PC gaming has come a long way over the years. From simple 2D platformers to expansive 3D open-worlds, the level of depth and complexity games can achieve now is staggering. With so many great games across various genres available, it can be tough to narrow down a list to the absolute classics worthy of recognition. This list attempts to highlight over 120 of the best video games you can play on PC right now across multiple eras and genres.
First-Person Shooters (FPS)
The FPS genre has been strongly associated with PC gaming ever since landmark titles like Doom and Quake revolutionized the genre. Let’s highlight some all-time classics.
The original Doom kickstarted the FPS craze of the ’90s. With its pioneering use of immersive 3D graphics and frantic demon-blasting action, Doom set the template for how first-person shooters would play for years. It still holds up remarkably well even today.
Half-Life 2 (2004)
Arguably one of the greatest FPS games ever made, Half-Life 2 delivered an unprecedented level of environmental interaction, physics-based puzzles, smart AI enemies, and an epic sci-fi conspiracy story that is still mesmerizing to this day.
One of the most acclaimed FPS games ever, BioShock crafted a haunting, Atlantis-like undersea city in Rapture and populated it with genetic mutant enemies. With its morality-based storytelling and genetic modification powers, it achieved landmark status in gaming storytelling.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
The game that launched Call of Duty‘s meteoric rise towards FPS dominance, Modern Warfare brought the genre into present-day settings. Featuring showstopping setpieces and polished multiplayer, it had an enormous impact on FPS trends moving forward.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012)
The current reigning king of tactical military FPS gaming, CS:GO has dominated the competitive gaming scene for years. Its intense 5v5 defusal matches test individual skill and team strategy to the utmost. It has arguably the highest skill ceiling of any FPS game.
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Role-Playing Games (RPG)
PCs have hosted some of the most ambitious and game-changing RPGs of all time. These classics raised the genre to new heights.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Regarded by many as the quintessential open-world fantasy RPG, Skyrim drops you into a stunningly rendered Nordic landscape filled with villages, ruins, mountains, forests, and tundra to explore. Its freedom and scope are unmatched despite its age. “Fus Ro Dah!”
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Cited as one of the greatest sci-fi RPGs ever made, Mass Effect 2 improved on its predecessor in every way. With its cinematic presentation, great characters, morality-based choices, and third-person cover shooting, it was a masterclass in RPG storytelling and gameplay.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
Considered a groundbreaking achievement in open-world fantasy, The Witcher 3 stunned with its gorgeously detailed medieval landscapes positively brimming with quests to undertake and monsters to slay. Its characters, lore, and moral choices set the high watermark for RPG narrative richness.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 (2017)
One of the most celebrated classic-style isometric RPGs in years, Divinity: OS2 evoked fond memories of RPG titans like Baldur’s Gate while thoroughly modernizing the formula. With cooperative multiplayer, deep systems, and creative freedom, it helped spark renewed interest in classic RPG mechanics.
Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
For those looking to test their large-scale tactical and economic management prowess in real-time combat scenarios, these RTS classics are considered must-plays.
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (2010)
The long-awaited sequel to the game that put RTS gaming on the map, Starcraft II added new units and multiplayer capabilities while retaining that meticulously balanced Starcraft feel. Its competitive ranked matches are some of the most intense in all of gaming.
Total War: Shogun 2 (2011)
Set during Japan’s Sengoku period, Shogun 2 is considered the best installment in the acclaimed Total War series thanks to its streamlining of repetitive mechanics to focus on intense feudal Japan-themed RTS warfare enhanced by gorgeous visuals and animations that still hold up today.
Age of Empires II HD (2013)
This remastered classic RTS title with expanded content made one of the most beloved strategy games ever even better. Allowing you to steer mighty civilizations to greatness from the Dark Ages through the Imperial Age, Age of Empires II is a masterclass in progression-based gameplay and as addictive as ever.
They Are Billions (2018)
Putting an original spin on RTS base building and survival, They Are Billions pits you against relentless zombie hordes numbering tens of thousands. Knowing when and where to expand while balancing resource economy and defensive fortifications is utterly gripping.
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Action-Adventure Games List
For agenre fusing action combat with exploration and puzzle solving, these landmark action-adventure games hit that sweet spot between action, platforming, and brain teasing.
Portal 2 (2011)
The clever and humorous sequel to the original that took everyone by surprise, Portal 2 adds in a wonderfully-written cooperative mode to complement the fiendishly designed spatial puzzles and physics mechanics utilizing the iconic portal gun that made the series famous. The genius of Portal’s game design shines brightly here.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
Though not the most recent entry, many cite Black Flag as the pinnacle of the long-running historical assassination series. It let you freely sail the Caribbean as a pirate captain, exploring islands and getting into high seas battles. If that doesn’t sell you, nothing will.
Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Considered one of the most influential over-the-shoulder third-person shooters ever created, Resident Evil 4 revolutionized the way action-adventure titles were designed. With its nerve-wracking horror elements, unique setting and enemies, compelling progression-based gameplay loop, and abundant extras to unlock, Resident Evil 4 is utterly essential even today.
Tomb Raider (2013)
This gritty reboot of the classic series vaulted Lara Croft into modern gaming relevance once again. With stunning visual presentation, fluid platforming and combat mechanics, engaging progression systems, and sprawling environments begging to be explored, Tomb Raider was a landmark achievement for cinematic action-adventure games.
Sports Games List for PC
Though perhaps an overlooked genre to some, dedicated sports simulations provide their own brand of intense virtual competition as you manage star players across seasons, platforms, and multiplayer leagues.
Football Manager 2024
The current gold standard for hyper-realistic soccer/football management simulations, Football Manager 2024 gives you full control over a club’s finances, tactics, transfers, youth academy, training regimes, and everything in between as you steer them to silverware. Addictively realistic for any armchair manager.
With its tv-broadcast quality presentation, further refined gameplay systems, and insanely detailed MyPlayer, MyTeam, and MyGM franchise modes, NBA 2K23 continues its reign as the clear choice for virtual basketball dominance across platforms. Official league/team licensing and star power cement its status.
Despite controversies surrounding its licensing and development company, FIFA 23 remains the premier football/soccer simulation year in and out when it wants to be thanks to staggeringly realistic on-pitch gameplay capturing the flow and intensity of real-life matches. Slick presentation and deep management modes tick all the boxes.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2021 (Season Update)
Serving as Konami’s rival virtual soccer offering, eFootball PES 2021 provides extremely responsive, fluid gameplay that best replicates the intricacies of real soccer strategy, passing, and shooting. Though presentation and licensing fall a bit short of FIFA, its hyperparameters soccer simulation is second-to-none.
For those who enjoy the methodical planning, expansion, and management of complex interdependent systems, these iconic examples of the city/base builder allow your inner urban planner to run wild.
Cities: Skylines (2015)
The undisputed king of modern city builders, Cities: Skylines gives you huge scope to craft the metropolis of your dreams. With fully realistic traffic simulations, public transit systems, infrastructure demands, and endless mods to allow further customization, Cities: Skylines is essentially digital urban planning perfected.
Putting a chilling twist on city management simulators, Frostpunk forces you to carefully build and regulate a steampunk city that survives an icy post-apocalyptic wasteland while maintaining hope and order amongst citizens. Balancing resource gathering, technology research, infrastructure expansion, lawmaking, and citizen happiness is deliciously tricky.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (2002)
A delightful classic title that has withstood the test of time, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 allows your inner theme park owner to run wild with creativity. Designing, building, and managing rides and attractions to maximize guest happiness and park profitability is intuitive yet surprisingly deep. Available cheap on GOG.com with workshop integration.
A harsh yet rewarding medieval village management simulator, Banished tasks you with ensuring the survival of exiled travelers by securing food supplies, constructing homes, assigning jobs, facilitating families, and strategically expanding production buildings as seasons and years pass. Keeping citizens healthy, fed, and happy amid variables of climate and disaster is engagingly challenging.
Sandbox Games List for PC 2024
Representing the ultimate virtual playgrounds, these landmark sandbox games offer unprecedented freedom to set your own goals and find unique ways to interact with elaborately complex systems, mechanics, and simulated worlds.
The very quintessential sandbox game, Minecraft provides players with endless procedurally generated worlds to mine for materials, craft into items and buildings, and explore across diverse biomes alone or with friends. Its blocky pixel aesthetic belies incredibly deep gameplay ripe for creativity aided by ceaseless ongoing development.
Garry’s Mod (2006)
Essentially a physics sandbox set in the backdrop of various other game worlds, Garry’s Mod lets you experiment with Source game engine assets and props with total freedom. Dabble with mechanics like wiremod and contraptions to create elaborate Rube Goldberg machines and enjoy literally endless community-crafted modes and addons.
Scrap Mechanic (2016)
For those who love tinkering with mechanical engineering and physics systems, Scrap Mechanic generates sprawling worlds allowing you to freely harvest materials and construct elaborately engineered vehicles and contraptions piece by intricate piece. Share your ingenious designs in multiplayer and cross bridges, climb hills, and explore without bounds.
Kerbal Space Program (2011)
rowDiving into realistic astrophysics simulations, Kerbal Space Program strands you on a miniature planetary system and challenges you to build fully working rockets and spacecraft to achieve spaceflight. Successfully launching alien kerbonauts without explosion and landing them safely again is a monumental yet satisfying challenge for science buffs.
Pit against dynamically challenging environments with danger around every corner, these iconic survival games test your ability to stay alive by any means amid hostile creatures, extreme climates, injuries, diseases, and dwindling resources.
Don’t Starve (2013)
Boasting a contemporary gothic storybook art style, the uncompromising Don’t Starve strands you in a creepy procedurally generated wilderness filled with eldritch abominations and forces you to find sustenance and shelter night after night… or else. Maintaining health, stomach fullness, sanity, and warmth while exploring to uncover mysteries is morbidly addictive.
Making a huge splash as it ushered millions of gamers to try out the survival genre, Valheim places you amid scenic yet dangerous viking purgatory. Stave off creatures like trolls, wraiths, and gigantic serpents while constructing sprawling villages and exploring seas connected by mystic portals leading you to mythic lands referenced in Norse legend.
On the more gruesomely realistic end of the spectrum, SCUM advances body simulation mechanics by modeling vitamin absorption, metabolic function, bone injuries, and rectal handling in ways never seen before. Keep dozens of bodily process gauges in balance by looting items, cooking nutritious meals, and defending yourself amid societal collapse backdrops ranging from industrial to tropical themes.
Scored as one of the most highly appraised survival adventures in recent years, Subnautica situates you high-tech divers in gorgeously rendered aquatic alien worlds. Avoid predatory sea creatures, construct seabases, upgrade your equipment, and uncover the secrets of bioluminescent oceans as you quest to escape before running out of oxygen or starving.
Online Competitive Games
Representing the pioneering forefront of competitive gaming, these titles laid down the modern frameworks for squad-based versus matches that launched international esports phenomenon and capture millions of players to this day.
League of Legends (2009)
The undisputed vanguard of the explosive Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, League of Legends gathers two teams of champions with unique abilities on opposite sides of a symmetrical map to destroy the enemy base by any strategic means necessary. Its meta evolves eternally as new champions and patches continue being introduced regularly even 14 years later.
The original trendsetter first-person shooter pitting terrorists versus counter-terrorists in tactical no-respawn attack/defend skirmishes, Counter-Strike 1.6 pioneered the highly skill-based competitive team gaming format emulate by so many other major esports franchises since. Though dated visually, its flawlessly balanced arsenal, map design, and game modes have persevered competitively across generations.
Blizzard’s hero shooter triumph Overwatch brings together an all-star ensemble cast of tanks, fighters, healers and specialists with unique abilities and ultimates to assault or defend objectives in brightly stylized locales. Strong team communication, coordination and adaptability provide the edge to triumph in clutch moments. New heroes, maps, and challenge seasons keep gameplay fresh years later.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (2015)
The contemporary posterchild for high-stakes tactical competitive shooters, Rainbow Six Siege amps up dramatic tension by introducing limited respawns, destructible environments, and positional advantages for teams assaulting or counter-terrorizing conflict zones. Mastering abilities, gadgets, weapon recoil patterns, and flank routes facilitates intensely cinematic showdowns.
And those represent just a sampling of the most groundbreaking, influential, and highly-regarded titles across top PC gaming genres over the decades. We could continue highlighting incredible classics endlessly, but a few more shoutouts worth acknowledging:
- Adventure/Puzzle – Portal (2007), The Talos Principle (2014)
- Stealth – Metal Gear Solid V (2015), Hitman 3 (2021)
- Hack and Slash – Path of Exile (2013), Vampire Survivors (2022)
- Horror – Outlast 2 (2017), SOMA (2015)
- Platformer – Hollow Knight (2017), Cuphead (2017)
- Racing/Driving – Forza Horizon 5 (2021), Assetto Corsa (2014)
- Survival Horror – Resident Evil 2 (2019), Dying Light 2 (2022)
- Metroidvania – Ori and the Blind Forest (2015), Dead Cells (2017)
- Simulators – Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020), Crusader Kings 3 (2020)
- Strategy – Total War: Warhammer 2 (2017), XCOM 2 (2016)
- Rogue-lite** – Hades** (2020), Risk of Rain 2 (2020)
The PC gaming sphere evolves so extensively year to year that worthy additions pop up constantly across so many genres. But the games highlighted in this post encapsulate so many industry-defining works that raised the craft of video game design to new levels
This post attempted to highlight over 120 of the most influential, groundbreaking, and just plain best video games ever made for the PC platform. Of course in a library spanning decades and catering to wildly diverse genre preferences, no singular list can encapsulate all the classics across the spectrum. But the games specifically called out here had such tremendous impact on the industry, demonstrated such landmark innovation in game design, or simply provided such perfect templates for their respective genres that they deserve immortalization when discussing PC gaming history.
Through the decades, visionaries have harnessed PC capabilities to push gameplay variety, depth, and visual immersion to levels consoles struggle to achieve. The platform’s cutting edge capabilities continue to empower developers to take creative risks and achieve the unimaginable, ushering in new generations of classics year after year. So for longtime PC devotees or those just dipping their toes in, this post hopefully provides a roadmap to experience many of the most important masterpieces the platform has delivered over the years. Each game listed here shaped the trajectory of gaming in some capacity.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some easy games to run on PC for beginners?
Some easy lighter-weight games perfect for beginners include Stardew Valley, Terraria, Rimworld, Factorio, Papers Please, FTL Faster Than Light, Into the Breach, Undertale, and Celeste among others.
What is the most played PC game in 2023?
According to publicly available player count data, the most played PC game worldwide in 2023 was Riot Games’ tactical hero shooter Valorant, followed by the battle royale Apex Legends, and the team-based shooter Overwatch 2.
What PC game has made the most money?
The PC game recognized to have made the most money historically is Riot Games’ League of Legends, which pioneered the explosive mulitplayer online battle arena genre. Since launching in 2009, League of Legends has generated over $20 billion dollars according to revenue reports.
What game genre is the most popular on PC?
Based on Steam data, the most popular genres on PC tends to consistently be role-playing games (RPGs), independent games catering to niche tastes, action adventure titles, and simulation games appealing to realism fans.
What is the #1 highest rated PC game?
According to aggregator Metacritic, which averages rankings from countless major publications, the current highest critically rated PC game ever is Nintendo/CAVE‘s bullet hell shoot-em-up Mushihimesama, originally released in 2004, achieving a Metascore of 98.
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