10. Crusader Kings 2
Crusader Kings 2 has all the backstabbing, strategic marriages and warfare you’d expect from a series of Game of Thrones (and if you want, there’s a full GoT mod that moves CK2 to Westeros). Paradox’s grand strategy sim is complicated and occasionally fiddly, but it’s the deepest power sim on PC, and every campaign takes on its own, ever-changing personality. That’s largely because every character on the map, from a mighty ruler to a lowly vassal, has their own traits, ambitions and rivalries. When they collide, it’s orchestrated chaos that’s unpredictable enough to be exciting, but that, with the right moves, you can still bend to your will, controlling any one of these characters in any era. Once you dive into Crusader Kings 2, you won’t resurface for years. Just make sure you watch a good tutorial first.
Play it on: PC
9. Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium is an old-school RPG entirely without combat – everything hangs on the dialogue, characters and story. Thankfully, its writing sings and sizzles. The protagonist, a washed-up alcoholic detective, has entire dramas and tragedies playing out inside his own head, with different parts of his conscious and subconscious chiming in to make their views heard. When that collides with other characters, each with their own strong personalities, it creates sparks. The way you create your character and deploy skill points changes the conversations you have, and the decisions you make alter the story. There’s more joy and humour in one of Disco Elysium’s branching dialogue sequences than in the entirety of some other games. We implore you to jump back in, role-play a different type of detective, and see where your inner demons carry you.
Play it on: PC, PS4,Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
8. Hitman 2
The Hitman series has always been about dropping you – bald assassin Agent 47 – into a large, living level, giving you a target to kill, and leaving the rest up to you. Maps are dioramas where NPCs have routines and conversations, and as you watch them whirl around, opportunities will present themselves for sniping from a rooftop, disguising as a chef and poisoning food, or cutting a support wire to drop a chandelier on your target’s head. Hitman 2, which also comes bundled with Hitman 1, is the best version of the formula yet. Beautiful levels, imaginative kills, tonnes of disguises: everything a would-be assassin dreams of. With dozens of ways to kill enemies, it’s worth playing through the same level several times, and the game even prompts you with more scripted “opportunities” that help guide you if you’re stuck.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
7. Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is the best modern action-platformer around, and we never need an excuse to replay it. But if you insist, the upcoming release of Hollow Knight: Silksong, due out this summer, makes the timing perfect. It’s one of the games we’re most looking forward to this year, and jumping back into the original only makes us more excited: its labyrinthine world hides secrets you’ll only find the second time around, while its five endings (plus a secret bonus cutscene) all have specific requirements you need to fulfill during a run. Add in a varied list of abilities, spells and charms, of which there are 45 to equip in different combinations, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the most replayable Metroidvanias of all time.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
6. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 is up there with the greatest games of all time, and it’s worth experiencing more than once. It’s perhaps not quite as replayable as Bethesda’s RPGs because you’re not creating your own character or picking perks, and much of the joy of it comes from the story in both the main and side quests. But it’s absolutely worth replaying: concentrate on a location you didn’t visit much the first time around and you’ll find another 100 hours of role-playing bliss waiting for you. Plus, it’s two DLCs are superb, particularly Blood and Wine, which has some of the best quests in the entire game.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
5. 80 Days
A glorious adventure that, in many ways, surpasses the wonder of the Jules Verne novel that inspired it. No journey Around the World will be the same in 80 Days, as Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout try to circumnavigate the road in record time. With 180 locations to visit, each with bespoke stories and surprising characters – a toymaker in Herat, a chef aboard an airship above the Bay of Bengal, and even a cameo for Verne himself. Some journeys between city nodes take days at a time, meaning you couldn’t possibly see everything in your first journey. And that’s the whole point: 80 Days isn’t really designed for you to travel the globe in your allotted time; instead, it invites you to point your compass in a random direction and enjoy the wonders of a steampunk world.
Play it now: PC, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch
4. Divinity Original Sin 2
Larian’s dense, text-heavy RPG gives you plenty of reasons to revisit. First, its world is chock full of lore, quests, and dialogue, and you couldn’t possibly see it all in one sitting. Second, its breadth of classes and origin stories will give each of your heroes different skills, strengths and motivations, which will make the same quests play differently the second time around. And lastly, its flexible turn-based combat, which revolves around combining character skills and using the terrain to your advantage, creates endless possible ways to down your enemies, whether by sword, spell or grenade. Experiment as much as possible.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
3. Mass Effect Trilogy
Mass Effect is still our go-to RPG trilogy. Yes, The Witcher 3 is better than Mass Effect 3, but the character arcs that span the entire Mass Effect series make ploughing through all three games a more self-contained, coherent experience, arguably. The replayability comes in many forms: first, in the character you create, whether it’s a biotic specialist who can throw enemies with their mind or a sniper who can sabotage enemy electronics. Second, in the side quests and optional dialogues that change the relationships between Commander Shepard and his or her crew. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s in the choices you make. You can criticise Mass Effect’s binary morality, but your decisions have a massive impact on the world. Roleplay a sociopath and you’ll end up with a completely different universe to the nice, friendly Shepard you controlled the first time around.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One
2. Dishonored 2
Arkane Studios made a big deal out of the original Dishonored’s diverging paths: if you killed everyone, you’d get a “high chaos” run, with more rats roaming the streets and different story beats, whereas keeping things stealthy resulted in a “low chaos” narrative. But, to us, it never really felt all that replayable. Dishonored 2 trumped it in that regard: its bigger levels provided more routes to your targets, and more ways to plan for their timely demise. You could play the same mission five times and come up with five different strategies for slipping past guards and getting your target alone. Plus, the choice to play as either Emily or Corvo, the Dishonored protagonist, is a weighty one, and their differing powers lend you new tactical options. As Corvo, you can bend time and possess enemies, whereas Emily can link the fates of foes together, and clone herself to create a distraction. Whichever one you picked the first time, choose the other on your second run.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
1. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is the ultimate replayable game. Its gigantic world is densely packed with towns and quests, along with an endless number of playstyles to master. You might play a stealthy archer with a love of alchemy and poison arrows, a bare-knuckle brawler who charms in conversation, a battle mage who’s also a vampire – and these fluid archetypes will evolve naturally as you explore.
The story lets you make choices and pick sides, but honestly, you could spend 100 hours in a playthrough without touching the main quest. There’s just that much to do: new taverns to drink at, new pockets to pick, new armor sets to complete. And just when you thought you’d finished with it, a new overhaul mod comes out. Skyrim’s mod scene, especially on the PC, is perhaps the most vibrant around. You’ll find mods that are essentially standalone games in brand new locations, while others add entire towns and new quest lines. Skyrim is simply the treasure chest that keeps on giving.
Play it on: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC