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The best PC games: Top picks from every genre
Whether you’ve got a high-powered gaming desktop or a budget gaming laptop, you’ve got many options for the best PC games to load up. There are decades worth of great games to buy or play for free right now, with far more choice than you’d find on consoles like the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S.
To help you find your next PC game addiction, we’ve listed a few of the best PC games from different genres below. We’ve also got a whole list of the best free-to-play games for gamers on a budget, many of which are on this list.
It’s hard to encompass all of PC gaming in a single list, so we’ve separated the entries into the following categories: action, RPG, multiplayer, strategy, simulation, MMORPG, and platforming. Skip to the most relevant section for you, and you’re sure to find your next PC game addiction!
The best PC games
The best PC action games
Action games are one genre that works equally well on both PC and consoles. Most of our picks are available on both. Most are single-player affairs, although a few have strong online components. For more multiplayer choices, scroll down a bit further.
Grand Theft Auto 5
The game that refuses to die, Grand Theft Auto 5 remains one of the best PC games in 2021. First released in 2013 to universal acclaim, GTA 5 features an extensive single-player story with far more memorable moments and characters than we can list here.
It’s easily one of the best open-world games of all time, but what has kept the game alive all these years later is Grand Theft Auto Online. There’s so much to do and explore with your friends that you can play this game for years. For PC players, there are a healthy amount of mods, too.
Red Dead Redemption 2
If the gang-filled streets of Los Angeles aren’t for you, perhaps you’d prefer the gang-filled plains of the Wild West. Once again developed by Rockstar Studios, it’s yet another excellent open-world adventure where you can decide where to go and what to do. You can rob trains, get into fistfights with mouthy civilians, hunt down wanted criminals, or just go hiking in the scenic mountains.
You don’t necessarily have to play the first game to enjoy this one, but you do need a very powerful computer. Like GTA 5, it has some online components, but they’re not the game’s main draw.
If you need a bit of fantasy RPG action, Lost Ark is definitely among the best PC games you can get. The game is free-to-play, which is excellent for getting started. Of course, you can pay for starter packs and expansions.
You have to look for the Lost Ark in a big, complex world full of adventure, fights, creatures, and treasures. Don’t expect many dull moments in this game.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Yet another open-world game makes our list, this time from Polish developer CD Projekt RED. While it technically straddles the line between action game and RPG, the engaging narrative and sheer quantity of quests worldwide make it an excellent pick for fans of both.
Now that the game has been out for a few years, you can get your hands on the Game of the Year Edition reasonably cheaply. This adds even more content to a world that’s already bulging at the seams with places to explore. If you can avoid getting caught up in side quests, you can finish the game in 40 or 50 hours, but realistically you’re looking at well over 100 hours of gameplay.
The best PC RPGs
RPGs are another genre that is technically at home on both PC and console, but western-style RPGs like Skyrim are must-plays for most PC gamers. We’ve included western RPGs and JRPGs in our list, although it’s slim pickings for the latter on PC.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Widely hailed as one of the best RPG experiences of all time, Divinity: Original Sin 2 combines great storylines with interesting turn-based gameplay to form a nearly perfect game. What’s more, the way the story is structured lends itself to exceptional replayability, which is something that can’t always be said about PC RPGs.
Until Larian Studios’ next game, Baldur’s Gate 3, hits the market, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is easily our pick for the best PC RPG you can buy.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is a title that nearly every gamer should be familiar with at this point, since it was first released almost a decade ago. Still, it’s stood the test of time thanks to an improved character development system, an interesting Viking-inspired open-world setting, and exciting battles with dragons and other giant beasts.
The Skyrim mod scene is also as popular as ever, giving a bit more life to the game after you’ve played through it once or twice. Due to its age, you can generally find it heavily discounted on Steam or any other platform.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Final Fantasy VII has been one of the most popular RPGs in history. After years of fans asking for a remake, Square Enix has finally given in, and Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is definitely one of the best PC games for RPG fans.
You’ll get to relive the intricate FFVII story, and see all your favorite characters in high definition. The battle system has been changed to an active one instead of the turn-based mechanism in the past. This also makes the newer game a much more immersive and action-packed title.
Created by Bandai Entertainment, Elden Ring is one of the best PC games for fantasy RPG fans. It offers everything you can expect from a great role-playing game: a great story, incredible character-creation freedom, a vast world to explore, and a bevy of classes to choose from.
Your goal is to get a hold of Elden Ring shards to become a mighty Elden Lord. You’ll find no dull moments. Not to mention the graphics are as impressive as they get.
The best PC multiplayer games
Consoles might still have dominance over couch co-op gameplay, but nothing beats playing on a PC for online multiplayer. Not only can you skip fees like Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus, but you also have far more genre choices and customization options for your own setup.
It should come as no surprise that Fortnite tops the list, since it’s still a major cultural phenomenon. Although it wasn’t the first battle royale game on the market, it’s undoubtedly the most popular. Constant updates have kept the game feeling fresh over time, and crossplay support means you can play with your friends on consoles or even mobile devices.
Obviously, it isn’t the only game in the genre, and other titles like Apex Legends, PUBG, or Call of Duty: Warzone might be better picks for you. Fortunately, nearly all of them are free, so you can try them out without spending a dime!
Competitive shooters are a dime a dozen on PC these days, but if we had to pick one, it’d be Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The fourth entry in the Counter-Strike franchise first came out in 2012, but it still boasts a very active community of competitive players.
Other great options include hero shooters like Overwatch and hybrid titles like Valorant. Both of these also have (or are developing) vibrant, competitive scenes and full esports leagues.
For strategic multiplayer games, the options are much more limited. StarCraft 2 is still the best of the bunch, even more than a decade after release. It boasts an active pro scene and ladder community, plus an engaging storyline that everyone should play through at least once.
StarCraft 2 also has a co-op mode, which is similar to WC3 for fans of hero-based RTS games. There are a few other decent indie RTS games, but we’re unlikely to see another truly AAA RTS game until Frost Giant finishes its ambitious first project.
League of Legends
DOTA might have ushered in the MOBA revolution, but League of Legends perfected the formula. Still the most popular game in the world in 2021, LoL puts you in control of one of more than 150 champions in a 5v5 battle in a large battle arena. You’ll need skills and good teamwork to come out on top.
DOTA 2 is another excellent PC MOBA, boasting a slightly smaller — but still huge — player base. Both games are free-to-play, but DOTA 2 is a bit more friendly to pure f2p players, with all characters unlocked from the get-go.
The best PC strategy games
Finally, we get to a category that truly shines on PC. Whether turn-based or otherwise, strategy games have a long history on the platform. There are hundreds of excellent titles to choose from in 2021, but we’ve narrowed the list down to just three of the best PC strategy games that deserve a spot on your hard drive.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
The Total War franchise has been around for more than two decades now, and TW games have always been among the best PC games you can buy. Total War: Three Kingdoms isn’t the newest entry in the series, but it’s the very best for our money. It lets you take control of epic battles during China’s Three Kingdom period, and the gameplay and factions are as polished as ever.
If you’re looking for something with more fantasy flare, check out Total War: Warhammer II. Based on the hit tabletop game, it features dragons and other massive beasts as well as magic and more. It’s a slightly different take on the genre that might not be for everyone, but it still features the same epic battles as always.
Age of Empires IV
Remember Age of Empires? It’s one of the most renowned strategy franchises in history, and the latest iteration launched in late 2021. Age of Empires IV takes you through iconic battles throughout history, all of which shaped the world we live in.
You’ll be able to control armies to find victory, all with improved graphics, physics, and even an online multiplayer mode so you can battle it out with others.
Battletech is a strategy game in the same universe as the MechWarrior series, but instead of hopping in the cockpit, it features turn-based battles with squads of giant mechs, tanks, and other war machines. The game has an extensive campaign where you can customize mech loadouts and pilot skills, as well as online multiplayer play.
Since the game came out in 2018, developer Harebrained Schemes has released three separate DLC packs. Each adds new mechs, weapons, maps, and missions to the base game.
The best PC simulation games
This category might be confusing, since pretty much every gaming experience is some kind of simulation. We’ve narrowed it down to games that simulate a real-world task with no strict guidelines or goals. Any of these games can soak up as much time as you’re willing to put into them, with no finishing line in sight.
This darling indie game is now available on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and mobile devices, but it all started on PC back in 2016. A farming sim at its core, Stardew Valley has you planting and taking care of crops, catching legendary fish, battling monsters in the mines, and participating in social events to find a suitable spouse.
It’s hard to overstate how deep and satisfying this game is without playing it yourself. It perfects the Harvest Moon formula, and the one-man developer ConcernedApe has kept the game fresh with frequent updates, all of which are included in a one-time purchase of the base game.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator is a game that needs no introduction, and not just because it does exactly what it says on the tin. The initial release was all the way back in 1982, pre-dating even Windows by a full three years.
The latest version was released in August of 2020, and it’s easily the most comprehensive flight simulation game of all time. Just be warned that it’s easy to get hooked and slip down the expensive flight-sim rabbit hole with the best flight sticks and other hardware.
The Sims 4
The Sims is another long-standing series that’s remained a fan favorite for decades. One of the best-selling game franchises of all time, it puts you in control of virtual people called Sims. You manage all aspects of their lives: work, play, friendships, eating, decorating, etc.
The Sims 4 first came out back in 2014, but nine expansions have come out in the intervening years. There are also nine more game packs and 17 stuff packs with even more goodies to explore. If you’re tired of being cooped up in your house with nothing to do because of lockdown orders, The Sims 4 is the perfect escape.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
Forget about Need for Speed, Gran Turismo, and other high-speed driving simulators. It might sound excessively niche, but if you want a truly realistic driving experience, nothing beats Euro Truck Simulator 2.
There’s no mystery as to what gameplay is like here: you drive a freight truck between locations in Europe. You start as an employee of a delivery company, but as you progress, you can invest in your own truck and even hire your own employees. The base game contains 71 cities in 12 European countries, with six map packs available to expand further.
The best PC MMORPGs
The true golden age of PC MMORPGs might have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get in on the action. These games offer enormous worlds with engaging stories to experience on your own or with friends. Due to the scale of each game, you can spend years improving your character, often to the detriment of the rest of your life goals.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft, or WoW, is still the king of MMORPGs. It’s been one of the best PC games since its highly anticipated launch back in 2004. It’s still going strong all these years later.
The eighth expansion, Shadowlands, is set for release in a few months, and it could be a great moment for new or returning players to pick it up. Levels will be condensed for the first time in franchise history, so the max level is actually dropping from 120 down to 60.
Final Fantasy 14
After a disastrous initial launch, Final Fantasy 14 bounced back with A Realm Reborn to become one of the best MMORPGs. It’s also improved over time, with the most recent expansion, Shadowbringers, offering some of the best content so far.
Even better, FFXIV has one of the most generous free trials of any subscription-based game. You can play the base game and first expansion for free, with the level cap raising from 35 to 60 for free players.
The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls saga offers great RPG titles full of adventure, mighty battles, dragons, lore, and unique worlds to explore. We always believed Elder Scrolls worlds were worthy of an MMORPG, and Bethesda finally made this a reality with The Elder Scrolls Online.
You’ll enjoy all these outstanding game characteristics with over 20 million other players. You can choose how you play and what you’ll focus on, and there’s no need for a monthly subscription.
The best PC platforming games
Our last category in this list of the best PC games is platformers, and it’s filled with great indie games. Don’t let the colorful graphics and animations fool you, though. These are easily some of the most challenging games on the list.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Building on the already fantastic Ori and the Blind Forest, this 2020 follow-up is a platforming masterpiece. Everything from the smooth gameplay and combat to breathtaking visuals and music are here, coalescing into a fantastic game that shouldn’t be skipped.
The game kicks off right after the end of Ori and the Blind Forest. You don’t technically have to play the first one to enjoy it, though. It also adds new time-trial challenges and side-quests to keep you playing well after the credit roll.
Celeste might look like another retro-style platformer, but an engaging story sets it apart. Don’t get me wrong, all of the gameplay elements are solid, and every piece is in its place. You’ll quickly find yourself invested in Madeline’s struggles in a way that might surprise fans of platforming games, though.
The game initially featured 200 rooms spread throughout eight chapters, with 100 more rooms released in a ninth chapter in 2019. Although listed here as one of the best PC games, it’s available on just about any platform and shouldn’t be missed for genre fans.
The final game on our list is another hugely popular indie game. Spelunky 2 is the sequel to the free roguelike platformer, and adds lots of new features and improvements. It maintains the procedurally generated levels of the previous game, but adds new biomes, liquid mechanics, monsters, traps, rideable mounts, and more.
Since this platforming game is also a roguelike, it has near limitless replayability as you try to dive deeper into the Earth for more treasures and high scores. It came out in September of 2020. If the previous game is any indication, it should have a long life ahead of it.
Are you tired of upgrading your PC just to run the best games? Sometimes a console is a more straightforward way to game away without worries. Take a look at our guide to the best gaming consoles available today to see if one of them convinces you.