It’s a great time to be a PC gamer. Not only do we have a slew of powerful graphics cards and CPUs to pick from, but we’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to great games. With so many options on offer, it’s easy to miss out on some great titles, but this latest update to our bi-annual list should help.

Taking into account everything from overall quality to lasting appeal, we've included brand-new entries and games that have been around for years, the latter of which are usually available at a deep discount—and in some cases free. If you’ve never played some of these, be assured that they’re all worth your time.

RTX-cellent

Control

Click on image for gameplay video
  • Genre: Action adventure
  • Similar: Quantum Break, Alan Wake
  • Graphics: Beautiful, one of the best reasons to own an RTX card
  • Gameplay: Third-person shooter, exploration, puzzle elements, telepathically throwing things

Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake and Quantum Break are both firmly in the “love it or hate it” category, but opinion isn’t split with its latest title: Control. The studio once again puts players in a weird, X-Files/Twilight Zone-esque setting, which actually takes place in the same universe as Alan Wake, and it’s truly something to behold.

At its core, this is an adventure shooter game with RPG and puzzle elements in which you fight off invading creatures from an alternate dimension, but it’s also much more than that. Set (almost) entirely inside a giant office building called the Oldest House, its world is an amazing place to explore, both visually and in terms of design.

In addition to the twisting, film-style plot and characters that could have come straight from a sci-fi show, Control’s combat is where it excels. Once you’ve unlocked all of protagonist Jesse’s abilities, you’ll be levitating through the air, telepathically hurling objects and controlling the minds of the Hiss like you’re one of the X-Men.

The RPG elements are another plus, allowing you to tailor Jesse to compliment your particular play style, and upgrading the different versions of your service weapon is immensely satisfying. Control is also one of those rare games where it’s worth reading all the material you discover. These documents paint a picture of the world and the Federal Bureau of Control’s role within it, as well as offering clues on what to do.

Graphically, Control looks amazing, and is probably the best game to date for showing off ray tracing effects, with plenty of mirrors, water, shadows, and global illumination demonstrating what Nvidia’s RTX cards are capable of.

More enemy types would be appreciated, the ending doesn’t quite match the quality of the rest of the game, and even the meatiest of PCs can experience performance issues and stuttering, but Control remains a fantastic experience that will keep you smiling throughout. It's no wonder Epic paid $10.5 million for the game's exclusive rights.

Buy it from: Epic Games Store

 

Still the best cover-based shooter around

Gears 5

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  • Genre: Action
  • Similar: Gears of War series, Spec Ops: The Line
  • Graphics: Stunning, plenty of options on PC
  • Gameplay: Third-person, cover-based shooting, large multiplayer element

There’s one simple way to know if you’re likely to enjoy Gears 5: did you enjoy any of the previous Gears of War games? If yes, then you’ll almost certainly love this latest title, which is the best game the franchise has produced so far.

Gears 5 is still the same third-person cover-based shooter fans know and love, but developer The Coalition has added some changes that breathe life into the formula, the most significant being the large open areas that players can explore on their skiff.

The other big change is the introduction of Jack—a hovering robot that brings a new dimension to the game. Not only can this machine grab weapons and open safes, but it also has combat abilities that include possessing enemies to fight for you, turning players invisible, and blinding bad guys. Jack is also upgradable, adding an RPG element to the game.

As with the previous entries, Gears 5’s highlight is combat. Controlling creatine-loving meatheads and their massive, weighty guns is immensely satisfying. There’s also a surprisingly engaging plot, impressive acting, a three-player local co-op mode, and stunning graphics, especially when it comes to outdoor locations. And as PC owners, we get an absolute myriad of graphical options.

Once you’ve finished the campaign, there are several multiplayer modes available—Versus, Versus Arcade, Horde, and Escape—which should keep you busy playing for a long, long time, thanks to the regular new characters, special events, tiles for the map builder, and more.

Some might find the combat eventually gets a little samey, the microtransaction system is a bit confusing, and the 10-hour campaign comes to an abrupt end, but Gears 5 is like distilling fun into a liquid and mainlining it, keeping you hooked well into next year and beyond.

Buy it from: Steam, Microsoft Store

 

Legendary

Apex Legends

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  • Genre: Battle Royale
  • Similar: Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch, Titanfall 2 multiplayer
  • Graphics: The best the genre has to offer
  • Gameplay: FPS, team-based multiplayer

In an increasingly crowded genre ruled by Fortnite, many were surprised to see Titanfall developer Respawn enter the battle royale arena with Apex Legends. While the game has Fortnite’s (and others) cartoonish art style, the backstories, personalities and unique abilities of its hero characters puts the game closer to Overwatch.

Like Fortnite, Apex Legends is free, and follows many of popular battle royale staples such as a shrinking play area, dropping from the sky onto an island, and loot. A system in which up to 20 teams of three-man squads compete to be the last group standing proved so popular, over 25 million players signed up to the game in the first week.

One of the elements that sets Apex Legends apart from the pack is its non-verbal communications system. Many people avoid any and all forms of online gaming due to the toxicity that's so often prevalent in these titles, especially free ones, but Apex Legends gets around this with the contextual ping commands. Instead of having to use a headset and having your mother’s virtue questioned by teens, you simply point and click at something, such as an opponent or loot, and your character will point it out to teammates.

Anyone who’s played Titanfall or its sequel—Apex Legends is set in the same universe—will tell you that the combat in these games is one of their best aspects. Respawn excels in the weapons department with Apex Legends, thanks to the load of great guns and attachments on offer that are fun to play around with while discovering your favorites.

Apex Legends is a great starting point for those who’ve always wanted to play a battle royale title but were put off by having to endure internet trolls. And in a world filled with similar games, it’s one of the best around.

Free to play: TechSpot Downloads

 

The greatest entry in an underrated series

Metro Exodus

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  • Genre: First-person shooter
  • Similar: Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, Stalker series
  • Graphics: Some of the best to appear on PC, demanding
  • Gameplay: Shooter, exploration, stealth, semi-open world

Metro Exodus was released in early 2019 but it’s a game that’s worth replaying, especially now that the first of its two DLC packs—Two Colonels—has arrived.

With the previous games’ linear action mostly took place in the titular Moscow Metro tunnels, the latest entry's move to a semi-open world model had fans worried, but it allowed Metro Exodus to evolve into something bigger and better. The story, which covers all four seasons, showcases the game’s gorgeous locations. This is easily one of the best-looking PC games of all time and is even prettier if you’ve got an RTX card to take advantage of the ray-tracing effects.

Metro Exodus does a brilliant job of engrossing you in grim post-apocalyptic Russia, thanks to its incredible attention to detail and the many stories left behind by others. The series’ excellent combat and stealth gameplay remains, and the simple weapon/equipment crafting system works well, letting you both clean your guns and upgrade them using scavenged materials.

The game is worth playing again to get you in the mood for the Two Colonels DLC, which moves most of the action back to the traditional, claustrophobic underground setting and adds a very cool flamethrower. It’s also one of the best games for trying out a new graphics card to see how it handles a real test.

Buy it from: Epic Games Store, Humble Store

 

One of the best driving games ever made

Forza Horizon 4

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  • Genre: Racing
  • Similar: Forza Horizon 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Project Cars 2
  • Graphics: Amazing, especially if you've got a card that can handle 4K
  • Gameplay: racer, optional online multiplayer, open-world

Still arguably the best driving game on the PC, Forza 4 has enough regular new content to keep players coming back. If you’ve never played it before, the $99 Ultimate Edition will get you the VIP Membership, Car Pass, and all currently released car packs, along with the DLCs, including the the Lego Speed Champions, which is great fun for younger players.

If you enjoyed the excellent Forza Horizon 3 on PC, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love the next game in the Horizon series to hit the platform. This time, the action moves from Australia to the roads and fields of the UK.

The Horizon series is often labeled as driving games for people who don’t like driving games – at least not hardcore ones – and the arcadey feel remains in this latest entry, though you can crank up the realism to make it more sim-like.

The games have always looked stunning on powerful rigs, and Horizon 4 is the prettiest by far. The seasons, which change every real-time week, alter the look of the landscape with winter snows and autumnal leaves, which also force you to adjust your driving style.

Probably the best thing about Forza Horizon 4 is that there’s so much to keep you coming back: a live, online event every hour where you work cooperatively with other players, seasonal challenges, a ridiculous number of vehicles, story events, skill chains, leveling, stunts, and all those races scattered about the open-world map.

Forza 4 is better optimized than its predecessor, though you still have to endure the often unreliable Microsoft Store. But it’s worth it for what is undoubtedly one of the best racing games ever made, and one that is guaranteed to hold your attention for months.

Buy it from: Microsoft Store

Death comes to us all, repeatedly

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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  • Genre: : Action Adventure
  • Similar: Demon Souls, Dark Souls Series, Bloodborne (PS4), Lords of the Fallen, The Surge, The Surge 2
  • Graphics: Looks best on PC
  • Gameplay: sword combat, stealth, rock hard, dying repeatedly

Playing FromSoftware games such as the Souls series has been described as having someone kick you repeatedly in the groin and then thanking them for it. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is in the same “so hard it’s great” mould as its most famous franchise, but it really is hugely enjoyable, even when you're dying every few minutes.

Like Souls and Bloodborne (PS4), Sekiro isn’t the most accessible of games. Some say it’s one of FromSoftware’s more forgiving titles, while others claim Sekiro is its most difficult title to date. Those who’ve played the developer’s previous work will recognize several of the signature features its known for, including interconnecting level designs and a steep learning curve, but it’s essentially quite different from what’s come before.

While stealth plays a big part in Sekiro, combat is a highlight of the game. Rather than just using standard health meters, you and your enemies have posture bars. These are filled using attacks and perfectly timed parries, at which point a deathblow can be landed. There are plenty of ways to fight, including from distance and using your prosthetic tools, though learning to deflect and counter is vital.

As with other FromSoftware games, the most rewarding part of Sekiro is finally getting past that section or boss you’ve been stuck on for so long. Unsurprisingly, some people prefer more accessible games than Sekiro and don’t have the patience to ‘git gud,’ but it’s worth sticking with it until the end.

Buy it from: Steam, Humble Store,

Now with an educational mode

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

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  • Genre: Open world, action adventure
  • Similar: Assassin’s Creed: Origins, The Witcher 3
  • Graphics: Beautiful, detailed, transports you back to ancient Greece
  • Gameplay: Third-person, RPG-lite, stealth, decisions & consequences, naval battles

AC Odyssey might be a year old, but there are plenty of reasons to keep playing it, not least because you’re unlikely to have seen and done everything its enormous world has to offer. There’s also the large DLC packs to play through, along with the recently released Discovery Tour mode, which allows you to explore ancient Greece without worrying about having to fight someone or something. This mode lets you take part in 30 guided tours, and you can even try some quizzes at the end of each tour.

As was the case with Origins, the star of the show here is the meticulous, open-world recreation of an ancient era. Egypt was fantastic, but Greece in 431 BC looks even better, especially when all the settings are cranked to max. Standing atop of mountain as Ikaros swoops around you and the orchestral score soars is a truly cinematic experience that can elicit a “wow” from players.

This is unarguably the most RPG-like AC game ever. It’s not quite The Witcher 3, but the influence of CD Projekt Red’s genre-defining title is felt here: dialogue options, consequences, branching quests, and quite a lot of sex.

The abilities tree has been streamlined so players can better spec characters to suit specific play styles. The Mercenaries and conquest systems are like entire subgames in themselves. Some side quests are both brilliant and hilarious. And the combat remains satisfyingly meaty – expect to find yourself shouting “THIS. IS. SPARTA,” every time you boot an enemy off a cliff.

Yes, the naval battles aren’t as good as the cannon-infused ship combat found in AC: Black Flag, and it can at times feel a bit grindy, which brings us onto its worst element: the microtransactions. They’re optional, true, but being able to pay extra to speed up your experience and resource gathering feels cynical, and Ubisoft’s excuse that it’s for “those who value their time” is laughable. Who doesn’t value their time? Immortals? Luckily, it’s still a breathtakingly brilliant game, and one that probably would have got more attention had it not been released so close to Red Dead Redemption 2.

Buy it from: Steam, Origin

 

Still incredibly popular and looking better than ever

GTA V

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  • Genre: Open-world action
  • Similar: Watch Dogs 1/2, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV, Saints Row series
  • Graphics: Mods make them almost true to life
  • Gameplay: Third-person, first-person, driving, shooter, optional multiplayer

Sitting behind only Minecraft and Tetris as the third best-selling game of all time is Grand Theft Auto V. While its single-player campaign is great, it’s the mods, graphical upgrades, and the multiplayer element that keeps player numbers so high five years after launch.

GTA Online still receives plenty of new content, bonuses, discounts, etc., which keeps its legion of players sticking around—GTA V was the tenth most-popular title last month. And while you might think everyone now owns a copy, the game continues to be a top seller during the regular Steam sales when it’s discounted.

GTA V is now the only game to have appeared in this bi-annual list since the feature began almost three years ago, but one thing that could threaten its position is the (almost certain) eventual arrival of Red Dead Redemption 2 and its multiplayer mode on PC. And there’s always GTA VI, but don’t expect that for a least a few more years.

Buy it from: Steam

I smell a rat

A Plague Tale: Innocence

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  • Genre: Adventure
  • Similar: Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, Ghost of a Tale
  • Graphics: Beautiful, realistic, often looks like an oil painting
  • Gameplay: Third-person, stealth, puzzle, narrative-driven, lots of rats

It’s rare to see games that stand out because of their unique nature these days, but A Plague Tale: Innocence is great because it’s so different. While it’s described as an adventure, the game’s primary focus is on telling a compelling story.

Set in 1349, A Plague Tale follows Amicia and her younger brother Hugo as they run from the Inquisition in disease-torn France, all while trying to avoid being eaten alive by the mysterious swarms of rats that litter the landscape.

A large portion of the game revolves around stealth mechanics. While you can take out enemies with Amicia’s sling, her weapon has several different uses, such as putting out torches so the hungry rats, who are averse to light, can attack enemies. There are also plenty of, admittedly pretty simple, puzzles and a few boss battles that offer a change of pace. It even contains some light RPG elements in which you can upgrade your skills and equipment.

Ultimately, it’s the game’s story that’ll draw you in. Like many narrative-driven titles, some may find the linear nature of Plague Tale a bit off-putting, but that doesn’t detract from what is a hugely enjoyable and visually beautiful title that flew under many people’s radar when released. Be warned, though, the opening act is pretty traumatic.

Buy it from: Steam, Microsoft Store, Humble Store

Still easier to pick up than DOTA 2

League of Legends

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  • 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

Ten years after its release and League of Legends remains the most popular core PC game in terms of unique monthly players, according to Newzoo. Why? because despite a community with a reputation for toxicity, LoL remains an incredibly difficult game to stop playing once it gets its hooks into you.

Like Valve's DOTA 2, LoL is free and takes many, many hours to master its gameplay mechanics, understand individual and team strategy, and become proficient at using a few of the 130+ champions on offer. Once you are in though, it can be an incredibly addictive and satisfying game, and one that will usually run without problems on even the most potato-like of PCs.

In the most common game map/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 30 to 60 minutes. All champions start off weak and increase their strength by accumulating items and experience over the course of the game.

An unwelcome similarity LoL has with DOTA 2 is its notoriously toxic community. Having friends to show you the ropes when you’re starting out is a big advantage, and expect to hear some shocking facts about your close relatives. But there’s a reason why it has long been, and remains, so incredibly popular.

Free to play: Official site, TechSpot Downloads

 

So addictive it should come with a warning

Fortnite Battle Royale

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  • Genre: Multiplayer battle royale
  • Similar: PUBG, DayZ Battle Royale, Z1 Battle Royale, Apex Legends
  • Graphics: Cartoony
  • Gameplay: Shooter, survival

Few games can be considered a cultural phenomenon, but Fortnite is one of them—even Blink-182 decided to use its dance moves in the band’s recent video. The game is the third most-watched game on Twitch, with almost 66 million viewer hours last month.

With over 250 million players, Fortnite has earned Epic billions of dollars. What makes it so good? The huge helping of massively addictive, last-man-standing fun – an attribute that often gets it into trouble.

Fortnite is more colorful and faster-paced than rival PUBG, the map is smaller, it’s better optimized, weapons are easier to come by, and everything feels a lot more casual. There’s also Fortnite’s crafting system, which allows players to break down objects into resources and create structures such as walls, traps, and stairs.

The bigger question might be how long can Fortnite remain on top? Years, probably. Notable games such as World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike and League of Legends have shown that retaining a dedicated fanbase for such a long time is possible, and with constant updates and new seasons, this cultural phenomenon is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Plus, it's just been announced that an update is adding bots and grouping players of similar skill levels together, which should benefit both veterans and newbies.

Free to play: Epic Games, TechSpot Downloads

Honorable Mentions
Dropped from the list (Great, but had to make room for others)
(For reference only) Titles we loved playing last year