Ranking video games is never an easy task. There are hundreds of factors to consider, and many of them aren’t objective to any useful degree. Stories, gameplay, presentation, a certain intangible quality elevating otherwise mediocre ideas to legendary status, it’s all there, making things difficult. Even ratings aren’t a good source, vulnerable as they are to the passage of time.
As a result the list below is more of a shout out to games which will be remembered for as long as this hobby exists. They don’t come arranged in any particular order, and they mix newcomers with old classics for good measure. It is also, of course, not exhaustive and will be expanded in the future.
|Warcraft 3: Gold Edition||2013-07-03||Blizzard Entertainment||-|
|XCOM 2 Collection||2016-02-04||Feral Interactive (Linux)||-88%|
|Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction||2001||Blizzard North||-52%|
|The Orange Box||2004-11-16||Valve||-|
|Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition||2013-11-15||Beamdog||-76%|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY Edition||2015-05-18||CD PROJEKT RED||-65%|
|Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY||2010-03-26||Feral Interactive (Mac)||-86%|
|Divinity: Original Sin 2 | Definitive Edition||2017-09-14||Larian Studios||-22%|
|Sid Meier's Civilization VI | Platinum Edition||2016-10-20||Aspyr (Mac, Linux)||-87%|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||2019-11-05||Rockstar Games||-73%|
|Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time||2003-12-02||Kudosoft||-62%|
|Deus Ex: GOTY||2000-06-22||Ion Storm||-71%|
|Grand Theft Auto V||2015-04-14||Rockstar North||-62%|
|Grim Fandango Remastered||2015-01-26||Double Fine Productions||-77%|
|BioShock Remastered||2016-09-15||2K Australia||-69%|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition||2016-10-27||Bethesda Game Studios||-75%|
|Mass Effect 2||2010-01-27||BioWare||-21%|
|Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition||2015-07-29||Mojang||-13%|
|STAR WARS: Knights of the Old Republic||2003-11-19||BioWare||-78%|
|Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare||2007-11-12||Infinity Ward||-23%|
|Homeworld Remastered Collection||2015-02-25||Gearbox Software||-93%|
|System Shock 2||1999-08-11||Irrational Games||-88%|
|Dishonored 2||2016-11-11||Arkane Studios||-86%|
|Bioshock Infinite||2013-03-25||Irrational Games||-89%|
|Genre||Action & Shooter|
2016’s Doom was a perfect mixture. It had intense old school gameplay, excellent modern graphics and level design, and a rip-roaring soundtrack which pumped adrenaline straight into your brain.
Surprisingly, it even had a good story and interesting characters, because why stop at solid gameplay and presentation? Even the Doomslayer received more personality than one would expect.
It is, of course, absurdly bloody, especially when you deploy a glory kill for extra health. There are even secret levels looking JUST like the original Doom from the nineties, and figurines which unlock new items in the gallery. It’s indisputably one of the best games in the genre, with an even more intense follow up, Doom Eternal, another excellent first-person shooter. Rip and tear!
In addition to its inherent qualities, of which there are many, Warcraft III also has quite a legacy to speak of.
But first things first. W3 is a fantasy real-time strategy set in the world of Azeroth. The story follows four very distinct factions, and thanks to cutscenes and voice performances it’s quite dramatic and dark, despite the exaggerated, colourful art style. Betrayals, corruption, genuine tragedy.
Warcraft III also featured a fantastic multiplayer, as well as good mod support. If you know DotA2, the game originated in Warcraft III as Defense of the Ancients mod. A more straightforward legacy of W3 is the MMORPGT behemoth World of Warcraft, which picked up the plot threads left after The Forzen Throne expansion and turned them into the backbone of a humongous world of epic stories.
|Genre||Action & Shooter|
|Developer||Feral Interactive (Linux)|
While 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown was already great, 2016’s improved on it on virtually every aspect.
The story puts you in command of a scrappy resistance trying to overthrow the alien government. In this timeline aliens won in Enemy Unknown. Gone is military discipline, we’re taking whoever’s willing to fight. But there’s a ton of propaganda to hide the crimes of the alien rulers.
There’s a polished turn-based combat, cool soldier classes, and a unique chance to get the drop on your enemies thanks to stealth mechanics. The War of the Chosen expansion also added evolving, responsive nemesis aliens which can kidnap your people and adapt to your tactics. XCOM 2 is a delight to play… until you miss a 90% chance shot, because XCOM’s RNG takes no prisoners.
Several playable characters with unique skill trees, satisfying loot with a lot of potential for minmaxing, and unspeakable hordes of monsters, demons, and undead to carve through. There’s also a story about a demon lord coming back to give you a proper motivation if the loot isn’t enough.
Outside of gameplay, a strong draw of Diablo is its dark fantasy setting, the world called Sanctuary which has to survive the ambitions of demons despite the apathy of angels. In addition to two sequels and a remaster, Diablo 2 also enjoys being the genre codifier to which many hack’n’slash action RPGs have been compared for the past twenty years. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
The Orange Box
|Genre||Action & Shooter|
Admittedly, adding The Orange Box should count as cheating, but also it lets us add several excellent games without taking places from titles.
What’s in the box? Team Fortress 2, a team-based PvP shooter which set the stage for fully committed hero shooters like Overwatch or Apex legends. There’s also Portal, a revolutionary FPP platform game with outstanding portal mechanic.
Perhaps more importantly, the Box also holds Half-Life 2 as well as Episode 1 and 2, its standalone expansions. There’s no Half-Life 3 in sight, but there’s still a lot of Gordon Freeman to enjoy. The Orange Box games are Valve gamedev at its peak, and especially Half-Life 2 and Portal’s feature physics engines and gameplay solutions which stand firm against the passage of time. Don’t miss out on them.
Baldur's Gate II
While the original BG was great and ground-breaking, it was Baldur’s Gate 2 that cemented the iconic status of the Infinity Engine by virtue of being an excellent game.
It continues the story of the Bhaalspawn and takes it in a new direction, because of the ambitions of an elf called Irenicus, who wants the power held in the protagonist’s soul. What follows is a sweeping D&D adventure.
BG2 expanded on virtually every aspect of Baldur’s Gate 1. Perhaps most importantly, it added “kits” to the class system, allowing players to add extra flavour and new systems to their characters. The inconclusive ending of the base game was fixed in the Throne of Bhaal expansion, which also added more locations, new challenges, and more. There’s even an edition suitable for modern systems.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
|Developer||CD PROJEKT RED|
There’s a lot to enjoy: several large open world maps, a largely free-form player progression, dozens of big and small stories, and more. The Witcher 3 is enough for a 100+ hour playthrough, filled with combat, exploration, and dramatic storyline.
If the base game’s journey to find Geralt’s adopted daughter Ciri isn’t enough, there are also two large expansions. One adds a tense story inspired by an old Polish legend about making deals with the devil. The other takes White Wolf to the fabulously beautiful Toussaint, which has a vampire problem, among other issues. Geralt even gets a mansion (which you can upgrade) up front for all his troubles!
Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY
|Developer||Feral Interactive (Mac)|
Rocksteady managed to do something extraordinary.
They made a Batman game which has great atmosphere, great combat and stealth, and remembers that the Caped Crusader is supposed to be a detective. The FleeFlow system handles combat, letting Bats jump from enemy to enemy, mix punches with gadget use, and unleash spectacular special moves. Getting long hit chains is very satisfying.
Stealth sections have Batman eliminate enemies one by one, and the detective vision lets him see their growing sense of dread as their allies disappear of are found dangling from gargoyles. Bats’ Rogues Gallery, with the Joker taking the leading role, of course. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a hit, and received two sequels and a prequel, but neither had the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Asylum.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Nominally a sequel to D: Original Sin, it enjoys a greater scale, more fleshed-out characters, more of everything. The story moves through act in a linear manner, but there are many choices to make along the way, and you will feel the consequences of many of them.
DOS2’s turn-based combat is often spectacular, with elemental effects interacting and changing the battlefield, combatant polymorphing themselves and others, and assassins teleporting behind their targets. Thankfully, there are no random encounters, so you can always quickload and find some way to avoid a tough fight or exploit the game’s systems to win against all odds.
Sid Meier's Civilization VI
|Developer||Aspyr (Mac, Linux)|
You could pick any Civilization game and you’d be set for hours and hours of engaging, time-devouring gameplay.
We’ve picked the latest one for this list since it benefits from three decades of franchise evolution. The idea is always the same: pick a culture from a broad selection and expand it from a single city in the wilderness to the most powerful nation on the continent.
Civilization VI kept the hex-grid brought in in Civ5 and added districts: specialised tiles around your main city tile. As a result, certain functions of a city have a physical, rather than implied, presence on the map, which refreshes the established gameplay. They also provide useful bonuses, so it’s a good idea to use them wisely. CIV6 looks great, feel both classic and fresh, and has several robust expansions.
Red Dead Redemption 2
It’s set years before RDR, back in the days when john Marston still ran with van der Linde’s gang. We’re not playing as John, however. This time we’re controlling Arthur Morgan, Dutch van der Linde’s right-hand man in the gang.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a massive game, and it’s stunning how much of its world is filled with life and detail. RDR2 is an amazingly immersive, with detailed animations, cities full of NPCs you can greet or antagonize without interrupting your leisurely stroll. Its side activities also give you a good excuse to go somewhere you haven’t been yet. If your PC can handle it, you should absolutely give RDR a shot.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
The Prince of Persia series dates back to 1989 and had a few instalments before the 2003 release of Sands of Time, so it wasn’t new license.
What was new was the amazing platforming gameplay. There was a 3D game before, but it couldn’t hold a candle to this one. In addition to fantastic movement, Sands of Time looked incredible at the time, and still has a lot of charm years later.
It mixed energetic combat, Prince’s phenomenal mobility letting him run along walls and perform Olympics-grade acrobatics to moves across rooms filled with traps and plenty of places to fall to your death. Thankfully, Prince wields a dagger capable of rewinding time, powered by the eponymous sorcerous Sands of Time which turned the kingdom into a total mess.
Hades has a lot going for it. It has a great art style, which does a fantastic job portraying the odd bunch that are ancient Greek gods.
The gameplay is fast, snappy, and looks great, because every god’s boons tweak the appearance of your attacks and abilities in a unique way. There’s also a lot of dialogues, which always manage to address something that happened on your last escape attempt.
Every run also gives you resources to unlock new weapons and upgrade them, to improve your own skills, or even to buy some new furniture for the starting location. It’s not a hardcore roguelike, but it’s an incredibly replayable game, and finding a build that just WORKS for you and lets you clear a room in seconds is incredibly satisfying. And it makes some deep dives into Greek mythology sometimes.
Deus Ex is one of those legendary games whose phantom hangs over gaming world, raining down inspirations and spiritual successors.
Ion Storm’s legendary action RPG set the stage for the future emergence of the immersive sim genre. DE gave you objectives to complete, various tools to play with, and let you lose on locations, trusting you to figure out a way to succeed.
You could stealth around, taking down enemies non-lethally, or go in guns-blazing. The game would often address that. You could change the way the story goes because you kill or protect somebody. You received experience for finding new places and accomplishing goals, not for killing enemies, promoting clever playstyles over wanton murder. The sequels followed quite well in the original’s footsteps.
Grand Theft Auto V
It’s hardly necessary to sing the praises of Grand Theft Auto V, because since its launch it’s been doing overwhelmingly well for itself.
But it’s also just a really great game, of a scope and wealth of activities few games can match. Los Santos is sprawling metropolis, and it’s virtually impossible to be bored as a player while you’re walking or driving through its streets.
A good part of that comes from GTA5’s triple protagonist. Unless blocked by a specific mission of a story progress you can freely switch between Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, and each of them favours a different kind of playstyle, such as driving in Franklin’s case. The story itself is also great, involving old grudges, new problems, and a lot, a lot of bad temper getting people into trouble.
This concludes the first edition of the list of awesome, must-have PC games. Some of them aren’t PC exclusive anymore, or have, indeed, come from the consoles and found a new life on computers, but all of them are worth getting into.
If you think something is missing, rest assured, it likely to come up in a future update. One the other hand, if any of these games happens to be unfamiliar to you, you could get a copy cheaply on the G2A Marketplace and catch up. Some of the old ones might even have a remake or remaster floating around, to make sure they remain playable even after the hardware and operating systems march on.