What are the best PC games? With dozens of new titles releasing each month, plus a Steam games back catalogue longer than one of Dhalsim's arms, it's a tough question to answer - and it's equally tough knowing which are deserving of your precious gaming time. Well fear not, because we're here to help.
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What you'll find below is a list of what we consider to be the best PC games to play at present. Some are new, some are slightly older, but they're all brilliant - and we've got a wide range of genres covered, so there's something to cater for all tastes.
The best PC games to play right now
It would be folly to suggest that the biggest, most famous and talked-about games are automatically the best. But when you look at the place Overwatch has claimed for itself in PC gaming culture - in YouTube plays, on Twitch streams, in Twitter jokes - it’s clear that curious Heroes of the Storm fans aren’t the only bunch backing Blizzard’s latest.
What players have latched onto are the vibrant personalities driving Overwatch (you'll see what we mean with our guide to the best Overwatch characters). Blizzard loosely divide their roster into Offence, Defence, Tank and Support, but in reality that structure is so freeform that - like in Heroes of the Storm - each hero is essentially a game unto themselves. Soldier: 76 and Genji are both technically Offense characters but couldn’t be farther apart in playstyle: a CoD-style mid-ranged grenade slinger and a ninja-star throwing wall-vaulter with dramatically different strengths and weaknesses. To say nothing of Mercy, the flying heal-beam factory capable of mass resurrection.
A match rarely tops 10 minutes, but it’ll take hundreds of hours to know the ins and outs of every character. Winning in Overwatch is about rhythm and momentum, and the resulting beat is one you’ll play on repeat.
Want more? Here's our Overwatch review.
Dark Souls III
There’s only one reason the Souls series didn’t already feature on this list. Dark Souls: Prepare to Die was a sloppy PC port - difficult to recommend without a slew of suggested mods as accompaniment. FromSoftware’s first, flawed attempt, made at the behest of their fans, it didn’t deter them from returning - better for their mistakes, tighter and more familiar each time. Remind you of anything?
Dark Souls III is director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s most confident outing yet, pieced together in the knowledge that an industry is in awe of his team’s twisted level design - not to mention their paradigm of frustration and triumph. Lothric is a Germanic fantasy world of long shadows and longer learning curve, in which you’ll cut your teeth on strange diversions and side-bosses. You’ll build a sense of shared suffering with perfect strangers who scrawl messages in the stone and, once you emerge on the other side, enjoy an unequaled celebration of muscle memory and persistence. It’ll be a victory won alongside countless, mostly unseen others, but one you’ve won for yourself.
Want more? Here's our Dark Souls III review.
XCOM 2 is all about the squeeze. No longer a state-sanctioned effort but a guerrilla force, your anti-alien league rarely has time to sweep the map for its last remaining sectoids. Instead you’re often subject to an unforgiving turn timer, a distant evac spot and the threat of reinforcements from the incumbent ADVENT administration. This brave sequel encourages a callousness from its commanders, demanding utilitarian maths that’ll have you weighing up the value of a squad of rookies against an incendiary grenade.
Both distinct from and outright harder than Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 and its mods nonetheless return that sense of unfamiliarity that frightened so effectively in the first game. Some monstrosity will appear in your peripheral vision, indulge in a little introductory dance, and then a couple of turns later do something awful and unpredictable to your favourite grenadier. You can do all the research you like back at base, but until you've experienced all the horrors for yourself, there'll be nasty surprises galore.
Since release it’s become apparent there are bugs in XCOM 2 beside the sectoids. But this is still the most accomplished and robust turn-based tactics game you could play right now, set against the most convincing backdrop Meier and his studio have assembled since Alpha Centauri. The joy of Firaxis' campaign is in peeking behind the facade ADVENT's wizards have constructed - and the horror in deciding to leave someone in the cold-blooded embrace of the snakepeople so that your crack sniper can get to evac. You probably won't like the version of you XCOM 2 fosters.
Want more? Here's our XCOM 2 review.
Grand Theft Auto V
We often judge how far our medium has come by seeing how closely games can replicate the reality we live in, and Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V delivers by the stolen truck-full. Walking around Los Santos is like a trip to one of America’s great cities, and not just because iconic LA locations are almost perfectly cloned. Despite the obvious parody in every character and event, the world of Los Santos feels the most genuine place in all of video games.
And it’s home to something special: a crime epic that involves three unique characters and a series of missions with incredible, endless variety. From stealing WMDs with a submarine to replicating the plot of The Italian Job, there’s an astonishingly broad collection of activities to get involved in. Furthermore, side missions will have you hunting through celebrities’ bins, jumping out of a plane on the back of an ATV, and… erm... gunning down aliens.
All of that is to say nothing of GTA Online, which replaces the narrative of the campaign with a variety of online modes, crime jobs, and events. Thundering through the streets in your own pimped-out supercar, your buddies in tow Fast-and-Furious-style, is the ultimate GTA fantasy. But the crowning achievement is Heists, which takes the idea of the campaign’s iconic set-pieces and turns them into huge, ambitious, cooperative missions.
Want more? Here's our Grand Theft Auto V review.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
There’s one key thing you need to know about The Witcher 3: it has the best quests in all of modern role-playing games. While its biggest triple-A competitor, Dragon Age: Inquisition, took a lot from the MMO-style quest structure, Wild Hunt is all about story. Almost every quest is an excuse for CD Projekt Red to reveal more about its open world and Geralt himself. Even a simple monster contract can transform into an epic, multi-hour adventure full of emotionally-resonant encounters, betrayal, twists and challenging battles.
Heart of Stone, the first major expansion, adds even more of them – elaborate, morally challenging adventures that, despite their epic nature remain surprisingly intimate. The core game and its expansion are lessons in how to design quests, elevated by superb writing and complex, believable characters.
Want more? Here's our The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review.
“Here’s the galaxy. Now go out there and do what you want.”
Elite: Dangerous is a mind-bogglingly huge space sandbox, where you can shoot off to Earth or go all the way to the galactic centre, making your way however you want. Fancy selling slaves and contraband? You’re a bad person, but so be it. Maybe, instead, you can hunt down those bad people as a bounty hunter? Or just embark on legal trade deals?
It’s gorgeous, too. From the exceptionally detailed, varied space stations and ships to the terrifying suns that you’ll drop out of hyperspace near – everything is huge and striking and it seems crazy that it’s all inside a game.
Updates have made things more cooperative and story-driven, with various factions vying for power. Plus the upcoming new season of updates, Horizon, promises to change everything with the addition of countless planets that you can land on and explore. The mind only continues boggle harder.
Want more? Here's our Elite: Dangerous review.
One of the most friendly free-to-play games out there, it’s more than possible to play Hearthstone without paying a pennycent, and still have a lot of fun. As the bomb that blew digital card games wide open, it’s already got quite the legacy, but it’s also an impressive game in its own right.
Combining that signature Blizzard polish, their endless archive of art, and a little bit of Magic: The Gathering, the small Team 5 crafted a nigh-addictive game of chance, skill and strategy. Perhaps the best thing about Hearthstone is how much it relies purely on your brain - it’s all deck-building, knowledge of what your opponent’s could be playing, planning ahead, reacting properly and knowing the odds. Little manual dexterity is required, a rarity in popular e-sports.
There’s an obscene amount of resources available for getting better, as a massive playerbase funds streamers, YouTubers and fanbases. It will take a lot of regular play to gather a decent collection of cards, but as your skill improves it becomes easier to ‘go infinite.’
Want more? Here's our Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft review.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
When it comes to shooters, we don’t really do ‘casual’ on PC. Sure you can go play your console shooters on Steam, but the real scene for competitive FPS is the glorious Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. You will buy it, you will play it, and you will be terrible. But it doesn’t matter. Mastering its unique flavour of fast, twitchy, precise gunplay is a true pilgrimage for many PC gamers, and climbing the leaderboards of CS:GO is a genuine achievement.
Global Offensive is also the best Counter-Strike has ever been. Not only is it now part of that Steam ecosystem where there’s weapon skin drops all over the place and various cool meta stuff going on, but at a fundamental level it’s beautifully balanced and perfectly designed. Beyond the classic small-scale single-life shootouts, there’s a great variety of modes that make CS:GO the most diverse Counter-Strike game. Check out Arms Race, where players must score kills to win a new weapon. The first player to use every weapon and score a final kill with the knife wins.
Want more? Here's our Counter-Strike: Global Offensive review.
The very best film tie-in game ever made, Alien: Isolation should be on your hard-drive for the environment alone. If you ever wanted to visit the set of the classic 1979 sci-fi horror, this is your chance: you’ll be able to explore a ship of the same class of the Nostromo, with all its clicking computer terminals, humming fluorescent lights, and scraping iris vents. And from there, you’ll be dumped in a massive sprawling space station that evokes the terror of greats like System Shock 2, but with one important difference: at all times you’re being stalked by a single, powerful, unkillable xenomorph.
As a true survival horror, you can’t fight your enemy. It’s all about outwitting and avoiding it as you attempt to complete the puzzle-like game objectives - and doing so is an exercise in freezing terror. Developer Creative Assembly have produced some of the best artificial intelligence in all of gaming: a creature that actually learns and adapts to how you behave. If it discovers you hiding in lockers, it knows to hunt through every locker. If it sees you jump out an air vent, it will begin to crawl through the ductwork in search of you. The xenomorph is out of sight for the most part, meaning you’ll spend much of your time listening out for the game’s excellent audio cues, and looking at your motion scanner in perpetual fear of a little dot. Tension at its finest.
Want more? Here's our Alien: Isolation review.
Diablo III’s turnaround from one of the most apocalyptic launches in recent memory to a game deserving of its place on this list is as impressive as its sales figures. Vastly underestimating the latter, Blizzard didn’t have the servers in place to handle it. Coupled with some dodgy decision making regarding how the endgame operated and always-online, it wasn’t initially popular.
That all changed with Patch 2.0 and the Reaper of Souls expansion. The game was effectively redesigned from the bottom-up, making gear more interesting to get, characters more exciting to play, and binning the economy-nuking auction house. Overpowered items flowed freely, and 2.1 was almost as big an improvement again.
Now the future of the game is in flux, but there hasn’t been a better time to pick it up. There’s hundreds of hours of fun to be had if you get on with the infinite monster-slaying, power-upping, gear-collecting formula. Oh, and huge damage numbers. Seriously. They’re massive.
Want more? Here's our Diablo III review.
The Walking Dead
Recent years have seen Telltale resurrect the adventure game format for the popular market once more. But rather than illogical puzzles and pixel-hunting gameplay, Telltale have been creating interactive dramas with heavy emphasis on choice and consequence. The Walking Dead has been their strongest tale so far, forcing players to consider what’s best for the wellbeing of their band of survivors as they attempt to fend off zombies, bandits, and starvation.
Beyond the consequences of every action, decision, and sentence you utter, The Walking Dead is an emotional machine that skews your judgement by introducing Clementine, a young girl who begins to see main character Lee as a father figure. As time goes by you’ll likely find your decisions influenced by what you feel is best for your surrogate daughter, rather than yourself or the rest of your team. At times it may feel like there’s no real decision at all: instinct takes over, and you’ll murder and maim to protect her without realising there was a far more peaceful resolution available. It may be a point-and-click adventure by definition, but The Walking Dead feels more like a father simulator than anything else.
The second season of The Walking Dead explores life for a slightly older Clementine, and while not evoking quite the same strong protective feelings as season one, is a great tale of being forced to come-of-age as the world goes to hell around you.
Want more? Here's our The Walking Dead review.
World of Warcraft
The only subscription MMO that ever managed to get it right, WoW is legendary in terms of its effect on the industry and pure number of players. It’s no longer in its heyday, and publishers have moved on to free-to-play for their cash windfall attempts, but the game itself is as good as it has ever been for new players.
You can start a character at a high level to be playing quickly with your friends. The ten levels of adventuring that you do go through are easy to recommend as an RPG by themselves, either with other people sometimes showing up or more regular interaction with fellow players. When you reach endgame you’ll discover a load of things to do, all of them with different progression paths and dozens of hours of depth.
If you ever run out of time, money or patience with it, there’s usually not much of a break before the next World of Warcraft expansion comes out and shakes everything up again, along with another ten levels of story, zones and monsters. Rather than just one game, it’s a thus-far decade-long lifestyle choice.
Want more? Here's our World of Warcraft review.
System Shock 2 advocates will tell you that Bioshock’s atmosphere isn’t as potent, nor its corridors as complex. But Irrational’s crossover smash is elevated by Rapture: an impossible city held together only by strength of concept, introduced with hypnotic finesse. Once it’s hooked you in the expertly-choreographed intro, Bioshock goes on introducing instant icons - Andrew Ryan, splicers, the Little Sisters - with the flair of Valve or Kubrick. Irrational paint with both horror and wonder, and often mix the paints.
The Big Daddy is the most important fish in the tank. You and he are the two catalysts crashing through Irrational’s neatly arranged systems, setting off alarms and forcing factions to collide. Your toolkit of traps and tricks encourages ambushes, and those chaotic encounters are one big reason why Rapture feels like an all-too-real place.
As far as the Bioshock series goes, props too to Infinite. It’s world is less engaging but every bit as beautiful and conceptually rich, and its narrative payoff is one of the biggest gutpunches in all of gaming.
Want more? Here's our Bioshock review.
League of Legends
Obviously a MOBA makes our list, but the correct one to be playing is the one your mates are into. Be it League, Dota, or Heroes (or, when the time comes, Overwatch), the best MOBA to go for is the one you have friends to play with on the reg and who can show you the ropes. (If you do fancy getting involved, check out our League of Legends beginners guide.)
We’ve picked League of Legends for a few reasons. It’s arguably the most popular game in the world, with upwards of 20 million players sitting down to it every day. It has a massive community that dwarfs any other, and a development studio that has been purely focused on it for many years.
It’s also a total triumph, taking what was a fairly cynical free-to-play title and turning it into a powerhouse of e-sports, design, balance and skill-based gameplay. It’s paved the way for a thousand poor imitators who don’t have a hope of catching up due to the pure amount of money Riot Games pour into the game every single day. From music videos to short animated productions to some of the best player interaction in the industry today, Riot know how to spend their millions (probably billions) of dollars.
Want more? Here's our League of Legends review.
Everybody knows now that the cake was a lie, and much of Portal has been meme-ified beyond all meaning. Going back to it, though, is like hearing Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy in context for the first time. Portal remains the minimalist distillation of everything Valve knew about single-player games.
It was almost as if Half-Life had been stripped back to the frame: a series of self-contained environments with a problem to solve. The idea of a physics gun, with the entry portal attached to one button and the exit portal tied to the other, was both immediate and cerebral. On top of that writers Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek superimposed GLaDOS: an AI with a character arc to rival any other developer’s flesh-and-bone creations. Over just a few hours she shifted from polite, to malevolent, to pleading - and voice actress Ellen McLain delivered belly laughs the whole way.
Want more? Here's our Portal review.
Appearances can be deceptive, and Braid is a puzzler, not a platformer. But designer Jonathan Blow took more than a moveset from Mario. As with Nintendo’s best work, nothing is repeated, and the rules of Braid’s Prince of Persia rewind key are turned on their head with each new level. Soon enough you’ll be meddling with the rhythm of enemy patrols, applying knowledge gained from previous puzzles in strange ways and marvelling at your own ingenuity. Braid encourages you to be clever, and in your own time - leaving you to retrieve most of its jigsaw pieces in any order. You’re given too much room to move to ever feel stuck… unless you embark on retrieving every last one.
Pretentious poems bookend the challenges, but the real story is told through those puzzles - leading to one final reversal that flips the story of a princess rescue upside-down like an hourglass. Braid is smart, yes - but better than that, it’ll give you the space and support to be smart yourself.
Want more? Here's our Braid review.
Divinity: Original Sin
Divinity is like one of those wonderful, dribbly deep sleeps which leave you exhausted but perfectly content. It’s very possible you’ll never make it beyond the opening port city of Cyseal, since its map is so large and laced with encounters. In this bottomless well of a classic RPG, character development is an art and even inventory management takes patience and good planning.
The combat, meanwhile, puts the magic back into spellcasting. A fireball can set off a series of explosions when hurled into a poison cloud - or melt ice into water, better to be electrified by a lightning arrow. Every turn has the potential to be an engrossing exercise in rock-paper-scissors experimentation, as likely to blow your party to oblivion as win your battle.
This weightiest of adventures is carried by airy, alliterative dialogue - now voiced in the Enhanced Edition. Just don’t forget: when you’re mining every last NPC for funny lines, talk to the rats too.
Want more? Here's our Divinity: Original Sin review.
Dishonored is about getting high. While FPS developers have had access to the Y-Axis since Heretic, none have made better use of it than Deus Ex veteran Harvey Smith and his team at Arkane. Dunwall’s packed levels, reminiscent of 17th century Edinburgh, are warrenlike networks of basements and balconies, streets and waterways, apartments and antechambers.
It’s all traversable thanks to the invention of blinking - a short range teleport so intuitive and freeing that the Deus Ex team have since nabbed it for the similarly vertiginous Mankind Divided. Arkane built their many-pathed maps around simple assassination objectives, and successfully combined the considered creeping of Thief with punchy and dynamic first-person fisticuffs.
Above all, though, it’s the city itself that drives the dagger deepest. Designed by Viktor Antonov, it has the same hard lines and layered architecture as City 17, and tells the story of a state battling physical and political sickness through beautiful vignettes.
Want more? Here's our Dishonored review.
Forget Minecraft the phenomenon for a minute. Remember Minecraft the game? Where a hundred survival sims on Steam now tell us to eke out an existence, Minecraft actually gave us reason to - pristine new oceans and our own skylines, just waiting for towers and lake houses (and the planting of endless Minecraft seeds).
Notch had experimented with freeform creation before in Wurm Online, but here was something different and immediate. In Minecraft you could pop a rock out of place as quickly as you could think to do it. And there was no need for quantity surveyors in a world built from regular quadrilaterals; planning the foundations of a new building was a simple matter of, well, blocking it out.
There will always be an impressionistic beauty to those procedurally generated mountains. Minecraft, uniquely, is about frontiersmanship: pushing back the dark and finding home. And redstone programming, of course - Notch’s personality runs through the thing like a randomly-placed ravine.
Want more? Here's our Minecraft review.
More than just a cure for the SimCity blues, Cities: Skylines is the most impressive city-builder of the last decade. Massive, detailed, and absent the awful limitations of Maxis’ last attempt, Colossal Order gave prospective city planners everything they could possibly want.
Its greatest strength, however, is undoubtedly how much it has embraced mods. Even before launch, modders were putting together their own buildings and tweaks, and now the Steam Workshop page is filled to the brim with everything from complex intersections and towering skyscrapers to entirely new maps.
Skylines recently received its first expansion, which introduced a day and night cycle, a whole new commercial sector for hotels, bars and tourist attractions and greater control over the city budget – and, of course, modders have been busy making lots of new stuff for it as well.
Want more? Here's our Cities: Skylines review.
Her Story is a mystery contained within hundreds of out of sequence clips from a series of police interviews. A man was murdered, and over the course of several months, his wife is interviewed. To solve the mystery, you watch them – it’s as simple as that.
The wrinkle is that the database can only be searched using keywords, and then it will only display a few clips, and some of them might not be useful at all. So you have to listen closely, remember important words or phrases, and then search for them later to build up a picture of events. Oh, and at no point are you told if the theory you’ve come up with off the back of all of this is right or wrong.
Holding it all together is actress Viva Seifert, the only voice you’ll hear and face you’ll see in any of the clips. Her tone, body language and word choice are all clues, and you’ll learn to hang off every word she utters. Ultimately, the game is about interpreting the clips to build a story, not really solving a crime, and its so full of twists and turns that you’ll keep questioning everything, long after you’ve finished.
Want more? Here's our Her Story review.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
RPGs are so diverse these days that they really need distinct genres within the genre. If you’re looking for astonishing story and quest design, see The Witcher 3. If you want great combat encounters, try Divinity: Original Sin. If it’s freedom of choice and exploration, Skyrim has you catered better than anything.
Bethesda are masters of the open world, and the snowy lands of Skyrim are proof. From its variety of unique towns and villages, to its cave networks and abandoned fortresses, not one section of Skyrim feels anything less than handcrafted. That makes it a compelling reason to explore, but a wander around the land offers so much more. There are quests in every nook and cranny, be that simply helping someone find a sword, or solving the case of a haunted house. You can choose to get involved in the most complex stories (the main story or the civil war raging in Skyrim), or ignore that in favour of more grassroots heroism. Without a character and reputation to live up to, your actions in Skyrim feel truly your own.
Beyond what Bethesda created, this remains a true PC great thanks to the Skyrim modding community. There are thousands of mods, from graphics improvements to whole new quest campaigns, available from the Steam Workshop and the extensive Skyrim Nexus website. Bethesda promised the randomly-generated side quests would make Skyrim endless. Instead, it’s the community’s dedication.
Want more? Here's our The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review.
Rocket-powered cars playing football – isn’t the future a wonderful thing? Rocket League pits players and AI against each other in teams with a single aim: get an oversized ball into an oversized goal.
To do that, you’ll boost along the pitch, smash into other cars, perform flips and kicks, drive on the ceiling and, most of the time, end up in a grotesque orgy of spheres and steel as every car collides in an attempt to knock the ball away from or into the goal. It’s messy and chaotic, but rewards precision and teamwork.
The more you play, the more rewards you get. Want to put a sombrero on a car? Go for it. Want to drive something that looks like Kit from Knight Rider spewing rainbows out of its exhaust? You can do that. It’s all aesthetic, however, as Rocket League always remains a game of skill.
Want more? Here's our Rocket League review.
Total War: Attila
In Total War: Attila the series is once again on form, in a setting ripe for epic conflicts. Players take up the mantle of leader of a tribe or an empire during the final days of antiquity, with the once mighty Roman Empire split into two struggling factions, and the threat of the Huns bearing down on everyone.
It’s all very apocalyptic. Nobody is safe, no borders are impenetrable. Everywhere there are wandering tribes, displaced and willing to fight to find a new home, or nomadic aggressors burning everything around them. And this means one very important thing: there’s always someone to fight.
It really does feel like total war. Attila is the most aggressive game in the series, avoiding the stagnation that plagued the original Rome II Grand Campaign. There’s always a threat needing to be dealt with, or a new mission egging you on, seducing you into invading yet another province. It’s the end of the world, and everyone is going down fighting.
Want more? Here's our Total War: Attila review.
Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program is a game about building rockets and flinging them into space, but perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s a game about fighting physics. Is your rocket too heavy? Do you not have enough thrust? What have you done wrong, because it’s guaranteed to be something, at least in those early experiments.
And that’s what makes a successful mission so wonderful. You’ve flipped the bird at physics, breaking free of the planet. All the work, all the failures, all the engineering – it’s worth it when you finally succeed. Even if it is another failure, that just means you’ve learned something new and been given an opportunity to improve your design with countless rocket parts.
This has all been bolstered by an inventive community of Kerbal modders that have, since the days of Early Access, been busy making more tools and parts for you to use. And during a time when we’re planning actual trips to Mars, the game mimics and celebrates the incredible ingenuity that’s involved in spaceflight.
Want more? Here's our Kerbal Space Program review.
And that's the lot, our heart and soul poured out for the world to read. What do you think? A solid list, or a collective losing of the plot? Let us know in the comments.