The best PC games can take many forms. Since gaming PCs can be budget machines with limited performance or water-cooled monstrosities that can achieve monstrous graphical feats, the games to be found on the platform are just as diverse.
Some will play PC games because they want the best-looking gaming experience. Others because a mouse and keyboard just works better for the kind of games they like to play. Others will enjoy the variety of smaller games on offer, since it's far easier to publish a PC game than it is to go through Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo.
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2020 sees the start of a new console generation, and that may mean you're tempted to try out gaming on a PS5 or Xbox Series X when they emerge. But even with their increased power and new features, they won't be able to compete with the consistent quality of experience that you'll get with the best PC games.
What are the best PC games?
Because there's such a huge number of them, our list can only capture a small number of the total number of great PC gaming experiences. Nonetheless, you'll hopefully find something you'll like from our selection.
If you're an action fan, then shooting down aliens in Gears 5 or slicing demons to pieces in Devil May Cry 5 are the top picks for you. They both look gorgeous in their own way, and have mechanics that have been polished through the entire length of their stories franchises, with these installments being the best yet.
If you'd prefer something slower paced but still a thrill, then XCOM: Chimera squad is a strategy title that will see you test your mental powers against those who seek to destroy the tenuous human-alien alliance, with the help of a unique cast of agents.
Red Dead Redemption 2 and Disco Elysium are a pair of titles that will provide you with many hours of content. Red Dead is full of exquisitely modelled environments for you to explore, while Disco Elysium focuses more on your character's own internal conflicts, with the RPG systems that make up the game reflecting the detective work you undertake as you play.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a game you could buy just for its beautiful vistas, but the tight 2D platforming and combat mean there's plenty to do as you travel around its world. Also emotionally resonant is What Remains of Edith Finch, a story-focussed game that will continually surprise you with radically different gameplay vignettes for each section.
The best PC games you can buy today
1. Streets of Rage 4
Taking up the mantle of the classic 1990s Sega franchise after decades of silence, Streets of Rage 4 is a beat-em-up for up to four players to fight their way through an army of thugs to take down a pair of evil twins who want to enslave Wood Oak City. It's a throwback to arcade classics but with plenty of modern polish that means that newcomers will be just as happy playing this as the expert fans will be.
Like any good fighter, your chosen character has a long list of special moves to use, but take care as using these moves could cost you health if used carelessly. For mechanics-fiends, the game's juggling system will let you perform some seriously fancy combos if you put in the practice.
As well as the story mode, you also have a boss rush option to fight all the toughest enemies one after another, an Arcade mode that gives you a limited number of lives and the option to fight against another human player if you really want a challenge.
Stealth games usually give you one or two abilities to sneak around the environment, but Wildfire lets you burn it down as just one of a bunch of unique ways to find a way past your enemies, either by yourself or with a co-op partner.
Playing as a witch bestowed the power of fire by a crashed meteor, you get to build your skills in this and the other classical elements RPG-style to then use in your mission to banish an invading army from your homeland, rescuing villagers along the way.
It has a limited scope, but considering this is a 2D side scroller made by a small team with an excellent score lovingly-designed pixel art, that is a more than acceptable trade-off. This can be a fun game to experience just for the story, but the game also offers optional challenges and speedrun targets for people who want to get their teeth into the game's mechanics. It's a fantastic example of the kind of high quality indie games that the PC platform helps cultivate.
3. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
This sequel to 2015's Ori and the Blind Forest builds on the original's 'metroidvania' style gameplay - exploring every corner of a large world collecting various abilities and powers, but with additional gameplay refinements and variations and a new story that's just as emotive as the original. Unlike many metroidvania games which are populated by just you and everything trying to kill you, there are lots of friendly NPCs you can encounter too. They will give you your quests and also help contextualise the world, making it feel like it's worth protecting.
The game is a treat for your eyes and ears too. The artwork was all hand painted and then scanned, making it look beautiful in a way like precious few other games on the market. Meanwhile the orchestral score helps to underscore epic and intimate moments in your journey.
4. XCOM: Chimera Squad
You may be familiar with the rebooted XCOM series, which pits you and your squad of high-tech soldiers against an invading alien force. It's a pretty traditional strategy series, or at least it was until Chimera Squad appeared. The alien invasion is over, and instead humans, extraterrestrials and hybrids of the two now live together in harmony, aside from the resistance that you're now tasked with defeating
Instead of randomly generated troops, Chimera Squad gives you a small preset team of humans and aliens, each with unique powers. Turn order is arranged around individual characters too, meaning your tactical priorities will continuously change. There's no base this time around either, instead you operate out of a pre-built facility in a single city. It's a very different kind of XCOM but the risk that comes with changing so many established rules about a franchise has really paid off here.
5. The Outer Worlds
Awaking after decades of being lost on your way to a distant colony, you find that life moved on without you, with The Board, a group of all-powerful corporations, ruling every aspect of the people’s lives. Travelling between the different outposts, you must fight or charm your way to the centre of power, with the help of companions with their own storylines to follow.
Will you find a place in the company hierarchy, or will you become an antitrust guerrilla taking them down? The game lets you make this and many other tiny choices as you go, with multiple ways to reach your objective so you never get stuck no matter your chosen skills. With a fun retro-future aesthetic and funny but thoughtful writing throughout, The Outer Worlds is definitely one of the best PC games you can play.
6. Disco Elysium
You’re a detective in the city of Revachol, and are suffering from just as many issues as the town itself, including an unfortunate bout of amnesia. When a murder victim is discovered hanging from a tree, you and your more stable colleague from the next precinct over are tasked with solving the case.
You can use your brains or brawn to get to the bottom of this crime, improving your skills and gaining new quirks as you go depending on which ideas you follow or discard. Most of these aren't your traditional combat skills however, with new skills like pain tolerance governing how well you'll handle the situations you face. By the end, you'll either end up as a credit to the force, or a disgrace, having made and broken alliances with the game's factions as you try to figure out the mystery.
Within The Oldest House, the headquarters of the Government Bureau of Control, something evil and alien has emerged, and it certainly isn’t friendly. As Jesse Faden, a victim of a paranormal incident searching for her long-lost brother, you will navigate and fight your way through this strange unfriendly facility, which has also somehow become your responsibility to save.
You will fight using conventional(ish) weapons and gain superpowers bestowed upon you by the contents of the Oldest House’s rooms and vaults, with neither the spaces nor the objects quite behaving like you'd expect. It’s a mindbending challenge for fans of government conspiracy stories and the idea of humankind meeting and struggling to deal with incomprehensibly enormous and powerful forces. Even if the details of the story don't matter to you, you should take a look purely for the game's highly screenshot-worthy environments and effects.
8. Gears 5
Changing enough to keep it fresh but keeping and refining most of what made the series so beloved, Gears 5 is the new highpoint for the Microsoft-exclusive third person shooter franchise. Following on from the story in Gears of War 4, Kait Diaz takes the lead in this campaign. She, JD and Del rejoin the COG Army to take on the Locust Horde once again, and fight to protect what remains of the human race and its strongholds.
The story is only half the story though. Once you’re done with the campaign, which you can complete either alone or in three-player co-op, you can try out your combat skills with your friends in Horde or Escape mode, or against them in traditional multiplayer modes, with the option to build your own maps for customizable fun.
9. Devil May Cry 5
Dante's back and better than ever. At long last, Capcom released Devil May Cry 5, which brings the crew from the four previous games together to fight a new threat of a demonic nature. Not only do you get to see Dante back in action with all his signature tricks (and a few new ones), we get to see Nero and his new interchangeable robot arms, plus new hero V and his two controllable demon familiars, who plays completely differently again.
Together, they'll drive back the demon hordes the only way they know how -- in smokin' sexy style. This is a game all about switching up your techniques frequently to make your combos as varied as possible. There's a long campaign to play through with challenging enemies and bosses across several difficulty modes, or there's the new version of the Bloody Palace: a survival gauntlet which pits you against 101 levels of baddies for you to slice and smash through.
10. Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 has been released and ported to new platforms more times than we can count. But trust us on this –– you need to play this version. This edition of RE2 is more than a touched-up re-release, it's a fully remastered game that has been rebuilt from the bottom up. This eliminates the less approachable parts of the game, such as the loathsome tank controls and fixed camera angles, and enhances the parts of the experience that were well loved, while also updating the graphics to near photo-realistic quality.
It's even scarier and more gore-soaked than the initial entry. Plus, you've got the terrifying Mr. X, an indestructible behemoth who will chase you through the police station your player characters Leon and Claire have found themselves trapped in. Both have their own campaigns to play too, meaning you will get plenty of scary but enjoyable hours out of this totally refreshed experience.
11. What Remains of Edith Finch
The Finch family, residing in a strange patchwork house built in the middle of a forest, has an unfortunate tendency to die young and in peculiar and gory circumstances. Visiting this house, you must explore its rooms and learn about the Finch family tree, what each member enjoyed and how they died, and perhaps unravel the origins of this family curse.
While the game starts off as a slow-burning adventure through the Finch household, each family member comes with their own accompanying memory with a unique gameplay mechanic to try each time. One moment you're a monster, the next you're whiling away time in an underground bunker, and then you're playing with enormous rubber duckies in an equally enormous bathtub. It helps the game stick in your head for a long time to come, although this smartly-told tale of fate and free will manage to do that anyway.
How to choose the best PC games for you
A good starting point for picking the best PC game out is to go by genre. While these are by no means strict criteria for what is and isn't included in certain games, it'll help you get a general idea of what each game is about.
For more detailed research, look up some reviews to see what the critics and fans make of a certain game. If you're lucky, there will be an option to try out a free demo version of a game, so you can experience a limited amount of content and then make your mind up.
You should also consider how much time you want to invest in playing a game. Story-driven games tend to be much shorter than the average RPG for example, and games featuring multiplayer allow for potentially infinite value if you're prepared to invest the time in mastering them. Consider these few pointers when making a purchase, and you'll always pick something you'll really enjoy.