100 Great PC Games You Should Play Before You Die
- 23 April, 2021 09:20
Searching for classic PC games that will keep you coming back for more has never been so easy. But before we launch into the 100 games that we consider must-plays, here are a few things to consider:
- This isn't a ranked list of the 100 best PC games. This is a list of 100 PC games we consider must-plays. There is a difference.
- With a handful of exceptions, we tried to avoid including multiple entries of the same franchise on this list. In most cases, we opted for the installment we consider the best or most significant. This was done in order to try and ensure a more diverse list that covers more than just the obvious stuff and doesn't lose ten entries to the collective merits of the wider Half Life franchise.
- Older gamers might also notice that the contents of the list also skew towards more modern titles over fare like Deus Ex, Thief, Planescape: Torment, Vampire: The Masquarade and Arcanum. Part of the reason for this is because getting those older titles running on modern systems can be a bit painful. Part of it is also down to some of the writing or design or graphics in those games not aging well. However, more than either of those things, we didn't want this list to obsess over the same games that every best PC games list obsesses over. Yes, the original DOOM had a big impact but is it really the shooter you want to point modern audiences towards? While there's certainly a debt to be paid to the past, we think it's okay to let go of that legacy and some of the baggage associated with it to make room for new things
- In the grand scheme of things, 100 games is not a lot of games. There are tons of gems that did not make the cut here. How do you realistically rate the best city simulator game ever made against the third or fourth best first-person shooter against one another? Some calls had to be made and this list can't please everyone.
- We plan to update this list in the future! Some games might move up over time. Others might lose their spots to future hits. Stay tuned.
Without any further ado, please enjoy this list of 100 PC games you should play before you die.
100. EVE Online
The history of space sims runs in close parallel with the history of PC gaming and before ambitious and immersive fare like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen hit the scene, EVE Online represented the apex of the detail-oriented genre.
Set in an expansive, dynamic and dangerous setting of New Eden, EVE Online embraces player choice and socially-driven narratives like no MMORPG before it. Though dense and intimidating in its complexity, there’s an undeniable allure to a virtual world where everything has a price.
Cibele is a narrative game that’s unlike any other. Taking place within the confines of a shitty MMORPG, the game situates you within the relationship between two young adults who meet playing the game and, predictably, look to take their bond beyond the virtual world that initially brought them together.
Cibele is short, sweet, intimate in tone, inventive in form and refreshingly honest about the ups and downs of internet relationships.
98. Super Hexagon
A simple but stylish rhythm game about guiding yourself out of a series of sinister shapes, Super Hexagon takes seconds to learn but hours to master. It’s elegant, engaging and energetic. Every time you get a little further. Every time it gets a little better.
Super Hexagon is like a hit single that you’ll want to hit replay on over and over again.
97. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Though in-part a remake of the first game in the series, Assault on Dark Athena can be fairly called the definitive Riddick video game. A gritty science fiction adventure that most missed the first time around, Starbreeze’s take on Vin Diesel's stoic anti-hero expands the scope of the narrative and brings new mechanics into the mix.
The Chronicles of Riddick is a stealth action game where things going wrong can sometimes be more fun than everything going right.
96. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Brothers is an adventure built around a simple but unique hook: you’re in control of two characters at once. Naturally, the act of learning how to get these two individuals to work together as a unit mirrors the larger narrative arc of the game and serves to make the game’s finale all the more heartbreaking.
Long before the Swedish director behind the game became a viral internet icon, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons saw Josef Fares subvert the conventions of modern gaming to offer up something more grounded in emotion than action.
95. Slay the Spire
While more multiplayer-focused digital card games have arrived in the aftermath of Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Slay the Spire sets the standard for what single-player deck building should look like.
Pulling from popular roguelike games and old-school turn-based RPGs, Slay the Spire provides manifold fresh twists on convention. More than just a game that challenges you, it’s a game that feels like it’s in conversation with you. Slay The Spire feels like it never stops asking you to find new ways to play.
94. Heat Signature
Heat Signature cross stitches together a medley of mechanics from roguelikes, immersive sims, procedural exploration and action games to form a bizarre cocktail of gameplay that, while not infinitely replayable, is rich in possibility.
If Halo invented the combat puzzle, Heat Signature perfects it. It’s a game where the point isn’t about learning a skill or grinding experience points but rather learning the ins and outs of the toolbox that the game gives you.
Emphasising exploration and interspecies diplomacy, Stellaris codifies and gamifies every aspect of modern life and imagines how it could be different. It’s an exciting look at not the destiny that mankind could chart among the stars but a glimpse into what the future of strategy games could look like.
Though similar in appearance, Stellaris feels like a departure from the strategy games of old and a fresh foray into unknown territory.
Boasting a unique vowelised look, this zen-inducing platformer is far more than it first appears to be.
Where the platforming borrows from Metroid, the storytelling in FEZ borrows from games like Myst. In both form, function, style and execution, FEZ is all about learning to see things from a different perspective.
91. Prison Architect
Introversion’s Prison Architect takes the formula popularised by games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and bends it towards morally ambiguous ends.
Where other simulation games’ strip away or minimise the humanity of the people inhabiting the spaces you design, Prison Architect places it front and centre. The results of this reorientation can be unexpectedly challenging but admirably original.
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90. Beat Saber
While modern VR remains more novelty than necessity, it can’t be denied that games like Beat Saber go a long way towards proving the technology has promise when it comes to gaming.
A fusion of rhythm game and sword fight simulator, Beat Saber lets you experience your favorite songs as neon-lit blade dancing ballet. It’s not quite deep enough to justify buying a VR headset outright but, if you’re already on the train, it’s a stop that can’t be missed.
89. Company of Heroes
While Relic Entertainment’s custodianship of the Dawn of War franchise has had its ups and downs, their record when it comes to Company of Heroes is nigh on unimpeachable.
The wartime RTS reappropriates the language of cover-shooters and redeploys the mechanics of modern warfare in a way that leaves it almost unrecognisable as among contemporary strategy games but intensely enjoyable regardless. Where other strategy games keep an invisible wall between you and the troops, Company of Heroes draws you in and closes that distance.
88. Donut County
Building on the legacy of titles like Katamari Damacy, Donut County turns the capitalistic drive to consume into comic humour and physics-based fun but it doesn’t shy away from thinking about what the implications of that framing might be.
Ben Esposito’s Donut County is a lighthearted puzzler with writing that lights up your heart and puts a smile on your face.
87. Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Warhorse Studio’s sprawling Bohemia simulator isn’t perfect but it gets most of the way towards its audacious ambitions. Taking on the role of a blacksmith’s apprentice cast adrift when foreign invaders destroy your home, Deliverance is a game as navel-gazey as it is naive about meritocracy and privilege.
Deliverance’s central fantasy isn’t just about one of returning to a simpler times, it’s about simulating a world where if you put in the work, it always yields rewards, mastery and praise from those around you. Every avenue the game offers, from cooking to archery to swordplay, has depth to it. You only need to put in the time to reap the benefits.
86. Torment: Tides of Numenera
Set in Monte Cook Games’ Numenera universe, Torment: Tides of Numenera is a very different sort of post-apocalyptic adventure to the game that inspired it but definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the original Planescape: Torment.
Tides of Numenera tasks you with navigating you through a morally-challenging and rich-realised setting that you’ve probably never even considered an option when it comes to these sorts of games.
85. Dead Space 2
With the original Dead Space starting life as an entry in the System Shock franchise before mutating into something else entirely, Dead Space 2 sees Visceral’s science fiction survival horror game ascend to the highest rungs of the pantheon.
Picking up right where the first game left off, Dead Space 2 ratchets up the tension and terror at every turn. It plays off what you know and revels in revealing that which you didn’t expect.
84. Cities Skylines
After 2013’s SimCity seemingly buried the biggest name in city-builders for good, Cities: Skylines proved there’s plenty of life left in the genre. It strikes a stellar balance between ticking the boxes and catering to nostalgia for its inspirations and introducing its own mechanics into the mix.
Like the best sim games, Cities: Skylines begs you to dabble with it by providing a sprawling sandbox with levers to pull, crisis to manage and decisions to make.
83. Tetris Effect
Finding a new spin on a puzzle game as storied as Tetris might sound like the impossible, but Monstars and Resonair have managed exactly that with Tetris Effect.
Pulling from experimental music games like Rez, Tetris Effect turns the classic block-turning you’re familiar with into an audio-visual feast for the senses. Even if you think you know Tetris, Tetris Effect is a must-play.
82. Rocket League
Tossing racing games and sports games in a blender, Psyonix’s Rocket League plays on what you already know about either genre and sprinkles on some fun flair. It’s rare to find a game that’s so immediately fun to pick up and play as Rocket League - doubly-so with friends.
Rocket League is the prime time mash-up you never knew you wanted.
81. Spec Ops: The Line
With Specs Ops: The Line, developer Yager didn’t just seek to update an aging franchise for a new audience, they looked to deconstruct the military shooter genre at the height of its popularity.
More content to pull from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness than Band of Brothers, Spec Ops is unflinching and feverish descent into violence. Set amid the ruins of a Dubai devastated by natural disaster, Spec Ops hints at a world where gaming is able to offer more than just hollow platitudes about the horrors of war.
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Mountain’s Florence debuted on smartphones but the PC port is no less evocative. A short, narrative-driven experience, the game charts the relationship between two young individuals and uses the language of game mechanics to map out the ebb and flow between the two people.
Florence’s inviting art style and soundtrack generate a kind of wanderlust that’s a natural complement for the game’s talents towards creative expression and self-reinvention.
79. Mark of the Ninja
While KLEI Entertainment’s debut title, Shank, provided plenty of thrills, it wasn’t really until Mark of the Ninja arrived that the studio’s sensibility towards deconstructing and stylishly rebuilding genres of gaming often considered intimidating fully revealed itself.
Mark of the Ninja repurposed many of the stealth action and immersive simulation elements that made games like Thief and Deus Ex into cult-classics and proved they remain compelling regardless of whether they’re used on a 2D or 3D plane.
Orwell is the most well-articulated warning against the dangers of social media surveillance I’ve ever encountered. By contrast, the fact that it’s also a cleverly-conceived and elegantly-executed adventure game feels merely incidental.
Orwell explores the worst fears of our overly-connected time. It exposes just how fragile facts can be and interrogates the idea that information is neutral to terrifying effect.
77. The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable wasn’t the first PC game to break the fourth wall but it was probably one of the first to do it so enthusiastically.
Closer to an interactive short film than a traditional video game, it skewers the choice-driven storytelling that dominated the discourse of its time with absurdist wit and an antagonistic narrator. Depending on who you ask, The Stanley Parable is either a game about nothing or a game about everything. Either way, it makes a hell of an impression.
76. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The horror game that launched a thousand Let’s Play careers on Youtube, Amnesia: The Dark Descent was as much a throwback as it was an evolution for the genre.
You could run and hide from the monsters in Amnesia but you couldn’t fight back against them. In a further, vaguely-Lovecraftian twist, you couldn’t even look at them. And yet, despite these permutations, Amnesia: The Dark Descent manages the same feat that all great horror games do. It tricks you into facing your fears head-on.
For the longest time, the breakout success of Jonathan Blow’s Braid was considered proof that indie gaming could deliver just as much bang-for-your-buck as AAA fare. A reinvention of the classic puzzle platformer, Braid takes the logic of time-travel and gamifies it in ways you don’t always expect.
While Braid’s infamous “Secret Ending” remains divisive, the design and execution here remain genuinely remarkable.
74. Day of Defeat
DoD is a classic WWII shooter having first been released back in 2003, but it still has an addictive appeal. Play is set in the midst of WWII on a selection of maps drawn from historical battles like Omaha Beach and Palermo, with players first choosing a side, either axis or allied, and from among a number of different solider classes, before they battle.
There’s nothing flashy about DoD’s graphics, but that makes for a smooth multiplayer experience, since gameplay rarely suffers latency issues. Teaming up to fight against enemies, capturing objectives and end checkpoints makes DoD a highly enjoyable experience on Aussie servers. Be warned though, if you do join one, you may soon be asked to admin.
73. Assassin’s Creed 2
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed has metamorphosed many times over the years. However, it’s the second game in the series that arguably deserves a slot on this list the most.
Set in Renaissance of Italy, you play as Ezio Auditore da Firenze - a young man who is forced to embrace a hidden heritage when his idyllic family life is violently torn apart by secret conspirators.
Though mechanically surpassed in the years since, Assassin’s Creed 2 set the template for the series for good reason. It does justice to the concepts introduced by its predecessors and ends with you facing off in a punch out with The Pope.
Putting up to six players in the shoes of nuclear superpowers, Defcon simulates the arms race of the Cold War and challenges you to make the right alliances and keep your cool when things flare up. It’s a strategy game of chilling calculations, sinister stratagems and terrific tensions.
Defcon is chess for the atomic age and pornography for the geopolitical Machiavelli inside you.
71. Unreal Tournament 2004
Epic’s Unreal Tournament 2004 is a fast-paced arena FPS from the golden age of the deathmatch. It features schlocky shooting, an over-the-top sci-fi weaponry, a deep & diverse pool of playable maps and a multitude of modes that cover everything from familiar staples like capture the flag to the Battlefield-inspired Onslaught mode and more.
If Unreal Tournament 2004 can’t quite steal the crown for best arena shooter, it can damn well win praise for being the most arena shooter.
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70. Halo: Combat Evolved
Bungie’s bombastic and stylish Halo didn’t just transplant the first person shooter formula to console gamers. It made it look easy. Halo’s space opera setting is dripping with militaristic flavor and the sense of culture and history akin to something like Star Wars.
Even decades later, this stonking sci-fi shooter holds up in a way that many of its contemporaries don’t. The single-player campaign is epic, with the series’ signature combat puzzles keeping the action interesting throughout. The multiplayer experience then provides plenty of post-game thrills and showcases Bungie’s skill at crafting interesting close-combat encounters.
Double Fine’s entry into the era of mascot platformers has flavour and charm but it’s the sheer ingenuity of the level design that sticks with you. Set in a summer camp for psychic soldiers, the game forces you to enter the minds of both adversaries and allies and fight their inner demons head-on.
Psychonauts takes an outrageous premise and runs with it, leaving lesser efforts in the dust.
68. Quake 3
As far as arena shooters go, it’s hard to top Quake 3. Id’s definitive entry into the genre is still played today, and for good reason. The weapons are iconic and the action remains tight-as-all-get out. The map design is also exceptional, funnelling players into tight corners and narrow corridors where they’ve no choice but to face their opponents head-on.
Leaving contemporaries like Call of Duty in the dust, Quake 3 is as fast and furious as first-person shooters get.
67. The Binding of Isaac
Edmund McMillan’s addictive roguelike game has grown from humble beginning to inspire a truly cult-like following. Presented from a top-down perspective, The Binding of Isaac sees you escape from a warped world of caricatured proportions and surreal body horror.
The overtly-gross aesthetic might be a turn off for some but, persistence is rewarded in this hard-as-nails roguelike where rebirth is just the beginning.
66. FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon
Monolith’s FEAR is a classic first person shooter with supernatural trappings and cool tech running at the heart of it. The guns feel powerful. The level design swerves between creepy scripted sequences and louder moments where innocuous corporate offices are turned into battlegrounds.
Though FEAR was far from the only game of its era to feature bullet-time, it was one of the few games where it felt vital and earned. Even with time on your side, you needed to rely on the mechanic to keep up with the games brutal AI opponents, who would flank and surround you without mercy.
A branching visual novel with an interest in exploring the intersectionality between tech, labour and responsibility, Zachronics Eliza breaks from the studio’s long love affair with puzzle games in favour of introspective critique.
It’s a thoughtfully written, elegantly-constructed and remarkably well-realised yarn that follows the creator of an AI-based counselling app as she returns from a leave of absence and is forced to reckon with the ‘real world outcomes of the thing she has created.
64. Hotline Miami
As surreal as it is hyper violent, Hotline Miami saw indie game punk-label Devolver Digital break into the mainstream in a big way.
The top-down action game sees you take on the role of psychopathic vigilante on a one-man crusade against organised crime. Where other games could be accused of glorifying such violence, Hotline Miami shamelessly wallows in it. The pulsating soundtrack seduces as much the grimey aesthetic repulses with a snappy combat loop keeping you coming back for more.
63. A Short Hike
A low-stakes romp through the heights of Hawk Peak Provincial Park, A Short Hike is a game that gives as much or as little as you want it to. As a platformer, the game is less concerned with pushing you to your limits and more intrigued by the idea of creating a space where you’re free to explore that on your own.
A Short Hike is an almost-offensively charming 3D platformer that blends together the best of Celeste with the best of Animal Crossing.
Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, Frostpunk is absolutely worth playing. The premise feels fresh, the pieces look gorgeous in motion and the ethical dimensions that developer 11bit continues to build into their take on the city sim remain compelling.
Rather than being about clinging to the old ways of survival no matter how bad things get, Frostpunk is about a world where things have already gone bad and how people navigate the rational-but-impossible compromises it takes to endure through such a cataclysm.
Blizzard’s card battler was far from the first attempt to try and transplant the popularity of games like Magic: The Gathering into the digital realm but it was the first to successfully achieve exactly that. Adapting the expansive lore of the Warcraft universe, Hearthstone breathed new life and energy into the IP and wrote the rule book for a newground genre.
Even if you really do have to sink real money and time into it to be competitive, Hearthstone remains one of the most immediately accessible and readily enjoyable digital card games out there.
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60. World of Warcraft
Although the state of Azeroth remains in flux, World of Warcraft has had an enormous influence on the state of modern video games. From Destiny to The Division, there are dozens of qualities within AAA gaming that you can trace back to the undisputed king of the MMORPG genre.
Long before Fortnite, World of Warcraft showed off the potential power and allure that a digital social space could have. And in spite of the many imitators and competitors that WoW’s success has inspired, Blizzard’s online fantasy RPG continues to adapt, change and grow.
59. Resident Evil 7
Stepping away from the over-the-top conspiracy thriller premises of previous entries, Resident Evil 7 opts to a simpler setup, Southern gothic setting and more straightforward stakes.
Resident Evil 7 takes the radical choice at every turn. Yet, that spirit can’t help but make it feel more faithful than ever to the series’ roots.
58. Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine
A cooperative stealth action game for up to four players, Monaco brings arcadey game-feel to the sneak-em-up formula. The writing is witty and stylish, with each of the game’s cast accentuating their unique skills with bucket loads of personality.
You might think being both an excellent co-op party game and being an excellent stealth game is an impossible juggling act. Monaco disagrees.
57. Life is Strange
Inspired by a locker full of indie films and small town mysteries like Twin Peaks, Life is Strange’s idiosyncrasies complement a willingness to bend and break its own rules. A keen understanding of emotional logic allows even the most cringe-worthy of teenage dialogue to land and, in a game about the struggle to grow out of childhood, it’s only appropriate that the series’ itself evolves with each episode.
Dontnod’s Life is Strange builds on the bones of Telltale’s own adventure gaming formula to different ends. Taken as a whole, the episodic game is a strikingly well-conceived journey through adolescence, friendship and learning to live with your mistakes.
56. Nier: Automata
Yoko Taro’s melancholic android action game pushes a familiar mixture of third-person action, philosophical dialogue and post-apocalyptic imagery to a terminal conclusion.
Played out from the perspective of a pair of androids, Nier: Automata first tasks players with fighting off the enemy - and then later understanding their motivations. Rather than just being a game about survival of the fittest, Nier: Automata is a game about empathy and what it really means to be human.
55. Stardew Valley
Chucklefish’s Stardew Valley is the unofficial but addictive Harvest Moon game that fans have been waiting decades to see realised. Emulating and expanding the formula behind the popular gathering RPG, Sickhead Games farming lifestyle game doesn’t hesitate to introduce new mechanics and possibilities, such as mod support and a deeper end-game.
More than just a pale imitation or cheap crowd pleaser, Stardew Valley takes something old and makes it feel new again.
54. Dragon Age: Origins
BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins is a powerful reimagining of the classic CRPG formula that plays up and incorporates the graphical and gameplay advances made possible by more modern technology. It’s a chimera crafted both from and for the old and the new.
Though it lacks the radicalism of Dragon Age II or the scope of Inquisition, the original Dragon Age effectively evokes the cinematic stylings of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy while rich writing brings depth to the series’ opening hand of companions and a crunchy combat system keeps things simmering in the meanwhile.
Nintendo’s Mother series has inspired plenty of pretenders but none have succeeded in catching that lighting in a bottle like Toby Fox’s Undertale. As an RPG, it’s not only highly original but also genuinely funny.
Undertale is bursting with goofy humour, charming characters and a subversive combat system that actively dares you to escalate the laughs even further.
The closest thing that Valve has ever gotten to releasing an experimental film, Portal is a unique first person puzzler with austere writing and a wicked sense of humour.
Portal isn’t quite minimalist but there’s an exquisite sense of craftsmanship. It always gives you just enough room to think creatively and come to your own conclusions without giving the game away entirely.
Digital Extremes’ Warframe was a game that took more than one attempt to bring to get right. Nevertheless, the studio’s multiplayer space ninja RPG has evolved and reinvented itself over the years to become one of the best examples of what always-online service gaming can offer.
Warframe brings together slick science-fiction action, unique lore unlike any other MMORPG and an enormous well of content that’s sure to eat up your spare time. It’s a game that refuses to compromise on either style or substance and instead vows to offer up plenty of both.
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As with all Supergiant Games, Pyre's feels like a triumph in originality. It weaves together metalhead visuals, carceral politics and the real-time tactics of team sports to sublime results.
What’s more, the specific way that the narrative handles — and adapts to — the choices you make gives Pyre a unique kind of replayability. Supergiant have managed to produce the rare game where the branching, choice-driven narrative isn’t just some superficial illusion, it’s integral and authentic.
Epic’s earth-shaking battle royale shooter has drawn in an entire generation of gaming fans and set a high standard for what an always-online multiplayer experience can look like. The game boasts a bevy of modes, colourful characters and a battleground that can drastically change from month to month.
However, there’s more than just momentum involved in keeping Fortnite afloat.
Regardless of whether Fortnite itself sticks around in the years to come, the game’s legacy as a once-in-a-generation smash hit built atop the ruins of Epic’s foray into tower defense games is all but assured.
48. Bioshock 2
Drawing players back to the drowned and dilapidated city of Rapture, the sequel to the iconic Bioshock sees you become into one of the boss-like monsters you fought in the first game. This escalation creates new narrative and more robust combat possibilities.
Bioshock 2 does justice to its hallowed foundations, finding new themes and gameplay within the ruins and giving the story of Rapture the ending it deserves.
47. Return of the Obra Dinn
Lucas Pope’s follow-up to the critically-celebrated Papers, Please has little in common with its predecessor but is no less worthy of acclaim.
A first person adventure game with vivid, dreamlike visuals, Return of Obra Dinn sees you take on the role of an insurance investigator tasked with unravelling what happened to the crew of the titular derelict. Though the answers are rarely as enchanting as the journey, there’s a deep, primal satisfaction that comes with filling out the blanks in this multi-dimensional logic puzzle.
46. Total War: Warhammer
Total War: Warhammer is an authentic and ambitious effort to pin down one of the most feral settings in fantasy tabletop gaming into one of strategy gaming’s most venerated series. It plays a lot like previous installments but Warhammer’s chaotic streak frequently threatens to throw the tactics of conventional warfare up into upheaval.
Creative Assembly’s penchant for large scale warfare simulations is a perfect match for the pulpy pandemonium of the source material here. Total War: Warhammer manages the deft feat of being both the game that breaks free of the series’ formula in ways that surprise and delight you while also feeling like the most obvious crossover ever conceived.
Best described as a Hamlet simulator, Elsinore deconstructs and brings new dimensions to Shakespeare's most renowned tragedy. You play as Ophelia, who is caught in a Groundhog Day-inspired time loop where she must relive the events of the play over and over again.
Ultimately, Elsinore is a game about persistence, perception, cause and effect with each new life representing a fresh chance at salvation, redemption or escape.
44. Tales from the Borderlands
While Telltale’s The Walking Dead was the game that popularised and exemplified their episodic, choose-your-own-adventure style of interactive fiction, Tales from the Borderlands is arguably the studio’s most audacious effort.
Based in the same universe as Gearbox’s popular first-person-looters, Tales from the Borderlands borrows from sitcoms like Spaced as often as it does heist films like Ocean’s 11. The whole affair is only made that much wackier by how closely the project was perched on the precipice of complete disaster.
It’s much more difficult to make people laugh than it is to make them cry - and, at its best, Tales from the Borderlands is cripplingly funny.
Tacoma finds new life in a premise all-too-familiar for PC gamers. You’re an insurance investigator sent to a derelict space habitat to find out what happened to the absentee crew of the titular Tacoma Station by retracing their steps and reviewing security footage.
You might think you know where this is going but you don’t. Tacoma is both a celebration and subversion of the classic isolation investigation thriller.
42. Battle Brothers
This is a turn-based tactical RPG in which you get to lead a rowdy, uncouth mercenary company in a gritty, low-power, medieval fantasy world.
Adopting good strategy is paramount to doing well in Battle Brothers. You can choose who to hire and fight, which contracts to accept, and what weapons to equip your warriors with, as they battle fierce enemies like dire wolves and the undead.
Want to hire a drunkard, or a disowned noble and arm them with a lute? In this game you can. Oozing character, it has some of the best – and funniest - writing we’ve seen in a game. All the characters come with their own background stories and traits too and there is an excellent character development system.
41. Sunless Skies
Sunless Skies is a harrowing adventure game that blurs the lines between survival roguelike and decision-driven RPG.
Set in an alternate version of history where the Victorian imperialism expands into the stars through eldritch means. You quickly find yourself at the helm of your own ship and cast adrift into a world of Victorian decorum, cosmic horror and space trains. Sunless Skies is an adventure that can rightfully lay claim to be unlike any other.
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40. Wolfenstein: The New Colossus
If The New Order proved that MachineGames could breath new life into an ageing action franchise, The New Colossus saw the Swedish developer find a new legacy for the series. As crazy and ridiculous as the sequel becomes, it never loses sight of the grim truths that underpin the story’s emotional stakes.
Moving the action from Europe to an occupied America, The New Colossus is bold, audacious and unflinching. Both a continuation and evolution of the franchise, the shooter provides plenty of Nazi-slaying thrills with explosive weapons and outlandish level designs.
39. X-COM: Enemy Unknown
Firaxis’ revival of the X-COM franchise made an ancient strategy franchise feel fresh again by evoking third-person cover shooters like Gears of War and adding personality and moxie to the dry proceduralism of running an extraterrestrial defence agency.
At its best, Enemy Unknown forces you to pull out all the stops in pursuit of a victory against the odds. Then, it asks you to do it again. And again. At a certain point, the tables flip and you’re the one with the advantage. That singular moment, where the long war is all but won, is nothing short of magic.
38. 80 Days
A steampunk-flavoured re-telling of the classic Jules Verne novel, 80 Days is a text-based adventure game with a twist. Rather than play as the privileged adventurer Phileas Fogg, you take on the role of his valet. This shifts the framing of the story in striking ways and gives you the agency to chart the journey around the globe that you want to take.
80 Days is a game with many different routes and each one sheds new light not just on the game’s subversive reimagining of its source material but also the things that the original text romanticises or fails to critique.
37. Super Meat Boy
Though it’s since been canonised as poster child for modern masochistic platformer, Edmund McMillan’s Super Meat Boy ran firmly against the grain during the era of its release. Nevertheless, a combination of cheeky visuals, spicy level design, a boppin’ soundtrack and a willingness to push players around made the game a fast favourite for many fans of the genre.
There have been harder, prettier and more mature platformers released in the years since. However, none quite distil the childish appeal of the genre into the kind of unadulterated and addictive fun offered by Super Meat Boy.
36. Dead Cells
Born from the minds of a French anarcho-syndical workers cooperative, Dead Cells is a gnarly mash-up of metroidvania and roguelike. It takes the best of both worlds and ekes out a desirable and compelling middle-ground that’s comforting in its familiarity yet fresh in feel.
Dead Cells tasks you with finding your own formula for resolving the tension between the weapons you have and the challenges you have to overcome. It’s a game about effort, execution and experimentation.
35. The Banner Saga
A beautiful union between the character-driven Western RPGs like Dragon Age and Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, the Banner Saga trilogy, which neatly carries your save data seamlessly from instalment to instalment, follows a band of human and Jarl (giant) refugees forced on the run after a legion of foreign invaders rise up from beneath the earth.
Set against the backdrop of a Disney-like nordic setting, The Banner Saga is about the end of the world, what the idea of an apocalypse really looks like and what it brings out in the people forced to endure it, yourself included.
Despite a familiar premise, SOMA manages to eke out a niche of its own. It’s not entirely unpredictable but, in the moments where the game goes in on grappling with the moral and philosophical quandaries it wants to explore are chilling enough to be worth the price admission.
It’s a testament to the richness of the themes that SOMA explores that you can play it with the survival and stealth mechanics completely disabled and it will still probably leave you deeply unsettled.
It’d be easy to write off Control as just Remedy sticking to what they know but that description just doesn’t do this third-person action game justice. There’s a sense of focus here that lets Control soar where Quantum Break and Alan Wake merely succeeded.
Control sees Remedy’s trademark storytelling go weirder than ever before but it’s the newfound sense of focus here that sees them deliver one of 2019’s best action games rather than just another game that isn’t Alan Wake 2.
32. Portal 2
If the original Portal was experimental and small-scale, the sequel saw Valve put a serious budget behind the concept. It’s a more ambitious game, with bigger levels, new mechanics and a secondary cooperative campaign.
Portal 2 feels like a gift to fans of the first game and an intriguing attempt at trying to one-up a short, sweet adventure that many considered flawless. Regardless of whether you think Valve pulled off the trick, it’s cool to see a developer of their pedigree try so hard.
31. Age of Empires 2
Ensemble Studios’ historic strategy game is considered the be-all-end-all of real-time strategy games.
Now available in a remastered form (with additional content), Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition pulls together elements from across the spectrum of strategy games and yields compelling results. You get the historical flavor of games like Total War and Civilization. You get the crunchy micromanagement of Starcraft and Total Annihilation and the systems management of city sims.
Even decades later, Age of Empires 2 is a strategy gaming icon that deserves all the acclaim it gets.
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Rather than try and capture the inherent-spectacle of mech combat, BattleTech opts to focus on the little things. Between battles, you’re asked to arbitrate disputes among your crew and budget for things like fuel and repairs.
Even if this respite from conflict is more mundane, it’s never tedious and it all contributes to the larger notions the game attempts to tackle - such as the precarities of freelance labour, power, privilege and political change.
29. The Sims 4
The Sims 4 sees Maxis’ iconic life-sim series abandon the feature and frills of the third entry in lieu of a new focus on the fundamentals. A redesigned set of build tools and more robust character customisation than ever before allow for greater freedom while additions like the emotions system and multitasking give additional depth to the series’ core gameplay loop.
While many of Maxis’ other franchises have been eclipsed, The Sims 4 remains the king of life sims for good reason.
28. World of Goo
A physics-based plaything with a vibrant and colourful look, The Tomorrow Corporations’ World of Goo oozing with charm and incites your wildest will to create. Let a choir of bulbous, inky smiles cheer you on as you build up structures that span chasms and reach for the sky.
World of Goo was the indie puzzler so good, the developer basically gave it away.
27. Civilization V
The fifth game in Firaxis’ venerable strategy game series, Civ V builds on the mechanical bones of its predecessors and emulates the look and feel of board games like Settlers of Catan to great effect. If the 4X strategy genre is one of those iconic PC gaming genres, then Sid Mier’s Civilization V is a neoclassical example of it.
Where previous entries in the series embraced unbridled complexity for complexity’s sake, Civilization V is unafraid to trim the fat in pursuit of accessibility without losing anything that really matters.
Id’s remix of the DOOM franchise took a little longer in the oven than expected but the results recapture much of the lighting in a bottle charm of the original.
2018’s DOOM is ultra-violent and over-the-top in all the right ways, leaning into everything that worked about earlier entries and leaning away from the horror elements of the series’ divisive third-installment. It’s a science fiction shooter that updates the power fantasy of its ancestors for a new generation.
25. Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program pays homage to the sandbox construction and physics simulation games of the PC gaming eras past with a simple premise and a goofy sense of humour.
The task is childishly simple here - fly one of your Minion-like Kerbals to the moon and back - but the details are bound to trip you up. KSP simulates realistic aerodynamic and orbital physics and there’s always (always!) room for something to go wrong. It’s easy-to-learn, hard-to-master and fun-to-tinker-with in a way that feels like a hobby unto itself.
Though the sequel often steals the show for its introduction of physics-based action and the Source 2 engine, the original Half-Life is arguably the more important of the two games. It features tighter level design, thrilling combat and a plot that’s still talked about today. Valve’s Half-Life is the link between the progenitors of the FPS genre and the modern shooters like Call of Duty.
Regardless of whether you play it in its original form or the fan-made Black Mesa remake, Half-Life is a PC game that everyone should play through at least once.
23. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is a peerlessly-accurate encapsulation of what traditional tabletop roleplaying can often feel like. More than just conflict, your journey across the titular peninsula is flavoured by banter, exploration, decision-making and relationship management.
As a sequel, Deadfire offers up cleaner combat, more lively storytelling and a deeper exploration of themes like colonialism, isolationism, determinism, spirituality and identity. You also get to be the captain of a pretty cool pirate ship.
22. Far Cry 5
Ubisoft really changed things up in this instalment of the Far Cry series, giving fans of the open world shooter the opportunity to customise their character’s appearance for the first time. There is also more emphasis on melee weapons, and a new ballistics system that gives weapons a more realistic feel.
Although campaign-based, we like how much thought has gone into the non-campaign gameplay. You can recruit ‘guns for hire’ and animal companions to help you on your quests. If you feel like taking a rest from the action, activities like hunting, fishing, flying a wingsuit and crafting items will keep you busy for ages.
21. Kentucky Route Zero
Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero is a modern point-and-click with striking visual sensibilities, endearing characters, rich branching dialogue choices and an aptitude for the post-modern and the existential. However, in many ways, that description sells the game short.
Over the course of five acts, KRZ mutates and metamorphs both in form and function. It transcends the limits of its medium in the most literal of ways, and it’s unafraid to dig into what the wider implications of that might mean.
Kentucky Route Zero is, at its simplest, a journey worth taking.
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Lego for the iPhone generation, Minecraft is the ultimate make-what-you-want-of-it game and that quality has only deepened over time through the maturing of the mod ecosystem around it.
Like the name suggests, the fundamentals here - mining and crafting - haven’t changed too much over the years. Regardless, when the ends those means reach are as malleable as they are here, you’re left with a game that really does let you mix and match to create the experience you want.
Minecraft is infinite in scope, endlessly replayable and customisable without limits.
19. Dishonored 2
Arkane’s sophomore effort in the immersive space is more than just a tidy and predictable follow-up to what came before. Instead, Dishonored 2 is a game with - and about - ambition.
The introduction of Emily as a playable character allows for new ways to flavor your story and the level design here pushes up against the boundaries of the genre. Rare is it for any single immersive sim to have a level as iconic as the Clockwork Manor, let alone have multiple such stages.
Discontent with providing new playgrounds for players or expanding the scope of its eerie whalepunk setting, Dishonored 2 critiques everything the first game introduced and asks you to do the same.
18. Mass Effect 2
Boasting a more stylised look, darker tone and an increased focus on combat, Mass Effect 2 lets you be the wisecracking, rule-breaking space captain of your dreams. It’s cinematic when it needs to be with the lulls and silences between the action between easily filled by the space opera’s all-star cast of companions.
Mass Effect as a series has never hesitated to steal from the best. With Mass Effect 2, the fullest riches of that bounty are laid bare.
17. Team Fortress 2
The best days of Valve’s class-based multiplayer shooter may be behind it but - like World of Warcraft - it’s hard to understate the impact that Valve’s shooter has had on modern live-service titles.
Boasting a roster of nine different characters, dozens of maps and a lively community, Team Fortress 2 isn’t just the typical class-based shooter, it’s the genre at its peak. Originally launched as part of Valve’s Orange Box bundle, TF2 later shifted to a microtransaction-driven model akin to many contemporary shooters like Destiny and Overwatch.
16. Titanfall 2
Pitched as a sci-fi flavoured challenger to the dominance of Call of Duty, the first Titanfall eschewed a traditional single-player experience for a purely multiplayer experience for both good and ill.
The sequel looked to remedy this by adding a story-driven campaign back into the mix. Each level of Titanfall 2 pushes the boundaries for not just the series’ fast-paced gunplay but for the FPS genre writ large. It’s a jaw-dropping showcase for what the team of veterans who reinvented the modern shooter can do when given the right combination of freedom, time and resources.
15. Total War: Three Kingdoms
If Total War: Warhammer brought new life into the historical strategy series, Three Kingdoms may well have perfected the existing formula. It takes all the key learnings from Total War’s jaunt into Games Workshop's fantasy setting and uses them to bring the warmongering and politicking of its source material to life.
Three Kingdoms is the closest the Total War series has ever come to getting it all right. Regardless of whether you play in the more authentic Romance mode or the more realistic Records mode, Three Kingdoms brings with it all the diplomacy, military strategy and larger-than-life characterisation you could want in a grand strategy game.
14. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Infinity Ward’s reinvention of the World War 2 shooter took action to the modern day and embraced post-2001 American jingoism to problematic but popular effect.
Though perhaps dwarfed in scope by later instalments in the series, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the perfect storm of tactile and tactical gunplay, a superb sense of level design and an addictive multiplayer progression that set a high bar that many shooters today still strive to live up to.
If DOOM shaped the first generations of first person shooters, then it can be said that Call of Duty 4 is the progenitor for the genre’s latest incarnation.
13. Fallout: New Vegas
A spin-off to the main series, New Vegas is considered a more faithful successor to the themes and legacy of the original Fallout games. Though it was released in a very buggy state, the game has since been cleaned up and earned a reputation as a diamond in the rough of modern roleplaying games. Bethesda walked so that Obsidian could run.
Fallout: New Vegas rolls the dice by migrating the action to the Mojave desert but it pays off big-time.
12. Crusader Kings 2
An almost-exhaustingly granular simulation of medieval Europe, Crusader Kings 2 pulls away from the emphasis on military tactics found in Total War and the technological arms race found in Civilization to instead focus on the systems of politics, lineage and power that characterises the game’s setting.
Crusader Kings 2 unravels a tapestry of decisions before you and allows you to write your own narrative. Even if it all ends in tragedy, it’s hard to deny the allure.
11. Rainbow Six: Siege
Arriving to a mixed reception in 2015, Ubisoft’s commitment to refining what works about Siege, stripping away the parts that didn’t and keeping things interesting with new characters, maps and mechanics in the years since has gradually produced one of the best tactical shooter experiences available on modern PCs.
Rainbow Six: Siege isn’t as a puritanical as something like Counter-Strike or as mechanically-consistent as something like Call of Duty but as a multiplayer sandbox, it delivers in ways that neither of its contemporaries can.
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10. X-COM 2: War of the Chosen
X-COM 2 sees you lead an insurrection against an alien occupation in a world where you failed in your past life as UFO goalie. War of the Chosen only escalates the action, introducing a quartet of powerful adversaries who can threaten to throw even the most routine engagements off the rails.
If Enemy Unknown breathed new life into a classic, X-COM 2 and its expansion, War of the Chosen, pushes that formula to new and exciting extremes.
9. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
While it's easy to see the DNA of Ninja Theory’s past titles like DMC, Heavenly Blade and Enslaved present in the rhythmic combat system that ties Hellblade together, the tone of the game veers closer to outright horror than the developer has ever gone before.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice lays bare the ugly trauma of violence and isn’t so much a game you play as one you experience. The narrative, mechanical and aesthetic intensity here make for a harrowing journey into the soul of its protagonist.
8. Green Hell
If you’ve ever wondered how hard it would be to survive for 24 hours in the Amazon rainforest, then this is a must-play. Green Hell places you there without any food or equipment and no help from the outside world. To survive, you will need to learn actual survival techniques to build shelter, make tools and craft weapons to hunt and defend yourself.
Green Hell is a challenging game; the jungle will constantly send problems your way, including wild animals, tropical sicknesses and bad weather. But, the graphics are impressive and the gameplay is highly enjoyable.
7. Starcraft 2
While the fervor around esports predated and eventually outlasted Starcraft 2, it can’t be underestimated how much of an impact this particular game’s competitive community had on what was to come after it.
Countless streamers, casters, tournament organisers, analysts and players were brought together by the gravity of Blizzard’s long overdue space opera sequel. Rolled out as a trilogy over a period of five years, the consolidated Starcraft 2 experience includes three expansive story-driven campaigns (of varying quality but consistent variety), a rich and strategic multiplayer component and a powerful custom mapmaking toolkit.
6. Call of Duty: World at War
CoD: World at War was released back in 2008, and while it is getting on a bit in years now, it is still one of the best games in the CoD series. This game sees you take on the personas of three different soldiers as you battle your way through the Pacific and Eastern Front theatres of World War II.
There are two single player campaigns to play, an American campaign and Soviet campaign, and there is also a novelty multiplayer zombie mode that sees you battling a horde of Nazi zombies. Like most CoD games, the multiplayer is super-fast paced. Killstreak rewards make this game highly enjoyable, with the ability to call in attack dogs and artillery strikes on opposing players.
5. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is Bethesda’s fifth instalment in the Elder Scrolls series and arguably the best. Gameplay is set in an icy world filled with dragons, orcs and all other manner of ghastly creatures.
Nearly everything in the game is interactable, including the non-player characters (NPCs) that inhabit the world. There are close to 41 square kilometres of turf to explore and players have a huge amount of agency to personalise everything, from their character’s race to their skills.
4. Gloria Victis
There have been lots of MMORPGs that feature territorial control but none more high stakes than Gloria Victis. Set in a medieval world, you can play against non-player characters to progress your skills or join in the open world PVP combat to fight enemies, raid bases or lay siege to castles.
PVP battles for territorial control can be epic, involving hundreds of people and you will easily develop a sense of camaraderie with players from your selected nation. It also features an advanced crafting system and player-driven economy. You can loot and be looted too, which can be both fun and also devastating.
3. They Are Billions
Hold off the zombie swarms in this very addictive real-time strategy by Numantian Games. Set in a post-apocalyptic, steampunk world, you must build defences in a last-ditch effort to stop billions of infected trying to annihilate your colony.
We rate the 48 single-player missions very highly. The graphics and sound effects are of the highest calibre and make for entirely engrossing gameplay. There are also 90 technologies to unlock as you evolve your colonies, which appeals to us technology buffs. It’s not easy, but we’ve never felt so proud unlocking Steam rewards as we have with this game.
2. The Forest
Your plane has crashed and you are the lone survivor in a mysterious forest inhabited by a group of cannibalistic mutants. If that sounds both exciting and terrifying, that’s because it is. Survival is the main objective and you will find yourself racing during daylight hours to build your shelter, find food, make weapons and set traps before night falls and the mutants come to find you.
The graphics are very detailed and with almost everything in the game interactive including every plant, tree and animal, there is so much depth. Multiplayer is superb. The building system has a plethora of options and we’ve spent many days building bases and fortifications together with friends.
Multiplayer is where this Viking-themed game really shines, offering players the chance to team up with 10 others to build epic bases, battle all manner of beasts and share a strong cup of Viking mead.
The game is set in a low-fantasy Viking purgatory and we love the simple but charming graphics. Exploring the range of "biome" environments reveals plenty to like about the game. Bees will sting you if you get too close and trees can squash you if you aren’t standing on the right side of them when they fall. Building is reminiscent of games like The Forest, with so many options to choose from, you will undoubtedly spend hours doing it.