The 7 Best PC Games of 2021

We've rounded up the most addicting games to play on your computer

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The Rundown
"Cyberpunk 2077 is the result of years' worth of development and hype from CD Projekt RED"
"Takes the tight gunplay of the Call of Duty games and takes the single-player campaign back to the past for this '80s adventure."
"The Halo series is one of the most well-known entries in the sci-fi universe."
"Zagreus, the son of Hades himself, is in quite the predicament: he's trying to escape the Underworld."
"Fuser is the next logical evolution of what developer Harmonix was capable of."
"Empire of Sin is one of the most inventive strategy games to have debuted in recent years."
"Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes players to the Viking invasion of Britain."

When it comes to PC gaming, there's a whole cavalcade of titles stretched out before players. No matter what type of gamer you are, there's something out there for you to play. From the sprawling roads of Night City to the DJ music-mixing goodness of Fuser, there's a game that's perfect for everyone, no matter their tastes.

But what makes a good PC game? There are several aspects that go into ensuring a title is good, including tight gameplay mechanics, expert storytelling, and masterful crafting that ensures you feel like you're getting your time and money's worth out of the game you choose. But it's not always simple enough to figure out what games are worth jumping into. 

With that in mind, we've selected our top picks across a variety of genres: RTS games, RPGs, roguelikes, and more. Here are the best games you should consider adding to your library.

Best Overall: CD Projekt RED Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077
What We Like
  • Excellent narrative that takes place across an open world

  • Gorgeous graphics that look even better on PC

  • Plenty of quests to complete

What We Don't Like
  • Several bugs and glitches in the game’s early life cycle

  • Little replayability after you complete all quests

Cyberpunk 2077 is the result of years' worth of development and hype from CD Projekt RED, the same team that brought us The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, arguably one of the best PC RPGs of all time. Best described as a futuristic Grand Theft Auto, it places players in the shoes of a protagonist named V who finds themselves sharing a body with a copy of one of the biggest rockstars of all time: Johnny Silverhand. 

Players explore the massive urban area of Night City while working to get to the bottom of the predicament they find themselves in, all the while completing a variety of objectives and missions. Explore a future where violence is the norm and sex sells just like experiences do. Cyberpunk 2077 will let you experience one of the most stylish dystopian futures ever, with clean gunplay and fantastic writing. Plus, there's a heaping helping of Keanu Reeves.

Best Multiplayer: Activision Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (PC)

 Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
What We Like
  • Fantastic new campaign with plenty of content

  • Selection of maps to battle across

  • Cross-progression with Call of Duty: Warzone

What We Don't Like
  • Low replayability for main campaign

  • Occasionally frustrating players who rely on glitches in multiplayer

The 17th overall installment in the Call of Duty series, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War takes the tight gunplay of the Call of Duty games and takes the single-player campaign back to the past for this '80s adventure. It follows CIA officer Russell Adler, who's tasked with pursuing the Soviet spy Perseus before the dismantling of the United States as a global power. It's an expansive continuation of the Black Ops narrative and brings some of the classic Call of Duty multiplayer goodness to the fold once more.

Black Ops Cold War's multiplayer includes a selection of new and returning game modes as well as one called "Fireteam," which supports up to 40 players. It also offers for custom character creation with individual class loadouts and a progression system that ties in with Call of Duty: Warzone, which fills the battle royale niche for players. It’s fast-paced, addictive action that serves up arcade-like shooting along with plenty of different maps to explore.

Best Sci-Fi: 343 Industries Halo: Master Chief Collection (PC)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection
What We Like
  • Play through the entire Halo history with one collection

  • Great campaign and multiplayer

  • Map editing and customization with Forge editor

What We Don't Like
  • Older games may not always have the most populated servers

  • Some remade graphics are not as charming as the old ones

The Halo series is one of the most well-known entries in the sci-fi universe. You used to have to purchase each one separately on older consoles. Now, you can play through most of the series across Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which is more than just great value for players. It's also a handy way to get ready for the next entry in the series, debuting in 2021: Halo Infinite. 

It also makes for a simple way for players looking to get back into the series to play the games without relying on older consoles and hardware. It's easier than ever to play Halo with others online, especially with Steam support. This is the best, most modern way to enjoy Halo, and it's the most affordable as well.

Best Roguelike: SuperGiant Games' Hades (PC)

Hades
What We Like
  • Challenging, addictive roguelike gameplay

  • Intriguing story that follows Greek mythology

  • Absolutely dazzling artwork and character illustrations

What We Don't Like
  • Progress may be too slow for some

  • Narrative won’t change with future replays

Zagreus, the son of Hades himself, is in quite the predicament: he's trying to escape the Underworld. He's on his way to reach Mount Olympus, but he can't do it on his own. He needs the help of the powerful Olympians, who want to help raise him out of the depressing, dark Underworld in a bid to seek out a new life -- and a secret acquaintance revealed later on in the game. Zagreus enlists the help of the abilities given to him by those on Mount Olympus, whether in the form of buffs or more powerful attack and defense stats, to finally reach his target. 

Players run through a variety of room layouts that change with each playthrough, with randomly-determined enemies and challenges. Zagreus will progress further each time, until he can eventually continue throughout the story. It's a satisfying journey from "zero to hero," coincidentally, like the song from Disney's Hercules, and it's very much worth a journey worth taking, since the slow burn is part of the game's charm. It also features especially fantastic artwork. 

Best Rhythm: Harmonix Fuser (PC)

Fuser
What We Like
  • A wide variety of different songs to mix together

  • Intuitive song mixing structure

  • Really feels as though you’re a festival DJ

What We Don't Like
  • Only snippets of most songs to mix

  • Can be completed relatively quickly

Fuser is the next logical evolution of what developer Harmonix was capable of. It takes everything you love about the act of mixing music together with the thrill of DJing in front of a live crowd. Take a selection of songs and listen to them as they mix together in a cacophony of sight and sound. Fuser is the ultimate amalgam of music, pageantry, and the marriage of visuals and sound to create satisfying shows. You can customize your own DJ, work your way from festival stage to even larger arenas, and eventually emerge as one of the biggest EDM artists the world has ever seen. Play alongside massively popular musicians and test your might with challenges that have you working to play with the rhythm without missing a beat. If nothing else, it's a great way to experience the thrill of enjoying live music festivals in the time of COVID. It's the closest we're going to get for now.

Best Strategy: Romero Games' Empire of Sin

Empire of Sin
What We Like
  • Flexible narrative that allows you to experience different crime lords

  • Addictive strategic nature to battles that feels good with melee and weapons

  • Bits of historical information slipped in with the fictionalized characters for fun

What We Don't Like
  • Occasional bugs to deal with

  • Some missions are a bit repetitive

Empire of Sin is one of the most inventive strategy games to have debuted in recent years. It isn't about a battle between Earth and some far-off civilization or even factions clashing over ideologies. It's a good, old-fashioned tale of gangsters working to gain ground over each other, squabbling over territory, and coming out on top of each other. 

You'll have to set up your own speakeasies and rackets as you tackle enemy bosses. At the end of it all, you'll find that you're the most powerful gangster to have ever hit the streets. It's up to you to grow your gang and hire help to expand your influence, but the battles that let you rule the city with an iron fist are some of the most exciting parts of the entire game.

Best Open World: Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Valhalla (PC)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla
What We Like
  • A massive open world to explore set in the Viking age

  • Gleefully violent combat with exciting scenes that are fulfilling to pull off

  • Plenty of side missions to unlock and complete in tandem with the narrative

What We Don't Like
  • Flyting can be a bit silly

There have been Assassin's Creed adventures set throughout a variety of times and places throughout history. Assassin's Creed Valhalla takes players to the Viking invasion of Britain, allowing players to explore the Viking Age for the first time. As the Viking warrior Eivor, who can be customized to your liking, you'll be responsible for settling new Viking land and bringing your lands together while dealing with the English influence. In what may be one of the most violent Assassin's Creed adventures yet, you hack and slash your way to supremacy, all while keeping your people safe. It's a dynamic, visceral Assassin's Creed that can change your preconceived notions about the series, and a great showcase of what PC gaming is capable of.

Final Verdict

Cyberpunk 2077 combines a massive overworld with satisfying gunplay and an exciting narrative for one of the best games you'll play this year on PC. While it does stumble from some bugs and glitches early on, once you've entered Night City, you'll realize you won't want to leave any time soon. For fans of character-driven role-playing games and the freedom to explore, Cyberpunk 2077 delivers in droves.

About Our Trusted Experts

Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for IndieHangover, GameSkinny, TechRadar, and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.

Author Alex Williams is an experienced tech and games journalist and certified web developer, who's been writing about and covering the tech industry for more than five years. He joined Lifewire back in 2016 to help build roundups and review products, and his work has also appeared in several other top tech publications.

Kelsey Simon has been a gamer all her life, she even built her own gaming PC and is a big fan of competitive shooters.

Our own Tech Editor, Ajay Kumar, is a big-time PC gamer. He built his own gaming PC which he uses every day, and he's played pretty much every game on this list. He particularly enjoyed Witcher 3 for its plot and morally complex choices and Dishonored 2 for the gritty industrial setting mixed with unique level design.

What to Look for in a PC Game

Genre - The main thing you need to consider when you're game shopping is what kind of games you enjoy most. It doesn't matter how well designed a game is if it's the sort of thing you're never going to play, so if you love first-person shooters, it's possible that flight sims just aren't for you. We've picked some of the best of every genre and tried to be as inclusive as possible, so regardless of which types of games you most enjoy, there's likely something for you on our list.

Length - Sure, a 100-hour JRPG might seem like a great value proposition for your $60, but if you're a busy professional you might actually get more fun out of a short linear shooter (and more satisfaction when you're actually able to finish it). There are also a growing number of games-as-a-service that offer a continually evolving suite of systems and gameplay that you can dip into whenever you like, often for one flat fee.

Narrative - If you're the sort of gamer that loves a rich story and a fully developed, immersive world, you may take as much (or more) satisfaction from an adventure game or visual novel as from the latest Activision FPS. On the other hand, if you get your story kicks from books, films, and/or TV, maybe an addictive little puzzle game or a MOBA is the best gaming investment for you.

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