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Best Overall: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition at Amazon
"250 Game of the Year awards."
Best Real-Time Strategy: Total War: Three Kingdoms at Walmart
"If you've ever found value in the Total War series, Three Kingdoms is well worth the price of admission."
Best for Families: Planet Coaster at Amazon
"Modern-day coaster park simulation game."
Best Sandbox: Grand Theft Auto V at Amazon
"Assume the role of three different lead characters."
Best Multiplayer: Call of Duty Black Ops 4 at Best Buy
"An outstanding game that any avid first-person shooter fan will love."
Best Survival: Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds at Amazon
"Fast-paced and addictive gameplay."
Best Horror: The Evil Within 2 at Amazon
"Grim story of redemption from a psychologically troubled man."
Best with a Unique FPS Twist: Prey at Amazon
"Combines role-playing and stealth elements in an open world environment."
Best Classic Revival: Doom at Amazon
"Updated graphics, animations, and realistic cinematic effects."
Best Spy Game: Dishonored 2 at Amazon
"Has won numerous accolades from IGN, Game Critics Awards and other institutions."
Since the advent of consoles and their burgeoning popularity, the best PC games have often been relegated to also-ran status, at least until they were ported to a more popular platform. But if the last few years have taught us anything it's that the best games on PCs aren't just watered down ports of their console equivalents, but take advantage of the power and multitude of control options PCs offer.
Strategy and tactical games in particular are better served by the precision of a mouse and keyboard, but any game that requires a degree of finesse and fine control will find the PC a more accommodating home, including challenging RPGs like The Witcher or simulations like Planet Coaster. Then there are obvious genres, like the space sim (think Elite Dangerous or No Man's Sky), where having access to a flight stick or some other PC exclusive controller exponentially ramps up immersiveness and playability.
The best open world RPG ever produced
Best in class storytelling
Massive amount of content
Occasionally clumsy controls
With over 150 hours of gameplay, 250 Game of the Year awards and a beautifully put together massive open world with endless adventures, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition is the best PC game overall. It includes every expansion pack release and 16 DLC sets for expanded adventuring.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best open-world action adventure RPG style games where players go on the search for their missing daughter as they battle through enemies, interact with other characters and complete main-story and side quests in order to collect gold and experience points. Players walk, run, roll, dodge, jump, climb and swim their way in acquiring multiple weapons such as bombs, crossbows and swords in order to combat against both humans and monsters. There are 36 possible endings in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, so players have to be thoughtful in how their actions — whether good-natured or evil — affect the in-game world and its inhabitants.
"To date, Witcher 3 is the single best RPG I've ever played. No other game offers such morally complex choices and in-world consequences for your actions." — Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor
The best diplomacy in any strategy title
Builds on an incredible foundation
Off-putting for genre newbies
Sega and Creative Assembly's seminal Total War series has consistently been one of the best strategy game series available. So it's no surprise that Total War: Three Kingdoms is another well-crafted hit. Combining the same addictive gameplay the series has built its reputation on over the years with an emergent narrative surrounding the Chinese Three Kingdoms era, it weaves a commanding story with exciting battles and a complex campaign.
Jam-packed with gorgeous artwork, realistic yet challenging skirmishes, and a campaign mode that manages to entertain as much as its individual bouts, it serves as one of the most polished Total War games yet. There's even an option for casual players to skip over some of the tougher real-time strategy (RTS) areas to focus on mending relations between diplomats, an attractive option for those sinking their teeth into the genre for the first time. Otherwise, if you've ever found value in the Total War series, Three Kingdoms is well worth the price of admission.
"Any lover of Dynasty Warriors or the Three Kingdoms TV serial will find all their favorite characters on the battlefield, complete with their quips and dramatic fighting styles." — Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor
Beautifully realized simulation
Inventive and colorful
Strong developer pedigree
Shallow economy sim
So long are the years of Roller Coaster Tycoon, but to our blessings, Planet Coaster comes in to reignite the genre that’ll make you want to play it after your kids are done. Planet Coaster brings a modern-day coaster park simulation game where kids have complete control over their park’s landscape, design and piece-by-piece construction of rollercoasters with over a thousand pieces.
Have a zany idea for a roller coaster ride? Planet Coaster allows you to build to your heart’s desire any type of insane ride with twisted tilts, intense turns and hurling loops that you can enjoy from afar or ride yourself in a first-person mode. Players are able to manage and control their park, with the goal of providing fun (and not fear) for every visitor who comes in, all of whom have their own thoughts and desires that will give you an idea of their impression on your park.
Hugely immersive open world
Gripping multi-character narrative
Trademark Rockstar humor
Free access to GTA Online
Relies on open world cliches
Grand Theft Auto V features one of the most dynamic and diverse largest open world environments ever created in a video game. Players assume the role of three different lead characters that all play an interval part of the game’s interwoven story. Environmental graphics are detailed down to the texture, there are hundreds of realistic vehicles and radio stations play actual music.
Don’t care for stories much? Grand Theft Auto is notorious for its “just have fun” gameplay, mini side missions and exploration. Players can jump in and out of a scenario instantaneously. Want to steal a Ferrari? Go for it. Scour the coastline in your own private plane? You can. Are you in the mood to rob a bank? No problem. Heck, you can even explore wildlife, fly your own blimp and partake in stock car races without ever raising a fist or firing a bullet.
"The best and most complete open-world crime game ever developed, even before you factor in the nearly endless replayability of GTA Online, which is included for free." — Alan Bradley, Tech Editor
Huge selection of modes
Steady stream of updates
No single-player campaign
Focusing solely on its multiplayer experience, Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is an outstanding game that any avid first-person shooter fan will love. Each of the three available modes is wildly fun to play, but the centerpiece is the battle royale. Modeled after Fortnite, 100 players fight it out until only one player is left standing. A second mode pits a team of 8-12 players against friends or foes across the world. A third mode pits you and three friends against zombies.
Unlike some of its battle royale rivals where you can take your time and wait for opponents to come to you, gameplay is decidedly quick. Once you’re dropped onto a map, there’s no shortage of loot available to gear up quickly. Matches can end as fast as they start, which can leave some players frustrated but that’s just the luck of the draw. Gameplay mechanics continue Call of Duty’s outstanding history of smart controls. As with most PC games, you’ll want to make sure you’re equipped to handle a 60fps game in order to get the most out of Black Ops 4.
The most evolved battle royale
Constantly evolving content
Tense competitive shooter
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds has taken PC gamers by storm for its fast-paced and addictive gameplay. The online multiplayer action shooter pits 90+ players against one another on a huge map that gets regressively smaller. Similar to Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, players must fight to survive, with the winner being the last one standing.
Players start off with nothing but their own clothes, parachuting out of an airplane and landing on a huge island filled with houses, military depots, vehicles, armor and weapons. Players are urged to rush and loot as much equipment as possible while outrunning a restrictive killing field that constricts the map areas in a tightly knit circle of death and probability. Our reviewer enjoyed the replayability the most, particularly with the various game modes, though the graphics aren't the best.
"PUBG is a battle royale, and its focus has never been on plot, but instead is on offering players a fun and replayable gaming experience." – Kelsey Simon, Product Tester
Robust RPG and crafting mechanics
Tense horror narrative
From the original producer of Resident Evil comes The Evil Within 2, a third-person perspective survival horror game that tells the grim story of redemption from a psychologically troubled man. Players jump into a dreamlike world induced by a mysterious machine called STEM, where they face off against nightmarish monsters, maniacs and ever-changing environments.
The Evil Within 2 has players search desolate buildings, constantly building up fear as they slowly open doors and investigate and search for clues. Players are free to roam around to complete side objectives and look for scarce resources, giving the game a sense of urgency to ration weapons and utility. The game also has an upgrade system, that can improve the player's skills such as athleticism, stealth and recovery.
One of the best intro sequences in gaming
Addictive upgrade mechanics
What makes Prey so unique is you don’t just run and gun your way through victory, but it’s the type of game where you transform into a coffee cup to evade a surveilling blood-thirsty alien prowling the room. The first-person shooter game is set in space and combines role-playing and stealth elements in an open world environment.
Prey takes place in alternative timeline where President John F. Kennedy survives assassination and expands the space program that propels the player to the year 2032, where space stations are the norm. While you undergo an experiment meant to change humanity forever, something goes awry and your facility gets bombarded by hostile inky blob-like aliens. Prey’s strong driving narrative works in tangent with the player's choices, as they utilize unconventional weaponry like a gluelike cannon and upgrade their powers and unique skills to overcome numerous obstacles and heart-pounding threats.
Some of the best shooting in games
Upgrade layer adds to an established formula
Fantastic enemy variety
Doom is often credited as the game that brought forth the popularity of first-person shooters. The original 1993 classic is remade 23 years later with updated graphics, animations and realistic cinematic effects. Players can enjoy a thorough and fast-paced single player mode, online multiplayer and even a level creator.
Doom has you take the role of a space marine on Mars who is overrun by monsters and demons straight out of Hell. Though not necessarily scary or challenging, the game is more of a casual shooter experience without the expectation of intense objective based gameplay. Doom is really just about blowing things up, killing satanic beings and having fun.
Rich, textured world and lore
An inventive evolution of the immersive sim
Forgiving stealth gameplay
Dishonored 2 is a first-person action-adventure stealth game that has you sneaking up on people by adapting to the environment around you. The game has won numerous accolades from IGN, Game Critics Awards and other institutions as “Best PC Game” and “Game of the Show” for its characters and gameplay design.
Dishonored 2 throws players into the fray of stealth-based missions in gorgeous environments that take place in a rustic city of southern Europe. Walkthroughs show players various takedown methods, sneak approaches and combat training with crossbows, swords and numerous other weapons that can be leveled up. Its compelling story and fun gameplay make it one of the best games to pick up on the PC.
"If you love stealth gameplay, magic powers, and unique level design, Dishonored 2 is the game for you." — Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor
If you're an RPG fan, The Witcher 3 is one of the best available, seamlessly blending action, roleplaying, and storytelling. Or if you want something less briskly paced and more strategic, consider the Total War series, possibly the best grand strategy franchise ever, or something like Planet Coaster for a more low-key sim experience.
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.
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.