The 100 best PC games of all time

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This gets harder every year. Every year new games are released, old favourites are replayed, obscure indies capture our hearts, and games that we once knew are updated until they’re unrecognisable. We’re fickle, argumentative people in love with the most dynamic gaming platform on the planet, and we’re only allowed to pick 100 games?

It should be the top 1,000, the top 10,000, to fit every single game we all love. But it’s not. As much as the games change, our task remains the same. Boil down decades of sims and shooters, roleplaying games and real-time strategies, into the top 100. The best games on PC. Those that you must play, now.

Our international team of writers were asked to put forth their ten favourite games, in order. Those individual lists were then collated, a mega-list was formed, and each contributor was challenged to defend their love. Disagree with their choices? Look out for the beginning of the PC Gamer Readers’ Top 100 soon on the site. You’ll soon know the pain of having to choose. Until then: that Grand Theft Auto IV, eh? What a game.

100. Grand Theft Auto IV

Release Date: 2008
Last year: 15

Graham: I can’t stand Grand Theft Auto’s cruel, dull missions, so I used to be reliant on its buggy multiplayer if I wanted to have fun messing around in Liberty City. Thanks to a persistent modding community turning the game into a giant toybox, that’s no longer true. Now, when I visit the city, it’s packed with cars that can travel at infinite speed, and I’m a superman who carries a gravity gun. That the best way to enjoy this game has changed so much two years after its release is the perfect example of why PC gaming is great.

99. Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45

Release Date: 2006
Last year: New entry

Tim S: Quake 3 re-imagined by Remarque or Solzhenitsyn. An ecstasy of brutal fumbling, wild SMG fire, and cold, calculating elimination. What's not to like?

98. Ultima Underworld II

Release Date: 1992
Last year: 90

Tony: It wasn’t just the graphics. You could pick stuff up. You could throw it. You could cast spells, repair your armour and fly. You could talk to the monsters. Wonderfully, richly, impossibly interactive, UUII was a game from the future. It took history a long time to catch up.

97. Max Payne

Release Date: 2001
Last year: New entry

Chris: Right when you start, you discover Max's murdered wife and child in his own home at the hands of drug addicts. Has there ever been a beginning of a game more powerful or emotional? Exceptional noir writing and a gritty NYC underbelly setting made Max Payne one of the greats.

Rich: Nothing like trying to gracefully launch Max into a room, guns blazing, only to have him dive headfirst into a doorjamb and very slowly rub his hair down the wood as he floated to the ground. Get up, try again, get it right, and you feel like king of the underworld.

96. Football Manager 2011

Release Date: 2010
Last year: New entry

Craig: Training? Pah! My tactics? Wild and confusing. I’m more of a hands-on kind of manager, giving people calming talks, asking for their advice, before taking my team on a long, unbeaten run in Europe. I’ve no idea about football anymore, but there are enough switches to flick so that doesn’t matter.

Rich: After years of playing it safe and managing with a steady hand, I decided to go full-on mental in FM2011. I started insulting and praising players in the same breath, I changed my assistant manager’s registered name to ‘Wiggles’, and I brought in half of the Slovakian national team. All turned out to be good decisions, and all explain why I love managing footballs.

95. Audiosurf

Release Date: 2008
Last year: 92

Craig: Man up, everyone. Favourite song to surf? I’ll start: Girls Aloud’s ‘Biology’. It makes a super bouncy, fun track to dodge blocks to.

Graham: That was mine as well.

Rich: I like the songs that no one else is cool enough to like.

Craig: Ah, ‘Sound of the Underground’.

Tom: I like Feist's version of Sea-Lion Woman - gentle opening, then bumpy with hand-claps, then batshit with a twisting guitar solo.

Cooper: Listening to music is fun and all, but if only there was a way to... play my music. Oh, there is? And it’s psychedelic euphoria? Awesome, sign me up. Audiosurf makes a game out of your MP3 library, creating interesting, unique experiences for each song. The ability to “surf” every single song (and compare stats on an online leaderboard) makes it one of the most replayable games of all time, and adds incentive to getting into new bands. Actually, I wonder what sort of level Willow Smith’s ‘Whip My Hair’ would make...

Josh: The faster, the better. I’ll toss in any punk rock I can find.

94. The Last Express

Release Date: 1997
Last year: New entry

Richard: It’s the eve of World War I, and Robert Cath is up to his ears in murder and intrigue on the Orient Express. Arguably Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner’s magnum opus, it’s one of the most atmospheric games ever made, notable for its use of real-time action and incredible attention to detail.

93. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Release Date: 2005
Last year: 96

Craig: Splinter Cell: Convicton came pretty close to digitally heisting my heart in the action-spy genre I love, but while the action is sharper, more brutal, it misses Chaos Theory’s wonderful characterisation of Sam: he threatens a man with death if he says “monkey” and has funny little chats with his boss. And the wonderful, tactile co-op is still the best of its kind.

92. Red Faction: Guerrilla

Release Date: 2009
Last year: New entry

Tom: The hostage rescue side quests made it for me. You're charged with breaking into an EDF base, untying the three captured rebels inside, and driving off with them alive. But these hostages can die. It's not game over, it just sucks. That makes me genuinely care about their survival, and I'll rip buildings apart to make sure they get out alive.

91. Mount & Blade

Release Date: 2008
Last year: New entry

Evan: The progression of a campaign in M&B feels like one of those scenes from a movie where someone enters a street and starts walking toward the camera, inviting along butchers, housewives and other sidewalk-people to join their happy jaunt. The difference is: you’re a conquering swordsman or Robin Hooder, and you take that entourage of archers, pikemen and cavalry from castle to castle, liberating food from innocent farmers or slaying bandits along the way. Not to be overlooked for its graphics; it’s the joy of archery, the best sieging you’ll do in an action game, you can get married, and all while being a proper, open-ended RPG that makes you care about the troops you recruit in the same way that X-COM or Jagged Alliance might.


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