The best PC games around – essential pick-ups from every genre

By Staff, Thursday, 26 July 2018 11:10 GMT

The best PC games

With unparalleled accessibility and endless upgradability, it’s no wonder that millions of gamers around the world think PC is the best place to play. Because of the platform’s history, curating a list of every great PC game throughout the ages would be a tough task, so we’ve put together a list of modern titles that’re the best PC games to spend your time with right now.

So, in alphabetical order, here’re 50 of the best PC games around.

Cities Skylines – Honorable mentions: Prison Architect, Tropico 5

In an alternate universe where EA and Maxis didn’t drop the ball, this slot is occupied by the latest and greatest SimCity release. In fact, Cities: Skylines developer Colossal Order was miserably certain its project wouldn’t be greenlit thanks to SimCity’s announcement – but its subsequent pratfall only made Paradox more eager to bring PC gamers what they wanted most.

The best way to describe Cities: Skyline is “SimCity but made by people who liked the same things about the series as you did”. The indie team has demonstrated tremendous commitment to ongoing support, too.

Civilization 6 – Honorable mentions: Total War Rome 2, Endless Legend

Dissatisfied with the way of the world right now? Fire up Civ 6 and it’ll be 2019 before you know it.

This latest entry into Sid Meier’s Civilization series is an astonishing time sink, with the possibility to spend more than 1,000 hours across multiple games scrapping your way to global domination using strategy, diplomacy, and, when everything else fails, all out war.

The AI can be shonky at times – confusing itself and getting stuck in the same flurry of actions – but there’s a lot to love here. Each of the current 24 civilization leaders are colourfully animated and bursting with personality, and there’s enough variety in their strengths, weaknesses and unique units to make playing different nations fun.

CS GO – Honorable mentions: Arma 3

To be honest we didn’t think anything could ever out Counter-Strike: Source as the go-to competitive shooter on PC (and for some people, both CS:S and the original CS remain their primary shooter), but good ongoing support on top of the experience and flair of Valve’s development team has proved us wrong. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is now one of the top eSports titles in current circulation, and a damn good time even for the less competitively-minded.

Global Offensive was also available on consoles but like every Valve game support outside of Steam was limited. Steam is where you’ll find the best of the best, if you fancy being humbled.

Cuphead – Honorable mentions: Nuclear Throne, Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

Because of its unique art style, Cuphead has been on just about everyone’s radar for years. Thankfully, when it finally hit, the game was just as good at it looked.

Cuphead is tough but accessible, and while the amount of projectiles on-screen can reach near bullet-hell levels of madness, it totally nails that artery-bursting, desk-smashing difficulty that has you fistpumping with every hard won victory.

DOOM – Honorable mentions: Wolfenstein 2, Bioshock Infinite

If your rig can run it, DOOM on max settings is a beautiful sight to behold. Well, as beautiful as monstrous demons from hell getting ripped to pieces with a chainsaw can be.

Fast-paced and ultra-violent, DOOM isn’t for the weak of stomach – not just because the enemies leak strawberry jam like a poorly packed picnic, but the fervour with which Doomguy doles out infernal punishment from a first-person perspective can leave some feeling nauseous.

This is no-holds-barred action at its eye-widening, engrossing best.

DoTA 2 – Honorable mentions: Heroes of the Storm

DoTA – and MOBAs in general – might have started life as a Warcraft 3 mod, but with DoTA 2, it’s blossomed into a fully-fledged cornerstone of the eSports MOBA scene – with almost $140 million won as prize money to date.

There’s a vast amount to get to grips with in DoTA 2, where developers Valve made the trade-off of a steep learning curve for unparalleled depth. Once you’re up to speed with the meta heroes and builds though, DoTA 2 offers a tense and engrossing competitive experience.

Dark Souls 3 – Honorable mentions: Nioh, All of Dark Souls

Souls is a special series, and picking just one game to represent it on a list is tough. It’s fitting then that Dark Souls 3 plays like a greatest hits, with all the strengths and weaknesses that come with that tag. It might not be as zeitgeist-shaping as the original, or have the same context or nuance, but everything that you fell in love with is there in spades.

Dark Souls 3 also manages to be the most accessible Souls game, but doesn’t lose any of the challenge. The movement speed might be quicker and some of the systems streamlined to be less confusing, but that doesn’t detract from the same core loop that sits as the foundation for the whole series – die, and get ready to die again until you achieve glorious victory.

Dishonored 2 – Honorable mentions: Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Prey

Immersive sims are synonymous with PC, and Dishonored 2 absolutely nails the genre. Each map is a rich sandbox where you’re given a simple objective and how you reach it is your choice – leaving you to use every weapon in your arsenal as you see fit.

This means that every level plays almost like a puzzle to be solved, and you’ll be constantly be thinking, “what happens if I do this”, and “what happens if I go over there?”

Dishonored 2’s dual playable leads, Emily Kaldwin – the usurped queen – and Corvo Attano – the grizzled royal protector – have distinct power sets. Emily’s youthful anger lends itself to a more destructive, violent playstyle, whereas Corvo is more adept at remaining undetected. This only adds even more replayability to a game that already has a whole host of different solutions.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Honorable mentions: Tyranny, Shadowrun Dragonfall

For more than 15 years, Belgian maestros Larian Studios has been churning out quality RPGs in the old-school mould of genre classics. The most recent entry, Divinity: Original Sin 2, is a sequel to 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin – which itself is a prequel to the 2002 OG Divine Divinity – and a high water-mark for the already acclaimed series.

Original Sin 2 expertly blends its nuanced tactical combat and memorable stories and side quests with an incredible amount of choice. The variety of potential interactions that can arise in every situation mean that the game’s formula stays fresh for the entirety of the its considerable length.

What’s more, you can party up with three friends and explore in four-player drop-in co-op, and this is an experience well worth sharing.

Dream Daddy – Honorable mentions: Huniepop, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok

The world of dating sims can be a strange one, but the best in the genre approach their characters with a heartwarming earnestness that makes them a joy to befriend.

In Dream Daddy you play as a single Dad who’s upped sticks to a new town with your daughter, Amanda, in tow. In a fortuitous turn of events, your new home Maple Bay is stuffed full of eligible daddies just waiting to be wooed. With Amanda’s blessing, you can choose to date any of seven hunky fathers, revealing more and more about their personality as your relationship grows.

There are normal and secret endings to unlock for each perfect pop too; enough to keep any would-be matchmaker busy.

Elite Dangerous – Honorable mentions: Star Citizen

A few years ago it felt like you couldn’t move for all the upcoming space sims, but very few of them have materialised in any form a sane person would pay a retail price for. Elite: Dangerous practically wins over its genre buddies by default just by being a playable, full-featured game you can buy as opposed to something you’re allowed to look at in trailers while gibbering for a release date.

It’s also great, though, which is why it’s here. We don’t have much hope for the console builds, to be honest; what you want is a powerful old beast of a PC, all the settings turned up as high as they can go, and a gorgeous universe to go and explore. At least one of those things is yours for the taking, courtesy of Frontier Developments, and almost justify an investment in the first one so the second becomes a possibility.

Europa Universalis 4 – Honorable mentions: Hearts of Iron 4

Ah, grand strategy. How better to live out your imperial fantasies than at the helm of an endlessly growing empire that responds completely to your beck and call.

While Civilization V also occupies this list, Europa Universalis 4 stands out because of its straighter representation of history and the world as we know it, rather than a randomly generated map each time. You’re still guiding your nation through centuries of diplomacy, trade, and warfare, but now there are random events to contend with as well. These can reflect the real world challenges that a nation in your chosen part of the world might face, or come completely out of leftfield – meaning there’s always room for a spanner in the works of your best laid plans.

To exhaust Europa Universalis would take hundreds of hours on its own, but add the ceaseless release of new DLC packs and – even if they’re a bit pricey – you’ve got a strategy game for the ages.

EVE Online – Honorable mentions: Warframe, Black Desert Online

EVE Online is like nothing else out there. Where most games are lorded for their deep worldbuilding and painstakingly crafted lore, EVE’s greatest legends played out in real time between real players.

Hardcore members of this profession-based space sim have formed sophisticated corporations which fuel the game’s functioning economy. In times of peace the organic-feeling world is a marvel of role-playing. But when shit hits the fan, EVE Online plays host to more political intrigue and calculated backstabbing than a glossy series of HBO drama.

If you’re in the market for a “living, breathing world” that’s more than a marketing buzzword, EVE might be your bag.

Fallout 4 – Honorable mentions: Skyrim

One of, if not the, best thing about Bethesda RPGs is the exceptional community of modders that painstakingly add hundreds of hours of fun to the vanilla experience with their hard work. So when the “Enhanced Edition” of Softworks’ previous highwatermark, The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, was released and broke years of mod support, it was a crying shame.

It makes sense then to recommend one of Bethesda’s more recent efforts, Fallout 4, which not only offers another romp into the transcendently awesome Fallout universe, but updates the underlying game mechanics enough to finally make it a competent shooter as well.

While the newly-voiced main character hampers some of the game’s ability to provide flexible role playing, the main story is interesting, the side quests are superb, and there are plenty of secrets and pop-culture references to unearth throughout the Commonwealth.

FF14 – Honorable mentions: Elder Scrolls Online

Final Fantasy 14 is one of the greatest redemption stories in gaming. After a rocky launch which saw the game scrapped just after release in favour of a wholly revamped version, Final Fantasy 14 re-emerged with a reworked interface and gameplay, better optimisation and a snazzy new tagline: A Realm Reborn.

Now with nearly 12 million characters created worldwide, FF14 is a thriving MMO community that’s only been bolstered by the release of the critically-well-received Stormblood expansion.

The main draw for new players is the story missions, which tell the suitably grand tale of war between the adventurers of Eorzea and the invading Garlean Empire. But there are plenty of side quests – called Leves – to battle through as well; each oozing with that trademark Final Fantasy flair.

Fortnite – Honorable mentions: Team Fortress 2, Totally Accurate Battlegrounds

Fortnite is the biggest game going, and it’s not even on Steam. It’s been a slow-burn, but right now, Fortnite looks unassailable in its global domination, breaking well and truly into the mainstream thanks to its popularity on mobile and with kids and streamers alike.

While the paid Save the World PvE game mode is fun enough and a good way to earn free V-bucks, it’s the F2P battle royale mode that’s taking the world by storm. The combination of a low barrier of entry, a simple to learn but hard to master gameplay loop, and tense player-versus-player fights makes Fortnite a compelling proposition.

GTA 5 – Honorable mentions: Saints Row 4, Sleeping Dogs

Yes, GTA 5 is on our PS4 and Xbox One best of lists. Yes, it’ll probably go on every list we ever make. It is just that good. It is a titan of our times.

But also it’s especially good on PC. Even though Rockstar has not been hugely supportive of modding (arguably fair enough, given how hard it must be to police GTA Online), the GTA 5 mod scene is a gift that keeps on giving. The video editor has enabled some cracking bits of art and craft. And, of course, on Ultra settings the PC version of GTA 5 outshines all the others. Sorry.

Gunpoint – Honorable mentions: The Swapper, Sperlunky

First there was nothing. Then there was Gunpoint. Now there are imitators – but nothing does it quite as well as Tom Francis did that first time, even if you can knock it over pretty quickly with your whizz-kid brain.

Gunpoint is a sort of stealth puzzle game in which players must infiltrate various buildings without being detected by guards. Making use of existing securities systems and eventually even rewiring grids entirely is far more satisfying than merely ninja rolling across a doorway.

Hearthstone Witchwood expansion – Honorable mentions: The Elder Scrolls Legends, Chronicle: Runescape Legends, Gwent

Hearthstone, with each passing expansion, cements its place at the head of the card battling table further and further. While its original appeal might’ve had more to do with WoW nostalgia than anything else, it’s grown into its own distinct entity, and is now just as popular with gamers that’ve never set foot in Azeroth.

Regularly updated with new cards – like the most recent Witchwood expansion – Hearthstone manages to stay fresh by constantly introducing new mechanics. The RNG can be frustrating and the implementation of the new standard competitive format, which rotates cards out of circulation after a certain amount of time, can make it difficult to maintain a competitive deck if you’re not playing all the time. But the additions of the Dungeon Run solo adventure Monster Hunt mode have made it immeasurably easier to enjoy the game for cheap.

Hollow Knight – Honorable mentions: Ori and the Blind Forest, Owlboy

Hollow Knight is a beautiful indie Metroidvania filled with lush animation, tight platforming and tense action. You play as The Knight, a mysterious character exploring the ruins of the insectoid kingdom of Hollownest.

Despite its nebulous story, Hollow Knight is gripping thanks to its absorbing environments and original character design.

It’s not an easy game either, owing to some twitchy platforming and combat. A lot of enemies won’t go down without a fight, and you’re almost certainly going to die a couple of times on some of Hollow Knight’s more difficult bosses.

Homeworld Remastered Collection – Honorable mentions: Stellaris

If VG247 expanded its editorial remit to cover classic games, this would be a very different list – but in both parallel universes, Homeworld makes the grade. One of a number of properties put up for auction when THQ folded, support for Homeworld had well and truly ended and you couldn’t even buy the classic games any more, so the fanbase was hungry both for a re-release and for something new.

Gearbox’s Brian Martel was one of those fans, in the enviable position of being able to do something about it. The developer not only gave its blessing and financial support for spiritual successor and now official sequel Homeworld: Shipbreakers, it put together a wonderfully tasty package in Homeworld: Remastered Collection. Both games in classic and updated form, with a combined multiplayer suite? Yes, please. The classic gameplay is as strong as ever, by the way.

Into the Breach – Honorable mentions: Invisible Inc

From the sadistic minds behind FTL: Faster than Light, Into the Breach is an addictive turn-based strategy where you squish bug-like aliens with giant fighting robots. What more needs to be said?

You drop your mechs onto a square grid populated not just with enemies, but obstacles and objectives based on the type of mission you’ve undertaken and terrain you’re battling on. Your task is then to clear the field of hostiles in a certain amount of moves, requiring considerable forethought and planning to get the job done effectively.
While the premise is simple, completing the hardest challenges Into the Breach has to throw at you isn’t – and once you factor in the scalable difficulty modes, there’s some serious replayability here too.

Kerbal Space Program – Honorable mentions: RimWorld

In Kerbal Space Program you design, build and launch rockets from first principles. If this sounds like a doddle to you, you’ve been playing too many crafting survival sandboxes; building things takes more effort than slapping the appropriate number of resources down on a blueprint.

Getting Kerbals into space is hard, but every time you blow one up or leave them endlessly orbiting the moon as a corpse, you’ve gained something: you’ve learned what not to do. It’s almost like a rogue-like with persistent character progression, only what’s being carried over is your knowledge. Getting your little Kerbals to new reaches of the solar system, and then getting them back again, is an absolute triumph.

League of Legends – Honorable mentions: SMITE

Another of the heaviest eSports hitters around, League of Legends is easier to get into than Dota, but is still retains a high level of strategic depth.

LoL has the largest roster of heroes of all the major MOBAs, with original and interesting champion designs that mean you’re pretty much always going to find someone new you want to try out. That choice is restricted somewhat if you really want to play the metagame, but there’s still decent variety in the top picks.

In terms of gameplay, we’re talking bread-and-butter stuff – two teams try to destroy each other’s Nexus while working to raise their individual power level – but here it’s executed brilliantly. The delicate balance that League of Legends manages to create between fast-paced action and strategic positioning makes it one of the best in the genre.

Life is Strange – Honorable mentions: Dreamfall Chapters, TellTale’s The Walking Dead

Originally episodic but now totally bingable, Life is Strange is an engrossing story of high-school drama, rekindled friendship, and time travel. What’s better is that the first episode is now free, meaning you can get a taste of the waterside town of Arcadia Bay with no strings attached.

As Max, an 18 year-old wouldbe photographer, you explore the parallel mysteries of your new-found powers and the disappearance of fellow student Rachel Amber, all the while trying to fit into a new school and make friends.

From its drizzly Oregon setting to its jangly hipster rock soundtrack, Life is Strange perfectly captures the feeling of teenage angst and adds a supernatural twist that’s interesting until the credits roll.

Minecraft – Honorable mentions: Terraria

You can argue that it wasn’t until its Xbox 360 release that Minecraft entered the public consciousness, but it was and remains a cultural phenomenon on PC. More than 20 million purchases on a single platform is a huge amount by any measure, but the PC version of Minecraft is also where updates drop first, where mods and custom servers happen, where most of the amazing video content is made, and where educational programs are carried out.

Minecraft is also credited with kicking off or at least popularising a bunch of industry trends – paid early access schemes, crafting sandboxes and of course indie as multi-million dollar success story.

Overwatch – Honorable mentions: Team Fortress 2

Overwatch’s charming cast of playable heroes inspire undying fealty in their legions of fervent fans – and it’s easily to see why. The visual design of this lavish and slickly presented competitive shooter is as stylish as its gameplay is tactical and engaging.

It might’ve been a bit light on content when it first hit shelves, but Acti-Blizz’s ongoing support has consistently refreshed the competitive meta with tweaks and new heroes. There’s something for everyone the roster, with strong heroes in every architype – from twitch-heavy offensive characters like cyborg-ninja Genji, to slower-paced, defensively minded characters like the mounted gun Omnic Bastion.

Recently Blizzard has doubled down on Overwatch’s esports potential with the multimillion dollar Overwatch League, where teams representing cities from around the world compete for a huge prize pool.

Papers, Please – Honorable mentions: Her Story

Papers, Please starts off simple – check the documents, stamp them or reject them – and gets very hard very, very quickly. It’s not just the increasingly finicky regulations handed down by your government overlords and the constantly ticking clock; the misery of applicants and the escalating political tension makes your role as a border guard feel like a penance. Of course, it pays the bills – if and only if you do a good enough job.

Channeling a kind of generic Cold War East European flavour, Papers, Please isn’t really about any specific place or time so much as it is about depressingly universal themes of hope, despair, bureaucracy and everyday people whose lives are just grist in its mill.

PayDay 2 – Honorable mentions: Hotline Miami

Oh sure it came out on consoles, including current-gen, but the PC version is simply the best PayDay 2 experience. Not to get all Master Race on you, but PC multiplayer aficionados are generally better equipped to deal with the kind of gameplay PayDay 2 encourages and often demands – leadership, teamwork, communication and patience, as opposed to racing to get the most kills.

Overkill Software has kept up support with new content and patches for PayDay 2 over the years, and you can now even play the game wholly in VR. There’s always something new to see and collect, and the nature of the game means even running the same missions repeatedly can have wildly different results. Get a crew together, case the joint, and go for the loot.

Pillars of Eternity – Honorable mentions: Planetscape Torment, Wasteland 2

Once again, imagine if this were a list of the best PC games of all time. Clearly it would not be complete without a bunch of Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape Torment, not to mention other classic CRPGs like Fallout. In the absence of these vintage treasures we offer Pillars of Eternity, a love letter to a golden age of PC RPGs, crowdfunded to be the successor fans wanted even if they did have to wait ten years for it.

Pillars of Eternity is remarkably faithful to the formula, with a huge cast of diverse, complex characters, robust customisation and oodles of compelling content. If you’ve never tried a classic CRPG it may not be your best starting point, but if you’re even partly interested you’ll find plenty to love.

It’s sequel, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, is a brilliant game too – and well worth the investment if you enjoyed the first.

Portal 2 – Honorable mentions: The Witness, SUPERHOT

Portal 2 is a triumph of clever design and exceptional world-building, managing to make the player feel like they’re ingeniously breaking the game at every turn, when that was the correct solution all along.

It’s not just top-quality puzzles that makes Portal 2 stand out from the crowd though – there are plenty of laughs from Ellen McLain’s star turn as GlaDOS, writer of The Office and Extras Stephen Merchant as Wheatley, and the lovably stupid turrets.

Project Cars 2 – Honorable mentions: DIRT Rally, Assetto Corsa

When you think of the lackluster recent efforts from once great racing series, it’s brilliant to see new names lining up at the grid. Project Cars 2 is a strong racing sim that offers a solid driving experience, great visuals, and tons of licensed supercars to push to the limit.

Racing fans are notoriously hard to please, but there are some grumbles that have to be aired. The aggressive AI is sometimes difficult to deal with and penalties can feel unfair, while some players report issues with graphical stuttering. If you can get things tuned how you like them though, Project Cars really hits the spot.

PUBG- Honorable mentions: H1Z1 Battle Royale

Though the fervour around PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds may have cooled somewhat in recent months, it still provides one of the tensest competitive shooting experiences around.

With a stronger focus on realistic weapons and environments than it’s cousin, Fortnite, PUBG laid the groundwork for the battle royale genre to take the world by storm. Not only does it require intense concentration to hold your nerve as you stalk the large environments in search of unsuspecting prey, but the bursts of explosive activity require deadly precision and lightning-fast twitch skills.

It’s still buggy and rough, but there’s tons of fun left to be had.

Rainbow Six Siege – Honorable mentions: Insurgency

When it first released to decent reviews, we don’t think anyone expected Rainbow Six Siege to have the sheer staying power it’s shown since it dropped in 2015.

Now in its third year of consistent content updates, Six Siege offers something different in the competitive shooter space. There’s less emphasis on all-out fragging, in favour of coordinated team maneuvers in tight, destructible environments. Get used to constantly evaluating the bullet-repellant abilities of every surface around you – and try not to let the habit bleed into your everyday life.

You choose from nearly 40 Operators – each with their own kit and special abilities – and fight in a variety of small team game modes. Year Three kicked off with Operation Chimera, which added a new PvE horde mode where you fight infected zombie-ish creatures.

SOMA – Honorable mentions: Outlast

Back when YouTubers only made hundreds of thousands instead of millions of dollars, squealing at jump-scares was in vogue and Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent was many content creator’s go-to. But while it won popularity for its noisier moments, what Amnesia did better than pretty much anything else was create a creeping gothic ambience that dripped tension and menace – so that when something did inevitably emerge from the dark you were good and ready to shit your pants.

Five years later, with a few lessons learnt and a new sci-fi setting, Frictional re-emerged with SOMA, an exceptionally immersive and unsetting experience that stays with you far past the game’s near ten-hour runtime.

SOMA improves on everything that made Frictional’s back catalogue great, as well as being mechanically tighter too. As you explore the underwater PATHOS-II research facility, solve light puzzles, and investigate the mystery of your surroundings, things start to get weirder and weirder before the tension reaches its crescendo at the game’s disturbing conclusion.

Starcraft 2 – Honorable mentions: Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 3

The StarCraft franchise was essential to the growth of the eSports scene. Shooters have always been important, and MOBAs have risen to prominence these days, but the tens of millions of dollars handed out at prizes at tournaments today would never have occurred without Starcraft. What says eSports more than a packed arena of cheering Korean fans threatening to Zerg Rush their heroes on the stage?

Starcraft 2 is the template that most modern competitive RTSs follow, and has earnt the reverence that it’s afforded in the gaming community.

Stardew Valley – Honorable mentions: Slime Rancher, Farming Simulator 17

Stardew Valley is simply the best farming sim around. While it might not be the most realistic, or the most visually impressive, Stardew Valley more than makes up for those shortfalls with exceptional charm and oodles of magical moments.

The game centres around the player’s revival of their grandfather’s dilapidated old farm, raising livestock, sowing crops and producing food to sell at market. There’s also a number of light RPG elements where you can fight through dungeons filled with monsters, craft items and forge relationships – some of them romantic – with the townsfolk in surrounding villages.

Developed almost single-handedly by designer and programmer Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, Stardew Valley shows how a clear vision exacted by a lean team can produce something that’s seriously special.

Sunless Sea – Honorable mentions: Don’t Starve

“Eat your crew” is a hell of a tagline, and you will eat them, at least once. This unusual rogue-like is set in the same fascinating universe as browser-based adventure Fallen London, but in addition to the darkly beautiful fiction this time there’s a stressfully difficult survival and exploration game to conquer as well.

Roaming the Sunless Sea in silence as your food and fuel tick ever downwards, eyes and ears straining for any sign of monsters or pirates, hoping to find a port in need of whatever bizarre cargo you’re carrying – it’s a unique and challenging experience. Survive long enough to pass a trait to your successor and begin building a heritage of captains; Sunless Sea is not a game to be conquered in a single lifetime.

The sequel, Sunless Skies, is currently out in Early Access, but due a full release soon.

The Forest – Honorable mentions: Ark, Dying Light

Early Access survival-crafting games were all the rage in 2014, but while some remain in a perpetual state of beta, others are actually coming out as full releases and starting to look properly good.

The Forest sets itself apart from its contemporaries by being both a satisfying resource-gatherer and spoopy as flippin’ heck. You see, the wooded peninsula that your player-character finds themselves on isn’t as idyllic as it first seems. Infesting the woodland and network of subterranean caves is an intelligent society of cannibalistic mutants that grow more twisted and freaky the deeper you delve.

During the day – while the mutants are less aggressive – you have to stockpile your resources and craft a fortified base, because come nightfall you’re going to need everything you can lay hands on to fend off the ravenous beasties.

The Stanley Parable – Honorable mentions: The Beginner’s Guide, Firewatch

Nominally a game with a very straight forward if surreal story line and a clever narration gimmick, The Stanley Parable only opens up for those who wilfully play with it. While many games spend a great deal of effort ensuring the player knows they have to go from A to B and trying to prevent them doing anything else, The Stanley Parable openly engages with the tropes of modern story-driven gameplay by rewarding you for doing the things a few gamers will always do: disobey. Wander off. Fiddle. Wall hack.

In this sense, The Stanley Parable is one of the very few gaming experiences with a story to tell and respect for its players as more than a passive vehicle for the creator’s artistic vision. Also, it is hilarious.

The Witcher 3 – Honorable mentions: FF 15

Few games are lauded with as much fervour as The Witcher 3, and it truly deserves every plaudit. This is the high-watermark for character-lead RPGs, constantly telling richly layered and engrossing stories across its main quest, side missions and narrative DLC.

The Witcher 3 follows Geralt of Rivia throughout the Northern Kingdoms on parallel quests to find Emperor Emhyr var Emreis’ daughter, Ciri, and solve the mystery of The Wild Hunt.

Geralt’s world is densely populated with Monster Hunts, hidden treasure, and secrets to uncover, meaning you can spend well over 100 hours finding it all – as well as mastering the deep potions and crafting mechanics and combat skill tree.

The DLC packs are some of the best around too, meaningfully upgrading the core experience with even more quests to devour and areas to explore.

Titanfall 2 – Honorable mentions: Battlefield 1

In 2010, some of the top brass behind the world-conquering Call of Duty franchise left Infinity Ward to found their own studio: Respawn Entertainment. After a spluttering start with the multiplayer-only Titanfall, they found their feet – critically at least – with the brilliant Titanfall 2.

By blending the same frantic action and eye-bulging set pieces that made Modern Warfare’s campaign live so long in the memory with an affecting buddy-movie storyline, Respawn crafted one of the best shooter campaigns in years.

It might not be the longest, but is often on sale for cheap.

Total War Warhammer 2 – Honorable mentions: Warhammer: Vermintide 2

For years, Creative Assembly has been king of the historical strategy war game. With Total War Warhammer 2 they’ve brought the same ingenuity and depth to the table, just this time you’ve got Lizardmen instead of Carolingians. And when is anything not improved by the addition of Lizardmen?

Owning the first Total War Warhammer as well as the second is pretty much a necessity, since it unlocks a ton of content in this more recent game, but it’s worth it for the life-consumingly awesome campaign mode where you take part in an epic battle to control the Great Vortex.

Undertale – Honorable mentions: Kentucky Route Zero

The breakout indie hit of the last few years, Undertale won hearts the world over by perfecting the delicate balance of in-joky, referential humour without overdoing it.

Developed almost single-handedly by creator Toby Fox, it’s not just the story that makes Undertale special, but also the variety of its battle mechanics and puzzles. It might look like a typical retro JRPG throwback, but there’s a lot more going on than first meets the eye.

There’s also an entertaining meta-narrative that gives you a properly compelling reason to run two or three different play-throughs, and memorable soundtrack that blends classic game sounds with haunting piano and guitar.

West of Loathing – Honorable mentions: Jazzpunk

Back in the day, flash adventure games were awesome. They might not have been the most graphically impressive, but they more than made up for it with sharp wit and chuckles-a-plenty.

West of Loathing is like the best flash comedy-RPG you’ve ever played – full of silly jokes, clever puzzles, and a simple battle system that’s fun without doing anything too fancy. Every area across the stick-figure Wild West has the potential for laughs, and – like the best cowboy gunslingers – the jokes hit more than they miss.

What Remains of Edith Finch – Honorable mentions: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Gone Home

Modern narrative adventure games – sometimes pejoratively referred to as “walking simulators” – can often prioritise style over substance and start to crumble under their own pretence. What Remains of Edith Finch however, is a exceptional journey through the lives of the Finch family, as told through a series of varied and delightful vignettes.

One minute you’re exploring the eerie rooms of the Finch household, then you’re flying through the air as an owl, or swimming as a shark in the ocean. The narrative is still at the centre of the experience, but the new levels of interactivity and inventive storytelling that developer Giant Sparrow has managed to craft into What Remains of Edith Finch make it a real standout.

World of Tanks – Honorable mentions: World of Warships

A former VG24/7 editor once called World of Tanks “niche” on Twitter and was shouted at for days. The competitive online shooter has a huge and devoted playerbase from all over the world, because, it turns out, the desire to get in a tank and blow up someone else’s tank is quite universal.

If you get really into it, World of Tanks can be incredibly expensive. There’s a massive variety of premium tanks available for purchase, and its premium model in general is particularly aggressive. However, the glacial firing rates of your hulking war machines make for something truly unique in the online shooter space, forcing players to position themselves strategically and overcome foes tactically rather than with brute force.

On PC, the pièce de résistance is World of Tanks’ recent 1.0 update. By some miracle Wargaming kept the same minimum requirements while totally overhauling the game’s graphics engine to bring it in line with current gen gaming. You can run World of Tanks on a potato too, so it’s good for those of us that aren’t blessed with infinite coffers.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth – Honorable mentions: Guild Wars 2

There’s life in the old girl yet. While it might not be at its pre-Cataclysm peak, World of Warcraft continues to be played by millions of subscribers around the globe.

Endlessly imitated, WoW streamlined and standardised the blueprint for a modern MMO with its rich lore, varied action-RPG gameplay and deep roster of high-level and endgame activities. As a new player, the sheer amount of content to slog through is a daunting proposition – especially when you’re forking out $15 a month for the privilege – but there’s a reason this game is venerated above all others.

The upcoming expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, introduces four new races to the mix, raises the level cap to 120, as well as adding a host of new dungeons and raids including the golden city of Atal’Dazar.

XCOM 2 – Honorable mentions: Templar Battleforce

PC has always been the home of turn-based tactics, and there are few games out there that do the genre better than XCOM 2. Set 20 years after the first XCOM reboot, Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 freshens up the formula with a higher tempo to the gameplay and new mechanics like the concealment phase, which lets you carry out covert missions while you remain undetected.

XCOM 2 is a tough game, and it can feel a little capricious when your highly-trained super soldiers miss their target from point blank range, but it’s that moreish difficulty that keeps you coming back for time and again.

Your soldiers are immensely customisable, so it’s great fun to give your squad their own flair and personality – or recreate your favourite characters from other games. The only drawback is that it’s all the more heartbreaking when their head is inevitably squished by a hostile alien.

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