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. 

DEFCON - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

An entirely objective ranking of the 50 best PC strategy games ever made, now freshened up to include everything from 2017 and 2018. From intricate, global-scale wargames to the tight thrills of guerrilla squads, the broad expanse of the genre contains something for everyone, and we’ve gathered the best of the best.

The vast majority are available to buy digitally, a few are free to download and play forever. They’re all brilliant.

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Company of Heroes 2

It’s uncommon these days to see an RTS released that doesn’t have competitive intentions. From larger titles like Halo Wars 2 or Dawn of War III to smaller ones like Empires Apart, a lot of work in real-time strategy games typically goes into the multiplayer experience. However recently, with games like They Are Billions or Frostpunk, we are seeing some leanings back toward a singleplayer focus.

Let's celebrate the qualities of a great singleplayer real-time strategy campaigns by picking out some of the best ever made. In so doing, it’s very difficult to avoid a retread some of the common giants in this space: Relic, Blizzard, and Westwood’s games have all taken world-building and storytelling very seriously and that shows in the quality of their campaigns. Alongside these, I’m going to place some titles that perhaps haven’t gotten quite as much attention before, or that might’ve slipped by unnoticed by some people. 

This isn’t an ordered list; I started out trying to put them in a countdown, but these games are often good for such different reasons it seems silly to rank them. Let’s get cracking. Note, there are a few spoilers for the older games in the list.

Battle Realms

Often when we discuss advanced combat systems in RTS, games like Dawn of War, Men of War, Company of Heroes, or WarCraft 3 come up. Liquid Entertainment’s 2001 RTS Battle Realms deserves a prominent seat at this table. Released about a year before WarCraft 3, Battle Realms features a number of fun systemic twists. You could level up peasants to any combat unit, spend one resource (water) to replenish another (rice), dynamically switch units between ranged and melee combat, and upgrade systems using a novel Yin/Yang system.

The campaign itself isn’t as polished as some of the others in this list: all cutscenes are rendered in-game, which looks pretty dated these days. But the core formula still feels fresh in 2018. Taking the mantle of either the Serpent Clan, or the stalwart Dragons, you must shadow the exiled hero Kenji as he strives to re-establish the dominance of his chosen clan. I put a lot of weight on choice in campaigns, and Battle Realms does a good job of this, giving you choice over the territory and scenario you take on next. Winning battles can provide bonuses in future missions, which adds a note of persistence across missions.

Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault

Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault tells the story of the Battle of the Bulge through the eyes of four commanders (three of which are playable). Each has their own backstory and personality, which you see reflected in the forces of the three playable leaders. The armies are interesting, but it's the surprising depth and uncompromising difficulty of the Ardennes Assault meta-layer map that really sets it apart. 

One thing I kind of like about several of the RTS on this list is that they don’t try to emulate the political layer of Total War games and instead let battles take front and center. Ardennes Assault does this by using reinforcements to create rewards and consequences. defeated enemies can retreat to reinforce territory you haven’t taken yet, making subsequent missions harder than they otherwise would have been. You can cut off these retreating enemies by maneuvering your companies on the map, but doing so means you might miss out on time-critical missions. There’s a lot of nuance in the system, and honestly this campaign style is one I’d love to see ripped off time and again. 

Mission design is relatively varied, from holding a defensive line to standard Control Point capture, and the finale is memorable without being over-the-top ridiculous like some final missions can be (It’s coming up next, but Battle for Dune could fit here) easily.

Emperor: Battle for Dune

Some titles on this list are here because of the presentation of their story, and how memorable their characters are. Some titles are on this list due to the replayability and depth of their systems. Emperor: Battle for Dune is here because of all of these things.

Westwood adapted the Command & Conquer formula and dressed it in the campiness of the 1984 Dune movie. The campaign gives you a Risk-style territory map where you must battle two AI Houses for control of the planet Arrakis.  

The game throws in story-progression missions every couple of levels to give you a break from the unrelenting desert—some missions take place on Spacing Guild Heighlighers or other planets like Caladan. You can also ally with (or fight) the Minor Houses, which creates some variation across playthroughs. Along with Ardennes Assault, Emperor: Battle for Dune remains the gold standard for an enjoyable meta-campaign. And, along with Red Alert 2, Emperor stands strong as one of the best examples of enjoyable campiness in real-time strategy gaming.

Dawn of War: Dark Crusade

Dark Crusade introduced two of the most interesting and fun factions in all of RTS gaming: the Necrons and the Tau. These factions are interesting in and of themselves as members of the Warhammer 40,000 lineup, but in the context of RTS, they’re quite a pair.

Other games in this list, like Ardennes Assault and Emperor: Battle for Dune, have meta-layer strategic campaigns, and darn good ones. Dark Crusade’s iteration stands out amongst them for a number of reasons. Territories give you access to unique customizations that can change how you approach the game. Given the start locations of each faction, you can acquire these customizations in different orders. Also, as you progress you’re able to apply wargear to your chosen leader, further customizing them and giving you a fun sense of progression and growth even without much of a story to go on beyond Warhammer-generic Endless War.

There are other nice touches too. The campaign preserves a your base after you have won a province (something I really would like to see happen more in RTS—it feels right to come back to somewhere you’ve already battled and see your progress in that area preserved). The Honor Guard for faction leaders are another neat persistent element.

Homeworld

Relic’s Homeworld remains one of the most compelling real time strategy games ever made. It's rare for a real-time strategy game to create a universe of such scale and poignancy. Karan S’Jet and the Mothership have become iconic characters, and the game has an emotional weight I haven't experienced in another RTS game.

I tend to view campaigns that offer some choice to be superior to linear ones, partially because I value replayability in singleplayer, but also partly because such choices can provide powerful feelings of agency to the player. Homeworld's linear campaign is an exception, however. Your forces carry over from mission to mission, which creates consequences and captures the tone of a fleet scrabbling to survive.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

I was skeptical of Deserts of Kharak. I didn’t think that a game based on Homeworld’s DNA could work properly on the surface of a planet, but it does this surprisingly well, and terrain encourages a lot of play over features like the ridges of dunes. It also has a decent linear campaign that borrows the right elements from the original Homeworld games.

On the default campaign setting you bring units across from mission to mission, and the missions are well paced to allow you a breather after finishing a particularly tough battle. You can turn this off at any time, to swap out a broken force for a pre-set loadout for the mission—This saved me a couple of times later in the campaign when I suffered massive losses at a critical moment. 

Like the core Homeworld games, the game is deeply atmospheric, and there were times when the desert around my little fleet of vehicles felt vast in a way that, for instance, I never felt in a game like Battle for Dune. The tone is sometimes interrupted by vehicles doing awkward dances trying to navigate lumpy deserts, but Blackbird did a phenomenal job of giving the world a sense of scale. Also in the spirit of its predecessors, the cadence of the story ratchets up at just the right times, increasing the stakes and providing twists that elevate the game far above standard RTS fare. 

The Gaalsien and their leader, the K’had Sajuuk, are wonderful villains, almost akin to the Brotherhood of Nod from Command and Conquer. Or perhaps like the fremen from Dune. While the story differs from previous Homeworld canon, the overall quality of Deserts of Kharak’s storytelling make it one of the very best RTS campaigns released in the modern era.

Red Alert 2

I praised Emperor: Battle for Dune for its campiness, and Westwood always did this well. But nowhere did it strike the perfect tone, in unit design and cutscenes, as in Red Alert 2. Like most of Westwood’s campaigns, Red Alert 2 features separate stories for both the Allies and the Soviets—for my money, both are pretty darn good, but the Soviet campaign is more enjoyable overall. You really just play through the pre-defined story with no real choices or branching in the plot, but everything is so over-the-top it’s really hard to mind.

Nuclear Missiles, Psychic Beacons, Yuri’s thousand-yard-stare, Einstein and the Chronosphere, turning the Eiffel Tower into a giant Tesla weapon, the Soviet Premier being apprehended in his underwear—there are so many hilarious moments in the game, accented by suitably ridiculous FMV. Like WarCraft 3, this is linear storytelling done right: original, entertaining, and memorable.  Also, I need to give them props for the detailed environments: Westwood typically does a good job of giving you a sense of place: making cities actually kind of look like, well, cities. It’s all too common in RTS to be fighting in anonymous hinterlands, and Red Alert 2, especially for its time, went a step above.

StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

This one might have to come with some caveats. StarCraft and its expansion, Brood War, are iconic games in their own right. But from an execution perspective, StarCraft 2 is simply more enjoyable. Blizzard has had a long time to hone its craft, and while the game may not have done proper justice to the story set up in the series’ first installment, there’s no doubt that the actual mission design and entire between-mission interface ranks among the very best the genre has to offer.

Every mission has a twist. In one mission you visit corpse of the Overmind, in another you have to flee from a huge wall wall of fire. Side missions matter, helping you to specialize your units and tech outside of combat, and you have some choice in how to proceed between missions. You can talk to and interact with the cast of characters growing around you, and the cantina even has a phenomenal little arcade game.

There’s a bit of persistence to your choices, though not to the point where (as in Homeworld or Ardennes Assault) it can actively interfere with your ability to complete the game. Unconstrained by the need for multiplayer balance, the campaign lets you upgrade units into powerful variants and customise your overall force. The standalone expansions, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, also offer splendid campaigns that thoroughly explore the Zerg and Protoss factions.

WarCraft 3

WarCraft 3 might be the pinnacle of Blizzard's storytelling. The quaternate storyline of Medivh, Thrall, Arthas, Kel’Thuzad Jaina Proudmoore, Tyrande, Illidan, Mannoroth and the battle against Archimonde is cinematic, epic, and tied together with some of the best cutscenes in the genre (still). Mission design is varied, and each faction is given its time in the sun.

The turning of Arthas is perhaps my favorite moment in all of RTS gaming. Seeing his rising despair and frustration with the limitations of being good, committing genocide at Stratholm, killing plagued villagers, accepting a demonic weapon in order to defeat the Dreadlord Mal’Ganis, killing his father, and then starring again in the Undead campaign: it’s wonderful.

World in Conflict

In the list above, I’ve gushed over story presentation, mission design, choice and flexibility in how to proceed through the game, replay value, and frivolous campiness. I’ve also lauded making the player feel a part of a larger world (something too many RTS are incredibly bad at). This last is where World in Conflict shines.

In this campaign the onus is on you to assist your AI-controlled team, trying to complete their objectives in coordination with the larger war effort. This is reinforced by stunning narration (I could listen to Alec Baldwin read the phone book, to be fair) and a well-written story that ends up being surprisingly powerful.

Technically, I’d consider World in Conflict to be a real-time tactics game rather than an RTS: there’s no real base building or economic progression, and the entire emphasis in the game is on controlling ground and using your units effectively. While some RTTs can feel like an RTS with half of the game stripped out, World in Conflict is prominent among the RTT that stand strong on their own merits. The campaign is a great showcase of WiC's particular take on the genre.

Homeworld Remastered Collection - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jamie Wallace)

Dream Daddy

Not only does Humble currently have its second ‘Very Positive’ bundle going on right now, the site is now listing a separate sale, appropriately titled the ‘Very Positive Sale’. As with the bundle, the sale features a bunch of games all with ‘Very Positive’ or higher ratings on Steam right now, with discounts of up to 80%.

Before you ask, yes, that means you can get Dream Daddy for 9.89 / $13.49. Also featured are things like lovely retro Metroid-like Axiom Verge, perpetual Early Access feudal RPG Kenshi, the Homeworld Remastered Collection, Sniper Elite 4 and more.

We covered the strange adventure possible in Kenshi quite recently. In a year that gave us Divinity: Original Sin 2’s hungry elves and face-stealing undead, it’s astonishing to realise that Kenshi has weirder cannibalistic possibilities than Larian’s latest masterpiece.

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EVE Online

Survival horror, simulation, strategy, FPS, and many more genres feature in this, our roundup of the best space games you can play on PC right now. Whether you're hunting pirates, building a colony on Mars, or fleeing in terror from a hungry alien on a stricken space station, these galactic games will appeal to anyone who's ever dreamed of leaving boring old Earth behind.

Homeworld Remastered Collection

Year 2015Developer Relic/Gearbox SoftwareLink Official siteOne of the best singleplayer RTS campaigns ever made, and beautifully remastered by Gearbox. The sight of thousands of your ships streaking across the game’s vividly colourful space-scapes is hugely dramatic. And battles are tense and tactical, with many types of ship to command, including colossal battleships. The Remastered Collection looks great on modern PCs and comes complete with the original Homeworld and its sequel. Read more Homeworld Remastered Collection review

Surviving Mars

Year 2018Developer Haemimont GamesLink SteamLeaving Earth behind, humanity heads to Mars to start a new colony: and you're in charge of it. Your new civilisation will grow from one small dome in the Martian desert to a bustling, sprawling off-world metropolis. But just make sure you don't run out of oxygen or power, because on this ruthless planet it's a death sentence for every citizen under your control. Read more Surviving Mars review

Tacoma

Year 2017Developer FullbrightLink Official siteThe crew has mysteriously abandoned the Tacoma lunar transfer station, and you’ve been sent to investigate and recover its precious AI, Odin. This atmospheric sci-fi mystery from the makers of Gone Home is wonderfully written, with a cast of rich, nuanced characters telling a compelling story through interactive AR recordings. Exploring the hyper-detailed station is a delight thanks to the game’s extraordinary attention to detail, and the more you learn about Tacoma, the deeper the mystery gets. Read more Tacoma review

Elite Dangerous

Year 2014Developer Frontier DevelopmentsLink Official siteAn entire galaxy is your playground in this space sim. Starting with a basic ship and a handful of credits, you shape your own destiny. Do you become a fearsome pirate? A master trader? An explorer? The beauty of Elite is being able to play in a way that suits you. From thrilling dogfights to gentle exploration, there’s something for everyone. And its ships are all an absolute dream to fly, whether it's a nimble fighter or a heavy duty cargo hauler. Read more Visiting NASA's latest discovery in Elite Dangerous

EVE Online

Year 2003Developer CCP GamesLink Official siteLive another life—in space! There’s nothing else like EVE Online on PC, a massively multiplayer RPG where everything is controlled by players. It’s a living galaxy in which thousands of capsuleers fight, trade, mine, and explore together. Break away from the relative safety of your police-patrolled starting system and you’ll find a ruthless, cosmic Wild West, where piracy, espionage and scamming are rife. Whether you’re fighting in a massive space war, where thousands of real-world dollars hang in the balance, or just exploring New Eden on your own, EVE is an unforgettable experience.Read more EVE Online's biggest scammer tells us his secrets

Everspace

Year 2017Developer Rockfish GamesLink SteamWhen you die in roguelike Everspace, you’re dead. But money earned carries over and can be spent on upgrades, which means you’ll be more powerful for your next run through the cosmic gauntlet. And these perks keep adding up, allowing you to travel deeper into space, and more boldly, with every successive attempt. It’s a compelling loop, and when you die you're never frustrated: just excited to start again, wondering how far you'll make it this time.Read more Death is the road to glory in Everspace

Star Wars: Empire at War

Year 2006Developer PetroglyphLink GOGDeveloped by Petroglyph, a studio founded by Westwood veterans, this real-time strategy is one of the best Star Wars games on PC. The streamlined interface and accessible systems might turn off some hardcore strategy fans, but in the thick of its chaotic, thrilling land and space battles the game is irresistible—especially if you’re a Star Wars fan. And hero units like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker only add to the excitement.Read more Pitting Star Wars against Star Trek in Star Wars: Empire at War

Heat Signature

Year 2017Developer Suspicious DevelopmentsLink SteamIn this top-down sci-fi action game you board spaceships and use an array of weapons and gadgets to take out the crew. The genius lies in how much creativity you're given to play your own way, inspired by the best immersive sims. And how you react to the chaos that erupts when your presence on the ship becomes known makes Heat Signature a powerful anecdote generator. Things might not always go to plan, but that's just part of the fun.Read more 8 sadistic ways to take out guards in Heat Signature

Duskers

Year 2016Developer Misfits AtticLink Official siteDespite being viewed entirely through a retro-futuristic computer interface, Duskers is one of the scariest, most tense sci-fi horror games on PC. In it you pilot a fleet of drones searching derelict spaceships for fuel, upgrades, and clues about why the galaxy is so mysteriously devoid of life. The ships you board are crawling with strange creatures, which makes looking for clues in those narrow, dark corridors an especially nerve-racking experience.Read more Duskers review

Destiny 2

Year 2017Developer BungieLink Official siteBungie's addictive FPS/MMO hybrid features some of the prettiest alien landscapes on PC. From the forested ruins of Earth and the vast seas of Titan, to the red jungles of Nessus and the volcanic Io, every location is a pleasure to loot-and-shoot in. The endgame doesn't have the iron grip it perhaps should, but sci-fi fans will get a kick out of this vivid, colourful setting.Read more Bungie outlines how it plans to fix Destiny 2 in 2018

The Dig

Year 1995Developer LucasArtsLink GOGA mission to divert an asteroid heading for Earth goes awry, sending a group of astronauts to a distant, seemingly abandoned world. Some of the puzzles are maddeningly obscure, even for a LucasArts point-and-click adventure, but the colourful, bizarre planet feels genuinely alien. Great voice acting too, with X-Files star Robert Patrick playing the lead character.Read more Reinstall: The Dig

Universe Sandbox 2

Year 2014Developer Giant ArmyLink Official siteThis space simulator lets you become an all-powerful cosmic deity, manipulating replicas of real galaxies and solar systems and witnessing the (often catastrophic) results of your meddling. Increase the mass of Jupiter and you’ll see the rest of our solar system being sucked into it, or delete the Sun and watch Earth and the other planets drift away confused.

Event[0]

Year 2016Developer Ocelot SocietyLink SteamStranded alone somewhere near Jupiter on an old luxury starship, your only hope of returning home is an AI that has serious emotional problems. You interact with Kaizen using your keyboard, and sometimes it'll be willing to help you. But then it'll change its mind and decide the best thing to do is close the airlock and trap you outside the ship until you run out of air. A clever adventure with the understated mood of a '70s sci-fi film.Read more Event[0] review

Mass Effect 2

Year 2010Developer BioWareLink SteamIf you’ve ever fantasised about being Captain Picard, in command of your own starship, exploring the galaxy, meeting weird aliens, being confronted with cosmic dilemmas, then Mass Effect 2 is that in game form. It’s part Star Wars space opera, part brilliant Star Trek episode, and one of the best sci-fi games on PC. It doesn’t have the freedom of Elite and is largely a linear experience, but it takes you on an unforgettable journey around the galaxy, visiting bizarre planets and getting involved in the lives of the aliens who live on them. We love the whole series, but we all agree that this is our favourite.Read more The Mass Effect games ranked from worst to best

Stellaris

Year 2016Developer ParadoxLink Official siteDeveloped by Paradox, of Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis fame, this sci-fi epic puts the ‘grand’ in grand strategy. Explore the universe, form alliances with alien factions, and engage in the odd large-scale space battle. The multitude of systems makes Stellaris a powerful story generator, and you never know what strange beings you’ll meet among the stars.Read more Stellaris: Utopia review

Alien: Isolation

Year 2014Developer Creative AssemblyLink Official siteAmanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen, is hunted through a dilapidated space station by a xenomorph in this incredible survival horror. Taking its cues from Ridley Scott's original 1979 film, it's a masterpiece of slow-burning tension. And the station itself, Sevastopol, is a great example of lo-fi sci-fi, with chunky retro-futuristic tech and eerie flickering lights. One of the most faithful movie adaptations ever, and a great horror game in its own right.Read more What Alien: Isolation gets right that Alien: Covenant gets wrong

No Man's Sky

Year 2016Developer Hello GamesLink Official siteThis is one of the most dazzlingly colourful sci-fi universes on PC, and being able to seamlessly transition from space to the surface of a planet is an impressive technical feat. The addition of features like base-building and a mission system in recent updates give you a lot more to actually do when you touch down on these worlds, and the procedural generation algorithm has been tweaked to make for weirder, prettier planet surfaces.Read more The best No Man's Sky mods

Star Wars: TIE Fighter

Year 1994Developer Totally GamesLink GOGA rare opportunity to be the bad guy in George Lucas’s beloved space opera. With a variety of Empire-themed missions—dogfights, escorts, attacking capital ships—and a story to follow, it’s one of the best Star Wars games LucasArts ever published. Of course, you can replace this entry with Star Wars: X-Wing if you’d prefer to play as the boring old Rebel Alliance.Read more The best Star Wars games on PC

FTL: Faster Than Light

Year 2012Developer Subset GamesLink SteamFTL mixes turn-based and real-time strategy together to capture the experience of captaining a Star Trek-style spacecraft. It’s a strong roguelike, too, with a backdrop of a familiar yet fun sci-fi universe that comes with its own semi-humorous lore and a neat set of narrative beats that make the journey to its finale endlessly exciting. Being able to name your ship and crew makes it all the more heartbreaking when they die together in enemy space.Read more The writing in FTL

Wing Commander: Privateer

Year 1993Developer Origin SystemsLink GOGFans of the series will argue endlessly about which Wing Commander is the best, but we love Privateer’s darker feel. It’s a rich sandbox in which you can be a mercenary, a pirate, a merchant, or a mix of all three. You jump between systems looking for bounties to hunt and ships to rob, and the first-person dogfights are a thrill. There’s a linear story, but the real joy lies in doing your own thing and carving your own path through the stars.

 EVE: Valkyrie

Year 2016Developer CCP GamesLink Official siteIf you have a VR headset, this is the game to play on it. In Valkyrie you get to experience EVE Online’s famous space battles from the more intimate perspective of an individual fighter pilot. The feeling of being strapped into a cockpit, hurtling through space at immense speeds, is a visceral one. And the combat has been tuned specifically for virtual reality.Read more EVE: Valkyrie review

Kerbal Space Program

Year 2015Developer SquadLink Official siteWrestle with gravity and the laws of physics as you build your own spacecraft and attempt to explore the cosmos. A robust, compelling sandbox of possibilities that’s as funny as it is clever. Escaping Kerbin’s atmosphere and landing on the Mun (without exploding) for the first time with a ship you’ve built yourself is about as satisfying as PC gaming gets.Read more Kerbal Space Program: Making History review

Take On Mars

Year 2013Developer Bohemia InteractiveLink Official siteIf you like your space games a little more grounded, try Arma developer Bohemia’s Take On Mars. It’s a space exploration and colonisation simulator largely based on real astro-science. You can build a Curiosity-style rover and explore the surface of the red planet or construct your own Martian colony. A game for folk who want the sci without too much of the fi.Read more Building a mighty space base in Take On Mars

 Sins of a Solar Empire

Year 2008Developer Ironclad GamesLink Official siteMixing real-time strategy with 4X elements, Sins is a game of galactic conquest. Choose a faction, gather resources and become a mighty space-lord. Commanding its real-time wars is thrilling, but combat isn’t always the answer: you can use diplomacy to conquer systems too. A refreshingly slow-paced RTS with some truly massive space battles to stare slack-jawed at.

Space Engineers

Year 2013Developer Keen Software HouseLink Official site

Harvest asteroids for building materials then craft them into floating bases, flyable spaceships, and more besides. You can hover around the map with a jetpack or build a gravity generator to walk safely on the surface of bigger asteroids. One of the best co-op build-’em-ups on PC.Read more An erratic journey to the Moon in Space Engineers

Starbound

Year 2013Developer Chucklefish GamesLink Official siteTerraria-esque survival with a science fiction twist. Hop between randomly generated planets on a starship, hunt alien creatures for food, build colonies and underground bases, and try not to die in the process. A brilliant sci-fi sandbox with a charming art style. Playable races include robots, beings made of solar energy, ape-like creatures, and colourful wingless birds.Read more Starbound review

SpaceEngine

Year 2010Developer Vladimir RomanyukLink Official site

Do you like feeling small and insignificant? Then play SpaceEngine, which features, incredibly, the entire universe. Or at least the bit we know about. Focus on Earth, then pull back at top speed, and you suddenly become aware of how you’re on a tiny speck of dust hurtling through an endless void. The tech is remarkable, allowing you to travel effortlessly between galaxies and land on planets. But besides exploring, there isn’t much else to it.

Homeworld Remastered Collection

Homeworld: Cataclysm, the standalone expansion to the magnificent trans-galactic RTS Homeworld, was not included with the Homeworld Remastered Collection released by Gearbox in 2015. The reasons still aren't entirely clear, although Fists of Heaven does a good job of summarizing the confusion and conflict over ownership rights, missing source code, and whether or not the code was really needed in the first place. The bottom line, though, was that Cataclysm was not coming back. 

But now it has come back, though not remastered and with a slightly different name—Homeworld: Emergence—but playable out of the box (in the digital sense) and exactly as it was when it was new. Set 15 years after the story told in Homeworld, Emergence follows a minor mining clan called Kiith Somtaaw, which stumbles upon a deadly nanobot infestation that threatens to overwhelm the galaxy. It features the same basic gameplay as its predecessor, expanded with new ship and technologies, and "enhanced fleet management" that makes corralling your forces in real-time 3D space a little bit easier. 

"The source code is in fact lost, but we didn’t need it to work on the game and make it compatible with modern OSes," a GOG rep explained. "We worked closely with Gearbox Software and used the builds we had in-house." As for the new title, that's a precautionary move. "'Cataclysm' is now a registered trademark of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., and the game has been renamed to avoid confusion," GOG said.   

Homeworld: Emergence is available now for ten percent off its regular $10 price until June 29. GOG has also picked up the newer, ground-based prequel RTS Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, which is 66 percent off ($17) until June 29, and has the Homeworld Remastered Collection on sale too for $12. 

Homeworld Remastered Collection

We last talked about Homeworld 2's Complex mod back in 2012, and the ambitious enterprise has jumped up two whole numbers since then. Now a modification for Homeworld Remastered rather than the original Homeworld 2, Complex adds many more intricacies to the business of multiplayer space battling, while finding room to include a new co-op campaign, lots of fresh assets, and other additions and tweaks to the Homeworld formula.

Creator Bocchi started a successful Patreon campaign for Complex 10 around a year ago, and it was released just before the end of 2016, adding, among other things, playable Hiigaran and Vaygr factions and a "new multiplayer environment". You can download it here, although the file is listed as "archived" for some reason, so I'm guessing there's an update in the pipeline.

YouTuber Dinky has a video series detailing Complex 10. I've put the first episode below.

Warhammer® 40,000: Dawn of War® - Game of the Year Edition - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

An entirely objective ranking of the 50 best PC strategy games ever made, now brought up to date with the riches of the last two years. From intricate wargames to soothing peacegames, the broad expanse of the genre contains something for everyone, and we’ve gathered the best of the best. The vast majority are available to buy digitally, a few are free to download and play forever. They’re all brilliant.

… [visit site to read more]

Homeworld Remastered Collection - [GBX] JoeK
General

- Resolved a memory fragmentation error which could lead to crashes.
- Homeworld 2 classic properly responds to -locale command line
- Fixed a crash when a missing mad state was called.
- Fixed exploit where hyperspacing mothership would allow autocapture of ships already headed toward it
- Frigates and Corvettes now attack more consistently. (With Balance tweaks to account for this)
- Fixed issue when loading old campaign persist files (ships missing when in legacy strikegroups)
- Fixed weird cursor skin issue when hovering over certain buttons
- Ships no longer overshoot kushan carrier docking bays
- Fixed mouse speed issues on giant multiscreen display setups and added command lines to future proof it a bit. -CameraDragX -CameraDragY. (Multiplier)
- Fixed issue where a few ships had missing geometry, textures, odd normals, etc.
- Tweaks to primary ship shaders for improved visual fidelity, speed.
- Cryotray and transports can be sphere guarded now.
- Vaygr resource collectors no longer aspire to be archeologists.
- Mods - added traceHOD command line to ease tracking down corrupt or invalid files.
- Mods - ConfigFilter.lua - BasePath string allows specification of Player profile path for Mod data.
- facetAutoFOV - Command line property for use with facetCount to limit total horizontal FOV.
...

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