The best single-player games can transport us to wonderfully fantastical worlds without the inconvenience of unreliable strangers with shoddy internet connections. And with the latest hardware pushing the boundaries of what's possible on console and PC further than ever before, there are now so many great single-player games out there, free of the multiplayer sphere's ever-evolving seasons and innumerable weekly updates, just waiting to be explored.
Despite the boom of online video games over the last several years, some of the best single-player games have dropped during that time. In 2021 alone, we've seen the arrival of Resident Evil Village, Hitman 3 and Psychonauts 2 – all of which feature on the below list – as well as shiny next-gen console upgrades by way of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade. All of which underlines the value of single-player games in today's diverse gaming landscape.
From narrative-led epics, to numbers-juggling management sims, contract-killing capers, scary survival horror and more, there's something for everyone on our list of the best single-player games you can play right now.
25. Hitman 3
If you’re missing the thrill of exploring the world right now, then Hitman 3 is the perfect antidote. With each Hitman level suddenly throwing an out of place 47 into a new country for a brief stint, there's only just enough time for him to get in and hastily get the job done before he's suddenly whisked away to his next 'business trip'. Sending players everywhere from a cavernous Berlin club to a strange country manor, this endlessly inventive arcade-like sandbox is a wonderfully varied global murder fest. With more tools for destruction at your disposal than ever before, this endlessly replayable action game lets you be as creative as possible, offering players a litany of hilarious ways to dispatch your marks. Move over Microsoft Flight Simulator, Hitman 3 is the true virtual MVP travel experience.
24. Before Your Eyes
If you’re looking to be emotionally devastated, then look no further. Telling the tale of a man’s life flashing before his eyes, this webcam-controlled adventure sees the player using real world blinks to navigate in-game memories. Thanks to its innovative control scheme, the game feels deeply personal – and by the time you reach its finale, it’s hard not to find yourself bawling uncontrollably. While Before Your Eyes is undoubtedly the briefest title on our list, this film-length tale packs an emotional punch that will linger long after the credits roll.
Part old arcade school shoot em up, part Hideo Kojima-esque narrative opus, Returnal is a bizarre, ambitious and utterly enthralling ride. It’s also unrelentingly brutal. Light on save points and big on punishment, this all-consuming PS5 exclusive definitely isn’t an easy ride. Yet thanks to its slick-feeling movement, all-consuming sense of atmosphere, and brilliant sense of intrigue, it’s a game that constantly beckons you to return. Blending a sickeningly detailed Aliens-esque aesthetic with some of the most satisfying combat this side of Platinum games, this story-led sci-fi roguelike is a creation that’s refreshingly unique. Whether you’re new to the genre or are an old hand, Returnal is a gorgeous, ambitious, and completely essential experience.
22. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
If you’re itching to wield a virtual lightsaber after binge-watching the Mandalorian, then look no further. Taking its cues from Dark Souls and Hollow Knight, Jedi Fallen Order is a giddy blend of Uncharted-esque cinematic adventure and challenging Metroidvania. Yet more crucially for Star Wars stans, the tale it tells is entirely cannon. Featuring characters from Rogue One and tying neatly into the events of Rebels, the Bad Batch and The Clone Wars, Fallen Order is a must for anyone who’s found themselves falling back in love with a galaxy far, far away.
21. Cyberpunk 2077
It may not have got off to the best launch, but make no mistake – Cyberpunk 2077 is still well worth your time. For the murky background behind its development and its (initial) litany of game-ruining bugs, Cyberpunk’s Night City is undeniably an exhilarating place to explore. Featuring a brilliant soundtrack, industry-leading voice acting and enough side quests to shake a Bloody Baron at, Cyberpunk 2077 is about as epic as an open-world epic can get. Receiving a constant stream of patches and a full current-gen upgrade after its disastrous launch, it’s an experience that is only getting better over time. Sure, it’s not The Witcher 3, but if you fancy a dystopian sci-fi RPG, there are few better.
20. Outer Wilds
Not to be confused with Obsidian's sci-fi RPG, The Outer Worlds (more on that later), Mobius Digital's indie darling is also set in the far flung reaches of space, yet offers an entirely different narrative experience to the game it shares two thirds of a title with, and indeed any other title out there.
Outer Wilds puts you in the astronautical boots of a newly trained spacefarer for an alien race, but it just so happens your first day on the job also coincides with a solar supernova wipes out the entire galaxy. I'll refrain from spoiling anything else beyond that, but suffice to say that what follows is a daring, deviously clever investigation into time and space that will have you awe-inspired from the moment you take off.
19. Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade
Final Fantasy 7 Remake achieves what we thought was impossible. It takes just the first section of Square Enix's 1997 JRPG, stretches it out into a full, 50 hour experience, switches up turn-based combat for real-time action, and subverts everything you thought you know about the original story.
And yet, even with those daring, potentially controversial changes, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is incredible, and arguably an even more timeless and magical experience than the beloved title it's inspired by. If this is just the beginning for a multi-game re-imagining of one of Japan's most beloved stories, then count us in for every new chapter.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade, a shinier, enhanced and upgraded version of the previous year's base game, landed on June 10, 2021 for PS5.
18. Half-Life: Alyx
I am fully aware that few people have the financial means to play Valve's unexpected prequel to its Half-Life series, which released earlier this year as a virtual reality exclusive on PC. That being said, it would be criminal to ignore the achievements that Half-Life: Alyx makes for immersive storytelling, and the VR platform as a whole, making this a must buy if you happen to own a headset and PC right now.
Not only is it a brilliant experience on its own merit, however, Alyx makes important statements about the future of Half-Life itself, with our titular scavenger's adventure connecting to the series' overarching narrative in jaw-dropping ways. Here's hoping Valve brings out a non-VR port sometime soon.
17. Pokemon Sword and Shield
Nintendo's latest return to its beloved critter collection franchise is the most ambitious Pokemon entry yet. Set in the UK-inspired Galar region, your trainer travels on Nintendo Switch features a gorgeously rendered, three-dimensional world full of dynamic encounters, quirky characters, and - yes - hundreds of Pokemon to find, battle, and evolve. What's more, with two new expansions on the way, there's never been a better time to pick Pokemon Sword and Shield, and begin your adventures across Galar and beyond.
16. Psychonauts 2
Psychonauts 2 is an unlikely sequel to a cult classic that was released in 2005, funded by fans in 2015, and published in 2021. To this end, Double Fine walked a winding path to get Psychonauts 2 into the world – something which is reflected in the consistency, quality, and unabashed weirdness of the overall experience.
Which is to say: Psychonauts 2 is what you get when a talented team has no choice but to go all-in on the hand it has been dealt by the house. And, wow, was this vision of a sequel worth the decade-and-a-half wait!
15. The Outer Worlds
If you've never played an Obsidian game before, you're in for a treat with The Outer Worlds. The studio's latest new IP is a ragtag, zigzap tour through the future of the final frontier, one where corporations are in control, and as jovial and joyous in tone as it is cynical in satire.
Obsidian's talent for classic role-playing immersion is firing at full throttle here, complete with branching storylines, deep and robust character customisation, and a whole cast of companions to befriend and explore the galaxy with. Hopefully The Outer Worlds is just the start of many a new adventure in Halcyon, because we already love what Obsidian has shown us so far.
14. Resident Evil 2 Remake
Capcom's initial announcement of Resident Evil 2 Remake was naturally met with some scepticism at first, but we couldn't have been more off-base. The studio's loving recreation of its 90's survival horror classic is the perfect example of how to modernise an old game while staying true to its roots.
Leon's harrowing gauntlet through the Raccoon City Police Department is one of the scariest, toughest campaigns we've ever had the joy of running through, completely accessible to series newcomers yet still littered with easter eggs to delight the Resi faithful. This is how horror is done, and proves just how much life there is in Capcom's seminal franchise yet.
Resident Evil Village arrived with much fanfare on May 7, 2021, but, while excellent in some parts, didn't quite hit the same heights as the second main series entry's reimagining.
13. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
The current crop of consoles may have got off to a bit of a shaky start, but Spider-Man Miles Morales was a clear launch highlight. Picking up where 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man left off, this 15-hour standalone adventure puts players in the shoes of the other Spider-Man. Not only is Insomniac’s second Spidey outing drop-dead gorgeous, it’s an utter joy to play, too. Stepping up the level of cinematic storytelling and giving players a toybox full of new suit upgrades to play with, Miles Morales’ Christmas-time Harlem is an utter joy to swing through. If you’re after something fun and story-led, then look no further.
12. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is magical. There are moments where you'll ponder just how a platformer has managed to pull off such a wonderful experience. From the very start, you'll be weeping like a willow as you're re-introduced to Ori, Naru, Sein, alongside equally adorable new character, Ku.
Gameplay-wise, Developer Moon Studios also manage to refine and finesse everything that was great about 2014's Ori and the Blind Forest, bringing new depth and joys to combat, exploration, and platforming. A mesmerising adventure from start to finish.
11. Football Manager 2021
Football Manager 2021 is the footie/soccer management sim series' most accomplished entry in years. What began as Championship Manager many moons ago has slowly evolved into the stats-heavy, tactics-tinkerer's dream we have today, and it just keeps getting better.
Whether you want to play as one of the biggest clubs in the world – like, say, I dunno, Celtic – and dominate Scottish football and beyond; or start from the very bottom of lower league English football and work your way up, Football Manager 2021 has it all.
Remedy's latest delve into new weird is perhaps the studio's strangest, and finest, work yet. Putting you in the boots of the Federal Bureau of Control's newly appointed Director, Jesse, it's up to you to journey into the depths of its HQ, the Oldest House, which is as creepy, magical, and mysterious as it sounds.
With its supernaturally flavoured third-person shooter combat, delectably off-kilter story, and genuinely jaw dropping visuals, Control is a preternatural pill of kaleidoscopic carnage, with every moment managing to top the last in its pure, surreal wonder. Oh, and without getting too spoilery, Alan Wake fans do not want to pass this one.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Who'd have thought that of all games, the Zelda series would be the one to introduce one of the best open worlds of all time? Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Zelda's first... sorry, Link's first journey on the Nintendo Switch and it's one of his best ever. There's so much to do! From searching for the 900 Korok Seeds to hunting down Guardians and completing shrines, Breath of the Wild is perhaps the best RPG available on Switch right now.
8. God of War
The God of War franchise has always been great, but God of War PS4 has taken things to the next level. It's gone from linear storytelling to a semi-open world, where players control Kratos and explore worlds taken straight from Norse mythology. It's brutal, bad ass, and bafflingly beautiful, which is why we called it one of "PlayStation's finest moments".
7. Assassin's Creed Valhalla
To say that Assassin’s Creed has become stale in recent years would be an understatement. Thankfully, for its 12th mainline adventure, Ubisoft heard our grumbles. Dropping the series tedious forced stealth and fully committing to a grin-inducing historical power fantasy, Assassin's Creed Valhalla lets players embrace the fury of a blood-soaked Viking. Following years of climbing towers and walking really slowly behind enemies, Valhalla’s head cleaving, fortress toppler is a breath of fresh air. Offering up the most life-like and varied Ubisoft open world to date, and refreshingly weighty combat, Valhalla’s Ye Olde England is a world to really lose yourself in.
6. Super Mario Odyssey
Everyone's favourite plumber leapt onto the Nintendo Switch with a purpose with Super Mario Odyssey, along with his new best pal Cappy. Embark on another treacherous journey across multiple worlds to save Princess Peach from Bowser's clutches and meet numerous friendly and fearsome characters along the way. Super Mario Odyssey retains the charm and captivating gameplay from previous instalments, while keeping up with modern gameplay elements and introducing new mechanics of its own.
5. Kingdom Hearts 3
Who needs a significant other when you can journey through various Disney worlds with Donald Duck and Goofy by your side? Kingdom Hearts 3 is the long-awaited third instalment in the franchise and it hasn't disappointed. From climbing the North Mountain in Arendelle (Frozen) to exploring Andy's Room in Toy Box (Toy Story) and flying around San Fransokyo (Big Hero 6), Kingdom Hearts 3 is a lengthy JRPG that is perfect for veterans and newcomers to the series alike.
4. Red Dead Redemption 2
Is there a better way to kick off this list than with Rockstar's western epic? A prequel to the first game, Red Dead Redemption 2 places you in the shoes of Arthur Morgan. Explore the staggeringly beautiful wild west on horseback, hunt animals, play poker, go fishing and more as you saunter around as part of Dutch van der Linde's gang. When you've finished with the 80+ hour journey, jump into Red Dead Online for even more wild west action.
3. Horizon Zero Dawn
Robot dinosaurs. Need we say anything else? Probably not, but we will anyway. Take control of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn, an open world RPG where she discovers herself and her history. Robot dinosaurs inhabit the landscape, from small Watchers to terrifying Snapmaws and Thunderjaws. Horizon Zero Dawn rarely puts a foot wrong, from the plethora of ways to engage in combat to travelling across the map and exploring the various tribes that have set up homes and towns in every corner.
2. The Last Of Us 2
To be fair, we could easily have named The Last Of Us here, but its sequel, the neatly named The Last of Us 2, took the original formula and improved it across the board. Like its predecessor, expect themes of love, loss, and more breath-taking moments than you can shake a makeshift Molotov cocktail at. The first Last of Us venture was hardly lacking in themes of humanity and morality, but number Two dials those levels up to 11, and is all the better for it.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
If you can get your head round a brand new style of combat that does away with most conventions seen in other games, the rest of The Witcher 3 could be considered perfect. You are Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher - also known as a monster slayer to you and I. There's so much to do and see in The Witcher 3, it may seem overwhelming at first, but after you complete your first few monster contracts and begin Geralt's journey to find the ones he loves, you will not put the game down until you've reached the end and slain thousands of enemies.