There are thousands of games on Steam (opens in new tab), and so any list of the best ones is, in a way, just a list of good PC games in general. However, we think there are two good reasons to list our favorite Steam games to play right now.
One, far from every game is on Steam. The existence of the Epic Games Store, GOG, Battle.net, Origin, and other launchers keeps the most popular PC game store from being the only stop for PC games. If you're just looking to build a Steam library right now, or you've got a Steam gift card to spend, you won't find any games on this list that aren't available on Steam.
Secondly, many of the thousands of games that are on Steam aren't worth the time it takes to download them (you can skip Bad Rats (opens in new tab), we promise). If you're building a Steam library for the first time, you have an immense selection to pick from. Rather than organizing this list according to precise genre definitions, we've identified some broad categories of to help you find the kind of fun you're looking for.
On Steam itself, check out our Steam Curator page (opens in new tab), where we recommend the games that have received our highest review scores. For a broader list of games we recommend, including non-Steam games, head to our list of the best PC games to play right now (opens in new tab).
New Steam games
Some of our favorite recent Steam releases.
- Citizen Sleeper (80%) (opens in new tab)
- Rogue Legacy 2 (88%) (opens in new tab)
- Wingspan (90%) (opens in new tab)
- Teardown (90%) (opens in new tab)
- Elden Ring (90%) (opens in new tab)
- Norco (94%) (opens in new tab)
- Tunic (86%) (opens in new tab)
- Lost Ark (78%) (opens in new tab)
For newcomers to PC gaming
If you're getting into PC gaming for the first time, here are some great games to start with.
You're a test subject trapped in a maze, equipped only with a gun and the will to escape. It sounds like standard videogame stuff, but there aren't any aliens coming after you, and your gun doesn't shoot bullets. It shoots portals, glowing passageways that connect to each other. Walk through one portal and you come out of another. That simple idea, plus gravity, results in dozens of ingenious puzzles, as well as an all-time favorite character in GlaDOS, the AI testing and taunting you. The first Portal is short and sweet, and the second one elaborates on the humor and puzzles in a longer adventure. Both are classics.
If you're new to first-person games on PC, the Portal games are one way to learn keyboard and mouse controls in a non-competitive environment. They're not brutally hard games, but tricky maneuvering is required in a few places. (Read our review of Portal 2.)
An easy game to get hooked on, and a definite upgrade from Windows Solitaire. It seems simple at first: You play attack and defense cards drawn from a small deck to kill monsters as you ascend a tower, adding to or subtracting from that deck as you go. After a few runs, though, you'll start to see the possibilities in the cards: combos and loops and synergies that can give you godlike power over monsters that previously stomped you, but only if you make the right choices on your next adventure. Once Slay the Spire clicks, the urge to try and try again is hard to resist. (Read our full review here (opens in new tab).)
The Civilization games used to be what people thought of when they imagined bleary-eyed computer goblins clicking away all night, unaware of the rising sun outside. It's the quintessential "just one more turn" game, where there's always a new short-term goal to reach as you build and manage a nation by founding cities, connecting them with roads and railways, researching technology, trading with other leaders, and waging wars.
There are many opinions on which Civ game is the best, and series regulars will gladly debate the merits of all of them. Civilization 6 (opens in new tab) is the newest version, and it's a great game which adds some welcome complexity to city design (here's our review (opens in new tab)). That said, if you don't want to spend $60, Civilization 5 is also a great strategy game for $30, and Civilization 4 is a classic at $20.
A big, online shooter that you can play for free. It's possible to get really into Destiny 2—to the point that you develop esoteric opinions about the state of the game that baffle your friends—but just as possible to have a good time shooting aliens in the free story missions and then move on. (If you do get into it, the paid expansions and opinions about things called "exotics" and "Bright Dust" will be there for you.)
Try it with friends, if you can. And if you're not used to keyboard and mouse controls, Destiny 2 plays fine with a controller given its console pedigree (its developer, Bungie, first became famous making the Xbox's Halo games).
Great free-to-play games on Steam
Some of the best games on Steam can be played for free.
Path of Exile (opens in new tab)
An online action RPG that's similar to the Diablo games. A lot of the fun is in designing your character's powers by making choices on a giant skill tree and collecting special gems that grant abilities with names like "Dread Banner," "Creeping Frost," and "Lancing Steel." Lots of fun.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (opens in new tab)
Counter-Strike's style of competitive first-person shooting has endured for multiple decades now. It is ultra-nuanced, but if you're completely new to it, you may need to find a friend to show you around—it can be quite arcane.
Dota 2 (opens in new tab)
One of the two most important MOBAs, or 'multiplayer online battle arenas.' It's not a great name for a genre, but the gist is that it's a complex, team-based competition where you're commanding a hero on a structured battlefield. If you're willing to learn its intricacies, it can become the only game you need.
Explore big open worlds
These games can provide tens or hundreds of hours of experimentation and discovery. It really just depends on how much time you've got.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 (opens in new tab): It's exactly what it sounds like, a game about driving trucks through Europe. You might be surprised by just how into it you get.
Action games that require precise timing, foresight, and cleverness.
Hades (opens in new tab): Getting out of the underworld won't be easy, but you can do it if you keep trying. One of the best recent action games, with great characters.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: The latest of the famously difficult action RPGs from developer FromSoftware, the developer behind the Dark Souls series. Like those games, it's brilliant (opens in new tab) if you have the patience for it.
Super Meat Boy (opens in new tab): Another platforming favorite. The nastiness of its sawblades and ultra-tricky jumps is made manageable by the bite-sized levels.
Many of our favorite story-driven games are more or less detective stories. Here are a few of the best.
Disco Elysium (opens in new tab): A brilliant, story-focused RPG about a hungover detective solving a murder in a grimy, fantastical city in the throes of class struggle. Our 2019 GOTY (opens in new tab).
Her Story (opens in new tab): Type in keywords to search video clips from an interview with an unknown woman. The game ends when you think you've figured it out. (That's all you really need to know going in, but see our review (opens in new tab) for more.)
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (opens in new tab): Perhaps an even more bizarre murder mystery. The premise: A bunch of students are trapped in their high school and told that the only way to escape is to murder a classmate without getting caught.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games (opens in new tab): Another great (and very strange) visual novel series, this one starts with a Saw-like premise, but goes in entirely its own direction.
Outer Wilds (opens in new tab): Untangle a time loop that spans a whole solar system in this recently-released hit. (Not to be confused with The Outer Worlds (opens in new tab), which is alright, too, but a different game entirely.)
Take it easy
Engrossing games that don't require ultra-sharp reflexes.
Stardew Valley (opens in new tab): Spend your days clearing out rocks and designing your ideal farm, and your evenings hanging out with new friends. One of our all-time favorites, and it has kept getting better over time (opens in new tab).
A Short Hike (opens in new tab): An ultra-charming game about exploring an island and making friends. Can be enjoyed in one nice sitting, if you like. (Cup of tea not required, but pleasant.)
What The Golf? (opens in new tab) Find out what golf is (maybe) in one of our favorite comedy games.
Kentucky Route Zero (opens in new tab): Explore an ethereal highway in a brilliant adventure that was years in the making. Not relaxing, exactly, but slow-burning and moody. Here's our review (opens in new tab).
Play with friends
Some of our favorite online cooperative games.
Satisfactory (opens in new tab): Work together to construct giant three-dimensional factories on an alien planet. Conveyer belt loops never stop being fun to design.
Left 4 Dead 2 (opens in new tab): A classic for just $10. You and up to three friends scramble to get from point A to point B while shooting waves of zombies.
Dead by Daylight (opens in new tab): A group of survivors try to escape one killer, who's also controlled by a player. Scary, and just a great asymmetrical multiplayer game (opens in new tab).
Strategize and build
Games about tactics, physics, building, and raising a medieval family (there's always an outlier).
Kerbal Space Program (opens in new tab): Learn rocket science by building spaceships for little green men, only occasionally stranding them in orbit. One of the best games of all time (opens in new tab), with a sequel coming in 2022 (opens in new tab).
Total War: Warhammer 2 (opens in new tab): One of our favorite games (opens in new tab) in the Total War series, which has you commanding giant fantasy battles in real time. It's not a big deal if you're not familiar with the Warhammer universe.
Cities: Skylines (opens in new tab): Design a city and then try to keep its inhabitants happy in a modern update on the classic SimCity formula. The modding scene makes it extra special.
More Steam games we love
Didn't find anything you're interested in? Here's a grab bag of great games to check out, including some lesser-known greats.
- Titanfall 2 (opens in new tab)
- Celeste (opens in new tab)
- VVVVVV (opens in new tab)
- Darkest Dungeon (opens in new tab)
- Rainbow Six Siege (opens in new tab)
- Wasteland 3 (opens in new tab)
- Final Fantasy 14 Online (opens in new tab)
- Super Mega Baseball 3 (opens in new tab)
- Dusk (opens in new tab)
- Alien Isolation (opens in new tab)
- What Remains of Edith Finch (opens in new tab)
- Nioh 2 (opens in new tab)
- Persona 4 Golden (opens in new tab)
- Amid Evil (opens in new tab)
- Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (opens in new tab)
- Sunless Skies (opens in new tab)
- Spiritfarer (opens in new tab)
- Yakuza 0 (opens in new tab)
- Dishonored 2 (opens in new tab)
- Half-Life: Alyx (opens in new tab) (VR only)
- Amnesia: Rebirth (opens in new tab)
- Horizon: Zero Dawn (opens in new tab)
- Unity of Command 2 (opens in new tab)
- Monster Hunter World (opens in new tab)
- 80 Days (opens in new tab)
- Hypnospace Outlaw (opens in new tab)
- Telling Lies
- West of Loathing (opens in new tab)
- Valkyria Chronicles (opens in new tab)
- Legend of Grimrock 2 (opens in new tab)
- Fallout: New Vegas (opens in new tab)
- Team Fortress 2 (opens in new tab)
- Killing Floor 2 (opens in new tab)
- No Man's Sky (opens in new tab)
- Spelunky 2 (opens in new tab)
- Untitled Goose Game (opens in new tab)
- Dead Cells (opens in new tab)
- Frozen Synapse 2 (opens in new tab)
- Opus Magnum (opens in new tab)
- Nidhogg 2 (opens in new tab)
- Thumper (opens in new tab)