Good Old Games) is the store to visit if you have a hankering for Alone in the Dark, Baldur’s Gate, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, and other classic PC games from the 1990s and early 2000s. Although GOG.com specializes in retro titles, the company has a very progressive outlook in regard to how it delivers content: None of its games feature restrictive digital rights management (DRM). That two-pronged attack has enabled GOG.com to thrive in the Steam-dominated PC gaming marketplace. We’re happy to report that GOG.com’s service is pretty damn good, too, despite a few minor complaints.
The Dawn of Time
Old games represent the vast majority of GOG.com’s selection, with hundreds of classic video games titles from the last two decades. Many computer games from that period became difficult to run in later versions of Windows, so GOG.com delivers many of them in DOSBox or ScummVM format, allowing the games to run on contemporary gaming PCs (as well as Linux and Mac machines). GOG.com is doing its part in the video game preservation movement. You can download PC games directly from the GOG.com website, or you can use the optional GOG Galaxy desktop client.
Previously, you would be hard-pressed to find software that isn’t at least five years old. However, GOG.com has steadily grown its library of contemporary titles, from the Destroy All Humans to Carrion. It helps that in 2020, “retro games” now include early HD-era titles, such as Dead Space and Fallout 3. It also helps that GOG’s parent company, CD Projekt, also owns the Polish wizards behind modern masterpiece The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and the hotly anticipated Cyberpunk: 2077.
Steam is your jam. For niche indie games, itch.io is also a great choice.
It’s hard to complain about GOG.com’s prices when so many games cost $9.99 or less. Like Steam, GOG.com has incredible seasonal sales that let you score lots of games for even less. GOG.com previously had a Fair Price Practice, where international gamers pay the same amount for their titles as their American counterparts, but that’s no longer the case. At least you can request a refund within thirty days. Steam and the Epic Games Store only give you two weeks. Humble Bundle (owned by PCMag’s parent company, Ziff Davis) features many great deals while also giving to charity. You can even buy GOG.com keys through Humble Bundle.
Considering that most of the games were developed before Steam, PSN, and Xbox Live, and that many hail from the days of manually inputting TCP/IP information to deathmatch over dialup, this is not the service to choose if you want a thrilling multiplayer experience. In fact, many GOG.com games lack online multiplayer modes altogether. On the upside, many games come with bonuses, like wallpapers, soundtracks, and scanned manuals.
Twitch channel, so you can see these old games in action. GOG.com’s game-discovery system isn’t nearly as robust as Steam’s recommendation engines, but it has an active community excited to improve the service overall. The interesting user-created lists (called GOGmixes) seem to be dormant, but community forum members constantly suggest new games and features for the developers to consider. Add more Mass Effect games. Don’t get bought by EA.
Like Steam, GOG.com sells movies, but here it’s with a focus on films that directly speak to its audience. You’ll find Indie Games: The Movie, and many other films, but none that have much mainstream appeal. Steam, on the other hand, boasts the John Wick film series, although it has yet to receive last year’s John Wick: Chapter 3.
GOG Galaxy is GOG.com’s desktop client. The application lets you back up your purchases, activate/deactivate auto-updates, and chat with friends through instant messaging. You can even roll back games to a previous version. That comes in handy if a buggy version gets released to the public.
The recent Galaxy 2.0 update transforms the client into an almost entirely different kind of service. You can now sync GOG Galaxy with your accounts on rival platforms to create one unified gaming hub. Manage and launch not just your GOG games, but your Epic Games Store library, too. See stats from your Steam library and connect with your Xbox friends for multiplayer. Some stores are more integrated than others. Origin, the PlayStation Network, and uPlay stay at arm’s length with their community features. Overall, this is a convenient and slickly produced interface for accessing your PC games, new and old.
GOG.com isn’t designed for Madden bros, and that’s fine. Retro PC gaming is a niche market, but GOG.com has classic titles to please nearly everyone who loves older games. If you want to jump into the history of PC games, this is the site to use. If you want to play more modern games, Steam, our Editors’ Choice for PC gaming stores, is the way to go.
|Platform||Windows, Linux, Mac|