10. Final Fantasy XIV Online
In short, Final Fantasy XIV 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 four expansions, FFXIV has slowly morphed from a relatively generic good-versus-evil plot into a sprawling, political, and fantastical thriller. The latest expansion, Endwalker, brings a satisfying conclusion to the game’s now 8+ year storyline, returning some familiar faces, settling old scores, and of course saving the world from the greatest calamity yet.
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.
Hades is the current gold standard of the roguelite genre, and it isn’t even close. From its exhilarating combat, to its incredible soundtrack, to its clever and well written narrative with characters that seemingly never run out of meaningful things to say, all the way to its deep and innovative post game that keeps you wanting to come back for more even after beating the last boss.
Hades is incredibly difficult, but it never feels punishing in defeat. Dying is part of the game, and actually comes with its own rewards in the form of new conversations with its fascinating cast of characters, new opportunities to purchase game changing upgrades, and an opportunity for a brand new run with a completely new set of godly boons that dramatically alter how you approach combat. Hades is a masterclass of roguelite design, and just another example of how Supergiant Games just doesn’t miss.
Hades was crowned IGN's 2020 Game of the Year.
8. Outer Wilds
Every 22 minutes, everything ends – and restarts again. The sands that had passed between twin planets go back to their original place, a planet that had fallen apart becomes whole, and you awaken to see a mysterious object in space break apart once again. In Outer Wilds, you live through those same 22 minutes until you can successfully solve the puzzle of why you're stuck in the time loop, among other mysteries, by exploring ruins left by a long-dead civilization across multiple planets.
This gorgeous, heartfelt space adventure is one of the best examples of video game exploration and discovery. Outer Wilds encourages you to hop into your spaceship and go wherever you want – or just stay on your home planet and see what's happening there. Should you feel lost or need a hint on what to do next, all of your activities and progress are saved to your ship's log, which helpfully tells you when there's still more to discover in an area.
The only thing limiting your curiosity is time, but even that can sometimes be your ally. The short expansion's puzzles are just as enjoyable as what you'll find in the rest of Outer Wilds, but the pervasive, menacing tension in Echoes of the Eye makes each step forward in the overall mystery feel even more rewarding.
7. 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.
6. Crusader Kings 3
While historical strategy games are perhaps most known for their maddeningly complex systems so dense they’re near impenetrable, they’re also about the human stories that emerge when great figures collide. Crusader Kings 3 gives you many ways to tell those stories, be it overwhelming military might, the diplomacy of a well-placed betrothal, or ending your enemies with a cloak-and-dagger plot.
CK3 also manages to make these dense systems as accessible as they’ve ever been, with a robust nested tooltip system that helps allow even strategy newcomers enjoy the game’s complexity. The latest expansion, Royal Court, adds a zoomed-in physical space where your ruler can look their subjects in the eye, passing down individual judgements in addition to making realm-wide decrees. The expansion also weaves an intricate overhauled culture system throughout the game, giving you more opportunities to make your empire feel unique, with all the benefits and penalties that entails.
We also named Crusader Kings 3 one of the best PC Game Pass games.
5. Elden Ring
In just the few short months since its release, Elden Ring’s reputation has only grown, which is insane to even think about considering that its reputation right when it came out was one of the highest reviewed games of all time. It’s all deserved praise, because Elden Ring truly is a monumental achievement in the open world genre.
Its world is a wonder to explore, with memorable experiences, valuable rewards, and imposing boss fights covering nearly every square inch of its absolutely enormous map. The only thing that holds it back on this list is the fact that it still struggles a bit performance-wise on the PC. But that doesn’t stop it from being an easy pick for our top five best PC games of all time.
4. Disco Elysium
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.
The acclaimed RPG was made even better with Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, which adds all-new quests and full voice acting. IGN awarded it a 10/10, saying "The Final Cut elevates Disco Elysium from an already phenomenal RPG to a true must-play masterpiece.
3. 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.
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.
1. Half-Life: Alyx
Valve’s first Half-Life game in 13 years reminded us of the signature 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 compelling story in a first-person game without taking control of the camera away, and Half-Life 2 pioneered physics-based puzzles and combat, Half-Life: Alyx set a new standard for polish in virtual reality shooters and is a truly unique experience. It's so impressive, in fact, that we believe fully justifies investing in a VR headset for your PC if you haven't already (especially now that a Meta Quest 2 can be had for $300 and connects to your PC wirelessly via Air Link).
Alyx's full-length campaign pulls out all the stops for an amazing and horrifying battle against aliens and zombies where the simple act of reloading your weapon becomes a desperate life-or-death struggle as headcrabs leap toward your actual face. Other VR games have great shooting, but even more than a year later nothing has yet matched Valve's level of detail. Clever three-dimensional puzzles and excellent and often funny performances from its cast break up the action, and it's all capped off with a fantastic ending that made the decade-plus we had to wait for the third coming of Half-Life almost feel worth it.