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If you’re going to spend money on a game, naturally you want to make sure it’s something good, but there’s a lot of games, especially for PC gamers. We’re here to help you! This list contains both the very best PC games of recent years from any genre, as well as the best new PC games for each month that didn’t quite make it into our top 30 hall of fame. Despite everything that’s happened, especially within the last few months 2020 has turned into a great year for PC gaming, with new additions to the top list and a lot of tremendous releases besides. This September update is no exception.

To enjoy your games to the fullest, you may want to future-proof your PC. If you don’t know what that takes, we’ve got buyer’s guides for you to help you get the best machine for your budget. Depending on your preferences, simply head on over to our list of high-end gaming PC builds, the best gaming laptops or the best gaming PCs out of the box. 

The best PC games September 2020 – top 30 list begins on next page

 Plenty of recent releases haven’t quite made our top 30 list – which starts on the next page – but are well worth having a look at. If you want to stay on top with new releases or our top 30 PC games list isn’t quite for you, here are some recent top picks. 

Mafia: Definitive Edition

The remake of 2K’s crime classic is a little polarising, as it still plays like a game from 2002 in many respects, making it difficult for new players to get accustomed, while old fans may miss other aspects the game does change. The bottom line is this – Mafia is still one of the best adventures set in the Prohibition era. The plot is exciting, the worldbuilding believable, and now the fictional city of Lost Heaven looks its very best, too. For some people, the gameplay may be a turn-off, but that would mean missing out on an engrossing, atmospheric tale.

Mafia truy is a production of Godfather-esque swagger and style, and if that sounds like a story you’d like to get immersed in, you can’t do any better than this.

Play it now:

Steam 

Hades

After a successful Early Access period of almost two years, the rogue-like by the makers of Bastion is now out in full. Hades combines the best of Supergiant – stunning art direction, sound and music, and of course a story full of characters that will grow on you for more than the fact that they make for great cosplay. From the get-go, this is supposed to be an inclusive roguelike, dipping its toes into roguelite territory for some permanent buffs to your character.

Zagreus, the prince of the underworld, is looking to escape, battling through several dungeons on his way to Olympus. Not only is this the best attempt at genuine storytelling in a roguelike, with plenty of surprises, Hades is also just genuinely great on a technical level, featuring speedy combat with different skills and weapons to fit your preferred playstyle. Since losing doesn’t feel like a punishment, you’ll soon find yourself in the flow of “just one more go”, getting to know a varied cast of gods better with every run.

Play it now:

Steam Epic Game Store

Welcome to Elk 

With Welcome to Elk, Danish indie studio Triple Topping use the inhabitants of a fictional island to tell some meaningful stories about community, loss and death. Over the course of a couple of days, you get to know different people, whose stories are inspired by events that actually took place – events that Triple Topping share with you over the course of the game, too. This is a short, tender game that’s tender rather than sad, with some fantastically inventive mini games to break up the heaviness.

It’s a special little gem of a game for fans of good storytelling and the occasional goofy joke, complete with fun art and great music.

Play it now:

Steam

Spelunky 2

During the golden age for indie games that was the last decade, everyone seemed to be playing Spelunky, a roguelike that was notorious for being tough as nails but also rich with hidden secrets and opportunities for fun emergent gameplay. All of the high points of the original stay intact with Spelunky 2. It’s big, procedurally generated tombs are still full of traps and monsters out to kill you. To make dying less frustrating than its predecessor, you now start at a hub that allows you to choose what biome you tackle next, which helps with variety. Speaking of variety – there’s a host of all-new enemies, a much larger world including an area filled with lava, and mounts that will die in gruesome ways for you as they help you get ahead.

As before, the magic of Spelunky lies in how everything that the game throws at you can also be used by you in ways to aid you on your journey. It’s a game of inventive interlocking systems where nothing is ever quite the same, so if you can get past the frustration of dying, there’s always lots to see.

Play it now:

Steam

Art of Rally

From the first moments of playing Art of Rally, it’s clear that this is a game that has been made by people who love the feeling of racing. This isn’t a super realistic racer, but a fun arcade game with some seriously good looks. Don’t make the mistake of equating arcade with simple, however – the cars all feel good to handle, with distinct differences between them, and fans of the sport will enjoy the selection of popular four-wheelers.

Due to its more relaxing aspects like a chill soundtrack and plenty of assists for the uninitiated, art of rally may not be the game for virtual rally champions looking for the next challenge, but it does make the genre wonderfully approachable.

Play it now:

Steam GOG Epic Game Store

Turn to page two for our full rundown of the 30 best PC games you need to add to your wishlist immediately…

30. Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter: World is an elaborate, extravagant game about slaying huge beasts and turning their tails into axes. Its gorgeous maps – from the bright, enchanted Coral Highlands to the toxic clouds of shrouded unbelly of the Rotted Vale – are fitting backdrops for some properly brilliant fights. The monsters are huge yet elegant, and both learning and countering their moveset makes it feel more like a fighting game than a button-mashing hack-and-slash.

With 14 weapon types and hundreds of items to craft, climbing the gear tree can feel overwhelming, but it’s still the most accessible Monster Hunter to date. A generous loot system means that, even when you’re grinding for a particular armor set, you’re constantly picking up useful items you didn’t know you wanted. Plus, finding clues about monsters will automatically lead you to their location, meaning you can travel between its excellent fights faster than ever. Happy hunting.

Since the release of the Monster Hunter World Iceborne expansion in January 2020, Capcom has invested in even more content, such as limited-time events, new monsters to beat after the completion of the main story, and new décor. In July 2020, Monster Hunter reached version 14 since release, with no end in sight, so there’s always something new to do.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store

29. Microsoft Flight Simulator 

Microsoft Flight Simulator isn’t only a game for hardcore aviation nerds, although it certainly can be. Maybe it will make you one, because it does a great job of reminding us of the marvel of flight, with its huge skies and world-spanning map. This virtual sandbox isn’t just any old place, it’s our own world, and it’s a marvellous sight – also thanks to MS Flight Sims outstanding visuals. It does struggle with its own size more than once, and players have made fun discoveries which come down to incorrect map data, but once you’re hooked, you’ll take these curiosities (and, let’s be honest, bugs) as the consequence of a vast, ambitious undertaking. In exchange, you’ll be able to fly a very responsive plane, making it feel as realistic as possible in a game setting, and you’ll learn some handy real-world terminology, too. There’s simply nothing like Microsoft Flight Simulator, and whether you want to relax and explore the world or engage with a deep simulation, both aren’t only possible, but a lot of fun.

Play it now:

Steam Microsoft Store

28. Cities: Skylines

Maxis and EA’s 2013’s SimCity was one of the biggest disappointments of last decade – but in a way, we’re glad it flopped. Without its failure, Paradox wouldn’t have greenlit Cities: Skylines, and we wouldn’t have the best city builder of the modern age. The genre has always been a staple of PC gaming, and even if you don’t think Skylines is the best ever, it’s certainly the one that’s most fun to play today. Its building tools are intuitive and streamlined, and yet complex enough for you to construct the wildest intersections you can imagine. Each time you start a campaign you’ll be struck with a different vision for how you want your city to look, feel, smell, and it means that no two playthroughs follow the same path.

The controls are responsive, the UI easier to navigate than you might assume, and a handy zoning tool let you paint your settlement green (residential), blue (commercial) and yellow (industrial) in an instant, taking you from a patch of grass to a burgeoning metropolis in record time. There’s no campaign, but tooltips, and a long list of heatmaps, help you ensure your citizens always have enough water, electricity, and access to healthcare. You’ll gradually ramp up the complexity and density of your creation until, eventually, you’re seeing skyscrapers rise, planes fly between airports, and tourists flock to marvel at your latest monument.

I was brilliant at launch, and it’s even better now. A thriving mod community constantly adds building tools, graphical tweaks and building reskins, and developer Colossal Order pumps out meaty official expansions, such as Green Cities, which lets you build eco-friendly towns, and Mass Transit, which adds realistic transport systems. Simply put: even after you’ve built your 50th city, you’ll still find a reason to put your shovel in the dirt once more.

Buy it now:

Steam Humble Store

27. Total War: Three Kingdoms

Any number of Total War games could’ve made this list – Warhammer 2 was a close second – but 2019’s Three Kingdoms feels like a huge step forward in many ways. It still has the epic, dense campaigns fans of the series are looking for, but the way it makes diplomacy completely transparent, telling you exactly what it will take to strike a deal, makes dealing with other factions more streamlined. New temporary, multi-faction alliances called coalitions add another strategic notch to your bow.

You could argue that other Total War games capture certain elements of the series better. Warhammer 2’s factions are more exotic, and Shogun 2’s Japanese themes more coherent. But Three Kingdoms is strong in every area, and its multiple, complex campaigns feel very different depending on which leader you pick to try and unify China. If you want the most complete Total War experience, Three Kingdoms is your best bet.

Play it now:

Steam

26.  Doom Eternal 

With new weapons, a more agile Doomguy, and a fresh emphasis on resource management (yes, you read that correct), Doom Eternal somehow 1UPs Doom 2016, which was already deserving of a spot on this list. It’s an over-the-top celebration of guts and gore in which you chainsaw enemies in half, rip eyeballs from sockets and stomp on demon’s faces with a giant boot. But, at times, it’s also about restraint. Enemies have weak points to target and weapons that you can disable, so sometimes it’s worth finding a spare half-second in the heat of battle to pause, aim, and hit your shot, because it will save you a lot of pain later. Some enemies are even invulnerable to damage unless you perform a specific counter at a specific time, which is something you don’t expect in a Doom game. 

Fights are still, for the most part, unbearably tense and hectic. You’ll scramble and double jump to avoid packs of enemies, using the super shotgun’s meat hook to grapple to far-off enemies before turning them into red mist. You have to plan two steps ahead to avoid being overrun, and a new resource system makes firefights feel more strategic, less random. Ripping an enemy in half with a chainsaw nets you armor, while lighting them on fire before sending them to an early grave gets you armor. It turns minions into health packs, and you’ll want to keep a few of them alive for when you really need them. We knew Doom Eternal would be this ballsy – but we didn’t expect it to be clever, too.

Buy it now:

Steam Humble Store

25. Portal 2

Portal 2 is nearly a decade old, but it remains our favorite co-op puzzler on PC, and the single-player is amazing too. This is Valve’s writing at its brightest: every line of dialogue hums with humor and charm, particularly when Steven Merchant’s Wheatley is on-screen, and it gives you lots of ways to interact with your co-op partner, whether you’re high-fiving them or laughing behind their back.

Most importantly, the puzzles are outlandishly clever. Just like the first Portal, the game is about placing an orange portal on a surface, a blue portal on another surface and leaping through – but if the original set the table, Portal 2 brings the banquet. New mechanics such as gels that can increase your speed or bounce you high in the air make the puzzles even more fiendish, and more satisfying to solve. We love returning to it with a friend every few years to savour it all over again.

Play it now:

Steam

24. Alien Isolation

Beep, beep, beep. Alien: Isolation’s motion tracker is a blessing and a curse: a terrifying sign that the beast is near, and even the thought of the sound puts our hair on edge. But we daren’t put it away in case we turn a corner and, bam, the alien is on top of us, and it’s game over, and we have to leave our PC to go outside for a long, slow walk. So we clutch the tracker close, hiding under a chrome desk in the hope the alien leaves us alone.

Isolation’s tech helps create a sense of place — the flickering monitors and clunky computers are straight out of ‘70s sci-fi films. And then there’s the alien itself, one of the greatest video game monsters ever spawned. Intelligent, crafty and horrifying, it’s always stalking you, always searching. Grab your tracker and hide for your life.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store

23. Rocket League

Football, but with cars: it’s that simple, and that complicated. Rocket League is, to the beginner, a fast arcade sport where vehicles slam into each other at 100 mph and occasionally bundle the ball into the net. But as you get to grips with the controls, it turns into an aerial acrobatic show with front flip assists, mid-air twirls and last-second winners. The great thing about Rocket League is that it’s fun at both of these levels. 

You can gather some friends on a sofa and set up a casual 1v1 tournament, with bonus scores for the flashiest goals. You can team up with a squad and really dive into the tactics, rotating goalkeepers and trying to score the perfect team goal. If you want, you can switch it entirely to a game of hockey, with a puck instead of a ball. Each time you play you can feel yourself improving, and your first properly good goal – not one where you’ve accidentally tapped it in with your bumper – is a memorable moment.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store

22. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is an underground labyrinth of secrets: burrow in and you’ll be lost in its lofty caverns, tight tunnels, and beautiful, ruined cities, and you won’t want to find the way out. As you jump and slash through it you’ll slowly unpick the lore of this bug-inhabited world, and realise its story runs far deeper than you initially expected. The map feels endless, and even late in the game you’ll stumble on whole huge areas you never know existed. When you travel through them, they’ll connect to a familiar space in a way that instantly makes sense, and feels just right. 

You’ll battle 28 bosses and visit varied locales, from grand greenhouses to snowy planes being dusted by the ashes of a long-dead being. As you progress you’ll upgrade your character, The Knight, with charms that change your playstyle: one damages foes anytime you get hurt, another lets you fire energy from your sword when at full health. Finding and equipping charms, and landing on the combination that works for you, is just one of the many reasons you’ll want to boot it up for a second playthrough, where you’ll likely get a completely different ending (all five are worth seeing, if you can find the time).

Play it now:

Steam GOG Humble Store

21. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Dark Souls remains a series you shouldn’t miss, but if you’re only going to play only one From Software game right now, we reckon it should be Sekiro. This samurai slasher has the best sword fights you’ll find on PC, and its lush, branching world is full of surprises and eccentric characters, which make it a joy to explore. 

Its fighting system relies on precise timing to parry enemy attacks: it’s hard to master, and you’ll die countless times to its huge bosses, but it’s satisfying to feel yourself slowly improving. When you finally learn an enemy’s attack pattern and follow up a perfect counter by plunging your sword into their neck, you know you’ve become a melee god. The stealth is shoddy, but the snappy, lethal combat more than makes up for it.

Play it now:

Steam

Humble Store

Turn to page two for our picks of the 20 -11 best PC games to play right now…

20. Hitman 2

Hitman 2 is the ultimate murderous playground. Its levels, from the beaches of New Zealand to a car race in the streets of Miami, are luscious and detailed, packed with secrets to find and an endless number of routes to your target. It’s a blend of quick-thinking – how do I deal with that guard that’s just spotted me? – and careful planning, and you could spend a full hour just walking around each level, watching it tick over like clockwork as you plan the perfect strike.

It never takes itself too seriously, which we like. It has a homing briefcase that will lock onto an enemy’s bonce wherever you throw it, and you can stab goons while dressed in a full chipmunk outfit if you can find the right disguise. Best of all, post-launch DLC has added all of Hitman 1’s levels, making the sequel the ultimate assassin’s hub. 

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store

19. Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect Andromeda was a dud, but the original three games are still our go-to RPG trilogy. No other series has got us as invested in its characters, and some storylines span all three games, running for hundreds of hours on end. The sci-fi setting, with its varied cities, planets and ships, is endlessly cool, and missions never feel repetitive, but it’s the crew you assemble, and the way Commander Shepherd interacts with them, that makes it stand out. You’re given weighty decisions to make that can literally decide the fate of whole space species, so it really feels like you’re leaving your stamp on the galaxy. 

In that regard, Mass Effect 2 is the best of the bunch, and its characters are the ones we remember fondest (don’t worry Garrus, you’re still our favourite). But if you can stomach some clunkiness, you should really start with the first game, because choices you make there shape what happens later. If you want to dive straight into the sequel, that’s fine as well: just watch a recap or read a summary of the first game.

Play it now:

Origin Steam

18. Call of Duty: Warzone

Call of Duty: Warzone is the best battle royale on PC right now. Apex Legends is a close second, and a better bet if you want to control ultra-mobile heroes with cool abilities, but Warzone plays like the greatest hits of the genre so far, with a few inventive twists. When you die, you get one chance to respawn by winning a 1v1 gunfight, which creates chances for memorable comebacks. Contracts give structure to each round by asking you to find a series of chests, defend a given area to reveal the next play circle, or hunt down an enemy, their location revealed on the map. All this gets you money, which you can spend on kill streaks and loadouts that you’ve put together between games.

It’s built on top of Call of Duty’s signature high-octane action and low-recoil gunplay, well balanced to allow PC players to team up with friends on consoles. Individual locations on the map have their own personality, and some are even based on existing maps from the Call of Duty series. It means that no matter where you’re fighting, whether it’s on a giant ice lake or the bunkers of a military base, the environment presents you with tons of tactical options. You can play solo, duos, trios or in four-player squads; trios feels like the sweet spot.

Play it now:

Battle.net

17. Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium’s tale of a washed-up, alcoholic detective sounds like a cliche. 10 seconds in, you’ll realise it’s anything but. You might have a heart attack trying to unhook your necktie – which itself is arguing with you – from a ceiling fan. You can look in the mirror and convince yourself you were once a rockstar that played to screaming audiences, or discuss the complex political breakdown of a city plagued by corruption with a racist lorry driver. And that’s just within the first half an hour.

Disco Elysium is a game that celebrates language and characters: an RPG without combat where all your duels are verbal, and every conversation is peppered by funny asides from different aspects of your own psyche, all clamouring to have their internal voices heard. You have a long list of choices for nearly every piece of dialogue, and what you say meaningfully impacts the characters around you. It’s witty, it’s bleak, and we can’t get enough of it.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store 

GOG

16. Crusader Kings 3 

Ideally, the word “grand” in a grand strategy game should refer to multiple things, large-scale battles for example or the size of your hopefully ever-expanding kingdom. But for the Crusader Kings franchise, grand has always also referred to the grand follies of court life, taking the social element of the genre further than any other title. Crusader Kings 3 builds on existing systems with its stress system, which is literally what it says on the tin – a great reminder to look after your mental health. Because every time your ruler does something that disagrees with their tendencies and beliefs, they will become stressed, until they eventually reach a breaking point. Building a dynasty, too, is important, with a myriad of different ways to find a partner, grow your family and then ship your kids off to form hopefully successful political marriages. The amount of options and power you can amass in CK 3 truly sets its apart as a title that allows you to express your own creativity. You set the rules for your society, and react flexibly whenever a neighbour takes offence or takes a shine to watch yours. Whether it’s stories like “I built a family of genetically optimised assassins” or “I abducted the pope”, every playthrough will lead to a healthy dose of drama, which is what life, both real and virtual, is all about.

Play it now:

Steam Microsoft Store

15. Destiny 2

Bungie’s co-op shooter had a rough start to life, but gradually redeemed itself in 2019 through a string of solid expansions, including Shadowkeep. More than just an endless loot quest, much of Destiny 2’s brilliance comes from the simple art of shooting things: it makes every headshot feel special, and the sci-fi enemy designs see sparks and colours shower your screen. 

It’s a great pad shooter, but playing with a mouse and keyboard really lets you feel the weapons at work, and control your shots better. And if you’ve never played before then now is the best time to start, because last year it launched as a free-to-play game on Steam. You won’t get the most recent expansions, but you’ll still squeeze hundreds of hours out of the base game, its early expansions, and the addictive PvP. You can even transfer your saves over from console.

Play it now:

Bungie Steam

14. Outer Wilds

A joyful, playful space story about a character that dies every 22 minutes. During each life, you explore its wonderfully folksy sci-fi world and watch it change, entire planets splitting apart before your eyes. You try your best to learn something new, and then you close your eyes and you’re back at the start, the world reset, leaving you 22 more minutes to try and figure out what the hell is going on.

It’s the perfect window to dive into its intertwining stories. The world is small enough that your makeshift spaceship can reach any planet in a few minutes, giving you plenty of time to delve into ruins and talk to memorable NPCs. But it’s never long enough for you to uncover the whole truth, leaving you with plot threads to pick up in your next life. Slowly, you’ll start to tie these threads together, and the world only becomes more fascinating with every new expedition. Best of all, the conclusion is absolutely worth sticking around for. 

Play it now:

Epic Games Store Microsoft Store

13. The Sims 4

The best life sim on PC never stops improving. The DLC is pricey, but always adds something new to the life of your Sims, such as magic spells, a tropical island world or a themed furniture set for your grumpy teenager’s bedroom. We never tire of the way it can generate dynamic storylines – family dramas, love triangles or personal struggles, and those tales keep us coming back, year after year, expansion after expansion. It’s more than five years old but, with EA showing no signs of slowing down new content, it’s still got plenty of life in it yet.

Play it now:

Origin Steam

12. Subnautica

Subnautica’s premise reminds us of any number of survival games: it drops you into a foreign, inhospitable land, points off into the distance, and says, “Go build stuff”. But Subnautica is far from average. Its wilderness is entirely underwater, which changes the structure, pace, and tone of your adventure, and creates a palpable sense of dread as you descend further and further into the depths in search of materials (was that a tentacle that just flicked through your peripheral vision?).

Your goal is to expand your base and escape the planet, and in that sense Subnautica provides the kind of clear structure that other survival games neglect. It has a proper story and satisfying ending, and that narrative pulls you through your journey, always giving you a concrete goal. On top of all that, it’s just an incredibly well-made, and whether you’re mining, crafting or exploring, it’s a joy to interact with. 

Play it now:

Steam

11. XCOM 2

XCOM 2 is a slick, turn-based strategy game that doesn’t care about your feelings. As you battle an alien invasion you’ll grow attached to your squad, upgrading them, customising their gear and building personalities for them in their head. Then, one wrong move and you’ll watch them get their face torn off by a towering, faceless, pink mutant, and there will be nothing you can do about it. It’s agonising.

That loss is part of XCOM 2. Without it, the wins wouldn’t feel so good, and you wouldn’t spend so long deciding which piece of cover to sprint to next. The simple controls and intuitive UI make it easy to pick up, and once you get in the flow of a battle you’ll be barking out orders quickly, watching your soldiers pop in and out of cover. You’ll find the odd glitch, and it can be frustrating when your squad misses easy shots, but there’s still no better game for testing your tactical nous.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store

Click ‘next page’ to continue our countdown of the 10 best PC games

10. Half Life: Alyx 

Alyx is the best VR game to date, and feels like a proper evolution of Half-Life 2, one of the greatest shooters of all time. It combines a gripping, emotional story with the most detailed level design you’ve ever seen. It feels like every object can be picked up, examined, and smashed. Sometimes, that’s incidental – when you’re opening draws, crushing cardboard boxes or plucking bottles of vodka from shelves – but often, it’s central to progression. At one point, you must cover your mouth to stop Alyx coughing as you sneak past a blind monster, for example. This level of interaction makes the whole game feel alive, and makes you feel like a very real part of it.

The shooting isn’t half bad, either. You don’t have many weapons, but your arsenal is punchy and lethal, and feels perfect in your hand. Reloads are done manually, which feels fiddly at first, but speeding up over time is satisfying, until eventually sliding magazines into place is second nature. Frantic firefights are broken up by smart puzzles and slower, atmospheric sections when your only light is a torch. Being in VR makes City 17 feel far spookier than we remember.

The action is driven by a narrative worthy of the series. As Alyx Vance, you journey through City 17 trying to find your father Eli, while your witty sidekick Russell chats away in your ear. Your quest acquires larger stakes, but we don’t want to ruin anything – suffice to say the spectacular ending is worth waiting for.

Buy it now:

Steam

9. Minecraft

Much like the structures you can build in its world, Minecraft just keep getting bigger. Among other sandbox games, it stands alone in delivering on its promise of total freedom: you can break and place blocks in any way you choose, recreating the whole of Game of Thrones’ Westeros – or crafting a simple seaside shack and living off the land with a fishing rod.

Its multiple modes mean you can play it any way you like, which is a liberating feeling, but the presence of enemies, hidden treasure and twisting cave systems help lend it structure. Its sandbox world never fails to throw ambitious ideas into your head, and then before you know it you’ve spent five hours working, block by block, towards your next self-made objective. Mods and custom maps broaden its scope even further, and it’s at its best when you’re building your next project collaboratively with a friend.

Play it now:

Mojang

8. Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn is the best detective game on PC right now, and arguably the best detective game ever made. You’re investigating the fate of a merchant ship’s crew after the long-lost boat slides into port, completely abandoned. A magic pocket watch transports you back in time to a series of beautifully-drawn scenes, where you can walk around a crew member’s final moments jotting down notes and joining the dots with clues you’ve previously found. The details matter, and you need to pay attention to what the crew wears, what they look like, their accents, and what they’re saying to each other.

It rarely tells you what to look for next, and that’s what makes you feel so clever when you uncover a crucial connection. You’ll bang your head against a particular puzzle for an hour, stumped about what you’re trying to find—then suddenly it will click, the pieces sliding together in your mind. In an instant, you’ll go from chump to genius.

The game’s digital notebook is handy for scrawling notes, but we’d recommend playing with a pad and paper next to your mouse mat, ready for your Eureka moment.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store GOG

7. Rainbow Six Siege

The best multiplayer shooter on PC, and it just keeps getting better. Siege punishes you for going in all guns blazing: instead, you need to think about your approach, and co-ordinate with your teammates. The best plans come together like clockwork as your squad shoots out CCTV cameras, breaches the wall on an enemy’s position and holds the perfect angles, pinging headshots.

It can feel overwhelming to new players, but the depth of its roster means you’re bound to find your groove. Each operator has a role to play, whether you’re a marksman, a demolitions expert or just a muscly man with a giant hammer, and out-thinking your opponents feels as good as out-gunning them. Ubisoft continue to support Siege with regular new maps and operators, and improved tools for new players, as well as an unranked playlist that was added last year, means there’s no better time to pull the trigger.

Play it now:

Steam Uplay

6. Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire is a deck-building rogue-like so good it’s effectively spawned its own sub-genre, with other developers trying to ape its elegant design. None have come close. You move from node to node on a procedurally-generated map, facing monsters in turn-based battles and choosing between different cards to upgrade your deck. Those choices, and the way you react to random events, give you staggering scope to experiment within the confines of a particular run, and you can create some really inventive combos. And then you die, and load it up again, and try a completely different strategy, this time a little wiser to its tricks.

Perhaps in one run, you come across a string of merchants who you can pay to remove the worst cards from your deck, building an efficient, well-oiled killing machine. The next run you find powerful poison multiplier cards, and assemble a deck that slowly, inevitably whittles away an enemies’ health bars. The freedom it gives you to adapt your playstyle, and the differences between its three playable classes, mean it’s nearly impossible to put down once you’ve started, even if you’re not normally a card game fan. An active mod scene is the cherry on top.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store GOG

5. Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 is a near-perfect assassin sim. In the original, you were hunting a target in a huge level, and you could kill them in any way you liked: in this sequel the maps are bigger and more intricate, your supernatural powers more impressive, and you have the option to play as a second character, Emily, who has her own murderous style. 

Every level is full of lavish detailed, and every avenue to your target feels like its own, perfect assassination. The smooth traversal makes it easy to get around and explore every corner of the map, searching for clues until you’ve planned your route to your final target. Maybe you go in shotgun blaring, maybe you spirit blink to a rooftop and sneak in through a window, or maybe you trick enemies into walking into their own electricity traps until all the guards are dead. And then, in a flash of metal and a blur of blue magic, your blade is in your target’s neck, and you’re vanishing into the night. It’s simply glorious.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store

4. Red Dead Redemption 2

It’s finally here. After more than a year of waiting, the previously PS4-exclusive cowboy simulator from GTA giants Rockstar galloped onto PC in 2019, and it’s the definitive version of the game. It’s the same story of Arthur Morgan’s quest for redemption in the US wilderness, with the same complex characters and detailed world to explore, but with improved graphics and the option to add Red Dead Redemption 2 mods that let you skip the prologue, transform into an animal, or turn Arthur into the Joker. No, seriously.

Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC should run better than the console versions: it had some issues with stuttering at launch but those appear to be fixed, and if you have the right rig you can run it in 4K or across multiple monitors. The Wild West never looked so beautiful. 

Play it now:

Rockstar Epic Games Store

3. Into the Breach

Into the Breach’s predictability is its strength. Its rules are so clearly explained, so explicitly laid out, that it leaves no space for chance or mystery. All of your focus can go into finding the ideal place to move your tank, or the perfect spot for a missile strike – and when you inevitably cock it all up, you’ll know exactly where you went wrong. 

It’s part strategy game, part puzzle game in which you move pixel art pieces across a chessboard-style map, squashing alien invaders. Each squad you can control has their own gimmicks. One relies on pushing enemies into danger zones rather than dealing direct damage, another is an expert at freezing aliens with icy attacks. Its brilliance comes in applying your arsenal to any given situation, taking 15 minutes to stare at the board until – Eureka! – the perfect next step finally hits you. 

And it has near-endless replayability: if you overcome the final boss you can try again with a new squad that feels completely different. And even if you fail, the randomised, rogue-like world structure means you can instantly load up another round, complete with a fresh set of challenges to scratch your head at.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store GOG

2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The first two Witcher games showed flashes of brilliance in their believable, gritty characters and low-fantasy setting, but lacked polish. The Witcher 3 pairs CD Projekt Red’s excellent writing with compelling gameplay, and one of the most expansive, beautiful worlds ever created. 

The Northern Kingdoms, inspired by European mythology, are populated by fascinating creatures and, more importantly, multi-dimensional characters. They’re all flawed, not least protagonist Geralt of Rivia, but whatever you feel about them, you can’t help but become invested in their fates. Speaking to any of them might launch a five-hour side quest that takes you across mountain and bog, vineyard and dusty city. Perhaps you’re hunting a mythical creature, or simply trying to solve a lovers quarrel: either way, you’ll care about what you’re doing, and you’ll visit some stunning locales while doing it.

Play it now:

Steam Humble Store GOG

1. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a glorious homage to the bygone days of isometric RPGs. But rather than relying on pure nostalgia, it takes the best bits of the classics – the branching stories, evocative writing, complex characters, and party building – and mixes them with sleek modern design ideas, such as physics-based spells and mod support. It sets up a clear set of rules and then encourages you to break them, something that’s even more fun when you’re playing with a friend, where you can settle arguments about what your party should do next via a rock paper scissors-style mini-game. 

The combat is the best you’ll find in the genre, and relies on smart thinking and inventive elemental combos rather than random dice rolls. And when the fighting is done, your characters will always have something profound or witty to say to each other: it’s worth listening to every incidental conversation as you delve deeper and deeper into its fascinating fantasy world. 

Play it now:

Steam GOG

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