As console hardware becomes more standardised across manufacturers, the PC versions of multiplatform games are releasing with fewer discrepancies between their console counterparts. But that hasn't always been the case, and even today there will still be some exceptions. Here are the console games you should be playing on PC, along with what they offer that you won't be able to get while slouching on your couch and plugged into your television.
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: User-created puzzles
Portal 2's puzzle mechanics are so fun to play with that it's disappointing the campaign ever comes to an end. Well, on PC, it doesn't have to, as Valve's official Portal 2 Puzzle Creator allows for a massive library (over 380,000) of user-generated puzzles to come back to. The editor itself is intuitive and easy to use, while some of the user-created maps are so devious that they surpass the difficulty of Valve's official puzzles entirely. Do as GLaDOS wants, and test forever.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Mods
The Elder Scrolls series has long been lauded for the quality of its mods--additions only possible through the openness of the PC as a platform. Skyrim's mods range from extremely detailed graphical enhancements, to new mechanics like hunting and hypothermia, and even entire previous Elder Scrolls games ported into the engine. Think of anything, and there's probably a Skyrim mod for that. I mean, we have a whole show about them--enough said.
Team Fortress 2
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: New first-party content
Team Fortress 2 is a completely different game on PC than it is on console. Years of free content updates have completely transformed the strategies that dictate the game's class interplay. New weapons, new maps, and new game modes mean you can play in entirely new ways--such as turning the Demoman into a melee character wielding a sword and shield. Put it this way--on console, you can't equip a single hat.
Grand Theft Auto IV
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Graphical mods
Grand Theft Auto IV first hit PCs with a shaky, resource-intensive port whose graphics suffered strange artefacting and terrible shadow effects. Because of these, it just didn't look as good as its console versions, which didn't suffer such issues. But that has since changed, with the addition of graphical fixes in official patches along with fan-made mods that make GTA IV on PC the prettiest version after all. Now, you'll still have to deal with Games for Windows Live, but it's worth it to see Liberty City at its finest.
Batman: Arkham City
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Better bat-capes
Batman: Arkham City is an excellent example of how developers can build in special PC-only graphical enhancements to a multiplatform game that feel at home, not over-the-top. Arkham City itself is rendered in greater detail at much further draw distances. PhysX support adds more detailed debris, impressive volumetric smoke effects, and also enhances the cloth physics of Batman's cape--an item of clothing you'll be looking at for the entire game. Just make sure your GPU supports DirectX 11, and you're running a 64-bit version of Windows.
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Graphical mods
It may be one of the most barebones PC ports in existence, but with a simple fan-made mod, Dark Souls on PC can be transformed into the definitive version. You can play it at a higher resolution, at double the frame rate, and with improved graphical effects like SSAO, depth of field and anti-aliasing that immerse you even deeper in the world of Lordran. Plus, you can replace the death screen with this, which is worth it in and of itself.
Fallout: New Vegas
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: No more bugs
Fallout: New Vegas feels like it stays truer to the tone and quest design of the original isometric Fallout RPGs than Fallout 3. However, being an Obsidian game, it's unfortunately riddled with bugs that range from hard crashes through to broken quests that cannot be completed. But with a few quick mods and fan patches, you can turn the PC version of New Vegas into arguably the best, and least-broken, Fallout game of the entire series.
Just Cause 2
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: 1,000-player multiplayer
Why did a team of modders seek to add an entire multiplayer mode to a game that never shipped with any? Because the idea of playing Just Cause 2 with 1,000 players was just too awesome not to. This mod allows you to compete in all manner of modes of competitive mayhem, from open-world deathmatch to car races through burning rings, while the over-the-top grappling mechanics and vehicle-riding are exponentially more hilarious with friends.
Metro: Last Light
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Finer controls
Not only is Metro: Last Light one of the games you should use to stress-test your PC's graphical power, but it also plays better on PC thanks to the increased precision of keyboard and mouse controls. In a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce, you need to make every shot count--especially when your most effective bullets double as in-game currency. So hunker down, strap on your gas mask, and line up the perfect headshot.
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: A higher player population
A multiplayer shooter lives and dies by how active its player base is--even if it's a juggernaut like the Battlefield series. You need to go where the players are, and for Battlefield 4, that means you need to play it on PC. You'll never have trouble finding a populated server to jump into, and superior voice chat options make teamwork even easier. Plus, you'll be playing on the platform that gets significant bug fixes delivered first.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Personalised gameplay tweaks
There are little things that annoy me about Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown reboot. Like the fact that aliens get a free movement turn after you first see them. Or that snipers just kind of suck until you level them up. On PC, XCOM's mods allow you to fix that. If you have any other annoyances, said mods allow you to tweak the game to your heart's content. That includes stopping aliens from spawning behind you, thankfully.
WHAT THE PC OFFERS: Anything you can possibly think of
Not to dismiss the sheer creativity that is possible within Minecraft's current console iterations, but it's nothing compared to what you can do on PC with a few mods. I'm talking about building a functioning nuclear reactor, for starters. The fact that Minecraft has now sold more console copies than PC means we need to get the word out: jump on over to the platform where almost anything is possible.