The PC gaming landscape might be a bit quiet at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of amazing titles worthy of your time. From brand new entries to those older hits that never stop being fun, here are the best PC games you should be playing.
A sequel that surpasses the excellent original
- Genre: Online multiplayer
- Similar: Left 4 Dead 1+2, Killing Floor 1+2, Evolve
- Graphics: Some of the best the genre has to offer
- Gameplay: First-person, co-operative, RPG elements
Having poured close to 200 hours into the first Vermintide, I couldn’t wait for the recently released sequel. Thankfully, it hasn’t disappointed.
Developer Fatshark has gone with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to Vermintide 2. It still contains the same mechanics introduced by Left 4 Dead: you and 3 other players/bots work together to make your way through a level as an AI director throws hoards of enemies at your team. Joining the giant humanoid, rat-like Skaven this time are the forces of Chaos, bringing with them a host of terrifying, massive monsters waiting to tear you apart.
What’s great about Vermintide 2 is that not only does it look and sound so much better than its predecessor, but it also addresses many of the first game’s shortcomings. Even with all the DLC, the original with its limited number of enemy types and maps started getting repetitive after a while. Now, we’ve got new, (mostly) longer levels with more activities to perform in each one, giving them extra replayability.
Another great addition to Vermintide 2 is the characters’ career paths, letting you specialize in different play styles while offering separate skill trees (another new addition). Meanwhile, the loot system—one of the original's least-loved elements—has been revamped, giving players more than a solitary post-match item, which was often no use to your favorite character.
Some may find that the RPG mechanics in general aren’t perfect, and even long-term Vermintide fans might be surprised by how difficult this sequel is, especially during the first few hours of play. But despite these minor caveats, it’s a wonderful title with one of the least toxic communities you’ll find in an online game.
A PC port done right
- Genre: Role-playing game
- Similar: Other (more recent) Final Fantasy titles, Tales of Berseria, Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Graphics: Stunning, more so if you’re able to use all the PC-specific bells and whistles
- Gameplay: JRPG
What’s this? A PC port that’s actually better than the console original! In fairness, Final Fantasy XV isn’t unique in this respect, as last year brought the equally well-ported Vanquish and Bayonetta. We still get a few duds, but gone are the bad old days of Watchdogs and the disastrous Batman: Arkham Knight.
Those who haven’t played a Final Fantasy title for many years and still associate them with their famous turn-based combat might be in for a shock. The RPG elements are still here, but we’re now firmly in fully real-time combat territory. Providing you view this as an evolution of the series rather than the removal of a beloved element, you’ll find an enjoyable, lengthy game is to be had.
Plenty of other Final Fantasy staples are present, including summons, Chocobo, magic, and a few characters so annoying you’ll want to reach into the screen and strangle them.
The second half of the game is certainly quite linear, and being a Final Fantasy fan will improve your chances of liking this one. But the biggest issue some may have will be its size: with the optional high-resolution pack, the games eats up 148 GB of drive space. Still, many will argue it’s worth it for a game that looks so good.
The more accessible of the "big two" MOBAs
- 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
For all the popularity of Fortnite Battle Royale and PUBG, the most played PC game in the US and Europe is still League of Legends, according to Newzoo. While the arguments rage on over which game is 'better'—LoL or its MOBA rival DOTA 2—we’ve picked the former on the basis that it’s considered the easier to learn and play out of the two titles.
Like DOTA 2, LoL is free and takes many, many hours to master its gameplay mechanics and become proficient at using a few of the 130+ champions on offer. But despite the potential for frustration, 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 typical 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 20 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 mother. But there’s a reason why it has long been, and remains, so incredibly popular.
Worth the wait
- Genre: Open World
- Similar: Assassin’s Creed franchise, Styx: Shards of Darkness
- Graphics: You’ll think you are actually there
- Gameplay: Third-person, action, RPG-elements, stealth
Taking a year off from the AC series was a bold move, but one that definitely paid off for Ubisoft. Origins is up there with Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed II as one of the best entries in the long-running franchise. We might have seen the core gameplay before, but the story of Bayek of Siwa and his quest for revenge will keep you engrossed for hours, even if you’ve been playing Creed games for years and were starting to become weary of the formula.
Like its predecessors, the sheer number of tasks you can do in Origins makes it a real time sink: the lengthy main quest, side missions, treasures, puzzles, gladiator combat, chariot racing, hunting, etc. One of its few negatives is that it contains a bit too much filler, which can make the game feel bloated.
The combat is satisfyingly meaty, controlling Senu the eagle while auto-travelling is a joy, and taking on the role of a stealthy assassin still feels great. But the highlight of the game is probably the setting itself; Egypt during the Ptolemaic period looks stunning. If you’ve got the hardware, stick the graphics settings to max and admire those beautiful details and impressive draw distances. With all its DLC packs and extras, you’ll be playing this for a long time.
The best role-playing game in years
- Genre: cRPG
- Similar: Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, Tyranny
- Graphics: Gorgeous, enchanting
- Gameplay: Fantasy roleplaying, turn-based combat, squad management, lots of choices, chickens
With the sequel to the Divinity: Original Sin, Larian Studios took one of the best cRPGs in years and made it even better, adding more of what made the original so good while cutting away the unwanted fat.
Playing Original Sin II is, quite simply, like being wrapped in a blanket of warmth. As you become immersed in its fantastic world and stories, time slips away without you realizing it. Be wary of sitting down for a quick gaming sessions and suddenly finding you’ve not eaten in 24 hours and have missed work.
The game has been out a good few months now, so you’re likely to have completed the 60-100 hour campaign. But that doesn’t mean you’ve seen all the game has to offer. At this point, you should restart with a new character who specializes in a different field. Maybe go with some different members for your party. Tackle quests differently. And stick that difficulty level up a notch.
Once you’ve done that, why not run a game with a group of friends via the Game Master mode? Or you could check out the mods and Arena mode. It's appeal is almost endless.
Not everyone’s a fan of beard-friendly games where knowing that some dice have more than six sides is an advantage, but for those that are, Original Sin II is simply brilliant.
- Genre: Multiplayer battle royale
- Similar: PUBG, DayZ: Battle Royale, H1Z1: King of the Kill
- Graphics: Cartoony
- Gameplay: Shooter, survival
Not so long ago, it looked as if PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was taking over the world. But then a rival arrived that has quickly become the most streamed title on Twitch and the current favorite game among celebrities: Fortnite Battle Royale.
Many of the PUBG’s elements can be found in Fortnite, such as the last-person(or team)-standing gameplay, the shrinking safe area, and loot drops, but there are some big differences. Epic Games’ title is a lot more colorful and faster-paced than 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 a new replay system on the way. But the thing that really separates Fortnite from Battlegrounds is the former’s crafting system, allowing players to break down objects into resources and create structures such as walls, traps, and stairs.
The recent Blitz mode makes the action all the more intense, with a faster shrinking storm circle and increased loot/supply drops. Plus, like PUBG, Fortnite is making its way to phones and tablets, with PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android cross-play support set to be enabled at some point. But the best thing about this version of the game? It’s free!
Some will complain about Fortnite’s lack of vehicles and the fact that taking a stealthy approach is more difficult than in PUBG, and there are those who prefer Bluehole's comparatively more realistic game to Fortnite’s arcadey feel. Both games are undeniably great fun, so choosing between them will likely come down to what kind of Battle Royale experience you’re in the mood for.
Free to play: Epic Games
Who needs single-player DLC?
- Genre: Open-World
- Similar: Watch Dogs 1/2, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV, Saints Row series
- Graphics: Still excellent, and even better with mods
- Gameplay: Third-person, first-person, driving, shooter, optional multiplayer
Is it any surprise that the best-selling game of all time in the US retains its place on this list? Almost five years since it arrived on last-gen consoles, we’ve pretty much given up hope of ever seeing any single-player DLC. Rockstar has all but confirmed there won’t be any new campaign content, but most players don’t care as it’s the fantastic online mode that keeps them sticking around.
GTA Online has spawned into an entity so big that Rockstar doesn’t even have to think about GTA 6, which recent rumors claim won’t arrive until around 2022. With constant updates, new content, and plenty to do, the multiplayer element remains incredibly popular—it brought in record player numbers last year, and has pushed GTA V to second place in the current UK sales charts. Plus, if you happen to get bored with the online element and have finished the campaign, there’s always the countless mods and Battle Royale mode to enjoy.
A realism-focused RPG set during the 15th century
- Genre: Role-playing game
- Similar: Mount and Blade: Warband, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Graphics: Superb if you've got the power
- Gameplay: first-person, swordplay, player choices
Whatever you do, don’t buy Kingdom Come: Deliverance thinking it’s Skyrim without the magic and dragons. This is a lot closer to ‘simulator’ than your typical RPG, asking players to sleep and eat (non-rotten food) when required. Even saving the game isn’t performed with a usual menu click; you have to take a swig of Saviour Schnapps, which you need to replenish, or by resting somewhere. It’s quite a surprise to learn the devs didn't add ‘bodily function needs,’ too.
However, the survival-like elements don’t detract from what is a brilliant title. This is a game for adults, but not in a Leisure Suit Larry way, though it does feature swearing and sex. The complex story of Emperor Charles IV’s son, Wenceslas, is packed with (mostly) historically accurate characters, while the look and atmosphere of medieval Bohemia are captured so well that you can almost smell the dysentery.
While brawling isn’t brilliant and archery is pretty underwhelming, the deep, weapon-based fighting system is supremely satisfying once you get used to it. When you’ve mastered the skills taught to you by others and levelled up a bit, you’ll be walking around feeling like Game of Throne's Sword of the Morning. But it's the stories and deep immersion that make this game worth playing.
It may have RPG staples such as decisions with consequences, alchemy, multiple ways of tackling quests, and buying/selling, but Deliverance is unique in the genre. Its focus on realism might not be for everyone, but sticking with it reaps a rewarding, compelling game that’ll keep you interested throughout its 30+ hours, or 100+ hours if you want to tackle all the quests.
Bugs have been an issue, but these are constantly being addressed with patches. And if you find some aspects of the gameplay a bit too much, you can always alter them with the numerous available mods.
Buy it from: Steam
Winner winner chicken dinner
- Genre: Multiplayer battle royale
- Similar: Fortnite Battle Royale, DayZ: Battle Royale, H1Z1: King of the Kill
- Graphics: Functional
- Gameplay: Shooter, survival
It may have been outshone by its rival Fortnite: Battle Royale in recent times, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, aka PUBG, is still the most popular game on Steam. It regularly boasts over 2 million concurrent players on Valve’s platform—around four times more than Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2. Pretty good going for a game that only left Early Access in December.
Attempting to become the last man standing as the safe area decreases in size offers a mix of stress and fun that only games can provide. But for the best experience, PUBG is one of those titles that is made infinitely better when played with friends.
It can’t be denied that PUBG still has problems. While the optimization issues that plagued it last year are improving, it still helps to have some meaty hardware, especially if you’re rocking a 1440p monitor. And while plenty of players continue to find bugs and glitches, it's the hackers and cheaters (mostly from China) that are the reasons for most of its negative Steam reviews. But the developers continue to work on these issues, and with new maps on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Steam’s third-highest earning game ever to remain popular in the face of stiff competition from other Battle Royale titles. Plus, like Fortnite Battle Royale, PUBG is now available on mobile.
Buy it from: Steam
Blizzard's FPS is as popular as ever
- Genre: Multiplayer FPS
- Similar: Lawbreakers, Battleborn, Dirty Bomb
- Graphics: Fantastically bright and vibrant, cartoon style
- Gameplay: Team shooter, character/class-based, multiplayer
Much like GTA V, Overwatch is one of those titles that will be stealing the precious gaming time of PC owners for many more years to come. The team-based, multiplayer FPS was released back in 2016, and at last count back in October, it boasted over 35 million players across all platforms.
Overwatch’s depth, characters, balancing, map design, and sheer fun factor is what got its hooks into players, but it’s the constant stream of new content that has kept them coming back. There’s also the Overwatch league and the game’s popularity on Twitch helping to boost its army of followers. Like virtually every online multiplayer game, it has its fair share of toxic players, but there are far worse examples of this problem elsewhere.