Given PC gaming’s lengthy and sprawling history, it would be a challenge to come up with a list of the best PC games of all time. However, if you’re just jumping into PC gaming or are looking for some new games to play, we’ve come up with a list of the best PC games to play in 2021. These games span a wide range of genres and include newer hits Valorant and Valheim as well as tried-and-true classics that remain relevant today, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Minecraft. PC gaming is quite different from consoles, as your mileage with each game on this list will vary based on your rig. That said, many of the games on this list don’t require the latest and greatest graphic cards–they merely help these great games look even better.
With such a massive library of games available for PC players to choose from, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this roundup is missing many worthy games. We’ve limited our picks to 25 games, but this list isn’t static. As more great PC games are released, we’ll continue to highlight fresh experiences that we think show off what makes PC gaming so great, whether you play on Steam or another platform. And because you can often find better deals on PC games at stores like Fanatical and GOG, we’ve included links to those stores where available as well.
Also, note that some of these games are available with Xbox Game Pass for PC. You can get your first month of Ultimate (which includes Game Pass for both console and PC, among other perks) for $1.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your PC or starting a new build to play some of these games at higher settings, make sure to check out our step-by-step guide for building a gaming PC. If you also own consoles, we have more recommendations for the best PS5 games, best Xbox Series X games, and best Nintendo Switch games as well as the best PS4 games and best Xbox One games.
We’ve called Apex Legends the champion of battle royales in the past, and two years into its lifespan, that’s something we stand by. Respawn Entertainment took its strong FPS foundation (namely Titanfall) and created a competitive shooter that refines all the core tenets necessary for a good battle royale. Its roster of characters adds a strategic layer and diversity of playstyle, gunplay is sharp and engaging, and quality-of-life features like the ping system and inventory management keep you focused on executing in combat.
Over the many seasons of content for Apex Legends, we’ve had multiple maps and game modes cycle into the experience. It has surprisingly deep lore that gets you invested in the world of Apex Legends, too. And because it’s free-to-play, you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. — Michael Higham
See our Apex Legends review.
First released in the ’90s, Sid Meier’s Civilization series is still going strong in 2021, thanks to continued support for its most recent release, Civilization VI. As in previous games, Civilization VI casts you in the role of a historical leader, such as Egypt’s Cleopatra or India’s Gandhi, and tasks you with building your civilization from the ground up, including growing your military, developing new research facilities, and engaging in diplomacy with other world leaders. Of course, Civilization VI expanded and improved on previous games in the series, with additions such as the inclusion of districts that let cities expand across multiple tiles, but it’s also continued to receive new content in the form of two major expansions: Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm, both of which added new leaders, civilizations, and features to the game. Civilization VI earned a 9/10 from GameSpot when it initially released back in 2016, and nearly five years later, it’s still one of the best strategy games to pick up and start playing on PC. — Jenae Sitzes
See our Civilization VI review.
Control’s blend of action, mystique, and the surreal is one that should not be missed, and while it’s available on PS5 and Xbox Series X, you’ll find no version better than that of the PC. The pairing of DLSS and ray-tracing makes Control a visual powerhouse, reflecting its impressive effects on the surface of the Oldest House’s pristine waxed floors and shrouding its mysterious hallways in the uncertainty of shadow. And that’s all accented by supernatural fights that can pop off at a moment’s notice in any one of these enigmatic rooms as the world shifts and morphs around you. What makes Control truly special is exploring the unknown and uncovering secrets the world isn’t supposed to know. The Ultimate Edition gets you both pieces of DLC, AWE and The Foundation, but the standard edition is also available via Xbox Game Pass for PC. — Mat Paget
See our Control review.
The iconic competitive FPS is still going strong today with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Though CSGO has undergone significant changes over its lifespan, it’s still very much the core Counter-Strike experience that revolutionized the multiplayer FPS genre in the 2000s. The standard mode of play is a five-on-five demolition-style match on carefully crafted maps that emphasize specific positioning, sightlines, and team strategies. But beyond that, there’s a hostage rescue mode, gungame free-for-all, and tons of custom content from years of work by its player base.
One of the most exciting things about CSGO is the high-intensity competitive matches where the slightest mistakes could spell doom for your team, or clutch plays could drastically shift the momentum of a match. Counter-Strike has historically been played with a level of precision in both the FPS combat and in its tactics, which makes a bit of a steep learning curve for newcomers. However, this classic game can be wildly rewarding, which you can see from its massive competitive scene. Recently, Valorant has adopted the Counter-Strike formula to great effect, but the high-stakes tactical combat of CSGO is still in a league of its own. — Michael Higham
See our Counter-Strike: Global Offensive review.
Despite releasing more than three years ago, Destiny 2 remains one of the most popular live service multiplayer games around. While the sequel started off on a strong note, it has only gotten better thanks to consistent updates and expansions that delivered a steady stream of enthralling first-person shooter content. And it’s not even close to being too late to jump into Destiny 2, as multiple expansions are still incoming over the next two years. Destiny 2’s plethora of content would be nothing without strong mechanics and overarching systems that keep you grinding away for new gear. Bungie crafted one of the best-feeling first-person shooters we’ve played in recent years, so it offers a constant source of fun regardless of whether you’re making your way through story missions, going on challenging raids with friends, or battling in the Crucible. It’s a wonderful game that digs its teeth into you the more you play, and it’s easily one of the best cooperative PC games available today. — Steven Petite
See our Destiny 2: Beyond Light review.
When it comes to writing, Disco Elysium is perhaps unrivaled. Developed and published by ZA/UM in 2019, Disco Elysium places you in the role of a detective suffering from amnesia and a serious bout of alcoholism. His quest to unravel a baffling murder and the details of his life that he’s forgotten takes you on an absolutely stunning adventure that thrives on its choice-based gameplay and exquisite dialogue. Disco Elysium balances humor and serious life dilemmas with astounding grace, and the freedom it gives you to shape the narrative and your interactions with its many colorful characters you meet allows you to make this detective story your own. Its gorgeous world is teeming with life, and viewing it from the eyes of a nameless cop with memory issues makes it all the more immersive. It earned a rare 10/10 from GameSpot, and we can safely say there’s nothing else exactly like it in modern PC gaming. — Steven Petite
See our Disco Elysium review.
Building on the already-brilliant formula of its predecessor, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an all-time great RPG, giving you a huge range of freedom in how to build your party, deal with a combat scenario, and approach a given situation. It’s a game best played on PC, thanks to its crisper visuals, the precision of using a mouse, and faster loading times, which encourage you to experiment with its wide range of possibilities. While truly a great game overall, much of the fun in Divinity stems from seeing what you can get away with, be it stealing items or avoiding a lengthy combat encounter by setting up an elaborate trap. Experience with earlier entries in the series aren’t required to enjoy Original Sin 2, and as the best entry to date, this is an ideal place to start–just be prepared to lose dozens of hours to it. — Chris Pereira
See our Divinity: Original Sin 2 review.
Dota 2 is not only one of the more daunting PC games to learn and master, but it’s also one of the most rewarding and satisfying to play once you know what you’re doing. Two teams of five assault each other as they try to destroy the opposing team’s Ancient. It sounds simple, but the strategic depth is vast, and there’s a lot to learn if you want to keep up. It requires learning the map, getting familiar with the vast array of characters, and mastering their mechanics to be successful. Of course, if this wasn’t an exciting process, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is–and if you haven’t seen a match play out at The International, then you’re missing out.
See our Dota 2 review.
The Final Fantasy series is known for having a strong focus on storytelling with colorful characters who get into over-the-top battles, and the MMO Final Fantasy XIV manages to stay true to what the series is all about. Though you might assume the familiar Final Fantasy tenets of storytelling and strong character moments would be absent in an online game, FFXIV is one of the more story-driven MMOs out today. Final Fantasy XIV is the franchise’s second crack at an MMO, and it features a sprawling story about rebellion, equality, and friendship that manages to hit the same highs of the franchise’s best single-player games. Though MMOs have a reputation for being inaccessible and time-consuming, Final Fantasy XIV offers an excellent gateway for lapsed and new MMO players to jump into–and it’s also a fantastic Final Fantasy game in its own right. — Alessandro Fillari.
See our Final Fantasy 14 reviews for A Realm Reborn and its expansions.
It may be surprising that a game from 2013 is still so pervasive eight years later, but when that game is Grand Theft Auto 5, it makes a lot more sense. A story of deceit and betrayal, GTA 5 follows the exploits of three men as they make their way through the criminal world of Los Santos and join together for heists that rival those in the Michael Mann classic Heat. It’s bolstered by an immensely popular multiplayer mode, GTA Online, where you can band up with friends and orchestrate your own rise through the criminal ranks. The PC version has a slew of settings that let you tweak the finest details, and GTA 5’s incredible modding community has concocted creations that absolutely can’t be missed. — Mat Paget
See our Grand Theft Auto 5 review.
As far as roguelikes go, Hades is among the best. It nails the loop of jumping into the underworld and fighting your way out of Hell, providing players with an arsenal of unique weaponry and powers fit for a god (and borrowed from many of the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus). However, it’s the slower moments in which you visit the friends and family of protagonist Zagreus between runs that grab hold and keep you fighting for the truth. In most roguelikes, you care solely about making it further than your last run, but Hades does more: It blends action and story, striking a delicate balance of clawing your way toward the overworld and growing your relationships. — Mat Paget
See our Hades review.
League of Legends is one of the most popular competitive games for a reason. From its strategic combat and mechanical depth to its colorful characters, it’s hard not to get sucked into game after game of this MOBA. While there’s a lot to learn, it’s not as mechanically dense or difficult to master as Dota 2, providing a more welcoming experience to those wanting to get into the MOBA world.
See our League of Legends review.
If soaring through the air and flying around the world is a dream of yours, there’s no better game than Microsoft Flight Simulator. You can fly out of almost any airport in the world, including smaller airports in quieter towns, and go literally anywhere on Earth–though landing may be difficult in places like the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest. Microsoft used satellite imagery to recreate the world in-game, and it’s improving both the game and map all the time. If there was ever a reason to invest in a flight stick or yoke system, it’s Microsoft Flight Simulator. The game is available via Xbox Game Pass for PC. — Mat Paget
See our Microsoft Flight Simulator review.
Minecraft is a global phenomenon for a reason. Its crafting, base building, and survival-lite mechanics are unmatched, providing both an engaging and accessible experience to people of all ages and walks of life. Crafting huge castles, cozy homes, or monuments to your favorite video game character is a joyful time, while venturing toward the Nether is a tense experience that you’re not sure you’ll return from. Whether you’re building up a huge tower or exploring the depths of the perilous mines, Minecraft remains an exciting time that can be enjoyed with friends or by yourself. Just make those Creepers don’t get too close to your house. — Mat Paget
See our Minecraft review.
Overwatch quickly became a household name in the realm of competitive shooters. With the expert design philosophies of Blizzard and a familiar foundation from the likes of Team Fortress 2, Overwatch provides a deep and intense team-based multiplayer experience. Across various game modes, Overwatch emphasizes teamwork and composition with its wide roster of 30+ charismatic heroes who can all be effective in their own ways. The nuances of their abilities leads to tactical considerations that deepen the experience beyond simply being an FPS.
Overwatch’s presentation will draw you in with colorful, detailed maps and heroes you’ll grow to love just from playing them. Like any ongoing multiplayer game, balance is always shifting, but Overwatch always seems to strike it extremely well while fostering a sharp focus on the team. It has a rich history of seasonal content and special events that keep it fresh, and even after five years, it’s going strong. — Michael Higham
See our Overwatch review.
Portal 2 remains one of the funniest and most inventive puzzlers in games. It successfully built on the mind-bending multidimensional ideas of the first game and somehow elevated its storytelling and characterization to become incredibly fun and memorable. Those things alone would make Portal 2 worthy of your attention, but there’s additional content that comes with playing the game on PC. Not only is there online and local co-op that extend the game beyond its single-player offering, but there’s a huge amount of user-created content that includes whole story campaigns. Portal 2 is great fun no matter where you play it, but with modding and puzzles built by other players, you get a superior experience on PC–and a ton more Portal to play for free. — Phil Hornshaw
See our Portal 2 review.
Rainbow Six Siege is an adept mix of first-person shooting, strategic planning, and tactical teamwork. Two teams of five vie for control of a building, where the goal is to capture an objective, defuse a bomb, or secure a hostage. The brilliance of Siege comes in learning these buildings in and out and knowing how to work with your teammates to get in and out most effectively. Map knowledge can trump twitch shooting in the most dire of situations, rewarding its players for smart thinking and careful play. Siege is available on consoles, but the definitive way to play it is on PC with a keyboard and mouse. — Mat Paget
See our Rainbow Six Siege review.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a phenomenal and engrossing video game that is easily one of Rockstar’s finest releases to date. A prequel to the original game, the story delivers some eye-opening revelations about the wider Red Dead universe. The gameplay and world-building are incredible, with lots of freedom available for players to do whatever they want as they set out onto the frontier as Arthur Morgan. The game is also gorgeous, especially on PC for those with a capable enough rig. The sweeping mountain visits and bubbling rivers shine on PC, making Red Dead Redemption 2 one of the best games we can recommend on PC. — Eddie Makuch
See our Red Dead Redemption 2 review.
A departure–though not a complete departure–from its previous games, From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes the simple act of blocking an attack and turns it into a thrilling gameplay mechanic. Battles against bosses are not simply marathons to whittle down their health, but an exercise in perfection as you time your own attacks, parry your enemy’s, and then deliver a final killing blow. On PC, you can mod the game to speed up the pace or play as goofy characters who definitely don’t belong in its somber, violent universe. Without a dedicated easy mode in the settings, which is itself a subject of debate, the PC version’s modding potential also lets you lower the difficulty. — Gabe Gurwin
See our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review.
It starts with an old broken-down farm and a handful of seeds. You clear out the weeds and rocks until you get tired, and then you do it again. You get into the rhythm of daily life–visiting friends, watering crops, occasional light spelunking. Before you know it, it’s been 75 hours and you’re mostly managing your complex irrigation system and planning for next season’s harvest. Stardew Valley is a friendly, relaxing experience that also somehow manages to be endlessly addicting. Fans know the feeling of assuring themselves they’ll play just one more day before bed. And while it’s appeared on just about every platform, PC often gets the first chance to test all of the little quality-of-life tweaks and new features that come with patches–most recently the massive 1.5 update appeared on PC almost two months before consoles. Plus, there’s a huge library of mods that let you tweak various gameplay elements, give the game a new aesthetic, and even add extensive new content and characters (see: Stardew Valley Expanded). Keeping up with Stardew Valley on PC is the best way to make sure your farming life never gets stale. — Steve Watts
See our Stardew Valley review.
It’s true that since its release in 2012, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been ported to just about every platform that can play games, including Amazon Alexa speakers and smart refrigerators. But the king of all Skyrim versions is the one on PC, and it’s not even close. That’s because the PC version gives you access to years of mods created by the Skyrim community. From adding serious RPG story content to providing ridiculous possibilities like replacing all dragons with Thomas the Tank Engine, the PC version of Skyrim adds nearly endless options to an already expansive, enormous game. You absolutely should play Skyrim on PC if you haven’t, and you absolutely should mod it to see how the game has become so much more than it was when it was released. Skyrim is also available with Xbox Game Pass for PC. — Phil Hornshaw
See our The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review.
One of the best RPGs of all time, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt brings the incredible story of Geralt of Rivia to a close. The Witcher 3 puts Geralt on a quest to find Ciri, a witcher in training who’s like a daughter to him. He reconnects with old flames, friends, and adversaries as he searches far and wide for her. Of course, there’s an abundance of side quests and characters to meet along the way, which will undoubtedly keep you busy for hours. Many of these quests require you to slay monsters, a witcher’s main trade, and you’ll have to prepare accordingly to defeat them by sword, witcher magic, and potions. All this–and we didn’t even get into the two excellent expansions–makes The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt an essential PC game. — Mat Paget
See our The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review.
Valheim took Steam by storm, selling more than 5 million copies and earning an Overwhelmingly Positive rating from 160,000 reviews in its first months of early access. That may seem unbelievable, but when you step into the world of Valheim and explore its mysterious forests, mountains, and hills, it becomes intimately clear how special it is. Valheim is full of secrets, which you’ll discover as you slay monsters, collect resources, and build yourself a Viking village. Slowly peeling back the fog of this world is tremendously satisfying as finding new lands, enemies, and resources that help bolster your crafting menu and arsenal, the latter of which you’ll need to master and utilize to fend off the deadly beasts that call Valheim home. But you won’t have to go it alone, as you can invite up to nine friends to join you on your server for Viking adventures and good times. — Mat Paget
The initial response to Valorant was that it’s basically a mashup where Overwatch meets Counter-Strike–and yeah, that’s pretty accurate. That’s also a good thing, because Valorant draws on many of the strengths of those games to make something unique. It focuses on the round-based demolition-style game mode with two teams of five (attackers and defenders) on balanced maps with specific lanes and sightlines and an extremely fast time-to-kill. However, each agent (or character) has their own unique abilities that add another strategic layer to combat. Team composition plays a major role, and each agent affects what the team is capable of in each high-stakes situation. It’s intense and demanding, but so rewarding.
Valorant is still early in its lifespan. But we’ve seen content updates and changes in its first year and it’s been quite successful, so you can expect the game to get more support moving forward. If a competitive FPS with layered tactics, precise gunplay, and intense moments is your thing, Valorant is worth a try. — Michael Higham
See our Valorant review.
Finding the right balance in a strategy game is extremely difficult, as the best ones are challenging enough to necessitate smart play without being too punishing. XCOM 2 very nearly falls into the “too punishing” camp, but its mix of turn-based tactics combat and overarching management gameplay rarely feel unfair. Set after the first game, when aliens have nearly completely conquered Earth, XCOM 2 certainly casts you as an underdog, but it gives you the tools you need to take the fight to the invaders with careful planning. Ambushing a squad and delivering a mix of long-range sniping shots and explosive damage is immensely satisfying, and even more so if you’ve struggled on the same map for an hour or more. The game is certainly playable on consoles, but it’s at home on PC, as are developer Firaxis’ other games. Moving your units around and getting a view of the whole battlefield is perfect with a keyboard and mouse. — Gabe Gurwin
See our XCOM 2 review.