The early access ‘genre’ has proven to be an effective tool in the hands of the right developers, gaining a popularity primarily among PC players on Steam. Early access gives developers the opportunity to get player feedback on an early build of the game, usually with frequent updates and back and forth with what players want to see. Not all developers use early access to their advantage, though the ones featured here are the standouts among a now crowded segment of gaming.

Image courtesy of Epic Games


If you have been on social media at all, you probably have heard of “Fortnite” at some point. The game follows the success “PUBG” did in the battle-royale genre, though with much greater success. Part of its allure comes with it being free-to-play, with tempting cosmetics being the only thing to buy in-game. Around December, the game seemed to really skyrocket, slowly becoming one of the biggest phenomenons in gaming period. Even my friends and I have gotten caught in storm that is “Fortnite,” capturing one of the most fun multiplayer experiences I’ve had in a game in a while. The game consists of getting dropped with 99 other people onto the map, much like “Hunger Games,” where the last surviving person/squad (depending on the mode) wins. There isn’t much downtime to get into another match, which makes it difficult to put down. The studio based in North Carolina, Epic Games, clearly has a good grasp on what they have captured here, and the weekly updates which bring new items, modes, or cosmetics mean that the game hardly gets stale. The one downside to the games success is its original mode, “Save The World,” was put to the side in favor of its new and much more popular counterpart. “STW” is a sort of tower-defense mode with some cool building mechanics, and even with a lot of depth, it has been neglected in updates in favor for the battle-royale mode. With all the success the game has found and the recently announced port to mobile, it will be interesting to see if Epic can maintain the great stretch they have had.

Image courtesy of Facepunch Studios


One of the first games to turn me onto PC gaming, “Rust” is a first-person survival game in which you are pitted against other players on a server in a struggle to be on the top of the food chain. While it just recently left early access, I think considering how long it spent in it and how well the developer Facepunch Studios took advantage of their time on it, it is well worth the inclusion. The game was constantly being updated with new things added, and the devs showed a clear understanding of players wants, while remained mindful of whether it would be a good choice in the long run. Facepunch even keeps track of their goals publicly through a checklist on their website, prioritizing additions and changes they want made by a certain point. The game can vary greatly in what occurs, whether it be massive clan war between bases, or going out on you own in a lone-wolf sort of strategy. Given it is all against real people, you’ll likely come across a wide array of odd characters in your playtime, though a good portion are just looking to kill you. It may sound boring, but sitting in your base in the dead of night with your two friends, believing to have just heard a noise outside and then sit for maybe 20 minutes awaiting what may come next is a thrill. While its disheartening to log on and find your entire base has been wiped out while you were away, there is always something that draws me back in to start anew. “Rust” has come a long way from your typical zombie-survival game to fully focused on PvP interaction, and it has become one of my favorite PC games to continually go back to again and again.

Screenshot courtesy of Mastfire Studios


Ever since watching the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, I was always interested in a game where players work together to man their own ship against others in naval combat. “Blackwake” delivers on this dream, and presents itself in a less-serious manner as well. Hearing your British soldier make humorous quips in the heat of battle is a fun aspect, and the reliance on muskets with a long reload time is something not often explored in games. A match often begins with the crew electing a captain, and after praying you don’t elect an angry twelve-year-old on accident (or adult who acts like one), you set sail. As a crewman, you have to load and prime the cannons for fire, which firing can be a tricky task in itself with timing the shot and accounting for distance as well. You also have someone spotting ships, putting out fires, or someone to plug up holes and make sure the ship doesn’t sink. The variety of roles and outcomes in the game means there is a lot of replayability to be had, as is the need in trying to level up to get that next sweet hat. When it goes on sale next on Steam, this is a game I highly recommend, especially if you have friends to join you.

Screenshot courtesy of Endnight Games

“The Forest”

Ending the list is a game that has a creepier side, but one that is a blast to play co-op online as well. The story is that your plane crashes on an island far from civilization, one inhabited by cannibals who kidnap your kid and will be the main antagonists throughout the game. Establishing a camp, whether on the ground or in the trees is a must, as is fortifying it to keep the cannibals at bay. What I most enjoy about the game is the mystery of exploring some of the islands caves and other locations, which really gives off a great “Lost” vibe. “The Forest” is actually nearing a full release which the developers hope to be late April, in which the price will jump from $14.99 to $19.99, though both of these prices are a steal for what you are getting. Like pretty much every game on this list, having friends to play with increases the experience even more, and will provide you with plenty of adventures throughout your playtime.

Noah Howell is the Arts & Entertainment Assistant Editor for Niner Times. He is currently majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Journalism. He is a fan of all things "Star Wars" and "The Muppets," and spends his free-time playing too many video games and watching the Oklahoma City Thunder.