The 12 Best Games On PC

Illustration by Sam Woolley

PC gamers have got a pretty great thing going. Interesting, experimental indie games? Yup. Complex strategy simulations? Totally. The shiniest, prettiest versions of big-budget console games? They get a lot of those, too.

Let's say you've recently joined the ranks of the PC elite. Which games should you install? Start with the ones in the video above, which we've listed below.

There's no shortage of ambition in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt of Rivia's latest adventure is massive, a world you can get lost in for hours and still have plenty to do. There's a ton for die-hard Witcher fans to enjoy, but you don't need to have played a Witcher game to enjoy the heck out of this one.

While many games these days have sprawling landscapes, The Witcher 3 is utterly dense. Every nook and cranny is filled with memorable characters, clever writing, and rewards for curious players. The main story is as thrilling as it is emotionally draining, and the side quests are actually worth doing.

Since its release in 2015, The Witcher 3 has gotten a ton of free updates and improvements along with two terrific paid expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. The full experience is now even bigger, richer, and better than ever.

A Good Match For: Open-world fans, especially those who enjoyed Skyrim but were disappointed by the combat. In The Witcher 3, fighting is nearly as enjoyable as exploration.

Not a Good Match For: People who value their time and social life, anyone who wants a game they can finish in a handful of hours.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game, and catch up on The Witcher lore.

Purchase From: [Steam] [GOG] [Amazon]

In the six years since Civilisation V came out, we managed to review it not once but twice. That's how much these games lend themselves to playing and replaying, and Civ VI is no different. The latest entry adds a lot of new ideas to the Firaxis's tried-and-true formula, and while some new ideas work better than others, the whole is as usual more than the sum of its parts. The mechanical tweaks and refinements are wrapped up in a subtle, board-game-like aesthetic that is as pleasing on your twentieth hour as it was on your tenth. We'll be playing this game for years.

A Good Match For: Civ fans, people who have never played a Civ game, basically anyone who doesn't actively hate Civ.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who actively hates Civ.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: [Steam] [Amazon]

In 2010, Square Enix launched Final Fantasy XIV Online, and it was just the worst — buggy, over-complicated, unfinished; a mess. The developers spent three years rebuilding the game from the ground up, and the end result is one of the finest massively multiplayer online role-playing games ever made. It's everything fans love about Final Fantasy — lush artwork, strong story, gorgeous music — only bigger, all wrapped around a traditional MMO framework. It's that Square Enix polish that sets it apart from its competitors, earning it a spot in this list.

A Good Match For: Fans of fantasy role-playing video games looking to take the massively multiplayer plunge. The original Final Fantasy XIV was a tangled mess of conflicting ideas, when all players wanted was a standard MMO game with the familiar features of a Final Fantasy game. That's exactly what A Realm Reborn is.

Not a Good Match For: Folks afraid of monthly subscriptions. Despite the MMORPG genere as a whole moving towards free-to-play payment models, Final Fantasy XIV stands firm by its monthly subscription plan.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: [Amazon] [Steam]

Hitman 2 takes everything that was great about 2016’s Hitman and improves and expands on all of it. Really, the new game functions like a second “season” for its episodic predecessor, just with all the missions delivered at once. All the things that worked so well about the 2016 game are here: the meticulous planning, the memorization and mastery, the pitch-perfect dark humor. Not only that, but if you own the earlier game, you can play through all of the levels without leaving the sequel. That makes Hitman 2 live up to its billing as “the ultimate Hitman experience,” as well as one of the smartest and most richly entertaining games you can play.

A Good Match For: Fans of classic spy movies, people who like playing dress-up, anyone who liked 2016’s Hitman.

Not A Good Match For: People hoping for a straight-up action or stealth game, those who didn’t care for 2016’s Hitman.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: [Steam]

In Return of the Obra Dinn, you play as an insurance adjuster for the East India Trading Company in the year 1807. Wait, wait, don’t walk away! It’s so much more interesting than it sounds. A ship called the Obra Dinn has mysteriously returned after many years missing, and its entire crew is dead. With only a notebook and a pocket watch to aid you, you have to figure out how each of the 60 crew members died, and why none of them are still around to tell the tale. Fortunately, it’s a magic pocket watch, and you can point it at a dead body and see the moment of that person’s death. What follows from that setup is one of the most clever, rewarding, and engrossing mysteries we’ve ever solved, and one stupendously smart video game.

A Good Match For: Fans of logic puzzles, sailing buffs, those who love solving mysteries. Not A Good Match For: Anyone who doesn’t like doing the work themselves. The entire appeal of Obra Dinn is working out what happened, and you’ll have to keep track of a lot of information (and probably take notes) to put it all together.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: [Steam] [Humble] [GOG]

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a supremely entertaining and consistently surprising role-playing game, one that expands and improves upon almost everything about its already fantastic predecessor. It may appear to be just another rote fantasy world at first blush, but the more you explore, the more interesting it becomes. Between the complex and rewarding turn-based combat and the branching, open-ended quests and side-stories, Original Sin 2 gives players an uncommon level of freedom to tell their own stories.

And that's not to mention the elaborate Game Master mode, which lets you write and build campaigns for your friends to work through together. Time and again you'll find yourself trying outlandish things just to see if they will work. Most of the time, they will.

A Good Match For: Anyone who liked the first game, fans of the Ultima series and other similar CRPGs from which Divinity draws inspiration.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone hoping for a more action-packed RPG, those who don't like complicated or challenging games.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: [Steam] [GOG]

It's a fan-art generator. It's pure cosplay fodder. It's a meme machine, a water-cooler mainstay, and a cultural obsession. Overwatch is all of those things, but above all else it's a finely tuned competitive video game that manages to encourage pitted competition and enthusiastic teamwork while ensuring everyone is having a good time.

A Good Match For: Team Fortress 2 fans, people who liked banging action figures together as a kid, people who've wanted to try a competitive first-person shooter but haven't yet found the right fit.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who wants to play offline, or who is hoping for a substantial single-player story campaign. Overwatch is strictly multiplayer-only.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Read our review.

Purchase From: [Blizzard [Amazon] [EB Games]

Just a man and a dog, looking to make a delivery. That's how it all begins, anyway. But Kentucky Route Zero quickly becomes a mystical adventure through a land left behind by time, an odyssey in magical realism that feels grand and mysterious in a way that very, very few modern video games can muster. It's not like anything you've ever played, and for that alone, you should play it.

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for something different. Those who still believe there's magic hidden somewhere off the interstate.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a bunch of complex game mechanics — Kentucky Route Zero is a point-and-click adventure game, and a fairly simple one at that. Also, not for those who want closure - the five-act series is only on act three, and there tends to be a long wait between chapters.

Watch a video about why the game is great.

Purchase From: [Steam] [Humble]

The first Total War: Warhammer was a very good strategy game. The sequel is even better, with so many improvements it feels like an all-new game. The map is one of the best maps we've seen in a Total War game, with a focus on winning using interesting non-human races. It's less about the tried-and-true Total War steamroller approach of conquering as much of the map as possible, and more about performing smart, surgical strikes to proceed. A thinking person's RTS, and an unexpectedly grand introduction to the Warhammer universe.

A Good Match For: Total War fans, Warhammer fans, people who aren't into Warhammer but think they could be.

Not A Good Match For: Those who've tried Total War games in the past and just can't get into them.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: [Amazon] [Steam ]

Crusader Kings II began, in 2012, as a very good game. It has become, following a seemingly endless run of expansions and updates, each one adding new challenges, scope and dimensions to an already exhaustive package, one of the most comprehensive and unique strategic experiences in all of video games.

A Good Match For: History buffs, anyone who knows that kingdoms rise and fall on much more than the strength of their armies.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a simple game; Crusader Kings 2 is notoriously opaque and it will take you a while to wrap your head around it.

Watch it in action.

Read our review.

Purchase From: [Paradox] [Steam] [GOG]

Undertale might look like a retro-style JRPG, but it's unusually forward-thinking. As a human stuck in a world of monsters, you decide whether you want to win encounters with wanton violence or clever context-based interactions (talking, joking, petting, etc). Undertale keeps track of everything you do; it's paying very close attention, and will often express that attention in surprising ways. Every life you take ultimately has consequences. Despite those grim trappings, Undertale can be an incredibly warm, fuzzy, and funny game. Whether you slaughter or befriend everyone (or walk a middle path), the writing in this game is top-tier, the soundtrack is second-to-none, and the plot hides a treasure trove of secrets that players still haven't fully uncovered.

A Good Match For: Lovers of smart video game stories, fans of games that subvert expectations, people who've ever felt even a single pang of loneliness.

Not A Good Match For: People who hate shoot-'em-ups and tough boss battles (Undertale's combat system has elements of both), those who aren't fond of reading dialogue, haters of lo-fi pixel art.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: [Steam] [GOG] [Developer's Site]

XCOM 2 refines or overhauls almost every little thing about 2012's XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game that was already good enough to win Kotaku's 2012 Game of the Year award. The game is meaner and faster than its predecessor; most missions have timers that push you forward and force you to take risks, and the new alien types will break even your most time-tested strategies. You'll get more attached to your team of customisable soldiers than ever, which makes it all the harder to watch them die horribly in the field. Watch out for the snakes, man. The snakes are the worst.

A Good Match For: Strategy fans, people who liked the first game, anyone who's ever wanted to understand just how difficult it is to fight off an occupying force from the inside out.

Not A Good Match For: The easily frustrated, those looking for a simple game, anyone who rages at missing point-blank shots due to dice rolls.

Read our review, and a chat about what makes it all work so well.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Purchase From: [Steam] [Amazon] [EB Games]

The games on this list are all great PC games. But of all the platforms in our collection of The Bests, the PC has been around the longest and therefore has the largest back catalogue. There are decades of fantastic PC games to choose from, and if you own a PC you'd be remiss if you didn't go through the classics and play the best ones. Thankfully, we've got two lists to help you out. In 2013 our readers helped us make an exhaustive megalist of the best classic PC games of all time. Then in 2015, we made our own list of the 24 best classic PC games.

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 11/10/2017: Another update our trickiest list: we've added Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Total War: Warhammer II while removing Doom and Inside. 

Update 12/2/2016: Big changes come to the PC list! We've added DOOM, Inside, Hitman, and Civilisation VI while removing MGSV, StarCraft 2, Divinity: Original Sin and Civilisation V.

Update 6/24/2016: Crusader Kings II and Overwatch make it onto the list, while Total War: Shogun 2 and Portal 2 exit. Rest easy, Wheatley. You had a good run.

Update 2/22/2016: We've added XCOM 2 and The Witness and removed Heroes of the Storm and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Update 10/29/2015: The list gets another shake-up. We've added Metal Gear Solid V, Undertale, and Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition in the place of Counter-Strike GO, Minecraft, and Pillars of Eternity.

Update 7/22/2015: We've shaken the list up with three new entries: Pillars of Eternity, The Witcher 3 and Heroes of the Storm take the place of Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and DOTA 2.

Update 11/25/2014: Fall 2014 brings with it a single swap: Dragon Age: Inquisition knocks off its predecessor Dragon Age: Origins. (Though you should still probably play Origins if you haven't, because it's really good.)

Update 8/6/2014: The list gets a shake-up: say goodbye to Half Life 2, Titanfall and Gone Home and hello to Dota 2, Counter-Strike: GO and Kentucky Route Zero. We've also reset the comments to allow for new debate and discussion.

Update 4/10/14: We've called in an orbital drop and replaced Battlefield 3 with Titanfall.

Update 12/9/13: At the end of the year comes a sizable update to the PC bests list. Gone are FTL, The Witcher 2, Team Fortress 2 and Far Cry 3 and in their place are Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Dragon Age: Origins, Gone Home and Portal 2.

Update 07/24/13: It's a long overdue update for the PC platform, with four games leaving and four coming onto the list. Skyrim — which was out when this list debuted — jumps onto the Bests because of the post-release addition of Steam Workshop, which lets you seamlessly access and install hundreds of the awesome mods available for the game. It's joined by XCOM: Enemy Unknown, FTL and Far Cry 3. Wave good-bye to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Dirt 2, Mass Effect 2 and Bejeweled 3.

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Nintendo Switch GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods


    Civ 6? Unless I'm mistaken it's still got either a mixed or negative rating on steam and many people are not enjoying it and refer you back to Civ 5.

      Civ 6 has mostly positive reviews. The recent mixed rating is a review bomb because they released a $9 DLC last month alongside a bunch of updates and people thought the whole update was DLC-only and complained. It wasn't, the update itself was free, just the new civs/scenarios were DLC.

      Granted it's expensive for a pair of new civs, but I don't think it justified the bombing.

        Wasn't there an issue with A.I being too passive etc?

        Don't get me wrong, I've got the game and have the extra Civ's already pre purchased but the few times I did play it, the game didn't feel as good as Gods and Kings. I was thinking maybe this would go the same route as Civ 5 and not be good until the Xpacs.

          I haven't played as much of it as Civ 5 just because of other games taking priority, but I didn't notice any issues with AI in the games I played. The AI seemed to go to war with my neighbouring city states pretty easily but never went to war with me directly because I maintained a decent military.

          I assume it will go the same route as Civ 5 in that respect.

      Civ 6 is fun. Is pretty. Is stable. Will never, ever be as good as Civ 5.

    Came here thinking they were going to list out only flavour of the month shooters.

    Suprised me Kotaku, keep it up (Y)

    Need a sports game in there......I'd go with Football Manager. It's MMO deep how far you can get lost in trying to get your team from lower leagues to the big time stuff.

    Do you have one of these lists for Xbox?

    At least a lot of these games are on console as well. I do wish we had a really good 4x strategy game though, like Civ & Crusader Kings

      Have you seen the Tropico series? I've been curious to see if it's actually good considering they still command a pretty high price

        Yeah, I wondered about Tropico, I've never played it either, but I'm just not sure it's going to scratch that itch.

          If only it was like the good ol days when you could get a demo disk :P Although, might be able to download a demo on XBL for it...

    Ah, The Witness... Easily the most overrated and mind-numbingly boring game I've played in years.

      Agreed. The puzzles were interesting but repetitive, and the story was ...meh. I don't get why people lost their shit over it. It was okay, it didn't deserve the hype it got.

        The story? Are you sure you were playing The Witness?

          Yep. What there is is pieced together from the audio logs and 'secret' ending.

            I also felt this as well. Everyone said how amazing this game was but then it was just a bunch of repetitive line puzzles.

            But then again I hated Blade Runner 2048 and everyone said that was the second coming of Jesus.

            Huh. Completely missed that, even though I beat the Hall of the Mountain King puzzle.

            The philosophy stuff wasn't so prominent that it affected my opinion of the game one way or the other. I just loved the shit out of it.

    Start with the ones in the video above, which we've listed below. No video?

    Also, these header images have transparent background with black text. I'm running with the dark theme, so this isn't ideal. Perhaps you want to fix these image or just update the style to make the background of img tags white, if that's the assumption from the Americans.

    You missed Arma 3

      Arma 3 is not as popular as it used to be.

      The Life RP sector has pretty much died out. Most of the RP community has moved to GTA V.

        Li... Life??? Ugh it saddens me to think that trash like that is what people think of if they think of Arma...

          Its whats the most popular thing to stream/ Youtube. Wether you like it or not, Those life mods are what drove a sizeable chunk of the owner base to actually purchase the game.

          The people who play Arma for the milsim are a minority.

    I feel like I'm the only one that's ambivalent toward Civ. I played Civ 5 for a day, enjoyed it, but then never felt the slightest desire to ever play it again.

    i feel like the mass effect trilogy needs to be in there.
    or even GTA 5

    both are pretty epic games

    Still listing Civ VI even now that the dust has settled? Civ IV was the peak, and an argument could be made for V with all its expansions, but definitely not VI IMO.

      I just take it to mean the Civ series as a whole, with the latest version just being the figurehead for them all. I plyed Civ 2 the most myself, though donated plenty of hours into every other versions as well, as well as variations like Colonization and Alpha Centauri.

      Main point being, while individually we might see one or the other being The Best, they're all great in their own way. And different enough we can still decide which is the version for our self.

        I probably spent the most amount of time with Civ II and personally think it's still yet to be beaten.

          I flip between 2 and 3 myself. I've played each subsequent version less than the previous one, but that's more a reflection of a) my changing life, and b) the number of other games contending for my time. 6 is no different. Its there, I play it every few weeks, but that's about it.

          The beauty of the series though is that when you call one weak, its only when comparing to the rest of the series. There are plenty of other 4X games out there, and I don't think any of them are better than Civ 6 to be honest, which I think we're both seeing as arguably the weakest of the series.

          I include SMAC as a Civ game by the way, ditto Colonization.

            I play Civ 6 periodically because that itch needs to be scratched, and I forget that I really don't like Civ 6. It's a deeply flawed game IMO, primarily because of annoying AI, the utterly stupid diplomacy system that can result in Civs with mutually exclusive goals, and the city states which IMO were the worst addition to Civ 5 which the doubled down on.

            Thing is, it's still Civ, so I'll end up spending like 8 hours and play all night and finish a game and then when I'm done I'll be like "that whole experience was crap and wasn't worth it". But still can't peel myself off it once I get into it. It's like a black hole, once you are trapped in its orbit you can't escape. :(

              Yeah, not a real fan of the city states myself. You nail it though, Civ 6 can be like that, but at the end of the day its a Civ game, so we accept those flaws for the greater experience.

              Its still better than the alternatives. And there are some that like those parts of the game as well, so each to their own. For me, I don't, but accept that adding them was worth the risk. I didn't like culture when it came in either, but got used to it.

              And because most of it just works as intended, and the balance is so good, we still go back for one more turn, even while grumbling that we don't like that version of the game. We do, even if its just because we can nuke the world as Ghandi.

    I'd say path of exile is something to consider on this list but it's very daunting for first time players and basically needs third party sites and apps for end game to function

    Good choices, but I feel like GTA V should be in this list somewhere. The GTA series started on PC, and 5 was redesigned for the PC (not just a console port). That game is endless fun.

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