Illustration by Sam Woolley

PC gamers have got a pretty great thing going. Interesting, experimental indie games? Yup. Complex strategy simulations? Totally. The shiniest, prettiest versions of big-budget console games? They get a lot of those, too.

Let’s say you’ve recently joined the ranks of the PC elite. Which games should you install? Start with the ones in this post.

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There’s no shortage of ambition in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt of Rivia’s latest adventure is massive, a world you can get lost in for hours and still have plenty to do. There’s a ton for die-hard Witcher fans to enjoy, but you don’t need to have played a Witcher game to enjoy the heck out of this one. While many games these days have sprawling landscapes, The Witcher 3 is utterly dense. Every nook and cranny is filled with memorable characters, clever writing, and rewards for curious players. The main story is as thrilling as it is emotionally draining, and the side quests are actually worth doing. Since its release in 2015, The Witcher 3 has gotten a ton of free updates and improvements along with two terrific paid expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. The full experience is now even bigger, richer, and better than ever.

A Good Match For: Open-world fans, especially those who enjoyed Skyrim but were disappointed by the combat. In The Witcher 3, fighting is nearly as enjoyable as exploration.

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Not a Good Match For: People who value their time and social life, anyone who wants a game they can finish in a handful of hours.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game, and catch up on The Witcher lore.

Purchase From: Steam | GOG | Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

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In the six years since Civilization V came out, we managed to review it not once but twice. That’s how much these games lend themselves to playing and replaying, and Civ VI is no different. The latest entry adds a lot of new ideas to the Firaxis’s tried-and-true formula, and while some new ideas work better than others, the whole is as usual more than the sum of its parts. The mechanical tweaks and refinements are wrapped up in a subtle, board-game-like aesthetic that is as pleasing on your twentieth hour as it was on your tenth. We’ll be playing this game for years.

A Good Match For: Civ fans, people who have never played a Civ game, basically anyone who doesn’t actively hate Civ.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who actively hates Civ.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Steam | Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

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In 2010, Square Enix launched Final Fantasy XIV Online, and it was just the worst—buggy, over-complicated, unfinished; a mess. The developers spent three years rebuilding the game from the ground up, and the end result is one of the finest massively multiplayer online role-playing games ever made. It’s everything fans love about Final Fantasy — lush artwork, strong story, gorgeous music — only bigger, all wrapped around a traditional MMO framework. It’s that Square Enix polish that sets it apart from its competitors, earning it a spot in this list.

A Good Match For: Fans of fantasy role-playing video games looking to take the massively multiplayer plunge. The original Final Fantasy XIV was a tangled mess of conflicting ideas, when all players wanted was a standard MMO game with the familiar features of a Final Fantasy game. That’s exactly what A Realm Reborn is.

Not a Good Match For: Folks afraid of monthly subscriptions. Despite the MMORPG genere as a whole moving towards free-to-play payment models, Final Fantasy XIV stands firm by its monthly subscription plan.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Steam

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Hitman 2 takes everything that was great about 2016’s Hitman and improves and expands on all of it. Really, the new game functions like a second “season” for its episodic predecessor, just with all the missions delivered at once. All the things that worked so well about the 2016 game are here: the meticulous planning, the memorization and mastery, the pitch-perfect dark humor. Not only that, but if you own the earlier game, you can play through all of the levels without leaving the sequel. That makes Hitman 2 live up to its billing as “the ultimate Hitman experience,” as well as one of the smartest and most richly entertaining games you can play.

A Good Match For: Fans of classic spy movies, people who like playing dress-up, anyone who liked 2016’s Hitman.

Not A Good Match For: People hoping for a straight-up action or stealth game, those who didn’t care for 2016’s Hitman.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Steam

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In Return of the Obra Dinn, you play as an insurance adjuster for the East India Trading Company in the year 1807. Wait, wait, don’t walk away! It’s so much more interesting than it sounds. A ship called the Obra Dinn has mysteriously returned after many years missing, and its entire crew is dead. With only a notebook and a pocket watch to aid you, you have to figure out how each of the 60 crew members died, and why none of them are still around to tell the tale. Fortunately, it’s a magic pocket watch, and you can point it at a dead body and see the moment of that person’s death. What follows from that setup is one of the most clever, rewarding, and engrossing mysteries we’ve ever solved, and one stupendously smart video game.

A Good Match For: Fans of logic puzzles, sailing buffs, those who love solving mysteries.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who doesn’t like doing the work themselves. The entire appeal of Obra Dinn is working out what happened, and you’ll have to keep track of a lot of information (and probably take notes) to put it all together.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Steam | Humble | GOG

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a supremely entertaining and consistently surprising role-playing game, one that expands and improves upon almost everything about its already fantastic predecessor. It may appear to be just another rote fantasy world at first blush, but the more you explore, the more interesting it becomes. Between the complex and rewarding turn-based combat and the branching, open-ended quests and side-stories, Original Sin 2 gives players an uncommon level of freedom to tell their own stories. And that’s not to mention the elaborate Game Master mode, which lets you write and build campaigns for your friends to work through together. Time and again you’ll find yourself trying outlandish things just to see if they’ll work. Most of the time, they will.

A Good Match For: Anyone who liked the first game, fans of the Ultima series and other similar CRPGs from which Divinity draws inspiration.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone hoping for a more action-packed RPG, those who don’t like complicated or challenging games.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Steam | GOG

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It’s a fan-art generator. It’s pure cosplay fodder. It’s a meme machine, a water-cooler mainstay, and a cultural obsession. Overwatch is all of those things, but above all else it’s a finely tuned competitive video game that manages to encourage pitted competition and enthusiastic teamwork while ensuring everyone is having a good time.

A Good Match For: Team Fortress 2 fans, people who liked banging action figures together as a kid, people who’ve wanted to try a competitive first-person shooter but haven’t yet found the right fit.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who wants to play offline, or who is hoping for a substantial single-player story campaign. Overwatch is strictly multiplayer-only.

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Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Read our review.

Purchase From: Blizzard | Amazon | Best Buy | Wal-Mart | Gamestop

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Just a man and a dog, looking to make a delivery. That’s how it all begins, anyway. But Kentucky Route Zero quickly becomes a mystical adventure through a land left behind by time, an odyssey in magical realism that feels grand and mysterious in a way that very, very few modern video games can muster. It’s not like anything you’ve ever played, and for that alone, you should play it.

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for something different. Those who still believe there’s magic hidden somewhere off the interstate.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a bunch of complex game mechanics—Kentucky Route Zero is a point-and-click adventure game, and a fairly simple one at that. Also, not for those who want closure—the five-act series is only on act three, and there tends to be a long wait between chapters.

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Watch a video about why the game is great.

Purchase From: Amazon | Steam | Humble

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The first Total War: Warhammer was a very good strategy game. The sequel is even better, with so many improvements it feels like an all-new game. The map is one of the best maps we’ve seen in a Total War game, with a focus on winning using interesting non-human races. It’s less about the tried-and-true Total War steamroller approach of conquering as much of the map as possible, and more about performing smart, surgical strikes to proceed. A thinking person’s RTS, and an unexpectedly grand introduction to the Warhammer universe.

A Good Match For: Total War fans, Warhammer fans, people who aren’t into Warhammer but think they could be.

Not A Good Match For: Those who’ve tried Total War games in the past and just can’t get into them.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Steam 

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Crusader Kings II began, in 2012, as a very good game. It has become, following a seemingly endless run of expansions and updates, each one adding new challenges, scope and dimensions to an already exhaustive package, one of the most comprehensive and unique strategic experiences in all of video games.

A Good Match For: History buffs, anyone who knows that kingdoms rise and fall on much more than the strength of their armies.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a simple game; Crusader Kings 2 is notoriously opaque and it’ll take you a while to wrap your head around it.

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Watch it in action.

Read our review.

Purchase From: Paradox | Steam | GOG

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Undertale might look like a retro-style JRPG, but it’s unusually forward-thinking. As a human stuck in a world of monsters, you decide whether you want to win encounters with wanton violence or clever context-based interactions (talking, joking, petting, etc). Undertale keeps track of everything you do; it’s paying very close attention, and will often express that attention in surprising ways. Every life you take ultimately has consequences. Despite those grim trappings, Undertale can be an incredibly warm, fuzzy, and funny game. Whether you slaughter or befriend everyone (or walk a middle path), the writing in this game is top-tier, the soundtrack is second-to-none, and the plot hides a treasure trove of secrets that players still haven’t fully uncovered.

A Good Match For: Lovers of smart video game stories, fans of games that subvert expectations, people who’ve ever felt even a single pang of loneliness.

Not A Good Match For: People who hate shoot-’em-ups and tough boss battles (Undertale’s combat system has elements of both), those who aren’t fond of reading dialogue, haters of lo-fi pixel art.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Steam | GOG | Developer’s Site

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XCOM 2 refines or overhauls almost every little thing about 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game that was already good enough to win Kotaku’s 2012 Game of the Year award. The game is meaner and faster than its predecessor; most missions have timers that push you forward and force you to take risks, and the new alien types will break even your most time-tested strategies. You’ll get more attached to your team of customizable soldiers than ever, which makes it all the harder to watch them die horribly in the field. 2017's terrific War of the Chosen expansion overhauls the game from top to bottom, somehow making it even better than it already was.

A Good Match For: Strategy fans, people who liked the first game, anyone who’s ever wanted to understand just how difficult it is to fight off an occupying force from the inside out.

Not A Good Match For: The easily frustrated, those looking for a simple game, anyone who rages at missing point-blank shots due to dice rolls.

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Read our review, and our take on the fantastic War of the Chosen expansion.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Purchase From: Steam | Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

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The games on this list are all great PC games. But of all the platforms in our collection of The Bests, the PC has been around the longest and therefore has the largest back catalogue. There are decades of fantastic PC games to choose from, and if you own a PC you’d be remiss if you didn’t go through the classics and play the best ones. Thankfully, we’ve got two lists to help you out. In 2013 our readers helped us make an exhaustive megalist of the best classic PC games of all time. Then in 2015, we made our own list of the 24 best classic PC games.

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 11/30/2018: We’ve added Return of the Obra Dinn and Hitman 2 in place of The Witness and Hitman.

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Update 11/10/2017: Another update to our trickiest list: we’ve added Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Total War: Warhammer II while removing Doom and Inside. 

Update 12/2/2016: Big changes come to the PC list! We’ve added DOOM, Inside, Hitman, and Civilization VI while removing MGSV, StarCraft 2, Divinity: Original Sin and Civilization V.

Update 6/24/2016: Crusader Kings II and Overwatch make it onto the list, while Total War: Shogun 2 and Portal 2 exit. Rest easy, Wheatley. You had a good run.

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Update 2/22/2016: We’ve added XCOM 2 and The Witness and removed Heroes of the Storm and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Update 10/29/2015: The list gets another shake-up. We’ve added Metal Gear Solid V, Undertale, and Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition in the place of Counter-Strike GO, Minecraft, and Pillars of Eternity.

Update 7/22/2015: We’ve shaken the list up with three new entries: Pillars of Eternity, The Witcher 3 and Heroes of the Storm take the place of Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and DOTA 2.

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Update 11/25/2014: Fall 2014 brings with it a single swap: Dragon Age: Inquisition knocks off its predecessor Dragon Age: Origins. (Though you should still probably play Origins if you haven’t, because it’s really good.)

Update 8/6/2014: The list gets a shake-up: say goodbye to Half Life 2, Titanfall and Gone Home and hello to Dota 2, Counter-Strike: GO and Kentucky Route Zero. We’ve also reset the comments to allow for new debate and discussion.

Update 4/10/14: We’ve called in an orbital drop and replaced Battlefield 3 with Titanfall.

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Update 12/9/13: At the end of the year comes a sizable update to the PC bests list. Gone are FTL, The Witcher 2, Team Fortress 2 and Far Cry 3 and in their place are Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Dragon Age: Origins, Gone Home and Portal 2.

Update 07/24/13: It’s a long overdue update for the PC platform, with four games leaving and four coming onto the list. Skyrim—which was out when this list debuted—jumps onto the Bests because of the post-release addition of Steam Workshop, which lets you seamlessly access and install hundreds of the awesome mods available for the game. It’s joined by XCOM: Enemy Unknown, FTL and Far Cry 3. Wave good-bye to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Dirt 2, Mass Effect 2 and Bejeweled 3.

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Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Nintendo Switch GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

Note: While all of these games are available through some digital service or other, if you buy any of them through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.

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