What’s the best free-to-play game on Steam? You might think it would be something huge like Warframe or War Thunder or Unturned. Instead it’s a simplistic fighting game that casts you in the classic fairy-tale role of a pig fighting off wolves, mugging them for their weapons, and then using those weapons against the next wave of snarling — but rather cute and cartoony — predators.
The one quoted review on Iron Snout’s Steam page calls it a “Strange Little Game That I Can’t Stop Playing.” It does have that addictive “click ’til you can’t click no more” feel that made Flappy Bird a mobile hit — albeit with considerably more blood and gore. Your pig is locked to the center of the screen, with vicious wolves coming at him from both sides. Your left and right arrows punch in that direction, and you can also jump and crouch. Using more than one button at a time unleashes a combo move like a leaping uppercut or jump kick.
Many of the wolves sport weapons. Some simply charge you with meat cleavers, while others hurl their pointy projectiles, bounce up and down on a halberd like a pogo stick, or fly at you with rockets — which you can redirect into oncoming enemies. Sometimes they drop their weapons when you kill them; if you’re quick enough, you can grab them and use them against your next assailant. Your pig can take 10 hit points’ worth of abuse — denoted by strips of bacon — before it’s game over.
I’ve only played a few rounds, or 15 minutes’ worth, and I can’t say I won’t go back. It’s fun and addictive in small doses, and I actually want to achieve a higher score just so I can see how later waves of wolves try to chop my pork. I can see why it would be a hit on mobile; the basic game has a 4.4 rating on Android, with “Iron Snout+ Pig Fighting Game” boasting an even more impressive 4.7. Spinoff game Bacon May Die grants your pig more mobility (and guns!) and it scores an even more astronomical 4.9.
Mobile hits don’t always translate well to picky PC players, but Iron Snout has done just that. It has a stellar 98% positive rating, on over 10,000 reviews, making it the #1 highest rated F2P game on Steam as of this writing. It’s no flash in the pan either; I saw this same result the first time I ran this search, a few weeks ago, and Iron Snout was on top then, too.
So why is Iron Snout the most popular game on Steam, while more complex, “core” games are farther down the list? That’s probably because it is what it is and doesn’t try to do any more. The more you put in your game, the better chance you have of adding something that will piss someone off. Think of any online game you’ve played that probably did 50 things you liked, and two or three that you hated. Maybe it was character animations or some aspect of progression or just your expectations from the pre-launch hype not perfectly aligning with reality, or whatever. Then a big patch or expansion comes out, adding a bunch more content … and nerfing your favorite build. Maybe you lived with it for a while, or maybe you immediately threw up your hands and gave it a big “nope” — and a negative Steam review — before moving on to something else entirely.
You likely won’t stick with Iron Snout long enough to grow truly dissatisfied with it. Most of the reviews on the front of its Steam page show less than two hours of game time. Bacon May Die was approved on Steam Greenlight (back when that was a thing) so you’ll be able to give that a shot someday, too.
I don’t usually go by that old F2P chestnut, “It’s free, what have you got to lose?” because the answer to that is usually “time.” But Iron Snout will take up little enough of your time that it’s worth checking into, even if, like me, it’s not your usual fare. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more wolves to slaughter and a high score to beat …