The Best PC Games for 2022 – PCMag
When you fire up Epic Games Store, Steam, Xbox, or any of the other digital marketplaces for PC games, you’ll be faced with many purchasing options. Feel like leveling characters in a role-playing game? Disco Elysium: The Final Cut and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt got what you need. In the mood to knuckle up against online opponents? A fighting game like Guilty Gear Strive or The King of Fighters XV will do you good. In short, the PC gaming space is deep and varied. Don’t get frozen by choice, though; use this guide to help you make a swift and wise purchasing decision.
Please recognize, however, that this is not a historical examination of the most groundbreaking PC games. Simply put, this an ever-expanding collection of entertaining titles you should buy if you own a gaming desktop or gaming laptop.
To clarify, games don’t need to have been released within the calendar year to qualify for this roundup. Any game that’s still available and still considered excellent when ranked against the best of today is eligible. We think that’s the most useful approach to helping you decide which video games deserve space on your PC’s hard drive, and which aren’t worth consideration even when their prices are cut by 85 percent during a Steam(Opens in a new window) sale.
In our newest update, we’ve added two games: PowerWash Simulator and Trek to Yomi.
How We Pick ‘Em
Compiling this guide was no small undertaking. PCMag’s in-house and freelance reviewers have played a ridiculous number of PC games over the years, so creating criteria for inclusion was essential. Here’s what we came up with, after much deliberation. To be included, a game must have been reviewed by PCMag, still be available for purchase, and received a rating of 3.5 stars or greater.
The first requirement is to ensure that we can give you more insight into a game. Yes, this guide goes tell you a bit about each highlighted game, but the ability to link to a full review benefits people looking for a deeper cut. The second point we’ve already covered. The third criteria required a bit of pondering. We didn’t want to set the star rating so low that nearly all PC games qualified for the guide, yet we didn’t want to set the star rating so high that we exclude quality B-tier games, such as Dead Island and Split/Second. For now, 3.5 stars is the happy medium, but, as we review more games, we may have to be choosier, to keep the list at a manageable size.
What About Playing Games on Steam Deck?
Ah, yes, we couldn’t forget Steam Deck, Valve’s handheld gaming PC! The games mentioned here are designed for Windows-based computers, so you should check out Valve’s game compatibility list if you want to play them on Steam Deck. It showcases the many PC games that work with SteamOS, the handheld’s operating system.
Right now, there are hundreds of Steam Deck-verified titles (with more being tested on the regular!), according to info pulled from SteamDB(Opens in a new window). Here’s what you need to know about the verification system: A green checkmark indicates that a game is fully verified to run well on Steam Deck; a yellow checkmark indicates that the game is playable on Steam Deck, “but requires extra steps or manual work from the user.” So, get in there, and check out the PC games that you can play on the go. Update: Valve released an official compatibility checker(Opens in a new window) that you can use to see if your Windows games will run on Steam Deck. Please understand that a title may run well on Steam Deck, even if Valve hasn’t reviewed it yet.
Of course, you could always install Windows on your Steam Deck, but the gameplay experience may not be quite as seamless as when the handheld runs SteamOS (this version of the operating system is designed for a 7-inch screen). For more on Steam Deck, check out Steam Deck 101: Everything You Need to Know About Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC, How Valve’s Failures Led to the Steam Deck, 9 Tricks to Get the Most Out of Your Steam Deck, and Can’t Buy a Steam Deck? 6 Of the Best Alternatives.
Explore Our Picks
There are currently more than 200 games in this PC gaming guide, so making navigation as simple as possible was an extremely high priority for our creative commandos. The games are grouped alphabetically by genre, and the titles in each category are listed in alphabetical order. Simply select a genre, say fighting games, and the page jumps to that section. Easy! If you want more in-depth lists of action games, indie games, or RPGs, we have features on those genres, too.
In addition, you should make sure to secure your PC while gaming. We suggest checking out our roundup of the best VPNs for gaming, a roundup of PCMag-tested virtual private networks. Not only will a VPN prevent people with ill intent from snooping your network, but it may enable you to, say, spoof your IP address so that you access games in other countries. Explore our reviews to learn about the VPN services that add the least latency to your gaming sessions.
Classic and New PC Games
If you’re a console gamer who thinks that we’re biased toward PC gaming because we’re PCMag—you’re right! Still, our staff has assembled their top picks for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Switch. Those roundups aren’t quite as robust as this one, as the PC has a much deeper library and, well, this is PCMag.
We now present the best PC games. Grab your keyboard, mouse, gamepad, flight stick, or fight stick, and enjoy.
Adventures of Pip
Tic Toc Games’ Adventures of Pip is a side-scrolling, action-platforming game that has an interesting premise: evolving and devolving a pixel-based hero between his 1-bit and 16-bit forms to fight through level after level of goons and bosses. The unique premise, rich environments, and fun gameplay combine to form a title with a lot of heart and charm, despite the limited scope of its weapons and power-ups.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
The Assassin’s Creed series has taken us to numerous historical settings since its 2007 debut, including Ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and Revolutionary War-era America. The newest installment, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, details the Viking invasion of 9th Century England from the perspective of history’s most notorious raiders. Though Valhalla doesn’t introduce anything wholly new to the series, it’s an excellent PC game that follows in the footsteps of its equally exceptional predecessors, Origins and Odyssey.
Developer Tom Happ, who is known for his work on EA Sports’ Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NFL Street franchises, has gone indie and crafted a delightful tribute to the exploratory action (AKA Metroidvania) genre. This 2D platformer combines the best aspects of classic side-scrollers like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Metroid to deliver a refined experience for newcomers of the genre and seasoned vets alike. Axiom Verge is a fun, engaging title, but plodding story elements and seemingly pointless weapons mar the experience a bit.
Batman: Arkham City
“If you liked X, you’ll love Y!” might be the cheapest of critical plaudits, but sometimes nothing else will do. So here goes: If you liked Batman: Arkham Asylum, you’ll love Batman: Arkham City. Developer Rocksteady Studios borrows everything from Asylum that worked (thrilling fighting, excellent voice acting), though it delivers far less innovation. This makes Arkham City derivative, but the game’s packed with enough goon-busting fun that it still stands as one of the PC’s best action games.
The original Bayonetta is one of the best action games ever made, and it easily stands alongside such genre classics as God Hand, Devil May Cry 3, and Ninja Gaiden Black. Bayonetta features explosive action, and it tests your combo prowess against every divine creature in the good book. Despite Bayonetta’s poor PlayStation 3 performance, this PC port is excellent. It delivers the action at a rock-solid frame rate and a range of uncommon resolutions, which makes this version the definitive angel-slaying experience.
Simply put, the JoyMash-developed Blazing Chrome is one of the best run-and-gun shooters ever made. In its Terminator-like world, one wrecked by a robot apocalypse, you control characters toting high-powered weaponry designed to obliterate legions of mechanical enemies. Across the games’ six stages you experience chunky explosions, wild multiplayer action, and hulking bosses. It doesn’t do much to push the genre forward with fresh gameplay features, but Blazing Chrome’s does nearly everything right.
Carrion is a Metroid-like, 2D platformer published by Devolver Digital in which you play as a gruesome, alien parasite. That statement contains all the information you need to understand exactly how the PC game plays. There’s the genre: Metroid-like 2D platformer. Then there’s the subject matter: playing as a gruesome, alien parasite. Finally, there’s the game’s scope and style: published by Devolver Digital. In other words, Carrion is a wonderfully stylized, indie platformer with plenty of bloody violence.
Cuphead is a charming run-and-gun/shoot-’em-up hybrid that channels Konami’s iconic Contra series, while also taking heavy inspiration from the rubber-hose animation style that was prominent during 1920s- and 1930s-era cartoons. If you’re familiar with the Contra series’ fast-paced gameplay, then Cuphead should be right up your alley. The titular protagonist and his brother Mugman must best a wide variety of perilous stages and bosses to complete their quest. Cuphead lacks the expansive level design featured in Contra and other genre classics, but the hardcore action game gives you a beefy list of complex and satisfying boss fights to overcome, in the style of Treasure’s beloved Alien Soldier.
Daemon X Machina
If, while playing Daemon X Machina, you recall Mobile Suit Gundam, Super Dimension Fortress Macross, or other classic mecha anime franchises, don’t be surprised. The mecha-action game wears its inspirations on its metal-coated sleeve. The brainchild of former Armored Core developers, Daemon X Machina features blistering action and ridiculous amounts of weapons and upgrades. The nearly unintelligible narrative is groan-worthy at best, skip-worthy at worst, but the game’s positives outweigh its faults. Genre fans should consider the title an essential purchase.
The Darksiders series, a creative reinterpretation of the Christian end-of-the-world scenario that follows the misadventures of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, returns with a twist. With Darksiders III, you take control of the irate and unpredictable Fury who’s tasked with capturing the Seven Deadly Sins. Armed with a barbed whip and wicked agility, Fury explores the ruins of the modern world and exterminates menaces in an interconnected, Metroid-esque environment. The combat system has a few annoyances, such as an unreliable camera and frustrating mobs, that hinder the experience. Still, Darksiders III is an enjoyable action game that you should play if the theme appeals to you.
Death Stranding baffled PlayStation 4 owners who weren’t quite prepared for a plot involving extinction, isolation, mortality, and humanity’s remnants trying to piece together a broken world. The controversial console game is now a PC game that sports enhanced graphics, platform-specific Half-Life themed missions, and a photo mode. Taking gameplay cues from the action, stealth, and survival genres, Death Stranding is a more daring affair than the typical mainstream video game title. After all, not many games feature a delivery person who fights flying whales one minute, and then discusses the afterlife with Guillermo del Toro the next. It’s an odd, slow burn.
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition takes everything that made Capcom’s original 2008 release an impressive action game and expands on it. The game includes the Legendary Dark Knight enemy horde mode that was added to the original PC port, as well as three new playable characters, improved visuals, and subtle gameplay tweaks. Some of the weaker aspects of the original release, such as the repetitive story campaign, remain and slightly tarnish an otherwise brilliantly polished title. Overall, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is a rock-solid action game that is well worth picking up for fans of the series and action buffs alike.
Devil May Cry 5
Devil May Cry is a genre-defining action series that pits your demon-slaying protagonist against the hordes of hell, giving you a sword, guns, and a robust list of special attacks to string together in crazy and over-the-top combos. Devil May Cry 5 is the newest incarnation of the series. It takes elements from previous games, even including the fan-derided DmC: Devil May Cry reboot, and introduces all-new characters and gameplay systems for fans and newcomers to enjoy. All systems have been rebalanced and streamlined, making them easy to grasp, yet challenging to apply in practice and to master. It’s one of the best action games ever made.
The Disney Afternoon Collection
Disney Afternoon, the mega-popular 1990s animation block, spawned some of the best platformers on the Nintendo Entertainment System, thanks to developer Capcom. And, 20 years later, those games are back in the excellent Disney Afternoon Collection. The six games—Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2, Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, DuckTales 2, and TaleSpin—feature a crisp 1080p resolution, the ability to save your progress at any time, and a useful rewind feature that helps combat the infamous difficulties associated with old school Nintendo games.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knock Out
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, 2020’s biggest surprise hit, is loads of chaotic, obstacle-course-navigating fun. The bright, cheery, game show-inspired title sees you bounce through candy-colored obstacle courses and take on other challenges, while competing against 59 online contestants. Beware the Big Yeetus!
Far Cry Primal
With Far Cry Primal, developer Ubisoft abandons all political pretenses and focuses on what made Far Cry stand out from its peers when the series debuted: the open-world sandbox. You play as a Stone Age hunter named Takkar, and your goal is to secure a safe haven for your people, the wandering Wenja tribe, in the prehistoric realm of Oros. Melee combat and beast companions set Primal apart from past Far Cry games and make exploration feel much more personal and engaging. Primal’s story is simpler and more straightforward, so if you were hoping for eccentric villains and outlandish melodrama, you may be left a tad disappointed.
For Honor is a medieval-themed combat game has two faces. One is a splendid multiplayer blend of large- and small-scale battles. The other is a forgettable single-player campaign that unfortunately requires an online connection. However, For Honor’s strategic combat—a resplendent combination of positioning, pacing, awareness, and timely opponent reads—gracefully lifts the entire package from the mediocre AAA bog that might otherwise have slid into.
GalaxyTrail’s Freedom Planet is a retro-platformer that looks and feels like a long-lost 16-bit mascot game. Freedom Planet’s 14 levels are large, colorful, and varied. Almost all have Sonic the Hedgehog-style loops, ramps, and corkscrews. Each level also introduces its own unique elements, such as disappearing blocks, colored switches, and keys. These elements sound like basic platforming obstacles, but they’re so well-crafted and diverse that they always feel fresh and don’t overstay their welcome. The downside? Some cringe-worthy voice acting.
Video games love cyberpunk. The medium excels at exploring the chaos of a society where corporations and technology run rampant. Cyberpunk: 2077 and Watch Dogs: Legion delivered cyberpunk with an open-world spin, but if you’re looking for something a little leaner and a lot meaner, try the beautiful and brutal Ghostrunner. This first-person action game has a punishing difficulty level that may turn off many people, but hardcore gamers will eat up its fast, ninja-like action.
God of War
Kratos, one of the highest-profile PlayStation characters, brawls his way into new territory: the PC. With his son by his side, an older, reflective Kratos ventures into the Norse realms to spread his deceased wife’s ashes and honor her last wish. Naturally, the god slayer encounters a new pantheon, and must return to bloody combat. This PC version doesn’t add much to the base console game, but it includes many, useful graphics options.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Immortals Fenyx Rising is the best game that publisher Ubisoft released in 2020, despite being shoved into the holiday season behind its bigger siblings, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion. Developer Ubisoft Quebec pivoted from Assassin’s Creed’s massive quest to a shorter action-adventure game, a move that helps this story of Greek gods and monsters shine brighter. Immortals Fenyx Rising is a PC game forged from the pieces of other titles, notably Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it excellently establishes its own identity.
Jet Set Radio
In 2000, Sega gave us a look into the future of funk with Jet Set Radio, a cel-shaded action game that starred a cute band of rollerblading miscreants who tagged walls, battled rival delinquents, and avoided out-of-control cops. This updated PC version flexes high-definition graphics, developer interviews, and all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a Steam game. Dripping in manga-influenced hip-hop flavor and boasting one of the greatest soundtracks ever crafted for a video game, the grind-happy Jet Set Radio is a title that belongs in the library of anyone who digs fast-paced action games, incredibly catchy tunes, and street culture.
Katamari Damacy Reroll
PlayStation 2 gamers likely remember how difficult it was to avoid the hype surrounding Katamari Damacy. Publisher Namco Bandai’s action-puzzle game tasked you with rebuilding a destroyed cosmos, and went on to become a sequel-spawning hit, thanks to its addictive gameplay, charming graphics, and amazing score. The delightful original game has now been given the remaster treatment with Katamari Damacy Reroll, a game featuring updated graphics and keyboard support. Katamari Damacy Reroll delivers the same whimsical enjoyment as the original did in 2004, but with the addition of a new coat of paint that makes this PC game one you should not miss.
Killer Is Dead: Nightmare Edition
Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) is the Robert Rodriguez of the video game industry. The Japanese developer crafts projects noted for their style, edginess, and violence, but once you peep beneath the cool veneer, the work is exposed as a somewhat empty, if fun, experience. Such is Suda51’s Killer Is Dead: Nightmare Edition, a Steam game that stars a cybernetically enhanced assassin named Mondo Zappa who slays vampires, mystics, and other monstrosities for a government agency. Killer Is Dead is dripping with Suda51’s trademark humor, character swag, and fast-paced action, but it lacks the killer level design and supporting elements that would elevate the game to the top of its genre.
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
TT Games’s Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham squeezes in a lot of DC Comics fan service and silliness, while maintaining a whimsical and simplistic approach to its action and story. Whether it’s the subtle 1978 Superman theme that plays when the caped do-gooder is flying, or Nightwing reminiscing about his sidekick days while compulsively spewing “holy” exclamations, Lego Batman 3 is so filled with Easter eggs that it feels like a love letter to all of DC Comics. The gameplay doesn’t deviate much from the familiar Lego formula, but the experience is solid, nonetheless.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is a near-perfect blend of three wonderful childhood staples: comic books, video games, and, well, Lego. Steeped in Marvel Comics goodness, Lego Marvel Super Heroes puts players in the role of superheroes—including the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man—who are tasked with recovering all-powerful Cosmic Bricks before top-tier baddies such as Loki, Dr. Doom, and Magneto get their hands on them. The open-world game features fun brick-bashing action and light puzzle challenges.
Mega Man 11
Mega Man 11 is a continuation of Capcom’s iconic side-scrolling platformer franchise, and it retains many of the series’ classic elements. In terms of gameplay, Mega Man 11 introduces the impressive speed- and power-boosting Double Gear system, which offers new ways to avoid obstacles and dispatch enemies. There are a handful of hazards strewn throughout this action game that feel a touch unfair, and some stages drag on much too long. Still, Mega Man 11 delivers a wonderfully fun challenge that’s splashed with a fresh coat of paint.
Mega Man Legacy Collection
Capcom, in collaboration with Digital Eclipse, revisits Mega Man’s past with a package that does the original six NES Mega Man games justice. Besides featuring high-definition versions of the classic 8-bit games, the collection contains new trial challenges, leaderboards, video replays, and developer art. It’s one of the best retro compilations around. Besides the recent Rare Replay, Mega Man Legacy Collection is the closest to a video game equivalent of the Criterion Collection the medium has seen. If you’re a Mega Man fan, consider this a must-have collection.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series is known for its stealth-based gameplay, but its spin-off, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, is a straight hack-and-slash action game starring stooge-turned-badass, Raiden. Developer Platinum Games bundles the game with numerous goodies not associated with the original console version, including graphical enhancements and three DLC packages that were separate console purchases—all at a reasonable price. In short, if you liked the console version of Revengeance, you’ll dig this one, too, despite the occasional rough camera angle and frame rate drop.
Metal Slug 3
Run-and-gun video games have a long history of thrilling fans with high-octane, shoot-everything-that-moves action, but few do it better than SNK’s Metal Slug 3. Originally released to the Neo Geo platform in 2000, the acclaimed Metal Slug 3 has appeared on nearly every console and handheld since then—and now it’s available for PCs. In this title, you control adorable, armed-to-the teeth soldiers who defend Earth from an alien invasion using guns, rocket launchers, and the eponymous Metal Slug tanks. Metal Slug 3 is a genre masterpiece due to its charming (and hyper-violent) cartoony graphics, tough-as-nails challenges, creative weapons, and varied level design.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection
The Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is a blend of great, decent, and disappointing elements. The collection includes Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, remarkable action games featuring rich, thrilling combat mechanics. Unfortunately, the flaws present in the later games live on in this collection, with no real changes made to improve upon the framework. Worse, this bundle removes the games’ multiplayer modes, and features meager performance-adjusting options. Series newcomers will enjoy the superb action, but veterans looking for these games’ ultimate versions will be left wanting more.
Okami HD is a high-definition port of the beloved PlayStation 2 action-adventure game in which you play as the wolf-goddess Amaterasu. In it, you guide the deity across Nippon to defeat the demonic presence that threatens nature and mankind. On a basic level, Okami has a similar gameplay structure to The Legend of Zelda series, in that players must explore expansive zones to unlock power ups and clues that lead to new areas to explore. Even better, the game’s visuals are unashamedly Japanese, utilizing a watercolor-like graphical style to create a unique aesthetic. If you enjoyed romping through mythical Japan as William Adams in Nioh: Complete Edition, you might enjoy Okami’s take on the subject, as well as its lighter tone and colorful visuals.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Xbox Game Studios is mostly known for realistic games starring space soldiers and fancy cars, but every so often the company rolls the dice on a family friendly platformer. 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest was the publisher’s most successful attempt in years, and now its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is even better. Featuring pinpoint platforming controls, lush visuals, and clever level designs, Ori and the Wills of the Wisps is a magical, instant classic that will be played for years to come.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a violent story about the death of the Old West. You take control of Arthur Morgan, a man who belongs to an outlaw group and is disillusioned by the criminal lifestyle. Still, Arthur can’t see himself doing anything other than stealing and killing. This results in you undertaking many daring missions. Though not without some performance issues, Red Dead Redemption 2 amazes on PC. Its incredible story, beautiful graphics, multitude of optional quests, and ever-updated online mode may keep you hooked for years.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Fresh and wide-eyed from her exploits in Japan, the young and ambitious explorer Lara Croft is pitted against a cult of fanatical zealots in pursuit of immortality. Rise of the Tomb Raider features more of the spectacular set pieces, powerful combat, and tricky puzzles that made the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot so well received by critics and fans alike. Series fans may get a distinct feeling of déjà vu when running through the similarly styled gameplay scenarios and platforming sections, but Rise of the Tomb Raider is a solid action-adventure title.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a From Software action game that carries some of the DNA of its Dark Souls and Bloodborne predecessors. Thankfully, From Software injects enough new freshness into its formula to create an entirely unique experience. The game introduces fantastic movement elements, clever stealth systems, and parry-heavy swordplay as the ninja protagonist, Sekiro, battles gods and monsters. The controls can be a bit sticky at times, and there are a few obnoxious hitbox issues, but these are relatively minor complaints.
Shadow Complex Remastered
The original Shadow Complex is a 2.5D platform-adventure game that became an Xbox 360 cult classic thanks to its fast-paced, exploration-heavy gameplay. The title has since received the remaster treatment, which gives the beloved game updated graphics, hard-hitting new contextual melee attacks, and Master Challenges. The run-and-gun game’s plot and voice acting don’t quite match the rest of the stellar package, but if you can overlook those ills, you’ll find an excellent title that’s well worth the $14.99 price.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a haunting, cinematic look at Lara Croft as she transverses the steppes and underworlds of the modern home of ancient Mesoamerican culture. Developers Eidos-Montréal and Crystal Dynamics redefine Croft in the final installment of her origin series by tossing away her iconic dual-pistols, and transforming her from a hapless orphan into a hardened tomb-dwelling adventuress that who must stop the coming Mayan Apocalypse. Shadow of the Tomb Raider wraps up Lara’s early days in satisfying fashion, but narrative and performance issues prevent the action-adventure game from reaching the same heights as the previous installments in the series.
Shenmue I & II
Sega’s Shenmue I and Shenmue II remasters are odd games, just like the original Dreamcast and Xbox releases. They’re loaded with a head-scratching amount of underutilized content, hilariously awkward writing, and some horrific pacing issues. But at the same time, they pack a startling amount of detail for games this old. Furthermore, the fighting mechanics are solid, the overarching story is engaging, and the game has an undeniable charm. Yes, many titles have since improved upon the systems featured in Shenmue (notably Grand Theft Auto and Yakuza), but you can’t shake the appeal of these classics.
If you have the “I want to squash all threats to the republic” itch that’s risen in recent days, do yourself a favor and play SNK’s Shock Troopers. This run-and-gun action game tasks you with saving a biotech genius from The Bloody Scorpion terrorist organization by going into battle using a single soldier (Lonely Wolf mode) or a three-person squad (Team Battle mode). Cool weapons, fun vehicle-based levels, branching pathways, and co-op play make for a very entertaining, G.I. Joe-like experience.
Retro “8-bit” side-scrolling indie platformers have flooded the video game market, and it’s easy to discount the entire genre as an easy-to-develop cash-in on nostalgia. Then there’s Shovel Knight from Yacht Club Games, a studio created by former WayForward Technologies director Sean Velasco. You play as a shovel-toting knight who must rescue his partner, Shield Knight, from dastardly foes. It’s an incredibly satisfying and expertly crafted platformer that recalls games like DuckTales and Mega Man, but also has some of the most authentic NES-style graphics to appear in the HD era.
Sonic Mania is, for all intents and purposes, the true Sonic the Hedgehog 4, discounting the intensely mediocre, polygonal game that appeared last console generation. Sonic Mania adheres to the classic Sonic gameplay of running really fast through loops and straightaways as you collect life-preserving gold rings, dispatch enemies, and free captured fuzzballs from hulking enemy machinery. On that level, Sonic Mania is very much like the sprite-based Sonic titles that came before it. That said, DRM issues and poorly designed bonus stages steal a bit of its shine.
Tembo the Badass Elephant
Tembo the Badass Elephant’s story takes place in Shell City, a populous city that’s plunged into a state of emergency by an evil force known as The Phantom. The National Army is unable to contain The Phantom’s destruction, so it enlists the aid of an old war buddy, the Rambo-like elephant known as Tembo, to push back the enemy troops. The game’s frequently compared to the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games, as it’s published by Sega and features a relentlessly speedy main character who obliterates foes. However, developer Game Freak (of Pokemon fame) also implemented elements from classic franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country to create a well-rounded, 2D, action-adventure platformer that stands apart from the titles that inspire it.
Trek to Yomi
Blending Japanese history and mysticism with top-notch voice work and Akira Kurosawa film flair, Trek to Yomi is a cinematic experience that features gorgeous, black-and-white graphics. The samurai game isn’t much longer than the films to which it pays homage, such as Hidden Fortress and Seven Samurai, but it’s densely packed with flashy combos, parries, and level exploration. Trek to Yomi is easily one of the best action games on PC, and deserving of our Editors’ Choice award.
Warframe is an addictive online game that combines melee action, snappy shooting, and outstanding character mobility with mission-based progression, exciting multiplayer battles, and excellent sci-fi visuals. The game isn’t new; Warframe has been around for years. As a result, newcomers will find Warframe a content-rich experience, despite its grind-heavy, free-to-play nature. If there’s a major Warframe gripe, it’s the late-game content that incorporates MMO-style activities like fishing, animal trapping, and mining—a complete departure from the game’s action-focused core. Still, Warframe is packed with thrilling moments.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Like the two installments before it, Watch Dogs: Legion focuses on hackers attempting to take down ctOS, a security system that invades people’s lives. Though this series entry doesn’t stray far from the Watch Dogs formula, it breaks from the past by letting you play as multiple characters found in the open world. This design choice prevents you from bonding with the protagonist, but it serves the greater narrative of people uniting to stop an oppressive power. Combine that with the series’ trademark hacking mechanic, and you have the strongest Watch Dogs title yet. Unfortunately, the PC game suffers inconsistent frame rates.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars
It’s a sad truth that there aren’t many great action-focused mech games. Sure, there are numerous well-crafted strategy games featuring the hulking mechanical vehicles, but if you just want to pilot a cool, humanoid machine that blasts opponents into scrap metal in twitchy fashion, the pickings are slim. Enter: Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars. It’s an enhanced version of the cult classic PlayStation 2 game that satisfies that mech-action itch by letting you shoot, slash, and toss enemy machines in a variety of sci-fi environments. The 2nd Runner Mars is an engaging action game that delivers satisfying combat, but it suffers from annoying control issues—carryovers from the original release.
Batman: The Telltale Series
The point-and-click adventure game genre has seen a resurgence in popularity since Telltale Games began combining its excellent storytelling chops with popular comic book properties. But it is Batman: The Telltale Series that really shows what the developer can do when it merges an action-focused license with its successful story-driven formula. The game delivers the fisticuffs, gadgetry, and detective work you’d expect from Bruce Wayne’s masked persona, while once again giving you the option to shape the narrative in both large and subtle ways.
Bugsnax is an adventure game with a premise simple enough to fit inside its catchy theme song. The titular creatures are kind of bugs, kind of snacks, and you find and catch them in your trap. Bugsnax are Snaktooth Island’s native lifeforms. Think Jurassic Park or Kong: Skull Island, only the monsters are made out of fruits, burritos, and rotisserie chicken. Living desserts are extremely my jam. The 100 different species sport adorably goofy designs reminiscent of past pet monsters from games like Pokemon and Viva Piñata, while still having their own shared aesthetic.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Film student turned video game designer Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro wears his influences on his sleeve. Last generation, the video game auteur was the driving force behind the bizarre, Twin Peaks-inspired Deadly Premonition; now his special brand of storytelling insanity graces the PC in the form of another oddball, David Lynch-like murder mystery called D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. It tells the story of a widower, detective David Young, who is obsessed with unearthing the events that led to the death of his wife, Little Peggy. The game—with its supernatural elements, quirky characters, and compelling investigative gameplay—is one that should not be missed.
David Cage’s Heavy Rain unravels the dark, fictional story of a serial murderer, known as the Origami Killer. The interactive story succeeds in building a gritty aura fitting of the subject matter and in developing a set of believable characters within its world. However, the mechanics often feel tacked on and the game’s presentation is underwhelming in some aspects, such as the voice acting and graphical fidelity. Despite those persistent flaws, Heavy Rain is worth the time and price, if only for its engrossing narrative.
For nearly three decades, atmospheric puzzle game Myst has stood as one of the best, most successful, and most influential PC games of all time. This latest update for Cyan’s masterpiece enhances the beautiful visuals, adds virtual reality support, and randomizes puzzles to make each playthrough unique. Get lost on the island all over again.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is back! After disappearing from digital marketplaces when developer Telltale Games went under, the touching and harrowing The Walking Dead returns to life courtesy of publisher Skybound Games. The choice-based adventure game puts you in the role of Lee, a former professor and convicted criminal who tries to survive a zombie invasion while safeguarding a young girl named Clementine. Keep some tissues close for the ending.
Please note that PCMag didn’t review this new five-part series collection, but we did review chapter one and chapter two back when they were available individually.
The Wolf Among Us
The Wolf Among Us, a game that’s a canonical prequel to Bill Willingham’s popular Fables comic book series, features a well-written story, light puzzle-solving challenges, and reflex-testing Quick Time Event (QTE) sequences. The visually striking title draws inspiration from film noir cinema, while keeping the heavy black outlines and bright colors associated with its source material. The murder-mystery isn’t particularly challenging, but if you want to spend a few hours in an immersive world filled with interesting characters and top-notch voice acting, The Wolf Among Us should find a home in your PC gaming library.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty: Warzone has entered the competitive battle royale fray, with a few tricks up its sleeve to shake up the formula. Based on Modern Warfare’s 2019 reboot, Warzone introduces unique battle royale elements, such as loadout kits and respawn matches, that separate it from the competition and greatly impact how the game plays. These additions are hit-or-miss, but the overall package is highly polished and has enough meat to attract traditional FPS fans.
Fortnite is yet another game capitalizing on the popularity of the battle royale genre, but that doesn’t mean that the title is without merit. Fortnite has a lot going for it, including approachable gameplay modes, bright and zany graphics, and an excellent construction system. Iffy combat and the presence of microtransactions detract from the experience, but as Fortnite is a free-to-play game, fans of PUBG and other titles in the genre should still give it a shot.
Like many other games in the open-world survival or first-person shooter genres, the primary goal of PUBG is to be the last player alive. However, PUBG doesn’t adhere to the genre norms. It takes some of the best aspects of open world games, combines it with the mechanics of a good first-person shooter, and accommodates a player base typical of MMOs. There’s also a good balance of gameplay elements. For example, you get to choose where to parachute down on the map, everyone starts without a weapon, and there’s a deadly and giant shimmering blue dome that reduces the playable area every so often. It’s tense and fun, but bugs dull the experience a bit.
The free-to-play Spellbreak isn’t your typical battle royale game, and many of its standout features are due to its fantasy setting. In Spellbreak, you play as a Battlemage wizard who totes elemental gauntlets instead of big guns. As a result, your customizable character shoots powerful fireballs, long-range ice missiles, or waves of toxic goo to take out the competition. The game doesn’t rely on pinpoint shooting accuracy, so it’s accessible, too.
Beat ‘Em Up
Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle
The arcade scene saw an explosion of side-scrolling beat ’em ups in the wake of 1987’s groundbreaking—and money-generating—Double Dragon. Developer Capcom played a major role in the genre’s skyrocketing popularity, thanks to a string of memorable releases that gave players the opportunity to team up with a friend to pound enemy forces into pulp. Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle collects seven of those games, including the classic Final Fight, in a package that also includes online play. If you fancy thumb-numbing, button-mashing action in either solo or multiplayer sessions, Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is a recommended package. That said, it lacks the deep production design documents and historical notes found in Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection or SNK 40th Anniversary Collection.
If you ever reminisce about classic beat ’em up games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight, or Double Dragon, you’re not alone. Though the genre has transitioned nicely to 3D action with games like Devil May Cry and Yakuza, old-school brawlers carry an inimitable, timeless charm that isn’t often seen in contemporary gaming. Enter Fight’N Rage, a modern incarnation of those iconic, bare-knuckle action games that’s packed with challenge, finesse, and tremendous replay value. Fight’N Rage’s difficulty is a doozy, and its lack of built-in, online multiplayer is disappointing, but it’s an excellent title that genre fans should immediately pick up.
River City Girls
Featuring ‘tude, delightful animation, and numerous ways to sock everyone who gets in your way, River City Girls is a more-than-worthy entry in the long-running River City Ransom/Kunio-kun series. Developer WayForward’s love for the series drips from every roundhouse punch and baseball bat swing, as two high school students—Kyoko and Misako—crack skulls as they try to rescue their kidnapped boyfriends. River City Girls has terrific beat ’em up action and the ability to purchase new moves, accessories, and power ups, but a few glaring negatives keep the brawler from being a genre great.
River City Melee Mach!!
Melee Mach isn’t your traditional beat ’em up on which the River City franchise built its fame. Instead, the title takes the genre’s fundamentals—punches, kicks, throws, and weapons—and adds power ups, special moves, and team-based, last-man-standing gameplay. This PC game carries the series’ charming retro-style graphics, fast-paced action, and high school rivalries, but as with the other recent River City games, a few negatives prevent the game from achieving greatness.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition
Way back in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game debuted on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to much acclaim. Conceived as a tie-in game for the then-recently released live-action film, the Ubisoft Chengdu-developed title served as a fun take on the Brian Lee O’Malley comic book and a homage to classic, side-scrolling beat ’em ups. For reasons that are still unclear, Ubisoft pulled the game from the PlayStation and Xbox digital storefronts in 2014. Seven years later, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game returns from its digital graveyard none the worse for wear. Is it the same title we played in 2010? Yes, but we wouldn’t want to play this game in any other way.
The Sloclap-developed Sifu wears its inspirations on its sleeves, taking elements from Old Boy, John Wick, and Jackie Chan flicks to create a cinematic beat ’em up that’s just as fun to watch as it is to play. The deep combat system lets you parry, unleash super moves, and utilize weapons and environments as you seek revenge on villains who did your family wrong. The unique death system causes your character to age, exchanging youth and vitality for age and raw strength.
Streets of Rage 4
Playing Streets of Rage 4 is like returning to the old ‘hood and discovering that your childhood home still stands. Rarely does a media property receive a well-crafted follow up years after its initial success, but this beat ’em up by developers LizardCube, Guard Crush Games, and Dotemu is Streets of Rage through and through. Featuring a diverse cast of new and returning martial artists looking to clean up a fictional city’s mean streets from a criminal syndicate, Streets of Rage 4 offers the hard-hitting combat, dreary urban environments, and sheer fun that’s defined the series since 1991. The few design issues don’t prevent it from being hailed as one of the best contemporary beat-‘em-up titles.
Treachery in Beatdown City
On the surface, Treachery in Beatdown City appears to be a strict homage to classic beat ‘em up games from the 1980s and 1990s. However, the brawler’s menu-driven, tactical combo system and biting urban satire reveals a game that’s radically different than what’s come before it. Developed by Nuchallenger, Treachery in Beatdown City is a fun indie game that requires you to use your brain to battle the way through the gentrification elements that plagues a fictional city’s streets, but its pace may prove too slow for traditional beat ’em up fans. Tactics fans, on the other hand, may dig it.
Yakuza 0—the prequel story that shows how series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu rose through the ranks to become the big boss of a Japanese crime syndicate—is more than just knuckles, guns, illegal rackets, and vendettas. At the heart of the gangsterism is empathy and honor, be it between bro and bro, an orphan and his surrogate father, or well-dressed hoodlums and the desperate strangers they meet. It’s also a tale involving a pelvis-thrusting man, referred to as both Walking Erection and Mr. Libido, wearing nothing but shoes and tighty-whities. Yakuza 0’s ability to dance between the dramatic and the absurd, all of it punctuated with thrilling combat, makes this beat ’em up one of the best action games on the PC.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life serves as a delightful, action-packed conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu’s gangster-filled story. The beat-’em-up game features streamlined controls, fun boss bottles, and the oddball happenings you’d expect to find in the ridiculous, fictional Tokyo district of Kamurocho. It’s a bit on the easy side, though.
Some may find it dismissive to label Brawlhalla as Super Smash Bros. for PC, but that’s not at all a knock on the fun platform-fighter. Brawlhalla, a free-to play game that features a mix of original and licensed characters (Hellboy, Lara Croft), lets you duke it out using fists, feet, and weapons. Even better, crossplay between PC, consoles, and mobile devices means a match is always at hand.
Dead or Alive 6
Dead or Alive 6, much like its immediate predecessor, is one part fighting game, one part fashion show, and one part schlocky action movie. Individually, each of the game’s widely differing elements might not stand up to scrutiny. After all, DOA 6 isn’t the best fighter, doesn’t offer the deepest character customization, and doesn’t quite reach the Tekken series’ level of story insanity. Yet, Dead or Alive 6 is an entertaining and surprisingly strategic PC game that offers enough freshness to warrant playing with its new Break Blow and Break Hold tools. Plus, the game’s familiar Triangle System and Danger Zones are highly entertaining, too.
Iron Galaxy Studios’ Divekick is the most hipster game ever created. It’s the product of the indie scene, and it mercilessly parodies fighting games and their diehard community, yet demands that you be part of the underground circle to fully get all of the references and in-jokes. It’s also a lot of fun if you open your mind to the insane concept of a one-on-one fighter based almost entirely on the idea of jumping and kicking.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Beside Fist of the Northstar and Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure, there are few anime properties that are as intrinsically suited to the fighting-game treatment as the Dragon Ball series. Spanning multiple series, movies, and generations of characters, Akira Toriyama’s manga-turned-anime-turned-game series is all about buff monkey men, humans, aliens, and androids trading blows in actual earth-shattering battles. Dragon Ball FighterZ ditches the Xenoverse games’ arena-brawling model in favor of 3 vs. 3 tag-team fighting on a 2D plane. The gameplay shift is just one of the many reasons Dragon Ball FighterZ is being held aloft as one of 2018’s notable titles. Its beautiful design, intense combat, and accessible control scheme add up to a game one that anyone can jump into for Super Saiyan thrills
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
Upon its 1999 release, Garou: Mark of the Wolves—a surprisingly deep and visually stunning entry in the long-running Fatal Fury series—was hailed as SNK’s wondrous response to Capcom’s Street Fighter III. Nearly 20 years later, SNK has finally given the 1 vs. 1 fighting game the proper PC treatment by releasing it with numerous additional graphics options, leaderboards, and online versus play. The result is an excellent PC game that boasts beautiful animation, Just Defend parries, and the strategic T.O.P. system. Code Mystics gave Garou rollback netcode via a post-release patch, so online battles are buttery smooth.
Guilty Gear Strive
The Guilty Gear series reigns as the king of anime-style fighting games due to its gorgeous art style, and a rich, demanding, and lighting-quick combat system. Unfortunately, its oceanic depth and mountainous skill ceiling proved inaccessible to the causal player—until now. With Strive, developer Arc System Works streamlines the series’ unique combat mechanics to make them more newcomer friendly, while retaining the older games’ creative richness. Strive comes with fewer extra modes than its predecessors, but there is a lot to love in this PC game, including astounding visuals, impressive character play styles, and snappy, lag-free online play courtesy of top-tier, rollback netcode.
Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-
Guilty Gear is a niche series within a niche genre, one that’s enjoyed a cult following since its first appearance in 1998. With Xrd -Sign-, developer Arc System Works ditches the series’ 2D sprites in favor of 3D cel-shaded graphics in an attempt to expand its audience. Likewise, series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari sought a more approachable play style that maintained the depth and high skill ceiling that long-time Guilty Gear fans love. The result is a feature-packed fighting game that boasts incredible graphics and deep mechanics. Unfortunately, it arrived on PC after many Guilty Gear fans had moved on to the next game in the series: Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-. So, like The Last Blade, Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- is a game that’s worth buying if you don’t mind local play and the lack of online competition.
When Killer Instinct debuted for Windows 10 in March 2016, it represented the latest chapter in the continued PC fighting game renaissance. With its arrival, Microsoft’s combo-heavy, one-on-one game of fisticuffs joined the likes of Guilty Gear, The King of Fighters, Street Fighter, and other high-profile series that now grace the personal computer. Thankfully, Iron Galaxy—the development team that picked up the Killer Instinct reins after Double Helix, the original developer, was purchased by Amazon—has delivered a remarkably fun, season-based title that’s more than worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as its competition.
The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match Final Edition
The King of Fighters ’98 is widely regarded as one of the best fighting games ever made, so it’s no surprise that developer SNK has returned to the title many times since the game’s original release. In 2008, SNK celebrated the game’s tenth anniversary by porting the team-based fighter to the PlayStation 2 as The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match, a game loaded with extra characters, stages, and gameplay modes. Now, a tweaked Ultimate Match is available for PCs as The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match Final Edition, a game that rebalances the massive 64-character roster and adds Steam trading cards and achievements. Final Edition’s gameplay retains its predecessor’s wonderfully deep and flexible fighting mechanics, but it’s missing features that were present in the beloved PS2 version.
The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match
The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match, like The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match that came before it, is a celebration of one of the best fighting games ever released. Developer SNK revisited the game in 2009 and added gallery and color edit modes, as well as new menu artwork, polygonal stages, music, characters, and gameplay tweaks for a PlayStation 2 release. This Steam version is a slightly downgraded take on the PS2 game, but it features beautiful 2D stages and online play. Though this version lacks some of the PS2 title’s features, KOF 2002 UM reigns as one of the best PC fighting games. It could use better netcode, though.
The King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition
One of the most impressive sprite-based games ever created, The King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition brings SNK Playmore’s excellent 3-on-3 2D fighter to the PC via Valve’s digital distribution platform. If you’ve rumbled with friends and foes in the version that appeared on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms, you’ll feel right at home here: the intricate combat mechanics, gorgeous graphics, and up-tempo music are successfully ported over to this Steam game. Even better, The King of Fighters XIII: Steam Edition contains all of the console DLC, the King of Fighters XIII: Climax arcade features, and PC-centric graphics options.
The King of Fighters XV
SNK took KOF XIV’s core, revamped the MAX meter, added new features, and gave it an eye-catching skin to create one of the best fighting games in recent history. KOF XV features a revamped fighting engine that facilitates creative combat, and near-flawless rollback netcode that will keep you knuckling up with online rivals for hours on end. Despite suffering a ho-hum training mode and the occasional screen tearing, this fighting game ranks among the series’ best entries.
The Last Blade
SNK put weapons-based 2D fighting on the map with 1993’s delightful Samurai Shodown, but the developer went on to refine the idea of sword combat four years later in a somewhat lesser-known Neo Geo title: The Last Blade. Recently released to the Steam platform with several contemporary bells and whistles, The Last Blade boasts excellent swordplay, a dozen exquisitely designed characters, and a gorgeous anime- and manga-style presentation that make its 19th-century Japanese setting one of the most beautiful in fighting-game history. Genre fans shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this excellent PC fighting game, but the barren online play means most matches will take place locally.
Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite
Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite has taken its fair share of flack since its reveal, and the venom is not at all unwarranted. The initial trailer for the tag-team fighting game featured dull, washed-out graphics, and Capcom highlighted the new novice-friendly, auto-combo options that are designed to help casuals bust out cool-looking moves in an otherwise hardcore genre. As a result, fight fans were highly skeptical of the game. Fortunately, sentiments toward Infinite changed dramatically upon the game’s release. The Infinity Stone hook and the move to 2 vs. 2 action make Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite an incredibly fighting to play in both casual and hardcore sessions. Still, the roster, which features many intriguing characters locked behind DLC paywalls or ignored due to brand wars, needs some work.
Mortal Kombat XL
When NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat X to consoles in 2015, the game continued to evolve via free and paid updates that added characters, balanced the roster, and improved online play. However, the High Voltage Studios-ported PC game received zero post-launch support, much to the dismay of hardcore Mortal Kombat fans. Thankfully, that changed with the Mortal Kombat XL update, a version of MKX that finally gives PC gamers all the extras that console-based fight fans have enjoyed for some time now. We dislike the idea of paying more money for PC content released long after the console version, but it’s hard not to love the additions, which include even more fighters, stages, costumes, and gore.
Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 is far more than the guts-and-gore titles on which the series built its fame. The fighting game continues the series tradition of Kung Fu Theater-style action and otherworldly mysticism to lay the foundation for military operatives, ninjas, gods, and monsters to punch each other squarely in the face. With its character customization, HDR10 support, smooth animations, and new offensive and defensive meters, MK11 is the best Mortal Kombat game to date.
Clashing swords, blood spurts, and tense, measured play define Samurai Shodown, SNK’s beloved weapons-based fighting game series. This series refresh, the simply named Samurai Shodown, carries those elements to PC nearly a full year after the game first appeared on console. If you’ve waited this long in hopes that Samurai Shodown would add many PC-exclusive extras, you may be disappointed; this is largely the same game that appeared elsewhere. Still, Samurai Shodown’s unique, defense-orientated gameplay make it a fighting game to check out for sword-swinging, blood-letting action. Prep for lengthy load times, though.
Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection
Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection, SNK and Digital Eclipse’s follow up to the delightful SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, contains all the SamSho games that appeared on the original Neo Geo, plus production art, SNK staff interviews, and a true surprise—an unreleased title that only briefly saw a location test. Overall, Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection is a wonderful piece of playable history, with the only blight against the PC game being its mediocre online components.
Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Skullgirls 2nd Encore, the update to Reverge Labs’ critically acclaimed original game, takes cues from many highly regarded fighting titles and blends it with the series’ cartoony, art deco style. The indie fighter has a Capcom vs. SNK-style ratio system that lets you select up to three characters to battle up to three rival characters, as well as a Marvel vs. Capcom-style assist system. That said, Skullgirls 2nd Encore’s graphics aren’t all that separate it from the competition. The fighter also has a built-in system that automatically stops infinites, those annoying and abusive combos that never end.
SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium
With Match of the Millennium’s rerelease, the secret best fighting game in the SNK vs. Capcom crossover series finds a new audience. Featuring an 18-character default roster (Athena, Chun-Li, Dan, Felicia, Guile, Haohmaru, Iori, Ken, Kyo, Leona, Mai, Morrigan, Nakoruru, Ryo, Ryu, Sakura, Terry, and Zangief), and three deep groove systems that replicate beloved the companies’ beloved fighting game engines, SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium sees two fighting game universes collide in marvelous fashion. Fun mini-games round out a top-notch package.
The fighting game renaissance wouldn’t be complete without a new SoulCalibur title. The weapons-based combat series has seen its ups and downs over the years, but with SoulCalibur VI, developer Bandai Namco has taken what’s worked in the past—swift, strategic combat and robust character customization—and paired it with the new Reversal Edge and Soul Charge battle mechanics to create an engaging PC fighting game that’ll shine in all sorts of battles, whether they’re between buddies or on big esports stages like Evo. SoulCalibur VI lacks the stellar presentation found in recent, competing releases, such as Dragon Ball FighterZ, Injustice 2, and the developer’s own Tekken 7, but it’s a strong title that deserves a place in your PC game collection.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
Until very recently, the 40-year old video game industry lacked its own Criterion Collection, letting important pop culture contributions slip into oblivion. Thankfully, Digital Eclipse has taken up the games-preservation task, blessing gamers with titles that celebrate classics via accurate emulation and a bounty of production-related extras. The company’s first foray into the fighting game genre is Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, a historical document in video game form. The package includes the mainline 2D arcade titles (the original Street Fighter to Street Fighter III: Third Strike) and a wealth of production-related materials, including a timeline, animation viewer, jukebox, and design sheets. It’s a marvelous collection, one that shows why Street Fighter is one of the most important and beloved video game series.
Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
Since the days of Street Fighter II, developer and publisher Capcom has updated early every Street Fighter release with a version (or two!) that adds features, characters, stages, and alternate costumes. No game in the series has benefited from this practice more than Street Fighter V, a title that launched with a small roster and an overreliance on paid downloadable content. With Champion Edition, however, Street Fighter V finally feels finished, thanks to multiple V-Skills, balance changes, and every character, stage, and costume released so far (save some very select content). Sadly, mediocre netcode and annoying monetization tactics are still issues.
Tekken 7, like the main-line Tekken games that came before it, is a tale of fathers and sons attempting to murder each other to purge the Mishima clan from the Devil Gene, a magical DNA bit that transforms certain people into hell spawn. Touted as the conclusion of the Mishima drama, Tekken 7 reveals secrets and leaves cliffhangers, thus simultaneously answering long-standing questions and prompting the fan base to ask new ones. Thankfully, the wonderfully ridiculous tale is bolstered by some of the best mechanics featured in contemporary fighting games, with the new Power Crush, Rage Arts, and Rage Drive attacks deftly blending into the established mix.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 pits Marvel’s superheroes against Capcom’s video game characters in a frantic brawl. The 48-character headcount is impressive, but it’s the individual characters that truly make the game shine. Marvel’s side has several popular fighters, such as Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, as well as once-obscure characters that have gained recognition thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Doctor Strange and Rocket Raccoon. Capcom’s side is comprised mainly of characters from the company’s fighting and action games, including Final Fight’s Mike Haggar and Street Fighter’s Ryu.
Ultra Street Fighter IV
Ultra Street Fighter IV marks the fourth version of Street Fighter IV and the third version available on the Steam platform. This final iteration of the one-on-one fighting game adds five new characters, six new stages, a YouTube upload option, and a host of gameplay tweaks. It’s Street Fighter IV’s best and meatiest update, though some balance and DLC issues prove a bit irritating. Still, Ultra Street Fighter IV is an excellent competitive fighter with strong netcode.
Alien: Isolation may be the best Alien-based game ever made. Instead of using James Cameron’s action-focused Aliens as its foundation, as so many video game developers have done in the past, Creative Assembly looked at Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film for inspiration. And it pays off. Rather than focusing on running and gunning, Alien: Isolation is all about evasion and subterfuge. Though you gain some assistance via radio, you, as the daughter of Ellen Ripley, must navigate a world of survival horror on your own, dodging the alien stalker using your wits, the environment, and the tools you craft. Alien: Isolation is smart, dark, and oppressive in all the right ways.
When Techland’s Dead Island trailer debuted, it featured one of the most moving video game sequences ever produced: a small child and her family being slaughtered by zombies against the backdrop of a soft, haunting Giles Lamb musical score. Dead Island’s gameplay doesn’t quite match the trailer’s promise, but the open-world action-RPG offers a very solid zombie-slaying good time as you craft weapons and try to stay alive in an island paradise gone wrong.
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record
Frank West returns to zombie-slaying action in Dead Rising 2: Off The Record. Capcom’s reimagining Dead Rising 2 sees the gruff photojournalist facing off against a wider array of monsters, building new weapons, snapping photos, and best of all, mixing it up in a new open-world sandbox mode. Stomping the undead is fun—for a while—but bugs and repetitive gameplay keep Dead Rising 2 from achieving true greatness.
Some of the scariest video game moments are derived from developers preying on our simplest fears. It isn’t hordes of enemies rushing at you, or creepies jumping at you from closets. Far scarier is what loneliness does to the human psyche, as you struggle to retain your own sanity when you can’t tell what’s real and what’s just a projection of your own insecurities. It’s also helplessly running from danger, while watching your last drops of breathable air trickle away. This is the terror that Narcosis for Oculus Rift forces you to deal with in a dread-filled undersea environment. It’s an absolutely frightening PC game, though one a bit light on content and competent AI enemies.
Resident Evil HD Remaster
Nearly 20 years after its debut, Resident Evil returns as an HD remaster of the 2002 GameCube remake of the 1996 original. Resident Evil HD Remaster brings the remake back from the dead by unshackling the game from Nintendo’s console and bringing it to PC. However, Capcom had some trouble during the transition to HD. The remake’s gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds and video cutscenes were difficult to update for the modern era of widescreen displays and maxed-out resolutions. As a result, there’s a mish-mash of uneven quality backgrounds, many of them inferior to the GameCube originals. Don’t let that deter you, though. Resident Evil HD Remaster is still a great zombie-blasting game, even if it is a little worse for the wear.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 is back! Sure, the classic PlayStation game has received numerous ports and rereleases over the years but this new version, simply titled Resident Evil 2, rebuilds the survivor-horror game from the ground up. You once again play as Leon Kennedy, a rookie cop, and Claire Redfield, a woman searching for her brother after the events of the first Resident Evil. Though this remake treads familiar zombie-shooting ground, it tosses in new enemies and puzzles to freshen things up.
Resident Evil 3
Like 2019’s impressive Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 is a phenomenal remake of a classic game. Despite its modernized graphics and gameplay, Resident Evil 3 contains the elements that made the original a classic: nightmarish environments, horrifying enemies, tense boss battles, and an overall emphasis on action. Even divorced from its first incarnation, Resident Evil 3 stands as a stellar title that has mass appeal to action and horror gaming fans alike.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
If you thought the Resident Evil series lost its way when it shifted to gunplay, you must pick up Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. By slowing down the action and changing the perspective, developer Capcom has created a Resident Evil game that captures the dread that filled the original game. The excellent pacing, thoughtful action, and amazing atmosphere—you explore a depraved family’s home in the Louisiana bayou—result in the best horror game to come along in some time.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village is a direct Resident Evil 7 follow-up that continues Ethan Winters’s story by dropping him in a new locale, the eponymous village in a fictional Eastern European country. Although Resident Evil 7’s first-person camera remains, Capcom mixed older flavors into the pot. Village walks like a remix of Resident Evil 4, with gameplay that hews closer to RE2 or Code Veronica. Village is bigger and weirder than its grounded predecessor, but it doesn’t go into full action hero mode like Resident Evil 5 or 6. Village is an excellent survival-horror game that shouldn’t be missed.
Blade & Soul
Blade & Soul is a highly stylized Korean MMORPG inspired by martial arts and Asian mythology. The free-to-play game stands out from other MMO titles in the market thanks to the blend of combo-centric action, lush Asian fantasy locales, and bombastic artwork by manhwa artist Hyung-Tae Kim. The combat is amazingly well balanced for both PvE and PvP, and the game looks great and runs well. The downside? Blade & Soul has a relatively unimpressive questing and leveling system, and most of its dungeons are quite linear. Nonetheless, there is a lot to enjoy with what’s launched so far.
Final Fantasy XIV Online
Final Fantasy XIV Online is a MMORPG, which separates it from most games in the classic RPG series. As a result, it’s a wholly unique game that delivers delicious multiplayer gameplay; in fact, it may be the quintessential Final Fantasy experience. There is a constant influx of new content, seasonal events, and balance patches that keep the game fresh, and the community is as alive and energetic. Despite its MMORPG nature, the game is every bit a Final Fantasy game as its predecessors, and worth the price of admission (which is the price of the game and the $12.99 monthly subscription).
Lost Ark hacks and slashes its way into the Western market after successfully entertaining action-RPG fans in international regions over the past two years. Smilegate’s free-to-play RPG title features thrilling action and, in a nice twist, more than a dozen classes that don’t stick to the traditional MMO archetypes. Lost Ark’s needs better controller support, but the demon-slaying action-RPG is a joy to play solo or with a crew.
Although many games based on anime franchises exist, they’re usually basic action or fighting games that lack depth and are created solely to pander to their fan bases. Enter the free-to-play Onigiri, a third-person, action-focused MMORPG. Onigiri is an enjoyable, highly customizable anime-meets-gaming experience that lets you mix it up with other online players. Despite its simple graphics and ho-hum music, Onigiri is worth checking out if you want to explore a virtual world that boasts thrilling combat and excellent voice acting.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
For the uninitiated, The Old Republic is an MMO that takes place thousands of years prior to the events of A New Hope. This gives the developer, Bioware, the freedom to craft an exciting new story, such as the recently released Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion that’s set within the established Star Wars universe. This liberty, combined with Bioware’s wonderfully dynamic dialogue system, thrilling combat, and extremely generous free-to-play model, has produced a truly epic MMO that shines as one of the genre’s defining titles.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is a MMORPG that has evolved into a cultural icon over the past 12 years. The list of accolades that WoW has accumulated since its release is simply staggering. While it is certainly not the first or only entry in this particular genre, WoW is the standard by which all other MMOs are judged. The game, bolstered by many expansions and a recent visual makeover, is a rich and rewarding experience that boasts a large selection of customizable races and classes battling in a fantasy world.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
World of Warcraft isn’t dead, but this expansion spends a lot of time focused on the concept. Shadowlands is the eighth major update for Blizzard Entertainment’s long-running PC game. Since 2004, we’ve seen the world shattered, fought back the Burning Legion, traveled to alternate realities, and even fought the very soul of a far off planet. Now it’s time to conquer death itself. And the mission is highly entertaining.
“Easy to learn, hard to master” is a phrase commonly heard in gaming circles, but few titles exemplify the idea more than Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2). This free-to-play MOBA game tasks you with selecting one of 111 playable Heroes to take to the battlefield, utilizing the character’s unique abilities, play style, and attributes to help your team achieve victory. Dota 2 lacks Paragon’s graphical flair, and it doesn’t have Smite’s many unique play modes, but it is the best and most balanced MOBA on PC.
League of Legends
League of Legends, Riot Games’ free-to-play, multiplayer online battle arena title is, simply put, the best MOBA game you can buy. Its gameplay incorporates elements of role playing, tower defense, and real-time strategy—a combination that differentiates it from the many cookie cutter MOBAs flooding the market. More importantly, the playable characters (known as Champions) show a deep level of variation, and each match’s competition level increases as the game sinks you deeper and deeper into addiction.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a powerful god who battles other gods, check out the free-to-play Smite. Hi-Rez Studios’ action-focused MOBA puts you in the role of a deity chosen from among the Chinese, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Japanese, Mayan, Norse, and Roman pantheons in a war for godly supremacy. Smite is an excellent, fast-paced PC game with numerous game modes and an ever-expanding character roster. However, recurring server issues, the lack of cross-platform play, and other issues prevent the game from achieving true godhood.
Bejeweled 3, when compared to its predecessors, is a gold rush of new features and enhancements. Skeptics who previously found little appeal in gem-swapping will enjoy new objective-oriented modes, be it saving butterflies, digging for gold, shattering ice, or concealing a poker hand. Bejeweled 3 doesn’t remake the franchise, but that isn’t the aim. For the millions who already enjoy it on computers, websites, and mobile phones, Bejeweled 3 polishes an already shining gem.
Few video games receive perfect scores here at PCMag.com, but Inside is a title that qualifies as damn-near flawless. The action-adventure title features, at its core, a boy navigating a dark and deadly world. To go too deep into Inside’s structure would both spoil the game and do it a disservice. Trust us: It’s worth a pick up.
Papo & Yo, a puzzle-platformer from Minority, crossed over to PC from PlayStation Network with grace and style. This tale of a boy and a monster takes places in an imaginative world filled with South American-style houses, reason-defying physics, and a heartfelt story that explores the relationship between a child and an alcoholic, abusive parent.
Valve’s original Portal was noteworthy for its witty and acerbic dialogue, creativity in blending the previously incompatible brain-teasing-puzzle-game and first-person-shooter genres, and relative shortness. With Portal 2, Valve has left intact the first quality, expanded and elaborated on the second, and done a bit to address the third. What this adds up to is a sequel that stands up proudly to the original, updating the characteristics that made it a distinctive success without dulling their memory. Limited multiplayer and post-campaign options slightly diminish the replay factor, but in almost every way Portal 2 is just as amusing and exhilarating as its predecessor.
The video game industry is dominated by space marines, regular marines, super-soldiers, and zombie-killers—the headshots and gun-blasts permeate the business. That’s why it’s particularly nice to see a clever title like Airtight Games and Square Enix’s Quantum Conundrum, a project from Portal designer Kim Swift. The first-person puzzle game focuses on solving increasingly challenging puzzles using a dimension-shifting tool within a mansion filled with wacky inventions.
Scribblenauts Unlimited, 5th Cell’s latest word-adventure title, lets creative gamers use a magic notebook to summon a wild array of items—from the mundane to the extravagant—as they attempt to reverse a spell that’s turning their in-game sister, Lily, into stone. It’s a very basic plot that kickstarts the action, but Scribblenauts Unlimited excels at sparking imagination as you attempt to solve puzzles. It’s one the wordsmiths and imaginauts will love.
Imagine a game soup flavored with chunky bits of old school 2D Castlevania, Portal, and BioShock, and you still wouldn’t get close to describing The Swapper. The game’s not quite a platformer; it’s a puzzle game, packaged with a brooding sci-fi story set in space. Finnish company Facepalm Games delivers a fascinating, memorable exploration title that can sustain at least two plays through because of multiple endings and achievements.
The Codemasters-developed Dirt 5 hearkens back to the 1990s, a time when Colin McRae Rally and Sega Rally Championship elevated “extreme” racing games. Like those games, Dirt 5 isn’t concerned with realism or deep customization options; instead, the rally racer wants you to barrel your way to victory on winding, mud-covered tracks. While Dirt 5 isn’t wholly original, it succeeds at delivering a loud, colorful racing experience for folks looking for a PC game packed with high-speed escapism.
Forza Horizon 4
Some questioned Forza Horizon 4’s necessity, given that the open-world racer debuted just two years after its excellent predecessor. But developer Playground Games has taken its incredible racing-and-music festival formula and added even more goodness, including new vehicles, fresh and addicting solo and multiplayer modes, and seasonal effects that impact the environment and change how you approach driving. Simply put, Forza Horizon 4 is the best racing game on PC.
Forza Horizon 5
With Forza Horizon 5, Xbox Game Studios takes it popular racing series to a beautiful and varied Mexico setting. The fifth title in the racing-and-music festival is fat with the modes, atmosphere, music, and wild stunts you’d expect, but this time the additions and changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary. This entry’s hook is the new EventLab tool that lets you craft custom races, stunts, challenges, and game modes, and share them with others. 500 licensed cars and Horizon Arcade (a mode that consists of several short, wacky, co-op and competitive multiplayer games) complete the well-rounded package.
Horizon Chase Turbo
It’s easy to dismiss the retro vibe behind many pop culture phenomena as little more than shallow appeals to nostalgia. A handful of media properties have managed to dig deeper, however, creating more rewarding experiences. Horizon Chase Turbo zooms into that category thanks to simple, but thrilling, racing action inspired by 1980s and 1990s tiles like Rad Racer and Top Gear. Gamers weaned on Forza, Gran Turismo, and other contemporary racing titles may find Horizon Chase Turbo a tad shallow, but those who dig arcade-style racers with fast action, tight controls, and hummable music will find little fault in its simplicity.
Hotshot Racing replicates 1990s-era, arcade-style driving competitions, with its pick-up-and-play control scheme and angular, low-polygon visual aesthetic. In many ways, the title, developed by Lucky Mountain Games (with an assist from the racing masters at Sumo Digital), captures the retro-racing vibe, but it lacks those games’ classic, awe-inspiring level designs. Still, it’s worth a spin for anyone looking for a satisfying throwback racing experience.
Need for Speed Heat
Tense police pursuits are common in Need for Speed Heat, and not all of them end with a getaway. This latest entry in the long-running Need for Speed racing game series recreates some of the best aspects of previous titles, including engrossing chases, ample car customization options, and inviting arcade-like racing mechanics. Heat also features a more fitting setting and story than the last game, tapping into the adrenaline-fueled racing spirit that defined its most successful predecessors.
Ridge Racer Unbounded
The Ridge Racer series may not carry Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport’s swagger, but the long-running franchise has a dedicated fan base that loves the drift-centric racing action. This entry, crafted by Bugbear Entertainment, brings a chaotic element to the familiar gameplay by adding environmental and vehicular destruction as you race for street cred in the fictional Shatter Bay. The story is something you can flat out ignore—it’s a racing game, after all—but the driving action is interesting and varied. Just play against human opponents if you wish to maintain your sanity.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection
After Sega exited the hardware business in the early 2000s, the game publisher focused its attention on its money maker—Sonic the Hedgehog—to the detriment of its other characters. That changed with the 2010’s Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, an enjoyable racing game that put Sega’s many iconic game characters in a kart competition. Its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, expanded the game with new characters and unlockables, and introduced transformable vehicles that take to the land, sea, and air. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection, the series’ final form, adds free, PC-centric characters from Sega and Valve’s libraries and bundles all the previous DLC goodies.
Do you crave a game in which you drive fast cars and cause mass destruction? Framed around a fictional reality television program, Split/Second merges arcade-style racing and huge, environment-wrecking explosions to form an addictive, thrilling racer that will keep you hugging corners, jockeying for position, and downing jumbo jets well into the night. That said, Split/Second is not without flaws: The online servers are dead, there’s some screen tearing, and the game could benefit from additional environments. Still, if you’re looking for a PC racing game that isn’t aimed at the Top Gear crowd, Split/Second is a PC game you’ll want in your Steam library.
WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship
With WRC 10, developer KT Racing celebrates 50 years of the World Rally Championship. In addition to new tracks and challenges, WRC 10 features classic races and cars from the event’s storied history, refined controls, and beautiful, photorealistic graphics. The racing game isn’t radically different from WRC 8 and WRC 9, but its minor improvements create a better overall racing game. WRC 10 has nearly everything rally racing fans would want, but bugs and frame rate issues sully the experience a bit.
RPG & Roguelike
Based on Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop role-playing game, Cyberpunk 2077 is a bleak game that sees corporations, both foreign and domestic, keep a stranglehold on military tech, health care, cybernetic advancements, drugs, and virtually anything that the common person could want or need. You play as a mercenary, V, a person caught up in a job that has lasting repercussions throughout the story campaign. As a result, you must shoot, hack, and slice your way out of trouble in this sprawling, open-world action-RPG. This highly anticipated title offers thrilling gameplay, atmosphere-oozing sights and sounds, and hours of story-heavy missions, but it feels a bit undercooked due to small and large bugs.
Dark Souls II
Dark Souls returns to the PC, and it’s every bit as terrifying as you may have heard. Don’t worry, Dark Souls II avoids the missteps of its predecessor’s infamous port, allowing you to focus on the rich, gloomy action-RPG world and fantastic, unforgiving gameplay. Dark Souls II is a relentless barrage of demonic enemies and enraging boss encounters that will test your reflexes—and your patience. This is not a game for the faint of heart or quick of temper, so clear your desk of ceramics, take the framed pictures off the walls, and prepare to enter the dark world of Drangleic.
Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III is developer From Software’s return to the Souls series after the eldritch madness that was Bloodborne. In fact, the newest Souls game incorporates gameplay and design elements from virtually all of the team’s recent titles. As a result, the gorgeous and action-packed Dark Souls III feels highly familiar, yet fresh and content-rich at the same time. Like all of From Software’s launches, however, the game is in need of a few patches to adjust weapon balance. Nonetheless, Dark Souls III is easily one of the best games in the series.
Blizzard seems to be one of the few companies committed to sticking with old-school expansions for its games and not just DLC packs. World of Warcraft received several large, and full-priced expansions, as did Diablo III, with Reaper of Souls. The add-on contains a good chunk of content that, with some much-needed tweaks to the base Diablo III, make the whole game feel fresh and fun.
Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
If you don’t think video games should have politics, don’t play Disco Elysium – The Final Cut. If you don’t think games should aspire to say something, this detective-RPG isn’t the game for you. That’s not to say the game is a manifesto. The way it cynically, yet thoughtfully, criticizes a range of ideologies reveals the game’s politics aren’t nearly as narrow you might expect. But this isn’t wishy-washy centrism. Disco Elysium’s sympathies ultimately lie with working people and movements that center their best interests, despite asking you to play as cops on the other end of that equation. The brilliant role-playing mechanics and richly realized world would be impressive no matter the story, but Disco Elysium’s beating, thematic heart makes it the best PC game you can play at this moment in history.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a single-player RPG, with action-driven gameplay akin to Capcom’s Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter franchises. It draws inspiration from classic fables and myths, setting the game in a world burdened with the return of a destructive red dragon. Its combat is flashy and engaging, and the open-world environments are rich with detail, but the quest-driven plot and sparse character development weaken what would be an otherwise interesting story. The RPG leveling stalls combat, as well, so you won’t fight at your full potential until you’ve leveled your class sufficiently. These issues may turn off less patient players, but those hoping for a grand, long-lived adventure across an action-packed open world will find plenty to discover and enjoy.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human
Techland’s sequel to Dying Light builds on everything that made the first game work so well. It has a bigger open world, a darker story, and almost 500 hours of content. In that regard, the Dying Light 2 delivers, but it’s hardly Techland’s magnum opus. The zombie-bashing game has so much open-world filler and technical issues that you might find yourself wondering what the last four years of hype were all about. Still, there are moments of greatness that permeate Dying Light 2’s open-world action.
With its ancient Chinese setting, dark fantasy atmosphere, and demanding 2D action combat, Eastern Exorcist is a side-scrolling RPG like no other. As you travel the land slaying demons, you’ll encounter fascinating, thoughtful stories of greed and retribution. If you can put up with some difficulty spikes and bland levels, this is a spirit worth confronting.
Elden Ring is an open-world RPG that’s rooted in FromSoftware’s grim, Dark Souls-esque fantasy. Incorporating elements from all the Souls games to date, including Bloodborne and Sekiro, Elden Ring features numerous class builds, and horseback exploration that feels smooth, natural, and intuitive. Sadly, Elden Ring also suffers from intrusive frame stuttering that you may find a potential deterrent or an outright deal breaker.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series has consistently been on the front lines of RPG immersion, giving you ever bigger and more elaborate realms to explore. The quantum strides made in Morrowind (2002) and Oblivion (2006) continue in Skyrim, which provides the most delicious perspective to date on this fascinating world over which you have almost complete control. It’s no challenge to set yourself up as a warrior, a wizard, or a pickpocketing miscreant, of either gender, of any of ten species, and with just the physical and facial characteristics you desire.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
In 1997, Square Enix (then known simply as Square) forever changed role-playing games with the release of the cinematic, heartfelt, and action-packed Final Fantasy VII. Those traits live on in Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade. This dazzling FFVII reimagining only focuses on the Midgar area, but Square Enix greatly expands this opening section by enhancing existing concepts and introducing new ones. A user-selectable fight system lets you switch between Final Fantasy XV-style, real-time combat or the classic, Action Time Battle mechanics. Even better, this Intergrade version includes the previously released base game, as well as its DLC. The downside? The occasional stuttering and low-poly textures.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster bundles the celebrated tenth installment of the main Final Fantasy series, and its sequel, into one stellar role-playing game package that Square Enix fans will adore. Both role-playing games boast graphical overhauls that enhance the beauty of their worlds and newly added features not found in the console versions. Ain’t PC gaming grand?
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then developer Mihoyo’s title is about as flattering as games come. In 2019, Genshin Impact made a splash in the video game world with the unveiling of an expansive open-world action-RPG heavily inspired by Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That is not to say it’s a cheap knock off, however. Genshin Impact features numerous unique gameplay systems and charming story beats to set it apart from Zelda and other open-world RPGs. That said, the free-to-play PC game requires you to do some serious grinding (or shell out some serious dough) to unlock high-powered warriors.
Hades is a roguelite–a less punishing variation of a roguelike–which might be the most-annoying video game genre due to its emphasis on constant death without tangible progress. Though Hades can’t hide the genre’s flaw, its endlessly replayable combat and storytelling that takes advantage of the looping structure elevate the format like no game before. The Greek myth-inspired tale is highly entertaining, too.
Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition
Horizon Zero Dawn was one of 2017’s hottest games. It stood as one of the best PlayStation 4 exclusives, right up there with Bloodborne, Spider-Man, and the God of War reimagining. Now, you can enjoy its open-world action on PC, thanks to the Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition. This action-RPG contains the base game, plus The Frozen Wilds DLC (an additional area featuring more story content and collectibles), and it easily holds up today as a huge, dense, worthwhile adventure.
Legend of Mana
Legend of Mana, the fourth entry in the Mana action-RPG series, has been remastered for modern consoles and PC. The charming, 2D game now features vastly improved visuals, arranged musical tracks, regions not included in the PlayStation release, and a wealth of improvements that make it significantly more enjoyable than the original version. It still has a handful of flaws, such as balance issues, obtuse quest progression, and frame rate problems, but this PC game is full of nostalgic charm and stunning visuals that impress just as much now as they did more than 20 years ago.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
With Mass Effect: Andromeda, developer BioWare promised a game that would feature a compelling story, fantastic visuals, tight gameplay, and hot alien romance—unfortunately, the action-RPG delivers on only a few of those fronts. On the upside, the space opera has several sizable open-world environments to explore and a thrilling combat system. On the downside, it has infamously awkward animations, tedious menus, and performance issues. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to blast aliens with zany space magic or woo an exotic space lady or gentleman, Mass Effect: Andromeda is a game that has some entertaining elements that are worth your time.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
The Mass Effect trilogy is one of the most influential franchises in video games. Its utopian futuristic setting, endearing characters, and gripping narrative put it on par with the science fiction greats. We’ve heard the title “this generation’s Star Wars” bandied about for numerous franchises, but Mass Effect actually lives up to (and sometimes exceeds) that lofty proclamation. Because of its importance to video games and the sci-fi genre, Mass Effect was overdue for an update that improved the graphics and tightened the controls. While not perfect, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is the best way to experience these modern-day classics.
Mass Effect 2
The BioWare-developed Mass Effect 2 picks up exactly where the original space opera left off. In fact, one of the great things about this RPG, beside the incredible character development, is that you can upload your character from last game directly into this one. In terms of fresh features, there’s a new cover system, and a revamped health recovery system lets you heal most wounds by camping out of harm’s way. Although Mass Effect 2 is much more shooter-like than the original, role-playing is still at the game’s core.
Mass Effect 3
When the fate of the galaxy is in your hands, how often does it feel like it’s really in your hands? It does in Mass Effect 3. Picking up where Mass Effect 2 left off, Mass Effect 3 thrusts you back into the persona of Commander Shepard, who’s standing at the brink of one of the most daunting challenges ever. He’s tasked with nothing less than rescuing the Earth, and the entire Milky Way, from the clutches of the all-consuming Reapers that are threatening them as never before. Packed with action, character development, and customizability that transcend what you find in most games, Mass Effect 3 is an entertaining and frequently engrossing trip into the psychology of helplessness, if one that doesn’t realize all of its towering ambitions.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise makes the jump from Nintendo Switch to PC, delivering excellent creature-killing action that tops 100 frames per second. Like its console counterpart, Rise on PC features new Yokai-inspired monsters and large hunting zones packed with collectible goodies. Monster Hunter Rise lacks cross-save and cross-platform support, but it’s one of the best multiplayer action-RPGs to come along in some time.
Monster Hunter World
Even Monster Hunter’s most rabid fans admit that there’s a certain level of gameplay jank that you need to live with in order to enjoy the creature-slaying series, a jankiness that has turned many people away. But with Monster Hunter World, Capcom enhanced animations, streamlined gameplay, and made tons of quality-of-life adjustments designed to appeal to core and casual audiences alike. And the moves worked. Tracking and battling huge, snarling beasts with a variety of crafted armor and weaponry is an absolute joy, especially while doing so with friends in multiplayer mode
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is a heartwarming adventure that resurrects the wonder and chibi-world aesthetic of classic role-playing games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Developed by Level-5 in collaboration with former Studio Ghibli character designer Yoshiyuki Momose and composer Joe Hisashi, Ni No Kuni II is an audio-visual treat that leads you through a world seemingly crafted from a child’s imagination. Revenant Kingdom has some frame rate issues and doesn’t offer many challenges, but it’s a magical ride nonetheless.
Nier: Automata is an action-RPG developed by Platinum Games, the studio behind the Bayonetta games, and directed by Yoko Taro, the creator of the Drakengard series and the original Nier. Platinum Games’ previous works excel on the gameplay front, but their stories are generally campy schlock. Taro’s games, on the other hand, are brilliantly depressing stories tied together with weak gameplay. Nier: Automata is a marriage of Platinum Games’ intense action combat and Taro’s wacky, yet somber storytelling, and is easily one of the better games released in 2017, thanks to the hot android-on-robot combat. Unfortunately, Nier: Automata suffers from some technical issues. A lack of developer support compounds this, so you’ll need to rely on fan-made patches if you want to get the very best performance out of the game.
Nioh is Team Ninja’s first attempt at an action-RPG, and it shares a few superficial similarities with From Software’s influential Dark Souls games. The player-summoning cooperative gameplay, corpse-run death system, shortcut-rich levels, and enemy-respawning checkpoints will all feel familiar to Dark Soul aficionados. However, Nioh is very much its own beast, and is filled with highly technical action and stronger narrative elements than the Souls titles. This Complete Edition includes the original console game, as well as all of the DLC content, so newcomers have dozens of hours of action to master. Perhaps to the game’s detriment, Nioh has a mountain of systems that new players must learn before they can tackle the higher difficulties. Still, Nioh won’t disappoint gamers hungry for a rich and immersive action game.
Nioh 2: Complete Edition
Nioh 2 is a fantastic sequel that takes challenging combat, stat-allocating RPG elements, and gear-based character builds, and frames it within a Sengoku-era story that marries real historical figures and Japanese mythology. The original game’s thrilling, technical action returns, but adds four new weapon types, yokai abilities that let you summon supernatural attacks, and an incredibly useful counterattack mechanic. If you like hardcore action and tweaking character builds, Nioh 2 is a RPG to pick up without hesitation.
Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
At a glance, Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth shares much in common with Konami’s classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The games are similar, visually and tangibly, which is great if you’re looking to fill the undead-slaying void that Konami left behind once the developer shelved the Castlevania franchise. Wonder Labyrinth features excellent 2D visuals, tight controls, and clever element-swapping mechanics that expands the combat and exploration. The action-RPG is a bit short due to its linear progression, but the PC game is a satisfying Castlevania homage that tweaks the gameplay enough to feel fresh.
Rune Factory 4 Special
Farm, flirt, and fight in Rune Factory 4 Special, a fantasy-based spin-off of the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons farming/dating series. In this game, you play as an amnesiac envoy who pieces his life back together, while saving a small town, Selphia, from warfare. Given its pedigree, Rune Factory 4 includes a massive town farm to tend to as you battle and make relations.
RymdResa is a fascinating PC game that features a narrative structure, music, and environments that play out like an art-house drama. While drifting through the emptiness of space, collecting resources and materials to survive, your character occasionally drops poetry gems via diary entries, while reflecting on the loneliness that vastness represents—as well as the depression, hope, and desire that comes with it. RymdResa features nearly zero in-game interactions, but the roguelike adventure game uses a single character and simple graphics to dissect the human psyche in a story that flirts with the possibility that we are one with the universe in more ways than we imagine.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
It isn’t very often a game comes along that presents a setting and story as unapologetically risqué as South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Naturally, The Stick of Truth fans know exactly what they’re getting themselves into: topical, highly satirical, and utterly absurd South Park comedy that’s paired with a deep, grid-based RPG combat system. It’s a refreshing RPG, if only because the gameplay, hard language, ridiculous scenarios, and show references keep you smiling until the end. Fractured slips up once in a while; the superhero-themed exploration elements utilize some highly tedious menu switching and quick time event (QTE) mechanics, and the game is surprisingly buggy. However, if you can look past these issues, you’re in for an enjoyable time.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town is a farming simulator/RPG hybrid that looks and plays much like the classic Harvest Moon games. That’s because it is Harvest Moon. A licensing spat between publishers forced a title change in 2014, but the game’s heart and soul—ranching in a quaint town filled with quirky characters—remains the same. The polygonal visuals are a bit bland, and the controls are a touch clunky, but the game is wholesome, farm-sim fun.
Tales of Arise
With Arise, publisher Bandai Namco clearly set out to raise the Tales series’ profile. It feels like a big-budget game, one aimed at elevating the series and attracting new fans. Arise makes notable changes to many classic Tales gameplay systems, but its grandiose story is packed with the usual Tales-style anime tropes that the franchise has leaned on for decades. If you can overlook that anime cheese and a few gameplay oddities, you’ll find that this PC game is one of the most enjoyable action-RPG titles to come along in some time.
Trials of Mana
Trials of Mana, an action-RPG from the Super Famicom’s heyday, receives the remake treatment. Despite its fresh coat of paint, Trials of Mana is unabashedly retro and doesn’t shy away from 1990’s-esque dialogue and the vibrantly cartoonish world that made the Mana series a stand-out franchise among Square’s 1990s RPG lineup. Trials of Mana has a few faults, mainly spotty voice work and no co-op multiplayer action. Nonetheless, Trials of Mana is an excellent action-RPG that oozes charm and has enough content to keep you playing for some time.
Wasteland 2 is a return to the classic computer RPG conventions that have been largely absent in the contemporary gaming scene. CRPGs have seen a recent resurgence with the release of Divinity: Original Sin and Shadowrun, and developer InXile Entertainment has followed suit with a proper sequel to its 1988 classic. The core of any good CRPG is choice, and Wasteland 2 embraces this wholeheartedly. You can either choose from a list of premade characters or create a more specialized and customized party by allocating skill points and attributes. There is no single protagonist; instead, you control a party of Desert Rangers. Wasteland 2 isn’t without flaws, however. The combat in particular is a tad underwhelming, but it’s still an enjoyable return to post-apocalyptic Arizona and California.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the final installment in CD Projekt Red’s action-RPG series. Geralt of Rivia sets out one last time to slay beasts, collect bounties, and protect the child of destiny. CD Projekt Red changes the game formula by introducing a massive, open world filled with monsters to hunt and quests to undertake. But it also greatly improves the series’ combat by making alchemy more accessible and tightening the action controls. The rich story narrative that drives the game is rife with tragedy, folkloric horror, humor, and intrigue, keeping you on your toes every step of the way.
“Simplicity” is the word that best suits Xanadu Next. The action-RPG is an unabashedly uncomplicated game that features basic mouse controls and PlayStation One-era visuals. The simplicity, however, isn’t detrimental to the game: Xanadu Next makes excellent use of its uncomplicated systems to deliver a fantastic dungeon-crawling experience that’s well worth checking out. The game has a few minor issues that hold it back from action-RPG greatness, such as its clunky controller support and occasionally tedious progression. Still, Xanadu Next runs well, plays well, and oozes old-school RPG charm.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Yakuza: Like a Dragon isn’t a game anyone expected, but it’s exactly the change that the franchise needed. Its turn-based combat system retains the classic Yakuza freneticism that series veterans love, while also serving as a newcomer-friendly jumping-on point that encapsulates everything that makes the series great. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a JRPG lover, you may dig this title due to its enthralling world, memorable characters, and fast-paced combat.
Ys: Memories of Celceta
Memories of Celceta is a Ys IV reimagining that sees longtime series hero Adol emerge without his memories from a forest that was previously said to have claimed the lives of all who entered it. Thankfully, Adol is still a skilled warrior who, along with a handful of uniquely skilled party members, is willing to hack and slash his way through hordes of monsters. This action-RPG may not have reliable party AI, but its combat, sense of exploration, and rocking tunes are excellent.
Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim
Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim is an excellent top-down hack-and-slash RPG by Japanese developer Nihon Falcom. Originally released exclusively for PCs in Japan, Ys VI was ported to the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable by Konami in 2005 and made available around the world. This newer version of Ys VI features an XSEED localization that includes an improved translation, a more challenging game mode called Catastrophe Mode, enhanced graphical settings, and Steam support—features that more than make up for the missing content that was in the Konami-published port.
Game studio Cave holds true to its promise of porting its shoot-em-up (or “shmup”) catalog to Steam with the release of Deathsmiles. You play as one of five gothic lolitas who defend their land from a demon invasion using familiars and intense, enemy-wrecking firepower. It’s a simple premise that’s bolstered by huge enemies, big explosions, beautifully detailed environments, and a thrilling goth-rock score. All in all, Deathsmiles is a thoroughly enjoyable PC shooter, despite cramped environments and sprites that were already considered a bit dated at the time of its original 2007 arcade release.
The shoot-’em-up renaissance that’s occurring on the PC has given us many pulse-pounding shmups, but none balance thrills and depth like DonDonPachi Resurrection. Developed by Cave, a company that’s created many space-shooter classics, DoDonPachi Resurrection boasts high-powered offensive and defensive options for annihilating aliens. The game also has multiple ships, multiple endings, and local co-op play.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
Top-down arcade shooters have been a video game staple for a long, long time. The 1980s saw Robotron: 2084 popularize the genre with easy to use twin-stick controls, while the 1990s added Arnold Schwarzenegger flair and Paul Verhoeven panache with Smash TV. Recently, the best shooter wasn’t newfangled fare like Halo or Gears of War, but a simple gem called Geometry Wars. True to its title, sequel Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions takes the addictive shape-shooting action into the third dimension with near-immaculate results. The game is rendered with Tron-like grids, wire-framed objects that explode into kaleidoscopic fireworks as a Daft Punk-ish soundtrack pulses in the background. It’s a feast for the senses.
Treasure, the development house that made its name crafting genre-defining and genre-breaking titles during the 16-bit and 32-bit console generations, applied its creative chops to the shoot-’em-up category in 2001 and released the renowned Ikaruga. It wasn’t until 2016 that the game received a PC port, but the wait was worth it. Ikaruga is now available as a Steam game that retains the unique color-switching mechanic found in the previous arcade and console versions, but adds video uploads, numerous options, and a handful of Steam-specific features.
Death’s frosty hand will grip us all in due time, but, fortunately, it’s a one-and-done situation. We fight the inevitable but ultimately succumb without a repeated struggle. However, if you fire up Mushihimesama, a bullet hell shooter from developer Cave, you will die a lot, but may eventually cheat death should you master your guns and the ability to weave between waves of fat, neon-colored enemy bullets. This excellently crafted PC game doesn’t do a very good job of introducing newcomers to its systems, but seasoned pilots will enjoy this game’s huge insect enemies, awesome firepower, and many thrills.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite
If Alien: Isolation captured the fear at the heart of the original Alien movie, then Aliens: Fireteam Elite taps the trigger-happy joy of that flick’s action-packed sequel. In this predictable, yet enjoyable, multiplayer co-op shooter, you and your friends pick different classes to build the most effective team. Use hand guns, shotguns, and flamethrowers to put the xenomorphs in their place.
When it comes to evaluating any title in the Battlefield franchise, it’s important to remember that the only reason anyone plays campaign mode is to unlock new weapons in multiplayer. Despite great voice acting by Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire), campaign mode is little more than a four to six hour tutorial teaching you how to play the game. Multiplayer combat, on the other hand, captures the awe of destruction. You can run across the battlefield, ducking in and out of cover, board a helicopter, hop on the mini-gun, cut enemies to shreds, then hop off the gun and repair the helicopter while in flight. It’s all in a day’s work on the battlefield.
Battlefield V looks gorgeous, plays fast, and encompasses all the hallmarks of a modern first-person shooter. It includes respectable single player content (War Stories), and new takes on multiplayer gameplay (Grand Operations), but both settle into genre norms. Battlefield V’s most apparent drawback, however, is the complexity of its progression systems and somewhat repetitive gameplay. Overall, Battlefield V is a solid entry in the long-running Battlefield series and you should play it if you are a fan of previous titles. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking.
Shattered dreams form the foundation of BioShock Infinite, the third installment in Irrational Games’ impressive saga exploring the devastating effects of isolation (and isolationism) on the human psyche. But even if you loved the original BioShock (2007) and its sequel, BioShock 2 (2010), this chapter won’t leave you with the impression your dreams have been betrayed. Wedding familiar gameplay elements from the preceding titles with exciting new mechanics, an engrossing story, and stunning visual design, BioShock Infinite is the culmination of the series’ aesthetic and its promise to turn a mirror on humanity by probing as deeply into the self as possible.
Gearbox Entertainment and 2K Games take you back to the warzone with Borderlands 2, the sequel to the hit apocalyptic RPG-shooter that isn’t Fallout. If you played the original Borderlands, you understand this game. You play a Vault Hunter, a treasure hunter looking for an alien vault on the barely colonized planet of Pandora. While doing so, you cut a swath of death through thousands of Mad Max-style raiders, mutant animals, and robots. Throughout your adventure, you level up your character in an RPG-like fashion, and collect hundreds of different guns, each with its own unique stats and attributes.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops is less like a traditional first-person shooter than it is a plunge into someone else’s fever dream. A jolting collection of intense action sequences, haunting writing, and ultra-dark humor, this installment in the popular franchise revitalized the historical-fiction FPS genre. Though its captivating campaign is on the short side, it’s loaded with additional things to do, including cooperative and competitive multiplayer scenarios and plenty of unlockable extras.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Let’s start with what will be the meat of the Black Ops II experience for many: multiplayer mode. Developer Treyarch has not toyed significantly with the formula, giving players numerous options for facing off against others across the country and around the globe. The missions include Team Deathmatch, Free-for-All, Search & Destroy, Capture the Flag, and eight others; you can also engage in two types of Combat Training runs to hone your skills, or play four Party Games that put interesting for-entertainment-only spins on the weapons you can use and the rules you play by.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
The Call of Duty franchise has experienced an identity crisis in recent years, with a focus shift from WWII battles to space adventures to battle royale. In other words, Call of Duty has strayed far from what made it an excellent first-person shooter franchise. Though Call of Duty games still dominate sales, publisher Activision and developer Infinity Ward felt the need to relive the series’ Modern Warfare glory days with a reboot of the seminal 2007 title. The new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has the action-packed single-player and robust multi-player modes one expects from the series. It successfully strips away all superfluous elements and delivers an experience even non-shooter fans can enjoy.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) debuted in 2012, backed by a strong heritage of multiplayer FPS titles, including the original Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source. Six years later, the fast-paced PC game still mostly holds its own against more modern titles, partly because of its established core gameplay and active community. Visually, however, CS: GO is starting to show its age, and it’s not as thematically rich as popular titles like Overwatch. Still, many players will enjoy CS: GO’s no-frills experience and highly competitive esports scene.
Don’t let the non-numerical name fool you. Doom is the latest sequel in the hallowed series, and it’s the best modern update one could hope for. It’s also the best first-person-shooter in recent memory—so long as you stick to the gory, frantic, and lovingly satanic campaign. The multiplayer is lackluster and the DLC is a shame, but the real star, the single-player mode, blends old-school design with modern know-how to form a satisfying, unholy concoction.
With 2016’s Doom, developer Id Software successfully resurrected one of the foundational first-person shooter franchises. Given the game’s critical and commercial success, it’s no surprise to see a follow-up. Doom Eternal takes everything that made its predecessor a wonderful, demon-slaying shooter and bumps it all up by several notches courtesy of ridiculous weapons, fresh navigation options, and new multiplayer mode. It is almost too over-the-top at points, but that’s precisely what makes Doom Eternal one of the best shooters ever made.
Far Cry 4 is a fun sandbox of shooting with an interesting land to explore and tons of missions to find and collectibles to grab. It slavishly follows Far Cry 3’s structure, but when the action is this entertaining, hard to complain. Far Cry 4 doesn’t do much new, but it’s an enjoyable and good-looking excuse to spend some hours stomping through jungles and sniping people from towers.
Although Gears 5 is the first main game in the long-running series to nix the “of War” suffix, make no mistake: The Gears world is still at war. The third-person shooter is the sixth entry in the franchise and a direct sequel to Gears of War 4, continuing the story of the Coalition of Ordered Government’s (COG) fight against the Swarm. Gears 5’s captivating storytelling, solid mechanics, and excellent graphics far outweigh this PC game’s merely average multiplayer modes. It’s an easy recommendation for longtime players of the Gears of War series and newcomers alike.
Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4, the newest entry in the series that defined cover-based shooting, brings satisfying alien-blasting action to PC. The Coalition-developed title offers a new team to fight with, new toys to play with, and all-new enemies to shred, either alone or with a friend. And, like Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4 is a part of Microsoft’s Play Anywhere initiative, so you can play a digital copy on either a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One console with a single purchase—a nice perk. The gameplay grows a bit repetitive as the story progresses, but if you want to sneakily kill lots and lots of enemies, Gears of War 4 is a worthy pickup.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, the first DirectX 12 PC title, just about sets the standard for what a remastered game should offer. The third-person shooter was already a great game when it debuted a decade ago on Xbox 360, but this updated title adds 4K resolution, unlocked frame rates, and content that was once paid DLC. That said, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition isn’t perfect; it doesn’t work well with AMD GPUs, bugs from the original game are still an issue, and it lacks some of the updated mechanics found in later Gears games. But if you own an Nvidia-powered gaming rig, you’ll be good to go.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Halo: Combat Evolved reimagined the first-person shooter genre for consoles and popularized many of the controls and functions that such games would use for decades afterward. Halo received an enhanced remake in 2011 for the Xbox 360 (Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary) that featured updated graphics and a toggle function that let you swap between Classic and Remastered visual styles. Now, that Anniversary edition gets updated with 4K graphics, ultrawide monitor support, and other features you’d expect from a contemporary PC game. It launched with a few bugs, but is generally a rock-solid good time. You can buy it as a standalone title or as part of the $39.99 Halo: Master Chief Collection.
Halo 2: Anniversary
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a nostalgic compilation featuring Microsoft’s classic first-person shooter titles, but the reworked games launched with various bugs. Halo 2: Anniversary came out the gate in a better state than the games before it, but has multiplayer and graphical glitches. Still, this updated Halo 2 is a great shooter, as it features fast-paced shooting action, wonderfully overhauled 4K graphics, and the ability to dual-wield weapons.
Halo 3 is a must-own shooter. It’s easily the most polished Master Chief Collection game released to date, offering excellent shoot-from-the-hip action, cool new weapons and mechanics, and a dramatic conclusion to Halo 2’s conflict. Plus, Halo 3 looks better than ever thanks to 4K assets. If you find yourself itching to replay it, or if you never had the chance to do so before, consider the game a fantastic buy.
Halo: Reach—a part of the Halo: Master Chief Collection compilation that bundles every mainline Halo release, sans Halo 5—represents the first time the shooter has appeared on PC. Although the base game is as thrilling as the Xbox 360 original, this Master Chief Collection port suffers from changes and hiccups. Still, Halo: Reach fans should pick it up for the new 4K, 60 frames-per-second gunplay.
Halo: Spartan Strike
Is there anything that sounds more cynical than a top-down shooter Halo spin-off for phones and tablets? Ever since single-handedly saving the original Xbox, Halo has remained Microsoft’s gaming cash cow, so sticking its name on something is a great way to drum up extra interest. However, instead of being a mere cash-in, Halo: Spartan Assault is a legitimately fun and well-produced game, triumphantly translating Master Chief’s missions to PCs and mobile devices. Halo: Spartan Strike maintains much of that game’s strengths, while cutting out most, but not all, of its weakness.
Halo 5: Forge
It’s easy to recommend Halo 5: Forge to anyone who’s looking for a solid multiplayer shooter. Forge comes with a wealth of multiplayer modes, including the titular map-editing mode, giving you a ton of content to chew through. It does have a few shortcomings that are worth noting, however. Multiplayer matchmaking is restricted to private lobbies, so sessions are limited to playing with your Xbox Live friends. In addition, Halo 5: Forge suffers from a tight field of view that makes playing the game unexpectedly stressful. Still, if you are willing to overlook these and a few smaller issues, Halo 5: Forge is well worth downloading. After all, you can’t beat free.
Halo Infinite isn’t a revolutionary first-person shooter, but the gameplay changes it implements makes the newest 343 Industries-developed title a good ol’ time. Featuring a new, open-world design, cool grappling, and a compelling narrative, Halo Infinite takes what makes Halo a great series and pushes those elements into the next generation. The free, multiplayer component is terrific, but the poor battle pass implementation sullies the experience a bit.
Shooters don’t always need to be dark, gritty, or realistic. Cartoony fun has its place, too. Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch is a prime example of exactly that, with its colorful levels, multiple game modes that focus on teams attacking and defending, characters with vastly different play styles, and a few MOBA-like twists. Overwatch is a thoroughly enjoyable first-person shooter that’s filled with mechanical variety, but it has one glaring problem—its awful micro-transaction structure.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
The original Garden Warfare married PopCap Games’ zany Plants vs. Zombies universe with strategic, class-based third-person shooting, resulting in an addicting, polished multiplayer shooter. Garden Warfare 2 expands the roster of playable characters and variants, adds all-new customization options, introduces new game modes, and fleshes out the single-player experience, creating a much more rounded game than the original. That said, balance issues make some classes feel more potent than others, and the server connectivity is spotty at times, resulting in jittery matches. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is a solid title nonetheless, and one that fans of the original and newcomers alike can enjoy.
Let’s get this out of the way: Prey could easily pass as an unofficial System Shock game. On the surface, Prey looks very much like the brainchild of industry veterans Ken Levine or Warren Spector. While the opinions of the latest System Shock spiritual installments (BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite) are all over the place, Bethesda’s take does the Shock family and first-person shooter genre justice with its fast-paced, body-morphing gameplay set in Art Deco-flavored environments.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Star Wars: Battlefront is a multiplayer shooter that reboots the classic LucasArts video game series. Unlike previous games in the series, Star Wars: Battlefront lacks an overarching narrative and historic battles to reenact; it’s basically a modern shooter given a liberal coat of Star Wars paint. The veneer is a fine one, and Battlefront has some good action to offer, including a playable Emperor Sheev Palpatine. However, once you look past the façade, the game doesn’t have enough content or variety to keep you invested for a super-long time.
Star Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Battlefront II does many things right. It has top-notch environments, thrilling multiplayer modes, and engaging mechanics that will have you piloting ships and swinging lightsabers deep into the night. That said, an uproar over this first-person shooter’s included microtransactions tanked its reputation at launch, causing publisher Electronic Arts to quickly reverse course and temporarily remove all microtransactions from the game on the eve of its release. Microtransactions will strike back in some form, however, in the near future.
Superhot is the most innovative shooter to come along in some time. Despite its unimpressive visuals, this game is a genuinely creative and challenging experience that injects puzzle elements and a bizarre meta-narrative into quick, bite-sized servings of computerized violence. It might seem like a short and simple game at first, but between the addictive time-pausing mechanic and some very satisfying and repeatable extra modes, you’ll quickly find yourself playing it for hours, and the built-in social media features for sharing your best runs will keep you coming back to get more consecutive, stylish kills.
“An act, process, or instance of changing place,” is how Merriam-Webster defines motion. That meaning also perfectly summarizes the Platinum Games-developed Vanquish, a third-person shooter in which static play is a death sentence. Exquisitely designed with movement in mind, Vanquish’s kinetic, jet-powered action adds visual flair and a wonderful sense of movement as you wreck mechs, vehicles, enemy troops, and super-powered bosses in a near-future setting. If Battlefield and Call of Duty have turned you off from shooters, Vanquish’s unique take on the genre may be the title to make you strap on your in-game guns.
Sim & World-Building
If you want to appreciate the vastness of space, play Elite: Dangerous. This PC game by Frontier Developments is a crowdfunded follow-up to the classic Elite series of space sims. It’s a game that gives you a ship, a handful of equipment, and a full tank of fuel, then sets you out on your own in the vast cosmos. It’s huge, slow, deliberate, and open, and it will reward players with the patience stay with it. And if you need helping deciding where to fly, check out our favorite Microsoft Flight Simulator destinations.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
It’s rare for a video game to receive a full sequel nearly two decades after its release. The first Evil Genius, released to PC in 2004, was a curious mix of another PC gaming classic, Dungeon Keeper, and the James Bond spy films. Evil Genius received decent reviews, but it didn’t get a sequel to expand the concept—until now. Evil Genius 2: World Domination is very much the child of that first game. In fact, it almost feels like a clone, but with improvements courtesy of updated technology and new features. Evil Genius 2 works because the original title was such a great PC game, so more of the same is a good thing. Despite that, this sequel has a few rough edges carried forward from the classic entry, and new features that could use better implementation.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator is one of PC gaming’s most beloved series, a franchise cherished and supported by aviation enthusiasts. The 2020 edition, wonderfully crafted by developer Asobo Studio in tandem with Microsoft, is sure to bring a whole new generation and into the fanbase fold. Improved graphics aside, the near-magic addition of a fully recreated and explorable Earth, built and populated with Microsoft’s Bing satellite imagery and Azure cloud computing service, elevates the franchise to new heights.
Starts at $59.99
Minecraft is a blocky, beautiful sandbox that lets you explore the depths of your imagination. The core of the game is exploring and surviving in a hostile world made from blocks that you can build with as you please. But as you play, you’ll quickly see that this game has so much more to offer than just architecture. What Minecraft presents is plenty of space for players to enjoy their own kind of play. The detail-oriented will thrill at the possibilities of an enormous sandbox, but even a dabbler will find pleasure facing off against an unfriendly wilderness. If you’ve never experienced it, start exploring and see if you can resist the call of its endless potential.
No Man’s Sky
The controversial and much-hyped No Man’s Sky is a game that offers two opposing experiences. One is a beautiful and wholly fresh journey through space to chart undiscovered worlds. The other weighs down that joy with mundane and repetitive resource gathering and fighting. That said, No Man’s Sky is so much more than a sterile description of its parts and features. It’s an astounding artistic and technical achievement that’s worth playing.
The Pinball Arcade
Pinball—the classic game of reflexes, luck, and spatial recognition—isn’t nearly as popular as it was 25 years ago, but its legacy of tables, flippers, and gaudy lights lives on in FarSight Studios’ The Pinball Arcade. Unlike Pinball FX 2, a pinball collection for PC gamers that features original tables from popular entertainment properties, The Pinball Arcade focuses on recreating classic real-world pinball machines from renowned manufacturers Bally, Gottlieb, Stern, and Williams. The result is a collection that looks, sounds, and feels like the pinball games of yore. Amassing all of your favorite tables could be a serious investment, however, because of the way game’s season packs are organized.
Cleaning buildings, vans, and other mundane and quirky items may not sound like an epic play session, but PowerWash Simulator makes the chores fun and engrossing. As a Steam Early Access title that’s still in development, PowerWash Simulator has the expected kinks that could use improvements. However, the flaws are minor inconveniences. Once you pick up a pressurized hose and point it at dirt, you’ll revel in the joyous emotion that only eradicating stains and restoring beauty can bring.
Rocksmith 2014 Edition Remastered
In the mid- to late- aughts, Guitar Hero and its evolutionary spin off, Rock Band, gave people with zero musical talent the opportunity to realize their dreams by playing instrument-based karaoke with plastic axes. Now, they can learn to play the real deal with Ubisoft’s Rocksmith 2014 Edition Remastered. The “game” teaches you the intricacies of learning bass, lead, and rhythm guitar via dynamic challenges, mini-games, and instructional videos. An enormous assortment of downloadable songs (which cost extra) ensures that your music library stays fresh.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth
Building on our inborn desire to see things no one has ever seen and take chances beyond the boundaries of reason—and, of course, exploit our hunger for addictive turn-based strategy games—Civilization: Beyond Earth catapults you off the planet that’s housed your kings, wonders, and wars for millennia (or at least since 1991, when the original Civilization was released), and lets you fend for your life and begin a new history on a literally alien world. But if there’s one problem with this game, it’s that it never quite feels alien enough.
The Sims 3
With The Sims 3, the Sims series has finally grown up. No longer are the Sims just digital action figures in a big dollhouse. The new Sims have personalities, goals, and unique body types and hairstyles. The Sims themselves aren’t the only thing overhauled in this release, either. The game mechanics have been changed to make it easier to customize your environments and surroundings, giving users millions of ways to create the worlds of their choice.
Baseball Stars 2
There aren’t many baseball games on PC, but Baseball Stars 2 stands out among the few that made it to the big leagues. The classic SNK sports title doesn’t flaunt a MLB license or strive to be a super-realistic simulation. Instead, Baseball Stars 2 is old-school baseball fun, with simple controls, oodles of charm, and incredible cut scenes that highlight tense moments (like punching a pitcher in the face after he hurls a bean ball).
Fire Pro Wrestling World
Fire Pro Wrestling World sees the series return to excellent form after the embarrassment that was the avatar-based, Xbox 360-exclusive Fire Pro Wrestling. World has all of the elements that comprise a great Fire Pro game—excellent creation tools, a ridiculously deep moveset, tight controls—and adds online play and Steam Workshop integration. Fire Pro Wrestling World is a slick package even in unfinished form (it’s a Steam Early Access title), which should have Yuke’s Co Ltd. and Visual Concept’s WWE 2K18 shaking in its wrasslin’ boots.
Football Manager 2022
The Football Manager series is an enigma to many outside observers, but the seemingly niche appeal has grown into a borderline obsession for a large, passionate fan base. The football (or, yes, soccer) sim is an insanely detailed, text-heavy simulation of the world’s most popular sport. You take on the role of club manager overseeing player transfers, on-field tactics, staff instructions, and everything in between in a bid to lead your club to glory. Part tactics sim, part strategy game, part financial manager, and part talent scout, Football Manager 2022 is capable of eliciting a wide range of emotions, and it has a surprisingly strong capacity for creating emergent narratives.
Mutant Football League
Football is a bad sport. Yes, it’s beloved by millions, but the concussions that result from giants hurling themselves at each other are an undeniable problem. The sport is much more enjoyable in video game form, especially arcade-style football, which lets you perform superhuman feats without annoying flags or hideous injuries. Digital Dream Entertainment’s Mutant Football League literally plays by that ruleset by pitting skeletons, robots, orcs, aliens, and mutated humans against each other in not-so-friendly gridiron contests featuring landmines and cheat plays. Mutant Football League is definitely worth playing, and not because it’s the rare American football PC game; it’s legitimately good, despite some annoying dirty tricks.
Although it’s not as deep as the heavyweight champ that is Fire Pro Wrestling World, RetroMania Wrestling carves out its own place in the PC wrasslin’ game space. A throwback to classic arcade wrestling titles, RetroMania lets you control indie and retired stars (16 default characters, plus soon-to-come DLC) as you punch, kick, and suplex your way to the gold strap. Simple controls and blow-by-blow announcing round out the sports entertainment package.
There are few video games that drop all dark and portentous pretenses and give you a straightforward, honest-to-goodness game. Rocket League is one such title. It blends the charm of RC racing with the heated competition of soccer, and adds plenty of over-the-top spectacle to keep every match interesting. Rocket League is just as fun during your first hour as it is during your twentieth; there are very few multiplayer games that utilize addictive simplicity as effectively. It even supports cross-platform play with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers.
Super Mega Baseball 2
Long gone are the days when the likes of Midway’s NFL Blitz and Nintendo’s Ken Griffey Jr. games ruled the market with their pick-up-and-play sensibility, flashy graphics, and outrageous gameplay. Hardcore simulations like FIFA or NBA 2K are great, but arcade sports fans have lamented the decline of the less realistic stuff. If you’re in that camp, pick up Super Mega Baseball 2. The game offers accessible mechanics, a cartoony art style, and an overall sense of fun that’s rare in today’s sports games. However, it has enough depth to keep even the most die-hard baseball fans addicted. Super Mega Baseball 2 has a couple of graphics-related flaws, but it’s one of the best current-gen sports games available for PC.
Super Mega Baseball 3
Super Mega Baseball 3 contains new on-field improvements, player traits, front office happenings, and gameplay modes for both default and custom ball clubs that push the series deeper into simulation territory. The new Pennant Race mode delivers cross-platform play with console ballplayers, too. Despite light frame rate issues and other minor complaints, Super Mega Baseball 3 is the best title in the series to date.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
The odd thing about aging is just how often it makes you look to the past, perhaps as a way to cope with an ever-shrinking future. The resulting nostalgia can sometimes soften the rough edges on the things we love, making them seem better than they truly were when we first experienced them. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2—a bundle that remasters two iconic late-1990s and early-2000s skateboarding games—doesn’t fall into that trap. In fact, it proves that, yes, those brash and exciting action-sports titles are as good as our memories recall, but they now exist with a beautiful visual overhaul and new, bountiful options that makes them even better than what we remember.
At its core, the thrilling Windjammers 2 is a sports game with a fighting game’s heart. DotEmu’s sequel to the cult classic Neo Geo game delivers the same joyous arcade-sports thrills as its predecessor, but adds new offensive and defensive moves, as well as rollback netcode, to the strategic mix. Cross-platform play between PC and Xbox keeps the player base active and strong.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Cyborg law enforcer Adam Jensen returns to stealth-based shooting action in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the newest entry in Square Enix’s cyberpunk series. Mankind Divided is a dark journey through an oppressive world where the “augmented” live as second-class citizens. Though Deus Ex’s is light on its usual conspiracy-laced story, the game’s numerous side quests, fantastic stealth, and gritty futuristic setting will keep you hiding, shooting, and hacking for a long time to come.
Arkane Studios’ Dishonored is a fantastic first-person game that puts you in a playground of murder and stealth, while still keeping focused on an interesting story in a rich and enthralling fantasy world that’s filled with supernatural happenings. It’s not quite as large, as open, or as well-written as Deus Ex, but it stands as a solid spiritual successor to one of the best PC games of all time.
Back in 2016, IO Interactive established a new era for its cult-favorite Hitman franchise with Hitman: Season One. While the episodic release model didn’t stick on PC or consoles, that game’s grand levels and inventive murder carried over to 2018’s Hitman 2. Now, the studio has delivered Hitman 3, the capstone to the World of Assassination trilogy. Featuring expansive levels, new ways to kill, and graphical improvements, this excellent stealth title makes it easy for anyone to become a bald, bar-coded assassin.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Stealth-action series Metal Gear started life on the MSX home computer and at long last returns to the PC after an extended absence. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes sees series protagonist Big Boss undertake extraction and elimination missions against the mysterious Cipher organization in this Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain prologue. Boasting beautiful graphics that were built on the impressive FOX Engine, a wide selection of weapons, and a variety of ways to tackle missions, Ground Zeroes sets the stage for the final chapter in the series, even if it can be beaten in roughly an hour.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
In terms of pure gameplay, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the best game in the long-running stealth series. You once again play as Big Boss, aka Punished “Venom” Snake, who battles the nefarious XOF organization across 1980s Africa and Afghanistan. Boasting a wealth of combat options, impressive weaponry, and outstanding audio and video work, The Phantom Pain is an absolute joy to play. That said, the truncated story raises more questions than it answers, and may leave you feeling a phantom pain of your own.
Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine
In this production by Pocketwatch Games, a ragtag group of criminals escape from the French Riviera prison and go on several heists: for money, documents, and, eventually, the chance to retire from the business once and for all. Monaco has the co-op formula down pat; it’s easy to jump in, and complex enough to reel in long hours of sneaking and thieving. With plenty of charm and a novel design that makes stealth work, Monaco is one of the best PC co-op experiences.
Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock
The Battlestar Galactica property has enamored two generations of sci-fi enthusiasts, with both the original 1978 series and the 2007 reboot achieving cult classic status. Deadlock sets itself on ground left relatively untouched by either series, taking players into the throes of the first Cylon war. The turn-based strategy game puts you in command of the entire colonial fleet and the disposition of its forces. Though some tactical elements occasionally feel unbalanced, Deadlock does justice to the franchise by delivering incredible space battles and intriguing lore.
Battletech is a pure adaptation of the classic board game that was first published in 1984 by FASA Corporation. Jordan Weisman, one of the board game’s creators, played an executive role in this modern take. As a result, the PC game’s universe is rich and storied, with the setting echoing a strangely effective combination of giant robots and medieval feudalism. In Battletech, noble houses project their battlefield influences using Battlemechs, or ‘Mechs, piloted by knights or sellswords called Mechwarriors. This means lots of action as you position units, launch attacks, and try to outsmart your opponent. That said, Battletech has a level of randomness that feels unfair at times.
Mainline Gears of War games are cover-based shooters that put you in the boots of muscled soldiers who defend humanity from the mutant horde called the Locust. Miraculously, Gears Tactics—the franchise’s first venture into the turn-based, strategy genre—preserves many series hallmarks, including wild melee executions, cover-heavy environments, and waves of overaggressive enemies. Cheap enemy spawning leads to frustrating moments, though.
Halo Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy game set within Microsoft’s insanely popular Halo universe. Utilizing a rock-paper-scissors-styled combat system, Halo Wars 2 tasks you with developing bases and armies to combat hostile alien forces. The game keeps things simple: Once you familiarize yourself with your units and resource production, it’s just a matter of building the right troops for the job at hand, whether that means capturing enemy bases, defending your own base, or surviving waves of enemies. Halo Wars 2’s simple design makes the RTS experience accessible for both newcomers and veterans, but the game doesn’t do much to invigorate the genre besides adding the e-sports-friendly Blitz mode.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
The third and final StarCraft II expansion is both a fantastic conclusion to Blizzard’s five-year saga and a great entry point into one of the most complex, but satisfying, strategy games ever made. Unlike the previous StarCraft II expansion, Legacy of the Void doesn’t require you to buy any previous versions of the game to play this package. It’s completely standalone. Factor in a varied single-player campaign, gorgeous cinematics, and new noob-friendly co-op modes, and you’ll see that Legacy of the Void is one of the best PC games of all time.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a sci-fi real-time strategy game in which you build structures and gather resources to build an army and defeat your opponent through cunning tactics and sheer firepower. Nothing could quite live up to the hype surrounding the real-time strategy game’s release, but, even so, this is a wonderful title. The story is well-paced, and the strategy and resource-management missions will lock you into finishing the game.
Supreme Commander 2
Gas Powered Games’ Supreme Commander 2 probably doesn’t deserve the word “supreme” in its title, but then changing the title would defeat the purpose of making a sequel. Not that this game isn’t a fine follow-up to the 2007 original, but it’s definitely aimed at a broader (and less patient) audience. With much of the micromanagement minutiae reduced or removed entirely, Supreme Commander 2 is more of a garden-variety real-time strategy title than a proud member of a distinctive series. Still, it’s a lot of fun if you can accept the gameplay changes.
XCOM: Chimera Squad
The XCOM games aren’t for the impatient or faint of heart. The brutal, turn-based strategy relies heavily on random chance, permanent unit death, and an overarching campaign that takes many hours of careful resource management. Unfortunately, casual strategy fans find the experience daunting.
XCOM: Chimera Squad, on the other hand, is a friendlier, more accessible XCOM game. This spin-off keeps the setting and general feel of the XCOM series, but reduces the stakes by offering a single city to protect, a modest squad of diverse (and pre-created) units, and a more forgiving combat. XCOM: Chimera Squad lacks the general brutality of the mainline series, but it still scratches that strategy itch.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
2K Games and Firaxis succeeded in rekindling a long-dead franchise with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This turn-based strategy game is a reimagining of 1994’s X-COM: UFO Defense, a long-beloved game that last saw a sequel in 2001 with the ill-received X-COM: Enforcer, a shooter that didn’t have any of the first game’s strategy. XCOM: Enemy Unknown feels like a straight remake of the original, bringing almost everything gamers loved about it to the PC, along with updated graphics, streamlined gameplay, and plenty of challenge.