MSI Aegis RSource: Windows Central

Best PC Games Windows Central 2021

In many regards, PC gamers have it better than their console counterparts. One reason why is the sheer breadth of titles available, but this can make it challenging to keep up with the best titles on the platform. We're here to help you out with a shortlist of PC games you need to play — both new and old. Even though it's a few years old (and frankly an obvious choice), The Witcher 3 remains our top pick.

Best Overall: The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3Source: Windows Central

Windows Central Best Award

This choice may appear a little too obvious, but The Witcher 3 really is one of the best games ever released on PC. The story is engaging, each side quest is interesting, and the world CD Projekt RED managed to bring to life feels authentic. It's mind-boggling the first time you fire up Geralt's adventure.

The Witcher 3 is a medieval-inspired experience, following the adventures of Geralt of Rivia as he attempts to track down his protege, Ciri. Along the way, Geralt gets caught up in all sorts of political intrigue, trading his supernatural hunting services for coin and information.

Even the mini-game, Gwent, was such a hit that the developer managed to release a standalone game. It's the whole package, so long as you can overlook the so-so combat system.

Pros:

  • Stunning visuals
  • Engaging story
  • Interesting characters
  • Story decisions
  • Unique world

Cons:

  • Combat is only OK

Best Overall

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt box art

The Witcher 3

The winds be howling

The Witcher 3 is one of (if not the) best RPGs released on PC. You need to play it. Buy direct from GOG to support the developer and access a DRM-free copy.

Runner-up: Disco Elysium

Disco ElysiumSource: ZA/UM

Coming almost out of nowhere, Disco Elysium is one of the single most "must play" games on any platform today. While it looks on the surface like a traditional, top-down, isometric RPG, that couldn't be further from the truth. Disco Elysium takes the rulebook and tosses it out of the window.

It makes no apologies for its tone and makes it perfectly clear that topics like politics can belong in video games done right. Disco Elysium shies away from nothing and truly is a role-playing game in the very closest of terms.

The options to play your own way are limitless, and with subsequent playthroughs, you can have an entirely different experience, making different choices and playing a different way. 2021 will see a free expansion to the game for current owners, too, and if you're yet to play this exceptional game, you need to change that right away.

Pros:

  • Exceptional storytelling
  • Unique experience
  • Deep RPG mechanics
  • Story decisions
  • Runs on almost any PC

Cons:

  • Not for younger audiences

Runner-up

Disco Elysium cover art

Disco Elysium

Solve crimes, do drugs

The open-world RPG lets you talk to a huge and strange cast of characters as you navigate the fallen city of Revachol as an amnesiac cop taking questionable advice from different aspects of his personality and his disapproving partner.

Best Battle Royale: Apex Legends

Apex LegendsSource: EA

EA decided it would be a good idea to cash in on the Battle Royale fad, and Apex Legends is what subsidiary Respawn Entertainment came up with. Many consider it a free-to-play Battle Royale version of Titanfall, but it's much more than that.

If you're familiar with PUBG, the aim of this game is to dropdown with teammates and be the last team standing. You don't control mechs; instead, it's more of a traditional run-and-gun shooter, but each character available has unique special abilities that keep each round feeling fresh.

It's a fun game, especially with friends, and the amount of customization options available and addictive gameplay make the grind an enjoyable experience. Even with the launch of COD's second Battle Royale, Apex Legends is still a unique experience and one to try out in 2020.

Pros:

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Unique Battle Royale game
  • Free
  • Great design
  • Fluid movements

Cons:

  • Battle Pass costs money
  • Other microtransactions

Battle Royale

Apex Legends

Apex Legends

One of the best Battel Royale games

Apex Legends is addictive, enjoyable, and well-polished. It's a unique take on the Battle Royale formula without alienating genre fans.

Best RPG: Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 Johnny SilverhandSource: CD Projekt S.A.

Were it not for a significantly buggy launch and the need for some serious hardware to truly showcase it at its best, CD Projekt Red's latest epic may well be sat atop this list in place of the studio's previous title. Epic is right, though, with Cyberpunk 2077 bringing something to the table, the likes of which we've never seen before and maybe won't again.

Night City, the bustling metropolis where the game is set, is dense and beautiful, with no loading screens between areas and a ton of unique exterior and interior environments to explore. The detail is exquisite, right down to being able to look out of windows and still see the full open world in front of you.

The main storyline isn't that long, but you have three different life choices to play through it, and every decision you make along the way can impact your overall experience. It's the side quests and general exploration that will consume your life, though, with an enormous map literally stuffed with things to do just waiting for your time.

Pros:

  • Jaw-dropping visuals
  • Every scene choreographed, with narrative choice at the center
  • Insane level of immersive freedom
  • Top-shelf voice acting and character performances
  • A gargantuan open world

Cons:

  • Quite a lot of bugs
  • Can chug on less capable hardware

Best RPG

Cyberpunk 2077 Box Art Any Platform

Cyberpunk 2077

A landmark achievement.

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most liberating open worlds in recent memory, with meticulous attention to detail, unprecedented amounts of motion capped scenes, and a story that will leave you shaken to your core. The wait for Cyberpunk 2077 was worth it because it is quite easily a candidate for the "best game ever made."

Best Racing: Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4Source: Windows Central

Forza Horizon is a series many follow for its addictive racing gameplay and online features to foster a virtual petrol head community. The latest installment in the series is a stunning entry, sporting a vast open-world based across Scotland and Northern England. It's everything Forza Horizon 3 was and so much more.

You'll be able to race around in your favorite vehicles, destroy most of the environment, and enjoy the experience of driving in multiple seasons — all in glorious 4K with an uncapped frame rate on PC.

There have also been numerous content updates to keep Forza Horizon 4 fresh since its launch. The expansion pass adds two whole new islands to explore, one of which is made of Lego, and new game modes like The Eliminator and Super7 provide plenty of reason to keep coming back for more.

Pros:

  • Incredible graphics
  • Excellent gameplay
  • Online features
  • Big open world
  • Soooo many cars

Cons:

  • Massive download
  • Mediocre matchmaking

Best Racing

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4

The biggest racer in Scotland

Forza Horizon is a great racing series from Microsoft that focuses on online play, and the fourth installment is the best the series has been yet.

Best Action: Grand Theft Auto V

Chances are you've already played Grand Theft Auto V, but if you haven't, you should. It's the largest entry in the GTA series, following the story of three broken individuals. Aside from the engaging storyline, you can go around and cause havoc across the city, just like in other GTA titles.

While the single-player action is addictive, the real gem is GTA Online, which is a completely separate game provided in the same package. Rockstar updates it with new content weekly, so there's always something fresh to get stuck on. Play it with friends, and you'll have so much fun.

It's hard to believe this game has been this popular for this long, or even that there are people who still haven't played it. It will go down in history as one of the all-time greats, and until GTA 6 becomes a thing, there's still plenty of reason to keep playing.

Pros:

  • Three protagonists
  • Large open world
  • Graphics
  • Free online play
  • Regular updates

Cons:

  • Loading...
  • Cheaters

Best Action

GTA V Box Art

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand theft madness

Grand Theft Auto V switches up the usual story structure by adding two protagonists to create a unique story-telling experience.

Best Competitive Shooter: Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six SiegeSource: Ubisoft

Ubisoft continues to release updates for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege tactical shooter, providing players with yet more content to dive through. The popular game mode Terrorist Hunt tasks two squads of players to either attack or defend a specific location, and there's simply no other multiplayer title that matches the tense, skill-driven action.

You'll need to master the art of destruction and gadgetry in this game. Experience a new era of fierce firefights and expert strategy born from the rich legacy of past Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six games. We're big fans of this installment, and if you're looking for a new multiplayer experience, this is it. Our only issue is the steep learning curve, which may put off newcomers.

Pros:

  • Unmatched skill-based multiplayer
  • Flawless atmosphere
  • Regular free updates

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve

Best Competitive Shooter

Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege

Tactical shooting

Rainbow Six Siege is an aggressive strategic shooter from Ubisoft with environmental destruction, tons of tactical gadgets, and an emphasis on team play.

Best Survival: Frostpunk

FrostpunkSource: 11 bit studios

Strategy and simulation can often go hand in hand, precisely what Frostpunk offers, but so much more. There's not only familiar strategic mechanics but also a compelling narrative and survival elements that make this one addictive title that can fall under a few categories.

We could have chosen from a few other titles like They Are Billions and possibly even Surviving Mars. Still, Frostpunk is just more polished with interesting features like the dynamic narrative and setting.

Indie developer 11bit Studios has also supported Frostpunk with plenty of free post-launch content. It's a solid, tight survival experience.

Pros:

  • Stunning visuals
  • Soothing music
  • Narrative
  • Unique experience

Cons:

  • Similar structures

Best Survival

Frostpunk

Frostpunk

Survive the cold

Frostpunk is a wonderful, engaging city-builder come survival strategy game that will challenge you with tough tasks and even tougher choices.

Best Strategy: Stellaris

StellarisSource: Paradox

Stellaris is one of the best 4X strategy and sci-fi games out there. You start with your own civilization in vast space and need to develop your empire. The early game is much-loved by fans for making you truly feel as though you're exploring space for the very first time.

Multiple expansions have been released, adding tons of new content and free patches to refresh the game for all Stellaris owners. The game itself is easy to get into but challenging to master, requiring you to manage planets, populations, relations with other civilizations, and ensuring you have enough resources to maintain a fleet.

Pros:

  • Solid UI and graphics
  • Addictive gameplay
  • Plenty of depth
  • Replayability

Cons:

  • AI is a little dumb
  • Steep learning curve

Best Strategy

Stellaris

Stellaris

See what's out there

Stellaris is a 4X strategy game where you'll find yourself exploring space, making friends (and enemies), and fending off against unknown threats.

Best ARPG: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSource: FromSoftware

Fans of Dark Souls and Souls-like games, in general, should definitely be playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It follows the formula that makes Dark Souls so great and puts its own spin on proceedings. Oh, and it looks stunning.

The challenge this game offers is also great, though admittedly, it may well be off-putting for some. And since there's no multiplayer, you can't call on your friends to help you out, either. Nevertheless, if you're up for it, Sekiro is one of the most rewarding games you'll play.

In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you step into the shoes of the "one-armed wolf" protagonist, a disgraced warrior rescued from the brink of death by a mysterious devotee. Bound to protect a young lord who is the descendant of an ancient bloodline, you become the target of many vicious enemies, including the "Ashina" clan. When the young lord is captured, nothing will stop you, not even death itself.

Pros:

  • Weighty combat
  • Challenging
  • Gorgeous atmosphere and visuals

Cons:

  • May be too hard for some
  • No multiplayer

Best ARPG

Sekiro

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

The beginning of a new franchise

In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you are a disgraced and disfigured warrior rescued from the brink of death. Fans of Dark Souls will feel right at home, as will anyone who likes a challenging game.

Best Simulation: Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator Tbm SnowSource: Xbox Game Studios

What to say about Microsoft Flight Simulator that accurately conveys the sheer grandeur of it all. Many words come to mind, but mesmerizing probably hits about right. This reboot of one of Microsoft's older, much-adored franchises delivers on a level far beyond anything imaginable.

It can bring even high spec gaming rigs to its knees, but with the right power behind it, this is simply one of the most beautiful games you will ever lay your eyes on. Part of that is the incredible digital recreation of the planes, and part is the stunning world you see out of the cockpit window.

Microsoft has used both the power of the cloud and its in-house mapping data to render and then stream a 3D model of the real world to Flight Simulator players. That's over 2 petabytes of data available, which would be impossible to render natively on even the best gaming PCs. But by offloading that to the cloud, the experience in Microsoft Flight Simulator truly is unlike any other.

Pros:

  • Stunning graphics
  • Cloud-rendered 3D modeling
  • Free on Game Pass
  • Endless replayability
  • Tons of content

Cons:

  • Demanding to run
  • Can be expensive

Best Simulation

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Box Art

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Flying high in the sky

Microsoft Flight Simulator is an absolute smash hit with its clever tech and stunning scenery and is easily the best simulator game on the market today.

Best Casual: Stardew Valley

Stardew ValleySource: ConcernedApe

Stardew Valley is one of those interesting games that took the gaming world by storm. Harvest Moon and other life simulation games are usually console-bound, aside from The Sims. ConcernedApe decided this would simply not do and brought about a killer experience for PC gamers to enjoy.

In Stardew Valley, you move into the area after inheriting a piece of land from a relative, and it's down to you to sort it all out, pull up trees, plant crops, construct buildings, raise animals, and much more. It's not just about farming, too, since there are caves to explore, monsters to slay, and fish to catch.

The game goes through the four seasons, and there are even activities held by the nearby village. Multiplayer works well with multiple players who live on the same farm, housed in their own buildings.

Pros:

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Gorgeous design
  • Multiplayer
  • Plenty to do
  • Countless crops and animals

Cons:

  • Somewhat limited for some

Best Casual

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

Grow your own farm!

Stardew Valley is another one of those indie games you'd buy on a whim, only to find out there's so much depth here. It's a killer simulation game with plenty to offer.

Best for Kids: Minecraft

Minecraft First NightSource: Windows Central

Minecraft is a blocky world where everything is a block, including your character. You can mine these blocks, build with them, make strange contraptions, defeat bosses, explore mysterious locations, download and install mods, and join your friends to create worlds together.

It's a game that has been around for years but sees a steady stream of updates with new content and has millions upon millions of people playing worldwide on all platforms. If you fancy building something, designing your own home, or recreating the Death Star to scale, this is the game you need.

It's an excellent sandbox for kids to play in, and they're unlikely ever to get bored. Best of all, it's so easy to run on virtually any PC that it's almost a no brainer.

Pros:

  • So much to do
  • Best played with friends
  • So many mods
  • Works on most devices

Cons:

  • A lot of content behind paywall

Best for Kids

Minecraft

Minecraft

Unleash your creativity

Build anything you can think of in the wonderful world of Minecraft. This has become the best-selling game of all-time, topping Tetris, for a good reason.

Best Indie: Hades

Hades MegaraSource: Supergiant Games

Hades is the latest and greatest from independent superheroes Supergiant, known for games like Transistor and Bastion. And it's easily one of the best new releases to launch in 2020. It's even got a cross-save feature allowing you to hook up to the Nintendo Switch version.

Following a familiar isometric RPG formula, Hades injects a dash of roguelike-style death and rebirth, weaving in a witty and infectious narrative that revolves around Greek mythology.

Hades' combat is the true star of the show, with stylish combos and strangely addictive sliding attacks that simply never get old. Hades felt like it came out of nowhere to widespread acclaim and thoroughly earned its place as one of our top games of 2020.

Pros

  • Beautiful artwork and music
  • Strong story and voice acting
  • Addictive gameplay loop
  • Plenty of endgame content
  • Cross-save with Nintendo Switch

Cons

  • Needs plenty of time investment

Best Indie

Hades Logo

Hades

An epic soundtrack, top-tier voice acting, gorgeous artwork and locales, frenetic but balanced action, and an addictive roguelike progression system and surprisingly deep build system come together to make Hades the indie game you should be playing if you have a PC.

Best Free-To-Play: Path of Exile

Path of ExileSource: Windows Central

Path of Exile isn't just a game; it's a journey. If you love RPGs where you can select and build a character through level progression and skill tree point allocation, this is the game for you. It's also jam-packed full of loot, allowing you to kit out your budding adventurer with some high-hitting, fancy looking gear.

Much like Diablo, the game aims to progress through the story, taking down hordes of enemies. After that, the game truly begins with end-game content in the form of maps, as well as additions from all the different leagues that are run regularly. These allow you to start fresh each season to take part in the new content.

It's social-based, too, featuring a huge user-driven market with in-game items used as currency. There's a fairly steep learning curve, but once you've got into the groove and find a playstyle and character build that suits you, it becomes one hell of an addiction. I, personally, have invested hundreds upon hundreds of hours and loved each and every moment.

Pros:

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Rolling leagues
  • So much loot
  • Can play with up to 7 friends
  • Some incredibly fun playstyles

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve

Best Free-To-Play

Path of Exile

Path of Exile

Craft your own adventure

Path of Exile is the spiritual successor to Diablo 3. I understand that Diablo 4 is in the works, but you should totally check out this free-to-play action RPG. It's incredible.

Best Sports: Football Manager 2021

Football Manager 2020Source: Sports Interactive

Football Manager has been around for decades. It was originally called Championship Manager, and today, we've been blessed with Football Manager 2021, which brings with it the latest transfer updates, as well as plenty of improvements.

The aim of the game is quite simple. You need to take control of a team and lead them to victory in local leagues as well as international cups. It's not quite that simple, though. There's a lot of depth here, including player scouting, statistics, development, youth, morale, media, and much more. It's easy to decimate your winning streak with nothing but a player substitute.

Still, once you get the hang of the mechanics and start winning matches, it becomes a rush to keep clicking the advance button, much like Civilization. Just one more day in-game turns into an entire weekend lost and forgotten.

Pros:

  • The best manager game
  • So much depth with so many teams
  • Fully licensed
  • Budding community with transfer updates
  • Gorgeous UI

Cons:

  • So much to master
  • Match outcomes can be unfair

Best Sports

Football Manager 2021

Football Manager 2021

Proper footy

This ain't no American Football game. This is proper football. Take the job as manager of your favorite team, or start from within the grassroots scene with your local squad and see how far you can take the boys (or girls).

Bottom line

So many great PC games have been released over the years, but there's one that always stands out: The Witcher 3. It's now used as a benchmark of what new RPGs should be in terms of quality, and that's great for all PC gamers.

It's an encapsulating story, a gorgeous world, and packed full of interesting characters. You'll sink a whole lot of hours into this game, and that's not taking into account GWENT, the side card game that's been spun off into its own title.

If you're not a fan of RPGs, there are plenty of other games available, whether you like adventure games or even just racing games. Check them out, or try all of them.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author:

Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.

Author:

Richard Devine is a Reviews Editor at Windows Central. You'll usually find him deep in hardware, gaming, both, or drinking root beer for which he openly has a mild addiction.

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