Has there ever been a better time to be a gamer? A new PlayStation and Xbox just went out the door, and many of the consoles' new, graphically-intensive titles will be hitting the PC. We've also got new Nvidia RTX Ampere and AMD Radeon 6000 series GPUs offering significant performance upgrades, meaning they should push these games to the max.
While all these new stuff is somewhat hard to get at the moment (lucky if you've got it already), at the end of 2020 we were blessed with the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin's Creed Valhalla. And so here are what we consider some of the best PC games you can play right now. From old classics to brand new releases, there's something for everyone.
The most fun you'll have in the Apocalypse
- Genre: RPG
- Similar: Divinity: Original Sin 2, Wasteland 2, The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos, XCOM series, Baldur's Gate
- Graphics: Extremely pretty for the genre
- Gameplay: Turn-based squad combat, exploration, Co-op
While InXile's latest isometric real-time meets turn-based RPG follows on directly from its predecessor, playing Wasteland 2 isn't a prerequisite for enjoying Wasteland 3. But if you are a fan of the previous games or similar squad-based RPGs with turn-based combat, such as Divinity: Original Sin, you'll almost certainly love this post-apocalyptic adventure, which is one of the funniest games in years.
All the usual RPG staples are here: character creation, leveling, specializations, perks, and so on. Balancing your six-person crew with a mix of weapon specialists and specific traits is rewarding when they—and on occasion, your vehicle—work together to take down hordes of enemies.
One element that really helps Wasteland 3 stand out is how your actions have real, meaningful consequences, often leaving you with the dilemma of whether to do the 'right' thing or go for potentially cool rewards. There's also a co-op mode, so you can complete the game with a friend.
As with all games of this ilk, it helps if you're a fan of the genre, and some skills are a lot more useful than others. The lengthy loading times are a pain, and it's a bit buggy, which is a shame. Hopefully, though, the latter will be addressed in time.
The XCOM-style combat is great, characters such as the Reagan-worshipping Gippers are memorable, and the plot is engaging. You'll spend its 80 to 100 hours without getting bored, and it's refreshing to see an RPG where a cowboy hat-wearing cat can be part of your team—you can also have sex with a robot if that's your thing. This is one game you'll be thinking about even when you're not playing it. A favorite from this year.
The day has finally arrived
- Genre: Action role-playing
- Similar: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, GTA 5, Cloudpunk, The Witcher 3
- Graphics: Amazing, ray traced hardware smashing visuals
- Gameplay: Open-world first-person single player
CD Projekt Red's big-budget RPG has had a controversial launch, but sales have been as strong as has been the hype. For those of us playing on PC, the game is far from perfect but it's playable and very enjoyable. Cyberpunk 2077 is also visually stunning and possibly the most graphically impressive game we've ever seen.
For once, PC gamers have received the best version of a cross-platform game on day one and ray tracing (which requires a hefty and modern rig) elevates the game's visuals to a new standard. Certainly you will want to play Cyberpunk with a fast GPU and if possible with DLSS enabled.
What Cyberpunk brings to the table is an ambitious and immersive futuristic open world. You are given the choice of one of three possible backstories. From there you can customize your character (called 'V') and start exploring Night City's fascinating and thoughtfully crafted streets. Cyberpunk 2077 gives you tons of freedom in how you choose to develop your abilities, what part of the story you engage on, and what sidequests you partake in. The game's controls and combat system are clumsy, which is made up for with an excellent story and voice acting.
For many people who have been looking forward to an incredible neo-noir experience in a complex, dystopian environment and the ability to customize their character's looks, cybernetic enhancements, and personality, Cyberpunk may feel either somewhat shallow in some of those promises, or entirely enticing if you're willing to overlook some of its flaws.
If you come at the King, you better not miss
- Genre: F2P tactical shooter
- Similar: CS: GO, Overwatch
- Graphics: cartoonish, TF2-like, runs on well on low-end PCs
- Gameplay: FPS, 5 vs 5, team-based, competitive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has ruled the competitive FPS scene for the better part of a decade, but Riot's initial foray into the genre has the potential to dethrone the king.
Riot has plenty of experience in the world of competitive multiplayer games thanks to the everlasting behemoth that is League of Legends, and it brings that free-to-play, team-based action to a new perspective. In addition to the main influence of CS:GO, it blends Overwatch's colorful aesthetics and cast of characters (agents), each with their own signature abilities, ultimates and backstories. There's also a ping system similar to Apex Legends, meaning you don't have to use a headset or type if you don't want to.
Valorant is 5v5 games across 25 rounds, with the attackers trying to plant a bomb (spike) and the defenders trying to defuse it. You'll also find that unlike similar games, not all character abilities are on infinite cooldown timers; two of these have to be bought in each round and have a limited number of uses. There's also ultimates that can take multiple rounds to recharge using kills, deaths, or spike actions.
As with all competitive games, other players can be the worst part of Valorant, and unlocking everything is grindy if you're not willing to spend some money. With its mix of strategic play, tactical depth, and teamwork, Valorant is the CS: GO for those who could never get into CS: GO. Once it sinks its addictive teeth into you, there's no letting go.
Buy it from: TechSpot Downloads
One of the best reasons to own a PlayStation, now on PC
- Genre: : Action RPG
- Similar: Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin's Creed: Origins/Odyssey
- Graphics: If you thought it looked good on consoles...
- Gameplay: third-person, some stealth, RPG-lite
Make no mistake, Horizon Zero Dawn was an absolute shambles of a port when it arrived on PC; the crashes, bugs, and technical problems were such a shame for what was, and still is, one of the best reasons to buy a PS4. Now, over a month since its arrival on our platform, patches and updates have addressed most of the issues, bringing it closer to the game we deserve—notice the how the Steam reviews have recently moved from 'Mixed' to 'Very positive.'
Horizon puts players in the boots of heroine Aloy as she traverses a gorgeous, post-apocalyptic open-world. The star of the show, of course, are the mechanical dinosaur-like (mostly) creatures that populate the land. Take them down with the wide variety of weapons on offer by exploiting their weaknesses, or tame some of the machines.
The PC is the perfect home for Horizon. This is a game that looked great on the aging PS4 Pro, so it's simply stunning when powered by a beefy graphics card. The usual array of customization options is on offer, such as FOV, along with unlocked frame rates and support for ultrawide monitors.
Guerrilla Games has done a lot to fix the game since launch, but a few glitches remain. Some of the similarities between the missions can make them feel grindy, and the fact the dialogue choices have seemingly no effect whatsoever is a bit bizarre. Ultimately, Horizon Zero Dawn's combat, RPG elements, world, and beautiful looks makes it a must-own, even if you have played the PS4 original.
Take down a brumak, one turn at a time
- Genre: Turn-based tactics
- Similar: XCOM series, Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, Battletech
- Graphics: Gorgeous, lots of options, cutscenes look great
- Gameplay: turn-based, top-down, linear campaign
One might imagine that whoever suggested Gears of War would work as a turn-based tactics game was asked what they were smoking, but they were right. The muscle-bound grunts, Unreal engine cutscenes, and familiar enemies are all here, but this is no third-person, cover-based shooter.
Gears Tactics varies slightly from other XCOM-like games by giving each soldier three action points that can be used for moving, shooting and special actions, such as the overwatch ability. But players can gain additional AP by executing weakened enemies, and some skills add even more—a lot of time is spent figuring out how to extend your turn, working out the most optimal ways of killing Locusts.
Tactics offers five different classes of soldier, each with different skill trees and weapons, letting you create a squad that compliments each other and is perfect for a particular mission type. The risk vs reward factor of going after loot crates is enjoyable, as is customizing your weapons and armor—both cosmetically and with mods. Plus, some of the boss battles are great.
The campaign is pretty linear, and some of the mission types, loot, and maps start becoming overly familiar by the end, making it feel a bit grindy late in the game. Overall, though, this is a brilliant take on a familiar genre.
Rockstar's best game to date?
- Genre: Action adventure
- Similar: GTA V, The Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed: Origins/Odyssey, Mad Max
- Graphics: Simply stunning, made even better with mods
- Gameplay: Open world, Third/first-person, Cowboys
The fact we never saw an official Red Dead Redemption release for the PC was always a sore point, especially with other Rockstar games proving so popular on the platform. But RDR2 made the move from console to PC just over a year after release—and it was worth the wait.
Red Dead Redemption 2 follows in the footsteps of GTA V, which has generated more money than a small country's GDP. There's the enormous open world with a level of detail that's almost unnatural, a lengthy main campaign, and a dizzying amount of side quests, activities, and minigames.
RDR2 is another console-first title that looks gorgeous on the PS4 Pro/Xbox One X but truly shines on the PC. A beefy rig does help if you want to pump up the details and resolution while hitting 60+ fps, though few games warrant a hardware upgrade quite like this one; you'll spend as much time walking around admiring the scenery as playing through the incredibly emotional story.
Once you've seen and done everything the single-player portion has to offer, it's time to jump into Red Dead Online. From its several PvP shootout modes, to joining a posse, to horse racing, there's enough to keep you here for a long time. It might not have reached the titanic levels of GTA Online, but RDR2 is growing.
Yes, a powerful PC helps get the most of the game, and you might still run into performance and stability issues. It's also a title that demands a lot of your time, but such a sacrifice is worth it to play what is arguably Rockstar's best title to date.
Still easier to pick up than DOTA 2
- Genre: Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)
- Similar: Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, Smite
- Graphics: World of Warcraft-esque
- Gameplay: Multiplayer, 5 vs 5 team battles, competitive
Over ten years after its release and League of Legends remains the most popular core PC game in terms of unique monthly players, according to Newzoo. Why? because despite a community with a questionable reputation, LoL remains an incredibly difficult game to stop playing once it gets its hooks into you.
Like Valve's DOTA 2, LoL is free and takes many, many hours to master its gameplay mechanics, understand individual and team strategy, and become proficient at using a few of the 130+ champions on offer. Once you are in though, it can be an incredibly addictive and satisfying game, and one that will usually run without problems on even the most potato-like of PCs.
In the most common game map/mode called Summoner's Rift, two teams of five players compete to destroy the opposing team's "Nexus," a structure which lies at the heart of a base protected by defensive structures. Each LoL match is discrete, lasting anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. All champions start off weak and increase their strength by accumulating items and experience over the course of the game.
An unwelcome similarity LoL has with DOTA 2 is its notoriously toxic community. Having friends to show you the ropes when you're starting out is a big advantage, and expect to hear some shocking facts about your close relatives. But there's a reason why it has long been, and remains, so incredibly popular.
Free to play: TechSpot Downloads
Still incredibly popular and looking better than ever
- Genre: Open-world action
- Similar: Watch Dogs 1/2, Red Dead Redemption 2, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV, Saints Row series
- Graphics: Mods make them almost true to life
- Gameplay: Third-person, first-person, driving, shooter, optional multiplayer
Sitting behind only Minecraft as the second best-selling game of all time is Grand Theft Auto V. While its single-player campaign is great, it’s the mods, graphical upgrades, and, most of all, the multiplayer element that has kept player numbers so high five years after its PC launch.
GTA Online still receives plenty of new content, bonuses, discounts, etc., which keeps its legion of players sticking around. And while you might think everyone in the world now owns a copy, the game continues to be a top seller during the regular Steam sales when it’s discounted.
GTA V is the only game to have appeared in this bi-annual list since the feature began almost over three years ago, and while there's new competition from that other Rockstar title, it's showing no signs of slowing down. There’s always GTA VI, but don’t expect that for at least a few more years.
Fly over your actual house
- Genre: Simulator
- Similar: Previous MSFS games, X-Plane 11
- Graphics: The most demanding game out there, but worth it
- Gameplay: Flying, earth explorer
If ever there were a game that could be described as a technical miracle, it's Microsoft Flight Simulator—the sim recreates the entire earth by accessing 2.5 petabytes worth of Bing Maps satellite photo data and moving it through Microsoft's Azure cloud-based machine learning tech.
Being able to fly to an accurate virtual representation of anywhere on the planet, and with real-world weather conditions, is pretty miraculous, and something those who remember the 1980s MSFS games could only fantasize about at the time.
While it can be played on full simulation, replicating pretty much every aspect of flying a real plane, newbies can automate the majority of the processes. But even then it isn't a walk in the park. Thankfully, there's an extensive flight school for learning the ropes. In addition to the serenity and sense of adventure that comes with just flying around and exploring, there are challenges for comparing your flight skills against others. Can you land a plane better than anyone in the world? Probably not.
On the negative side, MSFS is like a modern-day Crysis when it comes to system demands, loading times can be painful, and God help you if you have a data cap. Plus, some people forget that it is a simulator; you're not playing GTA V here.
Flight Simulator 2020 is truly special, a unique experience that will leave your jaw on the floor—especially if you were lucky enough to grab an RTX 3080 recently.
350 million players and counting
- Genre: Battle royale
- Similar: PUBG, Apex Legends, DayZ Battle Royale, Z1 Battle Royale
- Graphics: Cartoony
- Gameplay: Shooter, survival
Few games can be considered a cultural phenomenon, but Fortnite is one of them. The game is the fourth most-watched game on Twitch, with almost 18 million viewer hours in the last week alone.
With over 350 million players, Fortnite has earned Epic billions of dollars. What makes it so good? The huge helping of massively addictive, last-man-standing fun – an attribute that often gets it into trouble. Fortnite is more colorful and faster-paced than rival PUBG, the map is smaller, it's better optimized, weapons are easier to come by, and everything feels a lot more casual. There's also Fortnite's crafting system, which allows players to break down objects into resources and create structures such as walls, traps, and stairs.
Even with the huge number of battle royale competitors and the legal battles against Apple and Google, Fortnite remains a global phenomenon and is likely to stay on top for years to come. Notable games such as World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike and League of Legends have shown that retaining a dedicated fanbase for such a long time is possible, and with constant updates and new seasons, it's showing no signs of slowing down.
Free to play: TechSpot Downloads
Rip and Tear (and sweat)
- Genre: Shooter
- Similar: Doom 2016, Titanfall 2, Wolfenstein The New Order/The New Colossus, Bulletstorm
- Graphics: Looks great and runs fast, even on low-end PCs
- Gameplay: FPS, RPG-light elements, ripping and tearing
If there's one word to describe Doom Eternal, it is intense. Or stressful, but in a good way. Maybe exhausting is a better word. Okay, several words. Anyway, don't be surprised to find that you sweat more playing this game than you would after 30 minutes on a stairmill.
Unlike some other first-person shooters, Doom Eternal requires 100 percent concentration during its hectic battles. Not only are you moving continuously to avoid being mauled, impaled, blasted, etc., but you also need to consider a wealth of choices: which weapon to use on which demon? Would your Blood Punch work well here? Should I use an ice bomb or frag grenade? Do I go for a Glory Kill to replenish health, use the chainsaw for more ammo, or set enemies on fire for extra armor? All while praying a Marauder doesn't turn up.
There's so much going on in this game than just shooting monsters. There's upgrading, modding, and mastering your weapons, improving your suit, exploring the Fortress of Doom, looking for Runes, and solving elemental puzzles to name just a few.
Once you've finished the main campaign, there's a ton of activities to keep you playing, from completing the Slayer Gates and weekly challenges to improving your level scores—not to mention the several excellent multiplayer modes. And those who've done everything will soon enjoy the first massive expansion: The Ancient Gods, Part One, which doesn't even require the base game.
Some might find Doom Eternal a little overwhelming, especially if they're expecting the same experience as its predecessor. With a lot going on and many things to think about, a few players have complained that it's become a little too cerebral and a little less rip and tear. But there's nothing wrong with a fast-paced shooter that makes you think, and Doom Eternal certainly does that.
The Legend continues
- Genre: Battle Royale
- Similar: Fortnite, Valorant, PUBG, Overwatch, Titanfall 2 multiplayer
- Graphics: Arguable the prettiest BR game out there
- Gameplay: FPS, team-based multiplayer
In an increasingly crowded genre that's ruled by Fortnite, many were surprised to see Titanfall developer Respawn enter the battle royale arena with Apex Legends. While the game has a cartoonish art style similar to Epic Games' behemoth, the backstories, personalities, and unique abilities of its hero characters puts the game closer to Overwatch.
Like many BR games, Apex Legends is free and follows many of the familiar staples, including a shrinking play area, dropping from the sky onto an island, and loot. A system in which up to 20 teams of three-man squads compete to be the last group standing proved so popular, over 25 million players signed up to the game in the first week.
One of the elements that sets Apex Legends apart from the pack is its non-verbal communications system. Many people avoid any and all forms of online gaming due to the toxicity that's so often prevalent in these titles, especially free ones, but Apex Legends gets around this with the contextual ping commands. Instead of having to use a headset and having your mother's virtue questioned by teens, you simply point and click at something, such as an opponent or loot, and your character will point it out to teammates.
Anyone who's played Titanfall—Apex Legends is set in the same universe—will tell you that the combat in these games is one of their best aspects. Respawn excels in the weapons department with Apex Legends, thanks to a slew of great guns and attachments on offer that are fun to play around with while discovering your favorites. As with similar titles, post-release content such as new characters and weapons arrives via Seasons—we're currently on number 6. There's also the events that offer limited-time cosmetics, game modes, and more.
Apex Legends is a great starting point for those who've always wanted to play a battle royale title but were put off by having to endure internet trolls. And in a battle royale-filled world, it's still one of the best around.
Free to play: TechSpot Downloads
Dropped from the list (Great, but had to make room for others)
- Forza Horizon 4
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- Gears 5
- Metro Exodus
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- A Plague Tale: Innocence