Free Games10 Best Written Video Games

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The strategy games cover a spectrum as wide as the rainbow. An important part of that spectrum are real-time strategies and in this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best among them. We’ve assembled a bunch of interesting mobile games for you, so stick around till the end, so you. This Japanese video game list includes some of the most popular games. But many Japanese video game companies are including the original Japanese as an option now. So check your new games! Many of the latest games and consoles are region-free. You can order Japanese games online from Japan for both Japanese audio and text, and be able to play.

Think learning Japanese has to be boring? What if you could learn Japanese by playing Japanese video games?

It's totally possible to level up your Japanese from video games! Learning Japanese from games will engage your mind in a whole new way.

In a moment I’ll show you some of the best Japanese video games for language learners (these are some of my favorites!). But first, how should you go about using video games to learn a language?

How to Use Video Games for Learning Japanese

Keep Your Brain Switched to “On”

When you're playing video games in Japanese, it's all too easy to switch your brain off. You'll ignore the Japanese because you know what to do, or rely on subtitles. Don't fall into this trap of passive learning!

While it can be frustrating to play and not understand, you won't learn unless you stick with it in Japanese. And as you get going and start to spot common words and patterns, it becomes more and more rewarding.

Look Up Words and Patterns You Don't Know

As you play, keep a notebook handy. Write down any words or grammar patterns you don't know or understand as they come up. Once you're done playing, look up their meaning and add them to your Anki deck or study notes. That way, you can have fun going through the game without constant pauses. And you'll still learn and remember the things you need to work on.

Of course, if you get hung up on what to do in the game, look it up as you go. But for one or two words, write it down and keep it fun.

Practice Speaking the Words You’ve Picked Up

Once you've picked up new words from playing video games, use them! Try building sentences with what you learned. And don't forget to practice speaking them out loud with a language partner – a good tip here is to find a language exchange partner who loves video games as much as you do, and enjoys talking about them.

If you can't slip your new vocabulary into natural speech, practice describing the game and how you learned it. You'll be sharing something you love with your language partner, and they may have advice or more knowledge about the words or grammar.

Practice Kanji for Reading

US video games often have three options: Japanese audio, text in kana, or kanji without furigana (the kana reading written in small characters next to the kanji). If you aren't focused on reading and writing right now, then focus on games with audio only. But if you want reading practice, you need to know some kanji or be ready to pick apart kana sentences.

Kanji can be a crutch – you may not know enough kanji to read everything, but you rely on it to get the gist even if you can't pronounce it. This is because kanji translates as a word, not a sound, so you know the word and get the idea. But if you don't know enough kanji, games only in kanji without furigana will be a huge challenge to read through. Practice kanji to prepare. Anki has excellent Japanese kanji decks to help you learn fast.

If the game has a kana-only option, that presents another challenge. Using kanji helps break up words and particles in a sentence when reading. So unless you know a lot of vocabulary, it can be difficult to tell where a word begins and ends. But this is how Japanese children first learn to read, so it's still doable.

Use What You’ve Learned Even When You’re Not Playing

Just because you're playing a video game doesn't mean you get off easy with your speaking practice. To make full use and actually learn while you play, you need to keep up your practice outside the game. Video games are great as supplementary learning, but won't teach you everything. Make sure to use what you learn by communicating with others.

Try Out Shadowing

If your game has Japanese audio, turn this on while playing. Then listen to the dialogue and shadow it.

Shadowing is a technique to learn how to speak and sound like a native. All you do is follow along with the speaker and copy what they say, either at the same time or right after. It helps you catch each word and remember it. It also helps you pick up the cadence of the language, if you have trouble sounding like a native.

10 Awesome Japanese Video Games to Learn Japanese

Here are some amazing Japanese video games you can use to learn Japanese.

1. The Tales Series

The Tales series is a fantasy and action RPG game. You journey with a cast of characters in a mystical world inspired by real-world conflict. The latest game in the series, Tales of Berseria, has you exploring the world as a young woman trying to overcome trauma. She joins a crew of pirates in the kingdom of Midgand. The games feature emotional and epic storytelling as you fight your way through.

Tales features Japanese language audio with English subtitles. So you don't fall back on the subs, try looking at the characters and listen to the dialogue first before reading along. Get ready for action-packed vocab, including pirate speak. Arrrrr, matey!

2. Disgaea

Disgaea is one of the mainstay video games in Japan. It's a tactical RPG that takes place in the Netherworld. Morals are the opposite of the human world and you defeat enemies with chess-style strategy. The game features a wide range of characters, personalities, and extremes. Disgaea is a cult favorite because of its insanely high levels (it's over 9000!), exploding penguins, and witty banter. In the latest game, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, you lead the main character on a rebellion of revenge.

Disgaea features Japanese audio with English subtitles – so practice that shadowing technique and speak along. Keep an ear out for Japanese-style humour, and how speech patterns change between gender, age, and status.

3. Pokémon

One of the most famous Japanese video games of all time, chances are you know this one well. A light-hearted catch-em-all RPG, Pokémon is one of the easiest Japanese video games to learn from. When you start a new game, it gives you the option to choose your language. Once you do that, the game has two settings for reading: kana only, or kanji (without furigana).

While the name changes of the most Pokémon may throw you a bit, the game includes a lot of English loan words. You'll learn onomatopoeia, and words repeat often enough to memorize them. And because you probably know the game as well as Pikachu knows Ash, it will be easy to pick up from context.

Plus, you can play Pokémon Go in Japanese, too. Take your Japanese studies on the go, and switch your phone's language to Japanese. Once you do that, your apps – including Pokémon Go – will switch to Japanese. Go on, Catch ‘Em All!

4. Persona 5

Insanely popular, Persona is a turn-based RPG set in a Tokyo high school. Persona has fun music, a unique storyline, and detailed connections between characters. The game is so in-depth, that exploring Tokyo in-game is a near mirror image of the streets in real life. You'll play as young high school characters, so you'll hear tons of slang speech. With the new maid feature in Persona 5, you'll also get exposed to keigo (respectful speech).

Persona 5 has the option for Japanese audio with English subtitles. Pay attention to grammar, new vocabulary, and rich conversation exchanges between characters.

Best

5. Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate is a visual novel video game, so it has less gameplay and focuses on the story and text. It'll certainly put your Japanese to the test. Play as a self-proclaimed mad scientist who accidentally invents a time machine – with his microwave. The story follows the consequences of time travel, and allows you to make decisions altering the course of events.

The audio is only in Japanese, with English text. Because it focuses on time travel, you'll learn science-related words and verb tenses.

6. Fire Emblem Warriors

The legendary Fire Emblem series now has a Japanese-language download pack. Take command of a legion of new and old favorite characters, battling against armies and monsters to save your kingdom. Each map has missions you must beat, and you order the characters according to your strategy.

Fire Emblem features a lot of complex grammar and vocabulary. It ranges from some older, warrior style language to military and magical terms. You'll also get the chance to hear keigo, commands, and humble speech.

7. Ni no Kuni

Featuring artwork by Studio Ghibli, who wouldn't want to play this game? Ni no Kuni is a beautiful RPG featuring a young boy's adventures in an alternate universe. Follow his journey as he tries to bring back his mom from the dead. Magical visuals and storytelling draw you in and keep you engaged with the dialogue.

Ni no Kuni has the options for both Japanese audio and subtitles. All the main characters are young, so you'll hear how kids speak and different usages of words.

8. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Of course you'll want to play Legend of Zelda in Japanese! In the latest game, Link awakens from a century-long slumber to prevent the destruction of Hyrule from Ganon. The game is open-world, meaning you get to go at your own pace and make your own choices. Zelda is rich with detail and imagery, with many options for side journeys and stories.

You can download the Japanese audio pack, and practice your listening skills.

9. Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

A fun shoujo game featuring a princess who becomes fascinated by the art of alchemy. After convincing her father, she becomes an alchemist to better her world. Develop your kingdom by completing missions and defeating monsters. Try synthesizing and scoring more XP to move the story forward.

The game allows you to have Japanese audio. It has lots of cutesy speech patterns like Japanese-style nicknames and feminine speech.

10. Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles is an action-role-playing odyssey with an open-world design. You play as Rex, a young scavenger who wields the living blade Pyra. You visit different Titans, large beings that make up the landmasses in an endless sea of clouds. Each Titan has a distinct culture, so you'll learn various dialects and vocabulary.

Download the Japanese audio and listen to the action-packed dialogue. Don't forget to write down words you don't know, especially from regional dialects.

Check Your Favorite Games for a Japanese Language Setting

This Japanese video game list includes some of the most popular games. But many Japanese video game companies are including the original Japanese as an option now. So check your new games! Many of the latest games and consoles are region-free. You can order Japanese games online from Japan for both Japanese audio and text, and be able to play them on your US console. Most new games have a Japanese language pack you can download as well.

Keep in mind older systems or handhelds, like the Nintendo 3DS, are still region-locked. So you can only play US games or download the language pack.

What are Your Favorite Japanese Video Games?

What games have I missed that you love? Do you import your games, or download the language packs? Do you have a tip for learning while playing your games? Let's hear your thoughts and leave us a comment.

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This best PC games list compiles the top titles of recent years, celebrating the top 30 titles currently available for your rig. After all, there are lot of PC games to choose from, so you want to make sure you're spending your money on the right ones. This list contains both the very best PC games of recent years from any genre, as well as the best new PC games for each month that didn’t quite make it into our top 30 hall of fame.

To enjoy your games to the fullest, you may want to future-proof your PC. If you don’t know what that takes, we’ve got buyer’s guides for you to help you get the best machine for your budget. Depending on your preferences, simply head on over to our list of high-end gaming PC builds, the best gaming laptops or the best gaming PCs out of the box.

  • Grab the best gaming mouse to enhance your games
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  • Need a new PC headset for gaming?

The best PC games October 2020 – top 30 list begins on next page

Plenty of recent releases haven’t quite made our top 30 list – which starts on the next page – but are well worth having a look at. If you want to stay on top with new releases or our top 30 PC games list isn’t quite for you, here are some recent top picks.

Second Extinction

The urge to return to Left 4 Dead 2 is ever-present, but every now and then a studio aims to recreate the magic of annihilating hordes of enemies with friends in multiplayer. Systemic Reaction is attempting just that with Second Extinction, recently released in early access, and it seems like this one is here to stay.

Instead of zombies, Second Extinction invites you to band with friends and players online to take down dinosaurs across different regions. There are several main and side missions to complete, unique characters with powerful weapons, and the intriguing War Effort feature, which connects the progression from all players. The more successful missions everyone completes, the more the threat level from a certain area will decrease. Failing to fulfill the objective will lead to dangerous community events, and these are only the first steps into an evolving period in development as you fight to recover the Earth from these heinous creatures.

Play it now:

Steam

Baldur's Gate 3

The third installment of one of the most iconic RPG series of all times is out in early access, and the team behind the Divinity: Original Sin series is behind it. If you’re a fan of D&D, you can expect a similar experience here, featuring the first act of the campaign in its entirety as the game’s development evolves over time.

As well as staying true to its origins, Baldur’s Gate 3 sets the precedent for a new way to experience RPGs. From one of the most in-depth character creators we’ve seen up to date, to a constant reward for your creativity, the foundation is nothing but promising already. It might be in the first steps of early access, but there’s already many memories to make as you explore the Forgotten Worlds either on your own or with up to three friends online.

Buy it now:

Star Wars: Squadrons

There might not be a new Star Wars film waiting for us in the holiday season this year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get to explore the galaxy in new and exciting ways. Star Wars: Squadrons sets you in the cockpit of a pilot right after the Return of the Jedi events, taking the sides of both The New Republic and The Empire in a thrilling single player campaign where everything is learned through progression.

Whenever you want a break from the story, you can also take part of online battles, unlock new weapons and cosmetic items for your TIE Fighter and many other ships, and also experience all of this in VR as an optional feature. If you miss the thrill of spaceship battles in first person, Star Wars: Squadrons is the best choice at the moment.

Buy it now:

FIFA 21

EA is back with another instalment of the FIFA series, and it’s one of the biggest to date. FIFA 21 brings new game modes to the table: Volta Football allows you and other players to experience a small-sided football in the streets, creating your own avatar and taking part of matches outside of the big leagues, while FIFA Ultimate Team allows you and a friend to take part of weekly co-op challenges, earning rewards together and growing a dream team of your own.

These new modes are also joined by the biggest and most fulfilling Career mode to date, allowing you to manage key moments of your journey with more depth in matches, training, and transfers. And if anything, you can always start a new tournament online, and rank all the way to the top with your favourite team.

Play it now:

Steam

Vigil: The Longest Night

The oppressiveness and sheer difficulty of the Soulsborne games cannot be understated, and this influence has made itself present in many other games along the years. As we wait for Demon’s Souls to come back to life with its remake, Vigil: The Longest Night takes influence from Castlevania and Salt and Sanctuary to deliver a tough and sprawling metroidvania.

In the boots of Leila, a member of the Vigilant Order, you must uncover the secrets of a world that has forgotten what daylight is, killing all sorts of creatures and growing stronger in a precise and evolving combat system as you search for Leila’s sister in several dangerous corners of this place.

Play it now:

Turn to page two for our full rundown of the 30 best PC games you need to add to your wishlist immediately...

30. Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter: World is an elaborate, extravagant game about slaying huge beasts and turning their tails into axes. Its gorgeous maps – from the bright, enchanted Coral Highlands to the toxic clouds of shrouded unbelly of the Rotted Vale – are fitting backdrops for some properly brilliant fights. The monsters are huge yet elegant, and both learning and countering their moveset makes it feel more like a fighting game than a button-mashing hack-and-slash.

With 14 weapon types and hundreds of items to craft, climbing the gear tree can feel overwhelming, but it’s still the most accessible Monster Hunter to date. A generous loot system means that, even when you’re grinding for a particular armor set, you’re constantly picking up useful items you didn’t know you wanted. Plus, finding clues about monsters will automatically lead you to their location, meaning you can travel between its excellent fights faster than ever. Happy hunting.

Since the release of the Monster Hunter World Iceborne expansion in January 2020, Capcom has invested in even more content, such as limited-time events, new monsters to beat after the completion of the main story, and new décor. In July 2020, Monster Hunter reached version 14 since release, with no end in sight, so there’s always something new to do.

Play it now:

SteamHumble Store

29. Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator isn’t only a game for hardcore aviation nerds, although it certainly can be. Maybe it will make you one, because it does a great job of reminding us of the marvel of flight, with its huge skies and world-spanning map. This virtual sandbox isn’t just any old place, it’s our own world, and it’s a marvellous sight – also thanks to MS Flight Sims outstanding visuals. It does struggle with its own size more than once, and players have made fun discoveries which come down to incorrect map data, but once you’re hooked, you’ll take these curiosities (and, let’s be honest, bugs) as the consequence of a vast, ambitious undertaking. In exchange, you’ll be able to fly a very responsive plane, making it feel as realistic as possible in a game setting, and you’ll learn some handy real-world terminology, too. There’s simply nothing like Microsoft Flight Simulator, and whether you want to relax and explore the world or engage with a deep simulation, both aren't only possible, but a lot of fun.

Play it now:

SteamMicrosoft Store

28. Cities: Skylines

Maxis and EA’s 2013’s SimCity was one of the biggest disappointments of last decade – but in a way, we’re glad it flopped. Without its failure, Paradox wouldn’t have greenlit Cities: Skylines, and we wouldn’t have the best city builder of the modern age. The genre has always been a staple of PC gaming, and even if you don’t think Skylines is the best ever, it’s certainly the one that’s most fun to play today. Its building tools are intuitive and streamlined, and yet complex enough for you to construct the wildest intersections you can imagine. Each time you start a campaign you’ll be struck with a different vision for how you want your city to look, feel, smell, and it means that no two playthroughs follow the same path.

The controls are responsive, the UI easier to navigate than you might assume, and a handy zoning tool let you paint your settlement green (residential), blue (commercial) and yellow (industrial) in an instant, taking you from a patch of grass to a burgeoning metropolis in record time. There’s no campaign, but tooltips, and a long list of heatmaps, help you ensure your citizens always have enough water, electricity, and access to healthcare. You’ll gradually ramp up the complexity and density of your creation until, eventually, you’re seeing skyscrapers rise, planes fly between airports, and tourists flock to marvel at your latest monument.

I was brilliant at launch, and it’s even better now. A thriving mod community constantly adds building tools, graphical tweaks and building reskins, and developer Colossal Order pumps out meaty official expansions, such as Green Cities, which lets you build eco-friendly towns, and Mass Transit, which adds realistic transport systems. Simply put: even after you’ve built your 50th city, you’ll still find a reason to put your shovel in the dirt once more.

Buy it now:

27. Total War: Three Kingdoms

Any number of Total War games could’ve made this list – Warhammer 2 was a close second – but 2019’s Three Kingdoms feels like a huge step forward in many ways. It still has the epic, dense campaigns fans of the series are looking for, but the way it makes diplomacy completely transparent, telling you exactly what it will take to strike a deal, makes dealing with other factions more streamlined. New temporary, multi-faction alliances called coalitions add another strategic notch to your bow.

You could argue that other Total War games capture certain elements of the series better. Warhammer 2’s factions are more exotic, and Shogun 2’s Japanese themes more coherent. But Three Kingdoms is strong in every area, and its multiple, complex campaigns feel very different depending on which leader you pick to try and unify China. If you want the most complete Total War experience, Three Kingdoms is your best bet.

Play it now:

Steam

26. Doom Eternal

With new weapons, a more agile Doomguy, and a fresh emphasis on resource management (yes, you read that correct), Doom Eternal somehow 1UPs Doom 2016, which was already deserving of a spot on this list. It’s an over-the-top celebration of guts and gore in which you chainsaw enemies in half, rip eyeballs from sockets and stomp on demon’s faces with a giant boot. But, at times, it’s also about restraint. Enemies have weak points to target and weapons that you can disable, so sometimes it’s worth finding a spare half-second in the heat of battle to pause, aim, and hit your shot, because it will save you a lot of pain later. Some enemies are even invulnerable to damage unless you perform a specific counter at a specific time, which is something you don’t expect in a Doom game.

Fights are still, for the most part, unbearably tense and hectic. You’ll scramble and double jump to avoid packs of enemies, using the super shotgun’s meat hook to grapple to far-off enemies before turning them into red mist. You have to plan two steps ahead to avoid being overrun, and a new resource system makes firefights feel more strategic, less random. Ripping an enemy in half with a chainsaw nets you armor, while lighting them on fire before sending them to an early grave gets you armor. It turns minions into health packs, and you’ll want to keep a few of them alive for when you really need them. We knew Doom Eternal would be this ballsy – but we didn’t expect it to be clever, too.

Buy it now:

SteamHumble Store

25. Portal 2

Portal 2 is nearly a decade old, but it remains our favorite co-op puzzler on PC, and the single-player is amazing too. This is Valve’s writing at its brightest: every line of dialogue hums with humor and charm, particularly when Steven Merchant’s Wheatley is on-screen, and it gives you lots of ways to interact with your co-op partner, whether you’re high-fiving them or laughing behind their back.

Most importantly, the puzzles are outlandishly clever. Just like the first Portal, the game is about placing an orange portal on a surface, a blue portal on another surface and leaping through – but if the original set the table, Portal 2 brings the banquet. New mechanics such as gels that can increase your speed or bounce you high in the air make the puzzles even more fiendish, and more satisfying to solve. We love returning to it with a friend every few years to savour it all over again.

Play it now:

Steam

24. Alien Isolation

Beep, beep, beep. Alien: Isolation’s motion tracker is a blessing and a curse: a terrifying sign that the beast is near, and even the thought of the sound puts our hair on edge. But we daren’t put it away in case we turn a corner and, bam, the alien is on top of us, and it’s game over, and we have to leave our PC to go outside for a long, slow walk. So we clutch the tracker close, hiding under a chrome desk in the hope the alien leaves us alone.

Isolation’s tech helps create a sense of place — the flickering monitors and clunky computers are straight out of ‘70s sci-fi films. And then there’s the alien itself, one of the greatest video game monsters ever spawned. Intelligent, crafty and horrifying, it’s always stalking you, always searching. Grab your tracker and hide for your life.

Play it now:

SteamHumble Store

23. Rocket League

Football, but with cars: it’s that simple, and that complicated. Rocket League is, to the beginner, a fast arcade sport where vehicles slam into each other at 100 mph and occasionally bundle the ball into the net. But as you get to grips with the controls, it turns into an aerial acrobatic show with front flip assists, mid-air twirls and last-second winners. The great thing about Rocket League is that it’s fun at both of these levels.

You can gather some friends on a sofa and set up a casual 1v1 tournament, with bonus scores for the flashiest goals. You can team up with a squad and really dive into the tactics, rotating goalkeepers and trying to score the perfect team goal. If you want, you can switch it entirely to a game of hockey, with a puck instead of a ball. Each time you play you can feel yourself improving, and your first properly good goal – not one where you’ve accidentally tapped it in with your bumper – is a memorable moment.

Play it now:

SteamHumble Store

22. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is an underground labyrinth of secrets: burrow in and you’ll be lost in its lofty caverns, tight tunnels, and beautiful, ruined cities, and you won’t want to find the way out. As you jump and slash through it you’ll slowly unpick the lore of this bug-inhabited world, and realise its story runs far deeper than you initially expected. The map feels endless, and even late in the game you’ll stumble on whole huge areas you never know existed. When you travel through them, they’ll connect to a familiar space in a way that instantly makes sense, and feels just right.

You’ll battle 28 bosses and visit varied locales, from grand greenhouses to snowy planes being dusted by the ashes of a long-dead being. As you progress you’ll upgrade your character, The Knight, with charms that change your playstyle: one damages foes anytime you get hurt, another lets you fire energy from your sword when at full health. Finding and equipping charms, and landing on the combination that works for you, is just one of the many reasons you’ll want to boot it up for a second playthrough, where you’ll likely get a completely different ending (all five are worth seeing, if you can find the time).

Play it now:

SteamGOGHumble Store

21. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Dark Souls remains a series you shouldn’t miss, but if you’re only going to play only one From Software game right now, we reckon it should be Sekiro. This samurai slasher has the best sword fights you’ll find on PC, and its lush, branching world is full of surprises and eccentric characters, which make it a joy to explore.

Its fighting system relies on precise timing to parry enemy attacks: it’s hard to master, and you’ll die countless times to its huge bosses, but it’s satisfying to feel yourself slowly improving. When you finally learn an enemy’s attack pattern and follow up a perfect counter by plunging your sword into their neck, you know you’ve become a melee god. The stealth is shoddy, but the snappy, lethal combat more than makes up for it.

Play it now:

Steam

Turn to page two for our picks of the 20 -11 best PC games to play right now...

20. Hitman 2

Hitman 2 is the ultimate murderous playground. Its levels, from the beaches of New Zealand to a car race in the streets of Miami, are luscious and detailed, packed with secrets to find and an endless number of routes to your target. It’s a blend of quick-thinking – how do I deal with that guard that’s just spotted me? – and careful planning, and you could spend a full hour just walking around each level, watching it tick over like clockwork as you plan the perfect strike.

It never takes itself too seriously, which we like. It has a homing briefcase that will lock onto an enemy’s bonce wherever you throw it, and you can stab goons while dressed in a full chipmunk outfit if you can find the right disguise. Best of all, post-launch DLC has added all of Hitman 1’s levels, making the sequel the ultimate assassin’s hub.

Play it now:

SteamHumble Store

19. Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect Andromeda was a dud, but the original three games are still our go-to RPG trilogy. No other series has got us as invested in its characters, and some storylines span all three games, running for hundreds of hours on end. The sci-fi setting, with its varied cities, planets and ships, is endlessly cool, and missions never feel repetitive, but it’s the crew you assemble, and the way Commander Shepherd interacts with them, that makes it stand out. You’re given weighty decisions to make that can literally decide the fate of whole space species, so it really feels like you’re leaving your stamp on the galaxy.

In that regard, Mass Effect 2 is the best of the bunch, and its characters are the ones we remember fondest (don’t worry Garrus, you’re still our favourite). But if you can stomach some clunkiness, you should really start with the first game, because choices you make there shape what happens later. If you want to dive straight into the sequel, that’s fine as well: just watch a recap or read a summary of the first game.

Play it now:

OriginSteam

18. Call of Duty: Warzone

Call of Duty: Warzone is the best battle royale on PC right now. Apex Legends is a close second, and a better bet if you want to control ultra-mobile heroes with cool abilities, but Warzone plays like the greatest hits of the genre so far, with a few inventive twists. When you die, you get one chance to respawn by winning a 1v1 gunfight, which creates chances for memorable comebacks. Contracts give structure to each round by asking you to find a series of chests, defend a given area to reveal the next play circle, or hunt down an enemy, their location revealed on the map. All this gets you money, which you can spend on kill streaks and loadouts that you’ve put together between games.

It’s built on top of Call of Duty’s signature high-octane action and low-recoil gunplay, well balanced to allow PC players to team up with friends on consoles. Individual locations on the map have their own personality, and some are even based on existing maps from the Call of Duty series. It means that no matter where you’re fighting, whether it’s on a giant ice lake or the bunkers of a military base, the environment presents you with tons of tactical options. You can play solo, duos, trios or in four-player squads; trios feels like the sweet spot.

Play it now:

17. Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium’s tale of a washed-up, alcoholic detective sounds like a cliche. 10 seconds in, you’ll realise it’s anything but. You might have a heart attack trying to unhook your necktie – which itself is arguing with you – from a ceiling fan. You can look in the mirror and convince yourself you were once a rockstar that played to screaming audiences, or discuss the complex political breakdown of a city plagued by corruption with a racist lorry driver. And that’s just within the first half an hour.

Disco Elysium is a game that celebrates language and characters: an RPG without combat where all your duels are verbal, and every conversation is peppered by funny asides from different aspects of your own psyche, all clamouring to have their internal voices heard. You have a long list of choices for nearly every piece of dialogue, and what you say meaningfully impacts the characters around you. It’s witty, it’s bleak, and we can’t get enough of it.

Play it now:

SteamHumble Store

16. Crusader Kings 3

Ideally, the word “grand” in a grand strategy game should refer to multiple things, large-scale battles for example or the size of your hopefully ever-expanding kingdom. But for the Crusader Kings franchise, grand has always also referred to the grand follies of court life, taking the social element of the genre further than any other title. Crusader Kings 3 builds on existing systems with its stress system, which is literally what it says on the tin – a great reminder to look after your mental health. Because every time your ruler does something that disagrees with their tendencies and beliefs, they will become stressed, until they eventually reach a breaking point. Building a dynasty, too, is important, with a myriad of different ways to find a partner, grow your family and then ship your kids off to form hopefully successful political marriages. The amount of options and power you can amass in CK 3 truly sets its apart as a title that allows you to express your own creativity. You set the rules for your society, and react flexibly whenever a neighbour takes offence or takes a shine to watch yours. Whether it’s stories like “I built a family of genetically optimised assassins” or “I abducted the pope”, every playthrough will lead to a healthy dose of drama, which is what life, both real and virtual, is all about.

Play it now:

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15. Destiny 2

Bungie’s co-op shooter had a rough start to life, but gradually redeemed itself in 2019 through a string of solid expansions, including Shadowkeep. More than just an endless loot quest, much of Destiny 2’s brilliance comes from the simple art of shooting things: it makes every headshot feel special, and the sci-fi enemy designs see sparks and colours shower your screen.

It’s a great pad shooter, but playing with a mouse and keyboard really lets you feel the weapons at work, and control your shots better. And if you’ve never played before then now is the best time to start, because last year it launched as a free-to-play game on Steam. You won’t get the most recent expansions, but you’ll still squeeze hundreds of hours out of the base game, its early expansions, and the addictive PvP. You can even transfer your saves over from console.

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14. Outer Wilds

A joyful, playful space story about a character that dies every 22 minutes. During each life, you explore its wonderfully folksy sci-fi world and watch it change, entire planets splitting apart before your eyes. You try your best to learn something new, and then you close your eyes and you’re back at the start, the world reset, leaving you 22 more minutes to try and figure out what the hell is going on.

It’s the perfect window to dive into its intertwining stories. The world is small enough that your makeshift spaceship can reach any planet in a few minutes, giving you plenty of time to delve into ruins and talk to memorable NPCs. But it’s never long enough for you to uncover the whole truth, leaving you with plot threads to pick up in your next life. Slowly, you’ll start to tie these threads together, and the world only becomes more fascinating with every new expedition. Best of all, the conclusion is absolutely worth sticking around for.

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13. The Sims 4

The best life sim on PC never stops improving. The DLC is pricey, but always adds something new to the life of your Sims, such as magic spells, a tropical island world or a themed furniture set for your grumpy teenager’s bedroom. We never tire of the way it can generate dynamic storylines – family dramas, love triangles or personal struggles, and those tales keep us coming back, year after year, expansion after expansion. It’s more than five years old but, with EA showing no signs of slowing down new content, it’s still got plenty of life in it yet.

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12. Subnautica

Subnautica’s premise reminds us of any number of survival games: it drops you into a foreign, inhospitable land, points off into the distance, and says, “Go build stuff”. But Subnautica is far from average. Its wilderness is entirely underwater, which changes the structure, pace, and tone of your adventure, and creates a palpable sense of dread as you descend further and further into the depths in search of materials (was that a tentacle that just flicked through your peripheral vision?).

Your goal is to expand your base and escape the planet, and in that sense Subnautica provides the kind of clear structure that other survival games neglect. It has a proper story and satisfying ending, and that narrative pulls you through your journey, always giving you a concrete goal. On top of all that, it’s just an incredibly well-made, and whether you’re mining, crafting or exploring, it’s a joy to interact with.

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11. XCOM 2

XCOM 2 is a slick, turn-based strategy game that doesn’t care about your feelings. As you battle an alien invasion you’ll grow attached to your squad, upgrading them, customising their gear and building personalities for them in their head. Then, one wrong move and you’ll watch them get their face torn off by a towering, faceless, pink mutant, and there will be nothing you can do about it. It’s agonising.

That loss is part of XCOM 2. Without it, the wins wouldn’t feel so good, and you wouldn’t spend so long deciding which piece of cover to sprint to next. The simple controls and intuitive UI make it easy to pick up, and once you get in the flow of a battle you’ll be barking out orders quickly, watching your soldiers pop in and out of cover. You’ll find the odd glitch, and it can be frustrating when your squad misses easy shots, but there’s still no better game for testing your tactical nous.

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10. Half Life: Alyx

Alyx is the best VR game to date, and feels like a proper evolution of Half-Life 2, one of the greatest shooters of all time. It combines a gripping, emotional story with the most detailed level design you’ve ever seen. It feels like every object can be picked up, examined, and smashed. Sometimes, that’s incidental – when you’re opening draws, crushing cardboard boxes or plucking bottles of vodka from shelves – but often, it’s central to progression. At one point, you must cover your mouth to stop Alyx coughing as you sneak past a blind monster, for example. This level of interaction makes the whole game feel alive, and makes you feel like a very real part of it.

The shooting isn’t half bad, either. You don’t have many weapons, but your arsenal is punchy and lethal, and feels perfect in your hand. Reloads are done manually, which feels fiddly at first, but speeding up over time is satisfying, until eventually sliding magazines into place is second nature. Frantic firefights are broken up by smart puzzles and slower, atmospheric sections when your only light is a torch. Being in VR makes City 17 feel far spookier than we remember.

The action is driven by a narrative worthy of the series. As Alyx Vance, you journey through City 17 trying to find your father Eli, while your witty sidekick Russell chats away in your ear. Your quest acquires larger stakes, but we don’t want to ruin anything – suffice to say the spectacular ending is worth waiting for.

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9. Minecraft

Much like the structures you can build in its world, Minecraft just keep getting bigger. Among other sandbox games, it stands alone in delivering on its promise of total freedom: you can break and place blocks in any way you choose, recreating the whole of Game of Thrones’ Westeros – or crafting a simple seaside shack and living off the land with a fishing rod.

Its multiple modes mean you can play it any way you like, which is a liberating feeling, but the presence of enemies, hidden treasure and twisting cave systems help lend it structure. Its sandbox world never fails to throw ambitious ideas into your head, and then before you know it you’ve spent five hours working, block by block, towards your next self-made objective. Mods and custom maps broaden its scope even further, and it’s at its best when you’re building your next project collaboratively with a friend.

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8. Spelunky 2

During the golden age for indie games that was the last decade, everyone seemed to be playing Spelunky, a roguelike that was notorious for being tough as nails but also rich with hidden secrets and opportunities for fun emergent gameplay. All of the high points of the original stay intact with Spelunky 2. It’s big, procedurally generated tombs are still full of traps and monsters out to kill you. To make dying less frustrating than its predecessor, you now start at a hub that allows you to choose what biome you tackle next, which helps with variety. Speaking of variety – there’s a host of all-new enemies, a much larger world including an area filled with lava, and mounts that will die in gruesome ways for you as they help you get ahead.

As before, the magic of Spelunky lies in how everything that the game throws at you can also be used by you in ways to aid you on your journey. It’s a game of inventive interlocking systems where nothing is ever quite the same, so if you can get past the frustration of dying, there’s always lots to see.

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7. Rainbow Six Siege

The best multiplayer shooter on PC, and it just keeps getting better. Siege punishes you for going in all guns blazing: instead, you need to think about your approach, and co-ordinate with your teammates. The best plans come together like clockwork as your squad shoots out CCTV cameras, breaches the wall on an enemy’s position and holds the perfect angles, pinging headshots.

It can feel overwhelming to new players, but the depth of its roster means you’re bound to find your groove. Each operator has a role to play, whether you’re a marksman, a demolitions expert or just a muscly man with a giant hammer, and out-thinking your opponents feels as good as out-gunning them. Ubisoft continue to support Siege with regular new maps and operators, and improved tools for new players, as well as an unranked playlist that was added last year, means there’s no better time to pull the trigger.

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6. Hades

After a successful Early Access period of almost two years, the rogue-like by the makers of Bastion is now out in full. Hades combines the best of Supergiant – stunning art direction, sound and music, and of course a story full of characters that will grow on you for more than the fact that they make for great cosplay. From the get-go, this is supposed to be an inclusive roguelike, dipping its toes into roguelite territory for some permanent buffs to your character.

Zagreus, the prince of the underworld, is looking to escape, battling through several dungeons on his way to Olympus. Not only is this the best attempt at genuine storytelling in a roguelike, with plenty of surprises, Hades is also just genuinely great on a technical level, featuring speedy combat with different skills and weapons to fit your preferred playstyle. Since losing doesn’t feel like a punishment, you’ll soon find yourself in the flow of “just one more go”, getting to know a varied cast of gods better with every run.

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5. Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 is a near-perfect assassin sim. In the original, you were hunting a target in a huge level, and you could kill them in any way you liked: in this sequel the maps are bigger and more intricate, your supernatural powers more impressive, and you have the option to play as a second character, Emily, who has her own murderous style.

Every level is full of lavish detailed, and every avenue to your target feels like its own, perfect assassination. The smooth traversal makes it easy to get around and explore every corner of the map, searching for clues until you’ve planned your route to your final target. Maybe you go in shotgun blaring, maybe you spirit blink to a rooftop and sneak in through a window, or maybe you trick enemies into walking into their own electricity traps until all the guards are dead. And then, in a flash of metal and a blur of blue magic, your blade is in your target’s neck, and you’re vanishing into the night. It’s simply glorious.

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4. Red Dead Redemption 2

It’s finally here. After more than a year of waiting, the previously PS4-exclusive cowboy simulator from GTA giants Rockstar galloped onto PC in 2019, and it’s the definitive version of the game. It’s the same story of Arthur Morgan’s quest for redemption in the US wilderness, with the same complex characters and detailed world to explore, but with improved graphics and the option to add Red Dead Redemption 2 mods that let you skip the prologue, transform into an animal, or turn Arthur into the Joker. No, seriously.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC should run better than the console versions: it had some issues with stuttering at launch but those appear to be fixed, and if you have the right rig you can run it in 4K or across multiple monitors. The Wild West never looked so beautiful.

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3. Into the Breach

Into the Breach’s predictability is its strength. Its rules are so clearly explained, so explicitly laid out, that it leaves no space for chance or mystery. All of your focus can go into finding the ideal place to move your tank, or the perfect spot for a missile strike – and when you inevitably cock it all up, you’ll know exactly where you went wrong.

It’s part strategy game, part puzzle game in which you move pixel art pieces across a chessboard-style map, squashing alien invaders. Each squad you can control has their own gimmicks. One relies on pushing enemies into danger zones rather than dealing direct damage, another is an expert at freezing aliens with icy attacks. Its brilliance comes in applying your arsenal to any given situation, taking 15 minutes to stare at the board until – Eureka! – the perfect next step finally hits you.

And it has near-endless replayability: if you overcome the final boss you can try again with a new squad that feels completely different. And even if you fail, the randomised, rogue-like world structure means you can instantly load up another round, complete with a fresh set of challenges to scratch your head at.

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2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The first two Witcher games showed flashes of brilliance in their believable, gritty characters and low-fantasy setting, but lacked polish. The Witcher 3 pairs CD Projekt Red’s excellent writing with compelling gameplay, and one of the most expansive, beautiful worlds ever created.

The Northern Kingdoms, inspired by European mythology, are populated by fascinating creatures and, more importantly, multi-dimensional characters. They’re all flawed, not least protagonist Geralt of Rivia, but whatever you feel about them, you can’t help but become invested in their fates. Speaking to any of them might launch a five-hour side quest that takes you across mountain and bog, vineyard and dusty city. Perhaps you’re hunting a mythical creature, or simply trying to solve a lovers quarrel: either way, you’ll care about what you’re doing, and you’ll visit some stunning locales while doing it.

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1. Divinity: Original Sin 2

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a glorious homage to the bygone days of isometric RPGs. But rather than relying on pure nostalgia, it takes the best bits of the classics – the branching stories, evocative writing, complex characters, and party building – and mixes them with sleek modern design ideas, such as physics-based spells and mod support. It sets up a clear set of rules and then encourages you to break them, something that’s even more fun when you’re playing with a friend, where you can settle arguments about what your party should do next via a rock paper scissors-style mini-game.

The combat is the best you’ll find in the genre, and relies on smart thinking and inventive elemental combos rather than random dice rolls. And when the fighting is done, your characters will always have something profound or witty to say to each other: it’s worth listening to every incidental conversation as you delve deeper and deeper into its fascinating fantasy world.

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