Out of the thousands upon thousands of PC games out there, there are a precious few that everyone loves, or at least respects. Some of them are absolutely pivotal to the hobby and others are just really good (opens in new tab) and have remained good for years.
The classics have lost some of their importance as loads of new, young PC gamers have arrived. The regular Overwatch 2 player might not have any clue what Quake is, but if they saw it, I think they'd quickly understand its impact on multiplayer FPS games and see its DNA in Blizzard's kinetic shooter. Just because you didn't play it or grew up with it, doesn't mean it's not a game you can appreciate for existing.
The PC games below are the ones that most everyone can agree are extremely important, and it's hard to find any egregious issues with them. If someone brought these games up in a conversation, you'd be happy to discuss them.
Let's do it. Here are the 10 PC games that everyone loves (with credit to The Athletic's Sean McIndoe (opens in new tab) for the inspiration).
Why everyone loves it: You can't hate Minecraft (opens in new tab). You place blocks made of dirt and rock and you make castles or computers (opens in new tab) with them, and you can do it all with friends. Minecraft's simplicity draws you in and then you get hooked and all you can think about are its entire catalog of resources, where to get them, and what to build with them. Will you punch a pig for pork or will you capture a wild cat? The possibilities feel endless because Minecraft is a palette for your imagination and it's only gotten more robust in the 12 years it's been around.
Well, except for: Anyone that has a hard time playing any game that has no clear goals. Minecraft is a sandbox and if you're someone who wants a directed experience, it probably won't ever work for you.
Why everyone loves it: Every adventure game and so-called walking simulator owes something to Myst (opens in new tab), the granddaddy of games where you poke around a world in first-person view. There's a reason it keeps getting remakes and remasters: the world of Myst and its strange, FMV characters remains as compelling as they were when it was released in 1993 (1994 for PC).
Even though it looks rather sparse compared to almost every game out there, Myst has such a distinct aesthetic that swallows you up as soon as you enter the first screen. It looks both otherworldly and familiar, like you could reach out and touch it. And people still talk about what it was like spending enough time with it to unravel its mystery—and how the entire game could be solved within seconds of its intro. Though its puzzles might seem extremely esoteric to some, Myst remains approachable for all sorts of players.
Well, except for: Puzzle haters. Myst is a puzzle game, and maybe too much of a puzzle game. You will probably have to look solutions up or have an amazing memory to get through it, which might ruin the whole experience for you. Modern puzzle games have evolved a lot since Myst. Those with limited patience might find its dated puzzle design to be far too abrasive to enjoy.
Why everyone loves it: Doom (opens in new tab) is so synonymous with PC gaming that anything that remotely functions like one is forced to run it, including a pregnancy test (opens in new tab). Doom captures the soul of videogames in a way few other PC games do. It's an extremely honest game where you pump demons full of bullets and search its stark 3D levels for secrets. Why else do you think we have a whole slew of boomer shooters that want to emulate its vibe? Doom is the Metallica album your dad listened to that still goes hard, and it will never lose relevance.
Well, except for: There surely exists a person that finds Doom to be too simplistic. Doom isn't rich in story or RPG-levels of mechanical depth; it has a pure vision for gory violence and not much else. If clicking demons to make them explode isn't your thing, Doom doesn't have anything else to offer.
Why everyone loves it: Few games are as eminently creative as Grim Fandango. Skeletons smoke cigars in the jazzy nightclubs of the afterlife and reminisce on what it was like to be alive. This point-and-click adventure game almost doesn't feel like one with its stylistic devotion to film greats like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. There are puzzles, sure, but the thrust of the game is about becoming a tourist in its incredibly imaginative world. You can't look at a piece of footage or a screenshot of Grim Fandango and deny its distinct vibes, and that's what earns its place on this list.
Well, except for: Like a lot of games from the '90s with puzzles, Grim Fandango still has its rough spots (especially the original mouseless control setup). Even the remastered version (opens in new tab) might give you pause as you try to work out the arcane logic of some of its puzzle solutions. And if Tim Schafer's charming writing comes off as corny to you, the game's lax pacing could bore you to death.
Why everyone loves it: Half-Life 2 (opens in new tab) transformed everyone's conception of what a singleplayer shooter could be. Even now, it still breaks conventions in modern games and lets you squirm your way through its puzzle-like levels and combat encounters. The physics were fantastic too. Juggling barrels and playing catch with the Gravity Gun are the kind of playful things you rarely see in shooters.
Half-Life 2 is more of a playground than a FPS and blends action and horror in a way that no other game has really gotten close to replicating. Even now, FPS games struggle to be as creative as Valve's shooter was and still is.
Well, except for: For a modern FPS enjoyer, Half-Life 2's relatively subdued story and lack of RPG-like progression might put you off of it. You won't find loot or hyper-realistic firefights here; it's all frenetic scraps using the weapons and tools you have to survive.
Why everyone loves it: The upcoming Diablo 4 (opens in new tab) is centered around a desire to go back to the look and feel of its predecessor, Diablo 2. The newest game in the action RPG franchise is taking notes from a game that came out 23 years ago. And it's because Diablo 2 solidified the modern expectations around loot-based action games and how to embed those systems into a rich world worth exploring.
Every cellar and dungeon is filled with hellspawn to ravage and loot to gather. Diablo 2 encourages you to experiment with its classes and develop your own efficient demon-slaying routines. It's cerebral, zapping the pleasure points in your brain with every rare loot drop and dungeon level cleared. Even if its dated graphics don't look appealing these days, spend 10 minutes with it and you'll be sucked right in.
Well, except for: For as great as Diablo 2 is, its edgy heaven versus hell story can be kind of off-putting, especially if you've never played one before. It's also fairly punishing compared to most games these days. You can truly screw up a character build in a way that you can't go back on, and its harder difficulties are no joke.
Why everyone loves it: In a lot of ways, modern immersive sims like Deathloop still live in Deus Ex's (opens in new tab) shadow. Ion Storm's cyberpunk game dug into what it meant to have a substantial amount of freedom in how you tackle tasks. The game is full of alternate paths, solutions, and tools for the missions that reward creative thinking and planning. Many games, including its own sequels, have tried to iterate on its complexity and none of them have managed to match its impact.
Well, except for: You could play Deus Ex in the most straightforward way possible and still enjoy it, but you'd lose out on the appeal. The fun of the game is to work your way through the levels, read emails, and problem solve your way to the objective. It's not a shooter by any means, and playing it like one kind of misses the point.
Why everyone loves it: Whether or not the original The Sims (opens in new tab) holds up today is besides the point: this game created a juggernaut. The Sims zoomed in on the city building format of SimCity and let you control the people. It was like playing with dolls but in a videogame with loads of things to customize. You could try to recreate your own neighborhood or live a life you didn't have. It was the ultimate way to experiment with all the social situations you can't re-do in real life and see how it all plays out, a truly brilliant idea for a game.
Well, except for: The Sims isn't that close to real life, but it's still a clear reminder of what it's like to be a person on Earth. If you play games to escape to the furthest reality from our own, it's just not the game for you.
Why everyone loves it: Quake (opens in new tab) popularized rocket jumping, which should be enough to put it on this list alone. Id Software's FPS might have had a somewhat bland singleplayer campaign, but the multiplayer was something else. Quake's momentum-based movement and ultra-fast firefights are both dizzying and supreme. Weapons like the railgun and its labyrinthian maps offer tons of opportunity for creative plays and skills to refine. It had the speed of a modern Call of Duty but scattered health and armor pickups throughout the map to add a perfect amount of instability to every match.
Well, except for: Quake isn't about clean sniper kills from across the map and tactical positioning as much as it's about pure reflexes and prediction. It's about high energy all the time and nothing else.
Why everyone loves it: Planescape: Torment (opens in new tab) is the game people talk about when they talk about good videogame stories. This 1999 game is a web of ideas and themes that, for many, transcended its RPG structure. Your main character has amnesia and a life to recontextualize and you spend much of the game piecing not only your memories back together but the state of its vast world. Planescape: Torment urges you to think about every dialogue choice and every character and every quest. It's a beautifully written game that helped shape PC gaming as a whole.
Well, except for: It'd be hard to get into Planescape: Torment without knowing what you're in for at this point. It's a game that isn't interested in letting you build up a superpowered hero who can devastate any obstacle and enemy in your way like a lot of RPGs. Combat isn't the focus here; it's pure storytelling and the drive to keep learning more about its weird, sad world.