The 50 most important PC games of all time

Doom Cover art

Best of the best

Elden Ring Knight looking at camera

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

2023 games: Upcoming releases
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Free PC games: Freebie fest
Best FPSes: Finest gunplay
Best MMOs: Massive worlds
Best RPGs: Grand adventures

Imagine PC gaming today without Doom. Would we still be playing first-person shooters? Probably. But who knows what they would look like? Without Doom, an entire decade of gaming would've followed a very different path.

Imagine PC gaming today without World of Warcraft. WoW turned Blizzard into a juggernaut. It defined a genre so utterly that MMOs have aped it or struggled to leave its shadow for 10 years since. Imagine PC gaming without Minecraft. Without League of Legends. These are today's juggernauts, the games that define the the platform as we know it. But now, imagine the PC without Commander Keen. Without Rogue. Without Pinball Construction Set. Maybe you've haven't heard of all of them, or only know them vaguely. Yet they're some of the most important games in the PC's history.

We set out to highlight the 50 most important and influential PC games of all time. Unlike our collection of the best PC games, it doesn't matter if these games are still fun (or even possible) to play today. What matters is how they changed the PC gaming landscape. How they established the blueprint of the run-and-gun shooter. Propelled adoption of the compact disc. Changed how millions of people grew and socialized across years and thousands of miles of cables.

The most important PC games of all time changed how we make games. How we play games. And they changed us. To celebrate them, we did something a bit different on the following pages of this feature. We reached out to game designers—look out for Richard Garriott, John Carmack, Sid Meier, Chris Avellone, Jane Jensen, Tim Schafer, Cliff Bleszinski, Warren Spector and more—plus many former PC Gamer editors and a few other writers you may recognize to help celebrate the legacy of the PC. Enjoy!

Table of contents

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).

With contributions from