Gaming on a PC is as popular as ever. With exposure through the advent of mods, the incredible number of sublime indie games, and a back-catalog that would keep you entertained until the end of time, many new gamers are beginning to see the benefits that come with gaming on the keyboard and mouse.
Especially for console gamers, the first time experience of PC gaming can be a daunting experience, with the number of launchers and hardware requirements from some of the platform’s more demanding titles, especially in recent times.
But if there’s one thing that the PC doesn’t lack, it’s a sheer variety of stunning games that will satisfy even the fussiest of gamers. Whether you clamor for a story-driven experience, or simply taking a gun to the face of your enemy online, the PC platform has an abundance of choice.
To help you get started, here is a list of ten of the best options for beginning your collection on PC. These are by no means the definitive collection of the best, but simply games that showcase why PC gaming has been very much alive and well for over 25 years.
The 10 best games
World of Warcraft
Undoubtedly the game that defines the Massively Multiplayer Online genre, when it comes to PC gaming, chances are that at some point in time, you will have played World of Warcraft.
Since 2003, Blizzard’s MMORPG behemoth has defined and redefined what it takes to make a successful subscription game in the current climate of free-to-play games.
Combining and balancing a huge number of abilities, skill trees and challenging PvE and PvP content for over 15 years, World of Warcraft has peaked at around 12 million active subscriptions in the past, towards the end of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
While the views on their latest expansion Battle for Azeroth have been mixed amongst fans, for new players, there is a mountain of content with which to get your teeth into for the first time. World of Warcraft Classic takes you back to where it all began in the vanilla version of the game and is due out later this year and available as part of a standard subscription.
The question is, will your allegiance lie with the Alliance’s High King or the Horde’s Banshee Queen?
If you grew up in the nineties and early 2000s with a PC capable of playing games, chances are you will have tried at least one of the abundance of fantastic RPGs the decade had to offer.
Fallout, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, System Shock, The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall, the Might and Magic series, and all of their sequels are just a few of the great roleplayers available to PC gamers at the time.
However, the one that stands out and is often heralded as the best game of all time is Planescape: Torment.
Based on the Planescape multiverse, familiar to longtime fans of Dungeons & Dragons, and written by legendary videogame writer Chris Avellone, Torment follows the story of The Nameless One, an immortal who loses his memory when killed as he tried to piece together those memories of his previous lives on a journey through the city of Sigil and other planes.
It’s classic roleplaying gaming at its best. If you’re a new PC gamer who enjoyed the likes of Dragon Age, Divinity: Original Sin, or just a sucker for a narrative-driven adventure, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better start than Planescape: Torment.
It’s easy to quantify why Minecraft is one of the best selling games of all time. Starting as a pre-alpha build, singleplayer block builder in 2009 on PC, its creator Markus “Notch” Persson and his team Mojang used Java as its foundation and developed it into one of the biggest and most recognizable gaming franchises in the world.
And with good reason. Its unique, blocky style made it a hit with creatives as they could take elements from every facet of the game and create pretty much anything that they want, whether that be inspired or recreated from popular culture (credit to Reddit user BioHazic) or simply a project of a grand scale to see what was possible in the Minecraft world.
It has since seen the light of day on just about every platform available, whether that be on console, Linux, mobile phone, and even on Amazon’s FireOS, meaning that you can play Minecraft on your TV using an Amazon Fire Stick. Since Microsoft Game Studios purchased Mojang and Minecraft in 2014, the game has continued development, and they continue to bring new features.
The beauty of Minecraft is that the only limitation is your imagination. And with mods for the game that can enhance the experience even further, like, for example, this recent shader pack that adds ray-tracing to the game, if you haven’t tried it yet, the PC version is where it all began.
Another set game that began life on the PC and was later brought to many other formats, Half-Life, is arguably the pinnacle of PC gaming narrative shooters.
The first game, released in November 1998, was met with huge critical acclaim for its evolution in storytelling. Gone were the shooting galleries that you would typically find in first-person shooters of the time, and replaced with an immersive and interactive world that guided you, the mute Gordon Freeman through the Black Mesa Research Facility as you come to realize the world of an experiment gone wrong.
Meanwhile, Half-Life 2 sees you arrive at City 17, where you join as resistance lead by former Black Mesa scientist Dr. Eli Vance against the multi-dimensional rules of Earth, the Combine. The biggest revelation was the introduction of the gravity gun, a weapon that allows you to pick up almost any object and launch it at will. Add in some fantastically designed set pieces, bring everything together, and you have an excellent first-person shooter.
At the time, both games were heralded as classics, and to this day, both are still highly regarded. Not only this, but their existence also brought about mods that eventually became franchises in their own right, including Counter-Strike, Team Fortress and Day of Defeat.
Not only this, but Half-Life 2 also introduced the Source Game Engine, which has since been used by many developers to produce some excellent games, including Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Titanfall, and The Stanley Parable to name a few. And this is before we mention the advent of Steam that came with the game. Cumbersome at first, today it’s a mainstay in the PC gaming community and often your first download as a gamer on PC.
There’s also now the game that’s regarded as one of the best VR games ever too in Half-Life: Alyx, developer Valve’s first full release in years.
So what better place to start scratching that shooting game itch than one of the greatest first-person shooters ever on PC? Now, if we could get that third installment, Valve.
Generally considered something of a dying art on PC, both real-time and turn-based strategy games are becoming rarer on PC as player trends in gaming become more frequent. That’s not to say that you can’t find a great strategy game in today’s market, and what better place to look that combines the two types of a strategy game than Creative Assembly’s Total War series?
Historically accurate take on infantry and architecture, or faithful to the source material if you like all things Warhammer. The Total War series has been the one constant in the community when it comes to providing for strategy gamers, with its mix of resource and military management in turn-based form, and the battle of might and wit covered in real-time.
Whether your taste is from the Roman Empire, the classic feudal campaigns, colonial Americas, or even 16th-century Japanese warfare, the choice is abundant when it comes to picking your flavor of the setting. There are even mods for earlier games that will keep everything fresh, including converting the world of Medieval 2 into Middle Earth!
There were a huge number of games released in the last decade that can truly be considered a masterpiece. Of those masterpieces, only one of them is a puzzle game that requires genuine thought, ingenuity, and in the case of playing with others, teamwork. That game is Valve’s Portal 2.
Combining a story that’s driven by brilliantly characterized antagonists and a setting that presents an eerie backdrop to a war of the robots, Portal 2 presents some of the best puzzle action on PC, with an entire campaign dedicated to both the single-player and the co-op experience.
Top this off with stunning performances from a voice cast that includes Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons, and a workshop that offers almost endless additional user-created levels, and Portal 2 is about as good as it gets.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
When it comes to real-time strategy, there are a few franchises that are considered amongst the genre’s elite. Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Company of Heroes, and Starcraft are all part of that elite group. In 2010, Blizzard unleashed a sequel to their Sci-Fi franchise in the form of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
At the time, the real-time strategy genre was starting to show the signs of its dwindling popularity. Despite being one of the most receptive genres for esports due to the ease of spectating, fewer players than ever were donning their general’s cap for the art of war. The rise of the MOBA left put the RTS in the backseat. This is despite Starcraft II being one of the best the genre has ever seen.
It contained the engaging story of the Terran race in a fascinating setting with a ton of lore, starring three unique races that allowed for vast experimentation in base building and attack vs. defense strategies. The ability to spectate games made viewing friends and pro games a breeze and the ability to mod, like the original game and it’s sister series Warcraft made the game almost infinitely replayable. The sequels that followed the campaigns of the Zerg and Protoss races respectively were also excellent. Despite also going free to play the multiplayer, it couldn’t save the RTS from its fall, but Starcraft II remains the best modern representation that the genre has to offer.
Have you played a first-person shooter in the last 25 years? Chances are, you did so because of the foundation that Doom and its sequel laid in the fabric of modern gaming, and still has influences in shooters today.
Originally released in 1993, Doom is often miscredited as the first game to birth the genre as we know it today (that honor goes to Wolfenstein 3D). But Doom was undoubtedly the game that made it wildly popular and proved that taking on the eyes of a deadly shooter can be heaps of fun.
Hugely satisfying gunplay with a variety of weapons, many of which were expanded upon in Doom 2, Doom saw a level of gore that had scarcely been seen before in a video game. While the game might seem primitive in today’s gaming, the modern reboot in 2016 and its sequel Doom Eternal are a wonderful homage to a time when shooters were simply about blowing up the enemy. Doom is deservedly the daddy of first-person shooters.
The humble PC is one of the major drivers of the independent gaming scene. With Steam providing a cheap and accessible platform for small developers to showcase their creations, indie gaming has taken off in a big way and shows no signs of slowing down.
There’s been a stunning number of fantastic games that have come from the indies. Those from Lucas Pope, such as Papers, Please, and Johnathan Blow’s Braid, are particular highlights. However, one stands out as arguably the best indie game ever made, and that’s Undertale.
Made by tobyfox, Undertale is an extraordinary journey that takes players on an RPG adventure that includes some of the unique characters in gaming, along with highly imaginative bosses and all with a killer soundtrack.
It might be considered an indie darling game, but it’s a game that’s worth the hype.
For those who are fairly new to gaming, Anthem developer Bioware is a legend of the industry. Veterans at over 25 years of making games, Bioware for many years were the golden standard of western RPGs, working on the likes of Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and the much loved Mass Effect trilogy amongst others.
Led for a long time by Canadian game designer Casey Hudson, its skill to craft RPGs was unmatched. But the best of those RPGs is also arguably the best movie franchise tie-in of all time, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Set roughly 4,000 years before the film franchise, you are tasked with taking down Darth Malak, a former Jedi turned Sith Lord, who has unleashed the Sith army against the Republic. A personal and engaging story, supported by a deep, well-crafted combat experience made the 40-hour campaign breeze by, and it’s still regarded for having some of the best writing in western storytelling today. The sequel subtitled The Sith Lords and created by another veteran RPG studio Obsidian is also a great adventure.
If you have any interest in the Star Wars saga, Knights of the Old Republic should be on your list of games to play.
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