The age of the major PC exclusive may be long gone (beyond a few welcome exceptions), but PC players can still get all the biggest console games, for cheaper, and run them faster and at 4K.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to round up what we think are the best recent PC games available today, and we’ll be updating it with 2017’s best releases as they come out. They cover every genre and every budget, from blockbuster shooters to indie puzzlers, but they’ve all got one thing in common: they’re absolutely brilliant.
We’re limiting ourselves to recent releases to try and keep the list manageable, but if you prefer the classics there are plenty of great PC games in our round-up of the best old games. For smaller titles, check out our favourite indie games, and in case you’re a console gamer too, be sure to check out our guides to the best PS4 games and best Xbox One games.
We’ve done our best to link to places you can buy these games directly, but you might also want to check out our selection of the best digital PC game stores and Steam alternatives for a few more options if you want to pick any of these up.
Overwatch has quickly become one of the biggest online multiplayer shooters around, its mix of colourful characters and frenetic gameplay making it popular with casual players and eSports pros alike.
Following in the footsteps of PC classic Team Fortress 2, it’s a team-based shooter with a variety of characters and varied objectives, requiring teamwork (and a balanced group of heroes) to achieve victory.
Overwatch has the same bright, fun sense of humour as Team Fortress 2, backing it up with even more varied character designs than that game. You can quickly jump between controlling a cowboy, a ninja, or a sentient gorilla, then switch to a robot or a time-travelling cockney in case you get bored – and that’s just a handful of the 20+ characters, with more on the way.
Blizzard has an almost unparalleled reputation as a developer, and their first foray into the FPS is no exception. It’s the perfect game to keep you entertained until Valve stop making digital hats and announce Team Fortress 3 already.
Firewatch was one of the surprise indie hits of the summer, coming almost out of nowhere to deliver a tight, compelling narrative set in one of the most beautiful virtual worlds ever built.
You play a fire lookout named Henry, watching over a US national forest in the late ‘80s. You’re in radio contact with the next lookout over, Delilah, but are otherwise entirely isolated in the Wyoming wilderness. The gameplay consists mostly of talking to Delilah over the radio, selecting from various conversation prompts, and exploring the lush landscapes as you try to solve a slowly unfolding mystery.
The mystery driving the narrative is compelling stuff, but the relationship between Henry and Delilah is where the game’s writing really shines. It’s sweet and genuine, and by the end of the four-hour story you’re likely to really care about the pair of them.
Still, strong as the writing is, the best part of Firewatch lies in its unbelievable visuals. The Shoshone National Forest is recreated in lavish detail, and just exploring the space is so absorbing that developer Campo Santo added a free-roam mode after launch for players to wander round to their hearts’ content.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
In 2185, humans stumbled across a Martian ruin that projected their understanding of science and technology forward by hundreds of years, making space travel a reality.Appealing to adventurers, scientists and those that wanted a fresh start, the Andromeda Initiative took thousands of humans across the galaxy on a 600-year trip to the Heleus Cluster, nestled comfortably within the Andromeda galaxy.
Of course, as many will have guessed, not everything goes to plan. As the Pathfinder, you’ll explore many foreign worlds full of flora and fauna the human race has never seen before. You’ll come across aliens both friendly and hostile, and thanks to the multiple conversation choices available, the story is effected by the choices you make.
Couple that with amazingly smooth combat mechanics and a roster of bionic powers available, and you’ve got yourself a thoroughly enjoyable space exploration game with thoroughly enjoyable third-person combat.
The facial expressions might need a bit of work, but if you can look beyond that, Mass Effect: Andromeda provides a galaxy that feels alive, from worried comments from bystanders as you wander through alien markets to the calls of animals in the far distance on inhospitable planets.
Read our Mass Effect: Andromeda review
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III
In the dark future of the 41st Millennium, there is only Waaagh! Or war. One of the two.
The point is, the setting of Games Workshop’s legendary tabletop game Warhammer 40,000 is unrelentingly violent, so it’s no surprise that licensed games have tended to follow similarly violent lines, and Relic’s Dawn of War series is no exception.
Thankfully, their third effort sees the strategy series arguably at its peak, bringing together the best of the original’s base-building and the sequel’s RPG elements, and throwing in a dash of the MOBA genre’s fast-paced active abilities for good measure.
The result is a strategy game that demands your constant attention as you manage a host of different unit types, including special super-powered Elites, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and one-off abilities that you’ll have to use as efficiently as possible if you want any hope of victory.
There are three playable factions (Space Marine, Ork, and Eldar) and you’ll sample them all across the lengthy campaign, which serves as a perfect warm-up for the frenetic 3v3 online multiplayer.
Sniper Elite 4
The Sniper Elite franchise is famous for providing fans with a satisfying sniper-based shooter, and that’s not changing with Sniper Elite 4. While it’s much the same as previous games in the series, it comes with a handful of changes and improvements that take Sniper Elite from being a good sniper game, to one of the best.
Described as a “sniper’s paradise”, Sniper Elite 4 is focused more on gameplay than story – and it’s a smart choice too. In terms of sniper gameplay, Sniper Elite 4 is hands-down one of the best games we’ve ever played, with no game providing more satisfaction as you ping the helmets off the heads of your enemies from over 200m away. Those who want a Sniper sim aren’t interested in deep, brooding storylines and emotional protagonists, they just want to camp and headshot Nazis – what’s so bad about that?
The addition of climbing mechanics and environments that are three times larger than previous games provide a plethora of different ways to tackle your objectives, whether it be all-out chaos with exploding vehicles or a stealthy takedown from a far-away snipers nest. If you’re looking for a new, challenging shooter, look no further than Sniper Elite 4.
Read more in our Sniper Elite 4 review.
Battlefield 1 takes the iconic FPS series back to basics, with a return to the war to end all wars, offering a take on World War I that’s surprisingly thoughtful and sophisticated.
The campaign is split up into six separate ‘War Stories’, each of which follows a new character and explores a different element of WWI combat, from trench warfare to tanks and early planes. The historical setting is handled tastefully, with an emphasis on the tragedy and horror of war, rather than its glorification, even featuring real-life statistics to back up the message.
The multiplayer is as vast as ever, with huge, detailed maps and expansive, lengthy battles. The older weapons encourage close-range shooting and melee combat, once again emphasising the visceral elements of war, while shifting tactics enough to keep even Battlefield vets on their toes.
The result is a game that knows when to take itself seriously and when to offer simple thrills, all presented in some of the best graphics 2016 has to offer.
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2 was a bit of a welcome surprise for some this year, offering substantial improvements on its predecessor while revamping its tone for something more unique, modern, and most importantly fun.
Gone is the first game’s moody, revenge-driven protagonist, replaced by a comparatively cheery young hacker named Marcus. He joins a hacking group to take down the high-tech surveillance system in San Francisco, though there are plenty of other missions along the way, including breaking into a Google-esque campus, becoming an Uber driver, and even leaking a new game trailer from publisher Ubisoft itself.
In terms of gameplay, Watch Dogs 2 takes the original’s hacking-based stealth further, with most encounters offering multiple paths forward. Plenty of objects in the environment are hackable, often in varied ways depending on your preferred tactics, allowing you to create distractions or take out guards. Sometimes making it all the way through with stealth alone isn’t quite enough though, and the game’s gunplay is a bit of a letdown.
The gunplay is also occasionally at odds with the lighter tone, though that remains one of the game’s highlights, with plenty of hipster jokes and pop culture references – even the guns are 3D-printed.
It’s all-out anarchy in the cutest little riot sim you ever did see: Anarcute.
You take control of a group of rioters rampaging through the city, causing all-out destruction in your wake. You can smash down lampposts, throw cars, and eventually even topple buildings, all in the name of overthrowing the cruel totalitarian police state oppressing the populace.
The twist is, every single one of your marauding rioters is a tiny adorable animal. You start out with bunny rabbits and kittens and eventually unlock the likes of the axolotl and even velociraptor as you travel round the world freeing cities including Tokyo, Paris, and Miami from their dictators.
It’s all irrepressibly adorable, but it’s also amazingly good fun. The controls and mechanics are simple, but hide a lot of depth and a few genuinely challenging boss fights along the way. The main campaign runs for 5 or so hours, but there’s a high score system and unlockables to add replayability, and at just £11.99 it’s definitely worth it.
In the UK, Prey was widely marketed as ‘BioShock in space’, and it’s hard to think of a more apt description. Like that game, it sees you exploring a derelict retro-futurist setting, surviving the outbreak that brought it to ruin, and working through a plot that questions morality, identity, and even reality.
The biggest innovation here is the game’s most iconic enemy, the Mimics, creepy black space spiders which hide as everyday objects like coffee mugs and even useful items like Medkits – after all, if there’s anything scarier than spiders, it’s surprise spiders.
Sadly, Prey never quite breaks out of BioShock’s shadow – there’s something about roaming empty hallways, collecting audio logs, and learning new powers that feels all too familiar – but if you’re going to be overly indebted to any game, there aren’t many better.
It may not be entirely original, it may not break much new ground, but when a game is this good anyway, it’s hard to complain too much.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
If you’re of a nervous disposition, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard might not be for you. Every sound, every movement, and every room is designed purely to terrify you, to the point where each door you have to open is a fresh assault on your frayed nerves.
With a new first-person perspective, you’re tasked with exploring a rotting Louisiana plantation house, with a family of friendly cannibals there to help see you through to the end. It’s dark, it’s violent, and it’s frequently totally terrifying, which is really all that we were looking for.
Sure, it’s maybe not quite as innovative as we wanted it to be, and the boss battles are still pretty rubbish, but this is Resident Evil done right, a great mix of old-school charm and some very modern mechanics. If this is a signpost for the franchise’s way forward, then we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
Read more in our Resident Evil 7 review.
Forza Horizon 3
The latest game in the long-running Forza series is probably the biggest yet, taking basically the entirety of Australia as its setting.
If you haven’t played any of the Horizon games yet, they’re a bit different from your standard racing fare. They’re open-world racing games, meaning you have a giant environment to drive around in, within which you can find races, events, and challenges to take part in.
The Australian setting means there are seriously diverse environments, from outback desert to luscious rainforest, and vibrant cities to empty beaches. That same diversity extends to the cars, which cover just about every type of wheeled vehicle imaginable, letting you put a four-wheel-drive Land Rover against a Lamborghini in the same race.
Throw in stunning graphics and a huge amount of customisation, and the game is a pretty clear winner.
Forza Horizon 3 is also one of the first titles available through Xbox Games Anywhere, meaning that if you buy one copy of the game you can play it on both Windows 10 and the Xbox One at no additional cost.
Dark Souls 3
The Dark Souls games are notoriously difficult, and the third (and final?) entry doesn’t disappoint.
Dark Souls III brings back the methodical combat and slow-drip worldbuilding of the first two games, once again challenging you with building a character and working through an array of monsters, ranging from undead soldiers up to more building-sized foes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Souls game if those enemies didn’t kill you again, and again, and again, and before long you’ll learn to fear even the puniest of foes – nothing will kill you quicker than over-confidence. The key instead is learning the game’s meticulous rhythms, perfecting the timing of every attack along the way. Dark Souls III is cruel, but never unfair, and there’s an almost zen-like process of repetition and improvement for those who commit to the game.
Rocket League sounds simple enough: you control a rocket-powered car in an enormous football pitch, and have to use any means necessary to get the giant ball into the opposing team’s goal. The cars can double jump into the air, and there’s a steep learning curve before you get the hang of actually hitting the ball, let alone sending it in the right direction. But once you do, it’s immensely satisfying, and before long you’ll be getting deep into Rocket League tactics.
Matches range from 1v1 up to 4v4, and last five minutes each, with the potential for overtime. That means matches are long enough to feel substantial and dramatic, but short enough to guarantee that ‘just one more game’ feeling every single time.
The cars all feature plenty of visual customisation options, so you can firmly place your own stamp on the game when you head into the online play, which gets surprisingly competitive. There are also item unlocks at the end of matches, and the more points you score the faster you level up your online ranking.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
This spiritual sequel to cult classic RPG Planescape: Torment was also a massive Kickstarter success, racking up over $4 million, but this is no mere nostalgia project.
Set in the sci-fi world of tabletop role-playing game Numenera (after the original Planescape used the setting of RPG icon Dungeons & Dragons), Torment is the sort of old-school RPG that’s heavy on the text, firmly putting story and character content first. That story explores questions around identity, memory, and morality, and is written smartly enough to avoid easy answers and leave players plenty to think about.
In addition to the main quest line, Torment is packed with sprawling side quests, each of which can be completed in various ways that shape both your character and the world around them – be ready to make some major moral choices along the way.
If we have a complaint, it’s that the heavy dialogue focus can slow the game down a bit. You can talk your way out of most fights (even once they’ve started), and everyone you meet has a lot to say, so expect to spend most of your playtime reading on-screen text.
Torment is also out on PS4 and Xbox One, but if you ask us, this is the sort of classic PC game that just doesn’t feel right without a keyboard and mouse in our hands.
The original 1993 Doom is one of the most important and influential PC games of all time, so it only feels right to play the 2016 reboot on Windows rather than one of those newfangled home videogame consoles.
That’s because this is a refreshingly simple return to form. There are hell demons on Mars, and it’s your job to kill them all. That’s about everything you need to know – beyond that it’s just point and shoot.
Combat is relentless and fast-paced, shifting away from the cover-based combat more popular in modern games. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to be tactical, of course – you just have to think fast as you plan your approach to clearing a room.
That’s helped by the creative vertical area design, which almost blends platforming with gunplay, and a few mechanics that encourage you to constantly push forward towards the next enemy. It’s not one for the faint of heart, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The Sexy Brutale
Despite the slightly unsettling name, The Sexy Brutale isn’t especially sexy. Though to be fair, it can get quite brutal, albeit in a sort of cutesy, chibi way – violent murder carried out by adorable characters with oversized, cartoonish heads.
As the game begins, you wake up in the midst of a masquerade ball. The guests are being killed off one by one, and you’re tasked with saving them from their masked assassins without ever being seen.
Luckily, you’ve got an advantage: you can reset the day and work through events again. The Groundhog Day-esque setup means you can take your time exploring the mansion, discovering its secrets and slowly figuring out how to save the next guest by interfering in the natural chain of events.
To make things easier the map covers both time and space, recording every character’s movements as you discover them, so you can plan your strategy correspondingly. The result is a great system whereby you slowly amass knowledge of every character’s actions, and sneak around them to interfere – say by loading a rifle with a blank cartridge – without them ever even realising.
The characters and setting are richly realised, and bolstered by a great swing soundtrack. The story stumbles as it reaches its conclusion – its explanation for the increasingly weird and outlandish goings on doesn’t quite stand up – but The Sexy Brutale is brilliant fun along the way.
The first Titanfall was mutiplayer-only, but used that focus to craft one of the best competitive first-person shooters in years. Now all that hard work has been put to good use in Titanfall 2, which boasts not only tweaked multiplayer but also one of the finest singleplayer campaigns this year.
The six-hour campaign sees you fight your way through an alien planet backed by your friendly Titan – a huge, sentient battle robot. The Titan can operate independently as a form of high-powered backup, or you can climb inside to take direct control, stomping about and firing cannons, rockets, railguns, and more.
What sets the Titanfall 2 campaign apart isn’t just the Titans though, or even the wall-running and double-jumping that turns the whole environment into a playground. Instead it’s the sheer inventiveness of the level design, which frequently offers up new mechanics or challenges, from electrified walls to time travel, exploring each for a while before moving onto the next before any individual element can ever get stale.
Heading online, the multiplayer will be familiar to anyone who played Titanfall, but has been tweaked enough to make it feel new again too. Titans are less durable, but a new system has players stealing batteries from enemy Titans to bolster their own team’s bots, demanding more teamwork than ever before.
The FPS genre is more popular than ever before, and despite novel entries like Titanfall 2 and Overwatch, it can sometimes feel a little stale. That’s where Superhot comes in.
The indie hit takes the FPS format and turns it on its head, twisting the gunplay into something more akin to a puzzler. The twist is that time only moves when you do, so as long as you stand still you can evaluate the room and plan your next move.
It breaks combat down into a series of micro-encounters with welcome breaks in between, though you’ll need to plan more than one move ahead at any given time to survive. Things are kept exciting by the variety of ways to take your opponents out, from standard guns to a variety of improvised melee weapons, and the ability to disarm enemies and use their own weapons to take them out.
The campaign features a surprisingly sinister plot exploring the seemingly virtual world illustrated by the stripped back visuals, and there’s an extensive array of challenge modes to keep you busy when you’re done.
It’s no easy task to follow up a game as acclaimed as 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, so it’s pretty astonishing that XCOM 2 is somehow an improvement in just about every respect.
Once again, you control a small squad of commandos fighting off alien invaders in turn-based strategic combat. Between missions, you have to manage your base and resources, pick your next encounter, and do your best to contain the alien threat.
The big story difference this time is that the aliens have already won, so you’re now tasked not with preventing the invasion but instead rebelling against earth’s new alien overlords. That story shift inspires a major new gameplay mechanic too: you now begin many missions in stealth, allowing you to carefully move forward and set up the perfect ambush for your extraterrestrial foes.
Maps are now procedurally generated, allowing much more variation than the last game could offer, while the leveling up and psionic systems have also been revamped and improved. If you loved Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 is a polished refinement, and if you missed out on that game then XCOM 2 is a brilliant introduction to the series.
Limbo came out of nowhere to become one of the most highly acclaimed puzzle-platformers ever, and developer Playdead’s follow-up Inside is somehow even better.
It starts out much as that game did, with a young boy alone in a dark forest. But from there Inside carves its own path, slowly unfolding a world of sinister factories, brainwashed workers, and mysterious genetic experiments, and doing it all without a single word of dialogue.
Along the way you have to navigate a series of 2D puzzles, finding ways to reach new areas, remove barriers, and escape enemies. The puzzles are smart, and are just challenging enough to prove satisfying without ever leaving you feeling truly stuck.
The game’s graphics are beautiful, their stark, minimalist style boasting a surprising amount of depth and some stunning lighting effects. Inside remains one of the most unique and memorable gaming experiences of 2016, building to a finale that will prove impossible to forget.