The 25 best PC games to play right now

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The best PC games represent the pinnacle of what it means to be a PC gamer. Sure, consoles are great and all - but the sometimes you just need to see what the graphics settings look like cranked all the way up, or you yearn for the precision control that only a mouse and keyboard setup can offer. Another perk of gaming on PC is that you can choose from hundreds of thousands of available games, be they big or small, indie or AAA, full-price or free-to-play. But with so many options, it can be tough to figure out what you should play next. That's where our list of the best PC games comes in, giving you a great place to chart your next gaming journey in front of the monitor.

A few quick ground rules: first, this ranking is based on what it's like to play these games today, so while you'll see games that are a few years old at this point, we think they're worth enjoying even in 2019. Second, while we won't be rating mods themselves (a feature largely unique to the PC scene), there's no denying the ability to mod some games makes them exponentially more enjoyable. Along those same lines, we're also giving consideration to games that work better on PC than other platforms. So while you might be able to play Diablo 3 on a number of systems, the mouse-and-keyboard controls on PC earn it a bit more praise.

If you need to upgrade your PC to run some of them, check out our high end gaming PC build guide! Alternatively, if you need a pre-built, here are the best gaming PCs of 2019, and the best gaming laptops. Without further ado, here are the 25 best PC games to play right now.

25. XCOM 2

2012's XCOM: Enemy Unknown delivered thrilling tension in a candy-sweet shell, complete with upgrade mechanics, an expandable base, and that walking-the-razor’s-edge sensation of balancing several complicated systems at once all while trying to save the world. The follow-up builds on the success of the first game and preserves all of its best bits, from characters you get attached to as they succeed and grow, to the teeth-gritting way time passes, knowing the next game-shattering event may be only seconds away. But it also adds more of what we loved about the original: more devious foes to combat, more incredible gear to research and manufacture, and a storyline that puts the alien invaders in the driver’s seat of a planet spiraling towards hopelessness. Perfectly timed to release just when appetites for more turn-based action were reaching another high, XCOM 2 delivered another dose of some of the best turn-based strategy around just when gamers craved it most.

24. Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 takes the first game's play-how-you-want design philosophy and runs wild, giving you the option to once again go behind the mask as Corvo or try out a new suite of supernatural powers as Emily Kaldwin. The storyline is sprawling and engaging to the very end, with each level functioning as a bloody puzzle for you to solve, either by stealthy assassin skills or powerful brute force. Loads of games claim to let you play your own way - Dishonored 2 truly delivers that through the strength of its gameplay and the smart design of its worlds.

23. Total War: Warhammer 2

The Total War games have long been some of the best strategy games on the market, each iteration introducing new ingredients and refinements to a recipe that manages to satisfy hardcore grognards without alienating budding strategists. But they’ve also always been mired in historical accuracy, deep simulations of real world kingdoms and empires.

Total War: Warhammer shattered those real world shackles and unleashed dragons and demons on the huge, seething battlefields of Total War, and the sequel shows how much the team at Creative Assembly learned making the first game. It brings the tabletop game to glorious, spectacular life, complete with explosive fireballs, fantastical creatures, and the hideous armies of blackest Chaos, and with the Mortal Empires expansion allows players to conquer the entire, sprawling Warhammer world.

22. League of Legends

There are few games as emblematic of the PC gaming scene as League of Legends. Spawned from a mod for Warcraft 3, League features more than 100 champions for players to choose from as they coordinate with up to four teammates to destroy the enemy base. It's not so simple as all that though, as there are minions to farm for gold, items to buy and boost your power, areas hidden by fog of war, powerful turret defenses, and of course, the enemy team to contend with. Few games can teach you the importance of teamwork, situational awareness, and hotkey dexterity like League, where every gank becomes an invaluable learning experience. But hey, if you're feeling the pressure in League's standard 5v5 mode, try a 3v3 match or All-Random, All-Mid (ARAM) match for some more casual fun.

21. Dark Souls 3

The Dark Souls franchise is one of the best recent examples of a game series that spawned an entire genre. It’s the sort of concept that’s increasingly rare in a time when it feels like so many ideas have been so thoroughly mined, but Dark Souls proves that there are still new experiences to be had, and the third game represents the most polished take on the Souls formula yet. With its massive world, full of diverse, gorgeous, and deadly environments, and its black fantasy atmosphere and hideous creatures, Dark Souls 3 gives us the most engaging setting in the series’ history. And while it doesn’t stray too wildly from the established Souls formula, it does add just enough tweaks and improvements to please even jaded veterans like myself, things like weapon arts and improved bow mechanics, or multi-stage bosses. Dark Souls 3 is unquestionably the best starting point for newcomers to the series, but also, incredibly, manages to offer enough fresh angles to seduce even players who have exhausted all three (including Demon Souls) of the previous games into committing another 70 or so hours of their time.

20. Stardew Valley

A satisfying Harvest Moon experience on PC has long been a fantasy of many, but until recently every attempt at replicating the cartoony farming simulator has fallen well short of the mark. But Stardew Valley not only delivers a comparable sim, it actually leverages a number of new systems that expand on the core Harvest Moon formula in some refreshing ways. While the heart of Stardew Valley remains the management and expansion of your farmstead, the game adds a huge number of other elements to juggle, from battling your way through the dangerous, monster-ridden depths of the local mine to romancing various members of the local citizenry. Stardew Valley ensures that you’re never short of people to meet and things to do, and practically every system is enriched with interesting rewards or standout mechanics.

19. Sid Meier's Civilization 6

The age of Earth-bound discover may well and truly be behind us - you're not going to take a wrong turn and find a new continent, or trip over a rock and unearth a forgotten society - but when you're playing Sid Meier's Civilization 6, you get to experience those feelings over and over again. Finding ancient ruins and learning a new technology is remarkable, and building advanced boats and sailing into the deep ocean only to find that there's a new world out there is nothing short of exhilarating. 

And then you get to take that new world over, which is pretty cool, too. Civ 6 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does allow you to, and it takes the best parts of the old games and tweaks them in interesting new ways, like it’s novel districts system and new spin on cross-civilization diplomacy. The game contains hundreds of hours of gameplay, with over 20 unique leaders to control, all of which fundamentally change the way you play. With the Rise and Fall expansion, which makes empires more dynamic and changeable than ever before in the series, there's never been a better time to sink into one of the most venerable strategy franchises of all time.

18. Fallout 4

If there’s one thing Bethesda has proven it can do exceptionally well, it’s build a huge world and then fill it with compelling characters, interesting side quests, and enough detritus to keep the most obsessive of us busy (and deeply uncomfortable) for decades. Fallout 4 is Bethesda at the height of its powers. Yes, it’s a glitchy, deeply flawed game in a number of ways, but that makes how wonderful it is to play and explore even more impressive. It’s the most beautiful world Bethesda has ever created, even despite it’s decaying, ruined aesthetic, and in the tradition of Fallout 3 its robust DLC offerings give us brand new and varied dimensions of the shattered Commonwealth to unearth and comb for rusted treasures and fresh stories. And as for the settlement building in Fallout 4? Magic.

17. Grand Theft Auto 5

For a series that’s so well established, GTA 5 brings a surprising number of innovations and risks to the open world genre it defined. From its diverse cast (three playable characters who are, in large part, unlikeable and unsympathetic, at least on the surface) to its extremely ambitious and seemingly endless multiplayer online component, GTA 5 brought so many fresh elements to a series that could have ruled the world by changing very little. The PC version arrived much later than the initial console releases, bringing with it significantly upgraded visuals and a first-person mode, for anyone who wants to see Los Santos from a different perspective. Often imitated, never bettered, GTA 5 remains a colorful, satirical slice of open world madness, and one of the best games you can buy for your PC.

16. Hearthstone

It should come as no surprise that a number of the games on this list are Blizzard products. Not only has Blizzard shown an admirable commitment to PC-first development, but it has also mastered the art of lifting some of the best ideas in a genre and dropping them into a highly polished game that, inevitably, proves to be compulsively playable and addictive. With Hearthstone, Blizzard peels some of the most fun mechanics from CCGs like Magic: The Gathering and presents them in a flashy, streamlined package with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a Blizzard product. The crisp visuals, including gorgeous renderings of some of Blizzard’s more iconic characters, are flourishes from a game that’s firmly grounded in solid card battling mechanics and a steady trickle of rewards that make every match feel meaningful. 

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