Every year, the global PC Gamer team gets together to decide the top 100 PC games. The process is simple: we take last year’s list, propose a bunch of additions, tweaks and removals, and then hold a series of hours-long discussions going step-by-step through every suggestion. Sometimes there is shouting.
There are a few guiding principles that we stick to when we put this list together. For example, we’re always clear that this isn’t a ranking of the greatest—or most important—PC games of all time, but rather the best ones to play right now. It’s a reflection of all the brilliant experiences the industry has to offer in 2021. Yes, that includes some retro classics that hold up nicely, but it also means celebrating the impact of bold new releases. We also prefer to highlight the breadth and variety of the platform, and so we’ve limited ourselves to one game per series.
But the most important principle is that it should reflect us as a team, and who we are as PC gamers. With lots of new additions to our crew since last year, that means some exciting changes to our list. Enjoy!
Released March 25, 2013 | Last position 68
Steven: Warframe has had some ups and downs over the last year, but it’s still an innovative, strange, and absorbing MMO shooter unlike anything else on the PC. No other game comes close to doing what Warframe does—especially now that it has ship-to-ship space combat and a Shadow of Mordor-style Nemesis System. The amount of stuff to do in Warframe is positively mind-boggling. And with a major story expansion coming later this year, there’s never been a better time to start playing.
Fraser: I’m immediately lost whenever I return to Warframe, but the way it reinvents itself and keeps adding unexpected new features always keeps me coming back. I’ve not had a chance to grow bored of it yet.
Released March 11, 2014 | Last position 99
Tim: Hearthstone retains its place thanks to the triumph that is the Battlegrounds mode, which has surely overtaken Standard as the main reason to play. Smartly, Blizzard is pumping resources into BGs to keep the minion and hero pools fresh. It’s also rolling out paid cosmetics (inevitably) to keep the accountants happy, but that feels reasonable given how good the BGs experience is. Building a lobby-dominating comp is like creating your own Rube Goldberg machine and letting it run riot. Even when the plan doesn’t pan out, the feeling is of moreishness—a stark contrast to the despair of the ladder experience.
Alan: Whole-hearthedly agree with Tim here—Hearthstone’s ladder experience may be joy-sapping, but it more than makes up for those lows with variety. Battlegrounds are ridiculous, the weekly Tavern Brawls can be fantastically broken, Duels can be great (when not awash with over-tuned Quest decks), and Arena is just as random as it ever was.
98. EVE Online
Released May 6, 2003 | Last position 71
Steven: EVE Online has slipped down from last year’s position largely because of a series of controversies involving microtransactions and economic rebalancing that players are not happy about. Since its release, EVE Online has struggled to invent systems that both enable its cataclysmically large battles while keeping a level playing field for both sides. This also isn’t the first time EVE Online has landed in hot water with its players, and it won’t be the last. But what’s consistent through its highs and lows is EVE Online’s singular ability to spark intergalactic drama in its crucible of player-driven war.
Even now, EVE Online is in the midst of its most destructive conflict of all time as two sides of the galaxy wage war on each other. Fleet commanders have staged daring rescue attempts, desperate last stands, and cunning ambushes. Meanwhile, the rest of the galaxy pulses and thrums to the rhythm of hundreds of smaller conflicts erupting each and every day. That sense of existing in a living, breathing ecosystem with other players is something that no other MMO has, and your ability to build your own legacy in the ebb and flow of its player-driven empires is, to this day, remarkable. Even if EVE’s complicated controls and steep learning curve turn you away, you should still take every opportunity to read about each new (and bloody) chapter its players are writing.
Released September 17, 2020 | Last position New entry
Rachel: The most charming board game out there, and that includes both the physical and virtual versions. It’s an engine-building card game where you play as bird enthusiasts trying to attract birds to your wildlife preserve. Each card has a bird fact and an illustration that has been wonderfully animated in the digital version. Definitely one to play with friends who like a laid-back approach to competitive card games.
Wes: Bird facts! Wingspan’s theme really is delightful. Beneath that is a modern classic “easy to learn, hard to master” strategy game, with tons of clever interplay between the different types of birds. My favorites are the predators, which can snatch other bird cards out of the deck for you to score points. So much of Wingspan is cleverly and delicately balanced to make it feel like your bird ‘engine’ is accelerating as you close in on the finish. The rounds get shorter towards the end, making each decision more meaningful. As you play more birds into each of your wildlife rows, they’re all ‘activated’ each time you trigger the row, kicking off a cavalcade of activity like laying eggs (a key resource) or drawing more bird cards to expand your aviary. Almost every game of Wingspan I’ve played has ended in a nail-biter, a testament to how many viable strategies there are to win with.
96. Shadowrun: Dragonfall
Released February 27, 2014 | Last position Re-entry
Jody: I didn’t expect to recommend the cyberpunk RPG with elves, but here we are. Dragonfall may have a setting where dragons give up hoarding gold to become megacorp CEOs hoarding stock options, where a dwarf hacker mastercrafts software like a smith forging magic axes, but it understands the genre like few other games do (shout-out to Umurangi Generation and The Red Strings Club). It’s explicitly anti-authoritarian, an entire game about about holding together an anarcho-state in Berlin. With elves.
It’s the best revivalist CRPG too. While Dragonfall doesn’t push the subgenre as far as Divinity: Original Sin 2—it lifts a chunk of plot directly from Baldur’s Gate 2—it modernises the isometric RPG with Mass Effect-style companions and XCOM-inspired combat.
Robin: It’s a great game—but I think I’d actually recommend Shadowrun: Hong Kong over it. It’s got such a great setting and story, and feels a bit more polished mechanically.
Morgan: I never got around to Hong Kong Robin, but if it’s half as cool as Dragonfall, consider it the co-96th best PC game.
95. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Released December 6, 2016 | Last position: 86
Fraser: Desperados 3 is the newest tactics game from Mimimi Games, but 2016’s Shadow Tactics remains my favourite thanks to the Edo setting and charismatic cast. It looks stunning, much more so than the Wild West, and by the end you won’t want to say goodbye to your band of killer pals. And beyond that, it’s still a superb, sneaky tactics game that encourages creativity, experimentation and, of course, save scumming. Bonus points for letting us use an adorable tanuki for murder.
Morgan: I was super jazzed about the first two hours of Shadow Tactics, but then it got very hard and I tossed it in the bin. Tactical stealth movement works really great and I loved the gadgets, but I kind of wish it was turn-based like Invisible, Inc.
Phil: Let’s not revisit the real-time vs turn-based argument again—there’s too much list left for us to start fighting now. For what it’s worth, though, I think the Shadow Mode—which lets you pause the action to plan and synchronise your squad’s next move—offers a nice middle ground.
94. The House in Fata Morgana
Released May 13, 2016 | Last position: New entry
Sarah: I want to tell everyone to play this visual novel from Novectacle, and I’ve been spoiled for any similar games I’ve played since. It’s made up of intertwined stories spanning various characters and time periods and takes you, the protagonist, on an often traumatic journey as you attempt to rediscover your identity. The clean and vibrant art style is pure screenshot fodder, and the soundtrack captures the mood within individual stories and scenes with haunting accuracy. The story starts out slowly but it gets darker and more intricate the further you progress, and depends on the decisions you make throughout. Fair warning though—the subject matter covered in Fata Morgana could be potentially triggering for some.
Jody: I love the music and some of the art, but found the subject matter a bit much. Fata Morgana lays on tragedies with a trowel, especially sexual violence, until they lose impact. It’s great to have a visual novel in the list, though. Especially now the ultimate entry-point, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, is on Steam.
93. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Released November 16, 2004 | Last position Re-entry
Jody: If you went through a “slightly too into vampires” phase, Bloodlines is for you. An RPG made by people who played immersive sims, it turns you into a bloodsucker then turns you loose on the streets of LA. To survive you have to drink blood (in lush, spotlit scenes, the camera spinning round the act), and navigate vampire society (in dialogue with characters so expressive they make more recent games seem stiff). Its vampires are vintage manipulators, as much a danger to each other as their hunters are. You’re given plenty of freedom in how you deal with them—enough rope to make your own noose.
Phil: Given that the planned sequel doesn’t seem to be happening, I guess we’ll pop the original back in the list. Just make sure to download the fan-made patch before you play it.
Morgan: I love a good immersive sim, but the further back I reach into the genre’s history, the jankier they get. I’ll give Bloodlines a shot one of these days.
92. Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
Released June 5, 2020 | Last position 90
Phil: The original Command & Conquer and Red Alert, lovingly packaged up and remastered. The clear care that’s gone into the Remastered Collection’s presentation gives you the space to focus on what’s truly remarkable about these games: that, over a quarter of a century after their original release, they’re still a hell of a lot of fun to play. The pacey campaign missions challenge you to wipe out your enemy with often limited resources, making full use of environmental features, special units and a weird and wonderful tech tree. It’s a concentrated blast of everything that makes the RTS genre great.
Actually, wait, that’s only the second most remarkable thing about these games. The most remarkable thing is their music, which is given centre stage through the Remastered Collection’s Jukebox feature.
Wes: Phil, I can’t believe you left out the behind-the-scenes videos showing the making of C&C’s infamously campy FMV cutscenes. Any new footage of Joseph Kucan in-character as Kane is a gift to the universe.
91. Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Released May 14, 2021 | Last position New Entry
Jody: The three good space opera RPGs jammed together, with less bugs, more DLC. What kind of space captain do you want to be? Your version of Commander Shepard’s free to be a diplomat giving inspiring speeches, a badass punching first and shooting later, or a dreamboat smooching blue aliens.
The first game starts strong, introducing a galaxy built on familiar sci-fi ideas, but with rad weird aliens too. It finishes strong as well, a run of missions building to a climax where you defeat an impossibly powerful invader. In the middle there’s some padding where you drive across identikit planets, which is a shame. And the less said about the third game’s ending, the better.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is mostly in this list for Mass Effect 2, the Goldilocks centrepiece that set plot aside to focus on character. Mass Effect 2 has you put together a crew of 12 squadmates who, like the universe they’re in, build on familiar cliches taken to surprising places. Across missions that jump from undercover infiltration to action setpiece to mystery thriller you get to know your Dirty Dozen, and in choosing how you respond to their dilemmas, build a hero to lead them. By the end you feel so much ownership of your Shepard, you’ll get confused by screenshots because the wrong character is in them.
Phil: I’ve worked at PC Gamer for almost a decade now, which means my overriding memory of Mass Effect is us arguing which one should be included in the Top 100 each year. Finally, BioWare has put an end to that argument by releasing them all as one game. And for that reason alone, it should be celebrated. Also because the games are good—if increasingly showing their age.
90. Opus Magnum
Released December 7, 2017 | Last position 49
Phil: A puzzle game about building beautiful machines. You’re tasked with creating alchemical compounds, using pistons and rotators to manipulate atoms into their desired form. But as much as the story has fun with the conceit, the real satisfaction of Opus Magnum comes from the process of engineering a solution. There is no one way to solve any of the game’s problems, and that means every machine is inherently your own design. Your attempt may be inefficient, even inelegant, but you’ll love it all the same.
89. Sea of Thieves
Released March 20, 2018 | Last position 78
Mollie: I think I may be one of the last remaining Sea of Thieves likers on our team, and that’s mostly because I’m a massive gremlin in the game. In no other situation is it socially acceptable for me to get absolutely trollied, vomit into a bucket and then douse my friends in my chunky goodness. Sailing the seas and plundering booty is fun and all, but drunkenly playing the concertina is the real reason I love this game so much.
Wes: I love Sea of Thieves too, though I don’t play it as much as I wish I did! I’d love to see Rare overhaul the sword combat system which is still deeply clunky, but it’s probably still the best hangout game on PC. The Tall Tales are fantastic open-ended adventures. It’s still a refreshing rarity in live service games to have a new mission you can just figure out, rather than having a checklist of tasks to complete that it holds your hand through.
Though it does have one checklist I’m a sucker for. Someday I will catch every fish in the sea, even if it means I’m fishing off the back of a sinking ship while my crewmates frantically steer us through a storm.
Morgan: I love everything Sea of Thieves is about, I just wish there was more of it—ships, weapons, maps, quest types, I need more! Then perhaps my friends and I would stop getting bored after our second night on the sea.
Phil: ‘More’ would help, but I don’t think it’s the only answer. I think one of my biggest problems with Sea of Thieves is, for as good as the experience of sailing with a crew is, there isn’t much beyond that to hold your attention. The ground combat isn’t much fun, the progression systems are shallow, and the handful of fun activities don’t hold up to intense repetition. It’s a cool hangout game, as Wes says, but it would take a fairly major overhaul to persuade me to return.
88. Titanfall 2
Released October 28, 2016 | Last position 11
Nat: Titanfall 2 has seen better days. That campaign is still an all-timer (even if I probably don’t rate it as highly as others), but the game really shone in multiplayer—and while there appears to be a brief respite from the hacking and DDOS problems that plagued its predecessor, it’s a rock-hard game to get into this far after launch.
Morgan: It breaks my heart that Titanfall 3 seems like a fantasy at this point.
Wes: Hopefully those multiplayer problems will soon pass, since Titanfall 2 on Steam gives it a real shot at maintaining an active multiplayer community for the next few years. But really, I’m just here to keep beating that campaign drum: if you somehow still haven’t played it and are in the mood for an FPS, this should be your first stop.
Fraser: I was very vocal about putting Titanfall 2 on the list last year, so I’m obviously a bit disappointed that it’s dropped from 11 to 88, but take it from me: this is the smartest, most surprising FPS here. The multiplayer is great, even though it’s been dealing with those aforementioned issues, but the main reason to play this now is its unsurpassed campaign.
87. Fallout: New Vegas
Released October 22, 2010 | Last position 87
Robin: Obsidian’s underdog-turned-critical-darling understands what Fallout should be in a way I don’t think Bethesda ever have. A rich role-playing adventure whose intricate web of choices holds up brilliantly, even if its visuals don’t.
Chris: It’s so deep that no matter how many times you’ve played, there are still new choices to make.
Jody: The Old World Blues add-on brings Fallout back to its roots, a delirious mash-up of raygun sci-fi and Mad Max. I still don’t think any Fallout after the first one has really nailed its theme as well as the original did, but in Old World Blues and a few other questlines, New Vegas came close.
Fraser: Old World Blues is a cracker, but even without its expansions New Vegas is the best Fallout, and the only one I’d recommend to most players today. It’s never felt like Bethesda really gets Fallout, and while 3 was really good, it still felt like an adaptation or spin-off rather than the main course. Given that, New Vegas will probably continue to be the best game in the series for a long time, unless Bethesda gives up the reins again.
86. What Remains of Edith Finch
Released April 25, 2017 | Last position 26
Rachel: It may have fallen a fair way down in our top 100 list, but What Remains of Edith Finch is still a powerhouse of storytelling. It’s an anthology of stories set in the Finch household where exploring each room helps you discover more about the eccentric family and their lives.
Wes: Going into What Remains of Edith Finch, I didn’t expect how fantastical and imaginative it would be with every story it tells. For a game about the history of a family it’s endlessly inventive; you’re not just looking around a musty old house and getting some voiceover about the objects you see. Edith Finch manages to convey the humanity and tragedy of the family through dream sequences and animal transformations; bits of history that seem separate at first slowly blossom into a family tree and finally connect to your character in the present. It’s really stuck with me for a game that I played in just a couple hours.
Morgan: Don’t even talk to me about the cannery.
85. World of Warcraft
Released November 23, 2004 | Last position 43
Sarah: I’ll always love World of Warcraft but I’ve struggled with motivation to log in since the launch of Shadowlands. We went from being ridiculously overpowered in BFA to power systems that feel like they were tacked on as an afterthought. I’m still there and still raiding, but even that feels more like a chore the further into the expansion we go.
Steven: World of Warcraft is still such an influential game, but yeah, it feels like it’s in the midst of a serious identity crisis. If you’ve never played it, it’s still an enormous and enjoyable experience, but my god is Shadowlands starting to feel like a big disappointment. At least WoW Classic is trucking along just fine (assuming you’re not into PvP).
Fraser: I’ve finally managed to get WoW out of my system. It just took 15 years. It’s one of the most important games ever made, and it’s exceptional that it remains not only alive but massively popular after such a long time, but I think I’ve put enough time into it now. And frankly I’m not sure I can really separate it from what we now know about Blizzard, and what a terrible work environment management has fostered.
Phil: Thanks to magazine lead times, this list was locked down in early Summer, before the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard alleging discrimination and sexual harrasment. Even before that, it only just about managed to hang on—the team increasingly down on Blizzard’s direction for the game. If we were to make this right now, I don’t think it would be here at all.
84. Super Mega Baseball 3
Released May 13, 2020 | Last position 34
Chris: The Super Mega Baseball series has always been a fun and cartoony on-field baseball game, but SMB3 added tons of depth when it comes to making your randomly generated players memorable. Their skills can be enhanced during a season or fade over time as they grow, age, and eventually retire. The player system gives your team a feeling of continuity over multiple seasons, and SMB3 continues to take away the sting of MLB: The Show not being on PC.
83. Alien: Isolation
Released October 6 2014 | Last position 27
Andy K: In the seven years since Isolation was released, I haven’t encountered a single game—horror or otherwise—with an enemy as convincingly, terrifyingly intelligent as its xenomorph. It’s wild no one tried to top it. Maybe they just couldn’t. Creative Assembly created something really special here: a big budget game based on a major Hollywood property that is intelligent, subversive, and systematically interesting. It’s a great stealth game, a genre-defining horror experience, and the stylish retro-future aesthetic, inspired by the 1979 movie, makes it, still, one of the prettiest games on PC. In terms of game design, art, audio, and atmosphere, it’s a masterpiece. The story doesn’t quite stack up with everything else, but it has some great moments—particularly the heartfelt message from Ellen Ripley to her daughter, which Sigourney Weaver plays beautifully. There will never be a better Alien game.
Fraser: Just popping my yearly update in here. Nope, still not very far into it. Yep, hoping I will eventually finish it. It’s brilliant, but I’m still too scared of xenomorphs to make much progress. One day, though! One day.
82. Legends of Runeterra
Released April 29, 2020 | Last position 84
Robin: It speaks to my love for Riot’s online CCG that I keep talking about it even though it makes Hearthstone-loving Tim Clark want to fire me. It’s gone from strength to strength this year, introducing exciting new cards and a brilliant solo mode, while continuing to stick to its remarkably generous take on a free-to-play business model, which still lets you easily craft the decks you want without paying a penny. It has had some wobbles recently—including a chaotic meta and some controversial cosmetics—but refreshing transparency and bold action from the dev team gives confidence that they’re listening. In some ways it does still feel like a game that’s growing and finding its feet – but considering it’s already so good, that potential is nothing but hugely exciting.
Steven: Frankly, I’m shocked that it’s 2021 and one of my favorite games is a card game. You’d think after so many games there’d be no room for a new one to swoop in and innovate, but Legends of Runeterra continues to be brilliant. Robin talks a lot about its new stuff, but part of what keeps me coming back is just how wonderful the foundation it is built upon is. It’s just a shame that it seems like Runeterra’s curse is that it will continue to be criminally overlooked by so many players.
81. Sunless Skies
Released January 31, 2019 | Last position 82
Fraser: Spaceships? Passé. Space locomotives? Now we’re talking. Sunless Skies makes you brave the dangers of space while inside a train full of troubled crewmates, usually starving and being driven round the bend. Part trading sim, RPG and exploration romp, it’s all weird, and elevated by the best videogame writing around. The great game has also been made better, recently, thanks to the far-ranging Sovereign Edition update, throwing new characters, trains and stories into the already dense mix.
Released April 28, 2020 | Last position New entry
Dave: It’s zen trucking. Slowly churning through the mud with some tunes as your only company for miles. Super chill. Until you roll your rig down the side of a mountain, of course
Morgan: Snowrunner is the mud trucking sim of my dreams. It’s Death Stranding without all the drama and ghost babies: just you, your truck, and the stack of pipes that need to get to the top of this mountain. Snowrunner is no tranquil driving sim. Every job is a battle against nature itself and your weapons are wheels, winches, and will. In the year since launch, Snowrunner has only gotten bigger and better with quality DLC and a vibrant modding community.
Released June 2, 2020 | Last position: 94
Evan: Replicating the weapon set, map philosophy, and beautiful rhythm of Counter-Strike is some sort of scientific cloning accomplishment. Valorant is its own game, though, one with meaningful technical advancements (it’ll give you 90 fps on a graphing calculator, practically) and magical character abilities that let you and your opponent make counter-punches with utility as you compete for precious positioning.
Phil: I recently dipped back in with some pals after about a year away, and, oh boy, Valorant is a punishing game to return to. But after a couple of demoralising losses, our third match—a nail biting 13-12 win—was one of the most exciting multiplayer experiences I’ve had this year.
78. Homeworld Remastered Collection
Released February 25, 2015 | Last position 85
Nat: Homeworld’s tragic space opera is timeless, but its original release is a little less so. Thankfully, the Remastered Collection is still a fantastic way to experience a truly singular, unique spacefaring RTS—with a healthy modding scene that lets you recreate fleet battles from Star Trek to Mass Effect.
Fraser: There’s no other RTS with this much style and grace. Homeworld is a spaceship ballet and epic tragedy that I never thought would be replicated—how could it be? Homeworld 3 is coming, but will it live up to the impossibly lofty expectations set by its predecessors? Spin-off Deserts of Kharak certainly got close, but there’s magic in those first two games that sets them apart. We’ll see.
77. Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Released March 8, 2018 | Last position 74
Robin: The leading light of Left 4 Dead’s many imitators, trading guns and zombies for rich melee combat and a wonderfully well-realised take on the horror and humour of the Warhammer Fantasy setting. The new (free) Chaos Wastes expansion is a treat, too—a wild, co-op roguelike mode that’s full of surprises.
Wes: I’ve returned to Vermintide this year and especially appreciate how each character plays so differently. My first time through I stuck to up-close-and-personal dwarf Bardin Goreksson, but lately I’ve played as battle mage Sienna, standing back and flamethrowing legions of low-level ratlings. The equipment system still kinda feels like fluff, but I love that each character has three classes that play differently, and styles of weapons that add even more granularity. This is the co-op game to beat, even three years in.
Fraser: Great rats. The best rats. Very squishy.
76. Caves of Qud
Released July 15, 2015 | Last position 59
Steven: Caves of Qud is a near-perfect middle ground between the daunting complexity of classic roguelikes and the mind-boggling simulation of Dwarf Fortress. It’s also the weirdest RPG I’ve ever played. Sentient beanstalks, tinker bears, space-time paradoxes, fungal infections—it’s almost impossible to describe Qud in a way that makes sense. Each time you start a new game, an entire world (complete with its own cultures and history) is generated for you to uncover. And within that space, you can play as anything from a desert nomad to a cybernetically enhanced half-man-half-tank. Just play it.
Wes: I’ve still barely just dipped my toe in Caves of Quid during Early Access, but it really was staggering; it feels like someone took on the mad idea of cramming RPG-style writing into the open-ended structure of NetHack, and actually pulled it off. Along with Disco Elysium, I think Caves of Qud is a modern reminder that good enough writing can make any game utterly captivating.
75. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Released November 11, 2011 | Last position 60
Harry: What else is left to say about Skyrim? Nothing, really. A decade on The Elder Scrolls V is a fixture in the PC gaming consciousness despite looking janky and dated, even with a choice selection of mods.
Skyrim slips down the Top 100 again this year, but don’t expect it to be forgotten anytime soon. Speaking of, The Forgotten City, based on a Skyrim mod has just come out, so it remains to be seen if it makes next year’s list.
Jody: In my current playthrough I have my own museum, a chainsword, and fabulous hair. The music’s replaced by dark ambient and Nordic folk-metal, there are gallows and gibbets everywhere, and I have to periodically wash off blood and travel dirt. I’m accompanied by two characters from Vermintide, a blue khajiit, and the Skyrim Grandma.
The Special Edition means Skyrim handles ridiculous mod loads without instability, and I can alt-tab as much as I want without it crashing. It’s better than ever. I’ll be tired of Skyrim when I’m tired of life.
Mollie: Skyrim is one of those games that’s been there for me through a ton of high and low points in my life. Will I ever branch out and play anything other than a stealthy archer? Hell no, but I will spend hours exploring the same old dinky caves and loading up my house with an unnecessary number of stolen books.
74. Tekken 7
Released June 1, 2017 | Last position New entry
Mollie: I’ve played my fair share of fighting games over the years, but few have kept me coming back in the way Tekken 7 does. Every hit, block and sidestep feels so intensely satisfying to me. Couple that with a banging soundtrack, cinematic ultimate moves and a heart-pounding dramatic slow-mo cam, and every match feels like a full-blown theatrical performance.
Though I still lament the lack of Christie Monteiro in the game, the roster is solid. Lucky Chloe has quickly become a series favourite for me, and wild DLC characters like The Walking Dead’s Negan and Final Fantasy 15’s Noctis just work somehow. Tekken 7 is easily the best 3D fighter out there right now, and my favourite fighting game in recent memory.
Graeme: Echoing Mollie, Tekken 7 is an easy fighting game Hall of Fame contender, but it’s also a love letter to long term fans, tying-up the soap opera in a perfectly melodramatic fashion. As we’re introduced to Kazumi Mishima, wife to Heihachi, she immediately instructs Akuma from Street Fighter (yeah) to kill her husband if she fails to do it herself. Also Yoshimitsu is an alien, I guess?
It’s the bombastic combat, which puts players in the action more than any other game, that makes Tekken so addictive. But it’s the series’ unflinching commitment to it’s character’s lore and personalities that makes me love Tekken.
73. American Truck Simulator
Released February 2, 2016 | Last position New entry
James: Pool Noodle, this is Ham Hock—we’ve got American Truck Simulator coming up on the left, taking point. Euro Truck Sim can take a breather. This son of a gun’s packing Texas and Idaho, on the way to pick up Wyoming. You ever drive through through ’em? Vast, empty spaces. Buttes and scrub. Flimsy barbwire between state, federal, and private land. A couple mountain ranges in the western halves, Idaho panhandle too. Feeling that small centers a person. Kanye West lives in Wyoming. A recent multiplayer update means you can drive by Kayne’s yard with a friend. Nothing eases the weight of a heavy load, on the truck and the soul, like a convoy. Steady breath, eyes ahead. We’ll get to where we’re going. Over.
Andy K: ATS is great. I love driving through the desert at night, tumbleweed rollin’ across my headlights, roadside diners glowing in the dark. But my heart belongs to Euro Truck Simulator 2. The larger map has a lot more variety, from the mountains of Norway to the vineyards of France, making for much more exciting road trips.
72. Cities: Skylines
Released March 10, 2015 | Last position 32
Fraser: Cities: Skylines continues its reign, with few urban city builders appearing to steal its crown. It remains undefeated in part because of the dearth of competition, but the many DLC additions and huge list of mods have ensured that even after five years it still has plenty to offer would-be mayors. There’s even an expansion exclusively dedicated to parks. And it turns out that flooding cities with poo doesn’t get old. Sorry, citizens!
Phil: The city building genre has had something of a resurgence thanks to games like Frostpunk and Anno 1800 offering up a different take on the basic formula. But if you want the best game to actually build a city in, here it is.
Katie: I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of creating vast intertwined city-scapes, ever more intricate intersections, and long-ass roundabouts… so many roundabouts they permeate my dreams. Help, I’m traffic managing in my sleep.
71. Metal Gear Solid V
Released September 1, 2015 | Last position 43
Wes: MGS5 is a dramatic departure from previous Metal Gear, which is what I love about it. After the on-rails nonsense of the intro, it pretty much sets you free to be the ultimate spy in an amazing sandbox. Maybe Ubisoft hasn’t made a new Splinter Cell yet because it doesn’t know how to do it better than The Phantom Pain.
Rich: Simply one of the best games ever made, a unique take on open world design, and absolutely rammed with things to do. This feels like the game Metal Gear Solid was always building towards: ignore the nonsense about it being unfinished, and enjoy the finest game Kojima Productions ever made.
Phil: It’s let down slightly by a handful of missions that force you to fight the Parasite Unit—tedious battles that ignore almost all of the established rules of the game. The rest of the time, though, MGS 5 drops you onto the map with a handful of gadgets and lets you figure things out for yourself. One of the most satisfying stealth sandboxes you can play.
Dave: Was having an absolute blast with MGS5’s open world; it felt solid, real, and deliciously brutal. But as soon as it got fully into the bloated, ridiculous exposition it immediately pulled me out of the game world and that has meant I can’t face going back ever again.
Released April 24, 2018 | Last position 64
Fraser: Few management games have made me feel like such a monster, but that’s what happens when you become a fascist to save a few lives and they freeze to death anyway. The cold and desperation makes you cold and desperate. Frostpunk is a challenging apocalyptic city builder with plenty of engaging systems, but it’s the high stakes and brutal consequences of your decisions that makes it special. And thanks to the DLC, you can also see what life was like just before the big freeze. Spoiler: it was miserable.
Chris: I remember getting absolutely furious when my city was running well, I was keeping everyone warm and fed, and I had enough resources to survive, but my citizens were still miserable because they’d heard some rumor that tanked their morale. It seemed so unfair that I’d done everything right but people still hated me. But then it’s a society simulator, isn’t it? No matter what you do, you can’t make everyone happy, and a portion of any society is going to be filled with people who simply won’t use logic or listen to reason. A relevant lesson!
69. Arma 3
Released September 12, 2013 | Last position 44
Evan: Is Arma a tedious and complicated sim, or a peerless sandbox-playground for unscripted military antics? Years into its lifespan, the franchise’s contradiction is potent: onboarding someone into the game means handing them a list of mods they ‘absolutely’ need to get started and a longer list of unusual keybinds (double tap left Alt to freely swivel your neck independently of your weapon, duh). But at the end of that not-so-basic training awaits a serious and often silly game about riding in a helicopter with a dozen of your closest Discord friends, one of whom crashes that helicopter into a tree after failing to correctly engage the auto-hover.
Released October 29, 2020 | Last position New entry
Nat: Remember the first time you took a sledgehammer to a house in Red Faction Guerrilla? Teardown is that, but pushed to its best extreme. A destruction sandbox where breakable buildings aren’t just a backdrop to mediocre gunfights, but instead used to prop up an incredible set of heist puzzles.
But oh, that smashing! Teardown may be voxelated, but everything breaks as you’d expect. Wood buckles under pressure. Plaster cracks to reveal underlying brickwork. Fire spreads as volumetric smoke billows through hallways, and a remarkably efficient approach to ray-tracing makes sure it all looks perfectly tactile.
In most levels, you’re free to explore and destroy the map as you see fit. You’ll have a set number of items to rob (briefcases, safes, cars), and once you snag one, the timer starts. Carve an optimal route through the map, grab the goods, and make it out before the cops arrive. Simple, but nerve-wrackingly brilliant.
Beyond that, though, Teardown’s exploding mod scene has turned the voxel playground into a brand new Garry’s Mod. There’s a workshop packed to the brim with new maps to smash up, and a wealth of toys ranging from GMod-style physics guns to miniguns akimbo. Teardown’s puzzles are decent fun, but I’ll be smashing my way through fan-made maps for a long time yet.
Released August 8, 2018 | Last position 57
Fraser: Wadjet Eye’s best adventure game also borrows a lot from great RPGs. A supernatural mystery, Unavowed throws you into an ancient society of magical problem solvers after a possession ruined your life. It’s got big party-based RPG vibes, evoking BioWare games especially, complete with special origin stories and a branching plot that goes to some surprising places.
But this is still firmly a 2D point-and-click, where most of your time will be spent solving mysteries and puzzles. And what excellent mysteries and puzzles they are, forcing you to use both magic and your investigative chops to solve. What lingers, though, are the charming characters and Unavowed’s vision of New York—a place simultaneously familiar and utterly alien.
Robin: Unavowed feels like a treatise on how the classic style of 2D adventure game can still feel relevant in the modern games industry. It’s a throwback, but it’s not relying on retro nostalgia—it has bold new ideas for how the genre can evolve without losing its distinctive heart.
66. Football Manager 2021
Released November 23, 2020 | Last position New entry
Dave: We finally made it, ma! Football Manager is in the PC Gamer top 100, rightfully taking a place in the pantheon of PC greatness. As the finest long-term RPG on any platform, I’d argue it’s a bit too far down the list, but there are still many who foolishly see it as some sort of glorified spreadsheet. Football is obviously central to the game, which does put people off. But FM is a mix of a sporting version of The Sims, marshalling and developing your little computer people to kick a ball about better than other little computer people, and a heart-wrenching RPG about success, failure, heroism, the fragility of youth, lost potential, and the inevitable decay of our own corporeal forms.
65. Company of Heroes 2
Released June 25, 2013 | Last position New entry
Fraser: Finally! I’ve been trying to get CoH2 in here for years. The RTS sequel is perhaps a controversial choice, and is certainly more divisive than its predecessor, but the first game has had its time in the sun and on this list. There are plenty of reasons to recommend the sequel, too, especially if you’re tired of the Western Front. One of the main reasons I’ve been fighting for the swap is the fantastic Ardennes Assault expansion, which features a dynamic turn-based campaign—something Relic is taking even further in the upcoming Company of Heroes 3.
Dave: Still think the original is better, but that’s probably because I got proper obsessed with the Commando units from the Opposing Fronts expandalone.
64. Forza Horizon 4
Released October 2, 2018 | Last position 36
James: Forza Horizon 4 has helped me understand why James Spader makes loves to his car in Crash. Cars are cool and hot and Horizon 4 knows it. Play it as a racing simulation or turn on all the assists and play it like Lego Racer. Or just deck out a van with a Dragonball Z livery and drive it off cliff sides, capturing the poetic footage as it tumbles.
Nat: Forza lets me tear down my own backyard in the big daft Halo jeep, which makes it the best racing game ever made as far as I’m concerned.
Fraser: I drove around digital Edinburgh with a friend and pointed out all the places I’d thrown up when I was at university. Perfect game.
Rich: I just love that you can have a race in transit vans.
Jacob: With a decent racing wheel, this game makes you feel like you’re the world rally champion and F1 drivers champion all at the same time.
63. Portal 2
Released April 19, 2011 | Last position 47
James: A game that bends the rules of space also exists outside of time. Portal 2 is still one of the funniest games ever made. Even if the portal puzzles get easier to parse with every run, I’m always finding new routes and accidentally developing speedrun strats, buoyed by good humor, great performances, and excellent tunes throughout. If you’ve yet to play the co-op campaign, do it now. Spec out incredibly complex solutions to simple problems, together.
Harry: If you like jokes, games, and puzzles, Portal 2 is essential. It’s not a looker by today’s standards, of course, but it doesn’t need to be. Cleverness, invention, and laughs win over graphics any day. Plus, it’ll probably run nicely on your Steam Deck.
Wes: Has any voiceover in the past decade surpassed JK Simmons as Cave Johnson? It’s outrageous that Portal 2 has puzzles that make you feel so smart while you’re solving them and monologues so funny they make you cackle the whole time you’re doing it. True galaxy brain stuff.
62. Anno 1800
Released: April 16, 2019 | Last position New entry
Phil: Ubisoft’s trade-focused city builder has grown into something remarkable. Over a handful of DLC seasons it’s doubled down on the satisfaction of seeing a territory grow by adding a handful of new regions with specific quirks to overcome. In Africa, you’ll create canal systems to irrigate the land. In the Arctic, you’ll build airships to circumnavigate imposing glaciers. And back in Europe, you’ll expand your docks into a global hub supporting your ever-expanding trade empire. The sheer joy of turning these disparate regions into a fully-autonomous machine of growth and profit is hard to beat, at least until you move to the next tier of technology, and balk at the exponential effort required to get it up and running. A return to form for the series.
Released September 17, 2019 | Last position 55
Nat: Tony Hawk might’ve introduced me to skateboarding, but Session understands why I’ve come to love it. There are no time limits and no high scores: just you, your board, and an urban sandbox to destroy.
Session manages to make the simple act of rolling around on your skateboard feel incredible. Controls can be tweaked to be as easy or tough as possible, and it’s rare that a game can make the humble ollie feel satisfying. Challenges that’d be trivial in THPS become hour-long battles as you try to nail a nollie heelflip into a lipslide off the sidewalk.
Admittedly, Session is still extremely work-in-progress. Character models are a bit jank, animations bug out, and the physics are often hilariously broken. But each new update brings a new way to express your skating style, whether it’s the introduction of freestyle primo and casper tricks, or a new city block featuring iconic skate spots.
James: Normally, I’d hold back on recommending an early access game, but Session’s impressive growth and momentum easily make up for the jank. We’ve already had a total physics overhaul and an animation overhaul is on the way. New trick systems and levels show up every couple months, and with new publisher Nacon on board, we might see Session pick up even more speed on the way to 1.0.
60. Loop Hero
Released March 4, 2021 | Last position New entry
Harry: Don’t be put off by Loop Hero’s impenetrable-seeming aesthetic; It’s one of the most accessible games I’ve played in 2021. Its nostalgic style belies an absorbing adventure that’s wonderfully simple to start, but brutal to master.
You decide the difficulty of your nameless knight’s journey by adding monster tiles for more gear and resources, or helpful boons, colouring in the blackness with often surprising results. Take your resources or try for one more loop? For much of 2021 I’ve struggled to choose.
Evan: As you said, it’s steeped in nostalgia, starting with that CRT “curved screen” filter you can enable in the main menu. And yet it’s so different from many of the outwardly nostalgia-based games we see. Loop Hero isn’t a 1:1 recreation of an old style of game like Stardew Valley. Instead it resurrects the spiritual aspects from the late ’80s VGA era, the subtler sense of mystery found in some games from that era. It’s most fun if you avoid Googling your way to victory with wikis. Instead, try engaging in the kinds of school lunchroom rumors with a friend who’s also playing it, trading stories about how you can summon harpies into the map by building a mountain, or the ridiculous thing you have to do to get a secret boss to spawn.
Fraser: I started playing Loop Hero because I thought it would be a distillation of RPG adventures that took only a wee while to play through. 50 hours later and I was still figuring out new tricks and playing one of my favourite games of the year.
59. Paradise Killer
Released September 4, 2020 | Last position New entry
Morgan: Paradise Killer takes the most classically compelling premise in literary history (there’s been a murder, you have to solve it) and places it in one of the strangest, most interesting videogame worlds I’ve ever explored. Piecing together timelines and motives while interrogating characters named Doctor Doom Jazz or Lydia Day Break never gets old. It’s a visual novel for people that don’t think they’d be into visual novels. A true sleeper hit.
Andy K: What makes it really special for me is its openness. This is a detective game where you can find evidence in any order and construct your case at your own pace. The order you find these clues in—and the conclusions you draw from them—can totally reshape your perception of the crime and who did it, including pinning the crime on an innocent person and having to live with your shoddy detective work.
58. Chivalry 2
Released April 23, 2021 | Last position New entry
Fraser: Chivalry 2 lets you chop off someone’s limbs, pick them up, and then use them to beat someone else to death—all while you’re screaming, they’re screaming, everyone just won’t stop screaming. They’re really screams of joy, though, because this multiplayer medieval combat romp is just so damn fun.
Tyler: It’s great. I love the balance of serious sword combat and silliness, where swing selection and mouse technique are being carefully considered just a few feet away from players who are smashing the ‘yell’ key repeatedly and chucking objects into the fray like Philadelphia sports fans. In places, Chiv 2 really delivers on the full medieval warfare experience it promises. Climbing up a ladder and over the edge of a rampart is always thrilling. I can’t wait for the horse update.
Evan: It’s the closest thing to a toxicity-proof competitive game I’ve played. The slapstick dark comedy of severed limbs and fish-as-weapons is part of it—that stuff makes Chivalry 2 feel lighthearted—but I also think that, unlike the serious, methodical, 5v5 formats in games like CS:GO, you sort of accept that a fray of dozens of people swinging their variously-long metal dicks around is going to be a messy affair. Balance isn’t the point. It’s the calamity and fun of facing down three knights in an “unfair” fight and somehow walking away, and then laughing it off when a ballista pegs your body against the castle wall. More competitive multiplayer games could learn from that.
57. Grand Theft Auto 5
Released April 14, 2015 | Last position 50
Wes: GTA Online’s heists are still some of the most intricate co-op gaming you can do today. Rockstar’s online infrastructure is terrible, though.
Morgan: Yep, finally completing GTA Online’s big Doomsday heist will go down in the history books of my friend group. Unfortunately, so will all the hackers and griefers that tried to ruin our fun.
Phil: GTA Online tends to get all the attention these days, but there’s a quality campaign here too—huge in scope, albeit saddled with some of Rockstar’s most cynical writing to-date. The mod scene is wild, too.
56. Genshin Impact
Released September 28, 2020 | Last position New Entry
Steven: It’s still wild to me that Genshin Impact basically came out of nowhere and rocked the gaming world. And in the time since its launch, Genshin Impact has rapidly grown in a way that no MMO ever could. Player housing, new territories, and a bunch of new characters—it’s crazy how good this free game is.
Morgan: Technically free, yea. Its gacha money making tactics were overbearing enough to turn me off, and I’m the lucky type that’s not compelled to keep spending money.
Steven: I mean, it doesn’t gate your progress in any way. You only have to spend the money if you want to, and there’s no banners or pop-ups pestering you either.
Mollie: I get you Morgan, gacha games can be off-putting with their monetisation. But I view Genshin Impact like a monthly MMO subscription—a little bit of money each month for some currency or extra goodies is no more than what I’d pay to play Final Fantasy 14.
I hadn’t actually played Genshin for a few months when we made this list, but I recently got back into it with the release of 2.0 and hoo boy, it’s got me hooked straight back in. Just like Steven said, I can’t believe this is a game that you can technically play free of charge. Teyvat is a gorgeous world, with each region bringing its own unique flavour and culture. Combat is seriously satisfying, too—combining the different elemental abilities of characters and firing off all manner of reactions never stops being fun. Sure it’s a little grindy sometimes, but what live service game isn’t these days?
Released May 5, 2017 | Last position 56
James: I bounced off Prey a couple of times, but once I accepted that you’re always on the back foot it clicked. This is Resident Evil in space, but you choose what kind of key you want to unlock the next door with: hacking, secret vent pathways, or turning into a banana and sliding through a tiny hole in the wall.
Jody: Prey’s space station being a contiguous space, one you explore inside and out so thoroughly it’s ridiculous, makes it the System Shock 3 of my dreams. You can hop into space, jetting around in zero-gravity to find alternate routes. You can find every single member of the crew, even finding the character sheets of the D&D group on board and then a recording of their game. There’s so much detail, so much to learn. You can shoot a NERF crossbow through a window to hit a computer screen to read an email in a locked room. Why isn’t this higher?
Phil: It’s no Dishonored 2, but I really have to praise the craft Arkane put into creating Prey’s space station—a seamlessly connected environment full of secrets to unlock. It’s just a shame the combat outstays its welcome.
54. Path of Exile
Released October 23, 2013 | Last position 51
Fraser: This is the only action-RPG I think about. For years it’s been evolving and spitting out experiments, beckoning me back time and time again to slaughter hordes of monsters and obsess over loot and builds. The main progression system is the pinnacle of ARPG character building, and one that’s kept me tinkering away for the better part of a decade. I suspect only the in-development sequel will be able to tear me away.
53. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Released March 21, 2019 | Last position 6
Wes: I don’t want to start a debate about game difficulty, but overcoming Sekiro’s challenge was a thrill I haven’t gotten from an action game since God Hand. It demands you play on its terms. Without the flexibility of Dark Souls’ RPG systems, you simply have to master the blade. The moment you parry a boss’s final hit and counter with a deathblow you’ll realize you’ve felt dead inside for years.
James: I prefer From’s RPGs, but nothing’s gonna best Sekiro’s take on sword combat for a long time.
Morgan: Come on James, Chivalry 2 is right over there. Sekiro is hands-down my favorite From game yet. By reining in its combat options and focusing on a single weapon, they ended up with combat so good that Star Wars copied it.
52. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Released November 10, 2020 | Last position New entry
Fraser: Yes, it’s more Assassin’s Creed, with a vast open world filled with stuff to climb, people to murder and crap to collect. While much is unchanged, I still found myself spending something like 150 hours playing. As a Scot I hate to say it, but England is a pretty nice place to explore. It’s a stunning open world, and one jam-packed with some of the series’ most charismatic denizens, not least of which is Eivor, a terse but charming protagonist whose growls and sighs speak volumes. She’s my favourite assassin, even over the superb Kassandra.
Sarah: I absolutely adored Eivor, and her horse (who I named Horace). We both spent far too much time exploring England to compare places I’ve visited with their in-game counterparts. I’m still slightly jealous that Andy K came up with the Jorvik/York comparison article before I’d thought of it.
Steven: I’m such a big fan of this new direction Assassin’s Creed has taken—even if it sometimes still feels a little too big for its own good. Shifting to become an RPG with a branching narrative is just such a fun way to intimately explore a romanticized version of different historical periods, and Valhalla makes some really strong improvements in the narrative department, especially in the complex relationship between Eivor and her brother.
Robin: You do just want Ubisoft to reign these games in a bit at this point, but I think it’s really underappreciated just how tremendous an achievement they are. Valhalla’s world is even more impressive than Odyssey’s was, just quality and depth on an unbelievable scale. I wish these were games I felt like I could actually finish, but even still I’ve been having such a blast just setting out across England on my horse whenever the fancy takes me.
Phil: Gonna be honest: I’m still too burned out from completing Odyssey—which, to be clear, I loved—to even consider starting this yet.
51. Black Mesa
Released March 6, 2020 | Last position 63
Nat: For a long time, Black Mesa was a joke. An over-ambitious attempt to completely remake Half-Life from the ground up as a standalone mod. But lo and behold, it’s finally finished—and bloody hell, if it isn’t a stunning thing. Black Mesa deftly reimagines Valve’s 1998 debut, trimming the more tedious parts of Half-Life while remaking Xen (Half-Life’s notoriously flawed final chapters) from the ground up. I wouldn’t say it replaces the seminal shooter outright, but it’s a damn fine way to experience it from a brand new angle.
Released March 19, 2019 | Last position New entry
Wes: A factory building game so perfectly named I defy anyone to talk about it without using the word “satisfying.” It can’t be done! My first ‘factory’ was a messy series of conveyor belts on a forest floor that was ugly and inefficient, so I tore it down and rebuilt. And again. And again. My multiplayer crew is now building towering skyscraper factories linked by automated sky trains. Some people lose a year building castles in Minecraft; I lost one building iron rods in Satisfactory, and I don’t regret a second of it.
49. Kerbal Space Program
Released April 25, 2015 | Last position 40
Phil: Build rockets and send them into space. Or, just as likely, fail to send them into space because of a disastrous flaw with your design. Kerbal Space Program takes all of the complicated maths needed to successfully hurl functional machines out of a planet’s atmosphere and presents them in a way that celebrates creativity, expression and fun. There’s still nothing quite like Kerbal.
Dave: The rescue missions Kerbal’s ‘career mode’ spits up are some of the greatest space-based experiences you can have on a PC. Forget Elite: Dangerous, forget Homeworld, forget the Outer Wilds, when you’ve got Kerbward Woodward stranded, orbiting a distant planet with vast amounts of precious ‘science’ accumulated from a daring mission to Duna you’ve just got to figure out a way to get him home safe. Especially because it’s your fault for him being stuck way out there because you forgot to add a few solar extra solar cells back in the lab. From creating the rescue craft, intercepting the stranded craft, and finally getting everyone home safe… there are few more satisfying feelings in PC gaming.
48. Spelunky 2
Released September 29, 2020 | Last position New entry
Evan: Depth, literally and figuratively. Creator Derek Yu calls it “spiky”, a label that describes many of the things you can impale yourself upon as well as the emotional highs and lows that its teeming, subterranean lunar universe produces in players. A great spectator game, Spelunky 2’s streaming and YouTube community is another dimension of experimentation and unbelievable feats.
47. The Jackbox Party Pack 7
Released October 15, 2020 | Last position New Entry
Robin: I don’t think there exists a better digital icebreaker than a good round of Jackbox. It’s brilliantly accessible—anyone who can work a smartphone can join in—and adapts wonderfully to the sense of humour of whatever group you’ve assembled. Family gatherings, drunken parties, or lunchtime in the office—it does it all.
Morgan: Party Pack 7 is a particular banger, too. Champ’d up did the impossible task of surpassing the best ever Jackbox game before it: Tee KO.
Mollie: I stand by Party Pack 4 being the greatest purely for Survive The Internet, but Party Pack 7 has consistently better games. Jackbox is a great way to get the party started or serve as a fun, accessible time when you’re not quite ready for the night to end. I can’t even begin to count how many in-jokes between me and my pals have been born as a result of Jackbox.
46. Monster Hunter World
Released August 8, 2018 | Last position 35
Rich: A triumphant reimagining of Capcom’s already-excellent series that looks gorgeous and delivers some of the best co-op times you’ll ever have. Incredible combat with huge depth, spectacular monsters and environments, and there’s so much of it. You never want this game to end, and it feels like it never does.
Wes: 2020 expansion Iceborne adds an endgame zone you can spend months in and a vastly streamlined gathering hub for multiplayer. It’s everything I didn’t know I needed in the base game.
Mollie: Monster Hunter: World has been winding down for a while, with the final content update releasing in October last year and the release of Rise on the Nintendo Switch not too long ago. I’m basically waiting for that to hit PC now, but Monster Hunter: World will still remain an excellent game. It really nailed the balance between the series’ traditionally tough gameplay while being super friendly to newcomers. Also, the hunting horn absolutely whips. Doot bro for life.
45. Half-Life: Alyx
Released March 23, 2020 | Last position 20
Chris: One of the few blockbuster games built from the ground up for VR, and certainly the best and most beautiful. Whatever Valve did under the hood with the game’s locomotion, it’s easily the most comfortable VR game, one that I could play for hours at a time without feeling the nausea or headaches VR usually gives me after about 40 minutes. Plus, it cleverly rewrote some Half-Life lore that’s been in the books for a decade, priming us for whatever comes next.
Dave: Easily the best VR game ever made. It’s also one of the finest Half-Life games too, and damn, is it ever creepy. Stalking through broken down infested zones of City 17 to avoid the zombies, or bursting out into the streets for a firefight with the Combine, Alyx is an absolute must for Half-Life fans. And, oh my god, those liquid physics. I could spend hours just shaking vodka bottles.
Released February 19, 2019 | Last position New entry
Rachel: First released back in February 2019, Devotion was available on Steam for only six days before it was hit with its infamous review-bombing controversy. Determined to re-release the game, Red Candle put it back up for sale this year, letting players finally experience its superb suburban horror.
Sharing many similarities to Konami’s claustrophobic house in PT, Devotion is a story about a family living in a small 1980s apartment in Taiwan, each member having their own personal demons dragged out into the house’s stark fluorescent lighting. Everything kicks off after the daughter contracts a mysterious illness, which causes the desperate father to tumble into a spiral of paranoia and misplaced spiritualism.
What’s great about Devotion is that there are no literal monsters, the game is more interested in how the troubled headspaces of a family can seep into the physical space of a home. It’s not often we get to see the exploration of a person’s religious faith and seeing how Red Candle has used that to create an insidious story of family tragedy is like no other horror game I’ve played. It’s a horror tale that actually cares about its characters, and together with artful sequences and spine-chilling moments, it’s truly one of the best horror stories of all time. A game that was well worth the wait.
43. Resident Evil Village
Released May 7, 2021 | Last position New entry
James: Resident Evil Village is so much more than the tall vampire woman. I mean, Lady Dimitrescu certainly makes a lasting impression, but she’s just one chapter of this excellent cosmic horror anthology. This is Resident Evil doing its best A24 horror impression, moving from a frozen village overrun with lycans, through a classic game of cat and mouse in a lavish castle, and later arriving at color-drained industrial body horror—something like Hellraiser meets Saw. Village goes from goofy action to the scariest setpieces in the series’ history, embracing everything I identify with Resident Evil: locked doors, ridiculous keys, and goofy characters. This is Resident Evil at its most self aware, at its scariest, and its most surprising.
Alan: The latest Resident Evil has some great stand-out moments, with a giddy number of villains and game genres checked off as you explore its chilling environs. The highlight for me was hiding beneath a bed bereft of weapons while an oversized nightmare wailed horribly while searching for our hero. It’s got to be one of its most chilling moments it has to offer—I don’t think I’ve completed a level so quickly in my life.
Jacob: Resident Evil Village isn’t afraid to hand you a big gun and lots of ammo. Sure, there are moments that make you want to throw your mouse in the bin and never come back to your PC, but most of the time it’s an extremely well-paced and entertaining gore flick.
42. The Sims 4
Released September 2, 2014 | Last position 18
Mollie: I have a lot of love for The Sims 4. It had a rocky launch and issues that still persist years later, but it’s the first game I boot up whenever I get that creative itch. The build mode is genuinely fantastic, and I feel like Maxis is finally getting the hang of making consistently excellent expansion packs. The gameplay is still a little vapid compared to earlier entries, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it used to be. The biggest bummer, and the reason for its steep drop this year, is how high the financial barrier to entry has become. The base game is painfully barren, with simple additions like seasons and pets essentially locked behind paywalls. You could buy a lot of games in the Top 100 for the same price as a complete Sims 4 collection, and that makes it harder to recommend.
Rachel: Big fan of The Sims, but the fact that EA are still making players pay £35/$40 for expansion packs in 2021 where Games Pass and other subscription services are a thing is beyond me. Totally agree with Mollie, that financial barrier is bullshit and it drags down The Sims’ placement on our list.
Fraser: Now I can capture sims and imprison them in a glass cell as a vampire. The Sims 4 has really changed the way I kidnap my neighbours.
Released September 17, 2020 | Last position 79
Jorge: Hades is a gorgeous and stylish hack-and-slash roguelike featuring some of the best writing, voice acting, and music around. As Zagreus, the Prince of the Underworld, you try to escape to the land of the living to meet your mother. Meanwhile, your father, Hades, is doing everything in his power to keep you from her.
While the combat for Hades is challenging, fun, and easy to wrap your head around, you’ll spend a lot of your time chit-chatting with the denizens of the underworld, building relationships, and learning more about yourself and your dysfunctional (even for Greek gods) family.
Hades is a game where you tell yourself, “Ok, this is the last run, then I’m going to bed,” and before you know it, you’re up at 4 am for the third night in a row and calling in sick from work.
Rachel: Supergiant had no business making the gods of ancient Greece that hot.
Released April 24, 2018 | Last position 29
Fraser: One of my favourite tactics games of all time, BattleTech is an exciting romp through a galaxy full of intrigue, ambitious nobles and giant mechs. There’s a good campaign tying all the fights together, but brawling with steel monstrosities is what keeps the grin on my face. You can build your mech dream team—axe-wielding behemoths with jetpacks, gargantuan mobile weapon platforms, precious wee scouts—and then fling them into tricky battles where you have to worry about heat, terrain and limbs getting blown off. To the victor goes the scrap.
Nat: BattleTech understands that the best mech fiction fundamentally treats mechs as terrible things. The story has an air of beautiful tragedy, feudal states clashing and backstabbing each other over a handful of stars in the arse end of the galaxy. It’s a tone that bleeds into every mission, making your clutch plays feel all the more desperate, every hard-fought victory all the sweeter.
39. League of Legends
Released October 27, 2009 | Last position 28
Steven: Dota players will crucify me for it, but League of Legends is the only MOBA you should play in 2021. It’s just so much more accessible, without sacrificing any of the crazy high-level teamplay, and its emphasis on skilful solo play makes for ridiculously exciting moments where a single player can swing the game in their favor. It’s also fun being a part of a cinematic universe with Legends of Runeterra and Teamfight Tactics.
38. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Released August 21, 2012 | Last position 38
Rich: I still play Counter-Strike on a weekly basis and, even when the likes of Siege or Valorant have tempted me away for a time, I always come back. Where the competition is full of gadgets and powers and classes, CS: GO’s absolute purity and dedication to a core that works so well it remains irresistible. And while I’ve heard some awful stuff on team chat, I’ve also made a lot of good buddies over the years: when you have a little ‘crew’ that’s on regularly, this game goes to another level.
Evan: It’s the most popular FPS in the world, an almost decade-old giant that stands on the shoulder of arguably the most successful mod of all time (sorry, DOTA). It’s one of my most-played games ever. But in 2021, it’s aging. Is it really the shooter I’d recommend to someone first right now? No way. Recent experiments like adding a battle royale mode have only revealed the greying tech that CS:GO sits upon.
Nat: I’m not a CS:GO player. But as a veteran Source mapper, I have endless respect for the way it’s kept the torch of community map-making lit all these years. Source may be dated, but Counter-Strike’s mappers are doing incredible things with it.
37. Nier: Automata
Released May 17, 2017 | Last position New entry
Mollie: I don’t even know how to put into words what Nier: Automata is and why it’s so special, but I wish I could wipe my brain and experience it again for the first time. A flawless soundtrack, satisfying combat and heart-wrenching story permeates every second of this game. It hasn’t always run the best on PC, but a brand-new fix makes this the perfect time to dive in.
Steven: I finally beat Automata for the first time this year and damn, I’m so glad I did. There’s just nothing like it. And while I’d love for us to also make room for Nier: Replicant, its prequel, on this list, I’d encourage anyone who loved Automata to go back and play it. It’s arguably even more emotionally compromising.
Fraser: I wish there were more endings so I’d have an excuse to play Nier: Automata all over again.
Wes: The original Nier had such great characters and quirky diversions (it turns into a text adventure for a bit at one point) that it was worth playing despite some really mundane combat. Automata fixed that problem and feels like it fully explores the ideas Yoko Taro didn’t have the time or budget to explore in his previous games. It’s a game we’ll still be talking about in 20 years.
36. Return of the Obra Dinn
Released October 18, 2018 | Last position 23
Rachel: Although it’s fallen a little on our list, Return of the Obra Dinn is still one of the best detective games on PC. Apart from Paradise Killer, another fantastic detective game that you will have passed to get here, no other game makes you work harder for answers and celebrates your victories like Obra Dinn does. The ghostly tale it spins of the disappearance of a single ship and its crew will chill you to the bone. It still gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Phil: Possibly the most perfectly paced puzzle game around. As you explore, you’ll naturally stumble into hints that can recontextualise your thinking and send you down a rabbit hole of new revelations.
Chris: It does the best possible combination of things. It makes you look around and think “There is no way in hell I’ll ever be able to solve this” and then a little while later leaves you saying “I’ve solved this and I’m a genius.” Super satisfying.
Rich: I could honestly argue for this being number one, it’s simply stunning. Play it!
35. Kentucky Route Zero
Released January 23, 2020 | Last position 13
Rachel: There have been some amazing story-led games released in the last year, which means that our old friend Kentucky Route Zero has dropped a considerable amount. Its highway adventure is still the most evocative and aetherial story on this list, full of magical-realist tales of rural America and its struggles. I’ll never forget listening to a chorus of ghostly voices inside a mineshaft belonging to those who had lost their lives in a rockslide. It’s both haunting and beautiful.
Nat: I didn’t follow KRZ along its ten-year journey, instead playing the whole thing with my partner across a few nights last winter. A powerful, sombre, singular thing, and one of the two games to ever leave me in tears at my keyboard.
34. Old World
Released July 1, 2021 | Last position New entry
Fraser: I’ve been waiting a long time for a historical 4X game that can give Civilization a run for its money, and here it is. Mohawk Games has taken all the best parts of the venerable series, but focused on antiquity rather than all of human history. Every turn represents a year, which allows Old World to take a more intimate approach, exploring characters instead of just empires.
There are plenty of innovations, like an Order system that teaches you to prioritise what actions you want to take that turn, but it’s definitely the Crusader Kings-style characters and abundance of narrative events that feel like the most important addition. Leaders age and die, get married, have children, plot against rivals, and you’ve got a whole court of people to worry about. It’s Civ reimagined as a life sim and RPG.
Evan: As you said, the lineage system adds a layer of passive storytelling that I didn’t know I wanted in a 4X. Very interested to see how the next Civ responds to Old World.
33. Planescape Torment
Released December 12, 1999 | Last position 11
Jody: There’s an argument that the real defining feature of RPGs is the areas between fights where you just talk to people, and Planescape’s Sigil—a city on the inner surface of a ring with magic doors that connects it to multiple dimensions—is one of the best. There’s a guy who’s been on fire so long everyone’s used to it and he’s become a local bar’s mascot, a zombie called The Post whose body is used as a billboard, a hivemind of several thousand psychic rats, and a part-demon thief voiced by Sheena Easton. The combat isn’t great, but there’s not much of it and way more multidimensional weirdos worth meeting.
Steven: I’d recommend Planescape as a kind of dessert to anyone who played and loved Disco Elysium. They share so much DNA in their approach to character development and world building, and the agency they give to express yourself not just through dice rolls during combat. I only played Planescape a few years ago, but some of its quests have wormed their way into my head—like a trip to a museum that collects every possible sensation a person could experience.
32. Dark Souls Remastered
Released May 23, 2018 | Last position
Rich: The only downside to Dark Souls’ success is that the game has been so copied and so influential that it’s almost a cliché to talk about how good it is. One of the greatest adventures in games, set in a world realised with outstanding imagination, mingled with a deliberately vague and surprising multiplayer element that will still be delighting you on your fifth playthrough.
James: Dark Souls is challenging, yeah, but like a good coach. Take a breather, kid. Stretch out. Check yourself. Sleep on it. Come back when you’re feeling better. Just don’t give up.
31. Destiny 2
Released September 6, 2017 | Last position 14
Tim: A mere four years into its life on PC, I did not expect to see Destiny 2 climbing this chart on the back of its storytelling. Once rightly derided for hiding its rich lore in grimoire cards and armour flavour text, over the last year Destiny 2 has quietly reinvented how to create ongoing narrative in a live service game. Using a combination of choreographed NPC conversations and the occasional cutscene, a soapy plot develops from week to week, complete with twists, heel turns, and Saturday morning cartoon cliffhangers. We’ve seen major characters killed off, big bads come and go (or have they?), and finally had the sense that the guardians are actually part of an evolving universe.
Or in other words, Bungie has actually found a model that delivers on the game’s original promise all those E3s ago. And it’s working: keeps players interested in what’s happening rather than just grinding for god roll weapons. It also helps that the mix of matchmade activities, exotic quests and hidden missions has been refined to the point that the variance in quality from season to season is way less wild than it used to be. And if you’d rather not pay at all, there’s still an incredibly robust game here to play entirely for free, including endgame content such as the Vault of Glass raid. The only reason Destiny 2 isn’t even higher here is that the PVP side of the game has been neglected to the point of abandonment.
Phil: As a Destiny player, I spend a lot of time complaining about Destiny. But even I will admit that the game is in a good position at the moment. After the disappointing Season of the Hunt, which launched alongside Beyond Light, subsequent seasons have been a triumph—helped along by a handful of showcase activities, from Presage to the returning Vault of Glass. As always, though, the promise of Destiny remains what it could be. Next year, alongside The Witch Queen expansion, we get weapon crafting and a guaranteed schedule for raids and dungeons. It all sounds great, but the devil is in the details, and Destiny does have a habit of moving two steps back for every one forward.
30. Deep Rock Galactic
Released May 30, 2020 | Last position New entry
Robin: I think this is quietly the most exciting co-op shooter in years. Its use of procedural generation is nothing short of remarkable, churning out fresh, fascinating, and frequently beautiful levels every session. And working together to conquer those levels, using its arsenal of tools to build, dig, and demolish your way to success, is fantastically satisfying. So many co-op games are just about being as efficient and deadly as possible, but Deep Rock feels like some kind of wonderful group project in the way it forces you to combine your creative powers and problem-solve as a team.
One of its cleverest mechanics is the way it uses light. The depths you’re charged with exploring are dark and dingy, and sometimes completely pitch-black. Managing light—through throwable flares and the scout class’ flare gun—is a vital part of your strategy, which feels truly unique. Being the guy who makes sure everyone can see has become my favourite role in the game.
And it adds so much drama to exploration, too—it’s always a wonderfully tense moment when you fire a light off into the darkness of a cavern. Perhaps as it arcs it’ll reveal the tell-tale glitter of gold, or perhaps it’ll disturb a nest of skittering bugs. Perhaps it’ll illuminate a vastly high ceiling, revealing the cave to be endlessly bigger than you thought it was. Or perhaps it’ll just shine on some lovely, weird, fascinating bit of scenery thrown out by the level generator—like a garden of alien fungi, or a strange, icy spire. Those are the moments I treasure most, when something grabs my eye and I find myself just stopping to appreciate the unique, ephemeral landscape we’re burrowing through. You don’t get that in Left 4 Dead.
29. Cruelty Squad
Released June 16, 2021 | Last position New entry
James: Cruelty Squad is a monstrous immersive sim, a game held together with duck tape and bad vibes. As a gig economy assassin killing men that pose a threat to a higher order of immortal CEO gods in a hypersaturated mess of jagged polygons and screaming textures, it’s difficult to not feel bad. But using my guts to grapple up to a sniper nest above the Cancer Megamall? This is a shit jawbreaker with a dense pleasure chemical core. Cruelty Squad isn’t cruel. It’s just honest.
Morgan: It’s an incredible premise with an equally mind-bending art style. Nothing about Cruelty Squad easily slots into other videogames (don’t even get me started on how you reload). Even its menus have to be studied like fine art before you can parse which button means “play.” That may be more work than some are willing to put in, but if you do, you’ll find lots of absurd guns and implants to play with.
28. Hunt: Showdown
Released February 22, 2018 | Last position New entry
Jacob: You might be wondering why Hunt: Showdown has only now made its way into our Top 100, many years after it first launched. The reason being this PvEvP shooter has only gone from strength to strength in 2021, incorporating steady updates, improvements, and, finally, an immeasurably entertaining new map.
Fundamentally, though, Hunt: Showdown is and always has been a wildly tactical shooter that captures a turn of the century shootout like no other. Seriously, you’ll be ducking behind boxes and barrels with bullets whizzing over head and lobbing dynamite into shacks in no time. It also rewards good teamwork and strategy, so if you’ve got a couple friends to play with that’s absolutely the best way to experience the game.
Morgan: There truly is no other FPS like Hunt: Showdown. The idea of basing a competitive shooter around realistic 18th century guns is absurd for so many reasons, but Crytek pulled it off spectacularly. Hunt’s arsenal is so unique that I constantly want to switch up my playstyle to try something now. In one match I’ll use the first ever pump action shotgun (that loads from the top?) and the next a single-shot, breech-loading rifle from the Civil War. Because Crytek is Crytek, Hunt’s attention to detail in map design, sound design, and combat balance is also extremely good. It’s a hard FPS to learn, but endlessly fun once you “get” it.
27. Rocket League
Released July 7, 2015 | Last position 46
Rich: 2,400 hours on Steam probably says it all. I’ve literally spent 100 days of my life playing this. OK some of that would have just been the game idling but… wow, guess I better rethink my life choices. A perfect game and has been since launch: once the controls and rhythm get their hooks in, you’ll never look back. Put it on my grave: my name was Richard Stanton, and I drove a rocket car.
Tyler: 1,267 hours here, much in competitive Snow Day, a mode that was originally added as a joke, more or less. I think that if you can replace a ball with a hockey puck in your game and people go, “Ah, this is actually a way of life now,” you must have a fundamentally brilliant foundation.
26. Stardew Valley
Released February 26, 2016 | Last position 52
Mollie: Stardew Valley has always been a great game, but the recent 1.5 update has turned it into an excellent one. Tons of late-game content and quality-of-life improvements has made owning a farm, marrying a reformed alcoholic and owning a small army of truffle-sniffing pigs better than ever.
Robin: Co-op is such a great addition to the formula. I’ve never even been that big of a Stardew fan, but building a farm together with my partner has been a lovely way to pass the time in lockdown.
Rachel: I just can’t get enough of Stardew Valley, especially when someone like ConcernedApe is behind it. Not only do we get massive updates for free but he’s always so lovely of the community. Constantly supporting modders, using their own money as prize pools for tournaments, and personally hopping into players’ code when they have an issue. What a guy.
25. Into the Breach
Released February 27, 2018 | Last position 19
Rich: Almost feels like the isometric strategy genre distilled down to its purest drops. A game all about precision planning, the huge amounts of combinations you can wring out of apparently simple abilities, and quickfire playthroughs that always feel different. I don’t have much appetite for the grander turn-based strategy games anymore, purely because of time, and this is the perfect replacement.
Evan: It’s surprisingly grim! Reminds me of Evangelion. This definitely isn’t the kind of mecha anime where everyone goes out for milkshakes after defeating the great evil. FTL composer Ben Prunty’s score weeps for the dimensions left behind by the player as they fail or succeed. Narrativizing the endless loop of roguelikes is one of ITB’s fine touches.
Phil: Into the Breach gets a lot of mileage from an 8×8 grid. By showing you what your enemies are about to do each turn—and, more specifically, what they’re about to destroy—you’re challenged to unwork their plans, hopefully coming out the other end without too many losses.
24. Persona 4 Golden
Released June 13, 2020 | Last position 24
Robin: There’s so much brilliant weirdness in this game, but really the thing it does best is the real world stuff. It invokes such an authentic, specific sense of place with its slice of Japanese country life, simultaneously idyllic and isolating. Even its bizarre mysteries are really just a stand-in for all the things that seem so life-or-death when you’re a teenager, the things that grown-ups will never understand.
Mollie: No JRPG has ever quite matched the energy Persona 4 Golden brings, and no game has ever led me to be so deeply attached to a ragtag group of teenagers and their terrifying bear mascot.
Morgan: Yea, Persona 5 has the style, but P4 has the heart. I haven’t played the game in nine years and I still can’t get that damn Junes song out of my head.
Mollie: Every day’s great at your Junes! Dammit, Morgan.
Phil: Filled with intriguing mystery; offering questions like “What do these bizarre murders say about our society?” and “How do we reconcile with the worst parts of our nature?” and “Why is there a talking bear suit?”
23. Total War: Warhammer 2
Released September 28, 2017 | Last position Re-entry
Jody: Unlike other Total War games, the things I remember from Warhammer happened on the battlefield. As mad-science ratmen I’ve killed an elf queen then dragged her corpse away under arrow-fire to experiment on it, and as vampire pirates I’ve summoned a ghost ship to drop on the proud warriors of Ulthuan. I did that as an undead opera singer named Cylostra Direfin, who pronounces her surname with a flourish, “dear-fah”, like a Warhammer version of Hyacinth Bucket.
The fantasy setting makes Total War ridiculous, extravagant, extra. It’s great not just because I remember highlights from multiple campaigns, but because the gonzo factions make multiple campaigns worth playing. The expansions and the way each game can be connected builds on that, meaning the best Total War keeps getting better.
Fraser: I’m still convinced that Three Kingdoms is the stronger strategy game, but there’s no denying the seductive qualities of Warhammer. Dragons and orcs are, admittedly, a bit more exciting than loads and loads of regular soldiers. Maybe this sounds like damning the game with faint praise, but Warhammer 2 really is amazing. There isn’t another with such great and experimental factions, and Creative Assembly has really worked some magic with its DLC additions, which are often accompanied by free game-changing tweaks. The gap between 2 and 3 has been a lot more substantial than the previous gap, but we’ve absolutely benefited from this, as the game has kept growing in the interim.
Robin: This is the game that makes me wish I clicked with Total War. I can’t get down with the strategy battles at all, but I absolutely adore the passion for the setting that leaks out of every pore of the game’s being. From units ripped from the pages of old White Dwarf magazines I remember reading as a teenager to lovely little in-jokes for fans hidden in tooltips, it’s a nostalgic joy for anyone who loves the Old World.
22. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Released December 3, 2019 | Last position 41
Nat: Every weekend, for the past year, I’ve been jumping on for a bout of Halo 3 multiplayer like it was 2007 all over again. There’s never been a shooter quite like Halo, and after more than a decade away, Halo’s uniquely chaotic sandbox arenas still feels fresh as ever—whether that’s a tense slayer match on Blackout, or one of many absurd Forge maps folks are playing on the collection’s new server browser.
With the Master Chief Collection now on PC in its entirety, 343’s collection has proven itself more than just a fun throwback. It’s a love letter to FPS fans—letting you dive into more than a decade of Halo history within a single matchmaking playlist, or revisit Bungie’s truly stellar campaigns in both original and remastered forms. I may not be a fan of 343’s own additions, but you can’t deny the studio’s done a hell of a job bringing Master Chief back to PC.
Wes: I want to thank whoever at 343 brought back Halo 3’s Rocket Race playlist, a mode I sunk hours into more than a decade ago and still love with all my heart. Beyond nostalgia, though, there’s good reason to be excited about the Master Chief Collection’s future. A custom game browser is still in development, and once it’s live, I expect classic Halo CTF to outlast the heat death of the universe.
Rich: Can’t believe this got ranked above Counter-Strike. Is it still too late to protest? Seriously though: who doesn’t love a bit of the Chief, and with MCC some of Bungie’s finest work is being kept alive in the way it should be.
21. Rainbow Six Siege
Released December 1, 2015 | Last position 25
Evan: Folks, this is how you operate a multiplayer game. Siege gets four major updates a year like clockwork, adding new operators that often scramble the meta. But as it’s expanded to 60 characters (I still main Thatcher, the EMP Pokéball champ), Siege has simultaneously gone backward to outright rethink some of the game’s biggest systems. Older maps get reworked and full-on redesigned. New anti-toxicity measures, pinging, new secondary gadgets, attachments, and entirely overhauled operators have been implemented post-launch. A testament to good production practices, careful roadmapping, and the insane effort it takes to maintain a popular game.
Tyler: Lately, I’ve been enjoying opportunities to blow holes in soft walls in Favela, a map that jumped into my favorites list after it was reworked. One of the recently added operators has a bionic arm, too, so I can punch holes in walls if I want. What a gift. After all these years, I’m a little surprised that I’m not being made to think about walls, and how they might be improved with holes, in more games.
Mollie: I’ll level with you right now, I absolutely suck ass at Siege. I’ve never quite grappled with its learning curve, and my map and operator knowledge are practically non-existent. But when my poor friends put up with my shoddy skills, I have an unbelievable amount of fun. No other shooter feels quite so satisfying. I imagine it’s even better when you actually know what you’re doing.
20. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Released November 10, 2020 | Last position New entry
Phil: Yakuza: Like a Dragon marks the series’ transition from arcade brawler to JRPG, and swaps out the stoic long-time lead Kiryu for an entirely new ex-Yakuza—an endearing goofball who can’t help but wear his heart on his sleeve. It’s still everything you expect from a Yakuza game: a lengthy main story that’s filled with twists and turns, numerous sidequests that range from wacky to absolutely absurd, and a whole host of minigames that offer fun diversions to pursue as you explore the city.
Its new JRPG combat isn’t just a gimmick, either. Not only is it fully woven into the story—and the personality of Ichiban and his growing party of loveable misfits—it also makes for a genuinely deep buildcrafting, with jobs, skills and hilarious summons.
Morgan: I haven’t finished Like a Dragon, but Ichiban is already one of my favorite game protagonists ever.
19. Umurangi Generation
Released May 19, 2020 | Last position New entry
Nat: Umurangi Generation is loud, raw, angry. An anti-colonial protest wrapped in Jet Set Radio and Evangelion, handing you a wonderfully tactile camera with which to capture the end of the world. Seriously—I want to take this battered old handheld into every game I’ve played since, a photo mode built directly into the player’s arsenal.
Umurangi doesn’t sport Hitman 3’s complex AI routines, but every level feels gritty and lived-in. Every candid snap of a stranger tells a story of some deadbeat dad, VR-addled waster or bloodied mech pilot trying to make their way through this deeply relatable apocalypse.
See, Umurangi might take place in a world full of giant robots and squid-like Kaiju, but its tensions are our tensions. Developed by Mauri artist Veselekov, Umurangi is scathing of the global response to the Australian wildfires (Umurangi meaning “Red Sky” in Ves’ native tongue). An occupying force pulls your neighbours and friends up to fight their Kaiju war, and oppresses people with curfews and giant concrete walls. By the time you hit Macro, you’re exploring maps pulled straight out of 2020’s headlines.
Where other games fret over whether they’re seen as “political”, Umurangi embraces it—and is all the better for it.
Jody: The Macro DLC really completes Umurangi Generation, with bigger levels to photograph and rollerblades to get you around them. And while the base game eases you into its dystopia, Macro knows you’re on board with its politics from the start and goes hell for leather from the get-go.
18. Doom Eternal
Released March 20, 2020 | Last position 14
James: Doom Eternal was already the most intense shooter ever made, but The Ancient Gods expansions complicate the swirling demon chessboard even further. There’s a demon you exorcise from other demons with the microwave beam. A huge hammer for turning a school of imps into paste. You kill a couple gods, no biggie. Your mouse hand’s gonna be soaked.
17. Final Fantasy XIV
Released August 24, 2013 | Last position 21
Steven: FF14 takes so much of what is good about WoW and couples it with an emotionally-charged story, gorgeous visuals, and some of the best goddamn music ever scored for a game. There are so many MMOs, but Final Fantasy 14 is the one you should be playing.
Nat: There’s no better game for roleplaying as a gay cat.
Steven: That too.
Mollie: Did you know that the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy 14 has a free trial, and includes the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award-winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 with no restrictions on playtime?
But no, for real, Final Fantasy 14 absolutely rules. I’ve been on-and-off with the game since 2014 and I can safely say there’s no better time to get into it than right now. The story, the music, the fashion! There’s a little something for everyone. The community is also fantastic, and makes those quieter moments between defeating giant dragons or literal gods so heart-warming. Nowhere else will you run into an impromptu concert of four dragon girls performing A Cruel Angel’s Thesis.
16. Hollow Knight
Released February 24, 2017 | Last position 8
Robin: I replayed this slick, atmospheric metroidvania only recently, and found myself utterly wowed all over again. Despite its tiny team, it’s grandly ambitious, in its own way managing to evoke some of the mystery, horror, and grandeur of the Dark Souls series. Like its diminutive bug protagonist, it at first seems unassuming, but reveals greater and greater multitudes as you explore, its world unpeeling layers like a big, dark… onion.
James: I’ll say it again: Hollow Knight is the best Metroid game.
15. Outer Wilds
Released May 28, 2019 | Last position 9
Phil: A remarkable exploration game in which you’ve got just 22 minutes to explore a small, handcrafted solar system full of questions. At the end of your time, the sun blows up and you time-loop back to the start, with nothing except the information you’ve gleaned along the way. The way the solar system changes over the course of the loop encourages you to keep hold of certain discoveries in order to investigate more thoroughly on the next go around, making for a compelling mystery box that’s a joy to unpick.
Fraser: Time loop narratives often hide a bit of horror behind the whimsy and sci-fi shenanigans, and Outer Wilds is no different. You’ve got an adorable spaceship, quirky NPCs, and the promise of a great big adventure, but then there’s also the whole the-sun-is-about-to-be-destroyed problem. So you might be having a lovely time exploring this enigmatic star system, but the apocalypse is always waiting for you. The dangers of space are not limited to the end of the loop, however, and Outer Wilds proves to be just as capable of more overt horror.
You’ll be making impossible leaps inside a hollowed-out planet and then fall into a black hole that drops you into the vacuum of space—just you and the void. Not for long, though, because you’ll soon be dead. And then you start over again. Maybe on your next run you’ll charge into the eye of a tornado. Or spend most of your time hiding from gargantuan, spaceship-eating fish. It throws wonder after wonder at you, but what’s stuck with me the most are my many, many deaths. And I’d happily die a dozen more times, because Outer Wilds is brilliant.
Released May 28, 2019 | Last position New entry
Rachel: Wildermyth has been one of this year’s biggest surprises, and there was no doubt within the PCG team it would be placed somewhere in the top 15. It’s a fantasy adventure that manages to combine procedural stories spun from character-driven traits with procedurally generated events, the end result being a game with enough anecdotes you could write a book.
Decisions you make can dramatically affect the story, like if the rogue falls in love with the archer, if the warrior will ever fulfill her lifelong dream, whether characters die on the battlefield or retreat, losing a limb in the process. Your heroes become bruised and scarred as the campaign progresses, reminders of mistakes you’ve made on the battlefield.
Characters can have children who can then join the party, and you can even bring old retired characters back for a new campaign. In this way, Wildermyth feels like you’re weaving a mythological tapestry of heroes and their stories, not just ticking off a campaign checklist. Depending on what difficulty you choose, the game will adjust its story for the tone, choosing a tougher, crueler campaign will be complemented with a darker story—it’s pretty incredible how the game can adapt like that. It’s as close as you can get to the feel of a homebrew tabletop RPG and that’s pretty special.
Fraser: The stories I could tell you. There was the bookish nerd who became an elemental guardian, met a witch who cursed/blessed him with ‘crow powers’, and then paid a weird dude for a fox tail that he now never takes off. Maybe I should tell you about the two adventurers, one perpetually engulfed in flames, the other slowly transforming into a tree, who fell in love despite their massive differences. Then there was the young woman cursed by a sickness, who discovered a cure and instead used it to save another man’s life, inspiring him to pledge it to helping her adventuring party.
The stories I could tell you about families, friendships, tragic deaths and heroic interventions. But instead I’ll just tell you to play Wildermyth and make your own.
13. Dishonored 2
Released February 24, 2017 | Last position 7
Phil: Aside from being the best stealth game of the 2010s, what makes Dishonored 2 remarkable is that, however you decide to approach its levels, it always has a response. When I kill my target in the opening mission, I later hear his goons announce that he’s dead. On a second attempt, I kill him and hide his body in an area the guards can’t access—something the game never asks me to do. And yet it apparently knew I might try, because this time the goons announce that he’s missing instead. It’s a small example, but later on this same attention to detail—this anticipation and extrapolation of the player’s agency—applies to some really big, dramatic moments.
I could praise the effortless traversal, exciting combat and flexible toolbox of Dishonored 2’s action—those things all elevate it above its predecessor. But it’s Arkane’s extreme dedication to the craft of immersion that make Dishonored 2 the studio’s best work.
Morgan: It’s no Prey, but Dishonored 2 is still a tremendously fun stealth game that’s basically Arkane showing off with level design for 9+ hours.
Fraser: Prey wishes it was as refined as Dishonored 2. Sorry Morgan. Arkane never misses, but this one is still the studio’s greatest. Everyone talks about exploring a mechanical mansion or using time travel to solve puzzles, and they are incredible missions, but these high points are accompanied by less flashy jobs that are nonetheless products of flawless level design. Every location feels like a work of art and science, with Dishonored’s striking aesthetic and tiny details elevating the brilliant mechanics and best-in-class stealth. And if stealth isn’t your bag, it’s just as compelling when you step out of the shadows and sow chaos with all of your fantastical powers.
12. XCOM 2
Released February 4, 2016 | Last position 12
Robin: We’ve written about Firaxis’ modern strategy classic more times than I’ve lost soldiers, but there’s a good reason for that. It’s still the absolute gold standard of turn-based strategy on PC, a sprawling tactical puzzle that pokes at your grey matter, but crucially also tugs at your heartstrings, as you love and lose your best squad members. Add in the brilliantly expansive War of the Chosen DLC, full of weird and wonderful villains and technology, and you’ve a near endlessly replayable package. And a thriving mod scene continues to give it even more life—including the ever popular Long War, which turns the campaign into an even more brutal feat of endurance while cranking up the simulationist detail.
Surely we’re past time for an XCOM 3 now? Come on Firaxis, get a move on—Chimera Squad was barely a snack to keep us going.
Evan: Looks like we’ll have to settle for Midnight Suns for now, Robin, the upcoming Marvel game from Firaxis that seems a little different mechanically, but is sticking with XCOM’s art direction, among other aspects.
11. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Released September 14, 2017 | Last position 2
Wes: The best traditional computer RPG of the last decade, Divinity: Original Sin 2 earned developer Larian the opportunity to work on Baldur’s Gate 3, which should be out in full in 2022. Original Sin 2 remarkably manages to succeed on every axis as an RPG. Its main quest is exciting and intricate, each of its premade heroes have unique stories worth experiencing, the world is crammed full of sidequests, and you can approach most problems however you want, including killing every NPC in the world like a complete psycho. Hell, if you played it in 2017, play it again: Larian spent a couple years polishing and improving the game, particularly its rushed third act. It’s even better now.
Fraser: The writing, systems and eccentric characters all make Original Sin 2 an all-time great RPG, but mostly what you’ll be doing is fighting. Thank goodness, then, that the brawls are all amazing. You can fill the area with fire or poison, sprout wings to fly over obstacles, and try to come up with all sorts of combos and synergies to help you take out the opposition as skillfully (or messily) as possible. Every confrontation is a new laboratory waiting for you to destroy with your experiments.
Jacob: I must’ve put a 150 hours into Divinity: Original Sin 2 and I still get the urge to go back and do it all again. If that doesn’t speak volumes for this epic RPG…
Tyler: I’m disappointed that the mod scene never really took off. The tools Larian released are powerful, but I found them confusing (even for game engine tools) and they crashed often, so I eventually gave up on making a little RPG campaign of my own. It’s too bad, because Original Sin 2 seemed like a great foundation for modders. I’ll just have to settle for being happy with all the other parts of the game.
Released February 2, 2021 | Last position New entry
Chris: There are no quests in Valheim, no characters, no main storyline. But every journey I take, whether it’s to fight a boss or reach a new continent or just to gather berries, feels like a bigger and bolder adventure than most AAA RPGs. The open world is fascinatingly beautiful despite throwback visuals and the danger of the wilderness is offset by the cozy and comforting feel of coming home to my cheerly little wooden fort. Valheim cleverly plays with survival systems, too—food and cooking remain absolutely vital to survival, but you’ll never starve to death so gathering never feels like a joyless grind. And for an Early Access game, it never feels like anything is missing, just that more could be added.
Morgan: I bought Valheim, but ended up renting a Minecraft server and playing that with friends instead.
Jacob: You really missed out, Morgan. Valheim may sound like your standard survival flick, but it uses remarkably simple systems to create a world you want to keep exploring, and one that’s best experienced with a bunch of mates.
9. The Witcher 3
Released May 18, 2015 | Last position 4
Andy K: While I love the overarching story in The Witcher 3 and its DLC, it’s the slower, quieter moments inbetween where the game really sings for me. When it’s just me and my horse on the open road, riding between villages, exploring ruins, picking up random quests, and getting tangled up in peoples’ lives, I’m never happier. It’s like a wandering samurai simulator. And the fact that a simple job pinned to a noticeboard can spiral into a wild, unpredictable, hours-long quest makes exploring this vividly realised world rewarding like no other RPG. This is a rare game where almost every sidequest, including the really small ones, is meaningful or interesting in some way.
Rich: Rubbish combat, dunno why people like this.
Andy K: Because there’s more to life than fighting, Rich.
Fraser: And the combat is, at its worst, still OK. That’s not what I became a Witcher for, anyway. The best parts aren’t the fights; the best parts are the bits before the fights, where you’re investigating oddities and meeting new people (and being rude to them) between pub crawls.
Even more important than all of that, though, is Geralt himself. What a guy. A stoic, taciturn bloke is hardly a groundbreaking protagonist, but Geralt is so much more than that. He’s a man full of subtle complexities, trying to figure out how to be an adoptive father, a hero for people who hate and fear him, and a slayer of monsters in a world where the monsters are often the good guys. What’s so impressive is that you can take him in some very different directions and leave the world in a very different place depending on your decisions, but through all that, Geralt is still Geralt. You’ll get a strong sense of who he is, and every version feels consistent and canon.
Lauren: What my colleagues mean to say is: Geralt is very sexy and could batter your dad.
Released May 17, 2009 | Last position 48
Rachel: I am happy to see Minecraft get the epic list bump it deserves. With the Caves and Cliffs update this year, plus Mojang’s work with RTX, and the number of charities and projects using it as a gaming force for good, it deserves a top 10 spot for sure.
Mollie: I punched my first block of dirt nearly 10 years ago, and I’ve been in love with Minecraft ever since. Even if I’m not always playing it, it’s usually the game I return to when I’m going through a bit of a rough patch with the hobby. Minecraft’s versatility really lends itself to the game’s longevity—even after a decade, no two playthroughs have been the same for me, and I love that.
Rich: I don’t really play Minecraft anymore but it’s one of those games that’s still just endlessly fascinating to hear about. The game’s community remains so vibrant and it seems like every week there are amazing new things to see, and developer Mojang continues to judiciously add to it without ever detracting from that core appeal of player expression.
7. Slay the Spire
Released 23 July, 2019 | Last position 5
Robin: The sheer number of imitators that have released on Steam in recent years is testament to the lasting brilliance of Slay the Spire. While many have been a great time in their own right, still none have toppled the king. It’s still the absolute tightest, smartest, and most fun to break roguelike deck-building money can buy.
Evan: When you pull off some clever combo (say, using the Mummified Hand relic and a series of Power cards to reduce the cost of everything in your hand to 0), the sensation of cascading effects is as potent as pulling the trigger on some viral TikTok Rube Goldberg machine. Slay the Spire puts game-breaking power within players’ reach, but in turn, drops exponentially more tough bosses and mini-bosses in your way. Few games match its purity of design.
6. Death Stranding
Released July 14, 2020 | Last position New entry
James: Death Stranding feels like some old-timey Metal Gear Solid 2 nonsense at the start, but rapidly evolves into an open world hiking simulation about building an infrastructure co-op with strangers. I’ve given dozens of hours over to the cause, hauling truckfuls of materials to maintain our highways, dozens more to crawling up treacherous mountain peaks through blinding blizzards to create an efficient zipline network. All of it, shared with other people in their own game worlds for no tangible videogame reward other than knowing I wasn’t the only one to benefit from the hard work. In a capitalist hellworld, it gave me hope, or at least a potent homebrewed chemical signal for coping.
Wes: *Smashes Like button 137 times*
Rich: There’s simply nothing like Death Stranding, particularly in the context of the pandemic and how eerily its concept maps onto that, and for all Kojima’s excesses and some frankly honking cutscenes the experience of traversing this world is unforgettable. Its multiplayer element is so light-touch it’s almost not there but, as James says, becomes a focus and a point of pride. You genuinely feel part of something bigger. I can’t get this wonderful game out of my head, parts of it will stick with you like nothing else.
Fraser: It says a lot that a game with obnoxious Monster Energy product placement and a literal advert for a Norman Reedus TV show in the shower is still a great time and full of artistry and thoughtful game design.
Jody: *Smashes Like button 138 times*
5. Red Dead Redemption 2
Released December 5, 2019 | Last position 3
Andy K: No videogame world has beguiled me quite as powerfully as Red Dead’s vast, atmospheric slice of the American West. Rockstar’s Western epic is a game I frequently revisit just to do nothing in particular: riding aimlessly around the wilderness on my horse, stopping to hunt, chat to fellow travelers, or poke around in old cabins. It’s a game I like living in too. Moseying into Valentine to knock back a whisky at the saloon, grabbing a bath or a haircut, trying on some new clothes in the general store, then turning in for the night at the hotel. It’s the best cowboy simulator ever made. I love the story (I’ve finished it twice), but just hanging out in that world is enough to keep me entertained.
Phil: I’ve seen a lot of criticism about just how slow Red Dead Redemption 2 is to play—not just in the languid meandering of its story, but in the very essence of how you control Arthur and interact with the world. Personally, though, that uncompromising vision is exactly why I love it so much. You will not save this world from the inexorable march of progress, but at least you can meander around a vast and absurdly atmospheric landscape as you slowly slip into irrelevance. Big mood, as the kids say.
Fraser: I played RDR2 on PS4, so when it came to PC I skipped the story—it’s brilliant, but not play-for-another-120-hours-brilliant—and headed straight to Red Dead Online. And I’ve kept returning. This is impressive, since Red Dead Online is not very good. I don’t enjoy any of the activities, and the grind for gold, season passes and all the other live service nonsense just makes Red Dead worse. So why do I keep coming back? Because it’s bloody gorgeous. Riding up to the crest of a hill, you’re treated to some of the best views in gaming—endless skies and plains and mountains that look better than real. And then there’s the weather, the critters, the way mud and blood clings to you, every single animation—it’s all amazing.
4. Apex Legends
Released February 4, 2019 | Last position 17
Nat: Apex Legends has always been good. Of the big battle royales, it’s the best one if you just want to pick a good fight. The guns feel great, the characters are all memorable dirtbags with fun abilities, and Respawn figured out just the right amount of Titanfall 2’s movement to carry over into a sprawling battle royale. But last year saw Apex truly come into its own as a confident successor to Respawn’s wallrunner.
Olympus is far and away the game’s best (and prettiest) map to date, though a newly-refurbished World’s Edge comes close. Arenas are a welcome alternative to battle royale that feels like a more accessible, Apex-flavoured spin on Valorant. And the game’s cast has only gotten better and better with Titanfall throwbacks, Aussie firecrackers, and the long-overdue addition of Scottish people to the Apex roster. Shoutout to Respawn for straight-up adding me to the game, eh?
All of that on top of rounds that always feel like they have the pitch-perfect mix of downtime looting and high-octane firefights. In 2021, Apex Legends isn’t just a good battle royale. It’s probably the best competitive shooter you can play today.
Phil: I took a break from Apex after Respawn ruined World’s Edge by removing the train (and the Mirage party boat). I’ve finally been dragged back in, and I’ve fallen back in love all over again. My favourite change this season is that all the maps are now available on rotation. That gives a genuine sense of variety over the course of an evening, especially given that the most recent World’s Edge rework leaves it in a much better place. Sure, most games are still swallowed up by Fragment, but at least you know you’re only ever a couple of hours away from a return to Olympus.
3. Crusader Kings 3
Released September 1, 2020 | Last position New entry
Fraser: Crusader Kings 3 is simply the best strategy game around. And it would probably be the best RPG if it wasn’t for Disco Elysium. Everything that made its predecessor so great for nearly a decade is here, but better integrated, more refined, and improved by a whole bunch of new systems that make this sequel feel like more than a repeat.
It’s huge and dense, but even after just a few hours with the game you’ll walk away with enough stories to fill a book—like the time you walked into your bedroom and found a courtier having sex with your shoe, or when you “accidentally” lost a child in the woods when you realised they were about to cause a succession crisis. Thanks bears! More strategy games are thinking about story and narrative, but Crusader Kings still sits on the throne.
Chris: There’s really nothing else like it (except for Crusader Kings 2). It’s a grand strategy in a massive world constantly rocked by major events, but my focus is continually drawn back to the tiniest personal dramas like why a court member’s entire family approves of me except for one small child who hates my guts. Why does this kid dislike me so much? What did I ever do to them? Yes, I know there’s a war raging outside and my Spymaster is plotting against me and I’m running out of gold, but that can all wait. I need to solve this vexing mystery first!
Like Fraser said, it’s a guaranteed story generator. There’s always something interesting, bizarre, hilarious, or tragic happening somewhere in your character’s life, whether you succeed or fail or even if you don’t even quite know how to play it yet.
Jacob: Every so often I boot up Crusader Kings just to kill an hour or two when I’m on my laptop. Well, one thing leads to another and I end up wasting a day glued to my screen. Usually I’m plotting some grand scheme involving mass intrigue and espionage, but by the time I’m done playing I’ve lost three heirs to disease and been labelled an adulterer by my entire kingdom. Great game.
Lauren A: I’m still not over the stabbing-my-cousin-in-the-face incident during a feast I held as King Malcolm because he insulted me. Standard night out in Central Scotland, really.
2. Hitman 3
Released January 20, 2021 | Last position New entry
Fraser: Now that IO Interactive has completed its ambitious world of assassination, you can play Hitman 1-3 in a single package, giving you a lifetime of elaborate murders to pull off. It feels like an endless vacation where you occasionally top someone. A trip to a gaudy Dubai skyscraper one day, and then it’s off to an Argentinian winery the next, and each of them is bursting with potential for mischief. Hitman 3 is an exceptional game in its own right—not least because it contains a spot-on Agatha Christie mystery where you get to play the detective—but the real selling point is getting to play the entire trilogy with all of the enhancements. It’s a great excuse to revisit Sapienza for the hundredth time.
Phil: Hitman 3 alone probably wouldn’t be as high on this list. But Hitman 3 as a way to access the entire trilogy—including the ever-expanding selection of escalation contracts and time-limited elusive targets—is essential. Each game has its own personality. The first is IO rediscovering their aptitude for creating intricate stealth sandboxes, and getting bolder and more experimental as they go. Hitman 2 ups the scale, with some of the largest levels in the series’ history, each packed full of things to try. Hitman 3 is tighter and more focused, but builds on the previous games for a confident finale full of memorable scenarios. Each mission is ridiculously replayable, and this package brings together more than 20 of them. You could play this for years and never run out of new things to try.
James: If aliens invaded earth and demanded a single cultural artifact that represents what we humans call videogames, I would give them Hitman 3. It has everything: espionage, geopolitical intrigue, and slapstick comedy. Everything in the World of Assassination trilogy represents the best of game design too, working as a simultaneous sandbox and teacher. I’ve played the same levels dozens of times, reverse engineering guard patrols, NPC AI behaviors, and how my weapons and tools interact with it all (by throwing them all at the heads of innocent bystanders).
While the first run through a Hitman level is typically overwhelming, the options endless and threats leading to more improvisational playthroughs, my 20th go at The Dartmoor Manor with nothing but a shotgun went off without a hitch. You’d think I’d enabled cheats, the way I slipped through sightlines and manipulated the field with my shiny coins to point-blank five guards in an escalation without getting spotted. There’s a reason Agent 47 is an emotionally stunted bald man: because we need someone to look up to.
Andy K: Having Hitman 1-3 in one package is a real treat. This is some of the best stealth in the history of videogames, with levels that are big, complex, and pulsing with life and detail. It’s Hitman 3’s Berlin that really steals the show for me. A crowded warehouse rave where the tables are turned and hitmen come after you. This is a neat switcheroo, and trying to kill these guys with eyes everywhere is a challenge like no other in the series.
1. Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
Released October 15, 2019 | Last position 1
Evan: A richly detailed roleplaying game about a deeply human shared experience: losing your wallet.
Encyclopedia: The creation of an Estonian studio who’d never made a videogame before, Disco Elysium is a revolutionary detective RPG set in the imaginary city of Revachol, and in particular its impoverished dockside district of Martinaise, whose politics serve as a mirror of our own.
Drama: Good sire, you neglect what’s most important. Disco Elysium gives your skills a voice, and the more points you put in them the more likely they are to interject with their own observations, whether helpful (like when I point out a character who may be lying to you), or unhelpful (like whatever nonsense Electro-Chemistry is about to inflict upon us).
Electro-Chemistry: You both forgot what really matters. Disco Elysium open-palm slams you right into the poetic streaming consciousness of a shambling maniac who broke his brain with a whole lot of drugs. Yummy, yummy drugs.
Wes: It’s a marvel that Disco Elysium manages to make the warring voices of your brain funnier, more compelling companions than typical RPG followers. The way your skill points affect how active they are in conversations and how their dialogue helps you understand your character and the world around you—it’s just brilliant. I can’t think of another RPG that makes bad dice rolls so fun, either. I never felt the urge to savescum in Disco Elysium because there was always a clever bit of dialogue waiting for me, even when I literally fell on my ass.
Evan: Exactly, Wes: the way that those different brain voices passively interject based on how much you’ve developed them—and the fact that they can still betray you and offer bad advice!—is genius and reflective of what it feels like to be human. A person with “Level 10 Empathy” can still make a bad decision by listening to that empathy at the wrong moment. In this, I love how much Disco cares about what I don’t say. A numbered list of dialogue options shouldn’t be a series of cabinets you rummage through to get the stuff inside. What you say affects the world and reflects who you are.
Fraser: Disco Elysium was close to the perfect RPG when it first launched, but miraculously ZA/UM has managed to make it even better. In a huge free update, the studio added full voice acting, something I didn’t feel that was missing until I heard it. Even your internal monologue gets the treatment, with a superb performance from Lenval Brown giving your skills and inner thoughts even more personality. As a bonus, there are a bunch of political vision quests, too, which serve to create a climax for your journey of self-discovery. As challenging as some of the subject matter is, it’s an unmissable game.
Andy K: Still unbeatable. Every RPG I’ve played since, I’ve thought to myself: “I wish this was more like Disco Elysium.” The sheer variety of ways to shape your character—and how people in the world react so specifically to what you’ve moulded this grotesque lump of cop-shaped clay into—makes it a role-playing experience like no other. I can’t remember the last time I was so completely consumed by a game’s setting and atmosphere either. I’m listening to the music from the Whirling-in-Rags (the extra dreamy 12pm version) as I type this, and I want to be back there, interrogating burly dockworkers, singing heartbreaking karaoke, and slowly piecing together what I did on my apocalyptic bender a few nights before. Disco Elysium is a truly singular game. There’s never been anything like it, and there probably won’t be ever again, even if ZA/UM makes a sequel.
Robin: I’m always moaning that RPGs don’t draw enough inspiration from the creativity and innovation of the modern tabletop RPG scene. PC gaming still feels very stuck in nostalgia for the tabletop games of the 80s and 90s to me – D&D, World of Darkness, Cyberpunk – while ignoring so many clever new approaches to the genre.
Disco Elysium is the first big exception. It doesn’t draw from any one specific tabletop game, but it’s absolutely pickled in the ideas and attitude of the modern scene. With its wonderfully abstract stats and abilities, its focus on its hero’s internal life as much as his external, and its sharply political outlook, it’s a million miles away from dungeon crawling or vampire brooding – and easy bedfellows with tabletop indie darlings like Apocalypse World, Blades in the Dark, or Spire.
I think that’s such a welcome step forward for the genre.
There are a huge number of fantastic games that didn’t make it into our top 100, so here are some of the PC Gamer team’s personal favourites.
Rich Stanton: Batman: Arkham Knight
Holy deadline Batman! He chose a six year-old game with an infamously bad PC launch! Yes I did, because earlier this year I played this: and wow have the years been kind. This game still looks stunning, plays amazingly well, and is simply packed with Bat-stuff to find. The most fun I’ve had with a singleplayer game this year, and the best superhero game ever made.
Rachel Watts – If Found…
If Found…remains to be one of the best visual novels on PC. Its story of a young queer woman is both painfully beautiful and simultaneously gut-wrenching and the way you wipe away each panel revealing the next fits perfectly in a story about erasing the past to make room for a new beginning.
Nat Clayton: Unbeatable: White Label
Calling it now: arcade rhythm adventure Unbeatable is going to be the coolest game of whatever year it launches in. The White Label demo is a strong opener for the game’s setlist of high-paced beats—framed by snapshots of a world oozing with sun-bleached, anime-tinted melancholy.
Sarah James: Final Fantasy 13
I know, I wasn’t keen on it at first either. But I stuck with it and it’s become one of the FF games I’ll replay every couple of years. The story is great, Lightning is badass, and while the combat isn’t my favourite—hello FF12—it’s still fun to play around with.
Mollie Taylor: Persona 5 Strikers
Yes, it’s weird that this is on PC before Persona 5. But Strikers is fantastic, and the only Warriors-style game I’ve ever managed to stomach. It manages to retain most of Persona 5’s original charm and jazzy style, feeling like a fun summer reunion with your old school pals.
Evan Lahti: Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
A tremendously underrated FPS that draws on obscure skills: your vision, your knack for marking the perfect artillery spot with binoculars, your willingness to die to apply pressure to the objective. The asymmetries between the Vietnamese factions (both North and South) and US forces create memorably scrappy firefights. A messier and better Battlefield.
James Davenport: The Evil Within 2
The Evil Within 2 takes horror into huge open spaces and still pulls off a ton of memorable scares. That shed in the distance might just be a fixture in your playthrough, but in mine? She harassed me the rest of the game, hair to the floor with that horrible shriek.
Andy Kelly: L.A. Noire
An anthology of compelling, cleverly constructed detective mysteries, set in a lavish, painstakingly researched recreation of 1940s Los Angeles. The impressive face capture tech, along with a cast of genuinely great actors (including several familiar faces from Mad Men), gives L.A. Noire a prestige TV feel, and it’s a world I love losing myself in.
Chris Livingston: West of Loathing
Truly funny games are rare, and in WoL everything from the dialogue to the item descriptions are brilliantly witty, so much so you’ll spend extra time playing just to make sure you’ve found every last bit of text. And despite the stick figure art, it’s a true, open world Western! Yeehaw!
Morgan Park: Knockout City
If you told me months ago that EA would put out a competitive dodgeball game that’d consume my life for a month, I’d laugh. Still, Knockout City really is that good. Its unique combat system looks like a kid-friendly shooter at first, but it’s all about timing, fakeouts, and coordination.
Jody MacGregor: Dawn of War – Dark Crusade
Still my favorite RTS thanks to a paint-the-map campaign where structures remain in the territories where you left them. Hours later you return to contested ground to find your defences still standing, ready to serve again. The sync-kill animations make zooming in on combat a treat too.
Phil Savage: Guild Wars 2
Still secretly one of the best and most generous MMOs around, and one that most live service games could stand to learn a lesson from. From battle passes to update cadence, Guild Wars 2 has already solved most of the problems that other games-as-a-service developers are still trying to figure out.
Wes Fenlon: Dusk
The best of the new wave of retro shooters, Dusk one-ups the tight level design of the original Quake with creepy occult farms and the industrial hell dungeons that lurk beneath them. I guarantee it’s going to get weirder and freakier than you expect, and the weapons all pop with simple, clean late-’90s power.
Alan Dexter: Cyberpunk 2077
It’s not without its problems, both technically and in scope, but there are enough genuinely brilliant moments in V’s exploring of Night City that I can forgive it its shortcomings. The main storyline stands up well and there are plenty of brilliant sidequests that hint at a far bigger, more detailed experience.
Fraser Brown: Townscaper
More a meditative little toy than a city builder, Townscaper is a little island of calm where I can get away from everything and while away the hours painting picturesque coastal towns. There are no tasks or discrete challenges: just a canvas and your own creativity. Townscaper proves that’s all you need.