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50 Best PC Games Of All Time Ranked

In many ways, the PC is the OG gaming set-up. Before consoles dominated the market, people allowed their trusty home computers to pull double duty as work tool and entertainment vehicle. Now, PC gamers wear their system of choice as a badge of pride, often building custom rigs that take massive amounts of time and money to construct. And luckily, even though gamers will likely make a few mistakes on their journey to get the perfect gaming PC, there are plenty of modern PC games that don't require a fancy system to play.

No matter what kind of gamer you are, you likely have some fond memories of PC gaming, either through educational games that tested your knowledge (in a fun way) or through the games that helped build the core beliefs of what was possible in storytelling. Perhaps you found a bustling roleplaying community to join that simply wasn't available on console systems. Or you spend a good bit of your time hunting down indie gems that can only be found on PC. No matter what kind of gamer you are, you're likely aware of the impact PCs have had on gaming as a whole, and how much they continue to drive the industry.

The following games represent the best the platform has to offer, from historical releases that shaped the industry to newer titles that push the boundaries of video game storytelling.

50. Zoo Tycoon

"Zoo Tycoon" may not have been the first "Tycoon" game, but it quickly established itself as a juggernaut in the management sim space after debuting in 2001. What it lacked in the screams and thrills of "Rollercoaster Tycoon," it more than compensated idyllic landscaping and a massive menagerie of animals. "Zoo Tycoon" was intentionally designed to be educational as well as entertaining, and that decision helped lead to a good deal of the game's success (as noted by Polygon).

Unlike lots of other popular PC games of the day, "Zoo Tycoon" held a truly transcendent appeal. It was a game you could play at your grandma's house or at the library. And yet, that universal accessibility didn't detract at all from how fun it was to play. The loop of gradually unlocking more and more types of animals made each and every zoo a unique exercise in planning and organization, and the many expansions built on that core system in fun ways. "Zoo Tycoon" also spawned a whole sub-genre comprised of both direct sequels, like the equally fun "Zoo Tycoon 2," and modern homages like "Planet Zoo."

  • Release Date: October 17, 2001

  • Genre: Management Sim

  • Game Modes: Single-Player

  • Metacritic Score: 68

49. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

If you were a kid (or kid at heart) in the 80s or 90s, you knew that Carmen Sandiego was out there somewhere with her henchmen, causing trouble in various parts of the world (or the United States, depending on which version of the game you had). As an agent of ACME (The Agency to Classify and Monitor Evildoers), players have to use a series of clues to hunt down Sandiego and stop her from, well, doing something bad. Of course, the wily spy was always just a few steps ahead, so staying close on her trail with a knowledge of world geography was essential. Along the way, players learned about various cultures and landmarks, which got to the truth of the game: it's an educational good time.

"Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" was part-educational PC game, part-cultural phenomenon. Culture of Gaming lovingly looked back on the game shows and animated series spawned from the "Carmen Sandiego" games, commenting that the characters "basically took over a small chunk of the 90s." Kids everywhere had a blast learning about the world while tracking down a colorful cast of goofy criminals — and occasionally catching a glimpse of Carmen herself.

  • Release Date: 1985, 1996
  • Genre: Educational
  • Game modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

48. Rain World

What is the life of a slugcat? Players find out the answer in "Rain World," in which they take control of a tiny white slugcat who must survive in an increasingly inhospitable world. Rain will harm the sweet creature, but staying inside indefinitely also isn't viable, as the slugcat has to eat to live. While this all sounds cute, "Rain World" isn't at all inviting. Enemies lurk around every corner, waiting to find their own snack in the form of a tiny, succulent slugcat.

The Metroidvania Review said that "Rain World" – while not a true metroidvania – is simple enough, focused on exploration rather than finding power, but players discover just how frustrating the game can really be after a few hours. "Rain World" is a challenge that many gamers won't rise to conquer, but for those who do, it's a rewarding experience. 

To progress in "Rain World," players must accumulate karma, which they lose upon death. Karma unlocks a series of gates that open new areas for the slug cat to explore. In other words, one bad move can force players to lose it all, meaning the game provides a Soulslike experience to keep the most hardcore gamers happy.

  • Release Date: March 27, 2017
  • Genre: Metroidvania, platformer
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 66

47. Dream Daddy

"Dream Daddy" is a game that you might not want to play around your partner. It's a spicy dating sim from the minds behind Game Grumps, the comedic gaming group that got insanely rich from playing games online before that was a more popular career path. The game is just as funny as its creators, and its simple premise underscores a surprisingly inclusive and nuanced dating sim.

The plot follows  a dad who has just moved to a new town with their daughter, Amanda. After designing the dad from a selection of pre-rendered components, players then move into the dating scene and meet a variety of fellow dads to flirt with. "Dream Daddy" features a full voice cast that lends personality to each character, and it also contains multiple endings for each datable daddy. One Steam reviewer said "Dream Daddy" was "a wholesome game with some serious topics sprinkled in as well [and] all the character are very unique and enjoyable to hang out with." And really, what more could you ask for in a dating sim?

  • Release Date: July 20, 2017
  • Genre: Dating simulation
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 72

46. Myst

"Myst" definitely occupies a divisive place in PC game history. On one hand, it pioneered a genre of point and click adventure-puzzle games (like "The Witness"). On the other hand, some people — like John Walker argued on Eurogamer — have argued that "Myst" could be one of the worst games of all time, because it's more of a novel than a game. Sure enough, players travel to a strange world through a special book, then proceed to explore the island while completing a series of puzzles. The saga of "Myst" continues into other games, as well as several novels written by its creators.

An IGN retrospective about the "Myst" phenomenon explained that brothers Robyn and Rand Miller initially made games for kids, simple choice-based titles that eventually evolved into "Myst" and its sequels. IGN claimed that "Myst" shaped the future of gaming, creating an entire genre of puzzle-based "walking simulators," including hidden gems like "What Remains of Edith Finch." It's possible that the easy-to-understand gameplay made "Myst" more accessible than other computer games at the time, but it's also possible a new generation of players relished the opportunity to see a new genre emerge. From the deeply buried (and elaborate) backstory to its FMV cutscenes, "Myst" was – upon its release – one of a kind.

  • Release Date: 1993
  • Genre: Puzzle, First-person exploration
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

45. Rollercoaster Tycoon

"Rollercoaster Tycoon" might not be as big a piece of PC gaming history as other similar games like "Civilization" or "The Sims," but it deserves a spot among them nonetheless. Chris Sawyer's theme park sandbox let players create their own dream coasters back in 1999, and the simple joy of that creative exercise — augmented by some impressively complex management systems — still holds the same level of appeal today.

The seemingly niche focus of "Rollercoaster Tycoon" ended up being its strong suit, with countless possible permutations on each scenario depending on each player's unique design approach. It's a game that just feels so tight and rewarding to play that it's hard to put down, even decades later (per The Ringer).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about "Rollercoaster Tycoon" is that you don't have to be a fan of rollercoasters, or even of management sims, in order to have a great time with it. It's a testament to the fact that, with the right precision of design, anyone can have fun building their own little clockwork worlds on the PC.

  • Release Date: March 22, 1999

  • Genre: Simulation

  • Game modes: Single-Player

  • Metacritic Score: N/A

44. Inscryption

"Inscryption" might be a more recent PC game, but it immediately popped onto gamers' radars with its twisting premise and deck-building antics. The roguelike card game has layers of meaning, and it's difficult for players to really understand what's going on until the game itself is over.

Mike Mahardy of Polygon claimed that "Inscryption" was the best game of 2021, and argued that it combined the best elements of deck-building games and escape rooms. The game also includes "found footage" videos that links characters together, along with historical myths from the real world sprinkled in. "Inscryption" is a game that transcends itself, creating a whole world of hints and riddles to dive into. There's even an ARG element that brings the game into the real world for players who want to experience more of its lore. Ultimately, "Inscryption" is a game that PC gamers need to check out, preferably with as few spoilers as possible going in.

  • Release Date: Oct 19, 2021
  • Genre: Card, deck-building
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 85

43. Slay the Spire

The Roguelike genre, punctuated by permanent deaths and short but challenging runs designed to make the player fail, was further innovated with the release of deck-building hybrid "Slay the Spire" in 2017.

As noted by GamesBeat, "Slay the Spire" didn't immediately achieve popularity upon its release. It took until 2019 for the gaming industry to come around to its brilliance, when it was nominated for Best Indie Game at The Golden Joysticks, The Game Awards, and the Steam Awards. It was also named the Best Strategy Game by IGN and awarded Best Design by PC Gamer.

A deft combination of roguelike punishments mixed with deceptively complex deck-building made "Slay the Spire" a unique game. Where many games require an established brand, a narrative hook, or flashy aesthetics to draw in players, "Slay the Spire" relies fully upon its clever gameplay. There really isn't a story to the game, and progression comes down to how hard the player wants to push themselves in creating better versions of randomized decks.

  • Release Date: Nov. 14, 2017
  • Genre: Roguelike, Deck-Builder
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 89

42. Factorio

Often described as one of the most addictive games out there, "Factorio" loops its players in with the promise of endless possibilities in a factory-based building and management simulator. It released in Early Access in 2016 to positive reviews, and its popularity has only grown since (per Rock Paper Shotgun). It received the top spot in IndieGameReviewer's Top 10 Best Indie Games of 2020 and is commonly considered one of the best city building games on the market.

The positivity surrounding "Factorio" comes down to it being the ultimate spreadsheet game. Manufacturing and shipping logistics don't sound like lightning caught in a bottle, but "Factorio" transcends those expectations, and absolutely constitutes itself as a gaming tour-de-force. Like the sandbox masterpiece "Minecraft," the goals when playing "Factorio" is up to the player — the only true impetus in "Factorio" is to build. Just keep building, and eventually, a planet-spanning network of conveyor belts, electrical grids, refineries, smelters, and a whole host of industrial manufactories will chug along in chaotic equilibrium.

The game's continued active development coincides with a modding community dedicated to expanding the already near-infinite possibilities of the game. Thus, "Factorio" has earned its stellar reputation and will likely not fade anytime soon.

  • Release Date: Feb. 21, 2016
  • Genre: City Builder, Survival
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 90

41. Kentucky Route Zero

Technically, "Kentucky Route Zero" is a point-and-click adventure game with simple, stylized graphics that convey the mood – and what a mood it is. "Kentucky Route Zero" follows Conway, a truck driver that delivers antiques from a small shop. To make a specific delivery, Conway has to traverse Route Zero, a strange, otherworldly highway through Kentucky that takes him to a surreal world full of its own problems. Soon, he's interacting with a whole host of odd characters and finding himself faced with philosophical questions no one was prepared for.

The creators of "Kentucky Route Zero" cite the work of filmmaker David Lynch as a major inspiration for the game, and the strange, unnerving, yet humorous tenor of many of Lynch's works can definitely be seen throughout the five-act game. The first act of "Kentucky Route Zero" released in 2013, but the fifth and final act didn't arrive until 2021 For fans of strange, sweeping landscapes, philosophy, and character-driven narratives, "Kentucky Route Zero" is a must-play — and now you can play the whole thing.

  • Release Date: Feb. 22, 2013 (Act 1)
  • Genre:
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 86 (Act 1), 82 (Act 2), 91 (Act 3), 90 (Act 4)

40. The Stanley Parable

"The Stanley Parable" does a lot of things well. It's a startlingly simple premise, to begin with. One day, Stanley goes to his job punching buttons at an office to find that no one else is at work. He wanders off to find where everyone went off to, guided by a mysterious narrator, only to find that there are strange things lurking in the bowels of the office. There are many different endings to "The Stanley Parable," and the game keeps the tone oddly light with humorous banter from the narrator.

Perhaps even more interesting, "The Stanley Parable" began life as a "Half-Life 2" mod, but soon became its own full-fledged title. Phil Savage at PC Gamer noted that the game covered a lot of emotional territory in a short amount of time. While many games take a humorous approach to their subject matter, "The Stanley Parable" manages to keep things interesting with its wide variety of outcomes, each of which is wilder than the last.

  • Release Date: Oct. 17, 2013
  • Genre: First-person action
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 88

39. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Shigeru Miyamoto once said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad" (per The Guardian). But what happens when a game is both rushed and delayed? You get "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines," which is both a stellar experience and a broken disaster that only shone after a fanbase picked up where the developers left off.

"Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines" is a legendary RPG that crafts a winding story revolving around the machinations of vampires and their attempts to hide from humanity (their "masquerade"), full of memorable story beats and characters. However, the lifeblood of "Bloodlines" lies in its replayability. One of the best vampire games ever, "Bloodlines" gifts players a huge selection of skills and clans (i.e., character classes) to choose from, and depending on how a player builds their vampire, they can complete missions with either a silver tongue or a shotgun. Some clans offer more than just skill buffs. Malkavians, for instance, are completely insane. Not only do conversations play out differently as NPCs and players alike try to decipher their cryptic comments, but Malkavians are the only class that can get into an argument with a stop sign.

When "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines" released, the game was a buggy, incomplete mess. Audiences and critics praised "Bloodlines" for its storytelling, characters, and world, but they criticized it for almost everything else. However, that potential was enough to attract a dedicated following of modders who released unofficial patches that polished game mechanics, squashed bugs, and reintroduced cut content.

  • Release Date: November 16, 2004
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 80

38. Death Stranding

Though a PlayStation exclusive at first, "Death Stranding" was brought to PC nearly half a year after its release. Kojima Productions' Norman Reedus-starring project is certainly one of the weirdest creations in the industry. Sam Porter Bridges' trek across the United States combines stealth, balance, and inventory management. It's an unlikely combination that works for this sci-fi epic.

On the PC side of things, this port is an improvement in almost every regard compared to the PS4 counterpart. In its tech review, Digital Foundry regarded the PC version as "tighter to control and more visually responsive," additionally boasting improved lighting, frame rate, and resolution. Putting the PS5's "Director's Cut" release aside, PC is the best way to play the original "Death Stranding."

What really sets this title apart from the rest of the PC gaming catalogue is its uniqueness. What "Death Stranding" offers can't be experienced elsewhere. It takes seemingly obnoxious game mechanics — like walking up one mountain after another — and utilizes them to its advantage. Making deliveries from point A to point B is complicated by obstacles both earthly and otherworldly, which encourage various strategies. Terrain is varied, weight alters Sam's movements, and enemies will disrupt routes.

Hideo Kojima's latest isn't for everyone, but the former PlayStation exclusive is certainly one of the most memorable adventures on PC.

  • Release Date: July 14, 2020
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Open World
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 86

37. Persona 4 Golden

After countless requests for more "Persona" ports, ATLUS fans finally got their wish. "Persona 4 Golden" on PC is worth celebrating, since the game was previously trapped on a dead system: the PS Vita. 

Luckily for fans, "Persona 4 Golden" is as good as it was back on the Vita, and guiding a close-knit party in a cozy town corrupted by a serial killer is still a while ride. The PC port includes all content that was previously available for "Golden," which in turn was an expanded remaster of the original "Persona 4" on PS2, incorporating new confidants, endings, and more. At first glance, the port doesn't have any new tricks, but that's not to say the PC version is a missed opportunity for upgrades.

For one things, the graphical enhancements are a pleasant surprise. As noted by PCMag, "Persona 4 Golden" has updated textures that make for a significant improvement when playing on a monitor, especially compared to the graphics on a small handheld device. On top of this are alternative control scheme options and a silky smooth 60fps framerate (compared to the VITA's 30fps).

SEGA and ATLUS have continued to receive calls for more ports in the last few years. "Persona 5 Royal" is still stuck on PlayStation systems, but hopefully "Golden" is the first of many to make the jump, given its success on Steam.

  • Release Date: June 13, 2020
  • Genre: JRPG
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 87

36. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Many role-playing games limit the decisions players can make. That doesn't mean these games are inferior or the decisions they provide are meaningless, just that if a game introduces three solutions to a problem, there usually isn't a fourth. "Divinity: Original Sin 2" doesn't believe in those restrictions.

In "Divinity: Original Sin 2," gamers can role-play however they want. This title gives so many character creation options, from race to backgrounds, that the number of possibilities almost feels endless. Players can complete missions an equally varied number of ways, which influences the impressive story and well-written characters, but the true scope of the game's freedom doesn't shine through until you enter combat. "Original Sin 2" offers a library's worth of skills and spells that provide uses outside their initial descriptions. Sure you could just polymorph an enemy into a chicken, but why not cut their tendons first so they run around uncontrollably, constantly taking damage? Free health for any party member with the Blood Sucker skill. Plus, blood conducts electric attacks shockingly well in "Divinity: Original Sin 2."

"Divinity: Original Sin 2" originally launched on PC to rave reviews. One year after the game's release, it was ported to consoles, but the developers were done yet. The team continued working on "Original Sin 2" and sporadically added free content. The studio eventually rereleased the game in a "Definitive Edition," complete with balance changes, improved tutorials, and a revamped narrative experience.

  • Release Date: September 14, 2017
  • Genre: Adventure, RPG, Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer, Online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 95

35. Black & White

Peter Molyneux, the creator of "Fable," is known for his controversial or disappointing game endings, but he's also a pioneer of PC games. One of Molyneux's PC endeavors was "Black & White," a god-simulator game that allowed players to build civilizations and then destroy them in interesting ways. Players take on the role of a god, ruling over a population and making choices as they see fit. A benevolent god earns the love of their people through kindness, but gods can rule just as easily through fear and terror. Ruling people isn't the only thing going on, though, and gods will inevitably have competitors looking to expand their followers. Through the use of a Creature, a giant animal that acts as an earthly companion to the player's god, players can further influence the world and perform miracles.

Alice Ligouri of Rock, Paper, Shotgun argued that "Black & White" and its sequel scratch an itch many gamers have by allowing them to rule over a people and deal with issues of morality. Like "The Sims" and earlier works by Peter Molyneux like "The Movies," "Black & White" was an early contender in a genre that allowed players to make moral decisions that impacted the world around them, for better or worse.

  • Release Date: March 26, 2001
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Game modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 90

34. Team Fortress 2

Valve Corporation's "Team Fortress 2" began its long life as a mod for "Quake," but it soon transformed into its own phenomenon. "Team Fortress 2" is an online free-to-play multiplayer game that pits players against each other as a cast of lovable, meme-able characters. The game has received over 700 updates since it arrived in 2007, and has showed no signs of slowing down even years after its release.

What makes "Team Fortress 2" stand out amongst other online free-to-play games is that each character has a specific role that alters their playstyle. For example, the Heavy Weapons Guy, or the Heavy, has more health than any other character in the game, and has access to an impressive minigun, which is anything but mini. Playing as one class against another provides specific advantages to players, but the classes also have their own jokes and lore surrounding them, making the game more memorable as a whole.

  • Release Date: Oct. 10, 2007
  • Genre: First-person shooter
  • Game modes: Online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 92

33. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

When "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" (a.k.a. "CS:GO") launched in 2012, fans of the storied franchise ended the lengthy civil war between "Counter-Strike: Source" apologists and original "Counter-Strike" faithfuls. However, that isn't because "CS: GO" was a masterpiece upon release. In fact, many fans and players didn't like "CS:GO" until a few content updates were rushed out following its launch (per PCGamer).

What made "CS:GO" unique compared to other FPS games, and even its own predecessors? Well, "CS:GO" successfully blends the fast-paced, quick-twitch precision of "Counter-Strike" with the deeper customization and team coordination of "Counter-Strike: Source." Often considered to be the most competitive FPS on the market, "CS:GO" is a no-frills bloodbath with low-intensity graphics and utterly amazing technical gameplay.

But what really drove the sustained popularity of "CS:GO" is the dedicated fan community that sprang up around its top-notch esports circuit. "CS:GO" tournaments are well-known at this point for drawing in massive streaming numbers and proving to be intensely exciting. The game's digital collectables marketplace has also cemented its place in the industry. "CS:GO" character and weapon skins were largely responsible for driving players back to the game in 2013, and have been sold for some outrageous dollar amounts in recent years.

"CS:GO" has stood the test of time — and with its near-infinite skill cap, don't expect it go away any time soon.

  • Release Date: Aug. 21, 2012
  • Genre: Multiplayer First Person Shooter
  • Game modes: Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 83

32. Cuphead

Influenced by old 1930s animation (which was hand-drawn and inked by the developers), "Cuphead" is a bullet hell platformer that pulls no punches and represents some of the best action that indie titles have to offer. "Cuphead" is something of a phenomenon, inspiring a hit Netflix TV series and highly anticipated DLC such as "The Delicious Last Course" DLC.

The game balances shooting and platforming, with Cuphead and Mugman firing a constant stream of projectiles from their fingers. Aiming is crucial, but the fact that every enemy has their own wild attack pattern can make that even more difficult. It can be over-bearing but perseverance is key.

"Cuphead" also prioritizes massive boss battles, building whole stages around them. Each level grabs the player's attention, whether it be the boss' character designs or the catchy themes that tie them all together. Although gameplay doesn't differ much between levels, the presentation more than makes up for things. Complementing the old-style animation is the big band music that was recorded for the soundtrack, which features standout tunes like "Floral Fury."

A game like "Cuphead" doesn't come around too often. It's so focused in what it strives to do, feeling nostalgic and new at the same time.

  • Release Date: September 29, 2017
  • Genre: Platformer, Shoot 'em up
  • Game modes: Single-player, Multiplayer (Up to 2)
  • Metacritic Score: 88

31. Terraria

"Terraria" has often been described as a sort of 2D cousin of gaming giant, "Minecraft," mainly due to their shared sandbox-style gameplay. "Terraria" was well-received when it was released in 2011. IGN praised its expansion on sandbox tropes, while Destructoid applauded its depth-of-content and easy $10 entry point.

And although "Terraria" and "Minecraft" certainly share similarities, "Terraria" differs by focusing more on combat and player progression. The world of "Terraria" is hostile and unpredictable, so creating a bunker of apartments for the game's villagers and arming oneself to the teeth is required for survival. "Terraria" offers incredible depth when it comes to crafting and building, as well as challenging battles with enemies.

The game's continued active development and dedicated modding community has ensured its longevity. "Terraria" released its final content update, "Journey's End," in 2020 — following nearly a decade of consistent improvements and additions. "Terraria" is one of the highest grossing video games of all time, consistently drawing players in with its iconic soundtrack, addicting gameplay loop, and near-infinite malleability.

  • Release Date: May 16, 2011
  • Genre: Open-World, Sandbox, Action-Adventure
  • Game modes: Single-player and Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 83

30. Dota 2

The true beginning of the MOBA genre's popularity came from a custom game created in the "Warcraft 3" map editor called "Defense of the Ancients," or "Dota." This game took heroes from "Warcraft 3" and gave them unique abilities in a 5v5 battle for domination of a 3-laned map populated by team-focused minions and neutral jungle monsters.

However, a major issue with the decentralized nature of "Dota" — being a custom game with many different playable versions — plagued its ability to consistently grow its player base. The overwhelming success of the original "Dota" custom game took off from its definitive iteration, "DotA Allstars," created by Steve "Guinsoo" Feck, one of the eventual cofounders of "League of Legends." When Guinsoo left to join Riot Games, he passed down lead development responsibility to an anonymous contributor named IceFrog, who took the lead on "Dota Allstars" and still remains as the lead dev on "Dota 2."

Valve eventually hired IceFrog to make "Dota" into a standalone IP in a growing field of MOBA competitors (per theScore esports)."Dota 2" remained in both closed and public betas for a year in 2012, and its full release in 2013 catapulted it to the top of Steam.

"Dota 2" has a notoriously high learning curve, but these complex systems are what was so loved in the original "Dota," contributing to its high-octane esports legacy. The game's annual championship, The International, is the biggest tournament in terms of prize pool year after year. In 2021, a record breaking $40 million was paid out in the tournament purse, once again proving the game's status as a force to be reckoned with.

  • Release Date: Jul. 9, 2018
  • Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
  • Game modes: Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 90

29. God of War

"God of War" on PC — what a strange concept. Kratos is the face of modern-day PlayStation in many ways, and yet he's found his way onto gaming PCs. Alongside hits like "Horizon Zero Dawn" and "Death Stranding," "God of War 2018" joins a growing list of PlayStation titles becoming multi-platform smashes. There are certainly other hack-and-slash games on PC, but "God of War" is a singular beast. There's an effective heart to the story and its combat is borderline untouched.

Kratos' latest journey is rooted in Norse mythology, a far cry from the previous games. This soft reboot has a lot going for it, like Kratos' magic axe, which acts like Thor's hammer. Being able to toss and return the awesomely powerful (and upgradable) weapon helps to keep fights interesting, as does the addition of Kratos' son, Atreus. Other gameplay elements, such as puzzles and occasional quicktime events, are executed perfectly and add variety.

"God of War" ran at 30fps on PS4, while the PS5 version was cranked up to 60fps and saw higher resolution overall. The PS5 version boosted performance for a well-deserved upgrade. It's on PC, however, where the game truly shines. The new settings can boost the frame rate to 120 fps (per Polygon), and new features like ultra wide mode and alternate control schemes make the game better than ever.

PlayStation should keep the PC ports coming, since "God of War" is proof that these games can still flourish on different hardware.

  • Release Date: January 14, 2022
  • Genre: Hack-and-slash
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 93

28. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Third-person action RPG games are a dime a dozen these days, but CD Projekt Red sought to develop one of the best ever. "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" is simply enormous, and getting lost in its world is easy to do.

Nearly every part of the game is deeper than you'd expect. Combat, in particular, has a number of layers. Series protagonist Geralt is able to wield normal and silver swords depending on who he's fighting. Spells and special items help to deepen combat and strategy, while inventory and crafting take that even further. Geralt will obtain better equipment during the course of the campaign, and players can tailor armor sets and weapons to the task at hand, making you feel like at true monster hunter.

Decisions can be made during Geralt's quest and affect the course the story and side missions. As noted by Game Rant, there are a number of game-changing choices to make, and each main and side character is memorable, which makes player choice all the more consequential.

Lastly, one of the best aspects of CD Projekt Red's masterpiece is its sheer length. In addition to the main story missions and side quests, players can master the optional Gwent card game, hunt collectables, and dive into DLC packs. "The Witcher 3" exceeds expectations and just keeps going.

  • Release Date: May 18, 2015
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Open World
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 93

27. Dark Souls

The game that kicked off a worldwide sensation, "Dark Souls" is simply iconic. The precursor to hit FromSoftware games like "Elden Ring" and "Sekiro," it expanded on "Demon's Souls" community features like messaging and PvP. Just as important to its success is the fact that it wasn't a PS exclusive, but rather a multi-platform game. PC versions came in the form of the "Prepare to Die Edition" port, as well as the "Remastered" edition.

FromSoftware managed to craft a different take on metroidvanias here, a players are taken down a seemingly linear path that later branches off into separate areas. Bosses can be taken down in different orders, so two players might have wildly different playthroughs. Annoyances like backtracking are mitigated by uncoveing interconnected paths.

"Dark Souls" left a big impact on the gaming landscape. Dedicated wiki pages are filled with guides, character builds, and, speedrunning tactics. The game's fanbase has also grown through streaming and YouTube, with internet personalities like PewDiePie livestreaming the classic title a number of times and garnering millions of views on each playthrough.

On the technical side of things. "Dark Souls Remastered" runs at 4K resolution 60 frames per second (per PC Gamer). With all that in mind, playing on PC is one of the definitive ways to dive into one of the most beloved gaming giants of all time.

  • Release Date: May 23, 2018
  • Genre: Role-playing game
  • Game modes: Single-player, Online Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 84

26. System Shock 2

The original "System Shock" is a landmark of game design. It was one of the first titles to combine FPS and RPG mechanics, which let players explore and overcome challenges as they saw fit. Many similar titles, from "BioShock" to "Deus Ex," owe their existence to "System Shock" — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they owe their existence to "System Shock 2."

In "System Shock 2," players are stuck on a drifting space ship, surrounded by murderous mutants, psychotic cyborgs, and a crippling sense of isolation. If you could sum up "System Shock 2," it would be "'System Shock' on steroids." "System Shock 2" ups the emphasis on RPG mechanics and, like its predecessor, lets players explore and fight as they see fit. There's a learning curve, but one that encourages experimentation and making mistakes. While combat has also been improved since the first title, the biggest upgrade is in presentation. "System Shock 2" delivers a never-ending sense of dread, thanks to a pitch perfect atmospheric soundscape, spine-tingling lighting, and iconic enemy designs. And if none of that scares you, the game's legendary voicework will, not just because of how enemies sound but because of what they say. What's creepier than a crewmate infested with a mind-controlling worm? A crewmate infested with a mind-controlling worm who is also aware of his actions but unable to stop.

"System Shock 2" is only available on PC, and while the game is showing its age, the internet isn't short of mods to tweak the experience however you like. 

  • Release Date: August 11, 1999
  • Genre: Action, Shooter, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 92

25. Half Life: Alyx

Almost 15 years have passed since "Half Life 2: Episode 2" was released. Gordon Freeman's quest is still left hanging, but the hole that was left has been partially filled. "Half Life: Alyx" isn't a run-of-the-mill VR game. Whereas many VR releases can either come out as broken messes or fantastic experiences that end too soon, "Half Life: Alyx" is a full-on "Half-Life" entry that immerses the player throughout.

Switching from Gordon to Alyx as the protagonist is exciting, but the hero isn't the only differentiating point for this PC release. Swapping Gordon's gravity gun for advanced gloves makes the familiar mechanic make even more sense in VR. Dual-wielding the VR remotes allows players to feel like they're using Force, while weapons can be reloaded in real-time. The overall effect is seamless. 

"Half Life: Alyx" is also more accessible than a number of VR titles. It can be played in a variety of PC settings, so a smaller-budget rig is still able to run the game (per Steam). A decent PC and VR headset are worth snagging if it means experiencing a game that IGN's Dan Stapleton felt was the best VR shooter ever.

  • Release Date: March 23, 2020
  • Genre: First-person shooter
  • Game modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 93

24. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

If you're a diehard RPG fan playing on PC, "Skyrim" probably isn't the first game you'd pick to represent the genre. That's not because it's not a fantastic game (it is), but rather because it came so late and found so much of its success on consoles. As the fifth mainline "Elder Scrolls" game, "Skyrim" owes a lot to both its direct predecessors and older fantasy RPGs like "Baldur's Gate" and "Dungeon Siege." And yet, it's impossible to ignore the unique success of "Skyrim" — a game that expanded the appeal of its genre to a much wider player base without sacrificing the core of what's always made "The Elder Scrolls" great.

It's worth mentioning here that "Skyrim" is one of the best-selling video games of all time, full stop, with well over 30 million copies sold (per Digital Trends). That's partially due to the sheer number of platforms on which the game has been released and re-released, but it also speaks to how simultaneously simple and complex the game is. With a truly massive world and an infinite number of ways to play, it's an RPG that rewards you for finding your own style — be that as a heavily armored bruiser or a thief who steals every plate and piece of fruit in sight. There are lot of fantastic individual storylines here, but its the totality of the experience that truly makes "Skyrim" great.

  • Release Date: November 10, 2011

  • Genre: RPG

  • Game Modes: Single-Player

  • Metacritic Score: 94

23. Civilization 6

If you look back through the history of PC gaming, Sid Meier is one of the names written in bold. His "Civilization" series first came onto the scene in 1991, and it's been a powerhouse ever since. Like many similar strategy and management franchises of note, it's hard to pick just one game to represent the whole legacy, but "Civilization 6" has as strong a claim to the throne as any other entry.

In many ways a culmination of decades of iteration and development, "Civilization 6" is packed to bursting with systems, mechanics, world leaders, tech tree options, military units, ancient wonders, and of course, civilizations. In its final form with all the downloadable content accounted for, it's a game of nearly infinite depth and possibilities — an endlessly replayable simulation with tons of options for players to tweak to their liking. Yet amid all those modern flourishes and added details, the core of what makes "Civilization 6" great is the same as what's always made the series great.

The long-term arc of building a society from inception into the future is just fun, and it makes every single game of "Civilization" a unique story. Whether you're collecting paintings for a culture victory or racking up denouncements in a bid for military dominance, "Civilization 6" will ensure you have a great time doing it.

  • Release Date: October 20, 2016

  • Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Online Competitive Multiplayer

  • Metacritic Score: 88

22. Grim Fandango

PCs popularized the point-and-click adventure genre. These games were simple mechanically but tended to wow gamers with engrossing narratives and mind-bending puzzles. The champion of the point-and-click adventure was Tim Schafer, and his magnum opus was arguably "Grim Fandango."

"Grim Fandango" is a unique blend of film noir and ancient Mexican folklore. The game takes place in the afterlife, where Dia de los Muertos skeletons roam art deco cities. Players control Manny Calavera and help him solve puzzles and uncover gangster conspiracies with only his wits, brains, and bottomless tuxedo pockets. "Grim Fandango" is praised for its storytelling, characters, and dialogue — three hallmarks of a Tim Schafer-directed point-and-click adventure. Moreover, the game's puzzles and art direction are widely considered among the genre's finest (per The Ringer). While each aspect of "Grim Fandango" is a masterclass in its own right, they all come together to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts.

In 2015, Double Fine Productions published a remastered version of the game. Not only did this rerelease improve graphical fidelity without compromising the original art style, it introduced "Grim Fandango" to a new generation of PC gamers and also ported the title to other platforms.

  • Release Date: October 30, 1998
  • Genre: adventure, point-and-click
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 94

21. Elden Ring

"Elden Ring" might have only released in 2022, but it has more than earned its spot on countless "Best of" lists, including this one.

In many ways, "Elden Ring" is the Soulsborne genre perfected. Like other FromSoftware titles, "Elden Ring" is a grueling challenge that tasks players with overcoming seemingly impossible enemies, including dragons, rampaging bears, and oversized lobsters. This time around, players are given far more freedom. Unlike other Soulsborne titles, gamers can explore a sprawling world, and the title offers more weapons, spells, and stat builds than ever before. You couldn't beat "Dark Souls" solo without attacking, but the sheer freedom available in "Elden Ring" makes pacifist runs 100% viable. Plus, according to rumors, FromSoftware is working diligently on DLC, so even though players are still coming up with new combat strategies, it is only a matter of time before the developers add even more challenges and equipment to the game's already overflowing content.

"Elden Ring" is available on multiple platforms, but PCs may offer the definitive experience. Not only can PC players push graphics well past the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5's capabilities, but unlike those consoles, you don't need an Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus subscription to access the game's multiplayer mode. If that's not enough, the PC version also supports mods, just in case anyone wants to pause the game or ride Thomas the Tank Engine into battle.

  • Release Date: February 24, 2022
  • Genre: Action: RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 94

20. Doom

"Doom" is not the original first-person shooter, but it's still largely considered to be the mother of the genre (per PC Gamer). Everything id Software did in the groundbreaking "Wolfenstein 3D" was improved and iterated upon in "Doom." Pairing the developer's revolutionary take on game design with a jaw-dropping heavy metal aesthetic, "Doom" burst onto the scene and changed gaming forever. It laid the early groundwork for what competitive multiplayer in a first-person shooter could look like, delivered a fast-paced style of gameplay that still holds up today, and gave a hard-edged face to the video game industry as a whole that stuck — for better or worse.

Historical impact aside, "Doom" deserves a spot on this list for how much fun it was (and still is) to play. Racing around corners with a shotgun center-screen, ready for whatever Imps or Cacodemon may attack, is still an experience fraught with tension and excitement — especially on the game's higher difficulties. The modern "Doom" reboot and its sequel, "Doom Eternal," may be more appealing to current players than the original, but there's still a lot of unique fun to be had in the pixel art and corridor crawls of id's original masterpiece.

  • Release Date: December 10, 1993

  • Genre: First-Person Shooter

  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Competitive Multiplayer, Cooperative Multiplayer

  • Metacritic Score: N/A

19. Mass Effect 2

While "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" essentially put BioWare on the map, the game was still a licensed "Star Wars" title. "Mass Effect" however, demonstrated that BioWare was more than capable of creating its own engrossing space opera full of freaky aliens and existential, intergalactic threats. "Mass Effect" was so well received that BioWare pulled out all the stops for a sequel, resulting in its magnum opus.

"Mass Effect 2" is widely praised as one of the best sci-fi RPGs ever made. The game's narrative is a gripping adventure that ramps up the Reaper threat, tugs at heartstrings, and emphasizes characters and their interactions with one another. Every recruitable ally in "Mass Effect 2" is a layered, complex combination of personality quirks and pitch-perfect writing/voice acting. But "Mass Effect 2" is more than just its roster of heroes. The game also allows players to construct their own story via narrative and reactionary choices, especially if they port their "Mass Effect" save file. Also, combat, skills, and shooting mechanics are both punchy and satisfying.

BioWare outdid itself so much with "Mass Effect 2" that even "Mass Effect 3" pales in comparison. That isn't to say "Mass Effect 3" is a bad game, just that "Mass Effect 2" is so good that its only objective issue is a special one-time content pass that disincentivizes purchasing used copies. However, that's more of an EA problem than a "Mass Effect 2" problem, really.

  • Release Date: January 26, 2010
  • Genre: RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player, online multiplayer (original version only, not available in Legendary Edition)
  • Metacritic Score: 94

18. League of Legends

According to the Washington Post, "League of Legends" was already a worldwide hit within just a few years of its 2009 release. Its success can be contributed to its free-to-play entry point, which paired nicely with its (at the time) innovative games-as-a-service model. Player feedback was actively incorporated in frequent game patches, and new content streams kept players engaged as the community expanded.

Part of the game's continued success comes from its industry-pushing esports scene (as per Redbull). From a cramped stage at Dreamhack for the Season 1 Championship to a packed stadium arena for the Season 3 Championship, competitive "League of Legends" grew at an incredible pace. Riot Games grew its official league to give its competitive scene stability and legitimacy, bringing massive brand partnerships with the likes of Coca-Cola to the esports scene for the first time. Riot Games has continued to develop the "League of Legends'" brand through critically-acclaimed TV adaptations like "Arcane", and is actively branching the IP into new directions.

Despite all these savvy business operations behind "League of Legends," players of the game know exactly why it has retained its popularity: It is easy to play and hard to master. No matter the circumstances, "League of Legends" always delivers an engaging experience.

  • Release Date: Oct. 27, 2009
  • Genre: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
  • Game modes: Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 78

17. Disco Elysium

Originally released in 2019, "Disco Elysium" is an narrative-centric RPG that follows an amnesiac detective attempting to solve interweaving cases in a downtrodden world. It won numerous accolades at The Game Awards of 2019, including Best Narrative and Best Roleplaying Game, was picked as Game of the Year by PC Gamer, and even made Time's list of The 10 Best Video Games of the 2010s.

The game received a free content update in 2021 called "Disco Elysium: The Final Cut." which sharpened the strengths of the original game by adding complete voiceovers as well as new quests.

"Disco Elysium" stands out amongst the RPG crowd for many reasons. Mainly, its writing is superb. Characters have realistic depth with complex relationships, historical and cultural allusions contextualize the digital choices being made to real-life ideas, and it's story bluntly, unapologetically political. The city of Revachol is explored through storylines involving brokenness, drug addiction, and shared trauma.

Linguistic battles supersede physical feats, and training for these conflicts is accomplished by progressing through innovative skill trees in the game's Thought Cabinet. The title's psychedelic, grunge-pastel aesthetics amplify its already unique gameplay. Rarely do games succeed in blending art and atmosphere with truly innovative mechanics like this, but "Disco Elysium" is an extraordinary experience worthwhile to any RPG fan.

  • Release Date: Oct. 15, 2019
  • Genre: Role-Playing Game
  • Game modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 97

16. Undertale

Toby Fox went from an unknown in the video game industry to one of its most cherished faces almost overnight — you know you've made it when you're asked to produce a special music track for a "Pokemon" game. His success can be traced to "Undertale."

Originally released for PC, "Undertale" tells the story of a young child who falls into an underground land filled with monsters. As players traverse the game world, they encounter quirky and memorable characters, and the story adapts to their decisions. The standout feature of "Undertale" is its combat system, which ties into the narrative and combines traditional JRPG turn-based battles with bullet hell segments. The more enemies players slay, the stronger they become — and the more evil. Luckily, "Undertale" also offers plenty of ways to "defeat" enemies through nonviolent means. Critics and audiences alike praised "Undertale" for this simple-yet-effective system, as well as a story and writing style that backed it up. "Undertale" is known for its humor, but the game also knows when and how to dial up the emotion and tug at players' heartstrings.

Not only is "Undertale" a masterpiece of game design, it also demonstrates the sheer talent and creativity of Toby Fox. The game went on to sell millions of copies, win numerous awards, and receive ports for every game platform on the market. Thanks to this success, Toby Fox has also produced a semi-sequel, "Deltarune."

  • Release Date: September 15, 2015
  • Genre: Indie, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 92

15. Quake

Like "Doom" before it, "Quake" delivered a lightning bolt to the first-person shooter genre when it released in 1996 (per Rolling Stone). With a properly polygonal graphics style, the game's single-player campaign embraced a fun Lovecraftian vibe, which evoked the horror elements of "Doom" while still creating its own unique thematic space. But let's be real here — people don't really remember "Quake" for its single-player campaign. They remember it for its multiplayer, which took the baton from "Doom" and set the genre standard for years to come.

From the high skill ceiling on basic movement (who doesn't love rocket jumping?) to the massive expansion of game modes and player counts, "Quake" flung the doors wide open for all future FPS games to run through. A lot of those innovations came from the game's extensive modding community (per IGN), which helped pave the way for "Half-Life" mod success just two years later. "Quake" also spawned a number of sequels that continued to hold the standard high for other multiplayer shooters, leaving a massive legacy that's still felt in the genre today.

  • Release Date: June 22, 1996

  • Genre: First-Person Shooter

  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Competitive Multiplayer

  • Metacritic Score: 94

14. Overwatch

Strong gameplay loops can make or break one's time with a game. Sure, escorting a payload and capturing points aren't the most groundbreaking of concepts, but "Overwatch" nails the replayability of its modes and the recognizability of its various elements. As IGN noted, "It's a dizzying amalgam of unique character design, stunningly realised style, and compellingly dynamic action."

The game's roster is iconic, and every character is distinct from the next. Chances are that any player that hops in will click with at least one playable character. Experience with the roster is key, since team co-operation is such a driving point. It won't be long before you settle on your main.

Gameplay-wise, it's a different match depending on the hero. Widowmaker has her standard sniper rifle and grapple-shot, whereas Reinheardt maintains a fortified shield. Not only do characters have different stats and abilities, but they also have distinct and fun personalities. These personalities are greatly enhanced by the game's style and voice acting. Everything is vibrant and colorful, emulating a Saturday morning cartoon in the best ways.

While you wait patiently for "Overwatch 2," it's good to remember that one of the best hero shooters to date still sings on the PC.

  • Release Date: May 23, 2016
  • Genre: Competitive First-person shooter
  • Game Modes: Multiplayer (Up to 12)
  • Metacritic Score: 91

13. Microsoft Flight Simulator

"Microsoft Flight Simulator" prides itself on 1:1 piloting experiences. This simulation actively wants to teach the player how to learn to pilot various aircrafts with an in-depth tutorial. If things get too intense, though, there are accessibility settings to make things more relaxed. Even so, it's one of the most accurate simulation games of all time.

To say that "Microsoft Flight Simulator" is intensive is an understatement, but outlets like GameSpot have praised how the game's hands-on tutorial walks you through the process. This is particularly helpful when it comes to analyzing the various dials and meters, not to mention the number of resources and etiquette guides to reference.

For those wanting a more casual time, "Flight Simulator" has a free-form mode, which features an incredibly detailed and explorable representation of earth. Players can fly in their own city to find where they live. It's a jaw-dropping feature that must be seen to be believed.

"Microsoft Flight Simulator" defies all expectations. There's a lot of content to see here, from its large aircraft list to its various landing challenges, but players who make the investment will have their own kind of flight school from the comfort of their home.

  • Release Date: August 18, 2020
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 91

12. Grand Theft Auto 5

"Grand Theft Auto 5" has dominated both the PC and console market since its release in 2015. Even though fans are clamoring for "GTA 6," that doesn't mean that the previous installment isn't absolutely worthy of all the praise it has received over the years. The single-player mode puts players in the shoes of three protagonists – Michael, Trevor, and Franklin – as they navigate a series of missions (both grand and personal) that affect the game's world. Of course, they get up to plenty of mischief along the way, stealing cars, committing crimes, and generally causing mayhem.

While the story of "GTA 5" is fun in its own right, players have created a whole new way to play in "GTA Online," the multiplayer counterpart to "GTA 5." Via a complex system of exclusive servers, gamers have created a new genre of "GTA 5" roleplaying, in which gamers inhabit a specific role within the world. They might be daring criminals, cops, or even just restaurant workers. Every player on a "GTA" roleplaying server has a character to play, and breaking that character can have serious consequences. While Rockstar might have created the interface that players use to engage in "GTA" roleplaying, the world dynamics itself are proof of how players have made the game their own. And if that's not enough, then the extensive modding community that has sprouted up around the game adds another incredibly layer — and makes the game into something wonderfully strange.

  • Release Date: April 13, 2015
  • Genre: Open-world action adventure
  • Game modes: Single-player, multiplayer online
  • Metacritic Score: 96

11. Final Fantasy 14

When "Final Fantasy 14" initially launched, it was critically panned by audiences and critics. The game was a slog, and its only positive feature was its graphics, which were also the game's undoing. The world of "Final Fantasy 14" was populated with high fidelity models that hamstrung performance and optimization. Instead of fixing these problems, though, Square Enix scrapped everything and went back to the drawing board, which turned out to be the right call.

In its current state, "Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn" is arguably the best MMORPG on the market. While combat isn't anything new for the genre, the game's dungeons and raids keep players on their toes with unique mechanics and glorious rewards. Moreover, the game's story draws in players new and old. Each chapter adds new story beats while also wrapping up old threads in satisfying fashion. However, the biggest feather in the game's cap is a reliable stream of updates and expansions that add new areas, classes, races, and challenges, many of which pay tribute to past "Final Fantasy" games.

Although "Final Fantasy 14" is available on PC and console, it is at its best on computers. Not only does the PC version have more buttons to work with (assuming you play with a mouse and keyboard), but with the right graphics card, it can also look and run better, too. Regardless of version, anyone who wants to try before they buy can play the "Final Fantasy 14" free trial up to level 60.

  • Release Date September 30, 2010 (1.0), August 27, 2013 (A Realm Reborn)
  • Genre: MMORPG
  • Game Modes: Online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 49 (1.0), 83 (A Realm Reborn)

10. Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings

The real-time strategy genre is loaded with all-time greats on the PC, from "StarCraft" to "Command & Conquer" and so many others. Particular credit is also due to the "Age of Empires" series, which brought major innovation in its historical style, mechanical precision, and blend of city-building and military strategy. Of the various entries in the franchise, "Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings" stands head and shoulders above the rest — even decades later.

One could talk all day simply about the technical aspects of the game's greatness. The single-player campaigns presented varied and fun scenarios based in a wide range of historical events, forcing players to adopt all manner of different strategies. The different factions felt distinct, and the overarching balance of construction, improvement, offense, and defense is nearly perfect. But the less tangible aspects of "Age of Empires 2" are also worthy of praise. From the music to the timeless art style, the game does all the little things necessary to properly transport you into the past. Building a proper city in the game always feels like an accomplishment, and the clockwork AI of villagers and soldiers is endlessly fun to tinker with. From top to bottom, "Age of Empires 2" is a definitive king of the strategy genre.

  • Release Date: September 30, 1999

  • Genre: Real-Time Strategy

  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer

  • Metacritic Score: 92

9. StarCraft 2

"StarCraft" is the seminal sci-fi RTS that set the PC gaming world on fire. Without that title, competitive gaming wouldn't be as big as it is today. How could Blizzard ever one-up itself? With a sequel.

"StarCraft 2" is "StarCraft," but bigger and better. The game is made up of three separate chapters (each sold separately) that cover different playable armies and introduce new units. Not only does each mission keep players on their toes, but the game also provides several RPG-like choices that can affect future strategies and encourage subsequent playthroughs. Of course, the meat of "StarCraft 2" lies in its multiplayer. Gamers can participate in miniature wars that let them test their strategizing mettle against opposing players, but they can also team up with friends to complete various campaign-like missions in co-op. Each mode is polished and provides the genre's best, most engrossing matches.

Unlike "StarCraft," which was eventually ported to the Nintendo 64, "StarCraft 2" is exclusive to PC. While some might balk at the concept of buying all three "StarCraft 2" games to get the full experience, the first campaign, "Wings of Liberty," is free to play. If you like what you see and want to finish the story, you can buy the other campaigns, but if you only want multiplayer, you already have all you need.

  • Release Date: July 27, 2010 (Wings of Liberty), Mar 12, 2013 (Heart of the Swarm), November 10, 2015 (Legacy of the Void)
  • Genre: Real-time strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player, online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 93 (Wings of Liberty), 86 (Heart of the Swarm), 88 (Legacy of the Void)

8. The Sims 3

You couldn't possibly make a list of the greatest PC games ever without including "The Sims" series, Will Wright's social simulation masterpiece that's gone unchallenged for decades as the defining entry in the genre. Picking a single "Sims" game to represent the entire franchise is tough, as they each have their own strengths and innovations, but it's hard to disagree with "The Sims 3" as the gold standard. From the seamlessly-connected overworld to the complex personalities and narrative systems built around non-player Sims, some have argued it's arguably the strongest the series has ever been.

Even still, what makes "The Sims 3" great is what makes all of its predecessors and successors great: There's just something addictive and calming about the games' unique take on social simulation. From navigating careers and raising kids to redesigning your home and learning new skills, "The Sims" gives you control over all the little things, making everyone's experience a little bit different. And to top it off, "The Sims" does it all with a quirky sense of humor, never getting to lost in the sauce of management systems and mechanics. Whether you want to follow a family through generations or just remove all the ladders from their backyard pool, "The Sims" has what you're looking for.

  • Release Date: June 2, 2009

  • Genre: Simulation

  • Game Modes: Single-Player

  • Metacritic Score: 86

7. Diablo 2

The hack-and-slash RPG genre wouldn't be the same as it is today were it not for "Diablo 2." Released all the way back in 2000, "Diablo 2" succeeded as a sequel on all levels. It expanded the series' scope with a great host of new characters, a much improved combat system with innovative customization options, and free-to-play online servers hosted by Battle.net.

These factors combined for "Diablo 2" to become, at the time, the fastest PC game to sell over a million copies, earning it a Guinness World Record in 2000. The love to "Diablo 2" over the years has only grown, with Time naming it as one the best games ever and Game Informer putting the game on its list of the greatest RPGS.

The most enduring innovation in "Diablo 2" is its loot system. Playing through "Diablo 2" is like bushwhacking through endless waves of demons and bad guys, and players earn near-infinite amounts of loot throughout. Turning that loot into custom character builds is a defining trait of the ARPG genre now, and "Diablo 2" mastered it before anyone else.

  • Release Date: Jun. 29, 2000
  • Genre: Action Role Playing Game
  • Game modes: Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 88

6. Stardew Valley

The studio behind "Stardew Valley," consisted of one person: Eric Barone, otherwise known as ConcernedApe. A Forbes prodigy, he single-handedly crafted every pixel and soundbite in this game's expansive world over just 4 years.

Its release in 2016 was met with immediate success, climbing to the top of the Steam charts in its first week. Critics and players shared a love for "Stardew Valley" that was undeniable; the Boston Globe reported that "Stardew Valley" was an "utterly compelling, lovingly crafted game," and it won the Breakthrough Award at the Golden Joystick Awards in 2016.

The gameplay in "Stardew Valley" is about as addictive as it gets. Players work on a day-to-day schedule to maximize the renovation of their grandpa's dilapidated farm in the charming titular town. As players progress, farming systems with calculated planting seasons and sprinkler networks coincide with the blossoming relationships the player forms with each of the town's memorable residents.

Part of ConcernedApe's vision for "Stardew Valley" — and perhaps why it has connected with such a large audience — is the escapism it offers from urbanized, consumer economies. The game literally rips the player out of a meaningless cubicle desk job at its start and gives them new purpose, charging them with developing a community in the face of an encroaching industrial grocer. Thus, GQ argues, "Stardew Valley" offers a digital return to simpler times, which connects its players even more.

  • Release Date: Feb. 26, 2016
  • Genre: Role Playing Game, Farming Simulator
  • Game modes: Single-player and Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 89

5. Portal 2

The original "Portal" is a phenomenal puzzle title that tasks players with navigating various test chambers using, well, portals. The key to the game is figuring out where and when to place these warp points, all while taking into account the conservation of momentum. The result is an amazing (albeit short) experience that challenges players and does a lot with what little story it offers. And if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

"Portal 2" Is essentially "Portal" with more bells and whistles, in a good way. The game keeps the portal theme going with plenty of teleportation-based puzzles, many of which challenge players' timing and spatial reasoning. "Portal 2" also throws new mechanics into the original's formula to keep things fresh. For instance, some puzzles require gels that alter physics. However, the game's biggest addition is the sheer amount of content. The single player campaign of "Portal 2" is easily twice as long as the original and full of narrative beats, plot twists, and comedic moments that stick with audiences. And when the campaign is done and dusted, "Portal 2" isn't finished, as it also features a co-op campaign that offers challenges impossible for just a lone player.

"Portal 2" originally warped onto PC and was later ported to consoles. Since then, "Portal 2" has become a household name and is easily one of the most famous and influential puzzle games ever produced. Just look at all the "The cake is a lie" jokes and GlaDOS references out there to see the game's continued widespread appeal and acclaim.

  • Release Date: April 19, 2011
  • Genre, Action, Adventure, Puzzle
  • Game Modes: Single-player, local multiplayer, online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 95 

4. Minecraft

"Minecraft" isn't just in the running for the greatest PC game ever made; it's in the running for the greatest video game ever made, full stop. Whether you're looking at sales numbers, YouTube views, or some other metric of success, "Minecraft" always ranks near the top. It's a phenomenon that's expanded beyond the realm of video games and into pop culture at large, influencing the industry in countless ways and acting as an envoy to those who never quite "got" what the whole video game thing was about.

At a glance, the simple, blocky graphics and repetitive maps might seem overly simplistic — and to a degree, that's true. But that's also part of the genius of "Minecraft." It makes such a simple gameplay loop — mine materials, craft gear, use that gear to acquire better stuff, build more complex structures, mine more, rinse and repeat — endlessly entertaining. It's a fantastic social game, a surprisingly tense solo experience in survival mode, and probably the greatest gaming sandbox ever made.

  • Release Date: November 18, 2011

  • Genre: Survival Sandbox

  • Game Modes: Single-Player, Local Multiplayer, Online Multiplayer

  • Metacritic Score: 93

3. World of Warcraft

Out of the box, "World of Warcraft" immediately offered the most expansive MMORPG ever released, and it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Its first two expansions, "The Burning Crusade" and "Wrath of the Lich King," were equally lauded as fantastic continuations of an already great game.

"World of Warcraft" stood out by innovating on nearly all fronts. The MMORPG genre was in its infancy, and the formula that "World of Warcraft" followed has informed nearly all MMORPGs that have been released since. The golden years of "World of Warcraft" are remembered fondly due to the way it paired unforgiving difficulty with social activities. In order to progress through "World of Warcraft," players needed to engage in their server's guilds; questing wasn't spoon-fed, raiding required true team effort, and victories required true dedication. Servers were walled oases, so players became familiar with each other and forged important alliances.

In the years following this game's success, other game development studios took aim at trying to create the fabled 'WoW Killer." This was an especially juicy target to hit because "World of Warcraft" was raking in cash hand-over-fist for Blizzard with its innovative subscription costs. And while its iron grip on the MMORPG genre has certainly faded over the years, any fan of the genre has likely spent a great chunk of their personal gaming history in the battle between the Horde and the Alliance.

  • Release Date: Nov. 23, 2004
  • Genre: Multiplayer Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG)
  • Game modes: Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 93

2. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Point-and-click adventure games are something of a dying breed. In the heyday of the 90s, they were everything to computer gamers. "The Secret of Monkey Island" is a classic that means many things to many people. Developed by LucasArts, this PC essential combines witty charm and mind-boggling puzzles.

"Monkey Island" is carried by its clever dialogue and its world full of pirate taverns and voodoo magic. These environments all received a face lift with the game's "Special Edition" remaster, which The Guardian noted as having new and improved textures, voices, music, and art. It isn't exactly a remake — which is for the best since, the original bones of the game still hold up.

Puzzle-solving hasn't aged quite as gracefully, though. There is minimal guidance and odd logic when it comes to many obstacles. Thankfully, the "Special Edition" comes through again with a hint system that streamlines the adventure, so the player can move on with the well-told story of Guybrush and Elaine.

"The Secret of Monkey Island" is a pioneer in its genre, but the remaster is also a high point. It preserves the original's vision while making the needed adjustments.

  • Release Date: July 15, 2009
  • Genre: Point-and-click, Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 86

1. Half-Life 2

What can be said about "Half-Life 2" that hasn't been said already? It was a revelation in narrative game design that innovated on the blueprint of "Half-Life" in huge ways. It was a technical masterpiece, from the physics engine and the Gravity Gun to the graphics and level design. According to PC Gamer, It's a huge reason why Steam, the most dominant platform in PC gaming, became the titan it is today. But again, you probably knew all that already — that's just how huge "Half-Life 2" is.

The original "Half-Life" also deserves huge props here, since it set the original standard for storytelling in the genre and yielded some hugely influential mods, including "Counter-Strike." But looking back through the lens of today, it's hard not to see "Half-Life 2" as an improvement on the first in every way. The Gravity Gun alone is enough to make the game memorable, making each and every combat encounter a physics playground with an infinite number of possible approaches. Then there are all the iconic moments, such as the escape through Ravenholm, the helicopter fight, getting the Super Gravity Gun, and so on. Simply put, "Half-Life 2" is a game that everyone should play.

  • Release Date: November 16, 2004

  • Genre: First-Person Shooter

  • Game Modes: Single-Player

  • Metacritic Score: 96