Gaming PCs, especially powerful ones, may be more expensive sầu than consoles, but PCs have sầu flexibility, moddability, và power unavailable in the competition. As a result, PC gaming is able lớn quickly pivot both toward và away from trends khổng lồ give sầu its players quality and amazing experiences.
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So, a warning upfront: Unlượt thích our other Essentials lists, this one covers a catalog that’s spread across multiple decades, và focuses on the 22 games on the platsize we think everyone should play if they want khổng lồ get the most out of PC gaming. That includes some of our personal favorites, but also older games that cast a long shadow.
Why 22 games, though? Any less makes it hard to narrow things down, and any more might be overwhelming. Twenty-two games is a solid number of titles, spread across multiple genres, with selections for just about every age group. And, when possible, we’ve sầu included a link to lớn our guide for each game, in case you need a little help to lớn get started.
Also, this list is constantly evolving. We’ve included the games that have sầu been cycled out at the bottom for a little additional inspiration.
Let’s dig in!
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Critics & players have raved about Remedy Entertainment’s Control, a third-person action game unlike any other. Here at darkedeneurope.com, we called it both an artistic và a technical achievement. While it’s available on modern consoles, the game looks và runs the best on a high-end PC, especially if you have sầu an Nvidia RTX đoạn Clip card to lớn enable real-time ray tracing.
RelatedControl guide - darkedeneurope.com
As Jesse Faden, players enter a brutadanh mục skyscraper in New York City only lớn uncover a mystery that would make the writers of The X-Files blush. The gunplay is exceptional, matched by sound kiến thiết và animation flourishes that earned six nominations & one trophy at The Game Awards in 2019. But what ties it all together is a wild sense of humor & a relentlessly unnerving story that rewards exploration and mastery in equal measure.
The game can be a bit intimidating, especially its skill trees và somewhat cumbersome maps. Chechồng out our detailed guides section khổng lồ get started. —Charlie Hall
Get it here: Epic Games Store | Steam
Desperados 3 changes very little about what made Shadow Tactics great. It’s still an isometric stealth game filled with vision cones & seemingly-impossible odds. But small tweaks, like being able lớn cue up your entire squad’s next action lớn all play out at the same time, make it a much more satisfying experience than its predecessor.
The adventure is made up of stellar levels that look more like dioramas brought khổng lồ life, each filled with charm và detail, from the rainy streets of New Orleans to lớn the dusty byways of a sun-beaten desert town. Picking these levels apart, piece by piece, using each of your squad members’ specialized abilities, is tremendously satisfying, lượt thích a sudoku puzzle with more knife throwing. Fans of the classic Commandos series will feel right at home page here. — Russ Frushtick
Get it here: Amazon | Steam | Fanatical | GOG | Green Man Gaming | Epic Games Store
Old-school isometric role-playing games are having a bit of a renaissance of late, with winning franchises lượt thích Divinity, Pillars of Eternity, và Wasteland absolutely knocking it out of the park. Even the Baldur’s Gate franchise is back, with some excellent remakes or the originals & a third installment on the way.
But there’s simply nothing like Disco Elysium.
The award-winning role-playing game puts you in the shoes of a middle-aged detective sầu, but this is your nor regular gumshoe story. From our review:
Disco Elysium tells the story of a grizzled detective sầu who got so drunk he forgot who he was, and now has to lớn solve sầu a murder. He’s working in a town that’s mysteriously out of time: Disteo music is all the rage, and there are record players everywhere ... but modern công nghệ also sometimes crops up as if it’s no big khuyễn mãi giảm giá.
It’s up khổng lồ you to split your time between reassembling your sense of self, và working out why there’s a man hanging by his neck near the center of town. Everything seems lớn be working on dream lô ghích, & the quicker you’re able khổng lồ meet the game on that màn chơi, the better.
And what makes Disco Elysium so chất lượng mechanically is its ludicrously detailed character creation & leveling system, và the amount of control it gives you over how you play your character while leaving plenty of room for surprises coming from the game itself.
Get it here: Steam
darkedeneurope.com’s game of the year năm nhâm thìn was called Doom, a reboot of the 1993 franchise from id Software và Bethesda Softworks. Believe sầu it or not, 2020’s Doom Eternal is even better. From our review:
Doom Eternal stands apart from its contemporaries, the big, gaudy, self-serious first-person shooters lượt thích Hotline of Duty & Battlefield that dem& instant, microscopic movements khổng lồ perkhung headshots in order khổng lồ survive against preternaturally gifted teens. Competitive players of those franchises grtáo bị cắn with each patch’s meta, while memorizing maps, angles, và weapon advantages. It’s a popular approach lớn AAA first-person shooter thiết kế, but for all the gr& scope và spectacle, the “fun” of these shooters largely takes place down the sights of a gun. Only one weapon in Doom Eternal includes a traditional scope, & it’s an optional nâng cấp. Ammo can be found in the chest cavity of every enemy, so there’s no need to be precious about firing from the hip.
In Doom Eternal, the “fun” is in the movement. Because you must restore health & armor with close-range attacks, moving in and out of scrimmages becomes the foundation of winning strategies. A double jump, a double dash, & a hook that pulls you toward its living target all allow you to lớn establish your distance, as vị environments sprinkled with walls, hills, tunnels, platforms, và monkey bars — all meant to be used for cover and escape, but also your own amusement.
Get it here: Walmart | Steam | Amazon | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming
Slaves lớn Armok: God of Blood Chapter 2: Dwarf Fortress, better known simply as Dwarf Fortress, is a remarkable game. The result of the decadeslong collaboration between two brothers, Zach Adam và Tarn Adams, it’s one of the most complex and esoteric simulations every conceived, and it’s rendered in ASCII.
In the game’s most well-known mode, players take control of a band of dwarves setting out lớn create a community from scratch in a hostile world. “Control” is the wrong word, really, since the dwarves in the game have their own thoughts và feelings. Players merely suggest that they dig inkhổng lồ the mountain & plant a field of mushrooms, while the dwarves themselves decide if they’re up to it at that particular point in time.
One of the many benefits of PC gaming is the ability to lớn get under the hood and tinker with the games that you already own. There’s no better series to lớn satisfy the tinkerer’s itch than The Elder Scrolls. The franchise has embraced the modding community for nearly two decades, & the creative team behind it says that decision has had much to vày with the series’ longevity and popularity over the years.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim serves as an excellent introduction to game modding, thanks khổng lồ its integration with the Steam Workshop. Simply purchase và download the game, và you’ll be able to select from more than 28,000 community-created mods that add everything from new skins, items, & quest lines khổng lồ large-scale battles.
Of course, Skyrim is also available as a virtual reality title that’s fully compatible with Oculus Rift & Smartphone HTC Vive, or PlayStation VR for console fans.
For those who want khổng lồ dig a little deeper, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind provides a much more hands-on modding experience. You’ll need to lớn tinker with the actual game files themselves or download third-buổi tiệc nhỏ tools to lớn vì chưng the work, but the results can be extremely satisfying. One thủ thuật, now 18 years in the making, has even added an entire landmass with high-quality quests, additional voice-over work, and full integration with the game’s fast-travel system. —CH
Get Morrowind here: Walmart | Steam | GOG | Amazon | GameStop | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming
Get Skyrim here: Steam | Amazon | GameStop | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming
At the core of this game is a realistic simulation of all 400 billion star systems in the Milky Way galaxy. No, that’s not a typo. The secret is the so-called Stellar Forge, a procedural system that developer Frontier Developments used to lớn realistically simulate the formation of our galaxy. Using the best available astronomical data, the studio sort of threw all of creation inkhổng lồ a digital roông xã tumbler & then continued to lớn polish what fell out as an MMO.
It’s the community that makes this game such a joy to play. A recent effort lớn put new Fleet Carriers in every corner of the galaxy has contributed khổng lồ a massive sầu uptiông xã in players, including all-time high player counts on Steam. Also, the developer is adding “space legs” — the ability lớn get out of your ship & walk around in first-person — some time in 2021.
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Whether you want to risk life and limb rescuing your fellow players as a thành viên of the Fuel Rats, engage in high-stakes player-versus-player combat during community-sponsored narrative battles, or simply take a weekslong joyride to lớn the edge of the our unfashionable Western spiral arm, there’s something in here for everyone. —CH
Get it here: Frontier | Steam
Spelunky 2 isn’t a sequel — or, at least, I wouldn’t use that term. It’s something different, lượt thích so many modern games that blur the lines between remaster, reboot, remake, & reimagining. It warrants new words.
Spelunky 2’s early stages resemble the original Spelunky, just a little prettier. Imagine someone using tracing paper khổng lồ re-create a favorite painting, adding their own flourishes và revisions. Once again, you begin in a cave full of spiders, skeletons, bats, & golden idols that egg you on to mix khổng lồ mix off their lethal traps. Except now, things are ever so different.
RelatedSpelunky 2 beginner’s guide
Yellow lizards roll across the room like that big ball chasing Indy, và agitated moles cut through the ground lượt thích the graboids in Tremors. Step on a dirt surface containing a pack of moles, và the sharp-toothed critters pop up for a bite, turning the familiar terrain into lớn something reminiscent of “the floor is lava,” with our hero leaping from one floating platkhung to lớn another.
The opening stages (và, in time, the entire game) feel familiar but deadlier — like Yu redesigned Spelunky specifically lớn punish those of us who’d grown complacent after eight years of speedruns, accustomed khổng lồ shredding through them like Bill Murray skipping through the baông chồng half of Groundhog Day. Your muscle memory is weaponized against you —Chris Plante
Get it here: Steam
Listen: When the original version of Fortnite launched, I hated it. And I wasn’t alone.
At the time, it was a $40 early access title, an endlessly “soon-to-be-free-to-play” cooperative multiplayer hybrid building ... thing. There were zombies in it. You collected characters in the khung of trading cards, và unlocked abilities from a skill tree. There was so much mindless clicking in the original version that my wrist would hurt after every each session.
That original mode, called Save the World, is still in the game. It even has a small, but devoted, ongoing tín đồ base. But their numbers are completely dwarfed by fans of the Battle Royale mode, what is now most often simply called “Fortnite.”
Fortnite is arguably the biggest game in the world thanks khổng lồ Battle Royale. It’s more than just a fast-follow of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It’s a dynamic world with elements of Minecraft’s elaborate building systems, but Epic Games is also constantly adding little mysteries alongside the massive seasonal nội dung drops that keep the fans guessing about what’s coming next. In the first half of 2020, it’s also become a meeting place just lớn hang out & watch some movies. —CH
Get it here: Epic Games Store
The original Half-Life tells the story of the MIT-educated theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman and a transdimensional rift that may someday kill us all. As far as PC shooters go, Half-Life represents an inflection point for the entire genre, threading a nearly uninterrupted narrative through a seamless & carefully paced action spectacle.
While the gameplay itself more than holds up, the look and feel of the original leaves something to lớn be desired. Thankfully, the team at Crowbar Collective — themselves a bunch of modders — have sầu created Blaông xã Mesa. It’s not simply a remaster of the original game, but also an effort to lớn rekiến thiết Half-Life’s final, troubled levels featuring jumping puzzles on the alien planet Xen.
Whether you want lớn play the classic version or the updated Blaông xã Mesa is up to you, but every PC enthusiast should at least try one or the other at least once. —CH
Get Half-Life here: Steam
Get Blaông xã Mesa here: Steam
Nothing about VR is used as a gimmiông chồng here, as every interaction connects you to the world & grounds you in Valve’s new reality. You’ll learn how to take care of your guns, and how to inject yourself with life-giving medicine … or subject yourself to a horrific healing process that involves crushing little grubs that may be sentient. It’s equal parts captivating & horrifying.
Combine all that with an ending that’s an absolute stunner, và catches us up on the Half-Life story while also dramatically raising the stakes for the next adventure, and you have one of the best games in VR, as well as one of the best games of 2020, full stop. —Ben Kuchera
Get Half-Life: Alyx here: Steam
Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero is one of the most fascinating narrative experiments in all of Clip games. The brainchild of the small team of artists at Cardboard Computer, it uses magical realism to lớn tell a bizarre tale phối in rural America.
The game, which began as a Kickstarter campaign, has been released episodically over the past seven years. Cardboard Computer has also released a series of experiences it calls interludes, which are freely available online. —CH
Get it here: Steam | GOG | Humble
League of Legends
League of Legends can be extremely intimidating. It’s a hybrid of the RTS genre & action RPGs, where physical skill và high-màn chơi strategy mingle for intense online battles. With over 140 champions for players to lớn learn & master, there are many different ways to lớn break in, và multiple roles khổng lồ play in each round.
LoL is also fascinating solely as a spectator sport. Fans turn out in droves to watch multinational tournaments played all around the world. Many esports organizations hang their hats on the quality of the LoL teams they can field. Given that kind of popularity, it’s little wonder that this game is one of the most-watched titles on Twitch. —CH
Get it here: Riot
Before Minecraft was the cultural force it is today, it was a survival game.
Minecraft drops players on a procedurally generated maps eight times larger than the surface of the Earth. They’ll have sầu lớn forage for, hunt down, or grow enough food to survive, all while dodging the ever-present threat of explosive sầu Creepers & deadly zombies, on the way to an endgame battle against a powerful extradimensional Long.
Of course, it’s Minecraft’s no-stakes Creative mode that has garnered the game tens of millions of views on Twitch and YouTube, two entire industries seemingly purpose-built for the new breed of gaming personalities that it helped to reveal lớn the world. —CH
Get it here: Microsoft | Mojang | Amazon
Outer Wilds, darkedeneurope.com’s game of the year for 2019, began as a student project before embarking on a successful crowdfunding campaign on the Fig platsize.
Outer Wilds is about exploring the unknown, but there’s a catch. The game’s pocket-sized solar system runs on a tight 22-minute loop. Each cycle ends with the player waking up, with everything seemingly remix, except for the knowledge they’ve gained by exploring space and the planets in it. Why this is happening, & what the player must bởi khổng lồ phối things right, hóa trang one of the most intriguing mysteries in all of gaming. —CH
Get it here: Epic Games Store
Return of the Obra Dinn
Just lượt thích an old-fashioned murder story, Return of the Obra Dinn poses a complex mystery, layered with personalities, motives, secrets, & lies. But it supercharges whodunit conventions by infusing misdirection inlớn every nook and cranny of its intricate, gorgeous murder scenes.
The story is phối aboard an early-19th-century merchant ship that shows up in port five years after it was reported missing, presumed lost at sea. The ship is bereft of human life. My job is to board the ship và figure out what happened. I’m soon confronted with evidence of a voyage gone awry. Skeletons, exploded cannons, và destroyed rigging all add up khổng lồ ... what?
Obra Dinn features a monochromatic art style inspired by early Macintosh games, but it’s also fully three-dimensional in movement và visuals. As the player, you inhabit an insurance adjuster from the Age of Sail who gains limited control over time and space. The game demands attention khổng lồ detail và cleverness on the part of the player khổng lồ get khổng lồ the bottom of what happened to each character, while delighting them at every turn with a story & kiến thiết that gradually reveals itself with surprising bursts of sound and violence.
In his glowing đánh giá, our Colin Campbell concluded that Obra Dinn “isn’t merely a great game, it’s the work of an intense và creative sầu intelligence.” —CH
Get it here: Steam | GOG | Humble
It’s a style of progression that’s relatively common in modern gaming, but Hades elevates these ideas by also wrapping the game’s narrative sầu và characters inkhổng lồ its structure, so that each failed attempt to lớn escape the titular Hades is remarked upon, often down lớn the enemy who finally sent you baông chồng to lớn the beginning and the weapons you were using. While it’s common for games lớn force you lớn get further along if you want to lớn see the story unfold, Hades moves in the opposite direction by turning failure into the primary method through which you learn more about who these gods are, who is helping you và who is working against you, và why.
It’s a simple idea that has been precisely executed, from the game’s impressive sầu variety of weapons and abilities that completely change how you must approach certain enemies & bosses, to lớn the accessibility options that can help players see the rest of the story without losing what makes the structure so special. The pitch-perfect writing and voice acting for each character works so well with character art that’s thirstier than most Instagram accounts. It’s no wonder this was our game of the year for 2020.
Get it here: Steam | Epic Games Store
This science fiction fantasy shooter blends third-person action and Vanquish-style acrobatics with tried-and-true MMO systems khổng lồ create a vibrant community of players. It’s also more approachable than it’s ever been before.
‘Tenno’ is the noun used for the player character, who awakens from cryosleep only khổng lồ be immediately thrust inlớn conflict with the Grineer. Luckily, my Warframe gets me through the conflict, và I am aided by the benevolent Lotus. Confused at all the proper nouns? It takes a while to pichồng up the kích cỡ and scope of Warframe’s plot, but that largely doesn’t matter. Most of it is pretty standard sci-fi stuff — an ancient empire crumbled, the factions of that empire are now at war, và I am a powerful thẻ put into play. But there is a twist that you shouldn’t spoil for yourself if you’re going to lớn play.
What that effectively means is that I unlochồng a host of missions with variable objectives và I get khổng lồ jump around & be a ninja. Warframe’s combat is a genuine joy. Movement is fast, fluid, & beautifully lethal. Individual hits can have sầu a huge impact — I take pleasure out of pulling bachồng an arrow and firing it right through an enemy’s head, where he ricochets baông xã and is pinned lớn a wall. Melee attacks are accompanied with a satisfying sound effect and bright flash, along with a snappy animation. —CM
Get it here: Digital Extremes | Steam
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Years after its release, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt still stands as a towering achievement in modern Clip game thiết kế.
Much has been written about the game’s lengthy main quest & how the series uses player decisions to make thoughtful changes to the game’s world over time. In that regard, it’s the gold standard for digital role-playing games. But where The Witcher 3 truly shines on PC is in providing a glorious spectacle for the eyes. From the game’s rich & moody skyboxes to the environmental và character art itself, The Witcher 3 looks best on PC, with longer draw distances và higher resolutions than are possible anywhere else.
In that regard, the five-year-old title’s age is actually a benefit. You’ll spover far less on an appropriately high-end graphics card today than you would have sầu when the game was first released. —CH
Get it here: Walmart | Steam | GOG | Amazon | GameStop
Every task is simple to perkhung on a touchscreen or a computer. Whether it’s connecting colored wires that have sầu been cut, pulling a lever, swiping a security card, or flipping a switch, everyone can do the game’s most basic tasks. Even killing someone as the impostor is as easy as tapping one button. If you happen to lớn stumble upon the body toàn thân of a fellow crew thành viên, alerting the rest of the crew takes just one button as well. And that’s when the real fun starts.
Any time a dead body is discovered, the entire crew convenes for a meeting where they have sầu the chance lớn vote out one player. That’s when your friover group’s normal social dynamics transform into a part of the game.
In one game, my friover group’s loudest and most outspoken thành viên went three straight meetings without saying a word. When he finally did speak up, it was just lớn agree with someone who leveled accusations toward the player that was suspicious of hyên. It was all a dead giveaway to the fact that he was the impostor. In another round, someone who’s normally quick to make a joke was taking things very seriously, so I suggested we vote him out, because it seemed weird. And we did vote hlặng out … too bad I was the impostor that round.
Get it here: Among Us
World of Warcraft
A high-fantasy massively multiplayer online game standing on the shoulders of giants like Ultima và EverQuest, World of Warcraft has continually reinvented itself for more than 15 years, và has recently even moved bachồng lớn the past lớn try lớn rekindle the interest of players who may have left the game.
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And WoW continues khổng lồ have a thriving community, even if the total number of players sometimes goes up and down with the times. Whether you l& in Azeroth solo or with a cđại bại group of friends, you should never need to lớn adventure alone. —Charlie Hall
Get it here: Walmart | Blizzard
Microsoft Flight Simulator
The results are breathtaking and, in many cases, almost indistinguishable from real life. (Just how indistinguishable will depkết thúc partly on your gaming PC — while Flight Simulator will run fine at lower resolutions, you’ll need a cutting-edge rig lớn get the most out of it.) —Charlie Hall
Get it here: MicrosoftOther notable PC games:
Sea of Thieves
Get it here: Amazon | Steam | Microsoft
Final Fantasy 14
Get it here: Amazon | Steam | Green Man Gaming
Get it here: Valorant
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
Get it here: Walmart | 2K | Steam | Amazon | GameStop | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming
Get it here: Bohemia | Steam
Get it here: Paradox | Steam | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming | GOG
Sid Meier’s Civilization 6
Get it here: 2K | Steam | Amazon | GameStop | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming
Crusader Kings 3
Get it here: Paradox | Steam | Green Man Gaming
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Get it here: Steam | GOG
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Get it here: Steam | GOG
Get it here: Epic Games Store | Steam
Get it here: Steam | Amazon | Fanatical | Green Man Gaming
Get it here: Battle.net
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Get it here: Walmart | Steam | Fanatical
Get it here: Gaijin | Steam
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