If you're looking for the best PC games of all time... well, you've got plenty of choice right now. Those serious about playing games at their very best will undoubtedly have invested in one of the best gaming PCs, or built their own, and are ready to crank the settings to Ultra and experience 2018's finest in glorious 4K. Not that all the best PC games are modern - many hail from several years ago, their brilliance not yet surpassed, and their sheer playability a testament to how brilliantly they were crafted. They're true showcases for your PC.
And while most games that were previously guaranteed to exist solely on console now regularly come to PC it's also host to a huge number of exclusives that will never make their way to consoles: strategy and tactics games or indie gems that don't translate well. At the very least, a huge number of these games launch first on PC, and don't hit consoles until years later, including megahits like Fortnite and PUBG. We rounded up 30 of the best games you can get your mitts on now, on the most powerful platform on the planet. If you're PC curious, here's our guide to how to build a gaming PC. And another on how to buy a gaming PC for less.
30. Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)
The 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider was one of the best modernizations of an older franchise in the last few years, and Rise of the Tomb Raider takes the formula the first one executed on so well and turns it up to 11. Retaining the gorgeous visual presentation and visceral combat of the reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider adds larger, beautiful new environments, new tools and weapons, and deeper systems and side activities to bolster its tale of family, obsession, and survival. It borrows pages from the Uncharted playbook but it consistently feels more like a game you want to play than a story you want to watch, and it fills a niche on PC that's been left otherwise largely empty.
29. Dishonored 2 (2016)
Like a lot of people, I fell off the original Dishonored after only a few hours. While I saw the makings of a great game trapped somewhere in that convoluted formula, for me the original failed to execute in the ways I wanted, and made me feel more like a stumbling neonate than a master assassin. Dishonored 2 distills some of those killer ideas from the original down into a much purer, more interesting format, and wraps them in a sprawling story that keeps you engaged to the very end. Each level is like 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.
28. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag (2013)
Coming on the heels of the sub-par Assassin’s Creed 3, and preceding the technical trainwreck represented by AC: Unity, Assassin’s Creed 4 stands out as one of the best in the series. It's more varied than AC 2, and more epic than AC: Syndicate - two of the best Assassin's Creed games. Assassin's Creed 4 is a pretty big departure from previous games - it doubles down on naval combat, one of the best (and only salvageable) aspects of Assassin’s Creed 3, and really pushes its pirate story ahead of the usual po-faced Assassins vs Templars stuff. The result is a hugely likeable game with a great cast of characters, a beautiful open world, and plenty in that environment to do.
27. Kerbal Space Programme (2015)
Kerbal Space Programme is an excellent example of how a bizarre premise (in this case, Minecraft but for spacecraft) executed with care by passionate people can pay huge dividends. With its startlingly realistic simulation of physics, down to very specific elements like thrust and velocity, and it’s huge arsenal of components and open ended design framework, Kerbal is any amateur astronauts dream come true. Even for those of us who don’t find the prospect of designing a realistic space vehicle particularly enticing, Kerbal offers a fun workshop and a massive catalogue of tools and equipment to toy around with. While the vast majority of my creations ended up exploding on the launch pad, I still had a great deal of fun strapping a ridiculous number of rockets and fuel pods onto my misshapen monstrosities and watching the horrified expressions on my Kerbal’s faces as I attempted to launch them heavenward.
26. EVE Online (2003 onwards)
EVE Online was a pretty bold experiment when it launched, and the fact that it’s succeeded to the extent that it has is rather surprising, but also testament to the incredible amount of care and attention that went into its development and the power of the core ideas it presents. Building a subscription based MMO at time when only World of Warcraft seemed able to successfully exploit that model, and a complex space simulation at a time when the popularity of that genre had waned to an almost historic low, was an incredibly bold move and one that has yielded some of the best stories in video game history. While I personally find EVE Online nearly impenetrable, with its well deserved reputation as a ‘spreadsheets in space’ simulator, there are few things I enjoy reading more than the stories of betrayal, epic conflict, and incredible intrigue that EVE has generated over the years. From corporate espionage to the employment of real world spycraft by actual intelligence agents, to the loss of thousands of real world dollars worth of vessels and goods, EVE is unquestionably a font of better narratives than have ever been purposefully written by even the best of video game storytellers.
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25. DOTA 2 (2013)
The new-and-improved progenitor of the modern MOBA genre, Dota 2 is everything that hardcore gamers love about the original without the restrictions of Warcraft 3's aging engine or chunky graphics. In their place, Valve infused every hero with a uniquely gorgeous aesthetic, and implemented quality-of-life improvements to the online infrastructure that cater to veterans and newcomers alike. The upgrades turned one of the most demanding games on the planet into something that anyone can get into; it's no less competitive, but Dota 2 isn't as cutthroat as its predecessor. Few games can teach you the importance of teamwork, situational awareness, and hotkey dexterity like Dota 2, where every gank becomes an invaluable learning experience.
24. Fortnite Battle Royale (2017)
PUBG may have paved the way, but Fortnite has seized the battle royale crown and become one of the biggest and most talked about games on the planet. While it’s seen considerable success on other platforms, its true home will always be PC, where it was born as an experimental add-on to an already ambitious tower defense/3rd-person shooter/crafting hybrid (which is still a fun, playable mode that’s all but disappeared in the avalanche of the battle royale’s success.)
It nails the battle royale formula, 100 players parachuting down to an island to scavenge for weapons and compete to be the final survivor, but adds the cartoonish style and instant building of the Save the World mode. The combination feels more arcade-y than more serious takes on the battle royale formula, though no less tense when you see that players left indicator drop into the single digits and know you’re right on the brink of a glorious Victory Royale.
23. XCOM 2 (2016)
When XCOM: Enemy Unknown dropped in 2012, the child in me celebrated. One of my favorite franchises from the dark ages of PC gaming was getting a proper, modern reboot, in the capable hands of Firaxis, one of the best and most well-established purveyors of strategy game titles in the modern world. And it didn’t disappoint, delivering all the thrilling tension of the original game in a fresh, 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 was reaching another keening high, XCOM 2 delivered another dose of some of the best turn-based strategy around just when gamers craved it most. And it’s still great today.
22. Telltale's The Walking Dead (2012)
So many games place an emphasis on action over story - but in The Walking Dead, Telltale's excellent adventure series, the story is the game. As Lee, you encounter a young girl named Clementine, and the rest of the game is about the choices you'll make to keep the both of you alive, and how those choices affect those around you. Often, you'll have only seconds to make an impossible decision. Who do you side with when two members of your group start fighting? Or is it better to keep your mouth shut? No matter your choice, it usually has far-reaching consequences that you couldn't have seen coming. It's a compelling story, one that you can't help but feel invested in. And once you finish a play-through, the experience will stick with you for so long afterwards.
21. Total War: Warhammer 2 (2017)
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.
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