What are the best card games on PC? It is not a question we would have been asking a few years ago, when some basic ports of paper-based systems and some minigames in larger titles were all we had access to.
Now, there are heaps of games like Hearthstone vying to be among the best card games on PC – it is one of the quickest growing genres in the industry. The best card games offer players a rich and constantly shifting meta, potentially limitless replayability, and are approachable to boot – so it is not hard to see why card games have taken off in recent years.
What that means is somebody (us) needs to lay down the objective truth (subjective opinion) on which are best card games on PC (the ones we enjoy the most). We will cover everything from the biggest player in the genre today (you will never guess which that is), the best ports from paper, the up-and-comers you might not have heard of, and some of the best free card games out there.
Here are the best card games:
Magic: The Gathering Arena is one of the best digital versions of Magic to date, and Magic is arguably the best paper card game around. Arena offers many of the gameplay possibilities and formats of classic Magic, one of the most popular trading card games, but with the sensory cues and lavish animations many newly converted CCG players have come to expect thanks to games like Hearthstone.
Magic: The Gathering Arena will appeal to veteran Magic players looking for a more comfortable and convenient space to ply their trade, but also CCG players who are after more challenge and complexity than digital card games like Hearthstone, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, and Gwent can offer. Check out our guide on how to play MTG Arena if you’re interested in giving it a go.
League of Legends fans rejoice, Riot Games has a frontrunner to be one of the best card games about. We’ve created a guide on how to play Legends of Runeterra if you want to get your head around the game.
Although Legends of Runeterra is similar to other card games in a lot of ways, including dividing the cards into regions and having playable champions – the Legends of Runeterra card abilities, effects, and keywords all offer something unique to the game. To get you started, check out the best Legends of Runeterra decks, as well as a complete ranking of all the champions with our Legends of Runeterra tier list.
Inscryption is a roguelike deck builder and psychological horror game, built on a twisted and sinister narrative told through talking cards and mysterious challengers sat on the other side of the table. Starting out in a remote cabin, you slowly build up a deck of woodland creatures and learn the rules of the game – you can sacrifice your weaker cards for blood, and use the blood to place other, more powerful cards against your opponent.
Inscryption doesn’t get bogged down in rules, either, and the story sweeps you along in waves of short matches. Working your way through different acts, you desperately try to piece together Inscryption’s fragmented and chilling narrative – placing cards, scouring video archives, pulling out teeth, and running through a labyrinth of crazed computers – is all a part of Inscyption’s relentless menace, which makes it one of the best indie games on PC.
This gruelling deck building roguelike game has you scrambling up its titular spire – battling hordes of enemies as you go. Should you perish, you’ll find that the tower is a different place when you return, packed with different foes and obstacles. Whether or not that’ll work to your advantage, however, is another thing entirely. One thing it does allow you to do is experiment with different cards and chance upon various relics to give your deck a jolt.
In our Slay the Spire review, Ali mentions that “Slay the Spire’s simple gameplay masks a devilishly complicated game. Synergies and counters are woven so finely together that it’s often difficult to tell which is which. A single card can appear to break a deck apart, only for a relic to stick it haphazardly back together. A triumphant run can come to a dramatic halt as an uncaring boss casually sends you tumbling to the bottom of the tower.”
Monster Train is a deck building roguelike in the same vein as Slay The Spire. There are five demon clans to choose from, each with their own theme and playstyle; you choose two of these to form your deck with, one primary clan and one secondary clan. Hell has frozen over, and your job is to transport the last burning Pyre to the depths of hell, fighting heaven’s soldiers on your way. Your train has three floors, and the precious Pyre is at the top – you must defend it from attacking angels who move up a floor each round until you take them out, adding a tower defence element to each battle.
Between encounters, you can decide which way to steer your train, allowing you to take the path with the best bonuses for your strategy. You can also upgrade and duplicate your cards in search of a killer combo. There’s even a fast paced, real time competitive multiplayer if you’re up to the challenge.
Despite our mission to save our surrogate daughter – and the world, no less – in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the taverns and gambling tables on which the land’s favourite card game is played. It might have been pretty deep for an in-game distraction then, but the fully-fledged Gwent: The Witcher Card Game has swallowed our free time all over again.
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This free PC game is the ultimate CCG game for Sapkowski devotees, boasting many more spells, units, and special abilities than in Geralt’s third adventure. As a result, it’s going to take much more time to master as you take on friends in Gwent’s best-of-three rounds or get competitive in ranked or casual matches. You can never expect Gwent to boast the complexity of other card games, but there’s still a lot of depth here.
Dire Wolf Digital is one of the best card games makers in the business and their follow-up to The Elder Scrolls: Legends occupies a glorious space between the tactical complexity of Magic and the accessibility and rewarding free to play card game mechanics of Hearthstone.
Mid-round gameplay is more volatile thanks to the addition of mana cards and ‘instant’ cards, which can interrupt an opponent’s elaborate chain of commands and spoil their carefully laid plans. And while its aesthetic is quite similar to that of Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Eternal is arguably a little more generous when it comes to handing out free packs, making it one of the best free Steam games around. Best of all, Eternal features a draft mode where you get to keep the full collection.
If the high fantasy, World Of Warcraft styling of Hearthstone is not your cup of the proverbial, then Shadowverse is a solid alternative. It shares the bulk of its card game mechanics with Blizzard’s Hearthstone, but its Japanese heritage lends it a distinct anime games aesthetic.
It is also staggeringly deep, with an evolution mechanic that encourages buffing and transforming minions. Card factions in Shadowverse also trump the rest of the genre when it comes to character-specific traits, leading to some outrageous plays and decks. Shadowverse is one of the best online games for budding deck-builders.
The cream of the crop, the top of the stack, and one of the friendliest free to play card games out there. This best card games list probably would not exist without Hearthstone as it jump-started the genre’s popularity after a few years of passive popularity and quickly became one of the most played games in the world.
But why is it so good? Simplicity, flow, and regular card expansions. Anybody can pick up and play Hearthstone and it will make sense to them. Maybe they will not wholly understand what they are doing or make the best tactical plays, but there is immediate pleasure in dragging your men around the sandy battlefield, watching them clash into each other and large, friendly numbers popping out. Thanks to this it will also run on pretty much anything, including tablets and phones.
Perhaps best of all, there is a thriving competitive community. Playing catch-up to it is no mean feat after so many set releases (that is why we made a list of the best Hearthstone decks for beginners), but Blizzard is looking into ways to alleviate that struggle for new players. It is also quite easy to play for free if you use your gold smartly and keep up with daily rewards, even if you are not particularly good.
Hearthstone’s new Battlegrounds mode turns the card game into a refreshingly addictive auto-battler. If you’re wondering how to play Hearthstone Battlegrounds or which Hearthstone Battlegrounds heroes to play as, we’ve got you covered.
The Lich has plunged the world and all of its inhabitants into a never ending cycle of chaos – every day loops into itself in a vicious chain of torment. As the brave hero, you must construct a deck of cards to help fight against the monsters that plague the area. If you can complete enough loops, you’ll be able to fight against the boss and slowly begin to mend the world.
Though on paper Loop Hero has just as much in common with RPG games, the amount of deck building you have to do in order to process is substantial. Unlocking different areas will reveal new classes that drastically change the way the game is played. Each new card will also unlock brand new card combinations, giving you an extra boost when it comes to defeating some of Loop Hero’s most powerful enemies.
If you ever thought the best card games were all rather similar then guess again, Ascension is a deck-builder rather than a card battler. But what, you may ask, is a deck-building game? Deck-builders are a subgenre of card games where each player starts with an identical deck and then a line-up of cards they can purchase using various resources generated by those starter cards. Those cards then go into their discard pile, which is shuffled into their deck whenever they run out of cards. You start each turn with five cards and discard any you do not use – usually that will not be any of them – at the end.
It is a completely different focus, moving the strategic deck-building portion of the game into the spotlight but keeping basic concerns like card sequencing and resource spending in place. Ascension is among the best card games on PC if you are the sort of person that likes playing combo decks with big single turns. Beautiful art, regular updates, and very fast games round it off as a great thing to waste a little time with. This is also one of the few genuine deck-builders available on PC.
Many of the card games on this list revolve around mythical beings and beasts, but WW2 game, Kards, is very different. The CCG by 1939 Games instead focuses on the conflict surrounding World War 2. You play as one of the nations involved, using tanks, planes, and artillery accurate to their resources, and battle against liveries of other players.
Nations have particular strengths corresponding with their real-life abilities in the 1940s, such as America’s production power exceeding that of other countries. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Kards outside of gameplay is the cards’ artwork.
Sourced from books, posters, comics, magazines, and more, the artwork for most of the cards in the game are genuine pieces of history. In our preview of Kards, Imogen further talks about the historical landscape created by these details. Kards is currently in Steam Early Access and has received its first expansion called Allegiance, with plans for a full release in early 2020.
While nominally a roguelike RPG, Griftlands uses cards in place of everything from speech skills and combat moves, to currency and character traits. As you explore Klei Entertainment’s raucously charismatic sci-fi world you’ll use diplomacy and combat cards to navigate bar brawls, roadside robberies, and tricky trades. You’ll gain new cards from every encounter, expanding your options going forward. Griftlands is currently in Steam Early Access.
Grey Alien Games has been mixing solitaire and card battlers with captivating results for a few years now, and Ancient Enemy is no different. The turn-based combat is mixed with solitaire puzzles, but there’s also a full skill tree and inventory system to ensure players can take any number of routes through the game’s scourge-ridden world.
Speaking of solitaire, the latest game from Mike Bithell is perhaps one of the shorter ones on here, but boy is it gripping from start to finish! You are tasked with playing games of solitaire as part of a simulation, planning actions for your team of spies ahead of dangerous missions, both in the main campaign and the skirmish mode. They must be dangerous, the music playing in the background is so tense!
Each one of the face cards also has a unique action that helps you by switching around the locations of some of the cards. You can probably guess where the story itself is going, and the main game itself isn’t very long, but the recent free Return of the Merry update adds a fair bit more to keep you busy.
One for all the ornithologists out there! If you don’t immediately snigger at the mere mention of the ‘shag’ (steady now), then you’ll love this board game/card game hybrid.
Wingspan is a game about being a bird watcher and researcher who must develop the best habitat for the local birds. It’s a somewhat relaxing engine-building game with lovely art of many different species of birds. The board game version is arguably better because you can build a dice tower, but the digital version is far more reasonable for those with budget constraints (board games are expensive!).
We’ve played our last card, which means that’s your lot: our list of the very best card games on PC is complete. Be sure to check out the best strategy games on PC if you like your games with as much scheming and plotting as possible.