Steam Games for Low-Spec Laptops

I do most of my non-console gaming on a semi-beefy Windows box. However, I also have a fairly low-spec Macbook that I use for writing and internet stuff. While I can stream from the monsterbox via steam, I’d like to have a few things to play when I’m away from home and the laptop is my only gaming rig.

Ideally these games would:

  • work fine on intel integrated graphics
  • be comfortable to play without any additional peripherals – keyboard and trackpad only.
  • not be so CPU hungry that they chew through my battery in less than an hour
  • support cloud saves so that i can pick up my progress on the main machine when I’m home.

What are some of your favorites for tiny laptop/netbook play?

Could you be more specific on your specs? Cause there’s a LOT of deciding factors on what you can play on a laptop. I mean, my machine isn’t too special and has a crappy Intel graphics card, but thanks to the ridiculous amount of RAM it has, I can play games ported to PC from the Xbox 360 or PS3 on slightly lower settings, and still play stuff like Syberia 3 comfortably on medium.

Yep. It’s the 2017 12inch Macbook:

  • 1.2GHz Intel Core m3
  • 1440x900 display
  • 8GB RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 615 1536 MB
  • 256 GB SSD


Well, I can list of LYNE off the top of my head, a great minimalist puzzle game you could play on a toaster. Unfortunately, I have to think because that is one horribly under-powered CPU.

I think your best bet with that processor is generally going to be puzzle games and roguelike.

I’d recommend Desktop Dungeon. It’s a really good game at the intersection between puzzle game and roguelike. It’s processor requirement is right at 1.2GHz, which isn’t ideal but should be manageable.

ADOM could also be good. That is a more traditional roguelike and it has a lot of variety and potential for longer play sessions than a lot of the short play session oriented stuff that is coming out now.

If you don’t mind getting away from Steam there are a lot of great roguelikes out there that can run on basically anything and are free. I like Brogue quite a lot

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I’ve been playing Rakuen lately, a lovely adventure game made in RPG Maker so it should run on just about any PC made since the 90s. Most other RPG Maker games should work, as well as AGS games like Wadjet Eye’s catalog (cloud support varies, so check before buying) and Heroine’s Quest (free).

That 1.2 GHz m3 processor is tricky to judge: because of architectural improvements over the years it can likely punch above its clock-speed weight. Also it will automatically run at a much higher “turbo” clock speed under enough load, at the expense of battery life. I expect it should run many games that call for a 2 GHz processor without much trouble, so definitely try out a bunch of games from your library to get a feel for what it can do.

Yep, the processor can Turbo Boost up to 3GHz if needed. It’s not a speed demon by any means but it’s not quite as sad as it looks at first glance.

It might be able to run Minit? Though I’m not certain it supports Steam cloud.

I love Into the Breach as a laptop game, and once it gets its Mac port it might run on yours. Though it could stretch the processor’s capabilities a bit and it would definitely strain that graphics card. FTL might work as well, though ditto the processor’s limits.


Desktop dungeons is a great pick. The original binding of Isaac will run on anything and rebirth also shouldn’t be a problem. I was also partial to dungeons of dredmor when first getting into rogue likes and it also should run on anything.
For puzzle games I’ve always been a huge fan of spacechem. Linelight is also great but not sure if it has cloud support.
I wouldn’t normally recommend doing this but it also might be a good idea to just make a list of games you’re interested in and take advantage of the refund policy since then you can at least see if it runs well enough for you.

I can confirm that Into the Breach runs well on embarrassingly low specs.

I had no trouble getting Undertale to run on my old MacBook a few years ago, and I think that other GameMaker Studio games can do the same relatively well, but I haven’t tried with too much else.

Would Stardew Valley Run?
Tales of Maj Eyal is my rogue like go to, might run as well. Base game is free off their website.

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Maybe Downwell and Cave Story.

few things off my list which seem to fit your criteria - I tried to check their Mac compatibility but I’ve only played them on Windows machines

Slay the Spire - v fun, strong recommend

FTL: Faster Than Light - not impossible to play without a mouse but you’ll probably need to pause a bit (which the game encourages anyway)

Mini Metro - again, I feel a mouse would be really useful here but it is possible to play

Risk of Rain - got much less play time on this compared with others, it’s unforgiving, but all you need is a keyboard

Not Steam as they don’t seem to provide the Mac option, but here’s a link to Cave Story+

HD Spelunky isn’t on Mac at all, it seems, but you can still grab the old version apparently (pls correct me on this if I’m wrong)

I wish you well on your journey, low spec comrade!


You’ve basically get a year newer version than me, so I figure if it runs on mine it’ll run on yours no problem.

I know some people here have objections to it, and I bought it before I was aware of any of the issues with the creator, but I’ve sunk an embarrassing amount of time into Binding of Isaac. Your mileage may vary on your feelings on its creator.

Your mileage may vary as well in terms of comfort with touchpad controls, but I’ve managed to play both Hotline Miami and Nuclear Throne just fine. I don’t prefer the control scheme, but I can manage it.

I also played all of Axiom Verge on my laptop as well, which is a great game to play in small bursts.

Finally, the Danganronpa games are very slight in terms of computer needs, but take a good amount of time to play through.

HD Spelunky runs perfectly in wine if you’re comfortable with that.

Moon Hunters is also excellent and should run with your specs (I played it using a trackpad and didn’t have any trouble once I rebound right mouse to x or something), and it’s part of this month’s humble bundle if that interests you

I’ve been using a Mac for a while, and been meaning to build a PC soon on, but as such, I can share some games!

Since you’re looking for games away from home, I’m assuming you want games that you can return to during downtime rather than intensive gaming sessions? Things like Isaac and FTL? Most games will naturally eat up some battery, but…

Also, since you’re familiar with lots of RLs you’re probably familiar with Caves of Qud and Tales of Maj’Eyal so!

Darkest Dungeon: extremely brutal but extremely engrossing party-based dungeon crawler. Highly recommended. 2D graphics and you can turn off one or two effects if you really want the quality even lower. Might eat your battery a little, though, but not too bad.

Dustforce: Lots people prefer this with a controller, but I find this game great with just a keyboard. Really fun platformer that will scratch you if you’re into completionism. All 2D visuals and absolutely gorgeous if I might add.

RunGunJumpGun: Another addictive masocore completionist game. Needs only two buttons, and can be played one-handed. A little flashy. Warning, though: very bad if you have photosensitive epilepsy.

Downwell: Not on Mac, but so good I’m putting it here anyway. Twitchy rogue-lite built for mobile. Runs on very low specs, only three buttons needed.

Masters of Orion 2: if you’re into strategy games, this one’s pretty good, though I haven’t played a lot. Runs well, which isn’t a shocker because it was built for DOS.

Eldritch: Low-poly rogue-lite with lots of emergent systems. Lack of a mouse might bother you. Pretty underrated. Runs well in spite of being 3D.

Prison Architect: A little more intensive. If you can get over the upsetting subject matter (I honestly have trouble doing so) of the Prison Industrial Complex, pretty engrossing management game. It’s all 2D, but there’s a lot of simulation going on.

Spacechem: A puzzle game, I guess? More of an engineering game. Probably the most accessible Zachtronics game (though I’ve only played this one.)

Snakebird, Stephen’s Sausage Roll, A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build, Sokobond, English Country Tune, etc, etc,: Great Sokobon-like games cut up in digestible chunks, though admittedly some of these are quite difficult. These are more logical than lateral. All small and simple games (visually), and can be trackpad-controlled or with arrow keys.

Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery EP: Beautiful adventure game designed for short shorter gameplay sessions.

Tumbleseed: extremely unique rogue-lite. Beautiful 2D art. Simultaneously anxiety inducing and very calming.

Papers, Please: Really unique game, you’re probably already familiar with it. Divided into individual days, which makes it great for short sessions.

Gunpoint: Since Heat Signature isn’t on Mac and more RAM intensive, Gunpoint’s a better pick. Puzzly stealth game. Mouse controls are involved but can be played well enough without a mouse.

Salt and Santuary: Way better with a controller, but worth recommending anyway. Elevator Pitch: it’s 2D Dark Souls, or modern Castlevania. Though might not be great if you may be interrupted for that reason. Only needs about a gig of ram which is pretty good for a game like this!

Kentucky Route Zero: Haven’t finished it but there’s a reason people are obsessed with it. Divided into short, roughly hour-long chunks. It’s beautiful and, hey, only needs about half a gig of RAM!

Games I haven’t spent a lot of time with/never played but have heard good things about: Luftrausers, Into The Breach (i oughtta pick this up)(not on Mac), Invisible Inc. (I know Austin loves this but it’s never clicked with me), Toki Tori, World of Goo, Environmental Station Alpha, Machanarium, Wheels of Aurelia (story based), Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten, etc.

Games better with mouses: Nuclear Throne, Hotline Miami, Devil Daggers

Assorted games better suited for more intensive gaming sessions: Braid, Anodyne, Ittle Dew, Mark of the Ninja (a little heavier),Shovel Knight (really really fun!), Gods Will Be Watching, Teslagrad, Another World, VVVVVV, probably a lot of VNs/point-and-clicks that I haven’t played because I don’t play many VNs/point-and-clicks.

Also, there are TONS AND TONS of small games on that run wonderfully. Too many to even begin to list. I’d highly recommend grabbing the client and browsing over there!

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Stardew works great on my Surface Pro 3, which usually just overheats and dies if I try playing anything that relies on graphics hardware no matter how old it is.

Starseed Pilgrim is a neat little puzzle game that will run on a Casio wristwatch and anything better.

The original freeware version of Cave Story is still available for download if you’re interested.

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