The 3 Best Alternatives to Steam for Downloading Games

Matt Smith 17-06-2011

downloading gamesFor PC gamers, Steam Steam Games Management and Online Store Gets A Redesign Read More is an incredible boon. Valve’s digital download service has insane deals, offers excellent customer support, an easy-to-use interface, and provides a wonderful selection of games. There is very little to find fault with.

With that said, Steam can’t do everything or provide every game made, so there is room for competitors to survive or in a few cases, thrive. There is also, inevitably, going to be some who don’t like the intrusive nature of Valve’s service – why tie your games to an account if you don’t have to? These three services should help you blow off Steam.


downloading games

Formerly owned by IGN Entertainment, Direct2Drive is now under the control of Gamefly and operates under the motto “Download Today. Own Forever“. Like all of the Steam alternatives here, Direct2Drive doesn’t offer a community or a client, but tries to make up for by stepping out of the way of gamers.

Direct2Drive tends to focus on major titles from large publishers. That’s not to say they don’t carry indie titles, but it seems that the games most heavily promoted by the site are well-known titles. Although this site is not known for crazy blowout sales, it does offer a limited price-matching policy.

Downloading games from the service is easy. A proprietary downloader is provided and usually the better option, but you can download games without it. Once you have a game on your computer, you don’t need to log into Direct2Drive to play, although you can obtain your software keys 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows Looking for your Windows product key? Lost the serial number of a premium software? We show you how to recover your license keys with free tools. Read More and re-download games from the website.


downloading free games

At first glance, GamersGate looks and feels a lot like Direct2Drive. The website is a bit busy, and when you make a purchase, you obtain a software key and download using a mini-installer. There’s no set client that must be used to manage or play games.

The main difference between GamersGate and Direct2Drive is the focus. The service is a big proponent of indie games 3 Great Alternatives To Portal 2 When You've Finished Playing It I love Valve, and I love Portal 2. It's easily among the best game I’ve ever played. But it’s also a short game. After eight hours, the game was done with me, but I wasn’t... Read More , and while it also sells many popular titles from major publishers, you’ll find that niche games are often on the front page.

I personally wish the website was a bit more organized, but that’s really the only knock I have against the service. GamersGate will likely end up your digital storefront of choice if you’re an indie gamer.

Amazon Game Downloads

downloading games

If it’s for sale, Amazon probably has a couple in stock and will happily let you buy it. That seems to be the rule these days, and that goes for games as well.

Amazon’s game download service has never been well promoted. Indeed, for a time I forgot that it had existed entirely, and it’s certainly easy to miss the store in Amazon’s sprawling site. But it does exist, and it provides a reasonably large selection. If it’s from a major publisher, Amazon probably offers it – and when Steam isn’t having a specific sale on a title, Amazon can often beat Steam’s price. There aren’t many indie games available – for example, the recent indie hits like Terraria and Frozen Synapse aren’t for sale.

As you might expect, Amazon’s not interested in creating its own software client. The titles you purchase from Amazon are simple downloads, and once installed the game will act just as if you’d installed it from a retail disk. The familiarity of the website is an advantage, because you probably already have an account and a credit card registered. That makes buying and downloading a game snappy.


These are far from the only Steam alternatives. Impulse is popular because it offers a client with features like automatic updates and community support, but also lets gamers play without the client if they wish. However, I’m a bit leery about Impulse now that it has been sold to Gamestop. The Impulse client also advertises deals on its storefront via desktop pop-ups, which are extremely annoying.

Some of the publishers, like Electronics Arts, have their own digital storefronts. It seems rare that they provide excellent deals, but they do exist and sometimes contain older, less popular games that aren’t found elsewhere.

Let us know in the comments if you have any other favorites which are alternatives to Steam.

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  3. just saying
    January 18, 2016 at 12:26 am

    "offers excellent customer support"

    You lost me right at the second line. Steam? The best customer support? Don't make me laugh.

  4. Anonymous
    June 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Greenman gaming seems to do some decent deals like now Magicka for £2.78 (which then activates on steam oddly so maybe it doesn't count?

  5. Chris
    June 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Steam has DAILY deals! Every day! Not just during summer or Christmas, but every day!

  6. Arizonachris
    June 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm
    • M.S. Smith
      June 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      No, I mentioned Impulse at the end.

    • M.S. Smith
      June 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      I'd like EA to figure out how to run their Battlefield Bad Company 2 servers smoothly before I buy anything from a digital store they run.

  7. Richard Servello
    June 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I didn't like Steam at when it first came out and was buggy and would dump you from single player games if the network failed.  But now it is rock solid!  It has cloud save (delete your game to conserve space and reinstall it with the save games anytime!) and it is now on Mac with more and more games popping up that are dual OS compatible.
    Steam also has weekly deals that simply can not be beat! (75% off anyone?!?!  I got Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for $6.80!!)I think it's great that there is competition in the market...but steam is an awesome solution!  It's the iTunes of gaming!

  8. Nick
    June 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    They don't have the newer games, but if you would like a trip down memory lane, has a great selection and excellent prices.

  9. DeadlyDad
    June 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Why on Earth would you leave out the only digital distribution site that dedicates its efforts to making classic games run modern hardware: Good Old Games?  How else can a new generation of players get addicted to great games like Magic Carpet?

  10. Ben Wallis
    June 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    You forgot the best one - Good Old Games:

    No DRM :)

    Also EA just launched their own online store - Origin:

    • M.S. Smith
      June 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      I was thinking about adding Good Old Games. That fiasco where it wasn't clear if they'd shut down a few months back made me leery of them, however.