Even with the PS5 and Xbox Series X promising next-level visuals, PC remains the home for high-end gaming. Not only are more games available on PC, but in most cases, that’s where they look best, too. Unlike consoles, the best PC games are timeless, and in this guide, we’re going to run down our favorite ones.
Before diving in, note that we didn’t repeat games from the same franchise. Civilization V and Civilization VI, for example, are both excellent games. There’s no reason for us to recommend both of them, though. Also, you can use the links below to quickly jump to the genre you’re most interested in.
Remedy Entertainment has always been known for strange narratives, tight gunplay, and awesome visuals, but the stars have never quite aligned for its games like they did with Control. Aided in no small part by some excellent performances from Courtney Hope and Matthew Porretta, Control spins a story that keeps going deeper, much like The Oldest House where the game is set. It’s not explicitly horror or sci-fi, striking a balance between the two that many games attempt but few achieve.
Even with a solid narrative, Control still stands out because of its gameplay. Taking some notes from 2016’s Doom, the game forces you to stay in the action at all times. Instead of ammo drops, your gun automatically regenerates ammo, and instead of a huge health bar, you’ll constantly recharge with health shards that enemies drop. On top of that, there are also supernatural abilities, which pull from their own resource bar. You have to use every tool at your disposal to get through battle, jumping between throwing rock chunks with your abilities to quickly picking off weak enemies to get some extra health. The result: Fast-paced encounters where you always have the tools to survive. You just have to use them.
Read our Control review
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain caps off the long-running series from Hideo Kojima. Instead of following a certain event at the end of the fourth game, The Phantom Pain goes back in time, set before 1987’s Metal Gear. You’ll want a decent gaming desk to play this one.
You play as Big Boss, who eventually becomes Solid Snake’s commanding officer. Following the events of Ground Zeroes, Big Boss is sent into a nine-year-long coma. You awaken in 1984 to help lead a mercenary group known as the Diamond Dogs. Under the codename “Venom Snake,” you have to infiltrate Soviet-occupied Afghanistan to find those in charge of the destruction at the end of Ground Zeroes.
Read our Metal Gear Solid V impressions
Red Dead Redemption 2
Despite a long list of launch issues on PC, Red Dead Redemption 2 remains Rockstar’s finest game to date. It’s a game of impossible realism and even more impossible scale, with a dynamic open world that has plenty of graphical leg room on PC. Set before the events of Red Dead Redemption — which never saw a PC release — the second entry follows Arthur Morgan, an outlaw of the Van der Linde gang trying to escape his life of crime.
Red Dead Redemption 2‘s grounded story is one for the ages, but in true Rockstar fashion, the game’s open sandbox is what keeps players hooked. Once the game opens up — and it takes awhile, unfortunately — it offers a massive open world begging for you to explore it. You can also explore it with friends with Red Dead Online.
Read our Red Dead Redemption 2 review
Rocket League is a simple game: It’s soccer but with cars. Facing off against other drivers, you pilot a tricked-out racing machine pummeling toward a giant ball, with the intent of shooting it across the field and into the opponent’s goal. Although simple in premise, Rocket League is a game that keeps you coming back. It’s simple enough that anyone can pick it up while taking serious dedication to master.
What’s so great about Rocket League is that none of its mechanics are based in reality. Your car has a boost, for example, and you can use that boost to shoot off the ground and fly through the air. There’s little in the way of collision mechanics, as well, meaning you can freely throw your vehicle into a wall without fear of it blowing up. Rocket League’s bombastic approach to an otherwise familiar game provides hours of fun, even if the core gameplay stays the same.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest in the SoulsBorne games’ lineage from FromSoftware. The tenets of any good Souls-like are present, including open-ended exploration, tough-as-nails combat, and a challenging checkpoint and upgrade system. However, FromSoftware did away with the all-important stamina bar seen in former titles.
Instead, you need to focus on a posture meter. Sekiro, unlike the Dark Souls games, is much more focused on attrition. You’ll be punished for rolling around enemies and trying to get a leg up on them. Rather, Sekiro asks you to pay close attention to swordplay, blocking, and parrying.
Read our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review
Mordhau has a relatively small player base, but those few are wildly committed. Sitting under 10,000 players, Mordhau users have an average playtime of 48 hours, according to SteamSpy. The game is a multiplayer-only medieval combat simulator where you take up swords, bows, and axes to rip your foes to shreds.
Outside of the deeply technical combat that takes hours to master, Mordhau’s community is what stands out most. In some cases, two teams run at each other, but in others, they gather around a bard playing a lute, no matter what team they’re on. Mordhau’s idiosyncrasies aren’t for everyone, but those few that take to it will find it hard to play anything else.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best anime-inspired games on PC, and it sits among the best fighting games of all time. The art style sets the tone. Unlike Xenoverse 2, each battle in FighterZ feels like it was ripped straight from the anime. Flashes of color and particles fill the screen with most attacks, leading to a game that feels as bombastic and action-packed as its source material.
The game is more than a looker, though. Developer Arc System Works knows how to make a good fighting game, developing the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue games. FighterZ has tight fighting mechanics, adopting a similar control scheme to Tekken 7. It mixes the formula up, however, with multi-fighter battles. Like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you can swap out fighters during the match. Because each of the game’s 24 fighters — 43, if you buy all of the DLC — has a unique moveset, building your team is equally as important as learning how to master each of the fighters.
Read our Dragon Ball FighterZ review
Creative Assembly is mostly known for its work on the Total War franchise, and Alien: Isolation couldn’t be more different than a strategy game. Still, the studio did the impossible. Following the disastrous release of Aliens: Colonial Marines, Alien: Isolation promised a break from the shooting action that followed the Alien name in video games for years, and it delivered. Alien: Isolation is a game where you play as a helpless survivor fighting against a creature you can’t best.
That tension of being trapped without the tools to defeat your enemy is what makes Alien: Isolation so intriguing. It’s a proper survival horror game, with equal attention paid to both the “survival” and “horror” parts. Even compared to horror classics like Resident Evil 2, Alien: Isolation manages to make things better. It juggles scares, resource management, and atmosphere, and never drops a single ball.
Read our Alien: Isolation review
Phasmophobia is certainly a much less polished experience than Alien: Isolation, but the game still has it where it counts. It’s a co-op game where you play as a member of a ghost-hunting team. After accepting a job and arriving at your location, you have to use a range of different tools — like a thermometer, cameras, etc. — to gather evidence of paranormal activity. Although you play as a ghost hunter, your job isn’t actually to defeat the ghost. Rather, the goal is to get in and out as fast as possible while gathering any evidence you can.
In that way, Phasmophobia is similar to Alien: Isolation. The only difference is that Phasmophobia lets your imagination do the work. There isn’t any music, and there’s never an indication that the ghost is near. Phasmophobia lets you connect the dots, and with a group of friends, that’s easy to do.
Undertale is a top-down RPG where you control a child that’s fallen into the Underground. Although the game looks like an Earthbound-inspired retro RPG, it’s something all its own.
Choices are a big deal in Undertale. Although there are technically only three endings, there are permutations on some of the endings depending on the choices you make throughout the game. Along your journey, you can choose to fight or befriend foes, leading to an RPG experience unlike any other.
Read our Undertale impressions
Darkest Dungeon is a unique concoction of various gameplay mechanics. It’s a roguelike RPG where you take control of a group of warriors, fighting through dungeons, completing quests, and collecting rewards. The turn-based combat is familiar, but in Darkest Dungeon, attacking and defending are the least of your worries.
It introduced something known as the “Affliction System,” which can inflict status effects on party members from the stress of battle. Combined with permadeath, Darkest Dungeon provides one of the most challenging turn-based experiences on PC, all set with a beautiful gothic backdrop.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Before they’d go on to develop Into the Breach, Subset Games made FTL: Faster Than Light, a roguelike, real-time strategy game where you command a spaceship trying to save the galaxy. Because of your confined space and often limited resources, building a larger army usually isn’t the best solution like it is in other RTS games. You instead have to use all of the resources at your disposal to survive each intergalactic encounter.
No two runs are the same, either. The game features permadeath, meaning you’ll constantly need to restart. However, with countless different events, enemies, and decisions, each run feels unique. Outside of enemy encounters, you’ll be faced with text-based encounters that will shape how your run turns out.
Read our FTL: Faster Than Light Advanced Edition review
Transistor is the sophomore game from Bastion developer Supergiant Games. Like Bastion, Transistor is an action RPG, but one like you’ve never experienced. Instead of focusing on button spamming, Transistor mixes together real-time and turn-based combat. During a fight, you can pause time and plan out your attacks.
Mechanically, Transistor is unique, but it is narratively, too. It’s a sci-fi love story where you take control of Red. The game starts with Red discovering the Transistor, a sword that’s trapped her voice and the narrator of the game. Traversing a noir-inspired world, you have to defeat an artificial intelligence known as The Process.
Return of the Obra Dinn
From Paper’s, Please creator Lucas Pope, Return of the Obra Dinn is a narrative-driven puzzle game where you must solve the tragic mystery of the Obra Dinn. You play as an insurance adjuster for the East India Company in 1807. Four years prior, the Obra Dinn went missing, and it has since washed up on the shore with all sixty crew members dead or missing.
Your job is to find out what happened. Using the bodies on the ship and a special pocket watch, you can roll back time to see glimpses of what happened years earlier. Featuring creative, non-linear storytelling, Obra Dinn provides an experience unlike any other on PC.
Read our Return of the Obra Dinn impressions
Braid became the poster child for indie games for a while thanks to its presence in Indie Game: The Movie. The game was the first major release from Johnathan Blow, the one-man-band developer that would go on to create the excellent puzzle game The Witness.
His first release is a little different. It’s a puzzle platformer where time manipulation is a core mechanic. Taking inspiration from classic Super Mario titles, you play as Tim, who is searching for a princess that’s been snatched up by an evil monster. The relationship is kept vague at first, however. As you continue, you’ll learn about Tim and the princess, and how time manipulation plays into their relationship.
Dead Cells is a simple game. It’s a roguelike action platformer that’s inspired by Metroidvania games. Combined together, Dead Cells creates a genre that developer Motion Twin refers to as a “RogueVania,” which is a game that combines the roguelike elements of Rogue Legacy and The Binding of Isaac with Metroidvania games like Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid.
You continually fight through a series of procedurally generated levels with boss battles inserted between. However, you’ll unlock a number of different upgrades along the way that lead to different play styles. Depending on the items you grab during a run, you could rip through levels at breakneck speed or take things slow and explore every nook.
Read our Dead Cells review
Celeste is one of the most fulfilling games on PC. It’s a precision platformer where you’re tasked with traversing nearly impossible platforming challenges. However, the game elevates the normal knuckle-busting platformer experience with a meaningful story that talks about anxiety, depression, and overcoming adversity.
You play as Madeline, a young girl riddled with anxiety that wants to climb Celeste mountain. Along the way, she meets her evil counterpart, who chases her as she makes her way to the peak. What’s so brilliant about Celeste is that the narrative fits directly into the mechanics. The game is hard, but given the story that surrounds it, each triumph is all the more satisfying.
Read our Celeste review
Shovel Knight is the game that kicked off the NES-inspired platformer craze. Yacht Club Games, the studio behind Shovel Knight, paid a lot of attention to making an authentic NES experience. Everything down to the audio support on NES cartridges to the number of sprites on screen were considered during development.
It’s not just a single game, though. Since launch, Yacht Club has continually created new titles in the Shovel Knight world. You can buy all five of the games in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which offers dozens of hours of retro platforming fun.
Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania set in the ancient kingdom of Hallownest. You play as a silent, bug-like knight wielding a nail. Taking notes from Dark Souls, Hollow Knight provides very little in the way of a direct narrative. Rather, the story is revealed through vague dialogue, optional NPC encounters, and environmental storytelling.
Although the base game is lengthy enough at over 20 hours, Team Cherry has expanded Hollow Knight with a series of free expansions. All done, Team Cherry has nearly doubled the amount of content in the base game while still asking the same low price of $15.
Portal 2 is the perfect sequel to Portal. It builds upon the core mechanics of the original game, expands the story and world, and comes with a lot more content, to boot. After being dragged back into Aperture Science at the end of the first game, you wake up as Chell trapped in a stasis chamber. There, you meet Wheatly, a personality core that guides you through old test chambers in order to escape.
That is until you fall upon a deactivated GLaDOS, who Wheatly wakes up by accident. With GLaDOS back in control, you must travel through the bowels of Aperture, revisiting old test chambers while hearing hilarious, pre-recorded messages from Cave Johnson, the late head of Aperture Science. Portal 2 is engaging in mechanics, story, and atmosphere, making it a near-perfect PC game.
Read our Portal 2 review
Opus Magnum is a puzzle game that focuses less on whether you solve a puzzle and more on how you solve it. You play as an alchemist who must use base elements and other crafting materials to produce a machine with a certain output. Although accomplishing that goal is usually straightforward, Opus Magnum asks you to get creative.
The game comes into its own when you start streamlining your systems. Removing extraneous commands and condensing components leads to a better and faster solution. Endlessly replayable, Opus Magnum is a must-play for any puzzle game fan.
Baba is You
Baba is You is one of the most unique games ever created. Each level has a series of rules, which you can rewrite by pushing blocks around. For example, the rules may be “baba is you,” “wall is stop,” and “flag is win,” with walls enclosing Baba. Simply pushing the “stop” block out of the way will allow you to reach the flag and beat the level.
Although you play as Baba in the beginning, no single element in the game holds any weight. You can turn all of the walls into flags, or choose to control the walls instead of Baba. Baba is You is a puzzle game that forces you to think outside of the box, usually to hilarious effect.
Civilization VI is one of the best strategy games of all time, and that’s not surprising. The Civilization series has always been the benchmark by which other 4X games are measured, and the sixth entry isn’t any different. It’s “one more turn” The Game, as you watch your civilization grow to occupy new territories and achieve new feats.
The variety in how you go about growing your civilization is what keeps things interesting. With a constantly growing roster of civilizations and leaders, there’s no shortage of unique ways to approach the game. Maybe you play as a warmonger with Suleiman over the Ottoman Empire, or focus on trade with Poundmaker with the Cree Empire. Both are viable options, and that’s what makes Civilization VI so great.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
More popular than even the Super Bowl, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty is the poster child for e-sports. A sequel 12 years in the making, Wings of Liberty brought the classic real-time strategy gameplay of Starcraft to a new generation. Building upon the original in graphics, mechanics, and story, Starcraft II is the definitive way to take control of the Terran, Zerg, and Protoss.
Even 10 years later, Blizzard is still supporting the bustling community surrounding Starcraft II. The game is highly competitive, tasking players with learning intricate strategies for each of the races while being able to execute commands at breakneck speed.
Age of Empires II
For many, Age of Empires II is the best RTS ever made. You take control of one of 13 civilizations (35 in the Definitive Edition) over four ages. Spanning a millennium, you see your civilization from the Dark Age to the Renaissance as it struggles for resources, competes for territory, and discovers new technology.
If you’ve never played Age of Empires, it’s a lot like Civilization, but everything happens in real time. Instead of carefully considering your moves each turn, you have to constantly build, gather, and fight to ensure your civilization survives. Even more than 20 years later, Age of Empires II is still popular, with the recently released Definitive Edition adding 4K support, a remastered soundtrack, and three new campaigns.
Crusader Kings III
Crusader Kings III is one of the most interesting strategy games out there. It’s a grand strategy title from Paradox Interactive where you’ll see a Middle Ages dynasty from start to finish. Unlike similar titles, you don’t control a single ruler through each game. Instead, you head up the dynasty, choosing how the current power rules while training up the next generation. It’s that second bit where Crusader Kings III shines.
It’s a grand strategy game about the deeply flawed rulers that lead Europe, Africa, and Asia during the Middle Ages. Where similar games deal in resources and territory, Crusaders Kings III deals in gossip and betrayal. You’ll still manage resources and engage in territorial combat. However, Crusader Kings III contextualizes those moments.
XCOM 2 builds upon the classic PC titles, as well as Enemy Unknown, in just about every way. If you’re unfamiliar, XCOM is a turn-based tactics game with permadeath being a core mechanic. Before each encounter, you’ll have to outfit your squad, choosing the right soldiers and gear for the mission at hand.
Outside of battle, you can train up new soldiers, research new weapons and technology, and scan the Earth for signs of alien life. Each combat encounter is a challenge, and with the threat of permadeath looming, you’ll constantly have to consider if you’re putting your best soldiers in danger.
Read our tips for getting started with XCOM 2
It’s hard to put into words the impact Fortnite has had on PC gaming. Although it’s easy to write it off now as just another battle royale game, the flocks of gamers that transitioned to PC because of it is staggering. In 2019, for example, Fortnite beat out the most popular PC game in the world, bringing in over $1.9 billion in revenue.
Unlike PUBG and Apex Legends — more on the latter next — Fortnite is accessible. The cartoon graphics, easy to understand building mechanics, and lack of blood or gore means that gamers old and new can play together. Although Apex Legends and PUBG have their strengths, Fornite fits a niche that those titles miss out on.
Make sure to check out our archive of Fortnite guides
Apex Legends takes all of the best elements of PUBG and Fortnite and combines them into a new battle royale game. Everything about Apex Legends feels good, from sliding down hills to ripping through loot boxes. Focusing much more on shooting than building, Apex Legends provides a polished, mature battle royale experience.
The game is currently entering its fourth season, which adds two new legends to the roster. Although expansive in terms of legend choices, Apex Legends only has a couple game modes. For battle royale, you’re stuck with triples (three-player teams). That said, EA has offered singles in the past, so other team sizes may come in the future.
Read our Apex Legends review
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest Counter-Strike title from Valve. Originally starting as a mod for Half-Life, Counter-Strike has grown into a competitive gaming phenomenon. Although Valve has officially released the game in the past with Counter-Strike: Source, Global Offensive feels like the first game built from the ground up for competitive players.
There are a handful of game modes, but for the most part, Counter-Strike pits terrorists and counter-terrorists against each other over a series of rounds. The terrorists are tasked with planting a bomb, while the counter-terrorists must defuse it. Whichever team reaches its goal first or wipes out the other team wins the round, and whichever team wins more rounds takes the whole match. Global Offensive‘s realistic focus on teamwork makes it a compelling and addictive online shooter, and being free-to-play, anyone can get in on the action.
Destiny 2 only recently went free-to-play, allowing newcomers to download the base game and all of its expansions up to Forsaken, which kicked off the second year of the game. Although Destiny 2 was great as a paid title, it’s even better as a free one. Bungie now starts players at a much higher level, meaning they can jump in and play with veterans that have played the game for hundreds of hours.
Like many free games, Destiny 2 is all about grinding. The fast-paced FPS allows you to tackle quests, gambits, dungeons, and more to earn experience, money, new loot, and new cosmetics. Furthermore, Bungie supports cross-save with Destiny 2. That means no matter if you’re playing on PC, Xbox One, PS4, or Stadia, you can continue playing with your character.
If you’re new, make sure you get up to date on Destiny 2‘s dense story
Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty: Warzone isn’t the franchise’s first try at the battle royale genre, but it is the best. Featuring the same excellent engine powering 2019’s Modern Warfare, Warzone is a tight, fluid, and massive battle royale. Each match, you’ll drop with 149 other players in a mad dash to gather loot and secure your position. Gunplay and looting are both solid, consistent with the Call of Duty franchise as a whole. Warzone isn’t just another battle royale, though.
The addition of the Gulag keeps players who caught a sudden death engaged in the action, while Plunder — a variation of battle royale where cash is the winning metric — offers a new way to play large scale multiplayer. Call of Duty: Warzone doesn’t pull too many punches; the few it does all add meaningful additions to the battle royale formula that will likely show up in many games to come.
Read our Call of Duty: Warzone review
2016’s Doom revitalized the iconic franchise by getting back to the basics. Doom Eternal keeps those basics intact while forging its own path. It’s a ruthlessly fast and incredibly violent shooter where it’s impossible not to smile and laugh. Doom Eternal is ridiculous, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. It is to the first-person shooter genre what Kingsman is to the James Bond franchise: A love letter that is willing to poke fun at itself.
That doesn’t mean Doom Eternal doesn’t take its gameplay seriously. Like Control, Doom Eternal is as much about shooting as it is about resource management. You never have enough health or ammo to make it through an encounter fully, forcing you to use Glory Kills and your chainsaw to get the resources you need. Because of that, Doom Eternal always keeps players in the action. Quite literally, you need to kill more demons to fuel killing more demons, and if that doesn’t encapsulate Doom as a franchise, we don’t know what does.
Read our Doom Eternal review
Borderlands 3 is the quintessential looter shooter. Like Doom Eternal, it’s a ridiculous game that knows what it is, willing to be silly and violent in equal parts. Over Borderlands 2, the third entry changes a few things. Small additions like the ability to slide and automatically grab onto ledges keep the action flowing, while the branching upgrade paths let you customize your character how you want. There’s also a new roster of Vault Hunters, each with their own abilities and playstyles.
Even with those new additions, Borderlands 3 is still all about the guns. Certain weapon manufacturers now have guns with alternate firing modes — like turning a pistol into a grenade launcher. There are also the new Children of the Vault weapons, which use engines to power high risk/high damage guns. Although Borderlands 3 keeps the franchise’s identity intact, it adds enough new content to keep players coming back for dozens — if not hundreds — of hours.
Read our Borderlands 3 review
Overwatch is a unique, competitive shooter that combines fast-paced, first-person action with a MOBA-like team system. Each match pits two teams of six against each other, with each team receiving two tank, two damage, and two support characters. With your balanced party in tow, you’ll either need to attack or defend an objective, protect a cart in transit, or try to hold an objective for a certain amount of time.
What makes Overwatch so special is that none of its 31 heroes feel quite the same. Wrecking Ball is a tank that can roll around in a ball while wielding dual machine guns, whereas Hanzo focuses on attacking enemies from afar with his bow and arrows. Because of the variety, you’ll quickly learn and grow attached to a certain hero, making the experience feel like your own.
Read our Overwatch review
Titanfall 2 has no business being as good as it is. Following the multiplayer-only, Xbox One-exclusive title, Titanfall 2 features a single-player campaign. Although short at around six hours, Titanfall 2 showcases some of the best first-person game mechanics of recent memory. In addition to the white-knuckle combat, the game has a number of unique platforming sections.
Respawn Entertainment could have easily thrown a blockbuster campaign at the wall and focused on multiplayer. Instead, the team did both, offering a unique single-player experience while serving the multiplier crowd.
Read our Titanfall 2 review
Rainbow Six: Siege
Rainbow Six: Siege captures what made previous Rainbow Six games so special while creating a unique and compelling multiplayer mode. Like past titles, Siege is a highly tactical game, where you’re encouraged to use careful planning and teamwork to overcome your foes. Combined with enough gadgets to make James Bond blush and enough guns to satisfy Neo, Siege offers a customizable, tactical first-person experience.
The main multiplayer mode takes a lot of notes from Counter-Strike. You play as either terrorists or anti-terrorists over a series of games. At the match point, you’ll switch teams and, in turn, switch your focus. Although the specifics of the scenario change from match to match, your squad will either need to focus on attacking or defending, leading to exciting and dynamic combat encounters.
Read our Rainbow Six: Siege review
Persona 4 Golden
For years, the only way to play Persona 4 Golden was on Sony’s all-but-abandoned PlayStation Vita, but in a surprise mid-2020 announcement, Sega decided to bring the game over to PC. Persona 4 Golden is the only game in the franchise on PC, but thankfully, it’s one of the best. Atlus nailed the combination of dungeon crawling and social simulation with Persona 4 Golden, and although the story doesn’t quite live up to Persona 3, the game still has one of the better narratives in all of video games.
The port itself is excellent, too. We’ve seen many half-baked PC ports out of Japan — Dark Souls and Metal Gear Solid 2 come to mind — but Persona 4 Golden offers all of the bells and whistles PC players expect. In addition to high-resolution frame-rate support, Persona 4 Golden features render scaling, anti-aliasing, shadow settings, and more. The game never looked bad, even on Sony’s aging handheld, but the experience is still best on PC.
Read our Persona 4 Golden review
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 is a massive game, with the base game providing around 100 hours of gameplay and the two expansions offering around 30 hours each. CD Projekt Red’s epic end to a trilogy eight years in the making provides the first truly open world the series has seen. It’s not a dead world, either. Around every corner in Wild Hunt, there’s something new to do.
Outside its incredible size, the core mechanics of Wild Hunt are solid. Building upon the combat system established in the first two entries, The Witcher 3 features fluid, action-like swordplay. In addition to parrying, rolling, and dodging, Geralt can also cast spells, allowing you to tailor your play style in a few different ways.
Read our thoughts on The Witcher 3 after watching the Netflix show
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim has been released and re-released for just about every platform, with Bethesda actually releasing an Amazon Alexa version — called the Very Special Edition — in 2018. It all started on PC, though. Although released on Xbox 360 and PS3 concurrently in November 2011, Skyrim on PC showcased the power of open-ended game design and a dedicated community.
It’s difficult to draw a straight line, but Skyrim’s modding capabilities on PC seemed to drive Sony and Microsoft to include mod support on their respective consoles. Sure, Skyrim is a fantastic RPG, but more than that, it captured an aspect of PC gaming that has otherwise been ignored by the mainstream market: Modding. Now, nine years later, Skyrim still has a bustling community, with mods ranging from new campaigns to graphical overhauls that push even modern systems to the brink.
Read our Skyrim review
Divinity: Original Sin II
Divinity: Original Sin II is the followup to 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin and a continuation of computer role-playing game series (CRPG) dating back to 2002. Original Sin II is actually a sequel to the first game in the series Divine Divinity, whereas the first Original Sin was a prequel.
In it, you play as one of six races, each with their background and unique quests. You can take on the story alone or with up to a party of three other members, with support for split-screen multiplayer. Although the base game as a ton of content — around 100 hours — Original Sin II features a game master mode where you can create and download fan-made campaigns.
Disco Elysium is an isometric, open-world RPG. The “RPG” moniker shouldn’t be taken lightly, though. Featuring no combat, Disco Elysium is the literal definition of a role-playing game, focusing on skill checks and dialogue trees as the core gameplay mechanics. The game borrows a lot from titles like Planescape: Torment, offering an RPG experience on PC that hasn’t been seen in decades.
The game starts with a Revachol Citizens Militia detective waking up in a motel room after a drug and alcohol binge. With substance-induced amnesia, you’re tasked with solving the murder of a man hanging from a tree in the back of the motel. In addition to finding out who killed the tree-hanging man, you must also discover who you are, with your dialogue choices creating your character as you go.
Despite the controversy surrounding Diablo III’s launch, there’s no denying that it’s the pinnacle of Blizzard’s popular action-RPG series. Although it’s commonplace to force players online nowadays, it was nearly unheard of in 2012. In order to fight piracy, Blizzard forced users to connect to its servers, no matter if they were playing online or not, which resulted in countless connectivity issues.
Eight years later, it’s easy to look past Diablo III’s tumultuous launch. With seven character classes and hundreds of hours of gameplay, Diablo III is the largest game in the series. Still taking place in Sanctuary, your party joins forces 20 years after the events of Diablo II. No matter if you’re going at it alone or with friends, Diablo III is a great time.
Read our Diablo III: Reaper of Souls review
Monster Hunter: World
Monster Hunter: World is the first mainline Monster Hunter game released on PC. Although the series has been around since 2004, all of the mainline games were published under exclusivity deals with either Sony or Nintendo. Thankfully, World is the best title to date, with beautiful visuals, a dense upgrade system, and a massive world.
In the game, you play as a hunter who’s a member of the Fifth Fleet. In the New World, an untamed wilderness full of monsters, you meet with the Research Commission to find out more about the wildlife that surrounds the RC’s camp. Either alone or with up to three friends, you venture out into the wilderness to gather, research, craft, and, of course, hunt.
Read our Monster Hunter: World review
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator is the type of game that really only works on PC. It’s massive — like, the size of the world massive — and beautiful, using map data and weather information to render the digital world as accurately as possible. Calling Flight Simulator a “game” is reductive, though. Like the titles that came before, 2020’s Flight Simulator is a simulator. The planes are accurately modeled down to the aerodynamics, making for an experience that’s not only beautiful but realistic, too.
Few games have been as important to PC gaming as Minecraft. Released 11 years ago, Minecraft has sold nearly 200 million units, becoming one of the bestselling video games of all time. Although building games are commonplace now, Minecraft started the trend back in 2009, with spin-offs like Terraria and Dragon Quest Builders coming shortly after.
Minecraft proved that there was a lot of unexplored creativity in gaming. Instead of sending the player on a journey or asking them to team up with friends in combat, Minecraft lets you play in any way you want.
Read our Minecraft AR impressions
Planet Coaster is a modern RollerCoaster Tycoon; there’s no way around it. Building off of the classic 2D simulation games, Planet Coaster offers a fully 3D theme park management experience. The studio behind the game, Frontier Developments, had previously worked on RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, Thrillville, and Zoo Tycoon.
Like any good simulation game, there’s a long list of DLC to enhance your experience. The list includes packs inspired by Disney’s Hollywood Studios and classic amusement parts, as well as a collaboration with Ghostbusters. If you’ve ever wanted to run your own amusement park, Planet Coaster is the way to go.
Stardew Valley is a simulation game in the vein of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. The game begins with you inheriting your grandfather’s old farm plot, with only a little money and a handful of basic tools at your disposal. As you grow your farm, you’ll be able to plant new crops, raise animals, craft machines, and start an orchard.
Although the sandbox nature of Stardew Valley stands out most, it’s classified as an RPG. With multiple non-playable characters and various quests, there’s plenty to do outside of growing your farm in your own time. Outside of your crops and livestock, you can make friends, find a spouse, and even have kids. Stardew Valley is a deceptively deep and endlessly charming game that every PC player should own.
Cities: Skylines is a city-building simulation game from Paradox Interactive. Coming off of EA’s reboot of SimCity, Cities: Skylines offered a lot of differences, the most prominent of which was offline play. Six years later, Skylines is the de facto city-building game on PC with numerous DLC and a bustling modding community.
You start with a little over a square mile of land close to a highway. As you build roadways, utility systems, schools, and more, your city will become profitable, which allows you to purchase nearby plots of land. What you create in your expanding city is up to you, be it a small farming community, a lively metropolis, or both.
The Sims 4
The Sims, originally released 20 years ago, was actually a spinoff of SimCity, where players took control of Sims in a suburban area near SimCity. The game was incredibly popular, however, selling over 16 million copies by the time a sequel rolled around. Now, we have The Sims 4, which upon release, became the first PC game to top multi-console charts since 2012.
Although released in 2014, The Sims 4 makes our list now because of the post-launch content. The game continuously offers expansion packs, game packs, and stuff packs, which vary in size and offer cosmetic items for building and creating Sims and, in some cases, new gameplay options. In addition to the official expansions, The Sims 4 has a breadth of community content, allowing you to build a virtual life in any way you want.
Read our The Sims 4 review
Hearthstone is a free-to-play card game built specifically for a digital context. Rather than relying on opponent interaction during a player’s turn, Hearthstone makes games as fast as possible, with a timer during each player’s turn. Your deck is compromised minions and spells, with the former able to attack and the latter causing different game effects.
Each of your cards has a mana cost. However, the amount of mana you can spend per turn is static. Starting with the first turn, you gain one additional mana to spend each turn with a maximum of 10. With that, Hearthstone creates a natural cadence by which both players must abide, with increasingly powerful cards coming out as the game goes on.
Read our beginner’s Hearthstone strategy guide
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is a roguelike card game where you take control of one of four heroes. Each of those heroes has their own unique cards that pertain to a certain playstyle, and as you battle your way through enemies, you’ll be able to add new cards to your deck. Although not as deep as a game like Magic: the Gathering, Slay the Spire provides exciting, unique encounters no matter how much you play.
On your turn, you have a limited number of actions you can take. For the most part, you’ll either attack or defend. It’s not a blind decision, however. Slay the Spire uses an intent system, where you can see what your opponents intend to do on their turns. Using that, you can craft your plan using the cards at your disposal.
World of Warcraft
Although World of Warcraft has fallen from its former glory, there’s no denying the impact it has had on PC gaming as a whole. Kicking off the MMO craze that continues to this day, World of Warcraft established the gameplay, community, and resource systems that can be seen in games like Destiny 2 and Warframe.
The game is much different than it was upon release, with a slew of expansions and multiple core gameplay changes. Thankfully, a WoW subscription grants you access to the latest version as well as World of Warcraft Classic. Classic, despite its faults, tries to recreate the original experience of the 2004 release.
Read our World of Warcraft Classic review
The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online is basically Skyrim online but more expansive. Taking place in multiple iconic locations from Elder Scrolls lore, ESO fills in the gap that’s formed in the wake of World of Warcraft Classic. With tons of quests, countless items, and plenty of random encounters, The Elder Scrolls Online is the definitive MMORPG for 2020.
As for gameplay, ESO handles very similarly to Skyrim. You can go to towns and cause a ruckus by stealing and killing or venture into dungeons to farm experience. The key difference is that you can do it with friends.
Read our review of The Elder Scrolls Online