The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable was released on October 17, 2013. Today is October 17, 2018. And in case you'd forgotten, designer and writer Davey Wreden took a moment to remind us all why that's important. 

Some players have apparently claimed Go Outside already by horsing around with their PC's clock (you know who you are), but now you can do it for real. And that makes all the difference, doesn't it?

Believe it or not, Go Outside is not The Stanley Parable's oddest or most difficult achievement. There's one for clicking on door 430 five times, called "Click on door 430 five times," and another called 8888888888888888, which is achieved for "888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888," whatever that is. 

Unachievable, which is apparently impossible to get, has nonetheless been gotten by 4.4 percent of Stanley Parable players (it is actually possible, just a monumental hassle), and the rarest achievement on the list—claimed by 1.6 percent of players—is Commitment, which requires playing the game "for the entire duration of a Tuesday."

So far, 7.4 percent of players have claimed the Go Outside achievement. For myself, I still have quite a wait: I thought I might be close, but according to Steam I fired up The Stanley Parable in May. See you in 2023, I guess.

Half-Life 2

For a constantly updated list of our favorite games on PC, check out our list of the best PC games right now. 

Every year, the PC Gamer team embarks on an epic quest to choose the top 100 PC games. Where previously we voted for our favourite games, this year we talked: discussing each of our nominations and deciding which games should make the list. The result is a more honest, considered reflection of our conflicting tastes and opinions as PC gamers.

This list represents what we think are the greatest PC games you can play today. We wanted to celebrate the breadth and variety of PC gaming, and so, for the most part, have restricted ourselves to one game per series. You'll also find a selection of personal picks: games we individually love that didn't quite make the cut. Enjoy!

If you're looking for a list of the games that helped shape PC gaming as we know it, try the 50 most important PC games of all time.

100. Path of Exile

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry

Steven Messner: Path of Exile has quietly become one of the best action RPGs around thanks to its almost incomprehensible depth and wildly different seasonal leagues, where whole new systems are introduced. But the best part is its character customisation and spell crafting system. Path of Exile encourages players to make marauders who let spell totems do all the killing for them, witches who melt hordes with a fiery beam, or duelists that cover every inch of the map in a deadly rain of arrows.

99. Twisted Insurrection

RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION New entry

John Strike: Tiberian Sun's best mod brazenly shames the original Firestorm expansion in almost every way. It’s bigger and bolder, offering new buildings, a whole fleet of new units and even a new faction. There’s a completely new musical score and dozens of single player missions, some of which are based on the original Command & Conquer. Not only are new missions and units still being added, but, as a standalone free download, it's the most accessible way to play one of C&C's greats.

98. Killing Floor 2

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 81

Evan Lahti: There are disturbingly few places in video games where I can cut an evil clown in half with a quad-barrelled shotgun. Killing Floor 2 is the world’s greatest gore effects system laid atop an enjoyable skeleton. Hordes of monsters trickle into the map, magnetized to your position, and you mulch them with buzzsaw-spitters, incendiary shotguns, rocket launchers, or a microwave cannon that heats enemies from the inside until they burst. The dynamic slow-mo system adds so much, dampening the chaos just enough—granting extra moments to take aim or take in the sight of an intestine flying across the screen. Tripwire is a skilled digital gunsmith, and the detail lent to particle effects and reload animations holds up wonderfully even under the scrutiny of these plentiful, slowed-down sequences. I also love that KF2 doesn’t simply make these mutants into bullet sponges. On higher difficulties, enemies adopt different behavioral triggers that make them genuinely harder to handle.

Wes Fenlon: The precision and teamwork it takes to play Killing Floor 2 at higher difficulties is especially thrilling. Also, I once played a community map that was monochrome purple and themed after Game Boy-era Pokémon. It was pretty bad, but I appreciated the option.

97. Night in the Woods

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

Phil Savage: A coming-of-age platformer starring an anthropomorphic cat returning home to a dead-end town after dropping out of college. On paper, Night in the Woods sounds like it could be intolerable, but its relationships are so well developed—so warm and fraught and human—that it’s impossible not to get drawn into Mae's world, and to want the best for her and her friends. I particularly love the frequent use of minigames as a way to highlight the need to escape the monotony of day-to-day responsibility.

Andy Kelly: A beautiful, heartfelt story brought to life by flawed, nuanced characters who just happen to be talking animals. It says something about life, but always knows when to crack a joke—and always with perfect timing—when things get too heavy.

96. Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry

Philippa Warr: Deadly Premonition is always a gamble of a recommendation. It's a gamble worth taking, though, because if you get on with its strangeness and its idiosyncrasies, it rewards you with a weird and beautiful experience of a kind you don't often get in gaming. Yes, the cars handle horribly. Yes, the PC version has crashed on me extensively. Yes, it starts off more as an irritating pastiche of Twin Peaks. Yes, it has frustrating quicktime events. And yes, some reveals draw uncomfortably on lazy tropes. But within that is a supernatural-tinged mystery that alternates between survival horror third-person shooter and a horror comedy investigation. None of the game's shortcomings were dealbreakers for me and several of the characters I encountered as I hunted for the Raincoat Killer have stayed with me for the best part of a decade.

Wes: The jank may be part of the charm, but at least make sure you install Durante's DPFix, which lets you select resolutions above 720p and fixes many minor graphical issues—mitigating some of the PC port’s shortcomings.

95. Stick Shift

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: Stick Shift is my go-to example of a game which invokes complex subject matter while also being really fun to play. As per developer Robert Yang's description: "Stick Shift is an autoerotic night-driving game about pleasuring a gay car." It's part of a trilogy alongside Hurt Me Plenty and Succulent, and together they explore aspects of eroticism, consent, arousal, politics and more. It's also a game where you move your mouse rhythmically, working your car to a climax.

94. Elite Dangerous

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION New entry

Phil: Frontier's galactic sandbox treads a fine line between excitement and tedium. Aliens! Dogfights! Smuggling! Interdictions! Ferrying pesticides to an outpost six lightyears away! However you decide to play, though—whatever amount of excitement you desire—Elite is still a masterfully crafted spaceship simulator. I love the design and feel of its ships, particularly the holographic UI and peerless sci-fi sound design. The thrill of warping to another solar system is never entirely diminished, meaning Elite remains entertaining even if you’ve chosen the life of a glorified space trucker.

Andy: Whether it's a chunky cargo hauler or a nimble fighter, every starship in Elite has its own distinct personality. They're all a delight to fly. Even the most mundane task feels wonderfully tactile.

93. Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Andy: While the original Ni no Kuni was co-designed by Spirited Away creator Studio Ghibli, it wasn't involved in this sequel. But developer Level-5 has done fine on its own, creating a rich fantasy world with a cast of vivid characters worthy of the Ghibli name. This is a sweeping JRPG about an usurped boy king on a quest to rebuild his kingdom and reclaim his throne. It's also one of the most colourful, vibrant games on PC.

Wes: The cutscenes are remarkably Ghibli and full of pep and puns, but what really made me fall for Ni No Kuni 2 is just how many systems it layers atop systems, like a big-budget JRPG of old. The sprawling kingdom builder is the centerpiece, with characters to recruit and buildings to construct and upgrade.

92. Mu Cartographer

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: Mu Cartographer is initially obtuse. You'll probably feel utterly lost as to what you’re supposed to do for a while. But once you start tinkering with all the different buttons and dials on the interface you begin to see how to explore the strange map. The peaks and troughs of digital noise on your display suddenly turn into recognisable shapes as you tweak the settings and find the sweet spot. Stepped pyramids rise up where seconds ago all you could see was a fuzzy mess.

91. Guild Wars 2

RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 86

Phil: Guild Wars 2 is full of clever quality-of-life features—it's still one of the few MMOs that's figured out how to let you easily play with friends of a different level. The flow and pace of its maps are a thing of beauty, too. Groups expand and contract naturally, as people wander off to explore on their own, before coming together for a small-scale event or organising to complete a single map-wide objective. You get all the joy of cooperation without the need to commit a significant amount of your time. Just turn up and play. Then, when you eventually get tired, go off and do something else. There's also no subscription, and none of the expansions have raised the level cap, so you're free to come and go as you please, playing at your own pace without ever worrying that you're falling behind. You can play for hours every week if you want—ticking off the hardest achievements and earning the rarest loot—but I'm happy to log back in every six months or so, safe in the knowledge that I'm ready for whatever's next.

Tom: I have fought huge dragon bosses and a marionette the size of a skyscraper, and I didn't need to grind for 200 hours for the privilege. Guild Wars 2 earnestly tries to reinvent the MMO by reshaping the bullshit grinding and levelling systems that had become rote in the genre.

90. Super Mega Baseball 2

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Wes: I'm about as bad at this surprisingly deep baseball game as I am at real baseball, but as a lapsed fan of America's pastime I appreciate how good this rendition is. It walks the line between a hyper-detailed sports sim and an arcadey NBA Jam-like, with simple controls but tons of nuance in pitching and hitting.

Chris Livingston: The customization is great, letting you change everything from player abilities to team logos, and its Pennant Race mode makes every online game feel important.

89. The Stanley Parable

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry

Samuel Roberts: You start in an abandoned office with a narrator telling you what you're supposed to do next. If you obey his instructions it will lead you to an ending. But if you don't, you'll discover many more fascinating, exciting little stories.

Phil: An antagonistic dialogue between a man with no body and another with no voice. Weird, funny and full of ideas.

Pip: Games often struggle with comedy. The Stanley Parable manages to be consistently funny as well as whip smart.

88. Drawful 2

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry

Wes: A chill, surprisingly hilarious party game I can play for hours. Everyone joins in on a smartphone and gets a phrase to draw on the touchscreen, then writes their own descriptions of everyone else's drawing to trick the crowd or simply get the most laughs. It's like millennial Pictionary, so inevitably people draw a lot more dicks.

87. Nidhogg 2

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

James Davenport: The back-and-forth struggles of Nidhogg were already unpredictable, but bows, axes, swords, and daggers transform simple fencing standoffs into tense, sweaty battles for control. Nidhogg 2 is an excellent way to graft friends to the couch. 

Evan: A see-sawing melee mess. No PC game produces more smile-yelling than Nidhogg 2.

86. Stephen's Sausage Roll

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: Stephen's Sausage Roll and I are on a break. I can't remember exactly why, but I know that I definitely rage-quit the sausage-grilling puzzler a while ago and haven't become sufficiently not angry to go back. That isn't a criticism, though; this is the puzzle game I recommend to the friends who want a real challenge.

Phil: I managed one level.

85. Battletech

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Evan: It's turn-based MMA with walking tanks. Unlike XCOM 2, the durability and modular design of mechs makes for drawn out, back-and-forth exchanges that become micro-stories of attrition and mettle. You trade blows with an Atlas, weave and evade it, it cleaves off one of your body segments, you circle around, knock it down and KO it with a face stomp. I love BattleTech's degrees of failure. You might complete all objectives but lose your rare, damage-boosted PPC, put a pilot in a two-month coma, or have to spend every nickel you just earned fixing up your battered Highlander. The campaign wrapped around BattleTech's granular combat is a bottomless well of procedurally generated missions with a heartwarming story of underdog regal revenge at its nucleus.

84. Football Manager 2018

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

Joe Donnelly: Following some less comprehensive annual instalments, Football Manager 2018 gives us the most sophisticated soccer management simulation yet, where success is no longer determined by match performance alone. Piss off the wrong combination of players, and you'll risk a dressing room revolt. Suck up to the most popular, and you'll isolate your fringe stars. You need to balance influence and social standings to prevent the beautiful game from turning ugly.

83. Thumper

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 34

Pip: I don't think many people can consciously identify a 'fast-moving rhythm action space beetle combat game with a heady metal album aesthetic' void in their lives. But it exists and Thumper can fix it.

Phil: The dark, grungy synths and unusual time signatures create a fascinatingly ominous soundscape that draws you into the claustrophobic, reactive action. Thumper offers a mesmerising blend of palpable dread and empowering mastery—at least it did for me until the later levels, which required a degree of dexterity I'm not sure I possess.

James: That scarab scrapes down the interdimensional highway at the centre of Thumper with so much speed and ferocity that the game almost literally breaks apart by the end. Nod your head to dull the pain. 

82. Euro Truck Simulator 2

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 89

Andy: The problem with simulators is that they're often badly designed, technically janky or both. But Euro Truck Simulator 2 is neither of these things. This is a deep, polished, and immensely playable driving game set in a vast, mostly accurate replica of Europe. You can drive seamlessly between countries, and there's an understated beauty to the scenery that passes you by. It's also incredibly atmospheric, especially at night or in the rain. There's no better game to play while listening to music or catching up on podcasts, and it's deeply customisable too, meaning you can make each road trip as realistic or accessible as you like, depending on how deep you want the simulation to be.

Phil: In many ways I prefer American Truck Simulator. That's not because I love weigh stations—they're fine, if that's your thing—but because America's vast, terrifying emptiness feels more isolated, more epic, and, dare I say, more romantic. Euro Truck Simulator 2, on the other hand, is dense and busy, but also muted—it's altogether greyer and more moodily atmospheric. Both games are fantastic, and which one you prefer is likely a matter of which style of road trip speaks more to your personality. How many simulation games can you say that of?

81. FTL: Faster Than Light 

RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 21

Samuel: It turns out being the captain of your own spaceship is stressful as hell, but you'll take part in some great stories along the way. FTL is a superior mix of roguelike and strategy. While Into The Breach is taking its place in my life, this is still one of the best space-set games around. 

Wes: It can make for a great party game, too. Put someone in the driver's seat and let the crowd make choices. Suddenly half your ship is on fire and you've accidentally vented one of your crew into space.

80. Stalker: Call of Pripyat

RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION 41

Chris: This grim and unforgiving open world FPS never turns you into an invincible superhero. No matter how much gear and weaponry you scrounge from the irradiated exclusion zone, you're still mortal and fragile, alone in a terrifying world of mutants, monsters, and roaming factions of AI-controlled humans. This lends Stalker an unending tension and fills every encounter with dread. From start to finish, there's a sense that at any moment you could meet your unceremonious end.

79. Doom 2

RELEASED 1994 | LAST POSITION 76

Wes: People are making mods and maps for this game like it was released a year ago. That's awesome. But what really strikes me about Doom 2 is how fun it still is, and how different it feels from decades more advanced shooters. There's a purity in how it moves, how it sounds and the minimum frames of animation it takes to sell firing the super shotgun.

78. Grim Fandango Remastered

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 96

Pip: Twenty years after its initial release it's still a real pleasure to revisit the film noir world of Manny Calavera, travel agent of the afterlife. Nowadays I play purely for the story so I keep online hints at hand for when progress stalls.

Tom Senior: Shout out here to Glottis, the giant orange demon who's too big and happy to quite fit into the world he’s in.

77. Warhammer: Vermintide 2

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Samuel: There's a long tail to Vermintide 2 if you're willing to stick with this four-player Left 4 Dead-alike set in the Warhammer universe. It looks prettier than the first game, offers more in-depth character progression, and has much better combat.

Phil: It feels really good to stab up a rat, and if that's not worth a spot on this list, I'd love to know what is.

76. Oxenfree

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry

Samuel: This spooky adventure game has a group of young friends inadvertently unlock a supernatural force on a haunted island. The relationships and various tensions between all the characters feel very real, and the dialogue is funny and poignant. These characters feel like they could've been people I went to school with.

Phil: The snappy, fun dialogue makes Oxenfree feel more theatrical than realistic, but that fits perfectly with the eerie mystery and interpersonal drama.

75. Regency Solitaire

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: I added Grey Alien's card-game-slash-Regency-romance to our Top 100 discussion list, then reinstalled the game and spent three hours of the Top 100 discussion playing this in the background. I'm fighting the urge to play it again now instead of finishing this incredibly short paragraph about why it's good. The solitaire aspect is really strong, it's super easy to play just one more round, and the story is light but charming. Are we done? Can I boot it up again?

74. Metro: Last Light Redux

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION 95

Tom: Not many shooters have you frantically pumping up a pneumatic gun before you can fire it, but that’s Metro for you. These ramshackle weapons carry you through a filthy, atmospheric corridor shooter set in the depths of the Moscow undercity. The tunnels hide mutant creatures and nests of horrible spidery things, but the most dangerous enemies are the human clans trying to scrape out a living in the post-apocalypse.

Samuel: A beautiful and grim FPS that's refreshingly bleak for a modern triple-A game. The world building in Metro: Last Light is dazzling to me—the little snapshots of human civilisation that show how there are children in these underground settlements who never knew the world before it got into this bleak, decrepit state. And the story features some unforgettable moments, such as an early flashback that shows—from the perspective of the pilots—how a passenger plane was destroyed in the nuclear blast. It's a chilling world that's hard work just to exist in, but I love that it's a post-apocalyptic setting that doesn’t succumb to the desire to over-stylise anything. It commits to showing the horrors of what a nuclear war would do to the modern world, and I'd recommend it to absolutely anyone.

73. Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION 40

Steven: Square Enix's from-the-ashes MMO enjoyed another stellar year following the release of Stormblood, a revolution-themed expansion that whisks players across the sea to Eastern-inspired worlds that add much richness to an already great story. Though its endgame has become a predictable grind at this point, Final Fantasy 14 is still able to keep things exciting thanks to the steady pace of new bosses, dungeons, and raids to clear. Each one is just as memorable as the last thanks to a stunning soundtrack and beautiful world design.

72. The Norwood Suite 

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: Cosmo D's first-person jazz hotel exploration has you poking around a converted mansion and uncovering the secrets of its former owner, celebrated pianist, Peter Norwood. Musicality shapes the whole experience, warping the space and affecting the denizens. As you dig around you'll also discover the game's sense of humour via visual gags and surreal chats with guests and visitors. For a related experience you should also check out the developer’s free game, Off-Peak.

71. Mount & Blade: Warband

RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION New entry

Evan: Mount & Blade: Warband is what we so often clamour for: an RPG where you're not an intergalactic savior or chosen one, but just some dude leading a small army on a sprawling, simulated map filled with other dudes leading other armies. It's sandbox in the truest sense, and the feeling of loosing an arrow into a line of galloping cavalry still holds up.

Phil: You start with nothing: left for dead in a town with few weapons, no supplies and barely any gold. From such inauspicious beginnings, you're free to do just about anything. Hunt bandits, befriend lords, rob pretty much anyone. Or, if you don't fancy leading hundreds of soldiers, just go fight for prestige in the arena. We've been waiting years for Mount & Blade 2, but Warband still has much to offer.

70. StarCraft 2

RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION New entry

Andy: Across its three campaigns, StarCraft 2 boasts some of the best, most cinematic single-player RTS missions on PC. New challenges are constantly being thrown at you, forcing you to try new units and tactics, and the story isn't bad either. When you're done with all that, you can take your newfound skills online, which still has a huge and dedicated following. There's a bottomless pit of tips, tutorials, and strategies online, meaning new players have a decent chance of catching up.

69. Galactic Civilizations 2

RELEASED 2011 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tom: Maybe a game like Stellaris will knock this classic spacebound 4X strategy game out of the Top 100, but not this year. It's hard to beat a game that's so smart and complete, and that can generate so much strategic intrigue with every campaign. The AI is so cunning that former PC Gamer staffer-turned-developer Tom Francis once wrote an entire book about one of his attempts to thwart it. Singleplayer games don't get much deeper than this.

68. Prison Architect

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Chris: There's an engrossing amount of depth to the management simulation of Prison Architect, where building a workshop for inmates to make license plates doesn't mean they'll just walk in and begin working. First they'll need training, which requires classrooms, which require instructors, who require work and class schedules and their own facilities. Oh, and metal detectors to make sure the inmates don't smuggle out tools to use as weapons against guards or other inmates, or to tunnel under the walls of your prison. It's not easy building and managing a small city where most of the population is plotting escape.

Andy: I love it when things go to shit in management sims, and Prison Architect is enormously fun to watch (and manage) when disaster inevitably strikes. A streak of black comedy runs through the game, and there's something darkly hilarious about a riot erupting—these cartoonish little characters shivving each other, starting fires and beating up guards. Something as simple as a fight in the canteen can be the flashpoint for a full-scale riot, and trying to suppress it safely and quickly is a real test of skill. But that doesn't mean you can't have some fun observing the chaos before rolling your sleeves up and stepping in to deal with it.

67. Ori and the Blind Forest

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 62

Pip: An adorable Ghibli-esque aesthetic—particularly the opening cutscene—gives way to a rock hard Metroidvania platformer. Your eyes are as likely to tear up with emotion as they are with absolute fury if you fail a boss one too many times. 

Tom: It looks like sugar but tastes like salt. Ori is not the moonlit animal paradise it appears to be at first glance. It’s a game about loss, revenge, and bastard-hard jumping challenges. The art is absolutely gorgeous. It's a hazy, dreamlike world of artfully twisted overgrowth and spike pits. The movement is so quick, precise and responsive I just want to squeeze it, even as it stabs me repeatedly in the heart. Approach with caution and keep some hankies and a swear jar within reach.

66. Frostpunk

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Chris: A survival and crisis management sim about building and sustaining city in a frozen world. In addition to providing food, warmth, and shelter to your citizens, you have to provide them something much trickier: hope for the future. That's immensely difficult when people are starving, freezing, and working themselves to death under your direction, and the choices you face are grim ones that never leave you feeling like a hero, even when things work out. Frostpunk is a game that asks two questions: 'How far are you willing to go to save lives?' And, 'No, really, how far are you willing to go?' It's a masterful exploration of the burden of leadership, the true costs of survival, and the balancing act between guiding your citizens and controlling them.

65. Diablo 3

RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 30

Tom: 'Maybe I should start another Crusader run': seven words that could take up 60 hours of my life. Diablo 3 is still a stellar action RPG that has only become more generous year on year after its unsteady and controversial launch. The necromancer is a fantastic addition that calls back to Diablo 2 without nostalgically retreading the same ground. If you want to smash up thousands of monsters for gold and loot, there aren't many games that do it as well as Diablo 3.

64. Bayonetta

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION 32

Samuel: A superb hack-and-slash game that rewards mastery with feeling like a badass. It's pretty much the first place I'd send anyone new to this genre of game that has its modern roots in Capcom's Devil May Cry series. This, from that game's creator, is funny, stylish and satisfying to learn. Its sequel, which Nintendo published, doesn't come close to matching the original. The range of weapons here fits together perfectly.

Phil: The fast-paced combat is yet to be bettered, and the world and story are equal parts stylish and absurd.

63. Crypt of the Necrodancer

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: The rhythm combat in this game is so polished that I love it even when it's at its most stressful. You have to move on every beat or risk losing your cash multiplier, which means there's no downtime to plan your next move. Is a multiplier all that important, you ask? "Oh," I reply, "Only if you want to keep being able to afford new items at the shop where the amazingly catchy soundtrack is suddenly given an EVEN MORE AMAZING operatic flavour thanks to a singing shopkeeper called Freddie Merchantry."

Wes: This would be a great roguelike in its own right, but it's almost unfair how cleverly the musical element is threaded through exploration and combat. Try dungeon dancing to your own music for a new challenge.

62. Sunless Sea

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 75

Pip: I bounced off Sunless Sea so hard when it first came out—I remember clunky combat and irritating resource grind as core objections. Returning to the game with the Zubmariner DLC I found myself well and truly suckered in—devoting hours to pottering away in the Unterzee, drinking in Failbetter's expert prose and luxuriating in the art style. Sunless Skies is shaping up to be another step forward so I'm singing Sunless Sea's praises now, lest seas be eclipsed by skies in the near future!

61. Baldur's Gate 2: Enhanced Edition

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 48

Tom: Baldur's Gate 2 is still a magnificent achievement. Few RPGs since have been as broad, deep or fully featured as this sprawling classic. Pillars of Eternity and other games are steadily bringing the classic RPG back to prominence, but Baldur's Gate 2 is still very much worth playing today, and is still one of the most faithful videogame interpretations of D&D's Forgotten Realms setting. It's a great party RPG too. Few modern games would be brave enough to implement a morality system that causes party members to fall out with you and leave the party—the closest you might get is Wrex's rebellion in Mass Effect. While we all remember Minsc and his space hamster companion Boo, the roster went much deeper and accurately reflected the spread of D&D classes, from lawful good paladins to chaotic neutral thieves.

Phil: After the slightly too long tutorial dungeon, Baldur's Gate II hits the ground running, setting you loose in the massive city of Athkatla to earn money to fund the next leg of your journey. It’s a great way to encourage you to explore the city, seeking out its stories and adventures.

60. Fez

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 67

Phil: A vast, beautiful mystery that's equal parts intriguing and relaxing, Fez is a puzzle-platformer that forgoes enemies and peril, instead offering a pleasant adventure about a strange world full of questions to answer. At its most basic, you rotate between four 2D planes, shifting the world in order to create a path to the next door. But over the course of the game, you'll solve riddles, uncover secrets, and even decode languages. Fez is a tantalising puzzle box just waiting to be unlocked.

59. 80 Days

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 37

Samuel: Take a journey around a steampunk-infused world as Passepartout, Phileas Fogg's indispensable assistant. Then, whether you succeed or fail, take the journey again and again, and see all the places and stories you missed the first time around. 80 Days is almost entirely dependent on great writing and little bits of art, and it's enough to bring the entire world to life. While it feels made for mobile, you should definitely pick it up on desktop if you've never played it. 

58. Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tom: This feels like the most PC-friendly Final Fantasy to me. Like the rest of the games in the series, it's a beautiful big RPG with a cast of characters that span from annoying (Vaan) to awesome (Balthier). This entry is the only one with the excellent gambit tactics system, which lets you program your party's AI to blitz dungeons and bosses with satisfying efficiency.

Samuel: You can fast-forward this version of the game, too, giving the combat the pace and catharsis it desperately needed back when it came out on PS2. 

57. Hexcells Infinite

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: This is the third game in Matthew Brown's hex-grid logic puzzler series, and it's the best of the bunch. The 'infinite' part of the title refers to the fact that it can generate infinite puzzles if you want to keep playing. But the real joy, and the reason I keep replaying it, is the set which Brown has hand-crafted. Absolute puzzle bliss.

56. Homeworld Remastered Collection

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tom: The saddest spaceships in games must travel the galaxy looking for a new home in Relic's classic RTS. If you love brain-scrambling 3D battles then this is the only strategy game that really delivers. Deserts of Kharak is excellent too, but I'd sooner play a game bold enough to deploy Adagio for Strings in a scrap.

55. Dota 2

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 54

Pip: I have spent north of 2,000 hours in this game. You do not need to know how much money I have spent in this game. But that investment, both temporal and financial, was because this MOBA continued to reward me. There's a rich esports scene, a daft and creative community, the ability for friendships to blossom and for groups of players to cross pollinate as friends of friends move in and out of your teammate invite list. I only stop by occasionally now, but Valve continues to offer interesting updates. Turbo mode is my favourite addition in recent times, not least because it affords newbies a space where they can try characters out without as much pressure as a normal match.

54. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION 25

Samuel: It's a phenomenon I'd recommend trying to anyone who plays on PC, even if they bounce off it. That tension of landing in this world and seeing what plays out is an experience everyone should have. Evan put it best last year, so allow me to repeat it here: "it compresses the time and space that survival games like DayZ give you, forcing you into contact with other players and out of your comfort zone."

Andy: I play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds as a stealth game, moving carefully between cover, keeping out of sight, biding my time. But the thrill here is that the 'guards' are real people, which makes sneaking under their noses even more exhilarating.

53. Deus Ex

RELEASED 2000 | LAST POSITION 23

Tom: This one has slipped down the list this year, largely because in recent times we've seen developers pick up the immersive sim baton and run with it—see entry number two in this list for the results. Deus Ex is still a classic, though. Even though the visuals, UI, dialogue and sound design seem more creaky each year, the scope for experimentation and emergent player-authored action is still impressive. 

Phil: It's creaky for sure, but Deus Ex's freedom still feels remarkable, as does its level of respect for the player. Most games feel compelled to clearly flag when you’re about to make a narrative choice that might have a consequence. But Deus Ex thrusts you into a paranoid world where everyone has an agenda and every command should be questioned.

52. Fallout 4

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Samuel: I'd recommend all of the modern Fallout games to someone who’s never played them for various reasons, and this, in essence, represents that entire era of the series on our list (we were very close to including the original Fallout, too, but ultimately stuck with our one per series rule). New Vegas is the best for reactive storytelling, Fallout 3 has my favourite side quests, and Fallout 4 feels the most refined when it comes to combat, presentation and world design. Even if the choices towards the end didn't produce outcomes I was happy with, I loved journeying around that world with Nick Valentine and Piper. And taking on the role of pulp-style hero The Silver Shroud represents my favourite superhero experience in any game. 

Evan: There's nothing quite like Fallout's setting. Its cynical, post-apocalyptic, Atomic Age sci-fi is dripping with black humour and absurdity. I'm grateful that something so esoteric continues to get the big-budget treatment.

Phil: We're big fans of immersive sims at PC Gamer, and yet I love Bethesda's RPGs for being practically the opposite. Fallout 4 lets you be a silent stealth killer who wears a giant suit of power armour—not because it makes sense within the world, but because it makes sense within the underlying systems. It's an anti-immersive sim, offering satisfying freedom in how you build your wasteland wanderer.  

51. Stardew Valley

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 22

Andy: A miserable office worker inherits a farm and starts a new life in the idyllic Stardew Valley. This Harvest Moon-inspired farming sim is pleasantly freeform and lets you live the way you want to, whether that's just lazily growing a few crops here and there, or starting a ruthlessly efficient mayonnaise empire.

Bo: Stardew Valley is everything I ever wanted out of Harvest Moon, but unchained from Nintendo's puritanical approach to content.

50. EVE Online

RELEASED 2003 | LAST POSITION 44

Tom: It's obtuse, and it takes a lot of time and effort to become properly mixed up in the corporations that drive EVE Online's greatest dramas, but I have taken a lot of pleasure in hopping into a vessel and mining for a few hours, quietly turning in a small profit and enjoying the vibe of EVE's cosmos. It looks beautiful stretched across two monitors, and if I do find myself yearning for the grand stories of war and betrayal, I can always read about them later in PC Gamer.

49. BioShock

RELEASED 2007 | LAST POSITION 17

Samuel: While as a shooter it's far from best-in-class these days, exploring the different parts of this underwater world and learning its story is an experience no other game has matched for me.

Andy: Rapture is still one of the most atmospheric settings on PC, letting you explore a bizarre, broken society in a state of fascinating decay.

48. Warframe

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry

Steven: Digital Extremes' cooperative loot shooter quietly became one of the best free-to-play games and people are only just now catching on. In the years since its rocky release, Warframe has grown into a deeply satisfying and complex online game with thousands of hours worth of quests to complete and gear to farm.

47. Darkest Dungeon

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 83

Evan: Even as DLC has made it a bigger experience, I continue to value Darkest Dungeon's focus. It's an intimidating game for all the right reasons: difficulty, uncertainty, risk and reward. The audio and combat camera effects deserve an award for how they make fights between illustrated paper characters feel like Eldritch kung fu.

46. Opus Magnum

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tyler: Solving an Opus Magnum puzzle isn't satisfying the first time. You build an alchemy machine with tracks, rotating arms and flowchart instructions—producing gold from lead, for instance. Your sloppy contraption may look beautiful in motion, but how could you move on to the next challenge when your friend solved the same problem more elegantly? That quest for perfection is deviously engrossing. Few puzzle games feel so good to finally master.

45. Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION 60

Andy: The Enhanced Edition of Torment is currently the best way to play this supremely weird RPG on modern PCs. You play as an immortal being with amnesia, trying to piece his past together. The writing is the star here, bringing Dungeons & Dragons' Planescape setting to life in exquisite, wordy detail. Think of any RPG convention and Torment will subvert or twist it in some fascinating way, and the characters who join your party along the way are truly strange.

44. Civilization 5

RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tyler: I vacillate between them, but even though I like Civ 6's city districts, Civilization 5 with all the expansions is still the evening destroyer I'd recommend. I wish the series would reexamine its assumptions about the world and make more radical changes in the future, but for now, Civ 5 is still the standard bearer for turn-based empire building: complex enough not to become too rote, but accessible enough for just about anyone who enjoys rewriting history.

Evan: I prefer Civ 6—it's shallow, but I need my 1440p boardgames to look as pretty as possible, and the expressive, animated leaders of Civ 6 add a lot. But the fact that there's still a debate between the two is an endorsement of Firaxis' approach to putting meaningful new spins on one of PC gaming's longest-standing, most celebrated genres.

Andy: In all the time I've played Civ 5, I've never actually won a game. And so it's a testament to just how compelling and accessible its strategy is that I keep coming back, trying new tactics and shaping my civilisation in new and interesting ways. It's the journey—taking my people from humble beginnings to advanced empires—that I really enjoy. The destination ultimately isn't that important.

43. Invisible, Inc.

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 50

Tom: This turn-based tactics game has you controlling a squad of superspies in missions to knock out guards and steal data before the alarms detect you. I love Klei's angular art, and it's miraculous that the team were able to build such a tight and nuanced tactics game with procedurally generated offices. As with Into the Breach, Invisible, Inc. gives you tons of information about what's going on with enemies. You can see their sight lines clearly and judge their intentions. Your main decisions come down to your use of power points to hack systems. You can disable alarms or unlock doors to access tantalisingly placed upgrade terminals. Do you grab your objective and flee before security arrives, or take a gamble for an upgrade that might make future missions a lot easier?

42. Overcooked

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 77

Evan: Pure co-op calamity with a deceptively cheerful art style. You will never yell "I need lettuce!" with more anger and urgency. 

Samuel: So enjoyable to pick up, then appallingly difficult to master as you chase those three star ratings. If only I could take it less seriously—me and my partner had to stop playing because I was treating it like a part-time kitchen job. "Plates, plates, PLATES!"

Phil: It's like if the TV show Hell's Kitchen was a game—swearing and all.

41. Super Hexagon

RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION New entry

Jody Macgregor: Terry Cavanagh of VVVVVV fame's twitchiest game, Super Hexagon makes you a triangle trapped in pulsing, multicoloured hexagons, dodging through gaps in spinning walls at high speed. It's the definition of easy to learn and bloody impossible to master. I used to think hexagons were fine. Perfectly respectable shapes. Maybe not as fun as parallelograms, which are basically drunk rectangles, but pretty good overall. Now I've played Super Hexagon I hate them. They give me a rash. Terrible shapes. To hell with hexagons.

Phil: Before writing this paragraph I fired up Super Hexagon for the first time in five years, and after only a few tries I was already pushing up near my best times. This is the kind of game that sears itself into your subconscious; burrowing deep down into your muscle memory just waiting for you to return. As a shortform arcade game it's practically perfect—a pulsating, rotating, constantly shifting assault of shapes and sounds with an instant restart that has you back in the action before the voiceover can finish saying "game over".

40. Mass Effect 2

RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION 7

Samuel: The facial animations really date BioWare games, but Mass Effect 2 is still the best at showing darker, more interesting sides to its dense sci-fi universe. Plus it still has my favourite party of characters from a modern BioWare RPG. Maybe it's time for another trilogy replay.

Andy: The greatest ensemble cast in RPG history. The idea of recruiting the galaxy's most notorious warriors and criminals is a brilliant excuse to gather up a motley crew of weird, flawed, interesting people, and I cared about all of them.

39. Hearthstone

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION 45

Tim: Hearthstone is in a funny spot. It's as gigantic as it's ever been, but with the departure of game director Ben Brode and the looming threat of Valve's Artifact, now would be a good time for Blizzard’s CCG to shake things up a little. The arrival of a tournament mode later this year may do that, but despite an atypically diverse meta, I've felt my desire to grind the ladder wane. Regardless, for now Hearthstone remains peerless in terms of the quality and polish of the experience.

38. Grand Theft Auto 5

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 12

Andy: GTA 5 is one of the most lavish singleplayer experiences you can have on PC, with impeccable production values, superb mission variety, and a wonderfully vibrant city. It's massive, but I've finished it three times—that's how much I love being in Los Santos. For me, Michael is Rockstar's best protagonist: a weary, slightly pathetic crook past his prime trying to make it in a world that’s left him behind.

Samuel: I change my mind about GTA Online every few months, but the fidelity of the world is unbeaten. I adore the original heists, and I've had a lot of fun playing the game with other people. I've seen those streets so many times now, though, and am desperate to play whatever comes next in the series. Or, you know, they could bring Red Dead to PC.

Phil: Whatever you think about GTA Online (relationship status: it's complicated), that first set of multiplayer heists are among the best co-op experiences you can have on PC. The way they divide your team of four into smaller groups, each performing a specific task that slowly draws everyone together for a single, action packed finale is—when you successfully pull it off—tense, exciting and memorable.

Joe: GTA Online is a shop window, and few games let you observe other players' wares with such impact. Seeing that new car, aircraft or chopper hurtling towards you makes you want it—which makes grinding to get it less of a chore.

37. Company of Heroes 

RELEASED 2006 | LAST POSITION 56

Tom: It's Relic's best game and frankly still one of the best real-time strategy games ever made. Jumping into a skirmish against the AI, it holds up today as well as it did at launch, which is a testament to the quality of the art and sound direction, and the success of Relic's squad-based take on unit control. The expansions are decent, but I still relish the purity of Company of Heroes' asymmetrical core matchup. The US has a slight numbers advantage in the early infantry stages of a battle but the Axis forces can bring halftracks to the mid-game and elite tanks into the endgame. A few games have tried to imitate Company of Heroes over the years, but none have really come close.

36. Half-Life 2

RELEASED 2004 | LAST POSITION 11

Andy: Gordon Freeman awakes from stasis to find Earth transformed into a dystopian hellscape by an invading alien force. Valve's influential FPS is still fantastic, particularly its eerie, understated atmosphere. The Combine are genuinely unnerving antagonists, but they didn't anticipate going up against a mute physicist who can yank radiators off the wall and launch them at high speeds.

Chris: A linear FPS but one that makes you feel as if you're finding your own path through it, rather than being shoved along rails by the developers. And the gravity gun is still the most enjoyable multitool in games: perfect for solving physics puzzles, playing catch with Dog, using a metal door as a shield, or flinging a toilet into a Metrocop's head.

35. Devil Daggers

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry

Jody: FPS design often copies the Halo idea of a single, repeatable loop of fun, but Devil Daggers really boils it down. Here the loop is backpedalling in an arc while shooting daggers at nearby enemies, clearing enough room to aim at the weak spot of a distant, tougher enemy, then spinning around to take out the skull-face jerk sneaking up behind you. It's just you and infinite bastards to shoot. Perfect.

Evan: If you die and don't go to heaven or hell, you play Devil Daggers until you win.

34. Forza Horizon 3

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 29

Phil: A gloriously silly arcade playground that takes the Forza Motorsport series' deep love of cars and customisation and transports it into a vibrant, luscious world full of ridiculous races and entertaining off-road mayhem. Forza Horizon 3's best feature is the skill chain system, which transforms an otherwise basic drive between events into a challenge to string together stunts without crashing.

Andy: Driving pretend cars doesn't get any better than the Forza series, and Horizon brilliantly softens the simulation while still maintaining a feeling of weight and realism.

Evan: All racers should be set in Australia.

33. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

RELEASED 2011 | LAST POSITION 26

Andy: Skyrim remains one of the most evocative settings on PC. It's not as big as some game worlds, but the varied biomes—from the bubbling hot springs of Eastmarch to the snow-battered coastline of Winterhold—make it feel much bigger than it is. The role-playing is shallow and the writing isn't great, but the sense of place and feeling of freedom make up for it. Picking a direction, going for a wander, and seeing what you'll find out there among the snow and ice is The Elder Scrolls at its most captivating.

Chris: You can finish (or completely ignore) the main story and still have a couple hundred hours of self-guided fun—especially by adding mods to the mix. Skyrim gives you a special kind of freedom seen in few RPGs.

32. Proteus

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: If this was Pip's Top 100 Proteus would be in the number one spot. It's a contemplative experience where you wander a procedurally generated island, delighting in what you find. I often find myself drifting back to it in moments of stress, treating myself to a short digital holiday. One time I forgot I'd tweaked the game files and accidentally turned everything red, so that was a surprise. Seas of blood. But if you don’t make seas of blood it's gloriously restful!

31. Crusader Kings 2

RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 52

Phil: Crusader Kings 2 isn't just a grand strategy about medieval kingdoms. It's a grand strategy about the people in charge of those kingdoms. You're not the abstract concept of the country of France; you're the King of France, a 60-year-old man who, after a protracted battle against the rebellious Duke of Burgundy, is now on his deathbed, about to leave the fate of his dynasty to an idiot son. You're not the ever-expanding territory of the Holy Roman Empire; you're an increasingly deranged emperor who people think has been possessed by the devil. By generating stories about people, Crusader Kings II is an endlessly fascinating soap opera that's different every time. In my last campaign, I didn't even play. I used the command console to simply observe the action, watching as an epic period drama played out across the map.

Chris: What's most interesting is how your relationships change when you die and continue playing as your heir. Those three children you had don't seem so wonderful once you've assumed the role of the eldest. The other two, while devoted to their father, now hate you and may plot against you. Your entire view of the world changes regularly, not just because the players change but because you yourself do, by dying and playing as someone new.

30. Portal 2

RELEASED 2011 | LAST POSITION 5

Chris: It should have been impossible to top the near-perfect Portal in comedy, storytelling, and physics-bending first-person puzzles, but Portal 2 somehow manages it, and even throws in some fantastic multiplayer on top. 

Andy: Portal 2 brings a funny and sometimes disarmingly poignant story to its mind-bending puzzles, and the results are exceptional. Your journey through the various eras of Aperture Science make the game a constant delight.

29. World of Warcraft

RELEASED 2004 | LAST POSITION 59

Andy: Blizzard's long-running MMORPG simply refuses to die, and in fact seems to be getting better with every expansion. The most recent, 2016's Legion, brought in a swathe of quality-of-life improvements and some of the best questing in World of Warcraft's nearly 14-year history, making it worth playing all over again. It's still pretty grindy, especially compared to the more streamlined Guild Wars 2, but there are few online worlds this rich and storied to spend time in.

Don't miss Steven's Battle For Azeroth review for some more recent WoW words.

28. Undertale

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 61

Tyler: Undertale subverts RPG cliches with constant self-reference, but unlike many 'parody games', it's not cynical or derivative. It plays on expectations without succumbing to them, with characters we’d love even without the metacommentary on game design, fandom, and authorship. Undertale is a great RPG even if you don't get every reference.

27. Fortnite Battle Royale

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

James: Fortnite's battle royale mode started as a weak PUBG imitation, but an unprecedented update cycle has made it not just the best battle royale game, but one of the most fascinating games in development today. With map changes, new items, and one-off world events almost every week, Fortnite is endlessly entertaining to live in.

26. League of Legends

RELEASED 2009 | LAST POSITION New entry

Wes: Regular changes to the meta have kept League alive and on top for years. It’s still the best entry point for the MOBA genre.

Pip: I favour ARAM—a five-vs-five battle where randomly assigned characters let spells and punches fly across a single lane. I visit the pressure of the three lane Summoner’s Rift from a safe distance—as an esports spectator.

25. Cities: Skylines

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 82

Andy: While the most recent SimCity did everything it could to stifle creativity, Cities: Skylines gave players the power to make anything they want—in part thanks to the deep mod support. The result is the best city-builder around.

Samuel: The best game of its kind in a genre that people have enjoyed and will play forever, well supported by compelling expansions. Plus, you can destroy your city with meteors if you're having a dark day—like I did when I was mayor of Pipville several months ago.

24. Arma 3

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 55

Evan: Arma 3 stands alone as the highest-fidelity FPS, the best multiplayer story generator, and a bottomless trough of community missions and mods. You can play it with the utmost seriousness, with an add-on that lets you administer simulated CPR on injured comrades, or as a silly military take on Black & White with its Zeus DLC. It's no coincidence that Arma was the fertile terrain that produced the last two biggest trends in PC gaming: battle royale and survival games.

23. Her Story 

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 19

Phil: You start with a police database open and the word 'MURDER' entered into its search field. Hit enter and you’re given four short video clips from a police interview. In one, the woman being interviewed says, "I didn't murder Simon." OK, let's search 'SIMON'. More video clips—more hints at a tantalising mystery that twists and changes as you unlock more of its parts.

Samuel: Probably the best mystery game ever made, because Her Story is over when you feel you've found the answer (or when you've discovered all the clips, depending on the type of player you are). It truly puts the drama of uncovering the truth in your hands, which is so hard for a game to do in any meaningful way. One of those games I would recommend to someone who has never played games. 

Tyler: A fantastic performance that made FMV, for once, not cheesy.

Andy: A narrative game that really makes use of the medium. The mystery unfolds differently for everyone who plays it, which is a wonderfully original way of telling a story. What you think happened might be different to someone else’s interpretation, turning us all into unreliable narrators.

22. Total War: Warhammer 2

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tom: Total War is a complex grand strategy series that fuses turn-based 4X-style empire-building with vast real-time battles. So far we've mostly seen the format used to explore historical scenarios, but it turns out the Warhammer universe is a perfect fit. For fans of the setting it's a joy to see each faction rendered so vividly, but I would recommend Total War: Warhammer 2 to any strategy fan regardless of your Warhammer knowledge. If you want to command a traditional army, the Empire is there for you. If you want something more adventurous, you don't need to know much about the undead Tomb Kings to enjoy sending hordes of skeletons after magical relics. The sequel's campaign is brilliant. Four factions fight for control of a big magic vortex in the middle of the map, which keeps the campaign interesting all the way into the endgame.

Jody: Replay that campaign and eventually you'll see behind the curtain, but what makes it worth replaying is the factions. Warhammer 2 gets its factions right in ways that should please all but the fussiest fans, even though they're a diverse collection of uptight magic elves, dinosaur-riding lizards, sneaky rat bastards, and "we're really into leather" sex dungeon kink elves. That's no easy feat.

21. The Sims 4

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: The latest instalment of the long-running life sim has absorbed many hours of my life as I generate idiotic stories starring my beloved cast of citizens. Four years after release it's at the point where features missing at launch have been patched in (toddlers! pools!) and you can use the glut of expansions, game packs and stuff packs to tailor the game to your playstyle. I'd like to see the pricing model better support people who dip in and out, but overall there's still no other game like it. 

20. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 49

Evan: Valve's half-hearted updates dented its ranking this year, but CS:GO remains the purest team FPS on the planet. Every round is a joust of plays, counters, and outmaneuvering, where a smart flash or reflex AWP pick shifts the balance. You can spend a lifetime improving your grenade technique, your de_inferno mid push, your eco round playcalling. It'll never be enough. Each gun is a wild animal with its own unique spray pattern and tendencies that can take dozens of hours to learn.

19. Rocket League

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 16

Tyler: I've hit a skill plateau in the best and only rocket car soccer game (I play the hockey variant), but I just have to find the next slope. I don't think one can ever stop getting better at Rocket League. There's always a better position I could've been in, an aerial I shouldn't have botched. It hasn't changed much over the years, but I feel like I could play it forever.

18. Hitman

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 14

Phil: This stealth sandbox about a bald assassin features six huge, absurdly detailed maps, each filled with interesting ways to bump off your targets. Hitman's social stealth systems—where disguises are more important than not being seen—gives you the time to plan, experiment and refine your approach. It's now the best game in the series.

17. Kerbal Space Program

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 39

Phil: Build a rocket, launch a rocket, fly a rocket, crash a rocket. And then do it all again—tweaking and experimenting until your design is bona fide spacefaring craft, able to maintain orbit or visit nearby celestial bodies. Kerbal Space Program is a sublime mix of physics and slapstick that makes for the perfect playground for space exploration.

16. Spelunky

RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 10

Wes: No one's topped the way Spelunky's pieces play off one another to make its world feel deeply knowable and random at the same time. It's a game you play for hundreds of hours, until getting the key to unlock the chest to find the Udjat Eye to reach the black market to buy the ankh to die and come back to life to fight Anubis to take his sceptre to unlock the City of Gold to find the Book of the Dead to journey through Hell to fight King Yama just feels like another day playing Spelunky.

15. Alien: Isolation 

RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION 8

Andy: The best horror game on PC, because the thing chasing you has a mind of its own. There's no pattern to predict, no patrol route you can exploit. The alien is intelligent. It will learn your habits and it will fuck with you, and that is terrifying.

Samuel: I replayed it this year, and it's amazing how much mileage they get out of the same two repeated enemies by making clever use of set pieces and different types of environments. Probably the best horror game ever.

14. Overwatch

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 13

Andy: I love Overwatch because, as someone lacking the skill to play most other online shooters competently, I can still make a difference in a match. The sheer variety of brilliantly-designed characters and their wildly varied toolsets means there's something for every kind of player, even if they can't pull off a decent headshot. It's also impressively accessible, cleverly explaining the intricacies of its heroes' abilities without overloading you with information.

Bo: A year ago, Blizzard told me they had "barely scratched the surface" of abilities and character archetypes they'd like to explore in Overwatch. With the newest hero being a giant hamster ball mech with a Spider-Man-style grappling hook piloted by a literal hamster, I'm finally inclined to believe them. Overwatch continues to be one of the most unique and accessible shooters. And on the esports front, the Overwatch League's adoption of a city-based team model has ignited local enthusiasm in a way that no other game, tournament, or organization has been able to thus far.

Phil: We decided this list's order before Wrecking Ball was announced. I'll leave you to speculate whether he would have raised or lowered Overwatch's position.

13. Life is Strange

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: Dontnod's episodic, time-rewinding teen drama develops (Look! A photography pun! Because the lead character is into photography!) from a gawky, awkward-but-sweet first episode with slightly clunky dialogue into a story capable of delivering real emotional sucker punches. It's not perfect—some puzzle segments outstay their welcome and the plot often throws subtlety out of the window—but OH MY! The cast of characters and the strength of their relationships elevate the whole thing, and the Instagrammy aesthetic bolsters the teenage intensity. 

Phil: It also features probably the best use of mid-'00s indie boys playing sad acoustic songs about relationships and feelings in all of gaming. Max listening to José González while riding a bus across Arcadia Bay is a beautiful, understated sequence that gives us the time to empathise with the character and her feelings about the town she's returned to.

12. Hollow Knight

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION 46

Wes: The best Metroidvania since Super Metroid. Hollow Knight is open-ended almost to a fault, giving you a massive, decaying, interconnected bug kingdom to explore and frequently find yourself lost in. It can be overwhelming at first, but the feeling of discovery ends up being immensely rewarding as a result. The super responsive platforming and combat keep backtracking from ever feeling like a chore, something similar games have struggled with.

11. Doom

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 9

Tom: A modernisation of Doom that puts the focus firmly on speed and sweet guns. The DOOM reboot resists decades of shooter trends that either ape Call of Duty or try to crossbreed the FPS with other genres. There's nothing wrong with that sort of experimentation, but it's so refreshing to boot this game up and blow gooey chunks out of the forces of hell. Bring on the next one, id.

Samuel: The best single-player FPS there is in 2018. A clever update of Doom that turns fights into melee-heavy duels, with a not-overly-serious tone that hits just the right spot.

Wes: And the levels are actually intricate mazes full of secrets, just like classic Doom! I expected good shooting in bland corridors, but this is so much more.

10. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 6

Tom: I loaded back into my MGS5 save a month ago to find Snake decked out head-to-toe in a leopard skin combat suit. I forgot that my dog had a knife and my horse had a face shield, and I forgot that I named my squad TACTICAL OCTOPUS. It’s a terrific open world stealth game, but its quirky sense of fun makes the supernatural military nonsense bearable. 

Samuel: My favourite stealth action game ever, that sits somewhere between immersive sim and Metal Gear of old.

9. Dark Souls Remastered

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION 2 (Prepare to Die Edition)

Tom: Have you met Gravelord Nito? He's a roiling mass of skeletons shrouded in a cape of souls. He lives deep in Dark Souls nightmarish catacombs, and he's just one example of the game's extraordinary art direction, and powerful sense of dark fantasy horror. People go on about Dark Souls' bottomless lore with good reason, but underneath the theatrics it's actually a very simple game. You raid dungeons, chop up monsters, loot chests and level up. Without strong, enduring combat fundamentals I wouldn't have kept playing long enough to uncover the gods' tragic stories.

8. Subnautica

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Pip: Subnautica is my game of 2018 so far. I usually tap out pretty fast when it comes to survival games but this one takes place in a gorgeous underwater world, involves a compelling plot, AND I adore tinkering with my little underwater base. It also lets me choose how much survival-ing I care to have as part of the game experience, meaning I can switch off thirst. It's not exactly better down where it’s wetter given the wealth of creatures and situations which can kill you, but it's exactly where I want to be.

Andy: Exploring is genuinely rewarding, both in terms of finding resources to build cooler submarines and environmental detail. It's a world with a story to tell, and it tells it brilliantly.

7. XCOM 2

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 4

Tom: Strategy games are good at making me care about numbers and systems, but XCOM 2 is one of the few I can name that translate the numberwang into emotional investment. Losing a squad member can feel devastating. You nurture them between fights, gradually upgrading their gear and unlocking sweet new skills, only for an alien to cruelly blast them in a routine mission. When things go wrong in XCOM, they go very wrong indeed, which is all part of the drama in a game that casts humanity as the underdog.

Evan: XCOM's art direction is ridiculously underrated. Its maps are believable, colorful dioramas that shatter into pieces under the heat and intensity of your insurgent combat. 

6. Rainbow Six Siege

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 15

Evan: Sure, you can play Siege as if it's Counter-Strike, pre-firing and out-angling your opponents with snap marksmanship. But the real joy is in outsmarting the other team by poking clever holes in the maps, placing your gadgets in unexpected positions, and careful drone scouting. I also love Siege's tempo: this is a shooter that gives you time and a canvas of breakable space to stop, strategize, and execute a dumb plan with absurd gadgets like an eyeball turret that shoots lasers, invisible poison mines, and a drone that shoots concussions. Ubisoft remains devoted to supporting Siege with meaningful systems renovations and with four annual updates that add new characters and maps.

5. What Remains of Edith Finch

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION 27

Samuel: This first-person narrative game is constantly inventive. Edith Finch ventures into the home where her family used to live, before they all died in various tragic circumstances and their rooms were sealed up. You uncover each of their stories. It's the high point of this genre.

Andy: Exploring the abandoned home of the eccentric Finch family and uncovering their history is one of the most satisfying storytelling experiences a game has ever given me. But it's a game I'll never play again, simply because one scene in particular was so emotionally-charged that I can't face it. Any piece of media that holds that kind of power has to be special.

4. Into the Breach

RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tom: Into the Breach is a game about quick turn-based battles between mechs and kaiju-sized bugs, and it's almost perfect. Unlike many turn-based strategy games, Into the Breach doesn't use chance to inject battles with tension—the UI tells you pretty much everything that's going to happen next turn. The pleasure comes from solving the next turn state as efficiently as you can. It's a small game—battles only last a few turns on an eight-by-eight grid—but the varied mech teams and increasingly nefarious bug types create a huge amount of tactical variation. It shows that strategy games don’t have to be long and laborious.

Wes: There's so little randomness that random moments have immense impact. In one run, I had two buildings resist damage at a pivotal point. I've never done a more exaggerated fist pump.

3. Divinity: Original Sin 2

RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry

Tyler: Divinity: Original Sin 2 feels less stodgy than other classic RPG revivals while heightening their best qualities: turn-based combat (I hate real-time, sorry) with physics-based spells and exploding barrels (necessary), great characters, and a commitment to letting players do what they want, even if it breaks everything.

Wes: It offers you an intricate RPG sandbox to play in, and it invites you to break the rules in as many ways as you can imagine. The first game did that, too, but this one marries that freedom with across-the-board great writing and genuinely thoughtful roleplaying. It walks the walk and talks the talk.

2. Dishonored 2

RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION 3

Samuel: This is the best stealth game there has ever been. While the high-concept levels like A Crack in the Slab and Clockwork Mansion get a lot of attention for their clever one-off twists, more traditional stages like Royal Conservatory and Dust District are so detailed and fun to explore. There's no sense of repetition, and each level feels like a huge event. It's the precision of Dishonored 2 I love. Every successful takedown or evasion feels like something you've earned. 

Andy: Dishonored 2 has some of the best level design on PC, both in terms of the architecture and aesthetic, and in how the environments are rich playgrounds that let you really flex your creativity. Every location has something interesting about it, whether it's the time-hopping of A Crack in the Slab or the intricate house-sized puzzle box that is the magnificent Clockwork Mansion. And the sheer volume of ways to navigate the levels and complete your objectives really captures the spirit of PC gaming.

Tom: I want to savour every moment in Karnaca, because those levels are so dense and fun to explore. Immersive sims have always been good at creating broad levels like these, full of sandbox opportunity, but I really value that simple acts of moving, shooting and fighting feel great in Dishonored 2. Your regenerating mana bar gives you license to use your traversal powers freely, and I love blink and Emily’s tentacle leap. The introduction of Emily just broadens your toolset further. Domino, which lets you chain NPCs fates together so that one attack affects them all, is an inspired ability, and it's emblematic of the way Dishonored 2 builds on the tenets of immersive sims like Deus Ex, and spins them out in spectacular new ways. Augmented special forces dudes are cool, but warlock assassins are even cooler.

Phil: For me it's the reactivity of the world. Yes, the combat is fluid and satisfying, the level design is intricate and beautifully balanced, and the abilities perfectly tailored for absurd displays of skill and problem solving. But what ties it all together is the lengths Arkane has gone to make it all feel believable and real. Immersive sim is, I will admit, a clunky term, but it’s a useful way to encapsulate a core philosophy: that a game’s systems must work to make you believe in a world, even if that world features magical parkour assassins. I believe in Dishonored 2's world because throughout I encountered ways Arkane had anticipated player behaviour. The most extreme example is found in the standout mission A Crack in the Slab, which features an alternate timeline that only occurs if you do something that’s never asked of you—that most people will probably never try. Arkane knew someone would try, and so made a response. That's amazing dedication to the craft.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 1

Tom: It's a great execution of the ronin fantasy set in one of the most beautiful worlds on PC. The craggy Skellige isle might be one of my favourite places in games, or is it Novigrad, or the sunlit vineyards of Toussaint? Even the dripping bogs in the early areas are pretty, in their own miserable way. Within these gorgeous places you meet people with interesting problems. Maybe their local well is haunted. Maybe their spouse is haunted. Usually something is haunted, or cursed, or being pursued by a hideous mythical beast. I treated the sidequests as the main quest, to be honest, roleplaying a mutant outcast on a mission to make the world a slightly better place. Oh, and let's not forget Gwent, one of the best games-within-a-game since Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad. 

Jody: The fact you play a character with his own place in the world, including allies, enemies, and ex-girlfriends, is a definite strength of The Witcher 3. But it wasn't always this way. In the first Witcher game Geralt was an amnesiac sleazebag and honestly a bit of a tool. He wasn't a fun person to be around, let alone to be. But by The Witcher 3, Geralt's a caring father figure with a heart of gold beneath layers of beard and gruff, and more than that he feels like someone you personalise. How much he cares about getting paid, who he loves, how seriously he takes his creed, that’s all you. The Witcher 3's version of Geralt is the perfect videogame protagonist not because he's more integrated into his world than a character you make from scratch, but because he's a solid outline with room to manoeuvre inside that. He contains multitudes—but not too many. He has well-defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.

Wes: "Place" really is what makes The Witcher 3 so spectacular, and like no other game I've played. It's not just that the world is gorgeous and detailed, though it is both of those things. The Witcher 3 has this unparalleled combination of artistry and technology that makes its locations and characters feel authentic. Accents and architecture differ between the mainland and Skellige. The characters you encounter out in the world have quests that involve their families or monsters native to their region, and the more of these quests you take, the more you appreciate how natural and human they seem. No one's asking you to go out and slay five wolves because that's a good way to spend ten minutes in an RPG. If you're killing beasts, it’s probably to save a village's flock or get revenge for a grieving father, and even straightforward quests often end with surprising deviations. Depending on how you play Geralt, you can be a mercenary in search of coin, or calmly talk someone out of a decision you know they'll regret. You can haggle with assholes who don't respect the value of a witcher's work, and you’ll have to decide what to do when a poor farmer doesn't actually have the money he promised you. Those touches, along with the motion capture, the voice acting and the wind on a blustery night in Velen, make the whole thing come alive. What a world.

Phil: A thing I hate about most RPG writing is that something as simple as asking to be rewarded for your time and effort is treated as the most evil thing a protagonist can do. But in The Witcher 3, Geralt is a professional doing his job. His haggling with clients over money isn't a deviance or a crime, but the expected cost of hiring a man who is good at what he does for a living. 

Andy: I love The Witcher 3 because it’s a game where almost everything is meaningful. When you pick up a quest, it isn't just some thinly-written excuse to get you to go kill a monster. There's a backstory, a motivation, and often a twist. Quests can spiral, turning an encounter with a peasant in a tavern into a sprawling epic that ends with you fighting some great, mythical beast atop a crumbling tower in a raging storm. The game is heaving with interesting characters and worthwhile things to do, and Geralt is the foundation of it all: a complex lead who makes other videogame characters look like cardboard cutouts.

Personal picks

We love many more games than we can fit onto one list, so here the PC Gamer team has spotlighted a few of their favorites that didn't make the cut. 

Philippa Warr: Cradle

Cradle, like Deadly Premonition, is wonky but fascinating and stays with you for years. It's a transhumanist puzzler where you try to repair a mechanical girl who is also a vase in a yurt on the Mongolian steppe next to an abandoned theme park which dispenses block-based minigames.

Joe Donnelly: Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero is wonderful. Its storylines are weird and interesting. Its minimalist art style is gorgeous. Its sprawling open road and Mark Twain-esque Echo River are a joy to explore. Its cast of characters are quirky and often funny. And it's not even finished. Look for its final act this year.

Bo Moore: Prey

The first 20 minutes of Prey form one of the most inspired sci-fi set pieces of recent memory. An immersive sim that offers fantastic problem solving, enjoyable enough combat (even if the enemies are a bit uninspired), and, true to its pedigree, a level of environmental storytelling that rivals Rapture.

Steven Messner: Slay the Spire

This deckbuilding roguelike isn't out of Early Access and already I've sunk more hours into it than I’d care to admit. It's a deceptively simple game that anyone can easily pick up and play, but learning to build the perfect deck—and getting all the lucky drops to pull it off—can make hours vanish.

Tyler Wilde: Chess Ultra

For online chess, I recommend Chess.com. But if you want to relax with a few AI games, Chess Ultra has many of the features of pro chess software without the complexity. It's for people who just want to play chess, and it works wonderfully. The Twitch integration and VR support are cool, too.

Chris Livingston: Duskers

Issue text commands to drones to steer them around abandoned space stations where terrifying aliens lurk. You can only see what your drones see, giving Duskers a spooky found-footage feel. It's a scary and surprising roguelike where everything going wrong is as much fun as everything going right.

Tom Senior: Thief Gold

It's surprising how well 1998's Thief still holds up. It's tense and atmospheric, and the labyrinthine levels feel huge, substantial and ambitious even today. It's punishing, and the spindly NPCs look kind of ridiculous now, but I still get the fear when I snipe out a torch with a water arrow, hoping that nobody sees it.

Phil Savage: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

A stealth puzzler that's not afraid to make you wait. You embark on missions throughout Edo period Japan, silently breaking into well-guarded strongholds using wits, patience and an adorable raccoon dog. Deep, tactical and rewardingly tricky.

Andy Kelly: Else Heart.Break()

In a digitised world, anything can be hacked. That’s the premise of else Heart.Break(), a unique game about love, freedom, and cybercrime. You can hack objects to change how they behave. Hero Sebastian uses his newfound coding skills to join a gang of hacktivists.

Evan Lahti: Oxygen Not Included

The intricate systems-maths of a sim wrapped in the handmade charm of a Klei game. Within hours of starting a new colony, you're optimizing airflow and figuring out the right number of toilets to fertilize your plants. It's still in Early Access, but this is already my favorite ant farm on PC.

Samuel Roberts: Assassin's Creed Origins

I'm not traditionally a fan of Ubisoft’s series, but almost everything here, from world layout to combat to quest structure, has been revamped. I think everyone should see this open world before they die. It's a staggering creation.

James Davenport: Stories Untold

Using a computer shouldn't be scary, but Stories Untold makes it so. The fidelity of the keys and knobs draws you into its world. Sitting at your computer while the protagonists are tormented by their own makes the events of these four short stories feel more real and unnerving. 

The Stanley Parable

Davey Wreden, creator of the The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide, discussed his current game design goals during an indie panel at GDC 2018 today. Wreden didn't officially announce or nail down anything, but he did offer an intriguing glimpse at some of the ideas he's "shooting for" and what we might see next from the eccentric designer.

"I've been thinking a lot about why people continue playing a game after they've started, assuming it's somewhat fun or interesting on a core mechanical level," Wreden said. "Why does a person want to put in hour after after on this one game as opposed to playing a different game? What creates their engagement?"

Wreden grouped the reasons for this into three categories. Firstly, to become better or to optimize, "the enjoyable feeling that you are better now at the game than you were when you started playing." Secondly, to make progress, "watching your number go up or gaining more items or more stuff." And thirdly, to see more content, "we like the story, we like the characters, we like the world, and we want to continue to see more of it." 

"To me, these three things sum up what 99.9 percent of games are doing to engage players," he continued. "And we know this is effective on some level and it can be a lot of fun. We all like games like this. The question I've been grappling with lately is, how could you make a game that is engaging, compelling and does not rely on any of these three things to make you interested?

"These three points all rely on something outside the act of play itself to be interesting. With the first, you're imagining a future version of yourself who's better at the game. With the second, you're imagining a future where your number is bigger. With the third, you're imagining how cool it will be to see the rest of the story. They're all future-motivated. I would love to explore play that's engaging and compelling in this very moment, without that reliance on the future. 

"The weird goal that I was setting for myself is to create a game that is intrinsically fun to play and has the kind of context that would make us say 'this is a videogame,' but, at its core, does not rely on any of these three things to be compelling. I think they can still be there, but can they be something other than the sole direct reason why you want to continue playing? 

"What would a game be like where you make interesting choices, but you can't get better at making those choices, or you can't make more optimized choices? What about a game where you're growing or making progress in an interesting way, but where the outcomes are obscure enough that you can't see what the outcomes will lead to? What about a game that has a story, but you don't need to see every piece of content to get the story?

"All of these sound counterintuitive, but that's why I'm so excited. The bizarre, impossible-sounding goal I've set for myself is to create a game that does all of these things. I don't have a good answer yet as to how exactly I'll do that." 

If anyone can find a good answer to these wonky questions, it's probably Wreden. The Stanley Parable scribbled all over narrative conventions, and The Beginner's Guide was as much an intimate lecture on Wreden's design process as it was a game. He's made a name for himself by breaking the rules. It will be interesting to see if he can do it again and one-up his own auteurism. 

Dota 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

We’ve already seen which games sold best on Steam last year, but a perhaps more meaningful insight into movin’ and a-shakin’ in PC-land is the games that people feel warmest and snuggliest about. To that end, Valve have announced the winners of the 2017 Steam Awards, a fully community-voted affair which names the most-loved games across categories including best post-launch support, most player agency, exceeding pre-release expectations and most head-messing-with. Vintage cartoon-themed reflex-tester Cuphead leads the charge with two gongs, but ol’ Plunkbat and The Witcher series also do rather well – as do a host of other games from 2017’s great and good.

Full winners and runners-up below, with links to our previous coverage of each game if you’re so-minded. Plus: I reveal which game I’d have gone for in each category. (more…)

Dungeons of Dredmor

When we debuted our list of the best indie games in 2017, we said, "Consider this the beginning of a conversation, rather than the final word." We wanted the list to spark discussion among our readers and also to be something we continued thinking about. Great new indie games are arriving every month—by the time we published it Divinity: Original Sin 2 was already becoming a favorite among our writers. There were also plenty of games we voted for that narrowly missed out on the top 25, but which we thought deserved a mention regardless.

That's why we're updating our collection of the best indie games, and will continue to do so a few times a year from now on. The original 25 are still there if you page down, but at the top you'll find some personal favorites that missed out before, and the new hotness. This is supposed to be a list of the best indie games to play right now after all, and these are the games we recommend today. 

Into the Breach

Released: 2018 | Developer: Subset Games

Jody: Turn-based games don't always respect your time—opponents who take forever, entire turns where nothing happens, animations that feel like everyone's wading through stew. Into the Breach does not waste your time, which is apt because it's about time travel.

In the future giant bugs crawl out of the ground and ravage the world, and our only hope are mech pilots from an even more distant future who travel back to save us. As a band of three pilots in vehicles that would make cool toys, you're humanity's last hope. Fortunately, you can see what the bugs plan one turn ahead, and can dodge out of their way so they attack each other or dodge into their way to protect a building full of civilians they were about to demolish. It's a mech vs. monster dance-off.

And it's conveniently bite-sized. Maps are small, load fast, and only have to be protected for a few turns, so it feels worthwhile even if you've only got minutes. With hours to spare you can play a full run, save the day, then take your favorite pilot and leap back into a different timeline to do it all again.

Enter the Gungeon

Released: 2016 | Developer: Dodge Roll

Shaun: Enter the Gungeon is an arcade roguelite about shooting bullets with bullets. In other words, the enemies are ammunition. As one of four distinct characters, you'll dodge-roll, kick furniture and, most importantly, destroy bullets with bullets. There are hundreds of distinct weapons, ranging from a bow and arrow through to guns that shoot actual bees.

Enter the Gungeon exists in an absurdly busy genre: each week I write about a new roguelite. But Enter the Gungeon is special because not only does it nail the essentials (shooting, movement, sheer variety of weapons and items), but it also doesn't complicate things too much. Other arcade-centric roguelites like Flinthook and Rogue Legacy have had a good go at mixing compelling action with a simplified approach to the genre, and while each are great they end up feeling repetitive: like a jumble of the same rooms. But it's the weaponry that keeps Enter the Gungeon fresh. It's also really charming, somewhat against the odds.

Austin: I'd also like to add that there's a gun that shoots guns that shoot bullets.  

Frostpunk

Released: 2018 | Developer: 11 Bit Studios

Chris: It feels strange to play a city-builder that's not open-ended and doesn't let you tinker with your city forever. Also strange is that no matter how efficiently you design your city, your residents may kick your ass out of it due to events that take place elsewhere. But that Frostpunk does things differently is one of the things that makes it great.

Frostpunk is both grim and beautiful, a blend of survival and crisis management that leaves you facing tough choices, sometimes unthinkable ones, as you attempt to build a city that will protect your residents from a world gone cold. You're not just trying to keep them warm and fed, but keep them hopeful, and that's no simple matter when the only thing more bleak than the present is the future. In addition to building, gathering resources, and sending expeditions into the frozen world, you have to grapple with passing laws that may save your citizens' lives but at the same time may erode their freedom. There's rarely a moment that's free of tension and worry, and rarely a choice that isn't second-guessed.

Don't Starve / Don't Starve Together

Released: 2013 / 2016 | Developer: Klei

Jody: Klei's 2013 survival game is a playable Edward Gorey book where you'll probably get eaten by dogs or starve during the long winter—a possibility the name does warn you about, to be fair—while learning how the ecosystem of its unusual world works. You discover the importance of the wild beefalo herd, and the value of dealing with the Pig King. 

And then you do it again, with friends.

The survival games that followed Don't Starve filled their servers with desperate lummoxes all flailing at trees and rocks and each other. Don't Starve Together made multiplayer survival into something that's not as easy to make memes of, but a lot more fun. Sure, you can play it competitively but it's best as a co-operative village simulator where you start by pooling your rocks to make a firepit and eventually you're taking down bosses then crafting statues to commemorate your victory in the town square.

Celeste

Released: 2018 | Developer: Matt Makes Games

Shaun: Celeste is a tough 2D platformer with a 16-bit retro aesthetic. If I had a pixel for every time I’ve written about a game with those descriptors, I’d maybe have enough to render Crysis. So what makes Celeste special? The reasons are many and varied: firstly, it carries itself differently to other deliberately hard platformers like Super Meat Boy and N++. Studio Matt Makes Games wants everyone to finish this game, not just Kaizo Mario World speedrunners, so its pacing is careful and its attitude encouraging. While protagonist Madeline doesn’t have the most novel moveset in a platformer (she can grab certain walls and dash through the air), the action is precise, smooth, and unusually, you’ll actually care about her journey. 

Perhaps the variety is what really elevates Celeste: this is a game with set pieces that aren’t just saved for the boss battles, and while it is fundamentally a series of platform challenge rooms, it does feel like you’re navigating a world (in this case, the mountain Celeste). Not since Shovel Knight have we had a game that manages to cater for players who might not enjoy the irreverent, punishing veneer of most modern twitch platformers.

Rain World

Released: 2017 | Developer: Videocult

Shaun: You're going to hate Rain World if you approach it with the wrong attitude. Firstly, it looks like a platformer, but it's not: it's a punishing survival game. The first hour or so spent in the game also lacks promise: the controls are slightly fiddly because (by necessity—this is a survival game) they aren't as intuitive as most 2D games. You have to learn them (Rain World is all about learning, but you'll still sometimes get unlucky).

Once you surmount these prickly beginnings, Rain World is remarkable. You play as a slugcat one tier above the bottom of the food chain, and you must negotiate a labyrinthine and hideously broken open world in order to survive. Rain World is cryptic, uncompromising, and once given the chance one of the tensest and most atmospheric 2D games I've ever played. If you must make it easier, there have since been options added to the game to allow that. But I wouldn't if I were you. Rain World is determined to wrest empowerment from the player, determined to eschew any shred of the power fantasy so dominant in its medium. And yet it is logical, it's not "unfair", it’s not "poorly designed". It just doesn’t care about you.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Released: 2017 | Developer: Larian Studios

Jody: My party includes a skeleton who has mastered poison magic, a dwarf pirate, and a fire-breathing lizard prince. By the end of the game, one of them will be a god. 

Plenty of developers have resurrected the bones of the isometric RPG and added modern skin to it, but only a couple of those games really work as both reminders of the old days and great RPGs worth recommending to people who don't have nostalgia goggles near at hand. 

Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes the traditional map-hopping fantasy quest structure and adds a mindbending array of abilities to fill multiple hotbars, sidequests that feel like tonal breaks from the storyline but also seem like they matter on their own, and a degree of characterization we expect from big-budget RPGs. Every party member has their own thing going on, their own plot to follow and life to live, and can replace your character if they die. They can even be selected to take the lead in conversations, although saying hi to people as the skeleton without a disguise on will raise some eyebrows.

Wes: Original Sin 2 has great writing, clever and creative quests, and strong characters with arcs that span a near-hundred hour quest, all substantial improvements over the first game, which was already a hell of an RPG. What I really love about Original Sin 2 is that anytime you ask yourself the question "Can I do this?" you probably can. Savescum to your heart's content to see what happens when you kill an NPC, or sneak somewhere you aren't supposed to be, or figure out how to jump over a wall instead of solving a puzzle. Larian built an insanely open-ended RPG that encourages you to play however the hell you want, and then had the audacity to put a great story and combat system in it, too. 

Devil Daggers

Released: 2016 | Developer: Sorath 

Jody: A one-level first-person shooter where the level is a hellish arena, and the enemies are skulls and flying snakes and other escapees from heavy metal album art. Devil Daggers takes the speed and circle-strafing of Quake and distills it into one perfect minute, or longer if you're better at it than I am. It almost takes longer to describe than it does to play—almost. 

Steamworld Dig 2

Released: 2017 | Developer: Image & Form 

Austin: SteamWorld Dig 2 is a 2D Metroidvania-style platformer about digging tunnels in a fully destructible world. You collect resources, haul them up to the surface, upgrade your gear, and dive back down. As you rack up upgrades, from your pickaxe to gadgets like the grappling hook, jackhammer and steam-powered grenade launcher, you unlock new areas to explore and new ways to explore them. 

It's this magical mix of Metroidvania exploration and the resource collecting that makes survival games so cathartic, and it works because it lets you go at your own pace. You don't just go a little deeper each time you upgrade your stuff; you get a little more adventurous. You start to experiment with different gadgets and use them in new ways, and this changes the way you dig tunnels, which act like scaffolding for getting around levels. And no matter what you do, you're always making progress. Everything feeds into everything else, so you're constantly motivated to dive deeper and discover new temples to ransack. 

Subnautica

Released: 2018 | Developer: Unknown Worlds

Jody: Depending how you feel about diving, Subnautica can be either a wonderful opportunity to explore an alien aquarium or a straight-up horrorshow. Even with the survival stuff turned off so you don't have to regularly grab fish and eat them as you swim past, its depths contain claustrophobic tunnels and beasts big enough to swallow you whole. The thing is, Subnautica works as both a tense survival game about making it day by day in a hostile alien ocean and a way to drift around meeting strange sea creatures (and eating them).

The list continues on page two.

Gone Home

Released: 2013 | Developer: Fullbright

Shaun: Video games aren’t always about mowing down aliens and nazis and trolls in fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic settings. But most of the time they are. Gone Home wasn’t the first meditative, narrative-driven game, but it arrived at a time when people were more receptive to their possibilities than ever before. Crucial to Gone Home’s success is that, rather than resting on the delivery tactics of film, Fullbright uses the more tactile nature of the videogame medium. Sure, it’s interactive in the sense that you’re wandering through a home and discovering its inhabitants’ stories, but it also asks of the player that they mull over the lives that they’re eavesdropping on. While there are plenty of “walking simulators” nowadays, Gone Home endures because the story it tells is enduringly affecting and important.

Proteus

Released: 2013 | Developer: David Kanaga

Jody: I like walking simulators, and I use the term affectionately, but sometimes I find it hard to get caught up in their stories. They can feel anticlimactic. Proteus doesn't because its story is one I tell myself. It dumps me on a procedurally generated island and lets me explore, climbing hills and chasing frogs. There is another story in it though, in the sense that there's a sequence of events that you can experience, but it's a subtle one. (I'll give you a hint: it involves the standing stones.) If you want it there's a build-up and climax there, but even without that the relaxing strolls over its islands gave me all the satisfaction I needed.

Papers, Please

Released: 2013 | Developer: Lucas Pope

Jody: Games are amazing at letting you experience someone else's life. To pick an extreme example, just like the wriggly controls of Snake Pass give you an insight into what it would be like to be a snake, the rubber stamps and bureaucracy of Papers, Please make you feel like a border guard under a totalitarian regime.Morality's a thing games don't often do well, but by letting you master increasingly complex regulations—Papers, Please has a great difficulty curve, which indie games sometimes struggle with—it gives you power over the hapless citizens who line up to present their documentation. It motivates you to judge them harshly because if you don't, the pay you need to support your family will be docked, but also because the detective work of uncovering fraud is shockingly fun. You discover a contradiction in someone's papers and feel great, then realize what that will mean for the human on the other side of the counter trying to get home and feel awful. Yeah, it's a game about paperwork, but it's so intense that when I was rewarded for my paper-pushing by being given the key to the gun cabinet I wanted to hand it back. I wanted to tell a video game I wasn't interested in its gun.

Austin: I still remember one of the many would-be citizens I turned away in Papers, Please—the old man who repeatedly submits ridiculously inaccurate papers. Sometimes his ID shows the wrong gender or expiration date, sometimes he even has a photo of someone else on ‘his’ passport. His errors get more and more obvious and egregious, but his cheery attitude never changes. Every time I turned him away, he’d just smile and say he’d be back, like I was a server at his favorite local restaurant. Papers, Please is a game about hard choices, but nothing in it made me feel guiltier than denying that old man so many times. 

N++

Released: 2016 | Developer: Metanet Software

Shaun: During my first ecstatic weeks spent with N++, I thought it might be the last platformer I’d ever need to play. The slippery, floaty physics are so expertly tuned, and the level design so varied (despite having upwards of 5,000) that I thought it could keep me busy forever. And while I’ve played probably dozens of different platformers since, N++ is the only one I feel compelled to regularly return to.

Even when you’re not winning, N++ just feels good, and its focus on precision and reflexes isn’t as potentially frustrating as it can be in, for example, Super Meat Boy. The whole game has a zen-like quality, from its austere minimalistic art style through to the experimental electronic soundtrack (one of the few, in a platformer, that I’ve never turned the volume down on). This is simply the best pure platformer you can get on PC, a museum-worthy distillation of the genre’s strengths.

West of Loathing

Released: 2017 | Developer: Asymmetric Publications

Chris: West of Loathing is just so wonderfully jam-packed with humor, clever writing, and charming characters that it's hard to stop playing even when you've finished the main story, solved all of the (sometimes quite devious) puzzles, and collected every hat (there are more than 50) in the game. Everywhere you turn there's some little bit of descriptive text that will make you smile, chuckle, or laugh, even the the settings menu. It's one of the only games that drove me to explore not for loot or experience, but for words.

Crypt of the Necrodancer

Released: 2015 | Developer: Brace Yourself Games

Bo: Crypt of the Necrodancer is a rhythm-based roguelike—a DDR-dungeon crawler, if you will. A head-scratching combination, to be sure, but that's exactly what it is. Dance your way through pixelated depths to the beat of an awesome, rhythmically complex soundtrack. Stay on beat to slay the dungeon's dancing denizens, and don't forget to spend some time with the opera-singing shopkeeper. 

Evan: Definitely give the metal version of the soundtrack by YouTuber FamilyJules (composed by Danny Baranowsky) a listen. It's right up there with the Doom 2016 soundtrack. 

Bastion

Released: 2011 | Developer: Supergiant Games

Jody: There's no game I've had better luck recommending to people than Bastion. Everybody loves its narration and its music, which would be cool independently but become truly outstanding because of how they're integrated. You think you're hearing a beautiful soundtrack and then you discover the musician in the level you're exploring. You think the narrator is a guy with a deep voice telling a story and then he reacts to how you play.

Bastion is an action RPG about a ruined sky-city that rebuilds itself under your feet, nothing beyond the screen existing until you walk toward it. Instead of playing inventory Tetris you choose two weapons from a growing catalogue, and are rewarded for choosing strange pairings with narration snippets and radically altered play. And if you don't like the combat then go into the options and pick a different control scheme. I'm not normally the kind of critic to sing the praises of an options menu but you can turn Bastion into Diablo if you want. Come on, that's awesome.

Her Story

Released: 2015 | Developer: Sam Barlow

Jody: I used to watch an English cop show called The Bill. Back when it was good they'd sometimes dedicate half an episode to an interrogation, a guest star stamping their mark on the show. That's Her Story, only instead of cops it's you, years after the recorded interview, searching through video clips by entering keywords. Her Story plays out in those videos and that search bar, but it's also played on note paper you inevitably fill with conspiracy scribbles like Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I didn't bother making notes during Fez (I probably should have), but for Her Story I scrawled pages. 

It spread even further after that, into an argument with friends about what really happened which I remain convinced I'm right about. Maybe I got obsessed? It's one of a handful of games I 100-percented on Steam and I don't regret it.

Wes: In tech, skeuomorphic design—making your music player in the form of a cassette tape, for example—is now quaint and frowned upon. But it's a rarely used concept in games, and Her Story uses it to great effect. I'd go so far to say that its dusty CRT computer interface is the best marriage of aesthetic and game design in anything I've ever played. It's immersive in a subtle, well-earned way that makes Her Story enrapturing from its first few moments.

Dungeons of Dredmor

Released: 2011 | Developer: Gaslamp Games

Chris: I'm not typically one for turn-based games, and roguelike RPGs often break my heart when I'm forced to start over from scratch, but Dungeons of Dredmor immediately drew me in with its style and comedy. I've never won a game, never beat or even met Lord Dredmor, never even gotten more than a few levels deep. It's still a joy to play for its writing, humor and surprisingly deep and amusing lore.

Evan: The absurdity goes so far to soften the blows of its difficulty. You can build a Vampire Communist who wields Egyptian Magic, Fungal Arts, or Emomancy to fight hordes of weird robots, carrots, genies, and whatever the hell diggles are.

Austin: I keep coming back to Dungeons of Dredmor because it’s a gamble I don’t mind losing. I’ve never beaten Dredmor either, but generating a random character and pushing the usefulness of absurd skills like Fleshsmithing, Killer Vegan and Paranormal Investigator is always a thrill, even when I die on the first or second floor. It’s a system that rewards inventiveness. You can manually select your skills, but rolling the die and making the best of random skills is far more satisfying, and like the optional but actually totally necessary permadeath, makes every round feel genuinely different.

Lovely Planet

Released: 2014 | Developer: QuickTequila

Shaun: You don’t need blood and exploding heads in a first-person shooter. Case in point: Lovely Planet, a first-person shooter where you run increasingly complex gauntlets while shooting cute pastel shapes in a floating pastel land. But how, you ask. How can a game about shooting cute pastel shapes (that don’t bleed!) be fun? Because this is basically a platformer—a more-ish precision-oriented runner combining the fluidity of a Quake speedrun with the one-more-try quick respawn loop of Super Meat Boy. 

DEFCON

Released: 2006 | Developer: Introversion Software

Tyler: DEFCON is one of those games I could play forever. It's a simple, morbid real-time strategy game in which global nuclear war is inevitable and 'winning' means losing fewer people than everyone else. In the early stages it's about placing missile silos (which double as missile defense systems), airfields, radar stations, and fleets of submarines, battleships, and aircraft carriers. As the war turns hot, the only option is to manage losses and inflict your own genocide, to make paranoid alliances and break them with bombs—ignoring that the fallout will kill everyone anyway. The brutality is rendered with War Games-style vectors, turning cities to dots and people to casualty numbers, emulating the calculated viciousness of modern drone wars.

Oikospiel

Released: 2017 | Developer: David Kanaga

James: Oikospiel is a dog opera game about dogs making an opera game. I think. Here’s the plot synopsis according to developer, composer, everything-er David Kanaga: “The Oikospielen Opera is developing an epic global-gaming festival called THE GEOSPIEL, scheduled for the year 2100. The opera's employees, organized by the Union of Animal Workers, are trying to integrate the game dev dogs of Koch Games into their group, but these loyal pups love their jobs and boss Donkey Koch too much! Will there be Unity, or will Multiplicity prevail?” 

It’s as strange as it sounds, and it sounds strange—literally—too. With a soundtrack that mimics its frenzied landscapes, Oikospiel is a touching, psychedelic trip through videogame history with a meaningful message about labor.

The Stanley Parable

Released: 2011 / 2013 | Developer: Galactic Cafe, William Pugh, Davey Wreden

Shaun: Are you playing the game, or is the game playing you? So much of our agency in modern games is illusory, or, more gratingly, reductive and binary. Are you going to go the nice path or the bad-arse path? The Stanley Parable is a meta-critique of gaming as a medium, but it’s also a trojan horse existential crisis (and we all love having those). When we don’t take the critical path, the one prescribed to us, what could possibly go wrong? And given the actual opportunity to do so—given the opportunity to deliberately stray from what a game (or The Stanley Parable’s narrator) is telling us to do, is there any point in playing the game at all? Hmmm. Makes you think.

Jody: First time I played The Stanley Parable I did everything I was told to. Knowing it would be meta-commentary, I rebelled by not rebelling. That’s a dumb way to experience The Stanley Parable for the first time. Don’t do that. Sabotage it, go the wrong way, hide in a closet and refuse to leave. It’s a better game if you break the rules other games have taught you rather than the first rule of The Stanley Parable, which is: don’t do what you’re told.

SOMA

Released: 2015 | Developer: Frictional Games

Shaun: Survival horror too often devolves into repetitive efforts to fend off undead with unwieldy weaponry, but Soma is different. There’s no combat on this underwater research facility, and enemy encounters are few and far between. Most of the time you’re just looking at stuff, but that’s ok in the hands of studio Frictional. They manage to wring an overwhelming sense of dread and despair from a mere dark corridor, not to mention the sprawling sub-aquatic outdoor areas peppered throughout. And the ending of Soma—even if you’re usually ambivalent towards low action horror—is worth the trip alone. It may be more contemplative and less jump scare-oriented than Amnesia, but it’s all the better for it.

James: I’d even recommend those typically averse to horror give SOMA a try. Install the teasingly named “Wuss Mode” mod from the Steam Workshop to make the monsters harmless without losing much horror in the process. Sure, you won’t have to hide, but that doesn’t make their appearance and origins any less terrifying. 

Thumper

Released: 2016 | Developer: Drool

Shaun: Thumper is like an ugly, loathsome, despair-inducing industrial techno song come to life. And that's a very good thing. In our Top 100 Evan described it as "a documentary about the path you take to heaven or hell when you die" which is just about the most alluring description for a video game I've ever read. Yes, it's a tough, precision-oriented rhythm game, but it's a precision-oriented rhythm game that feels like a collaboration between Gaspar Noe and Laibach.

The list concludes over the page.

Nidhogg 2

Released: 2017 | Developer: Messhof Games

Bo: I'm a sucker for local multiplayer games, and Nidhogg is one of the best. Somewhat of a cross between fencing and tug-of-war, Nidhogg's 1v1 matches play out over the course of many brief but violent clashes, resulting in a tense back-and-forth that's every bit a battle of wits as it is one of skill. And like all good local multiplayer games, it's easy to pick up and play but has a well of strategic depth that makes it difficult to master.

The recently-released Nidhogg 2 builds on its predecessor with a new grotesque claymation art style as well as a handful of new weapon types that mix combat up just enough to make things exciting without hampering the original's simplistic greatness. The result is a fantastic fighter we keep coming back to—especially if an office bet needs to be settled. 

Fez

Released: 2012 | Developer: Polytron Corp 

Shaun: Fez accumulates more poignancy with age. It’s a puzzle platformer tightly stuck between two dimensions, and harried by each of them. The protagonist is tasked with investigating and hopefully fixing the scourge of a newly arrived third dimension in a happily two-dimensional world, and this could read, from a fairly one-dimensional point of view, as an indictment on progress, a kind of luddite’s journey. 

But as time passes—as the world becomes more overtly hostile—Fez’s innocent take on the loss of innocence rings true. As time passes, each of us will realise that certain uncomfortable truths have always lingered just out of our sight, waiting to pounce. And others will persevere, dig deeper (whether wisely or otherwise), for conspiracies and better buried secrets (and boy does Fez have secrets). Fez is a game about the hidden regions of our world that are always there, always mysterious, usually forbidding. It’s a beautiful and serene and sad game, but also, as an aside, really fun to play too. Fez is timeless in the way it can convey a wealth of emotion and contemplation through its systems alone.

Wes: After its fairly simple introductory hours, every discovery and deduction I made in Fez felt like a hard earned victory, or the unraveling of an impossibly complex puzzle. I love the sensation of "this can't possibly be the solution" in a videogame, only to discover that my crazy hypothesis was correct. That's what Fez is all about. And I love how clearly you can feel the immense amount of thought and polish that went into it; it feels every bit the intricate, perfectly tuned puzzle someone spent half a decade slotting together, piece by piece, until everything was just so.

Night in the Woods

Released: 2017 | Developer: Infinite Fall

Shaun: Some of the most noteworthy indies from the last decade have been adventure games, but it took until 2017 for one of the highlights, Night in the Woods, to emerge. As endearing feline Mae Borowski, you’re returning to the sleepy rural town of your childhood after an unsuccessful college stint. The town is on the decline, and so too, it seems, is Mae’s future. Things haven’t quite turned out the way she (or her family) had hoped, and much of Night in the Woods is about dealing with this mild disappointment. Exploring the township of Possum Springs is a joy in itself, but it’s the way Night in the Woods weaves a universal coming of age tale around an otherwise straightforward puzzle-laden adventure game that is remarkable. 

Kentucky Route Zero

Released: 2013-ongoing | Developer: Cardboard Computer

Jody: I wanted to wait. I wanted all five episodes of Kentucky Route Zero to be complete before I climbed into it and drove off. That's how I played The Walking Dead, and rumbling through that in one week contributed to its effect. I caved in and played Kentucky Route Zero though because a poet recommended it to me, and that's not something that happens every day. It’s obvious why she thought I had to try it, unfinished as it was (and still is). Kentucky Route Zero’s writing is gorgeous, ornamental but also able to get right at the meat of a thing. It's there when someone calls an office bureaucracy "the paperclip labyrinth" or describes topology as "the science of continuous space".

Kentucky Route Zero is an adventure game of the modern kind, where decisions and dialogue rather than puzzles pace your progress. It's about finding a lost highway, but it quickly buries you in a kind of American mythology where mystery roads are the least strange thing. I'd hate to spoil what you'll find, but if you get in an elevator, see a button that says "third floor (bears)" and aren't tempted to press it, then I don't even know you.

Though it feels like being in a novel, Kentucky Route Zero pays homage to games. That explanation of topology takes place in "a twisty maze of passages", a reference to the classic text game Colossal Cave Adventure. So is the fact that the first item you pick up is a lamp. Some of the earliest PC games were about manipulating words because that was all they had. Kentucky Route Zero is about manipulating words because that's a fascinating thing to do. It's hard to explain why encountering its word-hoard has such a potent effect, but I'm just a journalist. They should have sent a poet.

Stardew Valley

Released: 2016 | Developer: Eric Barone

Bo: There are few games that delight me in the way that Stardew Valley does. I grew up loving the Harvest Moon series, and Stardew takes that formula and applies it to the PC space. Stardew strips away many of Nintendo's puritanical hangups—same-sex marriage and sexual innuendo aren't taboo inclusions, for example—but maintains the charm of tilling fields, planting seeds, and growing crops. There's also a vibrant town to get to know, mines to explore, and tons and tons of fish to fish. I've spent more than 80 hours in Stardew Valley, and I'm looking forward to my next trip to the country. 

James: Do you see me now, dad? You didn’t think my mayonnaise dreams would get me anywhere and look at me now.

Jody: Thank goodness I am not the only person making bank off mayonnaise. The quality eggs provided by my hens, Chickity and Nug, are the secret of my success.

Undertale

Released: 2015 | Developer: Toby Fox

Wes: A friend and I played Undertale in a single sitting. It first inspires curiosity at its quirkiness, then determination to solve its challenging combat without taking the easy way out, then admiration for the delivery of its jokes and the tight meshing of themes and RPG mechanics twisted sideways. Comparisons to Super Nintendo RPG Earthbound, while apt, don't do Undertale justice: it's incredibly smart in how it thinks about the way we play videogames and challenges and surprises with new ideas at every step.

It's a game I genuinely think everyone should play. You'll either appreciate the humor, or the challenge, or the freedom to play through in many different ways, or the painstaking one-off moments, or the ways creator Toby Fox bent engine Game Maker to his will, or the prospect of a "true" ending to earn. It looks simple, but there's so much under the surface.

Kerbal Space Program

Released: 2015 | Developer: Squad

Chris: Whether you're seriously into the science and simulation, or just looking for some fun sending adorable astronauts into space (or watching their rockets explode before they get there), Kerbal is a near-perfect physics sandbox. One of the reasons it's such a joy to play is that there's immense satisfaction in the successes, like the first time you reach orbit, or land on the Mun, or safely bring your astronauts home from a mission, but there's also pleasure to be had (as well as lessons to be learned) from your failures.

KSP is both easy and immensely challenging: rockets can be snapped together quickly, and tweaked or rebuilt in mere moments, but conquering the solar system requires precision and know-how. Its charming looks and its detailed physics simulation make it a game for just about anyone, from casual rocket tinkerers to passionate rocket scientists.

Hollow Knight

Released: 2017 | Developer: Team Cherry

Wes: The best Metroidvania in years, perhaps because developers Team Cherry didn't explicitly set out to make a game in the image of Metroid. They were making a 2D action game, sure, set in a gorgeous hand-drawn decaying bug civilization, but they were mainly concerned with building out an intricate and interesting world, and the rest followed. "The rest," in this case, is a game that feels fantastic to play, with a character who moves exactly as you want and a weapon that hits with a fast and brutal crack. Combat and traversal stay rooted in the basics of jump, dodge, hit, never scaling too far beyond the capabilities you have from the very beginning. It always favors skill over power-ups.

Hollow Knight rarely tells you where to go or what to do, making palpable the satisfaction and wonder of discovering new parts of the world and new abilities. And it just keeps going. The world is huge, more detailed than you ever expect it to be, and suddenly you're two dozen hours deep and wondering how much you still have to find. The Super Nintendo had Super Metroid; PlayStation had Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Hollow Knight may not be spoken of in the same breath, just yet, but before long I think its place in that lineage will be clear: the PC had Hollow Knight.

Darkest Dungeon

Released: 2016 | Developer: Red Hook Studios

Shaun: Ah, dread. It’s what you generally try to avoid in an RPG rogue-like: you want to try to mitigate dread, manage it out of existence. But dread is Darkest Dungeon’s default state. In vague terms it’s a dungeon crawler, but the dungeons aren’t miraculously swept chasms with the odd cobweb and exhumed grave—they’re dank and gross. Add to that, the need to manage your entourage’s sanity (not easy in a game that takes some small inspiration from Lovecraft) and you have an RPG that rarely offers respite. That could sound punishing, but Darkest Dungeon’s mood, and the way that you can invest your emotions in its variables, rather than just your brain and its ability to parse bigger and better numbers, makes for a gripping and bleak RPG.

Evan: I love how martial, not magical, most of the character archetypes are. Apart from the Vestal, there aren't true spellcasters—Darkest Dungeon is acted out in blood, iron, poison, bones, and crossbow bolts. That grounds the game as a whole and adds to its grittiness. The fights that play out, with the help of great 2D camera effects and sound design, feel physical and jarring as a result. It also creates good contrast with DD's monsters, a gang of blood-sucking, spore-sneezing, tentacle-having, spinal column-collecting abominations.

Spelunky

Released: 2008, 2013 | Developer: Mossmouth

Shaun: The first time I played Spelunky I deleted it off my hard drive within ten minutes. Then, later, at the behest of then-PC Gamer scribe Graham Smith’s review, I begrudgingly reinstalled it. I can still remember what hooked me this second time: I picked up a gold mask, a rumble filled the air, and then a massive boulder collapsed through the ceiling and crushed a nearby vendor to death. I laughed, it was funny, I woke my partner up. That’s when I became addicted to Spelunky. 

A lot has been written about the beauty of Spelunky’s interlocking systems, its propensity for creating stories, and its tough-but-fair difficulty. That’s all been said and written a hundred times before, and while Spelunky is still a relatively new game in the wide scheme of things, it feels like a classic. I often boot it up just to be inside of it, just to soak up its mood. It’s weird to seek the comfort of familiarity in a game that’s always throwing curveballs, but aside from the glory of its systems and stories, Spelunky is a really beautiful, heartwarming game. It also was the first to demonstrate to me, personally, that a small game that originated as freeware could contain so much: so many stories, so many events, so many countless, frankly embarrassing, hours.

Evan: I'm gonna use this opportunity to share this great cover of the Mines theme.

Wes: Even years later, Spelunky's spot on this list is well deserved. The way its hero and items and traps and enemies and random generation interact with one another is still peerless. Just as brilliant, though, is Spelunky's daily challenge, the perfect combination of old school arcade leaderboard and infinitely replayable randomized roguelike. The daily challenge added structure and permanence to a genre that prided itself on not having any, and it works; it's become a must-have feature in any similar roguelike ever since.

Portal 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Hazel Monforton)

dishonoreddeath

When we meet the creators of fictional worlds, we often want to kill them. Whether its Bioshock’s Andrew Ryan and his deadly Rapture, GlaDOS and the sadistic test chambers of Portal, or Kirin Jindosh and the Clockwork Mansion. The urge to destroy these builders is partly down to the nature of their constructions – deathtraps and mazes that make the architect a cruel overseer – but there is perhaps more to it than that. With spoilers for the above, Hazel Monforton investigates the role (and the death) of the author in a medium that invites the audience into the action.>

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Garry's Mod

Achievement hunting on Steam is serious business. While Valve's storefront might not have Xbox's Gamerscore or PlayStation's Trophies, there are still plenty of PC gamers who appreciate the way Steam achievements challenge them to play games in new and interesting ways. Then there's the satisfaction of knowing you're one of just a small percentage of players who've explored every nook and cranny, maxed out every stat, or earned every gold medal a game has to offer. 

The thing is, a lot of Steam achievements are kind of boring. Kill 10,000 enemies, hit level 99 in every class, finish the game on Ultra Nightmare Hardcore difficulty—most of the objectives feel like they've fallen straight out of a free-to-play MMO's quest log. Even the rarest achievements are often little more than tedious grind fests, requiring you to play 500 online matches in a multiplayer game with no active player base, or fight alongside a game's developer when that developer has long ago moved onto their next project. 

These achievements aren't particularly fun to earn, let alone read about. But buried in Steam's massive catalog of games are some truly obscure, brutally difficult achievements that less than 0.1 percent of players have managed to accomplish. These are achievements worthy of the name. Most of us will never earn them, but we can dream.

Note: Total owners approximated from SteamSpy. Verified achievement stats through AStats.

Devil Daggers

Devil Dagger - Survive 500 secondsTotal Owners: 236,000 Completion Percentage: 0.1

For something you could complete in the downtime between Dota matches, frantic FPS Devil Dagger's one and only achievement has managed to defy 99.9 percent of players for well over a year now. That might seem odd given how simple its requirement sounds: all you have to do is survive for 500 seconds. I mean, I do that all the time. See. That last 500 seconds? I just survived that. 

But yeah. Surviving Devil Daggers is a wee bit tougher than running out the clock in real life. Despite the game selling for a mere fiver, just 0.1 percent of players have managed to avoid croaking for the 8 minutes and 20 seconds necessary to snag the 'Devil Dagger' achievement. Watching replays of those runs is equal parts mesmerizing and depressing, making it painfully clear just how amateur my own skills are. I could probably spend the next year playing nothing but Devil Daggers and still not come close to the graceful death-dealing of players like the world-record-smashing bowsr. When the apocalypse hits and the whole world goes to hell, I'll be the redshirt incinerated in the first ten seconds.

Crusader Kings 2

Not so Bad - Survive the End Times Total Owners: 1.4 million Completion Percentage: 0.1

Crusader Kings 2, champion of the grand strategy genre, is full of intricate, multi-layered achievements few players have managed to unlock. From installing a female ruler in the five baronies of the Orthodox Pentarchy, to trampling the Pope with a horde of elephants, over a dozen eclectic achievements are currently sitting at a completion rate of less than 0.1 percent.  

The one I want to shout out, though, is the 'Not so Bad' achievement awarded for surviving the End Times. Ostensibly, you unlock this achievement by surviving the rise of the Prophet of Doom and the Black Death he's convinced will destroy humanity. A Crusader Kings player going by the username Xolotl123 on Reddit, however, inadvertently earned themselves the achievement due to their investment in high-quality hospital care and their imprisonment of the Prophet for disturbing the peace. The Prophet then hanged himself, but not before sending the player a letter that read: 'If you are reading this letter, I am with God, or with Lucifer..., if so, then you were right. If not, then I was right.' 

I've not had the time to play Crusader Kings 2, but after reading this story, I think I'm going to have to clear my schedule. Any game where you can avert the End Times through hygiene is a winner in my book. 

Rising Storm / Red Orchestra 2

Bringing a sword to a sword fight – As an American soldier kill an Axis soldier wielding a Katana, with a Katana. Stick it to Tojo – As an Allied soldier, kill 100 Axis soldiers with a bayonet. Total Owners: 2.7 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.1 - 0.2

Rising Storm's focus on historically authentic, asymmetrical WWII combat means that, naturally, American soldiers do not spawn into the battlefield with katanas. In order to get one, you have to defeat a Japanese soldier who's carrying one. And in order to get the "Bringing a sword..." achievement, you then have to pick up their katana, find another Japanese soldier with a katana, and then defeat them with the weapon of their ancestors. It's a hard scenario to concoct in an FPS where rifles and grenades are the preferred way to fight.

Bit.Trip Beat

MEAT.BOY SMELLS - Get a perfect in 1-1 using only a game pad.Total Owners: 311,00Achievement percentage: 1.6

Heresy! An achievement that requires ditching the holy mouse and keyboard for a filthy gamepad? What does BIT.TRIP BEAT take us for, console players? Everyone knows a good M+K combo is the only way to play. Sure, it makes driving games a bit twitchy, and performing combos in third-person action games can be tricky without analogue sticks, and fighting games don't always work so great, and stealth sequences tend to be a little wonky with WASD…

Okay. So maybe gamepads aren't that bad. Still, locking an achievement to a specific piece of hardware is a surefire way to tick off achievement hunters. The BIT.TRIP devs found that out the hard way with the game's 'SIXTH.SENSE' achievement, which required players to beat a level using Razer's short-lived Sixense motion controller. The backlash to 'SIXTH.SENSE' drove the devs to delete the achievement from Steam completely, which technically makes it one of the rarest achievements out there. Not quite as rare as a game with motion controls that don't feel like total garbage, but still…

The Stanley Parable

Go outside - Don't play The Stanley Parable for five years Total Owners: 2.1 million Number of achievers: 2 verified through AStats (6.9 percent on Steam) 

Games are meant to be played—we usually take that much for granted. It's a little odd, then, when a game actively encourages you not to play it. Odd, however, is what The Stanley Parable's all about. I mean, one of the game's endings involves running back and forth between two buttons for four hours. And that's not to mention the pointed commentary on the nature of free will and the human tendency towards obeisance. Like I said, odd. 

The Stanley Parable's weirdest elements, however, are definitely its achievements. In addition to an achievement simply entitled 'Unachievable' (paradoxically earned by 3.9 percent of players), there's the 'Go outside' achievement that tasks players with not playing the game for five years straight. Since The Stanley Parable released in October 2013, no one can legitimately earn this achievement until October next year. Of course, that hasn't stopped some unscrupulous Steam users from setting their computer clocks forward to unlock the achievement early.  

Cheating to not play a game? I guess some people will do anything for their sweet cheevos. 

Garry's Mod

Addict - You have wasted a year of your life playing GMod! Total Owners: 13.2 million Number of achievers: 9 verified on AStats (1.8 percent on Steam) 

You can do a lot of things in the 8760 hours that make up a single year. You could play 105,120 matches of Rocket League. You could marathon the entire current run of The Simpsons—all 617 episodes—38 times over. You could hitch a ride on a rocket and fly to Mars, with enough time left over to plant the seeds of an interplanetary rebellion

You could also spend every one of those 8760 hours playing Garry's Mod in order to unlock the 'Addict' achievement. And when I say playing, I don't just mean booting up the game and letting it idle in the menu. You have to be connected to an active server for your time to count. Unsurprisingly, the hefty investment involved has kept the achievement's completion percentage at just 1.8 percent, even with achievement hunters over at AStats devising strategies for minimizing the resources used by Garry's Mod so you can leave it running in the background while you tend to other tasks. 

I have to wonder, though, how many people left their computers on while they were working or sleeping solely to unlock this achievement? At a modest estimate, 8760 hours' worth of electricity would cost roughly $210 USD, which is a whole lot of money for a single achievement. Kind of puts all those pesky microtransactions to shame, doesn't it? 

Train Simulator

DLC scenarios Total Owners: 995,000 Completion percentage: 0

Speaking of money, Train Simulator boasts some of the rarest achievements on Steam, but that's not because they're brutally difficult or stubbornly obscure. Heck, the achievement descriptions make it pretty obvious what you've got to do: the 'It Works For Dogs!' achievement reads 'Awarded for completing scenario [RailfanMode] Barking. It's not like the game's unpopular either, with nearly a million owners on Steam and a median playtime of a respectable 7.5 hours. 

No, what makes Train Simulator's achievements so rare is that fiendish friend of ours: DLC. Train Simulator is notorious for having the most expensive DLC on Steam, with its total value currently sitting at $6254.43 USD. Worse, Train Simulator ties many of its achievements to its DLC, leading to a wealth of 0 percent and 0.1 percent completion rates across the board.  

But that $6254.43? I'd want a real honest-to-god train if I was forking over that much cash. If it was anything like Train Simulator, though, it'd probably lock out the train whistle as premium DLC. Steam whistle: only $0.99 per toot! 

Ark: Survival Evolved

Artifact Archaeologist – You personally retrieved all Eight Artifacts! Total Owners: 4.7 million Completion Percentage: 0.2

A whole lot of people play ARK: Survival Evolved, and yet even the most common of its seven achievements has been earned by less than 5 percent of players. But while 95 percent of ARK players haven't defeated the game's first Ultimate Life Form, 99.8 percent remain vexed by its toughest achievement: 'Artifact Archaeologist', rewarded for retrieving every Artifact in the game. It sounds simple enough, but this is where ARK's nature as an Early Access game comes back to bite it on the rump.  

According to the achievement description, there are only eight artifacts in ARK: Survival Evolved. This isn't true. There are 14 artifacts in total, 10 of which can be obtained through normal play, 3 which are locked to the Scorched Earth DLC, and one which can only be spawned through a console command. For a game that has already seen its fair share of controversy, ARK has left quite a few achievement hunters pretty disappointed. Still, at least they can take solace in the giant bees that have just been added to the game. That's something, right?  

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Dragonrider - Tame and ride 5 dragons Total Owners: 11 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.8

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you've played Skyrim, or at least heard enough about it to understand the game's premise. You're the dragonborn, you need to save the world from an evil dragon, yada yada yada. In short, the game basically revolves around dragons. 

How, then, is the achievement for riding dragons so rare? Only 0.8 percent of the millions of Skyrim players have tamed five or more of the mythical creatures and taken to the skies, which makes exactly zero sense to me. Who wouldn't want a dragon as their personal chauffeur? It's not like you'd have to worry about anyone jacking your scaly pal; any thief foolish enough to try would be charred to a crisp before they could shout Fus Ro Dah. I guess Skyrim players are just too busy getting busy and fighting Macho Man Randy Savage to spend their time becoming certified dragon pilots. 

Black Mesa

Rare Specimen – Send the Hidden Hat to Xen. Total Owners: 500,000 Completion percentage: 2.1 percent 

Hats are all the rage these days. I have it on good authority from my stock broker that the hat economy is only going to go up—and that's coming from a man who wears a top hat, so you know it's legit. My wardrobe is already full of baseball caps, bowler hats, fezes, and beanies, just waiting for the day when my fabric fortune will be ready to claim. The only thing I don't quite understand is why my broker keeps mentioning Dota. Eh, never mind. I'm sure it's nothing. 

Video games, it turns out, are just as keen to cash in on the hat craze. Black Mesa, the fan-made recreation of the original Half-Life, adds in the 'Rare Specimen' achievement that tasks good old Gordon Freeman with locating a hidden purple top hat and lugging it all the way from the Black Mesa Research Facility on Earth to the alien dimension of Xen. It might not sound that tricky, but apparently Gordon's more interested in trivial things like saving the world instead of securing his future in the hat economy--only 2.1 percent of players have carried the top hat all the way to its new interdimensional marketplace. 

Wait, that gives me an idea. What if I started selling digital hats instead of physical ones? Ooh, I think I'm onto something here. I better stop typing before someone beats me to the punch… 

The Stanley Parable

The acclaimed first-person exploration game The Stanley Parable has been out for a few years now, and so you might think that its days of being updated are well behind it. But you'd be wrong. In a post at galactic-cafe.com, co-creator Davey Wreden explained that a bizarre black monolith that appears at the conclusion of an equally bizarre mini-game that nobody was actually supposed to complete isn't meant to be there. And he feels pretty bad about the whole thing. 

"Somewhere in the making of Stanley Parable, someone had the idea that it would be really funny if there was a mini-game that you had to play that was really tedious and not at all fun, and that the game should ask you to play it for 4 hours. Thus the Baby Game was born: a game in which the baby crawls from right to left into the fire, and you press a button to delay the baby’s death by a few seconds, over and over, for 4 hours," Wreden explained. 

Naturally, the developers assumed that nobody would actually do this, but on the off-chance that someone might be so persistent Wreden slapped a brief message about "the essence of divine art" at the end of the thing and called it a day. And of course people did do it, and saw the message, and also that black monolith, which lends the whole thing an air of vaguely sinister mystery. But the monolith is a bug: It is, in fact, the remains of a sliding door that got past the testers because nobody bothered to test it. 

It's not the presence of the monolith that's the problem, though, but that it's covering up some of the text in the Baby Game message: that, and the fact that, in retrospect, it all feels a little "cheap" to get a 95-word message in exchange for four hours of clicking a button. "I guess if I had watched someone play it ahead of time I would have tried to go back and do something to make the ending feel more substantial. But like I said, we never really assumed anyone would actually do it, so I never bothered to put myself in the shoes of someone who might play it to completion," he wrote. "Years later I still feel weird about it." 

Since it's too late to make the payoff more meaningful, Wreden said the least he can do is make it legible. Hopefully. "That’s the reward we intended people to get, so dammit that’s what they’re gonna get," he continued. "The update we’re pushing today will remove the monolith and make all the text legible... I believe. I have not tested it." 

In lieu of spending four hours keeping a baby from crawling into a fire, you can read the full message, sans monolith, below. 

Fear me, Mortal. I am the essence of divine art.Others but you cannot read this text.Know that when you die, I will personally carry your spirit across the River Blxwxn, into my garden built within the emotions of a flower.There we will live together, we will dance and eat and sin and you will do improv comedy based on suggestions from me for all eternity.This is your reward for your work here today.Now. Live your normal human existence. Await me in the life that follows this one. 

The Stanley Parable - Valve
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Regis will make sense soon, we promise.

When most games end, they attempt to wrap up the plot with a neat bow, completing character arcs and leaving plot threads tangled ever so lightly, just to leave enough ambiguity open for a potential sequel. It s nice! I like it when games feel self-contained, when I can go to bed at night with the entirety of the experience neatly laid out in my mind s eye like an intricate quilt of motivations and rising and falling action. I don t have to think anymore, it s over with, resolved. But the games that push back against resolution and bury themselves in my subconscious are the ones that stick, for better or worse. Some defy the expected structure of the game and cut things off before they get started, others spin out into surreal nightmare experiments that would keep David Lynch up at night. Because we re directly involved with pushing the game towards a conclusion, it s when they attempt to subvert and rattle my senses rather than ride along with them that I feel most vulnerable and why I ll always fear Regis Philbin. Find out why in our list of some of the most abrupt, bizarre game endings out there. Spoiler warning: it should be obvious, but we re going to talk about some of the most surprising moments in these games, and some are fairly recent, so proceed with caution.

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain 

I remember being pretty dissatisfied with the ending of Metal Gear Solid 5, but in the rearview, I think it s only because it comes after a slow, repetitive second act when compared to the first. But the big twist is actually pretty cool. In the end, it s revealed that the player character was in fact not Big Boss, but the Phantom , an MSF medic that the original Big Boss used as a front to work behind the scenes. After the helicopter crash in Ground Zeroes, Big Boss took the opportunity to use hypnotherapy and plastic surgery to make you a spitting image of him. As a metaphor, it s a sweet gesture, one that indicates MGS players were an important force in the long term success of the series, and for lore aficionados, it plugs in a few plot holes in its half-century span.

The Stanley Parable - the art ending 

In a grand test of patience (and the essential act of playing a videogame), The Stanley Parable s strangest ending involves pressing a big red button to prevent a cardboard baby from entering a fire. A few hours in and another button is thrown into the mix, this time preventing a cardboard puppy from drowning. Juggling those two buttons for a few more hours will reveal the true meaning of art to the player if they re patient enough. It s an interesting test in player motivation, and unsurprisingly, it didn t take long for someone to get through it. Anything for art.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Regis flips

Who knew trauma could come in a cereal box? Regis Philbin, host of the once popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire provided his voice and likeness for a free CD version of the game that came with General Mills cereal for a limited time back at the turn of the millennium. But CD Regis has no chill. It s not just during the player select screen that he runs out of patience with lightning ferocity, Regis loses his shit if you take long doing nearly anything at all. If you don t type your name, he ll type Kathie Lee and the questions will be easier, and if you don t answer during the Fastest Finger contest, Regis gets angry and turns the game off. If I spent my formative years living in a dark cell full of Honey Nut Cheerios, I m not sure I d have the greatest disposition either, I suppose. Just leave Kathie out of this.

Far Cry 4 - finished in 15 minutes

During the earliest moments of Far Cry 4 you meet Pagan Min, the murky, unhinged antagonist. After a tense scene at the dinner table, he ll leave to attend to an urgent matter. Most players typically bail at this point I mean, Pagin licks your mother s ashes off his finger. I d bail too. But if you wait it out 15 minutes or so, he ll return and take you to your mother s grave, which is where you wanted to go in the first place. So you spread her ashes, feel feelings, and then Min asks if you re ready to shoot some goddamn guns. Credits roll and the game ends at which point most folks take Min s advice and start over. I do wonder about the one person that found that ending and returned the game, or possibly felt like it worked and never touched Far Cry 4 again. If you exist, email me.

Silent Hill 2 - Dogs rule the world

There isn t much to say about the secret dog ending in Silent Hill 2. It s baffling. By finding the Dog Key and entering the observation room of the Lakeview Hotel, James opens the door to find Mira, a shiba inu, operating a series of buttons and levers. He breaks down, in disbelief that a dog was behind the series of nightmarish events that led him to this point. It s popularly considered a joke ending, but I ll die on the canon hill. I mean, the credits are a dopey montage of clips featuring characters from the game set to a song sung by the powerful pooch in a series of barks and yips. It s adorable, and given the context, absolutely horrifying.

Dishonored - a foiled plot 

OK, so this one isn t a fair entry since it requires taking advantage of some game-breaking glitches, but it s too funny to leave out. At the beginning of Dishonored, Corvo is framed for the assassination of the empress and kidnapping her daughter. The event sets up the rest of the game, a dozen or so hours of infiltration missions set across Dunwall. At Summer Games Done Quick, speedrunner DrTChops showed us how he could prevent the assassination and kidnapping from happening at all, as broken as his method might be. Watch the video to see him work his way toward the assassins before they initiate their attack and kill them, at which point the screen kicks to black. It s a silly Groundhog s Day solution to a problem that doesn't really need solving, and a funny demonstration of games can be entertaining long after their intent has been exhausted.

Start the video at 16:42:00 to see for yourself.

Furi - life in paradise 

Before attacking The Stranger, the sixth boss The Song gives him a chance to hang out with her on her floating island Oasis for eternity. If you walk on by, she ll get angry and attack you, but if you hang out in on the island for a while, she ll thank you, talk about your lovely future together, and the credits will roll. For a game all about intense, intimate combat, I was pleasantly surprised to find an option hidden in the halfway point that rewards the exact opposite.

Portal 2 - Space! 

Portal 2 s closing moments acknowledge that there s no such thing as a perfect ending. There will always be loose threads, plot holes, and burning questions, so Valve opted instead for a soothing salve: the musical number. After defeating Wheatley by shooting a portal on the moon and banishing him to space as if this ending wasn t rad enough GLaDOS returns to her big robot body and instead of killing you, asks to be left alone. Freedom is imminent, but on the elevator ride up turrets big and small and leopard-printed sing a final farewell song before you re coughed up into a field of golden wheat with a scorched companion cube for company. Hooray? Hooray.

Inside - the blob

I think about Inside on a weekly basis now how it uses a slight, subdued color palette and precise animations to communicate more powerful bits of body horror than the best in the biz. Whether it s the shake of a dog s head as it rips at the leg of a small boy or the light crunch and irregular fold after miscalculating a dangerous leap, Inside knows how to do discomfort. And no moment demonstrates it better than the final 15 to 20 minutes of the game, where the player character is subsumed into an amorphous blob of writhing, moaning limbs. You help the blob escape the facility, bursting through panes of bulletproof glass, over an unlucky person or two, and eventually through the outermost wall of the facility, limbs scraping and clawing and twisting all the while.

To see such a confusion of familiar human pieces and pained voices come together as something inhuman, and then to help the horrifying inhuman thing achieve a goal is one of the more trying exercises in empathy I ve experienced in a game. And it worked. After escaping and rolling down a forested hill, the blob comes to rest on the beach. The voices go silent and the limbs go limp. A ray of light splits through the clouds, the waves gently lap at the shore. I felt relief for the creature, glad it finally had a chance to rest. The credits roll and it s over. Why do I feel good?

Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy - uhhh 

I played this game from tip to toe in one or two sittings when it came out and I still can't parse what's going on here. It s hard to believe that the amazing opening diner sequence wasn t even close to an indication of what was coming. In the span of a few hours, Indigo Prophecy went from covering up a unintentional murder with police on the way in a timed, consequential adventure game format, to whatever this is. There s flying dudes with some cyber powers I think. They fight in the air and shoot colored lines at one another. Something about figuring out what to do with his new cyber powers, a big storybook tree, and the credits roll. Someone please translate.

The Witness - Urine Jug: Origins

I have to hand it to The Witness. For a game all about drawing lines, it really carries the theme through in the true ending. After riding the Wonka elevator into the sky and getting the credits, if you continue in a new game, a certain sky-themed puzzle might pop out at you from the very first room you start in. Theoretically, you can finish The Witness in the first minute of playing it. After you figure it out, a door opens and you get a behind the scenes, upscale-hotel-looking tour of a previously invisible building. There are some audio logs lying around that speak the credits aloud, and at the end, well.You pass through the darkness and into the real world via a short video shot by a camera attached to Jonathan Blow s head. He meanders around the development studio, noticing patterns from The Witness all around him before looking up into the sky as the shot fades to white.

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