Here it is: our master list of the best PC games you can play right now. Once a year, the PC Gamer team gathers together to vote on the best PC games we'd suggest to you in 2017. The ‘today’ part is crucial: these are games from across the history of PC gaming that we believe are still the most fun to play now. Some are our favorite games from 2016, and others are returning favourites from the five or 10 or 15 years ago. Hopefully you’ll discover some new favourites among them—and get the itch to go back to some you already love.
For a celebration of those vital historical games that pushed PC gaming forward, read our list of the 50 most important PC games of all time.
The Top 100 selection process is democratic and subjective and only occassionally involves throwing keyboards at one another. Each writer nominates their personal top 15 games, and we combine the resulting choices to produce a longlist. Two writers, one each from our US and UK teams, then get together on a sweaty and prolonged Skype call to decide on a final list that we’re proud of. That’s what you have here, along with personal picks from the team highlighting games they love that didn’t make the final cut. Enjoy.
100 Kentucky Route Zero
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry
James: The marriage of point-and-click with literary fiction, this is a slow exploration of rural America through the lens of magic realism. You spend most of the game clicking around a minimalist overworld, a road trip dotted by brief text interactions with bizarre denizens. KR0 ruminates on history and decay, sometimes through folksy song, and sometimes via populating the entire floor of an office building with bears.
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry
Steven: This third-person shooter has taken the basic concept of running repeatable missions as a hybrid ninja warrior and turned it into something that rivals the scope of a traditional MMO. The progression is deep —almost too deep, letting you slowly craft the ultimate warrior on your path to vengeance. Warframe’s nimble run-and-gun parkour sets a new standard for movement in this genre.
98 They Hunger
RELEASED 2000 | LAST POSITION New entry
John: Of all the hundreds of Half-Life mods shipped across the world on PC Gamer’s demo discs, this is the one I’ll never forget. They Hunger has a sinister eeriness we re-lived much later in Ravenholm. It has all the hallmarks of a low-budget John Carpenter horror film: a claustrophobic setting, a crooked local sheriff (who, surprise, is a zombie) and a tormented local radio station broadcasting to stranded souls.
97 Stardew Valley
RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry
Phil: This is a valley full of things to do: fish, gather, mine, scavenge, delve, craft, romance, and, of course, farm. Wake up each morning, and the world feels full of possibilities, of places to explore and things to discover. It’s a ruse. Stardew hides the depth of its farming behind the breadth of its other activities. By the time you’ve experienced them all, it’s too late. As you sell your first crops and use the profits to improve and expand, you find yourself invested in your rundown patch of land. Soon enough, you’re farming full time—watering crops, milking cows, planting trees, brewing beer and crafting artisanal mayonnaise. It’s relaxing and compulsive.
Tom M: There are never enough hours in a day. Stardew Valley has so much to see, so many different things I could be doing, that by the time I go to sleep each night—or compulsively pass out in the dirt at 2am—I’m already planning my next day. It’s the dangerous trap of ‘one more turn’ made even deadlier, and a trap I’ll happily fall into time and time again. Stardew’s pacing is wonderfully calming, yet played at a breakneck rate. With co-op and more content on the way, soon there will be even more to do.
96 Hotline Miami
RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 92
Tim: Of all the games on this list that might legitimately be described as twitch shooters, this is the one that makes me twitch just to think about it. The mix of lurid, lo-fi ultraviolence and fever dream storytelling remains a potent brew. Each level is a brutish puzzle you slickly glide through, until you don’t. Instant restarts, animal masks, and those crunchy kills amp the experience until your nerves are shredded and you push the mouse away. The disappointing sequel only confirms it as bona fide lightning bottling.
Samuel: This felt like such a true original at release, and it’s still the one I go back to for high scores. The soundtrack remains incredible.
95 Zork: Grand Inquisitor
RELEASED 1997 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tyler: Still funny despite its age and the many pitiful attempts at game humour that preceded and succeeded it. Its puzzles are absurd in a consistent way that lets you finish it without a guide (though the Hades Shuttle Service Courtesy Phone might take you a minute), and always come with a good gag. The whole of Zork is great, but this is absolutely the one newcomers should play as an introduction.
94 Dragon Age II
RELEASED 2011 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tony: In most RPGs, a town is somewhere you pass through, solve everyone’s problems, then never come back. You live in Kirkwall for ten years. You invest so much time in this setting, you build up so much history, that it becomes a place in a way few RPGs ever achieve. Somewhere you lived. People whine about the over-familiar scenery, but since when did we play BioWare games for their floorplans?
Phil: We’re really doing this? OK then. How are all caves the same cave? Why does anybody ever go to those docks? It’s repetitive. But here’s the thing: it’s also really good. It has some of the best BioWare characters, and gives you a decade to learn their stories. And you won’t find a more endearing friendship than that of Hawke and Varric.
Samuel: I agree. Second only to Mass Effect 2 for party and writing. Sorry!
93 Papers, Please
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 56
Shaun: Bureaucracy is not fun. Working as an immigration officer for a fictionalised Eastern Bloc nation does not sound like fun either. So it stands to reason that a game about these things would also not be fun. And it’s not! It’s effective though, in its demonstration of how the staunch observance of systems and protocols bleeds us of our humanity.
Phil: The theme song is good, too. “Bwarp, bworp, bwarp, bworp,” etc.
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry
Wes: Indie developer Toby Fox managed to bring the heart and quirky humour of ’90s console JRPGs to the PC. More importantly, he bridged the story and battle system in a thoughtful way we’ve never seen before.
Tyler: Undertale is the pinnacle of the selfreferential game trend, partly because of its complexity—it can take three playthroughs or maybe more to fully understand its web of decisions—but also because it isn’t cynical. It surprises with self-aware gags and Kojima-like manipulation, but also tells a heartfelt story about our bittersweet connection with fiction and characters we love.
Samuel: It found a massive audience on PC, and deservedly so. While you can finish it in around five hours, it’s full of secrets that only reveal themselves on a second or third playthrough.
RELEASED 2001 | LAST POSITION 76
Tony: I could tell you it’s a JRPG made by Ion Storm, but that doesn’t really help. If I tell you that one planet you visit gets sliced in half, and another one joins your party, we’re a little warmer. If I tell you that you can still visit that party-member planet, and all its inhabitants have seen your adventures in the sky, we’re finally getting somewhere. Anachronox was wildly inventive, but with its in-engine tracking shots and oddly poignant moments it was also cinematic at a time when nobody was using that word to describe anything as trashy as a videogame. I look forward to the day someone in our formulaic, risk-averse industry tries something like this again.