The year 2020 is more than halfway through (thank goodness) so it’s time for us to refresh our list of the 25 best PC games to play right now. Times have changed, both in the PC gaming landscape and in the makeup of our PC gaming staff and contributors, and that means that outside of some real stalwarts we’ve got a substantially different list this time around.
To be clear, this list does not attempt to pick out the “best” or “most influential” PC games ever made. It’s also not a list of the most popular games out there, or a list that seeks to represent the top games of every genre (sorry Total War: Three Kingdoms – you came close!). No, this is a list of games that we, the IGN editors and contributors, collectively recommend the most, based on our own tastes, and all from within the past 10 years. Think of it as our staff’s personal recommendations to you for games we think you should play if you haven’t.
This new Top 25 list was composed by polling the IGN staff for their most highly recommended PC games, then using our own Face Off tool to randomly compare every game to every other game, separating the niche favorites from those with a breadth of support among the staff. Then we argued about it and shifted things here and there until we had a list that nobody quit in protest over, which we here at IGN consider to be a win.
Of course, no one list of 25 games can possibly match up with everybody’s tastes – especially when you’re talking about an ordered ranking of games from completely different genres. So we urge you to take these recommendations in the good-natured spirit in which they are intended, and remember that we don’t mean any offense to games that didn’t make the list or were bumped off from the previous version. After all, there are hundreds that deserve recognition and we only had 25 slots to work with! By all means, share your top recommendations with us in the comments.
25. Horizon Zero Dawn (Complete Edition)
Release Date: August 7, 2020 ● Developer: Guerilla Games ● Last Position: New! ● IGN’s Horizon: Zero Dawn Wiki
One of the best PS4 games finally made its way to PC this summer, Horizon Zero Dawn and it’s icy expansion The Frozen Wilds provide dozens of hours of action and exploration. Boasting a satisfying crafting and RPG-inspired progression system, its massive post-post-apocalyptic world is full to bursting, with plenty of “ancient” secrets to uncover and monstrous machines to hunt or hone your combat skills against, all wrapped up in a compelling story that not only sets the stage for the upcoming sequel, Forbidden West, but provides an intriguing new take on life after the collapse of modern society. While PC enthusiasts who demand nothing short of 4K/60FPS at all times may want to wait for another round of performance updates (you can read our full analysis of the PC port here), Horizon is an exceptional adventure that’s not to be missed.
From IGN’s 2017 Horizon Zero Dawn review: “Across a vast and beautiful open world, Horizon Zero Dawn juggles many moving parts with polish and finesse. Its main activity – combat – is extremely satisfying thanks to the varied design and behaviors of machine-creatures that roam its lands, each of which needs to be taken down with careful consideration. Though side questing could have been more imaginative, its missions are compelling thanks to a central mystery that led me down a deep rabbit hole to a genuinely surprising – and moving – conclusion.”
Release Date: August 27, 2019 ● Developer: Remedy ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Control Wiki
Control, in many ways, feels like the culmination of Remedy’s design ideas from its past several games distilled down to their best versions and melded together for one trippy, enthralling adventure. Jesse Faden’s story of infiltrating the Federal Bureau of Control’s offices comes complete with a stellar set of abilities befitting any good telepath, a propulsive, strange story with a memorable cast and unexpected twists, and a fascinating location that feels rooted in a sense of history.
Remedy has filled Control’s world with little details that make its stranger ideas really land, giving unexpected life to every corner of its office building veneer. Just like its main location, the Oldest House, much more lies beneath the surface of Control, and its mysteries are worth fully exploring. Also, the PC is currently the only place to play with ray tracing enabled, giving the world a more realistic and yet more otherworldly appearance. Maybe that’s why it won our 2019 Game of the Year award?
From IGN’s 2019 Control review: “Control is set in an engrossingly weird paranormal world that I couldn’t help but explore. Jesse’s versatile psychic skills and main weapon make for thrilling ranged combat. And thanks to a strong supporting cast, a well-written script, and plenty of intriguing breadcrumb trails, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my adventure through the shifting rooms of Oldest House. Jesse’s personal story feels like an afterthought next to that, but there’s enough to Control’s world that I remain invested in uncovering every secret, even though the story’s over.”
With an amazing lineup of memorable characters and meticulously balanced abilities, Overwatch is a shooter that bobs and weaves almost perfectly between being the quick-fix adrenaline hit you might want after a long day of work, and the thoughtful, strategic multiplayer experience that becomes the center of evening-long binges with friends. It might not have the most exhaustive list of maps and modes, but the offerings grow with every new seasonal event, and what’s already there provides nearly endless opportunities for exhilarating, coordinated play.
Overwatch won our 2016 Game of the Year Award, and Blizzard’s trademark polish and commitment to community should keep it as something that we’ll all revisit regularly for years to come.
From IGN’s 2020 Overwatch review update: “Overwatch is a one-of-a-kind hero shooter that is far and away the best of its genre. It offers variety, depth, and style that very few come close to matching. Its four-year-old foundation has been lovingly crafted into the unparalleled multiplayer experience that it offers today. From its now-cherished characters and expertly crafted maps to outstanding sound design and dynamic action, it’s a masterpiece of competitive gameplay. Most importantly of all though, it’s never stopped being ridiculously fun after all these years. All of these factors combine to make Overwatch a singularly special shooter, and one that I would recommend to anyone without hesitation.”
22. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Release Date: November 11, 2011 ● Developer: Bethesda Game Studios ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Skyrim Wiki
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an awe-inspiring journey where the fantasy world is your plaything. What its main story quest lacks in nuance it more than makes up for with its invitation to go anywhere and do anything. Set out in any direction to explore a vast kingdom filled with people going about their daily lives, warring factions, and dangerous wildlife that ranges from wild dogs to imposing giants and full-fledged dragons.
Out there you’ll find stellar sidequests that allow you to become a vampire or werewolf, join the legendary Dark Brotherhood, and countless other unexpected opportunities as you level up and unlock satisfyingly powerful spells and Dragon Shouts. And of course, with this being the PC version, you have access to a nearly unrivaled collection of transformative mods at your fingertips.
From IGN’s 2011 Skyrim review: It’s difficult to ever feel completely satisfied with a play session of Skyrim. There’s always one more pressing quest, one more unexplored tract of land, one more skill to increase, one more butterfly to catch. It’s a mesmerizing game that draws you into a finely crafted fictional space packed with content that consistently surprises. The changes made since Oblivion are many, and result in a more focused and sensible style of play, where the effects of every decision are easily seen. Featuring the same kind of thrilling freedom of choice The Elder Scrolls series is known for along with beautiful visuals and a stirring soundtrack, playing Skyrim is a rare kind of intensely personal, deeply rewarding experience, and one of the best role-playing games yet produced.
21. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Release Date: October 21, 2016 ● Developer: Firaxis Games ● Last position: NEW ● IGN’s Civilization VI Wiki
You can’t go too far wrong with any of the main games from Sid Meier’s seminal Civilization series, but with the Gathering Storm expansion, Civilization VI has taken its seat as one of the finest. Like all five iterations before it, Civ VI lets you pave your people’s way from nomadic tribespeople to sprawling near-future empire in competition or cooperation with neighbors, this time guided by narration from the undying Sean Bean himself.
But here, a distinctive approach to city building in which major structures like specialized districts and Wonders are placed on their own tiles gives it a distinctive flavor, and the newly added climate change mechanics add new long-term environmental considerations throughout and hazards that manifest in the late game. It’s also come as close as any game in the series to giving its AI leaders definitive and interesting personalities (which is not to say they’re perfect!).
From IGN’s 2016 Sid Meier’s Civilization VI review: “Civilization VI will go down in history as the most fully-featured launch version in the series. Many of those are smartly revamped versions of Civ classics, but it finds its own identity with great new ideas like spread-out cities, customizable governments, research boosts, and leader agendas. And even though the AI has some improving to do, it can put up enough of a fight to make world domination a challenge.”
20. Diablo 3
Release Date: May 14, 2012 ● Developer: Blizzard Entertainment ● Last position: NEW ● IGN’s Diablo 3 Wiki
Think of Diablo 3 not for its infamous launch, but for the incredible action-RPG it evolved into in the years afterward. While its early existence was plagued by plenty of problems (including a real-money auction house that was ultimately entirely removed and burned to the ground), Blizzard managed to reshape this revival of a classic series into an excellent and infinitely replayable co-op, demon-slaying party.
It’s a game where the pinatas are alive and the candy is shaped like swords, and it really hit its stride when its breakout Reaper of Souls expansion arrived in 2014. Diablo 3 is still lovely to look at, full of interesting choices and class synergies, and specially designed to keep you interested far, far past when the credits roll.
From IGN’s 2014 Diablo 3 review: Reaper of Souls review: With Reaper of Souls, and the recent round of content patches, Blizzard has transformed Diablo 3 into something far more akin to what long-time fans like me wanted all along. It still requires that annoying always-online connection (which has behaved itself), but it’s more sinister in tone, more rewarding to play, and more maddeningly addictive than it’s ever been. I’m looking forward to many more hours in search of that perfect legendary drop.
19. Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is one of the best modern Metroidvania’s around. It’s beautiful, expansive, and full of delightful secrets to discover that will keep you playing for dozens of hours. The kingdom of Hallownest is a brutal one, and Hollow Knight doesn’t ease you into it, causing a lot of people to bounce off of it initially – but when it finally gets its hooks in you it’s irresistibly hard to put down.
Its sprawling caves open up and offer multiple paths to you at any given time, but no matter which way you go there are exciting bosses to fight and significant power-ups to make you stronger. And even though it was already a massive game, Hollow Knight has only gotten bigger since its launch in early 2017. Developer Team Cherry released multiple free updates with new areas and bosses, each harder than the last. But whether you just want to get to the credits, find the true ending, or push even farther than that, Hallownest is a world worth exploring.
From IGN’s 2018 Hollow Knight review: “Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania with a well of content to discover that’s as deep as its labyrinthine caves. The world of Hallownest is compelling and rich, full of story that’s left for you to discover on your own, and built with branching paths that offer an absurd amount of choice in how you go about discovering it. With such a high density of secrets to find and fun, challenging enemies to face, it’s worth spending every moment you can in Hollow Knight.”
18. Fallout: New Vegas
Release Date: October 19, 2010 ● Developer: Obsidian Entertainment ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Fallout: New Vegas Wiki
With its distinctive Old West-tinged approach to the post-nuclear wasteland, game-changing decisions, and flexible ways to complete its quests, Fallout: New Vegas carved out a spot as not just the best game of the Fallout series, but one of the best RPGs ever made. Obsidian took the openness and flexibility of Bethesda’s Fallout 3 to a new level with more dark humor, memorable characters, and interesting stat-dependant dialogue options that make each playthrough feel tailored to your character’s strengths and weaknesses.
And the fact that you, a nameless nobody courier, get to rise up from nothing and become the person who decides the fate of the region, gives you a real sense of control and power.
From IGN’s 2010 Fallout: New Vegas review: In New Vegas, the fun Fallout 3 formula is intact, with more polished combat, high-quality side missions, and the exciting setting of the Vegas strip. Unfortunately, the bugs also tagged along for the ride. If Obsidian and Bethesda had polished up the game by fixing the AI, improving the animations or even gotten it to run smoothly, perhaps it would feel less like a giant expansion of Fallout 3 and more like its own game. Be that as it may, Fallout 3 was a great game, so as similar as it is, Fallout: New Vegas is still a fun ride that offers more for fans of the series to enjoy. If you can look past its shortcomings, this is definitely a wasteland worth exploring.
17. Doom (2016)
Release Date: February 27, 2018 ● Developer: id Software ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Doom wiki
Just a few years ago, the Doom series was, for all intents and purposes, dead. A legend in a grave. Twelve years passed between Doom 3 – which would prove to be the final Doom from the original id Software team – and the Doom reboot in 2016. But against the odds, the new generation of id developers did it: they reimagined Doom as a fast-action modern-day demon-slaying experience while still respecting the satisfying feel of the classic originals.
Glory kills, aggressive monster mobs, big weapon and ability upgrades, and speed, speed, speed define the new Doom. Play this game first and then run straight for Doom Eternal, which evolves the formula in very smart, very fun ways you won’t soon forget.
16. Into the Breach
Release Date: February 27, 2018 ● Developer: Subset Games ● Last position: New!
Into the Breach is a puzzle game masquerading in turn-based tactics clothing. Each mission presents you with overwhelming odds and limited options – a seemingly impossible task. The twist that gives you and your team of giant robots the advantage you need to defeat the invading kaiju is that you can see every attack and other effect that will play out on your enemies’ next turn. Each turn becomes a puzzle for you to solve, using your limited actions for maximum effect. Sure, you could just attack head-on… but what if instead you use your attack to knock an enemy into another’s line of fire, blocking damage from the second and killing the first in one fell swoop.
It’s tactical strategy distilled down to its essence, with nearly infinite replayability thanks to a strong variety of unit types that each present unique and challenging ways to maximize their potential.
From IGN’s 2018 Into The Breach review: The wide variety of mech and pilot abilities make Into The Breach’s tactical combat deep, satisfying, and replayable. Every turn creates a new complex puzzle, and though sometimes there’s no perfect solution, finding the best way to minimize damage creates frequent eureka moments as you learn to make the most of the abilities you’re given to work with. It’s a small-looking tactics game that’s kept me playing more intently than most big ones.
15. Prey (2017)
Release Date: May 5, 2017 ● Developer: Arkane ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Prey Wiki
Few games will make you fear for your life upon encountering the most mundane of inanimate objects the way Prey does – and fewer still will then give you the power to become those objects yourself. It may look like a standard first-person shooter/RPG set aboard a post-disaster space station on the surface, but this immersive sim is one of the strangest of the lot.
To combat the ever-present threat of enemies that can look like anything until it’s too late, Prey fills your toolbox with a wide range of weird, unique, and often exciting tools and then lets you figure out which ones you most want to use. All of that combined with a story that channels the best of both its clear BioShock and Dishonored inspirations makes Prey is a gem that shouldn’t be overlooked.
From IGN’s 2017 Prey review: Prey’s curious alternate-history universe, intriguing sidequests, hidden threats, and detailed environmental storytelling make Talos I a joy to explore. The unsettling sense of paranoia that comes from knowing any object could turn out to be a hidden enemy gives even the quiet moments a palpable tension. All of that picks up the slack for combat and stealth that doesn’t feel fresh enough to sustain it throughout what can be a long game.
14. FTL: Faster Than Light
Release Date: September 17, 2012 ● Developer: Subset Games ● Last position: 21 (↑ 8) ● IGN’s FTL: Faster Than Light Wiki
No game simulates the feeling of being in command of a starship flying by the seat of your pants like FTL: Faster Than Light. It’s a game you shouldn’t expect to survive – more likely, you’ll be blasted out of the sky by a vastly superior enemy ship or boarded by a death squad of giant killer insects who massacre your crew. Maybe your life-support system will be hacked and everyone will suffocate.
But FTL’s not about winning – it’s a story generator, where you get to talk about the time you got a killer beam-weapon combo that cuts enemy ships to ribbons while your ship remains cloaked, or vented a boarding party into space while your crew laughed behind reinforced bulkhead doors. Its tactical combat never gets old, tons of loot and random events keep every game feeling unpredictable, and unlockable ships force you to change up your strategies on subsequent runs. And every so often, you might even win.
From IGN’s 2014 FTL: Advanced Edition review: “FTL: Advanced Edition is an incredibly replayable game, and each run gives me something memorable and rewarding – even the ones that end with my entire crew dead. The excellent iPad version has just become my go-to mobile game, since it includes all of the tense decision-making and unpredictability that make it endlessly entertaining on PC. Though I still prefer the speed and accuracy of the PC’s controls, the iPad version is very smooth and a close second.”
13. DotA 2
MOBAs have earned a reputation for being dense and difficult to learn, but immensely strategic for those who put in the time. Spend some quality time with Dota 2 and you’ll understand why. Though all matches take place on one map, and there’s only one objective, its 100+ characters and thousands of item combinations make each round feel unique.
Because every second matters, matches are always exciting even when they seem slow. Are you farming gold? Are you scouting the enemy? Or crossing the map to help out a teammate? Or heading back to base to heal? Its complexity can scare players off, but those who stick through it will be rewarded with some of the most strategic gameplay around.
From IGN’s 2013 Dota 2 review: “Dota 2 deserves its intimidating reputation, and it probably won’t suit you if you’re looking to play casually. There’s a huge time investment before you can even enjoy a game, let alone feel competent at it. But once you start to learn its secrets, there’s a wild and exciting variety of play here that’s unmatched, even by its peers. It’s a challenge of knowledge as well as reflexes, and success is a rush. The fact that it’s completely and totally free to play in the way we wish all free-to-play games could be isn’t just one of the most generous propositions anywhere in gaming, it creates a level playing field where skill and cooperation is paramount. May the best team win.”
12. Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
Release Date: August 18, 2020 ● Developer: Asobo Studio ● Last Position: New!
Microsoft Flight Simulator is the closest thing we’ve had to a near-perfect recreation of the real world in the virtual space. Using real-time Bing data to allow you to fly to and from any place on the entire planet has raised the bar for simulations to heights never seen before. Accessible to anyone, or as realistic as you want, this is open-world at its most literal. Free-flying around the globe, participating in landing challenges at some of the world’s most famously difficult airports, or just sightseeing, Microsoft Flight Simulator is an unparalleled achievement.
From IGN’s 2020 Microsoft Flight Simulator review: Microsoft Flight Simulator is legitimately incredible. It’s difficult to fully describe how amazing it feels to jump into a plane and have the freedom fly to and from literally any place in the entire world. The base game’s 20 included aircraft feel like more than enough for even hardcore aviation enthusiasts, and the ability to adjust the assists to tailor the experience to whatever skill level you desire makes it suitable for anyone looking to fly the friendly skies from the comfort of their home. The real-world mapping data, however, takes Microsoft Flight Simulator from being just an impressive game to the most awe-inspiring simulation I’ve ever experienced, in spite of its less than stellar load times. Seeing famous landmarks, landing at the world’s most recognizable airports, or just touching down in a remote landing strip in South America is mind-bogglingly cool and an absolutely unparalleled way to virtually explore our world.
11. Red Dead Redemption 2
Release Date: October 26, 2018 ● Developer: Rockstar ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Red Dead Redemption 2 Wiki
Arthur Morgan’s sprawling tale of loyalty, conviction, and the price of infamy is only the beginning of Red Dead Redemption 2. The marvelous PC port overhauled and further enhanced the gorgeous wild western atmosphere of Rockstar’s most recent open-world adventure and added even more activities, unlockables, and impossibly fine details to its expansive map.
The potential for hijinks within its enormous sandbox of towns, outlaws, and wildlife was already nearly limitless, but the PC version factors in new missions, treasures, gear, and more layered on top of the already 60+ hours of story content in the base game. That’s not even counting all the multiplayer bells and whistles included in Red Dead Online, to say nothing of the ability to expand and customize with mods. RDR2 on PC is handily a must-play for anyone with a rig beefy enough to run it.
From IGN’s 2018 Red Dead Redemption 2 review: Red Dead Redemption 2 stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Grand Theft Auto V as one of the greatest games of the modern age. It’s a gorgeous depiction of an ugly period that’s patient, polished, and a huge amount of fun to play, and it’s combined with Rockstar’s best storytelling to date. Even after finishing the lengthy story I can’t wait to go back and play more. This is a game of rare quality; a meticulously polished open world ode to the outlaw era. Looking for one of this generation’s very best single-player action experiences? Here’s your huckleberry.
10. Final Fantasy XIV Online
Release Date: August 27, 2013 ● Developer: Square Enix Product Development Division 3 ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Final Fantasy XIV Online Wiki
In short, FFXIV is not just the best MMO you can play right now, it’s a fantastic Final Fantasy game in its own right. Through its relaunch and subsequent three expansions Final Fantasy XIV has slowly morphed from a relatively generic good-versus-evil plot into a sprawling, political, and fantastical thriller. The latest expansion, Shadowbringers, serves both satisfying payoffs to some years-long character arcs, as well as a compelling self-contained story that rivals the Final Fantasy series’ best.
Don’t be scared away by the fact that it’s online. Despite being an MMO, Square-Enix has streamlined things so much that, if you don’t want to, you really don’t have to play with other people. Story missions are intended to be tackled solo, and even instanced dungeons now have an option for you to enter with computer-controlled party members instead of forcing you into a group with strangers. Of course, it’s also a fully-fleshed MMO with end-game raiding that ranges from totally accessible to maddeningly punishing.
From IGN’s 2019 Final Fantasy XIV Online review: Shadowbringers review: Shadowbringers weaves such a beautiful tale that it’s tough not to gush about each and every strand of it individually. There might be some awkward job balancing changes here and there, but the fumbles are never enough to take away from how magnificent this expansion is as a whole. I arrived a stranger in Norvrandt, but I left as one of their own as even the simplest quests drew me in and made me truly care about the story being told there. Shadowbringers has only further solidified XIV’s status as one of the greatest Final Fantasy games ever made.
9. Disco Elysium
Release Date: October 15, 2019 ● Developer: ZA/UM ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Disco Elysium Wiki
Disco Elysium took age-old CRPG mechanics and created something entirely modern with them. As well as transplanting the dice-rolls and deep dialogue options from Dungeons and Dragons into a lesser-seen noir-detective setting, it offers entirely original ways to play, such as such as debating against 24 different sections of your own brain, each representative of a different skill or trait.
Your down-and-out detective is thrust into circumstances where you must solve a murder, but with all great stories its not the conclusion that is solely gratifying, but the journey you took to get there as its ludicrously detailed world and cast of characters drive it along, supported by some of the best writing seen in a game. Playing Disco Elysium feels entirely fresh and pretty much unlike anything else you’ll have experienced on PC in any era, let alone this one.
From IGN’s 2019 Disco Elysium review: Disco Elysium is a unique blend of noir-detective fiction, traditional pen-and-paper RPGs, and a large helping of existentialist theory. Its twisting plot, cast of memorable characters, and sheer depth of choice combine to create an experience that begs to be savoured. A few minor gripes aside, it hits on almost every single one of the marks it sets out to achieve and left me yearning to spend more time in its world.
8. NieR: Automata
Release Date: March 7, 2017 ● Developer: Platinum Games ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s NieR Automata Wiki
Nier: Automata is, by all accounts, a game that shouldn’t exist. Director Yoko Taro’s original Nier flopped back in 2010, but it nevertheless developed a ravenous fanbase – and for good reason. To put it simply: Nier: Automata does what the original sought to do, learning from its failures and building on its successes to create a blend of hardcore and fluid combat, bullet-hell shoot ’em up segments, and visual novel stylings. It all coalesces into something entirely new.
Despite a frustrating PC port that the fanbase had to fix themselves with the all-but-mandatory FAR mod, Nier: Automata’s staying power is etched somewhere within its philosophical musings of humanity, pain of existence, and ability to find the humor in between. Each of its big story moments is punctuated with a haunting soundtrack courtesy of composer Keiichi Okabe. All of that makes Nier: Automata a game that needs to be experienced from beginning to end – and not just ending A, but endings B, C, D, and E as well. Those multiple endings build to something no other game has ever dared to attempt (with apologies to the original Nier). But this one just hits a little different, you know?
From IGN’s 2017 Nier: Automata review: Nier: Automata is a crazy, beautiful, and highly entertaining journey full of nutty ideas and awesome gameplay. It may not include the most sensical story or compelling characters, but its frenzied combat – coupled with beautiful visuals and a stunning soundtrack – make it too much fun to pass up.
7. XCOM 2
XCOM 2 builds on the brilliant, high-stakes tactical combat of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and its War of the Chosen expansion made it even better. It has the same tension of going from a technologically inferior underdog to powerful war machine, with the constant threat of the permanent death of your customized soldiers looming over every decision.
However, it turns the formula of defending Earth from alien invaders on its head by boldly recasting XCOM as a guerrilla force attempting to liberate the planet from alien occupation, making the situation feel even more desperate than ever. This bigger, deeper sequel adds not just complexity in the form of new and more powerful soldier classes, equipment, and aliens, but also a huge focus on replayability. Procedurally generated maps keep you from falling into a repeatable pattern in tactical missions, frequent random events on the strategic map shake up your build and research orders, and of course mods galore.
From IGN’s 2016 XCOM 2 review: “With a focus on variety and replayability, this sequel has an answer to most of my complaints about 2012’s excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and aside from some mostly cosmetic bugs, it comes together brilliantly. Thanks to a new spin on the same great tactical combat, plus unpredictable maps and randomized objectives and loot, XCOM 2 is an amazing game I’ll easily put hundreds of hours into.”
6. Grand Theft Auto 5 / GTA Online
Grand Theft Auto V’s sprawling, yet meticulously detailed map is still the high bar to which all other open-world games aspire. Not only is it huge, it’s incredibly dense with excellent content – not just the driving and shooting and three-protagonist story that make up its campaign, and not limited to the numerous side activities, but all the sights, sounds, and bustling activity you’d expect to find in a city teeming with humans, seedy underbelly included.
With so much to do, explore, and play with, both in single-player and Grand Theft Auto Online, plus great creative tools and mods, it’s truly amazing on multiple levels.
From IGN’s 2013 Grand Theft Auto V review: “Grand Theft Auto V is not only a preposterously enjoyable video game, but also an intelligent and sharp-tongued satire of contemporary America. It represents a refinement of everything that GTA IV brought to the table five years ago. It’s technically more accomplished in every conceivable way, but it’s also tremendously ambitious in its own right. No other world in video games comes close to this in size or scope, and there is sharp intelligence behind its sense of humour and gift for mayhem. It tells a compelling, unpredictable, and provocative story without ever letting it get in the way of your own self-directed adventures through San Andreas.”
5. Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition
Divinity: Original Sin 2’s Definitive Edition has cemented it as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. It masterfully mixes pieces of classic cRPGs with more modern mechanics and designs, feeling old and new at the same time. The sequel has improved upon its predecessor’s already incredible combat by deepening its systems while simultaneously simplifying and smoothing out its clunkier bits – not to mention it introduced some brutally smart new AI.
There’s also an overwhelming amount of game here to play. With six different origin characters, custom tags to make your own, and over 74,000 lines of fully voiced dialogue, this massive RPG has more than enough to keep you coming back to it.
From IGN’s 2017 Divinity: Original Sin 2 review: “Divinity: Original Sin 2 may have been designed in the spirit of decades-old RPGs like Baldur’s Gate 2, but that legacy serves only as a foundation for the expansive game Larian has built on top of it. Few other RPGs allow such a wide range of flexibility while also supporting rewarding combat and a powerful story, all in a world that feels alive in the ways it reacts to you and goes about its business without you. It’s a rare RPG that I’ll want to play through again and again, driven by the feeling that so many fascinating and surprising paths remain undiscovered, some of which might lead to different outcomes for the NPCs I’ve grown to care about – even the rats. When that happens, you’re experiencing something worth remembering, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 will be remembered as one of the greats.”
4. Slay the Spire
Release Date: January 23, 2019 ● Developer: MegaCrit LLC ● Last position: 24 (↑ 20)
In a roguelike, variety is king: Slay The Spire’s constantly changing decks of ability cards, powerful relics, and the three drastically different playable characters keeps these turn-based battles fresh and engaging for far longer than they have any right to. Watching your character’s attacks, defenses, skills, and powers evolve across its three chapters is a journey, and throwing your hand in at the end of a run knowing you may never see its like again can be like saying goodbye to a friend you were only just getting to know.
Of course, the possibility of getting an even better combination the next time through makes it tough to resist hitting the New Game button, and the randomized Daily Climb runs give even veterans a new and interesting way to play every day.
From IGN’s 2019 Slay the Spire review: “Slay the Spire takes some of the best parts of deckbuilding games, roguelikes, and dungeon crawlers and mixes them into a wholly new and extremely satisfying package. It encourages experimentation, gives you time to make mistakes, and will challenge you immensely as you navigate your way through floor after floor of entertaining, puzzle-like fights. It’s an idea so good that it’s inspired a dozen games like it before it even left early access, but is executed so well that none of them even come close to matching it.”
3. Half-Life: Alyx
Release Date: March 23, 2020 ● Developer: Valve ● Last position: New! ● IGN’s Half-Life Alyx Wiki Guide
Valve’s first Half-Life game in 13 years reminded us of the innovation that’s made this series so special and why its return was so anticipated. Just as the first Half-Life proved you could tell a story in a first-person game without taking control of the camera away, and Half-Life 2 pioneered physics-based puzzles and combat, Alyx has set a new standard for polish in virtual reality shooters.
Its full-length campaign pulls out all the stops for an amazing and horrifying battle against alien soldiers, zombies, headcrabs, and three-dimensional puzzles, and it even turns the simple act of reloading your weapon into a desperate life-or-death struggle. It caps it all off with a fantastic ending that made the wait almost feel worth it.
From IGN’s 2020 Half-Life: Alyx Review: Back when VR first became a real thing and we all started spitballing which game worlds we’d most like to be fully immersed in, Half-Life topped my list (tied with BioShock). It took a few years, but Half-Life: Alyx has more than realized that potential. With it, Valve has set a new bar for VR in interactivity, detail, and level design, showing what can happen when a world-class developer goes all-in on the new frontier of technology. In a lot of ways, it feels like a game from the future, and one that the rest of VR gaming will likely take a good long while to match, much less surpass.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Deep, lengthy RPGs are a staple of PC gaming, and very few have put a larger chunk of sophisticated content forward than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has. Its massive sandbox open-world areas impress, both in terms of scope and density; they’re generously dotted with great monsters to slay, tantalizing mysteries to solve, and personal stories to unfurl.
It’s also one of the most impressive overall productions in gaming history, with reams of excellently written dialogue performed by a stellar voice cast, an incredible original soundtrack, and graphics that qualify as both a technical and artistic achievement.
From IGN’s 2015 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review: “Though the straightforward and fetch-quest-heavy main story overstays its welcome, the option of joyfully adventuring through a rich, expansive open world was always there for me when I’d start to burn out. Even if the plot isn’t terribly interesting, the many characters who play a part in it are, and along with the excellent combat and RPG gameplay, they elevate The Witcher 3 to a plane few other RPGs inhabit.”
1. Portal 2
Portal 2 claims the top spot because, in the past decade, nothing else has struck so many chords so perfectly. No game accomplishes so much so well. Its impeccable level design, charming personality, and exceptional and varied puzzle systems make us feel smarter just for getting through it. Plus, its co-op campaign requires a different sort of smarts that remains one of the best multiplayer experiences with pals around.
Valve is a developer that, presumably because of the time it takes to make its incredible games, creates a feeling of timelessness in its design. Portal 2 – which iterated on and added to the brilliant puzzle design and world-building of its predecessor – feels just as clever and unique as it did in 2011. Simply put, if you’ve never played Portal 2, your top gaming priority right now should be to do just that.
From IGN’s 2011 Portal 2 review: “The original Portal benefitted from its brevity. It had a concise story paired with inventive first-person puzzle mechanics that challenged you to be creative while pulling the trigger. Portal 2 makes the original look like the prototype it was. It’s filled with a larger cast of characters vividly brought to life through brilliant writing and some of the best voice acting in video games. Its puzzles are challenging without being unreasonable, and, once you’re finished with the single-player mode, one of the best co-operative experiences on the market awaits. Valve cuts no corners and finds ways to make you care about everything from the major characters to the cubes used to solve puzzles. From the beginning of the single-player story to the end of the co-op mode, Portal 2 is a novel, unforgettable experience.
Those are our picks for the 25 best modern PC games! Obviously there are dozens of incredible games we couldn’t include, but that’s what happens when you only have 25 spots. Let us know in the comments what’s on your list that didn’t make ours, and be sure to check out our other best games lists — we update them whenever new, great games are made.
And, very rarely, we add games to our best games of all time page: The Top 100 Games List, so check that out, too.