Go it alone
Playing a game solo has its benefits. You get to go at your own pace; you don't need to worry about maintaining an online connection, and no one's screaming in your ear over voice chat. Games like Doom, Portal and Sid Meier's Civilization VI are great for letting the hours fall off the clock without the pressure of keeping up with someone else in an online environment.
Playing on a gaming laptop with no Wi-Fi connection? Perhaps you're a busy person who needs to be able to pause a game and take frequent breaks to address some real-world stuff? If either of those apply, then these are the games you need to know about.
Credit: CD Projekt
Dead Cells is an early access roguelike title in a sea of other games that fit that exact description, yet it still manages stand out. Combat in this 2D pixel-art game is fast and demands even faster reflexes. You can't expect to make it very far on your first time out, but once you complete a level, you can cash in any weapon schematic you find and put points toward character upgrades that carry over to your next run. Soon enough, you'll have access to a deep pool of weapons that can appear on your run, and you'll be making it further and further into the game.
Multiple level-exits help keep each run from getting too samey, and there's always some new ability to work toward that lets you access more of the levels you've been running through. The steep difficulty curve can easily keep you busy with this game for dozens of hours.
Credit: Motion Twin
Who needs Gears of War on PC when you've got Vanquish, otherwise known as the fusion of the GoW games, Sonic, Bayonetta and a little Platinum Games special sauce. You play as a guy in an Iron Man suit that rockets around on his knees at mach-five while slowing down time and running up robots so he can backflip off them and shoot saw blades through their chests. This game is the definition of "extra." The campaign is only 6 hours long (and that's all there is, besides a small mission mode), but it's infinitely replayable and the game itself is cheap as hell. Go get it.
If you've ever wanted a game that's built for cruising around while moodily listening to Halsey's "Gasoline," Mad Max is the the somber swan song of Australian outback gaming for you. It's got car combat, regular car racing, Arkham-style punching combat and even a shotgun for when Arkham-style punching gets tedious. It's a violent, gritty open-world adventure that's fueled by a sad, angry plot about a sad, angry man, and if you're not crying and simultaneously growing a beard while playing, it means you forgot to launch the game.
Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Styx: Shards of Darkness
Fans of hardcore stealth who want none of Assassin's Creed's safety crutches or Dishonored's overblown superpowers should try Styx: Shards of Darkness, a "true" stealth game that aligns itself with classic titles like Thief. You play as a four-foot-tall goblin who hides in shadows and breaks the fourth wall to give you guff each time you get caught and die. Combat in the game is nonexistent if you're doing your job right, and if you're not, the combat will get you killed every time, so learn AI patrol routes, roll around a lot and stay out of the limelight.
Credit: Focus Home Interactive
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
If you've been a PC-only gamer for a while, or if you simply never owned a PS2, then this game is new to you. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a remaster of the PS2 original, rendered now at 60 frames per second and given a reorchestrated soundtrack. The game's remaster treatment polishes the title up to a very presentable state by today's standards, and together with the still-excellent voice acting, it's poised to be a classic you didn't know you were missing.
The gameplay of Final Fantasy XII is unique to the series, relying on preassembled basic instructions, known as Gambits, for your party members to follow during combat. With these simple if/then statements, you can play whole chunks of the game by just allowing your party to take care of the fights on their own. The new 4- and 10-times speed-up function lets you whiz through battles even faster. It won't be all hands-off, however, as the Gambits can't do it all on their own and the game will demand your attention during tough boss fights.
Credit: Square Enix
Prey is a moderately horrifying first-person shooter that fits the slot on this list we'd have otherwise filled with Alien: Isolation. In Prey, slimy, shapeshifting black tentacle creatures turn into mugs, chairs, and other inanimate objects, constantly revealing themselves at inopportune moments deliberately to make you soil yourself. Thankfully, the game equips you with Dishonored and Bioshock-esque powers with which to combat the alien menace, as well as some pretty neat guns. You'll need all those tools to battle your way through the scariest art deco space station in gaming.
Hitman - Game of the Year Edition
The 2016 reboot of the Hitman series originally released episodically, giving players a drip feed of new locations and new missions to undertake. But now, the latest title in this long-standing third-person stealth-action series is available to enjoy all at once. Hitman casts you as Agent 47, taking on missions for a secret international organization that wants to eliminate various powerful people around the world. You'll be dropped in to locations and will need to observe civilian and security personnel movements in order to work your way into secure areas.
You can either figure everything out on your own or let the game's guided-opportunities system show you how to eliminate your targets using environmental hazards. Opportunities are fleeting, however, and replaying missions to try all of the different assassination options has its benefits. As you play, you unlock map-specific proficiencies that give you perks like starting with different equipment or in different parts of the map.
Credit: Square Enix
XCOM 2 and its recent expansion, War of the Chosen, brings the classic tactical gameplay of the XCOM series back, but with even more pressure points and time limitations. XCOM 2 can feel downright brutal at times, requiring players to balance various priorities of managing a surviving enclave of humans after a successful alien invasion and hostile takeover of the rest of humankind.
Resource and time management play a big role in XCOM 2, but tactical ingenuity is no less necessary out on the field. With a squad of soldiers, you'll have to move people around on a grid using turn-based combat mechanics to scout and flank a deeply entrenched alien presence on Earth. With the War of the Chosen expansion, you'll have access to even more soldier classes, which translates into more tactical options on the ground.
Credit: 2K Games
Doom's long hiatus paid off in the end, as the fourth game in the old-school first-person shooter series is easily the best yet. True to the franchise's roots, there is no regenerating health, you can't aim down the sights of most weapons, and power-ups are scattered all around the linear but dense levels.
This game is all about pressing forward as hard and aggressively as you can. You won't be taking cover and sniping from opportune vantage points, because the game rewards you with ammo and health for finishing off each weakened enemy with a glory kill that often depicts you ripping your demonic foes apart with your own hands.
Credit: Bethesda Softworks