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The best Steam games in 2021

The best Steam games
(Image credit: Casimiro PT | Shutterstock)

Finding the best Steam games is no easy task, considering that Valve’s popular storefront hosts more than 50,000 games. Granted, a lot of the games are junky cash grabs, but that still leaves a few thousand that are absolute gold. With so many great titles available, how can we narrow down a definitive list of the best games?

The short answer is that we can’t. However, if you’re a new PC gamer, Steam should be one of the first programs you install, and one of these games could be your first download. Whether you’re in the mood for demanding strategy games, expansive RPGs or innovative first-person shooters, Steam has at least one excellent game to suit your tastes — and probably thousands more.

Just be aware that all of these games cost money; we’ve rounded up the best free Steam games elsewhere. However, you can usually catch a sale if you’re willing to wait a few weeks.

age of empires ii definitive edition

(Image credit: Microsoft)

1. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition

Age of Empires II was one of the best real-time strategy (RTS) games of 1999, so it’s fitting that Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition was one of the best RTS games of 2019. In this historical simulation, you take control of a medieval civilization, and lead them to glorious victory — or ignominious defeat. Age of Empires II offers more than 30 playable civilizations, from the Aztecs and Incas, to the Britons and Franks, to the Turks and Saracens, to the Ethiopians and Malians, to the Indians and Khmer, to the Japanese and Koreans. Even just working your way through the varied (and educational) single-player campaigns can take hundreds of hours.

civilization vi

(Image credit: 2K)

2. Civilization VI

“Just one more turn” is the rallying cry of Civilization VI players everywhere. In this historical turn-based strategy game, you choose one of 18 world civilizations (the Americans, the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Kongo, the Romans and so forth), then lead them all the way from the Stone Age into the Space Age. You can choose to conquer your foes through military might, or lead the world in scientific achievement, or become a utopia for artists and philosophers. With a ton of options to customize your experience, Civilization VI is friendly for newbies and veterans alike, and can be as chill or as demanding as you want it to be.

Dark Souls: Remastered

(Image credit: QLOC)

3. Dark Souls: Remastered

If you’re in the mood for a challenge, the Dark Souls trilogy is your friend, and Dark Souls: Remastered is where it all starts. This dark, atmospheric action/RPG casts you as an adventurer in the dying world of Lordran, where you may be able to break a perpetual cycle of violence and decay. The combat is difficult and demanding, and you can expect to see the “You Died” screen often. But you can also expect to customize a character any way you see fit, with a variety of attributes, weapons and armor, and explore some awe-inspiring locations. Just be warned that you’ll want a controller; the game doesn’t work great with a mouse and keyboard.

Doom 2016

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

4. Doom (2016)

Nothing says “PC gaming” like a first-person shooter, and Doom (2016) is one of the best FPS games in recent memory. This soft-reboot of the Doom series puts you in the bloodstained boots of the Doom Slayer. As humanity’s last hope against an encroaching army of demons, it’s up to the Doom Slayer to brutally slaughter every imp, ogre and hell knight that even looks at him funny. Doom is a visceral, gory, fast-paced experience that looks even better when you can use a powerful PC to crank up the resolution and frame rate (check out the best gaming PCs for our recommendations). It’s animalistically satisfying, but there’s a decent story underneath all the carnage, too.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

(Image credit: Mediatonic)

5. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is perhaps the strangest game on this list, but its popularity speaks for itself. You play as a colorful, blobby creature who must compete with 59 other colorful, blobby creatures in a variety of minigame challenges for both bragging rights and cosmetic items. That’s really all there is to Fall Guys, and yet it’s an amazingly addictive formula. It’s not violent; it’s not inherently difficult; it’s not even that deep. But it is good, clean fun that’s incredibly easy to pick up and play, especially if you can get some friends on board. The developers add new content periodically as well.

Grand Theft Auto V

(Image credit: Rockstar)

6. Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V has taken on a life of its own ever since its debut in 2013. For starters, the game’s single-player mode is pretty deep on its own merit. You play as three protagonists — Michael, Franklin and Trevor — as you explore the lively city of Los Santos and unravel a complicated crime drama. However, the game’s multiplayer component, Grand Theft Auto Online, has arguably been even more influential. Grand Theft Auto Online is more than just a multiplayer mode; it’s a whole living ecosystem, where developers constantly add new content and players constantly test the boundaries of what’s possible.

Half-Life 2

(Image credit: Valve)

7. Half-Life 2

Arguably the first flagship game for Steam, Half-Life 2 remains one of the best first-person shooters ever made. This game continues the adventures of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman as he fights back against both an alien invasion and an authoritarian government. While the controversy may seem quaint now, Half-Life 2 and Steam earned gamers’ ire back in 2004 when Valve required an Internet connection for this single-player game. It was an inconvenience, to be sure — and arguably still is. But Half-Life 2’s tight gameplay, gorgeous graphics and ambitious story hold up well after all this time, and an active Internet connection is a small price to pay.

Myst

(Image credit: Cyan Worlds Inc)

8. Myst

Myst is one of the most important titles in PC gaming history, and we get an updated re-release every few years. The latest version of Myst came out in August 2021, and includes slick 3D graphics and VR support. You can enable ray-tracing, or take photos of the environment to help you solve puzzles, but the mild upgrades aren’t really the focus here. Instead, Myst itself is still a beautiful brain-teaser with an intriguing story. You play as an adventurer who shows up on the seemingly deserted island of Myst, and must solve its myriad puzzles to discover what happened before you arrived.

planet coaster

(Image credit: Frontier Developmoents)

9. Planet Coaster

No list of the best Steam games would be complete without a theme park sim. While there are tons of good options (including the original RollerCoaster Tycoon from 1999, which still holds up), Planet Coaster is one of the most accessible and expansive titles on offer. The game challenges you to create and manage a theme park, showcasing your creative ideas while keeping your visitors happy. You can install all sorts of rides, but the focus here is on the colorful, customizable roller coasters. For roller coaster junkies who simply can’t travel to a theme park every day, this is about as close as you can get to the real thing.

the witcher 3: wild hunt best games october 2019

(Image credit: WB Games)

10. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most ambitious and refined open-world games on the market today. You play as Geralt of Rivia, who plies his trade as a Witcher, roaming the countryside as he slays monsters for money. However, in the third and final installment in the Witcher trilogy, Geralt has also caught the attention of various kings and queens — as well as the deadly King of the Wild Hunt, who pursues him across dimensions. With an epic story that adapts to your choices, tons of meaningful side quests and an enormous world, packed with secrets to discover, The Witcher 3 can keep you immersed for dozens of hours.

Tom's Guide Staff

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