Update: Go to Hell… in number 17 on our list.
The PC is either making a comeback or never went away in the first place, depending on who you ask.
Whichever camp you’re in, a deluge of triple-A titles, virtual reality and (whisper it) decent console ports make picking the PC over the Xbox One or PS4 a no-brainer. Thanks to the popularity of Valve’s Steam platform, finding and downloading the best PC games is easier than ever before.
Whether you’re a mouse-and-keyboard diehard who mutters “boom, headshot!” in their sleep, or a joypad-wielding adrenaline junkie, the PC has no shortage of blockbuster and indie titles to help you waste away the hours.
We’ve rounded up the best PC games out there today. If you don’t agree, let us know in the comments below..
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
PC games on our radar
System Shock 3
There’s nothing quite like a sequel to a 90s classic to really get our juices flowing. Released in 1998, System Shock 2 was one of the defining survival horror games on the PC that decade. The main antagonist from that game, the psychopathic AI SHODAN, is returning for System Shock 3. Little else is known about the third game in the series, which is being developed by Otherside Entertainment, other than it could feature VR support. As if System Shock 2 wasn’t scary enough without it…
Release date: Possibly 2016
Torment: Tides of Numanera
If Pillars of Eternity (which currently sits fourth in our list of Best PC Games) whet your appetite for old-school RPGs, Torment: Tides of Numenera looks set to continue the nostalgia-fest. The spiritual successor to Planescape Tournament (it’s being written by that game’s designer, Colin McComb), Tides broke the then-Kickstarter record for surpassing a million dollars in funding in just seven hours. Based on the pen-and-paper game Numenera, which is set a billion years in the future, expect Tides to be heavily story-driven and terrific to look at thanks to its living and breathing environments set in the Ninth World.
Few games are unique these days, but Studio MDHR’s charming run and gun title Cuphead just might be deserving of the label. Featuring a visual art style borrowed from 1930s Disney cartoons (think Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie), it’s a romantic blend of old and new-era entertainment. Adorable and even a bit disturbing due to its screen-filling bosses (most of which are drawn with deranged facial expressions), Cuphead has us thirsty for more.
No Man’s Sky
A procedurally generated space exploration game with over 18 quintillion planets might seem ambitious, but a group of 15 developers at Hello Games believes this is possible with fully 3D graphics and a vibrant universe to boot. When it arrives in August, you can expect to explore endlessly, limited only by the amount of fuel in your spacecraft as well as how far it can travel before you need to start saving up for a new ship. By investigating planets and gathering information for a galactic database called The Atlas, you’ll accumulate an in-game currency called ‘units’ which can then be used to acquire new swag.
Expected: August 2016
One of the most celebrated arena-shooters of all time, Unreal Tournament brushed Quake 3 aside to claim the online shooter crown back in 1999. It’s remained a firm favourite with FPS fans ever since, leading to a remake being announced in 2014. Developed in Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, Unreal Tournament brings back classic weapons including the Flak Canon, Pulse Rifle and Mini-Gun. The first high-resolution map, Outpost 23, looks nothing short of stunning and is sure to give UT die-hards m-m-m-m-monster thrills.
Expected: Out now (Pre-alpha), Final TBC
1. Cities: Skylines
Cities: Skylines is SimCity updated for the modern era, proving a breath of fresh air for would-be mayors. Its core gameplay lets you dig deep into the various aspects of running a sprawling virtual city – from economics to macro and micro management and land planning. But Cities: Skylines really shines when it comes to mods, which allow you to create custom maps, assets and tools to share with other online players.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition places you in the heart of a huge, vibrant world on a far greater scale than its predecessors, and it does an excellent job of making you feel in command. Packing in a huge 90 hours (and the rest) of gameplay into its storyline, Inquisition’s smart dialogue, compelling plot, savvy progression system and massive sandbox world will have you engrossed for months on end. Think the Elder Scrolls games meets the Diablo franchise and you’re halfway there.
3. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
A card game from the makers of World of Warcraft, Hearthstone is easy to learn, but hard to master. Like Blizzard’s famous MMO, Hearthstone combines classes, characters and a bit of tactical luck when throwing you into battle against computerised or online opponents. Stick with it and you’ll be rewarded by its tactical, deep gameplay. Though available on iOS and Android, its low system requirements, excellent presentation and great sound effects mean it’s best experienced on the PC.
4. Dark Souls 3
Though it’s arguably not as difficult as previous entries in the series, From Software’s Dark Souls 3 takes everything you like about the Souls series and combines it with elements found in Bloodborne, the developer’s more recent game for PS4.
Don’t get us wrong — Dark Souls 3 is no walk in the park. It still takes skill to master its complex combat system, but it plays fair too, inviting more casual gamers to take part in its bleak, fantastical world. Plus, on the bright side, it brings remarkably better PC optimization than that of the first game.
5. Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity is a sprawling RPG in the vein of Baldaur’s Gate or Icewind Dale that combines highly detailed technical combat with hundreds of hours of gameplay. It has refreshingly low system requirements on the PC but still looks incredible thanks to its simple but effective art style, which harks back to those aforementioned isometric fantasy RPGs of the 2000s. But it’s not all about nostalgia: Pillars of Eternity has enough interesting characters, baddies and clever writing to make it a modern classic of its own.
6. Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most anticipated console ports to ever hit the PC. You probably didn’t need telling twice to head back into Los Santos’s hugely detailed and interactive world, but it’s ten times more fun with the PC’s richer graphics and smooth 60 frames per second gameplay. Once you’re done with its 31-hour storyline or had your fill blazing around the city causing chaos, an ever expanding list of GTA V mods – from fine tuning cars or throwing vehicles around with a Gravity Gun – are bound to keep you entertained for some time.
7. Alien: Isolation
Set 15 years after the events of the first Alien film from 1979, Alien: Isolation is the suspense-packed game that fans of the franchise have been crying out for. Playing the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of Alien protagonist Ellen Ripley, your mission is to track down and recover the flight recorder of the Nostromo spacecraft from the first Alien film which has been located aboard the Sevastopol space station. First and foremost a stealth game, Isolation ramps up the tension by providing you with minimal weaponry. Its excellent graphics shine on high-end PCs and clever AI helps ramp up the dread, leaving you to quiver when turning every corner.
8. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive remains a fantastic update to a timeless classic that continues to live on thanks to its vast online communities. A well-rounded tactical shooter that builds on the simple Terrorists vs Counter-Terrorists gameplay mechanics of Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Source, CS: GO updates classic maps such as Italy and Dust while keeping adding new modes in Arms Race and Demolition. Simpler than Battlefield but more nuanced than the Call of Duty franchise, it’s a shooter for those who like to run, gun and think – if only a little bit.
9. Far Cry 4
Ubisoft’s latest shooter marks Far Cry’s most beautiful outing yet. Its graphically-rich world is eye-popping on high-end PCs, and you’ll see plenty of it thanks to a 30+ hour-long campaign. Aside from the main campaign, there are plenty of things to do in Kyrat – from hostage rescue and assassination missions to escort quests, resource collecting and, of course, avoiding being killed by bullets or rampaging animals. Whether you’re tearing across the savanna in a rickety car or slinging grenades around like tennis balls, survival has never been such a blast.
10. FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL (Faster Than Light) puts you command of running a spaceship and looking after its crew. Featuring a complex game mechanism that involves maintaining weapons, engines, shields and other areas, in addition to tactical combat, FTL can get extremely in-depth over time. Whether you’re ordering your crew to quite literally put out fires on deck in the heat of battle, or are navigating through asteroid fields, FTL is as much about long-term progression and satisfaction as it is quick fixes. Don’t let its indie stylings fool you: this is game with untold depth and scary levels of addictiveness.
11. Grim Fandango Remastered
A 90s classic brought back to life (unlike its main protagonist), Grim Fandango Remastered is a successful attempt at reviving one of the PC’s best adventure games of all time. Combining writing that matches the funniest dark comedies with clever puzzles and a still-impressive art style, Grim Fandango was the most entertaining work of art to take place in a Mexican setting for years until Breaking Bad came along. Now with updated graphics, sound and better controls, Manna Calavera’s adventure has never looked so good.
12. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Four years after its initial release, Skyrim is going as strong as ever thanks to a vast selection of mods and high-resolution texture packs. Even if you’re only interested in playing the vanilla version of the RPG, it offers more than 100 hours of gameplay.
Throw in three action packs DLC expansion packs (Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn), and it lasts even longer. That Skyrim has been compared to graphically superior but similar RPG blockbuster The Witcher 3 is testament to its enduring popularity. Step into Skyrim and you too can be an adventurer – just try not to take an arrow in the knee.
Originally launched as an Arma II mod, DayZ is a standalone zombie shooter with a difference. Not only do you have to mind the undead when wandering around its sprawling maps, but other online players too. Armed with a lead pipe and carrying nothing but a backpack and a flashlight, you’ll need wits and guile to survive.
Pretty much the opposite of adrenaline-packed zombie fests such as Left4Dead, you’ll spent half of the time evading the undead and the other using a shovel to fend off any humans who are bent on trying to steal your last box of matches. And take it from us – they will try.
The phrase “build it, and they will come” quite literally rings true when it comes to Minecraft, the game that has been bought by more than 19 million people. The survival-themed sandbox RPG lets players build their own worlds or explore others, using the game’s multiple block types to construct anything from small huts to extravagant castles and beyond.
Minecraft’s ultimate appeal revolves around its open-ended nature. Creative types can build and destroy to their hearts’ content, while solo players can concentrate on not being eaten by the zombie hordes that emerge at night. A modern-day classic that has spawned its own genre, it’s not to be missed.
15. The Orange Box
The Orange Box may be showing its age, but it remains a must-play collection of games – particularly for FPS fans. Half-Life 2, technically still the most recent game in Valve’s franchise (excluding its Episode 1 and 2 add-ons), remains a modern masterpiece and is famed for being the first game to intelligently apply physics to its puzzles and combat set-pieces.
The collection’s other titles aren’t too shabby either: Portal takes gravity-based puzzles to the extreme by equipping the player with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (also known as the Portal Gun), which places two portals for objects to pass through, while Team Fortress 2 continues to go from strength-to-strength thanks to the introduction of custom gear and well-balanced team combat.
16. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Gorgeous graphics? Check. Huge explorable environments? Check. Enthralling combat? Of course. The Witcher 3 stands tall as one of the most ambitious open-world RPGs yet, combining Skyrim’s unrestrained epicness with Grand Theft Auto 5’s scale. While the game has been criticised for its inventory niggles, less-than-enthralling plot and not quite matching the graphics shown in its promo materials, it’s so ambitious and jam-packed with detail that the package lives up to the hype. Huge, beautiful and an absolute time-sink, you’ll want to scour every inch of The Witcher 3’s glorious world.
Id Software’s Doom was a phenomena for PC gamers in the 90s. The crudely rendered first-person shooter series was as controversial as it was beloved, largely thanks to its cutting-edge depictions of gore and violence that only a computer could deliver. Parents be damned, the franchise has made a comeback in 2016 with a fresh restart, appropriately titled Doom. Although the multiplayer might not appeal to shooter fans regardless of age, the single player campaign will pit you against demons in Hell for a lengthy experience that’s as bloody as it is satisfying.
18. Project CARS
Project CARS is a racing simulator that guns for realism without leaving excitement back in the pit stop, as some racers tend to do. Slightly Mad Studios’ graphically-stunning title has enough car customisation and handling options to keep the keenest of petrol heads happy. Car types on show range from F1 to road, retro, kart, Le Mans, GT and more. Throw in realistic weather effects and driving assistance by Le Mans driver Ben Collins – formerly BBC Top Gear’s Stig – and the smell of burning rubber will be floating up your nostrils in no time.
19. Elite: Dangerous
Modelled after the 1984 game Elite, Elite: Dangerous is one of the most ambitious space sims around. Featuring an in-game galaxy based on the real Milky Way (how’s 400 billion stars for depth?), the ultimate goal is to advance your rankings to Elite status by levelling up combat, trading and exploration.
Starting out with a rickety ship and 1,000 credits in your space suit’s back pocket, you’ll need to turn to piracy, trading, exploring, mining or bounty hunting to rise through the intergalactic ranks. Doing so takes time and requires serious graft, but the experience provides a level of satisfaction that few other titles can match. And then there’s the Oculus Rift…
20. Frozen Cortex
Frozen Cortex is a tactical future sports game with oodles of depth and heaps of style. Players take turns to commandeer teams of five robots across randomly generated maps, scoring points by successfully carrying or passing the ball to the end line. Tactically demanding and Chess-like in execution, it can be exhilarating to watch the action unfold as robots play out defensive or offensive runs depending on their commander’s style of play.
There’s more than a shade of American Football to it, with online bouts providing the biggest thrills as you bluff and double bluff your way through human opponents to earn new robots (and new abilities) as you progress. As stylish as it is clever, Frozen Cortex’s art style makes it a particular delight for anyone old enough to remember the Amiga classic, Speedball 2.
21. Ori and the Blind Forest
Described as “achingly beautiful” by Unity Engine boss John Riccitiello, Ori and the Blind Forest borrows its game mechanics from old-school 2D games such as Metroid and Castlevania while adding a modern twist. If any word can describe Ori’s atmospheric world, it’s alive. You’ll have to think fast and use new abilities gained along the way to bash, stop and manoeuvre your way through its gorgeous locations, and with no automatic saving system or easy difficulty level, it’s no walk in the park. As satisfying to master as it is to look at, Ori and the Blind Forest will re-open your eyes to what 2D games still have to offer.
22. Grow Home
Grow Home is an experimental PC platformer that looks like an “indie” game but is in fact the latest release from Rayman developer Ubisoft. Similarly charming thanks to its distinctive 3D art style, you play as BUD, the game’s robot protagonist, whose main job is harvest seeds and grow a beanstalk-like ‘Star Plant’ by grabbing its branches and connecting them to nearby floating islands in the sky.
There’s a fair bit of trial-and-error involved, and while having to climb all the way back up again after a fall is frustrating, grabbing a passing vine at the last minute by the tips of your fingers can be equally as exhilarating. The ability to move BUD’s arms and legs independently helps put you in control – just try not to get them tangled up. Because you will – a lot.
23. Sunless Sea
A 2D exploration game set on a boat can’t be that creepy, right? Wrong. More gothic than a Cradle of Filth concert, Sunless Sea throws all manners of joyless themes your way: death, insanity and cannibalism to name a few. Sailing from port-to-port in the monster-filled underworld of Fallen London, you’ll have to manage fuel and supplies while battling sentient icebergs, Zee-beasts and other water-dwelling nasties to remain afloat. Top-notch writing gives Sunless Sea an absorbing storyline that’s up there with history’s best text-based adventures.
24. Rocket League
Already familiar to millions before they’ve played a played a second of it, Rocket League turns the age old game of football (or soccer, depending) on its head. Played with rocket-propelled cars in futuristic low-gravity environments, the aim is simple: knock the ball into the opposing team’s goal. Doing so is harder said than done because there could be up to three cars on the opposing team trying to steal the ball off you – or ram you into submission – at any one time. Gorgeous to look, simple to learn but difficult to master, Rocket League is the surprise smash hit of 2015 – and a wonderfully addictive one at that.
25. Heroes of the Storm
As inevitable as sandals in summer, Blizzard finally launched its first MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game in June. Featuring a ton of characters from Blizzard games such as Warcraft, World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2, Heroes of the Storm sees two teams of five attempt to destroy the other’s base. When not sounding out enemy units to destroy, its expansive maps give you room to take on secondary objectives such as finding skulls or unlocking special siege units to help your team.
Accessible to newcomers while packing plenty of depth, Heroes’ finely balanced gameplay mechanics, shorter matches (compared to League of Legends) and ability-based levelling system make it a refreshing alternative to established MOBA titles and a fine game in its own right.
26. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The new Metal Gear, which is likely Hideo Kojima’s final game in the series, is a hugely ambitious title. Its massive open world setting lets you tackle missions using stealth, but it won’t punish you for going in guns blazing – which is often the most tempting option.
Set nine years after the events of Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain’s story unravels through its main missions and more than 100 Side Ops tasks. The action is interspersed with gorgeous cutscenes, and while you sometimes have to decode annoying military-babble to understand what’s going on, TPP’s fast pacing and gorgeous Afghanistan settings never make the game feel like a chore.
A gripping horror game in the vein of Amnesia: The Dark Descent (it’s from the same developer), SOMA has its fair share of “NOPE!” moments. But it’s not really about jump scares; the game’s most compelling aspect is its philosophical story arc, which unravels as you encounter a series of confused robots. Suffering from existential stress, the decaying machines believe they are human.
The tension builds as you venture deeper into the underwater research facility that you wake up aboard, avoiding murderous creatures, solving clever puzzles and checking voice memos to unravel the mystery. Expertly weaving elements of survival and psychological Sci-Fi horror, SOMA is a little less action packed than Alien: Isolation but engages more of the old grey matter. If that’s what you’re looking for in a fright-fest, SOMA doesn’t disappoint.
28. Prison Architect
if you think you’ve learnt a thing or two about prison life watching films like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption over the years, cuff-em-up Prison Architect lets you put your knowledge to the test. Playing as wardens, you’re tasked with keeping prisoners in check, preventing riots from boiling over and foiling The Great Escape-style plots. And yes: it does involve sending men to the electric chair. Gnarly. Alternatively, a second mode called Escape lets you unleash your inner Bronson by hatching a plot to lead your fellow inmates to freedom. (Until you get arrested again, anyway.)
29. Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide
Five heroes, many Skaven. That’s the basic premise of Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide, a hack-and-slash fest that plays – and feels – a lot like Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. With a deep focus on co-operative gameplay, Vermintide’s melee-focused combat, random loot, level-based progression system and humanoid rat enemies make for a refreshing alternative to gunning down endless hordes of zombies.
Although it’s fun attempting to talk tactics over voice chat with players online, Vermintide is often too chaotic to try anything other than bashing or shooting the nearest Skaven between the eyes — and that’s fine — from giant Ogre Rats to stealth Gutter Runners, there’s enough variation to keep things interesting. And if you do start to get get bored, unlike the Skaven, ratcheting up the difficulty makes sure Vermintide won’t get long in the tooth any time soon.
30. Fallout 4
It’s official: Fallout 4 has lived up to the hype. Despite feeling a little bit like Fallout 3 but with nicer graphics at times, its tighter shooting, in-depth crafting system and well-thought out story make it a wholly more enticing affair.
As the Sole Survivor (the first fully-voiced protagonist in the Fallout series) in Boston’s post-apocalypse wasteland, you’ll take on Feral Ghouls, Raiders, Syths and Bloodbugs and more with high-powered weaponry that includes the Fat Man mini nuke cannon and the fusion cell-powered Laser Musket.
PC gamers can take Fallout 4 to even greater highs through a growing number of mods. They range from the Enhanced Wasteland Preset, which makes the wasteland look more vibrant on beefy PCs, to the sensibly named Fallout 4 Configuration Tool, which makes the game run smoother on wimpier PCs.
31. Rainbow Six: Siege
If the Call of Duty series is the poison that dumbed down the FPS genre with its run-and-gun gameplay, then Rainbow Six: Siege is the antidote. Working as a team to out-wit the enemy, Siege plays out like a thinking man (or woman’s) Counter-Strike that doesn’t simply encourage cooperation if you want to win – it requires it.
When you’re not peering down your gun’s iron sights, you’ll be laying traps, scouting ahead using drones, strategising with your teammates and building walls that could keep a herd of demented bulls at bay. While Siege’s heavy reliance on tactical team-based gameplay can prove its biggest weakness if you’re hoisted into a server with a particularly uncooperative bunch, when it does click, it provides a level of satisfaction rarely found in online multiplayer games.
32. Rise of the Tomb Raider
“Console port” is no longer a dirty phrase thanks to efforts like Rise of the Tomb Raider, which gets the treatment it deserves on PC. Featuring stunning and varied locations, exciting combat and effective stealth mechanics, Lara’s epic outing often feels movie-like in its execution and scope.
Crystal Dynamics has kept the soul of the original games intact too – there’s pistols aplenty, amazing architecture and angry animals that would quite like to gobble you up – meaning you’ll never get bored once you’ve soaked up Siberia’s amazing architecture. If you’re into adventures, it’s easily one of the best PC games around.
Originally created as an entry to the 7 Day FPS Challenge, Superhot’s Polish developers were inspired by a top-down game called Time4Cat where time only moves when the player does. They took this concept one step further and turned it into a FPS. Falling somewhere between Portal and Max Payne, nifty reflexes, patience and an eye for puzzle solving is required.
The aim is to defeat a finite number of enemies by dodging bullets and returning a few yourself. The game is now available to buy and download on Steam, but you can head back to where it all began by playing the flash version of Superhot online for free. You’ll need the Unity Web Player plugin which is currently not supported by Chrome.
34. X-COM 2
X-Com 2 is one addictive game, and we still can’t put it down. Following up from 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which reimagined the 1994 cult classic UFO: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 has delivered everything we wanted in a sequel. Bigger, deeper, faster and even easier on the eyes, the turn-based tactics game takes place 20 years after its predecessor.
It pits you in control of the Avenger, a converted alien ship that serves as your mobile base of operations used to devise strategy and execute fight plans against otherworldly enemies. With a greater focus of stealth, more intelligent alien AI and deeper customization options, XCOM 2 is bound to end up one of our games of the year.
Battleborn is the product of a recent influx of “hero shooter” games. Down to the basics, this means in the case of Borderlands developer Gearbox’s latest hit, you get to choose between 25 characters each resonating with one of five factions.
The heroes range from hulking giants like El Dragón, who body slam their way to victory, to long-range snipers like Marquis. Unlike Borderlands, Battleborn is all about its three competitive multiplayer modes, although there’s a single-player/co-op-driven story mode to boot.
I mean, who doesn’t want to play a game where your character is quite literally referred to as a badass within the actual canon?