It’s that time of year again when we take another look at the best PC games you should be playing. Some exciting new titles are arriving over the coming weeks and months, including Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Far Cry 5, and Metro: Exodus, but there are plenty of excellent options to keep you going until they arrive.
The game everyone is talking about (and playing), for a reason
- Genre: Multiplayer battle royale
- Similar: Fortnite Battle Royale, DayZ: Battle Royale, H1Z1: King of the Kill
- Graphics: Functional
- Gameplay: Shooter, survival
What can you say about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds that hasn’t already been said? There’s a good reason why it passed the 10 million units sold milestone in September and now holds the Steam record for most concurrent users (over 2 million!): it’s simply an incredibly exciting, fun game to play.
There are a number of ways to survive the onslaught of 99 other players, but however you choose to approach this battle royale event, you’ll almost certainly have a great time. And like so many things in life, PUBG is made all the better when friends join in.
There are some caveats, even more so for a game still on early access: optimization is still needed (but it keeps improving), the stream sniping controversy, and the appearance of bugs have led to some negative scores, and the Chinese in-game ads resulted in a review bombing by disgruntled players. There’s also the toxicity issues, but that’s a given in most online games, sadly — muting voice chat is advised.
Buy it from: Steam
A continually evolving world
- Genre: Open-World
- Similar: Watch Dogs 1/2, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV, Saints Row series
- Graphics: Still excellent, and even better with mods
- Gameplay: Third-person, first-person, driving, shooter, optional multiplayer
Will GTA V ever drop off this list? Judging by the seemingly never-ending number of updates being released for its cash cow online element— not for a very long time. Two years after hitting the PC, it remains high on Steam’s best seller list, with millions of people worldwide continuing to enjoy driving, shooting, and making virtual money in the state of San Andreas.
In addition to purchasable hangers and new vehicles (both air and land), the latest major expansion, Smuggler’s Run, introduced a PUBG-style mode. While the single-player campaign helped GTA V become the fourth best-selling game of all time, it’s these multiplayer updates that keep people hooked. Add in the amazing number of mods that are available, and you can understand how this aging title remains so popular and fun.
An eagerly anticipated sequel
- Genre: cRPG
- Similar: Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, Tyranny
- Graphics: Gorgeous, enchanting
- Gameplay: Fantasy roleplaying, turn-based combat, squad management, lots of choices, chickens
Improving on the first Divinity: Original Sin was never going to be easy. And yet developer Larian Studios somehow managed to eclipse the game with something that is bigger and better in almost every way.
Original Sin 2 is, to put it simply, fantastic. Not since the Witcher 3 has there been a game with such wonderful stories, memorable characters, and a universe that will totally immerse you, making you forget how shit and scary the real-world can be. Like a gaming version of heroin, prepare to neglect loved ones, bathing, and work in favor of that sweet gaming fix. Once you’re wrapped in the warm embrace of its gameplay, don't be surprised to find the hours passing like minutes. It really is the pinnacle of RPGs, and the only game I remember where I’ve wanted to speak to absolutely every NPC.
While those who balk at the idea of dice with more than six sides may struggle with it, Original Sin 2 is a must for any fan of the genre. Just be prepared for it to take over your life.
A unique platformer with memorable boss fights
- Genre: 2D platformer/bullet-hell
- Similar: Bleed 2, Broforce
- Graphics: 1930's cartoons
- Gameplay: Side-scrolling, co-op, teeth-grindingly difficult
Let’s make this clear from the outset: Cuphead is hard. Very, very hard. If you’re the kind of person who likes nice, easy titles that are the gaming equivalent of a stroll through the park, then a game with no checkpoints, no health refills, and just three hitpoints as standard probably isn’t for you.
Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous 1930’s cartoon-style graphics and music, this 2D platformer/bullet-hell/run ‘n’ gun title falls into the same category as Dark Souls: frustrating but rewarding.
Taking on a myriad of amazing bosses, you’ll spend as much time cheering as wanting to throw your controller through the screen. But the super-responsive and precise controls mean failure is almost always the player’s fault, not the game’s, and no matter how often you die, you’ll find yourself coming back for more.
Buy it from: Steam
If you're going to try one MOBA, start here
- Genre: Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)
- Similar: Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, Smite
- Graphics: World of Warcraft-esque
- Gameplay: Multiplayer, 5 vs 5 team battles, competitive
Esports phenomenon League of Legends is one of two extremely popular, competitive multiplayer online battle arena games. LoL (as it is commonly referred to) and main competitor DOTA 2 are both free to play (developers make money by selling cosmetic items only) and have an impressive esports scene where ranked players get the chance to win prize pools in the millions of dollars.
Without turning this into a debate of which title is better -- because there is no right answer -- we've chosen LoL because it's widely considered easier to learn and play of the two. That still means you have to spend dozens of hours mastering a champion (there are over 130 to choose from) and gameplay mechanics (that's part of the fun), nevertheless LoL on its current state is a very polished, beautiful game that can be played on nearly any kind of hardware, even on integrated graphics.
In the most typical game mode called Summoner's Rift, two teams of five players compete to destroy the opposing team's "nexus", a structure which lies at the heart of a base protected by defensive structures. Each LoL match is discrete, lasting anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. All champions start off weak and increase their strength by accumulating items and experience over the course of the game.
League of Legends has been around for years and it keeps growing in popularity. If you have played LoL or DOTA 2 for more than a few hours, then you know what to expect, but if you haven't know that LoL's community is vast (and toxic), so if you have friends who can help you getting started, that's certainly the way to go.
The original Warhammer was a very good strategy game. Total War: Warhammer 2 is better
- Genre: Grand strategy
- Similar: Total War series, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos
- Graphics: Detailed, realistic
- Gameplay: Turn-based strategy, real-time tactics
Much like Divinity: Original Sin, Creative Assembly followed up its critically acclaimed Total War: Warhammer with a sequel that not only improves everything from the graphics to the combat, but also adds a whole new victory condition with the Great Vortex — a vast magical maelstrom that each race is trying to influence through five rituals.
Unlike Total War's other kind-of sequels, this feels very different from its predecessor. It introduces four distinct races: the Dark and High elves, dinosaur-loving Lizardmen, and, for Vermintide fans, the humanoid rat-like Skaven, all of which are great fun to play and come with their own gameplay mechanics.
Like all grand strategy games, newcomers might be put off by what can at times resemble admin work. But fans of genre, particularly those with an affinity for all things Games Workshop, will love it.
Buy it from: Steam
Brutally gorgeous horror action-adventure
- Genre: Action adventure
- Similar: Almost none. Closest might be Spec Ops: The Line, if only for the way it deals with PTSD
- Graphics: One of the best-looking games of the year.
- Gameplay: psychological horror, third-person, exploration, hack 'n' slash
Most games that deal with the complex subject of mental health do so in a way that varies from clumsy to outright embarrassing, but not only does Hellblade treat its protagonist’s psychosis in a sensitive manner, it’s also an excellent game.
Graphical, this is stunning; one of the best-looking PC games around right now. But it’s Hellblade’s audio that stands out more than anything. The voices that Senua hears in her head both aid the player and reflect her state of mind. Plus, they add a suitably creepy atmosphere — no other game demands to be played with headphones quite like this one.
Combat is brutal and can be a struggle at first, but once you learn how to use all of Senua’s abilities effectively, taking on multiple foes feel great. A word of caution: it’s not a lengthy game; a fact reflected in its price. While some may find it verges a little too much into frustrating territory, and the tension can sometimes rise to uncomfortable levels, it’s worth persevering to experience such a rewarding, beautiful, and unique game.
Buy it from: Steam
The best Battlefield since Bad Company 2
- Genre: FPS
- Similar: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Battlefield 4, Titanfall 2
- Graphics: Beautiful, especially at highest settings
- Gameplay: Multiplayer focused, World War 1-set
There are some exceptions to the rule, but an excellent multiplayer element is often essential if a game is to have long-lasting appeal. Like Overwatch, regular new content keeps Battlefield 1 fresh when fighting others online but, unlike Blizzard’s game, it also contains a single-player campaign — and a great one at that.
The antithesis to Overwatch’s bright and colorful fantasy shooter, Battlefield 1 aims for a more gritty, (mostly) realistic tone. But that’s not to say it’s lacking in the fun department — there’s an abundance of it here, thanks to the great multiplayer modes and World War One weapons and vehicles. The best Battlefield since Bad Company 2.
A DLC that is an amazing game of its own
- Genre: Strategy
- Similar: XCOM series, The Banner Saga, Xenonauts, Massive Chalice
- Graphics: Colorful, detailed
- Gameplay: Turn-based tactics, squad management, stressful
While it’s classed as DLC and requires the base XCOM 2 game to play, the $40 War of the Chosen is so huge that it could be a full sequel to one of the best PC strategy titles in years. The core game mechanics are the same, but WotC adds a whole lot more, including three character bosses that keep appearing during key missions to make life difficult.
This time around you can call on three new resistance groups to help you, each bringing particular skill sets that help you face the Chosen. All the new weapons, activities, and missions types add extra depth to the game, and the buddy link system — teammates who form close bonds can help each other in fights — is a welcome addition.
War of the Chosen actually introduces so much extra content that some XCOM 2 players, especially those haven’t loaded the game up in a while, might find it a bit overwhelming. But everyone knows these games aren't for the faint-hearted, which makes those moments when you get through a mission without losing any of your team feel so amazing.
Buy it from: Steam
Game meets storytelling
- Genre: Narrative adventure
- Similar: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch, Gone Home
- Graphics: Amazing, evokative
- Gameplay: First-person, walking sim
While some consider “Walking simulator” a pejorative term, these narrative-driven games are hugely popular among many gamers and critics. Like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Gone Home, What Remains of Edith Finch puts the onus on the player to explore their surroundings.
While this budget title can be completed in just a few of hours, it’ll engross you throughout all of that time, and you’ll likely want a second playthrough to experience it again. Few games take the player on an emotional rollercoaster quite like this, and although the limited interactivity won’t be for everyone, What Remains of Edith Finch is a masterclass in storytelling that will stay with you long after the final credits roll.
Buy it from: Steam
Blizzard does FPS
- Genre: Multiplayer FPS
- Similar: Lawbreakers, Battleborn, Dirty Bomb
- Graphics: Fantastically bright and vibrant, cartoon style
- Gameplay: Team shooter, character/class-based, multiplayer
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds may have snatched the multiplayer crown out of its grasp in recent times, but the mighty Overwatch remains one of the most popular and best games you can play on the PC. Rising from what remained of canceled MMO Project Titan, not everyone was sure Blizzard’s first new IP in 17 years would be a success. But 30 million players across all platforms has been the best response to the doubters.
Few developers know how to extend the life of their products quite like Blizzard; just look at World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, and the Starcraft II games. Overwatch is no different, with new updates constantly arriving — the most recent being the seasonal Halloween Terror event — and extra content being added all the time. It’ll be a while before this title drops off the list.