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The best PC games strive to deliver an engaging experience no matter the genre. Whether you're looking for a chill, relaxing session in Minecraft with friends building your dream home or looking to blast through legions of demons and undead to save the future of humanity in DOOM Eternal, there's something for everyone. It's not only triple-A or well-known titles that will give you a great play experience. Sometimes those hidden indie gems or games you brushed off as a joke can provide deep emotional experiences or just hours of silly fun by yourself or with friends.
A good PC game should provide a balance between gameplay mechanics, storytelling, and game length; a well-crafted game that can be completed in 5 hours is better than a poorly developed one that makes you slog through 80 hours of boring dialogue and bland environments. We've gathered up our top picks in a variety of genres like RPG, RTS, and survival horror to help you decide which games to add to your library.
Great for kids and adults
Fully orchestrated score
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to Moon Studios' critically acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest. Will of the Wisps features Metroidvania style exploration, using abilities and items that players gain throughout the game to open new areas. Will of the Wisps improves on its predecessor's save system, relying on autosaving rather than manual saves. Players collect shards and orbs to upgrade Ori's stats, attacks, and health to progress in the game.
It also has a Spirit Trials mode where players race toward a goal against a timer; players can see leaderboards that show the fastest times and routes taken by top players to help form their own strategies. The main game's plot takes place directly after Blind Forest, starting with Ori, Naru, and Gumo caring for a baby owl named Ku. Soon, Ori sets off on a quest to restore balance between the Silent Woods and the rest of the world. The hand-painted art and fully orchestrated score help elevate the emotional impact of the story as well as the tightly crafted platforming gameplay.
Deep and complex gameplay
Larger area to build upon
Small problems can easily balloon into huge disasters
Tropico 6 uses construction mechanics, resource management, and political simulation as the core of its gameplay. Players assume the role of El Presidente, the leader of the titular fictional Caribbean island nation. It features four eras including a colonial-era, World Wars, Cold War, and modern era which give players new opportunities and perks to use for the advancement of their society. Tropico 6 allows players to build on a series of small islands rather than a single island like previous titles. The new logistics of managing a chain of islands adds layers of complexity to an already deep game.
Player actions have direct effects on AI citizen productivity and morale; good deeds lead to a happy and stable society, where more despotic policies may lead to low productivity or violent revolt. Along with building a society and managing an island chain, players can also customize the look of their character as well as the presidential palace for a unique aesthetic.
Creative and Survival modes
No PVP combat
Lack of tutorials
Since its initial release in 2011, Minecraft has absolutely dominated the PC gaming community. As of 2020, it has sold 200 million copies across all platforms and has 126 million active monthly users. Gameplay revolves around players using natural resources to craft tools and items as well as to build structures and earthworks. In survival mode, monsters such as zombies and exploding creepers appear and players must defend their home until dawn. In creative mode, no monsters ever appear at night, and players are free to spawn objects and resources to build vast structures. Minecraft has a robust modding community, creating everything from texture packs and environmental biomes to new animals and monsters and even entirely new gameplay modes.
Each new world a player enters is procedurally generated, meaning no two worlds are the same. Players can explore different biomes like snowy mountains, deserts, and tropical jungles in search of resources and rare items. There are also villages populated by non-playable characters where they can stay safe from monsters at night or exchange gems for armor or vice versa. There is no dedicated multiplayer mode, but players can connect with one another online and explore each other's creations. The nature of Minecraft encourages creativity and approaching obstacles in new ways, and the lack of player-versus-player combat makes it great for younger children.
World may feel too big to some players
Red Dead Redemption 2 is the third title in the Red Dead series and a prequel to its 2010 predecessor. The game has players take on the role of Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde Gang, as he attempts to survive against government agents and rival gangs. The vast, open-world map can be fully explored by players, and it has a variety of activities for the players to do. An honor system has been introduced to this game, and is influenced by interactions with non-playable characters; players can help travelers whose horse has died, duel bandits, or rob stagecoaches, positively or negatively affecting your honor. RDR2 also has a bounty system that is similar to the "wanted" system in GTAV, which governs how authorities react to crimes committed by players; a high bounty means any law enforcement or bounty hunter will shoot on sight, where a low bounty may only result in small scuffles. Later in the game, players take on the role of John Marston as he adjusts to life outside of the gang; Marston is also the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption.
RDR2 takes place in a fictionalized version of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States, modeling areas after states like Louisiana, Missouri, and Wyoming. An online multiplayer mode that features a story set one year before the events of the main game and has players take on a silent protagonist tasked with taking revenge after they are released from prison. Players can play alone or in groups of up to seven people in order to participate in stories and other activities.
Players can respawn
Two different game modes
Squad and solo play
No duo squad play
Call of Duty: Warzone is a free-to-play battle royale game similar to Fortnite or PlayerUknown's Battlegrounds. Up to 150 players parachute into an open map, starting out with just an X16 pistol with no attachments. Searching the map allows players to pick up better weapons and supplies like cash for buying in-game bonuses and shield plates for added protection. As the map shrinks, outer areas become contaminated by green gasses that eventually kill players that wander too far from safe areas. The battle royale mode supports both 4 and 3 member squads with the option to disable automatic squad filling to prevent random people from joining your session as well as solo play.
The second game mode is known as Plunder. In this mode, teams must search the map for caches of money to accumulate $1million. Once this happens, the game goes into overtime and multiplies all cash found by 1.5 times. When the clock runs out, the team with the most money wins. In both modes, players can respawn if they are killed. In Battle Royale, eliminated players are sent to the Gulag where they fight one-on-one with another player for the chance to respawn; tokens can also be purchased with in-game currency for respawning. In Plunder, eliminated players are automatically respawned without being sent to the Gulag. The respawn mechanic and greater focus on the use of vehicles makes Warzone stand out from the rest of the battle royale games available.
More modern controls and camera
Main game is short
Resident Evil 3 is a remake of the 1999 Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Players take on the role of Jill Valentine, a former Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) officer, as she is attacked by Umbrella-created monsters and tries to make her way through the zombie-infested Raccoon City in search of a cure for the T-Virus. The remake forgoes the original game's use of fixed camera angles and tank controls for more modern third-person shooter mechanics as well as brief moments of first-person control. Both enemies and main characters were redesigned to fit the more action-oriented style of gameplay, lending both realism to the gameplay as well as a better sense of horror.
The remake still features core elements from the original like safe rooms and typewriters for saving as well as a focus on inventory management. Resident Evil 3's main story can be played through in about 6 hours, meaning you can beat it in one sitting or two short sessions. Despite the game's short length, Resident Evil 3 still manages to create a growing sense of dread and anxiety without becoming cheesy or ham-fisted. An online multiplayer mode is also included with the game where four players are set against a "mastermind" that can set traps and create enemies.
Classic Half-Life gameplay
no native non-VR play option
Half-Life: Alyx is set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Players take on the role of Alyx Vance as she tries to take control of a superweapon belonging to the alien Combine. Alyx uses gravity gloves to interact with the environment and fight enemies. Physics puzzles make a return along with survival horror elements to add variety to the gameplay. Weapons can be used either with both hands or single-handedly so players can have a free hand to interact with the world.
Players can move Alyx around the game either with the on-controller analog sticks or with VR room-scale support if they have the space. The VR elements of gameplay are meant to make Alyx more immersive and to heighten the scare factor of the horror elements and monster encounters. Half-Life Alyx supports user-created mods, including non-VR gameplay elements for those who don't have VR equipment or just want a different way to play.
Not suitable for kids
DOOM Eternal is the highly anticipated sequel to the 2016 iteration of DOOM. In this game, players will once again take on the role of the Slayer to take on the armies of Hell that are threatening to take over Earth. Players have a wide variety of ranged and melee weapons at their disposal, including the combat shotgun, plasma rifle, BFG 9000, and rocket launcher along with a chainsaw, wrist-mounted blade, and an energy sword. The game encourages players to continually develop strategies as it gets more difficult, using the terrain and every available power-up to their advantage. Using glory kills will reward players with health bonuses, incineration attacks grant armor boosts, and chainsaw melee kills make enemies drop ammo packs. Extra lives are still present, but simply spawn players where they die rather than making them restart at a designated checkpoint.
Players are able to dash, wall-climb, and use horizontal bars to speed through levels, demolishing demons in the process. DOOM Eternal has a hub area known as the Fortress of Doom, which can be visited between missions to gain special items that are kept behind locked doors. A 2 vs. 1 multiplayer mode is also included where one player is the Slayer while the other two are demons tasked with the Slayer's destruction. The game's fast-paced gameplay and nostalgia-inducing power-ups make for a refreshing take on modern FPS games.
Good for kids and adults
High replay value
Basic gameplay may wear thin for some players
Untitled Goose Game was developed by Australia-based House House and released in September 2019. The game blends puzzle elements with stealth gameplay to create a humorous experience. Players take on the role of a mischievous goose whose sole purpose in life is to cause trouble for the people living in town. Each area of the town is unlocked by completing checklists with prompts to trick villagers into doing certain actions or to cause general mayhem. The goose can honk, run, duck down, flap its wings, and grab objects with its beak in order to complete the checklist. After completing all four areas, the goose can enter a miniature model of the village and steal a bell before running back through previous areas, avoiding angry villagers trying to take the bell. There are also hidden objectives that involve time limits and traveling in several different areas.
The non-violent and silly gameplay is fun for both kids and adults as they steal picnic baskets and toilet paper or just run through the streets honking at children. The low-poly art is charming and simple, lending a certain charm to the game as you progress from a farmer's garden to the town center. The jazz-piano style score and musical reactions make pulling off goose-based heists even more fun.
Stiff character animations
The Outer Worlds is an action RPG that is set in an alternate future where large business trusts were never broken up by Theodore Roosevelt and lead to a society dominated by megacorporations. Players create their own character and unlock a ship that acts like a fast travel point as well as the central hub of the game. Players are tasked with securing resources needed by colonists in order to survive. Along the way, players can recruit different non-playable characters with a variety of specialized skills in order to complete missions and provide aid in combat.
Combat involves both melee weapons and firearms that use light, heavy, or energy ammo. Using stealth or social skills can help players avoid combat if they're low on ammo or just want to stay out of trouble. Players gain experience points as they progress through the game which they can use to develop technical skills like medicine, engineering and general science in order to unlock new perks for combat. The gameplay relies on player choice to unfold, leading to several different endings that depend on playstyle as well as decisions made along the way, raising replay value.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps combines beautiful music and hand-painted art with excellent gameplay to create an experience that both kids and adults will love. The Spirit Trials mode adds replay value as players compete for the best completion times of levels. DOOM Eternal breathes new life into the FPS genre with it's fast-paced gameplay and multiple ways to approach a level. Different attacks give different loot, encouraging players to vary their gameplay to progress through the game.
Our expert reviewers and testers take into account multiple objective and subjective factors to evaluate the quality of PC games. We play through each game, judging the game based on the coherence of its plot, the quality of its graphics, and the overall enjoyment derived from its gameplay loop. We balance the subjective elements of personal likes and dislikes, with an overall view of the genre as a whole and the value proposition offered by the game in terms of length and payoff. We also compare each game to a similar rival to help us make a final evaluation. Lifewire purchases each game; we do not accept review codes.
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.
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.