It’s been a slow start to the year, but the drip of fresh PC games has now become a flood. Even in lean gaming times, more games are released on PC than any other platform, and their sheer number and variety means that once you start playing on PC, it’s hard to stop. The best PC games span every genre, and range from solo indie projects to the biggest blockbusters around. The PC’s ever-active mod scene extends the life of your favorite games, and with regular sales on Steam and other stores, buying games on PC is often cheaper than on consoles. In short: what’s not to love?
With hundreds of thousands to choose from, how do you know which to invest in? You've come to the right place, because this list showcases only the best of the best PC games. If you're a newcomer – welcome! – then these are the PC games you should buy right away. And if you're a long-time PC gamer, read this list to make sure you haven't missed out. Note that these are the best PC games you can play today, not the most important PC games ever made: as much as we love old-school classics like System Shock 2 and Half-Life, you won't find them on this list. Equally, if an older game crops up, you can be assured that it's still worth downloading.
If you need to upgrade your PC to run some of these best PC games, check out our high-end gaming PC build guide. Alternatively, if you need a pre-built machine, here are the best gaming PCs of 2019, and the best gaming laptops.
Without further ado, here are the 30 best PC games.
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The best PC games 2019 – top 30 list begins on next page
Every few weeks, we highlight a handful of recent releases that haven’t quite made our top 30 list – which starts on the next page – but are worth playing nonetheless. Occasionally, we’ll slip in a few evergreen classics for good measure. Make sure you check back regularly to stay on top of the latest, best PC games worth knowing about.
January was slow, but the video game calendar is now kicking into gear, and a bunch of games worth playing have been released in the first half of February.
Skookum Arts’ puzzle-platform debut is bursting with promise. You control a stick person who leaps from a road sign into the real world. They can only travel across flat planes – other signs, bits of paper, whiteboards, etc – but you must manoeuvre them across properly 3D environments, from busy streets to subways. Your job is to arrange those flat surfaces to create a route through the level, and then, as the stick person, jump across gaps, press buttons, climb ladders, pull levers, spring off bounce pads and drag boxes into place. The movement and jumping feel tight, the challenges ramp up in complexity, and it has all the colour and polish of a Pixar short.
It shines brightest when the 2D and 3D worlds interact: when your stick person powers a subway train, for example, only to get off at the next stop, or when you reconnect and disconnect wires to send a flat plank of wood whizzing along a factory supply line. These sections are, sadly, pretty rare – but even without them, The Pedestrian’s puzzles are varied, smart and challenging enough to recommend.
Play it now:
Through the Darkest of Times
Most video game Nazis are human target practice, but in Through the Darkest of Times, Hitler-sympathisers might include your unassuming, friendly neighbour. That’s why this story-driven management game – told via stylised black and white sequences with splashes of colour, such as the red of an SS armband – grips you so tightly. Every person your group of conspirators meets is a potential enemy; every move you make against the Nazis, whether revealing the real truth behind the headlines or sabotaging a major plot, risks outing the resistance members you control.
The atrocities you witness provide your motivation, but it’s the moment-to-moment management of your group that keeps you pressing on. Based on the attributes randomly allocated to your characters, you must decide who you’ll send on missions against the Third Reich. The story, which stretches from 1933 until after the end of World War 2, lurches forward uncomfortably, and every action comes with a cost. Even succeeding in a mission – recruiting a new follower, for example – risks catastrophe by making the Nazis more alert. Through the Darkest of Times is not, therefore, about saving the world: it’s about trying to battle an impossible enemy. And that’s what makes it so powerful.
Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners (VR)
If Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners was nothing but VR zombie slaying, that’d be fine. Whether you’re armed with a shotgun, a katana or a frying pan, every stab and slash feels accurately modelled to your movements, and grabbing an enemy’s head in your left hand while shivving it in the eye socket with your right never gets old. At the same time, a depleting stamina bar and weapons that slowly break make you feel vulnerable, which means every group of shambling zombies elicits a jolt of terror. But Saints and Sinners is more than a mindless zombie murder sim: it gives you choice in how to approach combat (you can even disguise yourself as a zombie by rubbing guts all over you), and it has a properly fleshed-out story that spans 15 hours. Plus, its day-night cycle creates an urgent rhythm, as well as a constant balance of risk and reward.
Each day, you complete objectives in a given area. At night, the face-munchers come out, and more appear out with each passing evening. Push your luck past dark and you’ll grab more loot, but you’ll also face more danger. It’s a delicious tension that keeps Saints and Sinners exciting throughout. Even though the story is nothing special, you’ll want to see it through until the last undead head rolls.
Play it now:
Legends of Runeterra
This is a card adaptation of League of Legends that isn’t just for fans of Riot’s MOBA. Legends of Runeterra has all the polish of Hearthstone, especially in its flashy card animations, but it has more than a few tricks of its own. Players can store unused mana between turns, which transforms a bad draw into an opportunity. Each of the 24 characters, modelled on League of Legends heroes, levels up as you use them, and provide obvious pillars to build your deck around. Best of all, Legends of Runeterra lacks the predatory, pay-to-win traps of its competitors. It doles out rewards generously, and by simply playing against other players, or against the AI, you’ll amass a formidable deck.
That levels the playing field, which makes it feel more accessible than other games. And the fact you get to respond every time an opponent takes an action makes it less likely you’ll be steamrolled, even if you’re a card game noob. It’s still in open beta, but you should jump in: the water’s fine (and free, too).
Play it now:
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics
This turn-based adaptation of the Netflix TV series The Dark Crystal has a long-winded name and baffling lore, but its combat feels snappy and responsive. The strategy pitch is similar to XCOM 2: a clever UI that eases you into the action, but plenty of depth to play around with once you get the hang of it. The slightly surreal design of the characters – somewhere between puppet, fairy and dwarf – and a deep customisation system gives it a feeling all its own.
Its class system is one of the most flexible you’ll find in a strategy game. Characters have a primary “job”, ranging from the familiar (Soldier, Thief), to the bizarre (Bramble Sage, Grave Dancer), and they can also take a second job to expand their skills in unusual combinations. On top of that, you get synergy within your squad, with various buffs and debuffs flying between your character. It’s this experimentation, and the chance to kit out your heroes exactly as you want, that makes The Dark Crystal worth playing, even if you’re not a fan of the show.
BioShock 2 is often seen as the runt of the series – BioShock was more original, Infinite more ambitious – but it deserves a spot in your memory bank. Its 10-year anniversary this month is the perfect time to revisit it, discovering the crumbling ruins of Rapture and the deeply personal story that lies within. The action is largely the same as the first game: explore, shoot and plasmid your way through groups of enemies, but this time there’s more emphasis on the characters you mean, which means the story, for many players, feels more involved. It doesn’t wear its philosophy as visibly as the first game, but Dr. Sofia Lamb’s obsession with the “greater good” provides plenty to chew over.
While The Pedestrian (see above) will get your brain working, it left us wanting a bigger, meatier challenge, and 2020 has so far been fairly dry for puzzle games. So why not revisit one of the classics? The Witness, the atmospheric, branching creation of Jonathan Blow, still feels as majestic now as it did back in 2016. On the surface, the puzzles are simple: you draw patterns on grids. But the rules of each of those grids are never explained, and figuring them out requires impressive mental gymnastics. Hints often come from the wonderful environments around each puzzle, and will often intertwine with challenges in a completely different zone of the map. It’s one of those all-encompassing games that takes over all your headspace. Before long, you’ll be dreaming of grids and lines.
Turn to page two for our full rundown of the 30 best PC games you need to add to your wishlist immediately...