The Best PC Games To Play In 2023
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
The PC gaming ecosystem is easily the largest in the industry, with tens of thousands of games available to play and no real generational divide. Rather than a comprehensive list of the best PC games of all time, we placed our focus on the best PC games to play right now. Some of these, like Elden Ring and Baldur's Gate 3, are recently released gems, while others are multiplayer or live service games that have stood the test of time, such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Minecraft. Our list of the best PC games spans across a wide variety of genres, so we imagine at least a few of these games will pique your interest.
PC gaming is quite different from consoles, as your mileage with each game on this list will vary based on your rig. That said, many of the games on this list don't require the latest and greatest graphic cards--they merely help these great games look even better. And if you happen to have a Steam Deck, a lot of these games are playable on Valve's impressive handheld PC.
We've linked to Steam listings where possible for these games, but it's worth noting that you can often find better deals on storefronts such as Fanatical and GOG. We've included links to those stores, too. Also, some of our picks are available on PC Game Pass, Microsoft's subscription service.
If you're thinking about upgrading your PC or starting a new build to play some of these games at higher settings, make sure to check out our step-by-step guide for building a gaming PC. We also have a dedicated list focused on the best Steam Deck games to play right now. If you're looking for accessories for your rig, check out our roundups of the best gaming keyboards, gaming mice, and PC gaming headsets.
Alan Wake 2
Another chapter in the mind-bending Remedy universe, Alan Wake 2 picks up right where the cult classic left off more than a decade ago. Alan is trapped in the Dark Place and his only way out is to write his own story. His campaign takes place alongside a concurrent one with FBI agent Saga Anderson, and the two complimentary campaigns can be played together in any order. The lightly spooky elements of the first game turn much darker here, for a horror experience full of unforgettable moments.
We've called Apex Legends the champion of battle royales in the past, and two years into its lifespan, that's something we stand by. Respawn Entertainment took its strong FPS foundation (namely Titanfall) and created a competitive shooter that refines all the core tenets necessary for a good battle royale. Its roster of characters adds a strategic layer and diversity of playstyle, gunplay is sharp and engaging, and quality-of-life features like the ping system and inventory management keep you focused on executing in combat.
Over the many seasons of content for Apex Legends, we've had multiple maps and game modes cycle into the experience. It has surprisingly deep lore that gets you invested in the world of Apex Legends, too. And because it's free-to-play, you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot.
See our Apex Legends review.
Baldur's Gate 3
The triumphant return of a legacy CRPG series is also one of the best games of 2023. While Baldur's Gate 3 is also available to play on PS5, the PC version is the clear leader thanks to its intuitive keyboard-and-mouse controls--and it's a welcome return to form for longtime Baldur's Gate fans. This fantasy tale is set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, but the most incredible part is how it approximates actually playing a game of D&D, with all the freedom that entails. You can tackle problems and navigate the world with an almost overwhelming amount of choice and agency, making it easy to get lost for hours and then start all over again with a new character.
Before Your Eyes
One of the most original games of recent memory, Before Your Eyes has a simple premise that hinges on your ocular organs controlling the entire experience through a webcam. It's a short jaunt of a game that chronicles the life of a recently deceased person that you play as, but the catch here is that every time you blink, time moves forward. It's a terrific idea, incredibly well-implemented, and ties in perfectly with themes of memories, life, and storing those precious moments within ourselves. Unusual but packing a heavyweight emotional punch, you won't want to take your eyes off of this game for a single instant.
See our Before Your Eyes review.
The Case of the Golden Idol
The Case of the Golden Idol is a throwback to classic point-and-click adventure games and an exacting puzzle game. You investigate scenes and then piece together what happened in a linear story narrative by placing names and verbs in their proper places. And if the original release whets your appetite for more, developer Color Gray games has spun off additional "Golden Idol Mysteries" DLC--new stories and mysteries with the same narrative-building mechanic.
First released in the '90s, Sid Meier's Civilization series is still going strong in 2021, thanks to continued support for its most recent release, Civilization VI. As in previous games, Civilization VI casts you in the role of a historical leader, such as Egypt's Cleopatra or India's Gandhi, and tasks you with building your civilization from the ground up, including growing your military, developing new research facilities, and engaging in diplomacy with other world leaders. Of course, Civilization VI expanded and improved on previous games in the series, with additions such as the inclusion of districts that let cities expand across multiple tiles, but it's also continued to receive new content in the form of two major expansions: Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm, both of which added new leaders, civilizations, and features to the game. Civilization VI earned a 9/10 from GameSpot when it initially released back in 2016, and nearly five years later, it's still one of the best strategy games to pick up and start playing on PC.
See our Civilization VI review.
A tiny bug in a big world surrounded by puzzles. In this game from a new studio founded by key Limbo developers, you're a small cicada-like creature exploring the wilderness with limited movement and only specially powered orbs to help. But nested inside the noodle-tickling puzzle mechanics is an artful, subtle message about self-improvement and how one forms their identity, making it a can't-miss.
Control Ultimate Edition
Control's blend of action, mystique, and the surreal is one that should not be missed, and while it's available on PS5 and Xbox Series X, you'll find no version better than that of the PC. The pairing of DLSS and ray-tracing makes Control a visual powerhouse, reflecting its impressive effects on the surface of the Oldest House's pristine waxed floors and shrouding its mysterious hallways in the uncertainty of shadow. And that's all accented by supernatural fights that can pop off at a moment's notice in any one of these enigmatic rooms as the world shifts and morphs around you. What makes Control truly special is exploring the unknown and uncovering secrets the world isn't supposed to know. The Ultimate Edition gets you both pieces of DLC, AWE and The Foundation.
See our Control review.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
The iconic competitive FPS is still going strong today with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Though CSGO has undergone significant changes over its lifespan, it's still very much the core Counter-Strike experience that revolutionized the multiplayer FPS genre in the 2000s. The standard mode of play is a five-on-five demolition-style match on carefully crafted maps that emphasize specific positioning, sightlines, and team strategies. But beyond that, there's a hostage rescue mode, gungame free-for-all, and tons of custom content from years of work by its player base.
One of the most exciting things about CSGO is the high-intensity competitive matches where the slightest mistakes could spell doom for your team, or clutch plays could drastically shift the momentum of a match. Counter-Strike has historically been played with a level of precision in both the FPS combat and in its tactics, which makes a bit of a steep learning curve for newcomers. However, this classic game can be wildly rewarding, which you can see from its massive competitive scene. Recently, Valorant has adopted the Counter-Strike formula to great effect, but the high-stakes tactical combat of CSGO is still in a league of its own.
Cyberpunk 2077 had a divisive launch that by all accounts failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed on it. But CD Projekt Red didn't abandon the game, instead issuing a steady stream of updates culminating in September 2023's massive 2.0 update that overhauls many major systems, while also integrating the new Phantom Liberty DLC. The Cyberpunk of today is a sharper, more focused action-RPG with a greater variety of skills that let you navigate Night City your own way. The Phantom Liberty expansion received a 10/10 in our review, adding new systems and a compelling new story featuring Idris Elba. Best of all, it's still a gorgeous showpiece for your PC rig, so there's never been a better time to dive in.
Arkane Studios became the name to beat when it came to first-person shooter games that married well-crafted action with rich narratives, but Deathloop has raised the bar for those games to a glorious new level. Game of the year material at its best, Deathloop's homicidal Groundhog Day appeal is amplified by its terrific cast, layered levels of gameplay, hidden secrets, and so much more.
See our Deathloop review.
Despite releasing more than nearly five years ago, Destiny 2 remains one of the most popular live service multiplayer games around. While the sequel started off on a strong note, it has only gotten better thanks to consistent updates and expansions that delivered a steady stream of enthralling first-person shooter content. And it's not even close to being too late to jump into Destiny 2, as more content is coming through 2023. Destiny 2's plethora of content would be nothing without strong mechanics and overarching systems that keep you grinding away for new gear. Bungie crafted one of the best-feeling first-person shooters we've played in recent years, so it offers a constant source of fun regardless of whether you're making your way through story missions, going on challenging raids with friends, or battling in the Crucible. It's a wonderful game that digs its teeth into you the more you play, and it's easily one of the best cooperative PC games available today.
See our Destiny 2: Beyond Light review.
When it comes to writing, Disco Elysium is perhaps unrivaled. Developed and published by ZA/UM in 2019, Disco Elysium places you in the role of a detective suffering from amnesia and a serious bout of alcoholism. His quest to unravel a baffling murder and the details of his life that he's forgotten takes you on an absolutely stunning adventure that thrives on its choice-based gameplay and exquisite dialogue. Disco Elysium balances humor and serious life dilemmas with astounding grace, and the freedom it gives you to shape the narrative and your interactions with its many colorful characters you meet allows you to make this detective story your own. Its gorgeous world is teeming with life, and viewing it from the eyes of a nameless cop with memory issues makes it all the more immersive. It earned a rare 10/10 from GameSpot, and we can safely say there's nothing else exactly like it in modern PC gaming.
See our Disco Elysium review.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 - Definitive Edition
Building on the already-brilliant formula of its predecessor, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an all-time great RPG, giving you a huge range of freedom in how to build your party, deal with a combat scenario, and approach a given situation. It's a game best played on PC, thanks to its crisper visuals, the precision of using a mouse, and faster loading times, which encourage you to experiment with its wide range of possibilities. While truly a great game overall, much of the fun in Divinity stems from seeing what you can get away with, be it stealing items or avoiding a lengthy combat encounter by setting up an elaborate trap. Experience with earlier entries in the series aren't required to enjoy Original Sin 2, and as the best entry to date, this is an ideal place to start--just be prepared to lose dozens of hours to it.
See our Divinity: Original Sin 2 review.
Dota 2 is not only one of the more daunting PC games to learn and master, but it's also one of the most rewarding and satisfying to play once you know what you're doing. Two teams of five assault each other as they try to destroy the opposing team's Ancient. It sounds simple, but the strategic depth is vast, and there's a lot to learn if you want to keep up. It requires learning the map, getting familiar with the vast array of characters, and mastering their mechanics to be successful. Of course, if this wasn't an exciting process, it wouldn't be as popular as it is--and if you haven't seen a match play out at The International, then you're missing out.
See our Dota 2 review.
A strong contender for the best game of 2022, From Software's latest dip into dark fantasy and brutal combat is the studio at its very best. The Lands Between are a massive sandbox in which to explore as a newly-risen Tarnished warrior, and every corner of this world hides a secret that'll take you down a path of danger in exchange for fascinating lore and powerful rewards. While Elden Ring doesn't stray too far from the usual From Software formula, it does polish the elegant gameplay and signature style of that studio to a mirror finish that's beautiful to behold and loaded with dozens of hours of content to dive into.
See our Elden Ring review.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It's true that since its release in 2012, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been ported to just about every platform that can play games, including Amazon Alexa speakers and smart refrigerators. But the king of all Skyrim versions is the one on PC, and it's not even close. That's because the PC version gives you access to years of mods created by the Skyrim community. From adding serious RPG story content to providing ridiculous possibilities like replacing all dragons with Thomas the Tank Engine, the PC version of Skyrim adds nearly endless options to an already expansive, enormous game. You absolutely should play Skyrim on PC if you haven't, and you absolutely should mod it to see how the game has become so much more than it was when it was released. Skyrim is also available with Xbox Game Pass for PC.
See our The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters
The pre-PlayStation era of Final Fantasy won't be vanishing anytime soon, as Square Enix has managed to restore those classic games for new and future generations of fans who want to experience the origins of that best-selling franchise. From the first game to its very 16-bit best, these remasters aim to keep the restoration as pure as possible while sharpening up the titles with additional content found in previous ports across other consoles across the years. Outside of owning an NES or SNES console, the Pixel Remasters are simply the finest and most vibrant ways to play classic Final Fantasy in the modern age of gaming.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
The first chapter in a mammoth project, Final Fantasy VII Remake blends new and old ideas to create a uniquely nostalgic and fresh to what is considered by many to be the greatest video game of all time. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous to look at, the return of Cloud Strife and pals to the world of Midgar is a cinematic masterpiece that combines explosive blockbuster moments with fun action-RPG elements. While some story beats have stayed the same, Final Fantasy VII Remake also takes time to make some crucial changes to the plot, setting this project up to deliver some massive surprises down the road when the Avalanche crew embarks on a road trip that'll decide the fate of the world.
Read our Final Fantasy VII Remake review.
Final Fantasy 14 Online
The Final Fantasy series is known for having a strong focus on storytelling with colorful characters who get into over-the-top battles, and the MMO Final Fantasy XIV manages to stay true to what the series is all about. Though you might assume the familiar Final Fantasy tenets of storytelling and strong character moments would be absent in an online game, FFXIV is one of the more story-driven MMOs out today. Final Fantasy XIV is the franchise's second crack at an MMO, and it features a sprawling story about rebellion, equality, and friendship that manages to hit the same highs of the franchise's best single-player games. Though MMOs have a reputation for being inaccessible and time-consuming, Final Fantasy XIV offers an excellent gateway for lapsed and new MMO players to jump into--and it's also a fantastic Final Fantasy game in its own right.
See our Final Fantasy 14 reviews for A Realm Reborn and its expansions.
Forza Horizon 5
Few games get the absolute thrill of driving a ridiculously fast car the way that the Forza Horizon series does, and its latest chapter is another example of pure petrolhead bliss. Shifting to the warm climate of Mexico, Forza Horizon 5 sticks to its template and hits top gear right from the start with its selection of vehicles, activities, and a constant sense of reward for being a speed demon. Beyond its superb gameplay, Forza Horizon 5 also takes time to emphasize a personal connection between man and machine, as it balances epic showcase events with personal moments of reflection and car culture.
See our Forza Horizon 5 review.
God of War
Even if it took a few years, the wait for one of the best PlayStation games on the market to hit PC was well worth it. While previous God of War games emphasized gratuitous violence and a character with the personality of a very angry cardboard box, Sony's reinvention of Kratos helped create a more nuanced and layered hero. That doesn't mean that there wasn't a satisfying amount of carnage to engage in, though, as developer Sony Santa Monica expanded on Kratos' brutal abilities in methodical ways and gave him plenty of new tools to play with in a Nordic sandbox.
See our God of War review.
Grand Theft Auto 5
It may be surprising that a game from 2013 is still so pervasive nine years later, but when that game is Grand Theft Auto 5, it makes a lot more sense. A story of deceit and betrayal, GTA 5 follows the exploits of three men as they make their way through the criminal world of Los Santos and join together for heists that rival those in the Michael Mann classic Heat. It's bolstered by an immensely popular multiplayer mode, GTA Online, where you can band up with friends and orchestrate your own rise through the criminal ranks. The PC version has a slew of settings that let you tweak the finest details, and GTA 5's incredible modding community has concocted creations that absolutely can't be missed.
See our Grand Theft Auto 5 review.
As far as roguelikes go, Hades is among the best. It nails the loop of jumping into the underworld and fighting your way out of Hell, providing players with an arsenal of unique weaponry and powers fit for a god (and borrowed from many of the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus). However, it's the slower moments in which you visit the friends and family of protagonist Zagreus between runs that grab hold and keep you fighting for the truth. In most roguelikes, you care solely about making it further than your last run, but Hades does more: It blends action and story, striking a delicate balance of clawing your way toward the overworld and growing your relationships.
See our Hades review.
Years in the making, the return of Master Chief saw the legendary hero hit the ground running with a new and epic adventure. Even after a lengthy amount of hibernation, Master Chief's newest odyssey shows no signs of ring rust and is augmented by a few new tricks up his Mjolnir-armored sleeve. While the main single-player campaign is a treat that's packed with massive setpieces and satisfying action, the multiplayer side is no slouch other and offers a ton of modes to try out. If you're feeling competitive or nostalgic, Halo Infinite hits a sweet spot for fans looking to revisit a franchise that has matured with them over the years.
See our Halo Infinite review.
IO Interactive's grand World of Assassination trilogy reached its final chapter in 2021, as Hitman 3 built on the efforts made by its predecessors to create a perfectly executed experience. Bigger, bolder, and more cunning than ever, Agent 47's journey around the world saw him explore an opulent Dubai skyscraper, solve a murder mystery in an ancient British mansion, and turn a train into a slaughterhouse as he worked his way through each cabin. Each destination offers not only some devilishly delicious ways to eliminate targets, but also plenty of room for experimentation that leads to hilarious and grim demises for anyone who gets in your way.
See our Hitman 3 review.
At first glance, Inscryption looks like a mixture of tabletop card games with a healthy dose of deckbuilding thrown in for good measure as you risk your very life in a high-stakes game of survival. Throw in some roguelite progression, mystery, and a creepy art direction, and you've got the perfect mix for a game that hides more mesmerizing content beneath its surface. Absolutely strange while it deals out its ideas, that weirdness makes Inscryption the type of game that'll live rent-free in your head long after you've played your last card.
League of Legends
League of Legends is one of the most popular competitive games for a reason. From its strategic combat and mechanical depth to its colorful characters, it's hard not to get sucked into game after game of this MOBA. While there's a lot to learn, it's not as mechanically dense or difficult to master as Dota 2, providing a more welcoming experience to those wanting to get into the MOBA world.
See our League of Legends review.
One of the most original indie games of the year, Loop Hero can't be defined by any single genre. A creatively clever mix of RPG staples, deck-building charm, and brutal strategy, Loop Hero merges all of these elements together to create a bold and fresh adventure that'll keep you occupied for hours on end.
See our Loop Hero review.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
If soaring through the air and flying around the world is a dream of yours, there's no better game than Microsoft Flight Simulator. You can fly out of almost any airport in the world, including smaller airports in quieter towns, and go literally anywhere on Earth--though landing may be difficult in places like the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest. Microsoft used satellite imagery to recreate the world in-game, and it's improving both the game and map all the time. If there was ever a reason to invest in a flight stick or yoke system, it's Microsoft Flight Simulator. The game is available via Xbox Game Pass for PC.
See our Microsoft Flight Simulator review.
Minecraft is a global phenomenon for a reason. Its crafting, base building, and survival-lite mechanics are unmatched, providing both an engaging and accessible experience to people of all ages and walks of life. Crafting huge castles, cozy homes, or monuments to your favorite video game character is a joyful time, while venturing toward the Nether is a tense experience that you're not sure you'll return from. Whether you're building up a huge tower or exploring the depths of the perilous mines, Minecraft remains an exciting time that can be enjoyed with friends or by yourself. Just make those Creepers don't get too close to your house.
See our Minecraft review.
Monster Hunter Rise
After Monster Hunter World set a new benchmark for what the Capcom series was capable of, Monster Hunter: Rise had some big dragon leather boots to fill. Monster Hunter Rise is a showcase of what happens when you take the lessons learned from something new and apply it to an older example of Monster Hunter greatness, as the newest game in the series expertly shifted back to all-out action. Originally designed for the Nintendo Switch, Rise's port to PC came with a ton of free post-launch content, graphical upgrades, and performance enhancements that make this version the definitive edition of an already fantastic game.
See our Monster Hunter Rise review.
A gonzo take on Wario Land platformers, Pizza Tower was a success that gathered fans through its early access period and then exploded once it was released in full. Peppino Spaghetti has a similar move set to Wario, but this take gives him a boost of speed and agility that makes Pizza Tower center around lightning reflexes and speedy runs through the stages. The art style looks straight out of a 1990s Nickelodeon cartoon, with a soundtrack to match.
Portal 2 remains one of the funniest and most inventive puzzlers in games. It successfully built on the mind-bending multidimensional ideas of the first game and somehow elevated its storytelling and characterization to become incredibly fun and memorable. Those things alone would make Portal 2 worthy of your attention, but there's additional content that comes with playing the game on PC. Not only is there online and local co-op that extend the game beyond its single-player offering, but there's a huge amount of user-created content that includes whole story campaigns. Portal 2 is great fun no matter where you play it, but with modding and puzzles built by other players, you get a superior experience on PC--and a ton more Portal to play for free.
See our Portal 2 review.
For the ultimate experience in zombie apocalypse realism, nothing competes with Project Zomboid. The isometric survival game is perhaps most like DayZ, but is somehow even more hardcore, with things like hunger, wounds, and fatigue being deadlier than similar systems in other games, and the purest depiction of how, in real life, even just a single zombie would likely spell your doom. It's a PC exclusive, so it's sorta great on PC by default, but given the sheer number of mechanics involved here, a mouse and keyboard setup feels right at home, though the game is fully playable on controller and even Steam Deck too.
Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege is an adept mix of first-person shooting, strategic planning, and tactical teamwork. Two teams of five vie for control of a building, where the goal is to capture an objective, defuse a bomb, or secure a hostage. The brilliance of Siege comes in learning these buildings in and out and knowing how to work with your teammates to get in and out most effectively. Map knowledge can trump twitch shooting in the most dire of situations, rewarding its players for smart thinking and careful play. Siege is available on consoles, but the definitive way to play it is on PC with a keyboard and mouse.
See our Rainbow Six Siege review.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a phenomenal and engrossing video game that is easily one of Rockstar’s finest releases to date. A prequel to the original game, the story delivers some eye-opening revelations about the wider Red Dead universe. The gameplay and world-building are incredible, with lots of freedom available for players to do whatever they want as they set out onto the frontier as Arthur Morgan. The game is also gorgeous, especially on PC for those with a capable enough rig. The sweeping mountain visits and bubbling rivers shine on PC, making Red Dead Redemption 2 one of the best games we can recommend on PC.
See our Red Dead Redemption 2 review.
Resident Evil 4
Capcom's venerable Resident Evil series has been progressively producing remakes of its classic library, but none of them held the expectations and weight of Resident Evil 4. It's long been regarded as one of the best survival-horror games of all time, and a trendsetter for the action-focused style of the genre. Capcom approached this remake especially cautiously, giving it a light touch of upgrades that make the whole experience feel modern without losing its soul. It's also never looked more beautiful, so you can see the horrific monstrosities of Las Plagas with newfound fidelity.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn is a meticulous puzzle box revolving around a grisly scene. When a missing ship mysteriously reappears with all of its passengers and crew dead, you're dispatched as an insurance adjuster tasked with uncovering the causes of death for each one aboard. What follows is a massively connected logic puzzle as you uncover scenes of life aboard the ship alongside clues as to each of their identities and fatalities. This is all delivered in a stark lo-fi black-and-white presentation that remains perfectly readable in motion.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
A departure--though not a complete departure--from its previous games, From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes the simple act of blocking an attack and turns it into a thrilling gameplay mechanic. Battles against bosses are not simply marathons to whittle down their health, but an exercise in perfection as you time your own attacks, parry your enemy’s, and then deliver a final killing blow. On PC, you can mod the game to speed up the pace or play as goofy characters who definitely don’t belong in its somber, violent universe. Without a dedicated easy mode in the settings, which is itself a subject of debate, the PC version’s modding potential also lets you lower the difficulty.
See our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review.
Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew
The unfortunate swan song for the tactics genre experts at developer Mimimi, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew let the studio leave on a high note. Starring a cast of cursed pirates aboard a living ghost ship, you'll have to use stealth and your wits to take down legions of Inquisition troops. Each of the crew has their own otherworldly powers and specializations, making it engaging to experiment with different combinations of abilities to take down the enemy without being seen. Shadow Gambit also learns from its predecessors by implementing save scumming into the story, making it that much more satisfying to pull off a perfect plan--and less punishing when you make a mistake.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
Only The Stanley Parable, a nearly unexplainable game where things get regularly weird and meta, could get away with hiding what amounts to a sequel within the frame of an expanded re-release of the original game. Like the original title, the strange and hilariously distracted nature of The Stanley Parable is something that you have to experience for yourself, as words simply do not do it justice. With the Ultra Deluxe edition, you're getting an experience that feels like a game within a game, adding the illusion of freedom and other surprises along the way. It's nothing short of a clever and thought-provoking examination of video games and the relationship that we have with them.
It starts with an old broken-down farm and a handful of seeds. You clear out the weeds and rocks until you get tired, and then you do it again. You get into the rhythm of daily life--visiting friends, watering crops, occasional light spelunking. Before you know it, it's been 75 hours and you're mostly managing your complex irrigation system and planning for next season's harvest. Stardew Valley is a friendly, relaxing experience that also somehow manages to be endlessly addicting. Fans know the feeling of assuring themselves they'll play just one more day before bed. And while it's appeared on just about every platform, PC often gets the first chance to test all of the little quality-of-life tweaks and new features that come with patches--most recently the massive 1.5 update appeared on PC almost two months before consoles. Plus, there's a huge library of mods that let you tweak various gameplay elements, give the game a new aesthetic, and even add extensive new content and characters (see: Stardew Valley Expanded). Keeping up with Stardew Valley on PC is the best way to make sure your farming life never gets stale.
See our Stardew Valley review.
Starfield has been one of the most anticipated RPGs from Bethesda, the studio behind Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. This game will seem very familiar to those who've played these types of games, but the new spacefaring setting introduces a variety of biomes and enemies, space combat, and refined gunplay with boost packs for extra mobility. While it's available on Xbox as well, only the PC version supports console commands and mods to customize the experience to your liking.
The Talos Principle 2
The follow-up to the philosophical first-person puzzle game is once again a contemplative experience that raises big questions even as you stay occupied with a series of clever puzzles. The philosophical underpinnings create a sense of expansive mystery as you explore deep existential questions and unravel the nature of the world. The first game was an unexpected treat but The Talos Principle 2 shows that developer Croteam can still create a delightful puzzle box even when we think we know what to expect.
If Death's Door didn't satiate your hunger for a Zelda-like adventure, then Tunic is well-equipped to fill you up with some nostalgic and cathartic gameplay. Not just an homage to Zelda games of the NES and SNES eras, Tunic's familiar green clothing and swordplay in a vibrant and colorful world is balanced by a collection of amazing puzzles and challenges that require quick reflexes and superb wits. Evocative of a bygone time and somehow still feeling like a completely fresh take on the subject matter, this love letter to the past was years in the making and more than delivers on its elevator pitch of exploration and wonder.
See our Tunic review.
The initial response to Valorant was that it's basically a mashup where Overwatch meets Counter-Strike--and yeah, that's pretty accurate. That's also a good thing, because Valorant draws on many of the strengths of those games to make something unique. It focuses on the round-based demolition-style game mode with two teams of five (attackers and defenders) on balanced maps with specific lanes and sightlines and an extremely fast time-to-kill. However, each agent (or character) has their own unique abilities that add another strategic layer to combat. Team composition plays a major role, and each agent affects what the team is capable of in each high-stakes situation. It's intense and demanding, but so rewarding.
Valorant is still early in its lifespan. But we've seen content updates and changes in its first year and it's been quite successful, so you can expect the game to get more support moving forward. If a competitive FPS with layered tactics, precise gunplay, and intense moments is your thing, Valorant is worth a try.
See our Valorant review.
A puzzle game built around a mechanic that feels like magic, Viewfinder has a remarkable wow-factor that alone puts it on this list. The concept is simple enough: You take a photo and when you place a picture against the environment, you can walk into it. That allows you to create a bridge where there was none before, or walk into a completely different art style than the rest of the environment. When the game gives you your own camera, and starts introducing different ways to apply its simple rule set, the mindbending puzzles grow more complex.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
One of the best RPGs of all time, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt brings the incredible story of Geralt of Rivia to a close. The Witcher 3 puts Geralt on a quest to find Ciri, a witcher in training who's like a daughter to him. He reconnects with old flames, friends, and adversaries as he searches far and wide for her. Of course, there's an abundance of side quests and characters to meet along the way, which will undoubtedly keep you busy for hours. Many of these quests require you to slay monsters, a witcher's main trade, and you'll have to prepare accordingly to defeat them by sword, witcher magic, and potions. All this--and we didn't even get into the two excellent expansions--makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt an essential PC game.
See our The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review.
Finding the right balance in a strategy game is extremely difficult, as the best ones are challenging enough to necessitate smart play without being too punishing. XCOM 2 very nearly falls into the “too punishing” camp, but its mix of turn-based tactics combat and overarching management gameplay rarely feel unfair. Set after the first game, when aliens have nearly completely conquered Earth, XCOM 2 certainly casts you as an underdog, but it gives you the tools you need to take the fight to the invaders with careful planning. Ambushing a squad and delivering a mix of long-range sniping shots and explosive damage is immensely satisfying, and even more so if you’ve struggled on the same map for an hour or more. The game is certainly playable on consoles, but it’s at home on PC, as are developer Firaxis’ other games. Moving your units around and getting a view of the whole battlefield is perfect with a keyboard and mouse.
See our XCOM 2 review.