Update: Inspired by Arma III and H1Z1 mod Battle Royale (as well as official H1Z1 mode King of the Hill), PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a shooter that’s less about killstreaks and more about surviving. Read on to number 20 on our list to find out more!
PC gaming is arguably in its golden age right now. Though it doesn’t, nor will it ever, have Nintendo games on its leash, it’s hard for console makers to catch up. Featuring wildly popular exclusives, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, PC gaming is unyielding in every way.
Nowadays, virtually every gamepad known to man is compatible with PC. What’s more, you don’t even need a lengthy HDMI cable anymore to play PC games in your living room – , all you need is a robust internet connection.
But how do you know which are the best PC games to buy? Well, we’ve made a list detailing all of the top PC games on the market – from the massive and gorgeous The Witcher 3 to tactical and competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
After its debut at Sony’s Gamescom 2014 media briefing, we didn’t hear much about Ninja Theory’s latest action-adventure game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. But, slated to release on both PC and PS4, the game will surely run best on a high-end gaming rig – just as Ninja Theory’s last big game, DmC: Devil May Cry, did in 2013.
This time, however, the Heavenly Sword developer has gone independent, publishing Hellblade on its lonesome. Based on Celtic and Norse mythology, the game revolves around a heroine known as Senua who hacks and slashes her way through a living hellscape illustrating the darkness of her own thoughts.
And, being the shorter narrative-driven title that it is, PC gamers will appreciate the frugal $29 (£24, AU$39) price tag that it bears.
Expected: August 8, 2017
Cities: Skylines is SimCity updated for the modern era (and for those dissuaded by always-online DRM), 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.
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 game play into its story line, 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.
From the makers (and universe) of World of Warcraft, Hearthstone is easy to learn, but hard to master. Like the MMO its inspired by, Hearthstone combines classes, characters and a bit of random fortune when pitting you against either computerized or online opponents. Stick with and you’ll not only be rewarded by improved skill, but by in-game rewards as well. Keep in mind that, though, that while its accessibility might lead to addiction, don’t expect to be a world-class Hearthstone champion right off the bat. Practice makes perfect, right?
- Read: Hearthstone arrives on iPad, but it is better on tablet or PC?
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.
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.
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.
- Read: This is what GTA 5 looks like through an Oculus Rift
BioShock is a first-person shooter that takes concepts from Ayn Rand’s Atlast Shrugged and tosses them underseas. To be exact, BioShock takes place in an underwater city called Rapture, free from government regulation, designed for artists and entrepreneurs to thrive. Of course, not all goes well in a city where the residents have all the power and, well, stop what you’re doing and play it right now if you haven’t already.
You’re in for one of the great games if you play BioShock, one that balances story elements with horror nigh-perfectly. There’s a remastered version out there now, too, which is free of charge if you own the original.
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.
- Read: How the tech of Alien Isolation will scare you back into the 1970s
If nothing else, Overwatch breaks the norm of gray-ish cover shooters competitive gaming year after year. Its bright, vibrant colors are complemented by likeable characters, each decorated with their own interesting backstories which, although they aren’t present in the game, make for fun web comics nevertheless.
Overwatch is also a technical feat in that it can run smoothly even on older PCs. What’s more, the PC version is cheaper than on consoles, so long as you don’t opt for the Origins Edition. That goes without mentioning its astounding community of players. By now, there’s no excuse to sign into your Battle.net account and take every character – from Ana to Zenyatta – for a test run in Overwatch today.
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.
- Read: 9 games that are far better on PC than consoles
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.
- Read: Far Cry 4: Building the anecdote factory
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.
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.
- Read: Grim Fandango is headed to the PS4 and Vita
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.
- Read: 9 games that are far better on PC than consoles
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.
- Read: Is the MMORPG on the verge of extinction?
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.
- Read: How Minecraft is helping kids learn to code
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.
- Read: 9 games that are far better on PC than consoles
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.
- Read: Consoles held The Witcher 3’s graphics back, but PC gaming is far from cursed
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.
If Forza Horizon 3 is the racing game for newcomers to the genre, Assetto Corsa is one for the veterans. Its obtuse handling and asinine difficulty straight from the get-go make it a toss-up for one of the most realistic racing simulators of all-time. Though you can get it on consoles, unlike Project Cars, this is a game that was developed specifically with PC in mind. Everything about Assetto Corsa, from its demanding career mode to its deep-seated driving mechanics make it a joy for die-hard petrol heads, even if it’s difficulty curve is often just backbreaking.
- Read: Why realistic PC racer Project Cars is the torque of the town
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…
From developer Playdead, the same team that devised the acclaimed (and platform ubiquitous) Limbo, comes another eerie tale. Like Limbo, Inside follows another nameless boy in a bleak world that’s apparently out to get you. Only, this time, there’s at least a few shades of color to keep you from complete despair. It’s not clear why, but the mute protagonist in Inside is being chased down by what appears to a group of shadowy men.
Nothing is explained in either spoken dialogue or text, so for the most part you’re on your own when it comes to figuring out the story. Nonetheless, Inside is bound to be an instant classic; although, revealing anything about it would inch into spoiler territory.