In recognition of PC Gamer's 30th anniversary, we asked ourselves a question: What is the purpose of the Top 100? Is it a list of games the PC Gamer team loves? A way to recognise the most important games on the platform? A celebration of the most exciting and vibrant communities? Or is it simply a helpful guide to what's still worth playing today?
The answer, we decided, was all of the above. And so this year we've created a new voting system that takes all of those factors into account. And then we had a big argument about the results. That's the other thing about the Top 100. You have to have a big argument.
Ahead of the vote, PC Gamer's staff were allowed to nominate games for the Top 100. In total, 269 games were nominated. Each writer was then asked to rate those games across four categories. The sum of these ratings were then divided by the number of voters, weighted, and put through a special formula. This gave us each game's final Top 100 Score.
- Quality: How good is it? A purely personal rating of its calibre as a game (60% of the Top 100 Score)
- Importance: How noteworthy is it? Its influence both within games and without. (15% of the Top 100 Score)
- Hotness: How exciting is it? The community's excitement for new updates and news, or the buzz it creates in online discussion. (15% of the Top 100 Score)
- Playability: How playable is it? How well its UI and systems hold up today, and how easy it is to get running on modern systems. (10% of the Top 100 Score)
Each category was subjectively judged—someone who's deeply embedded in a game's community will naturally have a different perspective of its Hotness compared to someone looking in from the outside. We wanted to capture those nuances in the voting.
The weightings were picked based on the Top 100's role as an annual list. Too much in Importance, and the list would stay stagnant year-to-year. Too much in Hotness, and there would be little consistency or respect to PC gaming's legacy. While Playability has always been a factor of the Top 100, we also didn't want to weight the list too far in the direction of technical considerations (after all, PC gamers will go to great lengths to play a beloved classic like Deus Ex). Ultimately, Quality had to be the most important factor. The main test of a Top 100 game is, simply: "Do we think it's good?"
Promotion and demotion
Once the Top 100 Score for all games had been calculated, we ordered the list from highest to lowest. Then we made some additional adjustments. Historically we've chosen to only include one game per series in the list. This year, we made a judgement call on whether games in the same series felt different enough from each other to be worth including. In cases where they weren't, we removed the lower scoring game. Sorry, Persona 4 Golden. If they were, we kept them both. You're welcome, Doom from 2016.
For the final step, every writer was given the opportunity to pitch for one change to the list—either promoting a game higher, or demoting it lower. The writer had to make their case in front of the entire PC Gamer team, who then voted on the strength of that argument. If the majority voted in favour, then their suggestion was ratified. This is why games aren't all in Top 100 Score order, but in each case we've noted which writer was responsible for the change. This year, in almost all cases, editors chose to promote games that fell outside of voting into the bottom section of the list.
We'd love to hear what you think of this approach. We think it's fun to dissect and compare games in this way, and as we think about applying this approach to other kinds of coverage it helps us to know what you think of it. Email [email protected].
The Top 100
Special Mention: Baldur's Gate 3
Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: The Top 100 is voted on in July, in part because it also runs in PC Gamer magazine. This is how we've always done it, and it's never previously been a problem. But this year, one of the best RPGs of recent times was released… in August. Baldur's Gate 3 received the highest review score we've awarded in over a decade. It's unquestionably a Top 100 worthy game. But, because of the cut-off date, it isn't in this year's list. In recognition of its historic score, we're adding it here as a special mention. Next year, Baldur's Gate 3 will be eligible for voting. I expect it will score very, very well.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: I gave Baldur's Gate 3 a score of 97% (one of the highest ever) and called it the best RPG I've ever played. Like BG2 was for so many years, and Disco Elysium more recently, it's a game I will probably measure other RPGs against. With less time and money, Larian built something that blows Starfield—positioned thanks to release dates as its main competitor—out of the water. Not because it's bigger or more lavish, but because it's able to tell a fantastic story that's both epic and personal while also being a completely unhinged sandbox. That we have a game that's so refined and intimate, but also expansive and open to experimentation, is an incredible treat. It's a shame it came out right after we finalised this list, because I guarantee it would have been fighting Disco Elysium over the top spot. I doubt I'll be any less enamoured with it in a year's time, though.
Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor: The best thing about Baldur's Gate 3 is how reactive it is. So many things change based on the character you're playing. Every voice actor recorded lines just in case you multiclass or respec them as bards so you can hear them deliver the insults when you cast vicious mockery. Same if you make them barbarians and go into a rage. There's a magic talking mirror who asks your name, and if you lie the name you invent is completely different depending on your species. If you're a gnome you say your name's "Zebo Haradook", as a half-orc it's "Krunk", and as a human it's "Jack Humanman". Jack Humanman.
The characters react too, and a constant theme of act one and two is NPCs saying they'll see you again in Baldur's Gate, the city where act three happens. When you get there, instead of it being an intimidatingly overstuffed momentum-sucker in the way RPG cities sometimes are—what they call Bigtown Problem on the Crate and Crowbar podcast—the city is a delight because you keep bumping into old friends, rivals, and enemies who remember whether you told them about some cool bar you know or refused to help them or whatever.
The second-best thing about Baldur's Gate 3 is that it's D&D but I don't have to convince five adults to abandon their children/partners/book clubs to play it with me. (I know some people play Baldur's Gate 3 co-op and their lives are a mystery to me.)
Mollie Taylor, Features Producer: I really wasn't sure if I'd like Baldur's Gate 3—I've played a single session of D&D in my life and I'm not one to commit hundreds of hours to a big RPG anymore—but it's such a downright charismatic game that it's hard to not be pulled in. It's witty, exciting, goofy and grim all at once and manages to pull off every vibe to near-perfection. If I had to pick one game that I had to play for the rest of my life, I'd probably pick Baldur's Gate 3 without any hesitation.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: One of my favorite things Fraser called out in his review of Baldur's Gate 3 is that it's an "our powers combined" of all the best ideas from western RPGs in the past 20 years or so. BioWare-style ensemble of lovable characters? Larian may have just beaten them at their own game. The written-in character reactivity from games like New Vegas or Vampire: Bloodlines? I got tons of special dialogue not just for being a Paladin, but for being an Oath of Vengeance Paladin. Hardcore, tactical RPG combat? Larian continues to do it better than anybody.
It always feels like CRPG fans, for better or worse, are always looking back, always rooted in 1997-2003. That makes it feel extra special that we've seen maybe the best example of the genre, ever, here in the future year 2023, and it was a smash hit adored by all.
100. Football Manager
Released Nov 8, 2022 | Top 100 Score 203.18, promoted by Dave James
Dave James, Managing Editor – Hardware: It's very easy to dismiss the Football Manager series of games as just a dry spreadsheet manager for football nerds, but it remains one of the most influential PC games in the platform's history. Not because it's launched a thousand clones—indeed there is literally no genuine competition—but because it's had a direct influence on the sporting industry it is simulating. There's no other series that's had such lasting real-world impact as Football Manager. Plus, it's ridiculously deep—an almost entirely open-ended RPG.
Starting life as Championship Manager, it began as the passion project of two brothers and grew, as Football Manager, into an absolute phenomenon. Now it's not just the actual developers working on the game, but a global army of football enthusiasts scouting players from practically every league on the planet. And it's this dedication to breadth and accuracy that has led to real-world clubs without the same scouting resources, and even Premier League managers, using the game to scout actual multi million dollar player signings. There have even been FM players hired as real-world coaches and managers, too.
It's because the actual simulation is so deep, and determined to be as accurate as possible, that makes this all possible. And also what makes it such an addictive game. I've lost thousands of hours to the series over the years, and it has that just-one-more-match energy that will keep you up into the small hours once it gets its claws into you. And the stories it creates over decades of a long, illustrious or ignominious career will stick in your head long after you shut your PC down.
It may be a niche game, but there are few gaming communities that will sink as many hours into each yearly iteration of the game as the global FM fanbase. With a future that is soon to include the women's game with the same level of detail, that fanbase is sure to grow.
99. Diablo 4
Released June 5, 2023 | Top 100 Score 207.43, promoted by Tim Clark
Tim Clark, Brand Director: That Diablo 4 placed so low on our list despite being one of the biggest PC releases of the year by any metric is, I guess, testament to how high the ARPG bar has been set. But for me its biggest triumph is how it's brought in a swathe of players who haven't touched the genre before, but liked the idea of a new big budget looter. So whilst I appreciate there are serious issues with the endgame, as evidenced by the disastrous rollout of a disastrous balance patch on the eve of Season 1, my Necro has been having a lovely old time mooching around the lower World Tiers, trailed by a platoon of skellies, delivering justice on the tip of a bone spear.
Tyler Colp, Associate Editor: Diablo 4's class design is a triumph, and I know this because I get to be a Necromancer who disintegrates into mist and explodes every corpse around her. Somehow Blizzard made me love talent trees again.
Sean Martin, Guides Writer: What other game lets me base an entire playstyle around exploding corpses?
Fraser: What a weird way to spell Path of Exile.
Jody: Weird way to spell Torchlight if you ask me.
98. Hollow Knight
Released Feb 24, 2017 | Top 100 Score 212.35, promoted by Sean Martin
Robin Valentine, Senior Editor: Hollow Knight's world strikes this amazing balance between hostility and wonder—you're always simultaneously excited and terrified to see what's around the next corner. It's got some of that Dark Souls magic—which so many indie metroidvanias try and fail to capture—in its beautiful horror, intricate geography, and tragic fragments of history. The more you explore, the more you understand how all its pieces fit together, until you're the master of your shadowy domain.
It's a game of really incredible craft and ambition, which only makes it all the more astonishing that it was the debut game of a tiny team. There's a reason people have been so excited about its upcoming expansion-turned-sequel Silksong for the last four years.
Harvey Randall, Staff Writer: I've no idea how Hollow Knight pulls off being cosy while also staying true to its grim Metroid-slash-Soulslike roots, but it sure does. Gorgeous character design straight from the pages of sketchbooks, a mournful soundtrack, and an atmosphere that makes you really feel like a little bug guy trying their best. I might be weird, but I find Hallownest a very comforting place to return to. Except the Royal Waterways. The little creeps down there should burn.
Sean: All I know is I've got to save those cute grubs, and I'll shank anyone who tries to stop me.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: Shoulda called it Full Knight.
97. Destiny 2
Released Oct 24, 2017 | Top 100 Score 212.89, promoted by Jacob Ridley
Jacob Ridley, Senior Hardware Editor: I just can't quit Destiny. I go through peaks and valleys in playtime, but I'm always keeping one eye on what's going on and finding time to shoot stuff with fantastical weaponry. It has that replayable quality that few games manage, let alone master, even for those moments when it doesn't feel at its best.
Phil: Lightfall's campaign was a massive misstep from Bungie, but the new expansion did at least do some things right. Buildcrafting is in a healthier place now, thanks to a mod rework and the much needed addition of a loadout system. And the relaxing of power requirements means it's easier than ever to get into the meat of the game's hardest activities.
The mood of the community has soured recently—genuine complaints about infrastructure and monetisation living alongside the more petty, reactionary grousing from a playerbase that probably just needs to take a break. But the subreddit is rarely reflective of my experience in the game. It's easy to get bogged down in the grind of seasonal events, challenges and reputation, but my advice is to focus on what the game does really well. The combat is unmatched in its balance of accessible gunplay and wildly overpowered space magic, and its raids and dungeons are still peerless. Recruit some friends, jump into King's Fall, and have an experience you won't find in any other shooter.
Tim: Other than the sunlit uplands of The Witch Queen and Forsaken expansions, it feels like—as far as the community is concerned—each season is somehow do-or-die for a game that has effectively remained unrivalled in a genre Bungie created itself. As Phil notes, Destiny 2 is hard carried by its, for me, still peerless combat sandbox (and to an only slightly lesser extent the incredible work of the art and sound teams). I also agree that Lightfall was a dropped ball of pretty disastrous proportions. Aside from the narrative confusions, including absurd macguffins that are still having to be explained months later, Lightfall also served up the most brain-scouringly annoying character I can recall in Nimbus. Truly, the Poochie of FPS supporting cast members.
Ultimately, if this year's big expansion felt like muddled filler, that's because it was. Lightfall was a hastily added entry to the Light and Dark saga intended to buy the team more time to finish next year's The Final Shape. I still feel optimistic for the series finale, largely based on this year's high-points, like the addition of the Strand subclass and the excellent Ghosts of the Deep Dungeon. But of course, it'll be do-or-die. It always is.
96. Death Stranding
Released July 14, 2020 | Top 100 Score 214.49, promoted by Rich Stanton
Rich Stanton, Senior Editor: Kojima's outsize personality can sometimes overshadow the fact that he's one of the great designers, someone who thinks about every interaction a game offers and how to eke every last bit of juice from it. Death Stranding sticks with me years later and it's not the pompous though oft-hilarious cutscenes, but the dogged journeys it sends you on and its total commitment to the not-so-simple act of traversal. You earn every triumph in this game with failure, pratfalls, and sometimes sheer bloody minded persistence.
The pandemic hitting just after release is a cosmically absurd coincidence, one that subsequently layered a degree of prophecy and meaning over a meditation on our fragmented society, our inability to act as a united whole in the common good of all. It's a game where what resonates comes to feel quite private, as you and Sam and BB keep pushing, keep striving, and enjoy the luxury of the time and space to think about what keeps you keeping on.
Morgan: Enthusiasm around our 2020 GOTY has dwindled as some of its champions moved on from PC Gamer, but I'm glad Rich stepped in to make sure it still made the cut. There is simply no videogame more committed to the human experience of walking; of tripping, of hurrying, stumbling down a hill, biting off more than you can chew, of feeling so exhausted by life that you pass out (or piss your pants). It's Kojima's best game, not for its story, but for its smart interlocking systems and unmissable vibes.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: I honestly still chuckle about the name Die-Hardman every few months. Underrated comedy.
Released April 21, 2022 | Top 100 Score 216.90, promoted by Morgan Park
Morgan: You bet I wasn't about to let one of the best games of the decade so far slip off this list. Teardown is as fun as it is truly original: a sandbox puzzler powered by the best destruction engine since Red Faction Guerilla. I adore that Teardown establishes an elastic set of goals, usually "steal these objects in a minute" and gives me infinite time to decide how to do it. It's the perfect bait for people who love playing with Legos but get bored when nobody tells you what to make with them.
Phil: That preparation stage is Teardown at its best. You're free to manipulate the level—its objects, vehicles and even buildings—in order to execute a high-stakes heist. The timer doesn't start until you kick off the first objective, which means you've all the time you need to engineer the best route—laying planks of wood to create ramps and bridges, smashing holes in walls, positioning vehicles to transport you from one valuable to the next. When it's time to execute, there's intense joy in pulling off the perfect crime, but also in narrowly missing out on the timer. A simple quickload and you're back to the planning, figuring out which ingenious tweak can shave a few more seconds off your time.
94. Marvel's Midnight Suns
Released Dec 2, 2022 | Top 100 Score 216.95, promoted by Evan Lahti
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: It's the best game about superheroes on PC and the best Mass Effect game since ME2. Midnight Suns puts Firaxis' pedigrees on display: unit animation, the board game-ness of the play space, its understanding of how to unfold a campaign. But it is also a heartfelt game about friendship, about managing intergenerational conflict, about the relatable experience of being a vampire who starts a book club in order to get closer to his alien crush. It drips with Marvel's standard doomsday stakes, but perhaps 35% of the game is hearing about how Captain America or one of the X-Men think about ordinary relationships.
Robin: It could not be more obvious as you play Midnight Suns that it is a game Jake Solomon has been dreaming of making since he was a teenager. It's such a wonderful, unique game, combining all sorts of unlikely elements into this sprawling and sometimes messy journey that embraces everything about comic book stories. In places that can make it very awkward and cheesy, but it's so wonderfully earnest, with such rich systems, that you can't help but forgive it. I was only disappointed that its post-launch DLC felt so limp and underdeveloped, perhaps a victim of the game's underwhelming sales at launch.
Phil: Honestly, I think it would have been higher if those DLCs didn't leave such a sour taste.
Fraser: I'm so glad this made the cut but sad that it's hanging out in the 90s. This isn't just the best superhero game I've played since… well, ever, it's also a brilliantly novel deckbuilder that's cured my malaise with the genre. It's a crime that this wasn't a huge success for Firaxis, as I'd put it up there with XCOM 2.
Morgan: The best game about shoving goons into other goons to knock them out.
93. Powerwash Simulator
Released July 14, 2022 | Top 100 Score 220.65
Sarah James, Guides Writer: Yeah, I know. This is one of those games where you just want to laugh at its existence, then you play it and 50 hours later, you're trying to figure out why you can't put it down. There's no story to pull you in, and no impressive mechanics or cutscenes to fall in love with. Instead, Powerwash Simulator just works by appealing to that part of your brain that likes neatness and order in the most soothing way possible. And if you don't think you care about making things shiny, this game is likely to surprise you.
Morgan: I love Powerwash Simulator for being an uncomplicated, stimulating "second activity" game that you can also choose to overthink and obsessively optimize. Great on Deck.
92. Dragon Age: Origins
Released Nov 2, 2009 | Top 100 Score 219.09, promoted by Robert Jones
Robert Jones, Print Editor: The importance of Dragon Age: Origins to PC gaming still, even now almost 14 years after its release, cannot be overstated enough. The BioWare masterpiece proved that big, complex, narratively epic RPGs could still not only be made for the platform, but could be critical and commercial smash hits, too. Rough around the edges, sure, but filled with buckets of player choice and charm, as well as some incredibly memorable adventures.
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Origins set the bar so high for loveable party members that Bethesda, CDPR, Larian Studios, and BioWare itself are all still trying to jump over it more than a decade later. This is the thread that links modern RPGs back to Infinity Engine glory and though the real-time-with-pause combat has aged, the experience has not. Origins is still the heart-wrenching, nail-biting adventure that spawned a world worthy of its tireless fan base.
Robin: For one wonderful moment, classic isometric fantasy RPGs took a step into the future. Though Origins alone couldn't quite prevent big budget RPGs (and even its own sequels) swerving more and more into high action over top-down strategy, it did help embed many core ideas of the old classics into the modern landscape—and no doubt helped lay the foundation for Baldur's Gate 3.
Phil: Dragon Age is such a weird series. Always reinventing itself, but rarely in ways that feel new or fresh; just different from what it's been before. I've liked all of them in their own way—even (especially?) Dragon Age 2—but it's hard not to feel that BioWare's failure to capitalise on the strengths of Origins is a sign that it had lost faith in traditional RPGs, and that ultimately its legacy has been left worse off as a result.
91. Amnesia: The Bunker
Released June 6, 2023 | Top 100 Score 217.93, promoted by Ted Litchfield
Ted: One of the scariest, most stressful games I've ever played. You're the last living enlisted man in a sealed French bunker on the Western Front in 1916, and there is something in the walls. Frictional's always excelled at atmosphere and storytelling, but The Bunker is on a whole new level mechanically thanks to harder-than-hardcore inventory management, immersive sim problem solving, and a canny AI beast respectfully cribbing off Alien: Isolation's notes.
It's very short, but randomized items and codes leave this an eminently replayable nightmare. While Frictional scaled back on the mythic psychedelia of Amnesia: Rebirth, The Bunker still weaves a tragic little yarn that makes for a perfect entry point into the series. It's like one of those Lovecraft stories that's a pure spooky bummer as opposed to a mythos-expander, more "Imprisoned With the Pharaohs" than "Call of Cthulhu."
90. Slay the Spire
Released Jan 23, 2019 | Top 100 Score 218.39, promoted by Robin Valentine
Robin: For seven years now, countless developers have been chasing Slay the Spire's pitch-perfect roguelike deckbuilder formula, and it's still the undisputed king of the genre it played a huge role in popularising. It's secured its place in PC gaming canon as far as I'm concerned—a hugely influential classic that feels just as fresh and clever today as it did when it first launched into Early Access. There's a reason I've put 200 hours into it.
Harvey: The Gremlin Nob has ended more runs than I can count. I've beaten this game multiple times. He's on the first floor. Why is it always him? Anyway, no deckbuilder I've played even comes close to nailing the Risk of Rain 2-style satisfaction of stapling a bunch of relics to your body and becoming powerful enough to kill the sun.
Released Jan 25, 2018 | Top 100 Score 221.67
Jacob: Celeste is much more a life-affirming game than you'd expect of a modern platformer. You go in expecting troublesome puzzles; you come out with a new lease on life.
Harvey: Celeste is a complete homerun—a killer entry in its genre, a great speedrunning game, lovely graphics, a banger soundtrack and a really touching story. It's an inescapably heartfelt tale about grappling with identity, anxiety, and overcoming personal hardship.
Creator Maddy Thorson has also confirmed that Celeste, for her, is a game about transition, as she discovered her own identity over the course of development. That light makes the metaphor of a mountain few make it down from even more profound. I'm not trans myself, but I am a part of the LGBT community, and too many of us haven't made it back from that kind of climb. Go play Celeste.
Wes: The snappy movement hooked me in Celeste more than the story. The jump-dash combo here is Super Meat Boy-calibre, but Celeste's platforming is crucially about thinking as much as reflex. Every area adds a gimmick that recontextualizes how you get from A to B.
88. Fallout 2
Released Oct 29, 1998 | Top 100 Score 221.85
Robert: Is this the most Fallout-y game of the series, still, in 2023? Yes, yes it is. Sure, Fallout: New Vegas got very close to recreating Fallout 2's pitch-perfect cocktail of grim post-apocalypse survival sim, surreal and frequently cutting satire, choice-stuffed RPG and ultra-violent turn-based-combat game, but Black Isle Studios' sequel is where the Fallout series' character was most intense.
Andy Chalk, US News Lead: Fallout 2 is set in such a great world. It's got a little bit of everything: Grim horrors abound, as you'd expect, and there's plenty of killing to be done, but there are pockets of hope to be found too, where humanity is actually doing pretty okay. You're turned loose into all that with nothing more than basic equipment, a vague goal, and the freedom to do as you see fit: It's a fantastic place to just roam around in, living the Mad Max life—minus the cool car, of course. I loved Fallout 3—all due respect to Robert, it's my favorite of the Bethesda Fallouts—but it never really picked up what Fallout 2 put down: It had the look and even some of the feel of the Fallout games, but it missed the heart and soul that made Fallout 2 such a special experience.
87. Guild Wars 2
Released Aug 28, 2012 | Top 100 Score 218.75, promoted by Phil Savage
Phil: Every live-service developer should be forced to play ArenaNet's free-to-play MMO. For 10 years, it's been quietly solving the problems that plague online games—evolving and growing without succumbing to manipulative tricks like FOMO to boost player retention. It's one of the most accessible, friendly games in the space, and, thanks to the studio's new commitment to more frequent expansions, feels more vibrant and alive with possibility than ever. Some balance quibbles aside, the latest expansion Secrets of the Obscure has been a success—a new direction with new systems that, despite being an overall smaller release, has left me feeling like I have more to do than I did after last year's End of Dragons launch.
Fraser: I got dragged back into GW2 after leaving before it even got its first expansion, and I am so glad that I gave in and returned to Tyria. It's this huge toy box full of wonderful distractions and novelties, from the puzzles to the races to the sprawling meta events. Now that I'm playing again, I can't imagine myself ever getting tired of it.
86. Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
Released Feb 12, 1999 | Top 100 Score 219.04, promoted by Fraser Brown
Fraser: Every time we get a new Civ, I ask "Why not more Alpha Centauri?" And no, Beyond Earth absolutely does not count. Brian Reynolds and Firaxis, all the way back at the end of the last millennium, created the most inventive, surprising and powerfully evocative 4X ever conjured out of code, and it's still an astonishing game today.
Joshua Wolens, News Writer: It's pure ideology, baby. No Civ game has ever truly gotten its hooks into me, but Alpha Centauri did it easily, and every day I wake up in a white-hot rage that no one's remastered the thing yet. The reason is politics. Despite being a game series in which you can literally play Mao Zedong and George Washington, the Civ games have always been politically sterile, but by contrast, Alpha Centauri cannot wait to talk your ear off.
Quotes from Nwabudike Morgan, Sheng-ji Yang, and Pravin Lal bounce around my head like stubborn song lyrics to this day. This is a game that's interested in ideas—capitalism, communism, biopower, necropower, ecology and industry—and takes those ideas seriously. What's more, it trusts you to take them seriously as well, to be sincerely interested in the questions facing the newborn society of Planet just as its various faction leaders are, and to see the game as more than a question of building tall or wide. I mean, don't get me wrong, it cares about that stuff too, but this game sticks with me because it bears the terrible, terrible responsibility of launching a thousand philosophy degrees. That's a crime beyond measure, of course, but it's also why I'll love Alpha Centauri until I go into the tanks and become one with all the people.
85. Pizza Tower
Released: Jan 23, 2023 | Top 100 Score: 222.75
Ted: It's a hard thing to make a 2D platformer feel fresh in the year of our Lord 2023, but holy crap, Tour de Pizza did it.
Pizza Tower elevates the level escape mechanic from Wario Land 4 into something really special, creating this perfect rhythm where you feel your way through a level at a normal, Mario-y pace your first time through, then indulge in a perfect Sonic momentum dash on your way out.
Its myriad secrets and challenges make for a speedrunner's paradise, and I don't even have the space to talk about its knockout '90s Nickelodeon animation.
84. EVE Online
Released May 6, 2003 | Top 100 Score 223.02
Rich: A life-swallowing game, and not just because of the time you put in but how it comes to be a part of your life outside of the game. EVE's secret sauce is and always has been that the players control what happens and, in a place with this many thousands of pilots, that battle for control unlocks every last drop of human ingenuity, courage, commitment and, yes, sometimes cruelty and deviousness. A once-in-a-lifetime experience that somehow remains vital over two decades since release.
Never have I played any MMO so bound-up in my own online identity, one where I had to attend (OK, read) through an in-game university's courses to even dare going outside of the safe zones, and a universe where everything felt so consequential. Even the decision to eventually quit or, as its players say, win EVE.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: I joined EVE to roleplay as a war reporter as a one-off gag, wound up being conscripted into a corporation for protection, and two months later I was one of those players who plays every day but is always in the same space station. I quit for my health.
83. Doom (2016)
Released May 13, 2016 | Top 100 Score 223.26
Andy: The 2016 version of Doom is one of the smartest reboots of all time, because it's all so wilfully dumb. None of it makes a lick of sense, but that doesn't matter because everything is metal. And not like nu-metal, where everyone's full of angst and torment because their daddy didn't love them or whatever—I'm talking Iron Maiden, Dio, Venom, the kind of metal that adorns the t-shirts that all the cool dads still have stuffed in the backs of their drawers. Loud, powerful, in your face, and utterly unabashed of its embrace of the dumbest teenage rock-hero fantasy imaginable—which somehow comes out the other end mutated into sheer awesomeness. It is simple, and it is brilliant: Guns. Demons. Rock and roll. That's Doom, baby!
Wes: When people talk about great narrative moments in games they talk about some sad scene in The Last of Us or whatever when they should be talking about the Doom Slayer listening to five seconds of a voice call from someone trying to tell him what to do and hurling the monitor out of his way. Now that's storytelling.
Released Oct 19, 2021 | Top 100 Score 226.11, demoted by Jody Macgregor
Jorge Jimenez, Hardware Writer: Inscryption had me hooked the second I booted it up. It's subversive, well-written and it's a pretty good card game as well. Just when you think you have a handle on what's going, you're dumped into an entirely different world and game. It's a card game that has something to say about card games. It's a wild game you need to experience even if you hate card games.
Tyler C: Inscryption bends the card game genre with a rabbit hole of a story and inventive mechanics throughout. It’s a game about games that deftly avoids cliches. Few games stick in your brain like this one.
Jody: If the first act was the entire game I'd rate Inscryption, but the following two acts are so dire they pulled the whole experience down.
81. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
Released Dec 1, 2015 | Top 100 Score 223.50
Morgan: My most active Siege days are behind me, but Ubisoft's tactical FPS remains one of the best around. In recent years, Siege's willingness to change has impressed me: nearly every map from the original game has been reworked, and foundational systems like health and the pick phase have been reimagined. It's still Siege, so it's still buggy, but it also exudes the confidence of a shooter that's seen nearly eight years of refinements.
Tyler W: My group plays in spurts, stopping when one shockingly long-lived bug or another starts ruining sessions, or when we've been demoralized by cheesy pro strats in casual, but we mostly have fun when we do play, or at least I do. You can play a lot of great mind-games in Siege, and my best nights often happen when I do the opposite of what my instincts tell me and take big risks.
Released Sep 18, 2020 (Early Access) | Top 100 Score 223.64
Lauren: That a jankety early access ghost hunting game could give me more hours of co-op joy than any high budget live service game is a classic PC gaming miracle. I don't love all the changes over the last year (bring back the old ghost box voice, please) but it remains so easy to load up the truck, head to a house, and flush out unruly ghosts while kicking about laughing with my friends—even if the ghosts have gotten annoyingly astute about my hiding spots lately.
Jacob: I totally agree with Lauren here. The mere fact I've spent more time with friends in this janky ghost hunting game over the past few years than most major co-op games is a testament to how wonderfully entertaining it is. And wonderfully scary, even after years of learning the tricks of the trade and knowing how these spectres move. Since Halloween is creeping up, it's naturally the time of year to get back in the van and hunt some ghouls.
79. Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age
Released Feb 1, 2018 | Top 100 Score 223.79
Mollie: FF12 isn't spoken about enough for how excellent it is. A solid JRPG with one of the most unique battle systems to date, set in a stunning world that will have you wondering how the hell they crammed the original version on a PS2. If you like Dragon Age: Origins, give this a go. Seriously!
Harvey: The Zodiac Age bridges the gap between the 2006-era RPG jank with shinier graphics and a fast-forward button. The gambit system lets you program your squad, and I'm shocked it's not been used more often. Also, it has Fran and Balthier in it. That's not gameplay related, they're just really attractive.
Wes: 2006-era jank? Nonsense! Final Fantasy 12 was incredibly polished when it came out, and ahead of its time in the way it threaded each environment and city together into an explorable, higher fidelity version of an old abstracted world map. It took until FF16 (nearly 20 years!) for Square Enix to match this game's voice acting. And the Gambit system was properly ahead of its time, allowing for so much customization and creativity in how you set up your party—everyone who argued it "just played itself" was a dang fool. The story kind of disappears two-thirds of the way through, but what's there is still the sharpest and most character-driven of any Final Fantasy.
Released Dec 10, 2018 | Top 100 Score 224.75
Andy: Dusk dragged our nostalgia for '90s FPS games just far enough into the modern world to capture the best of both eras: It's fast, violent, silly, weird, not entirely coherent, and an absolute blast to play. It's the big daddy of the boomer shooters, and even now it remains a must-play example of the genre.
Wes: The king of the boomer shooter renaissance, only Dusk is like King Théoden while still under the corrupting influence of Wormtongue: constantly spooky and unsettling, off in ways that just don't seem quite right. Levels that seem straightforward descend into madness, putting you up against progressively more messed-up enemies and levels that feel like they came from a Quake PhD program. Those wheely dogs will haunt me forever.
77. Tactics Ogre: Reborn
Released Nov 11, 2022 | Top 100 Score 225.00
Jorge: Tactics Ogre was the turn-based strategy game that made me fall in love with turn-based strategy games. Reborn is the remaster that actually improves the original in meaningful ways. Fully voiced over dialogue, improved character and skill balance and a killer rewind feature that lets you undo bonehead battlefield tactics on the fly.
Wes: Tactics Ogre is the game you graduate to after you've played Final Fantasy Tactics and want an even heavier number-crunching strategy game with a political plot of warring nations. Reborn makes some sweeping balance and design changes to the 2010 version of the game, which was itself a remake. It's always been a gem, but it's more polished than ever now.
76. Stalker: Call of Pripyat
Released Feb 11, 2010 | Top 100 Score 225.00
Chris Livingston, Senior Editor: Never has an open world FPS made me feel more like the fragile, frightened human being I am in real life. One wrong step or stray bullet in the bleak shooter will leave you limp and lifeless on the ground, just another scavenger lost to the Zone. Every encounter, every firefight—heck, even just walking through a field in the bright light of day—is filled with delicious tension and dread.
Fraser: Miserable but beautiful; quiet but bombastic; chill one moment, terrifying the next. Call of Pripyat is a game of juxtapositions and contrasts, set in an unpredictable post-apocalyptic wilderness where nature has been turned on its head and both anomalies and soldiers are out to kill you. It's been years since I last visited the Zone, but it's unforgettable.
Joshua: Shadow of Chernobyl is a classic, but Call of Pripyat is the Stalker game that took the series' framework and polished it into something robust, meaty, and relatively bug-free. The Zone is as eerie and antagonistic as ever, but it's more rewarding in CoP than ever before. It's filled with things to do, factions to ally with or antagonise, and an endless list of bizarre anomalies to risk life and limb to get your hands on. It captures the experience of being a scavenger and treasure-seeker in a world that fundamentally does not want you there better than anything else I've played, and I can't wait to see if Stalker 2 manages to better it.
75. Grand Theft Auto 5
Released Apr 14, 2015 | Top 100 Score 225.46
Morgan: The newest Grand Theft Auto turned 10 this year (and eight on PC). You'd think the huge gap would have fans clawing at Rockstar HQ for GTA 6, but GTA 5 remains a huge game in 2023, propped up by continued updates to GTA Online and the unexpected rise of unofficial roleplay servers on PC. We still recommend the plain ol' vanilla story mode, too, though Rockstar's undying crime sandbox has been showing its age for a few years now.
Phil: It's continued placing on this list is in part because of the singleplayer, yeah, but also because there's nothing else like GTA Online around. This is a shame! GTA Online is janky and broken in lots of irritating ways. It is frustrating to play. It is annoying to simply form a group with your friends. A significant amount of it is essentially meaningless because Rockstar rarely goes back to rebalance its older activities. It absolutely could be bettered. And yet, if you're after online criminal sandbox hijinks, it's the only game in town.
74. Citizen Sleeper
Released May 5, 2022 | Top 100 Score 225.64
Wes: An RPG with little animation but striking character art, Citizen Sleeper proves how much flavor a few extra mechanics can bring to a visual novel. As a sleeper—a mind trapped in a dilapidated artificial body—you're mostly reading and talking your way through this story, but dice rolls, some light skills and weighty level-up choices add real drama and tension to choices you make to stay alive on the frontier of space.
Harvey: I'd heard a lot about Citizen Sleeper, but I never managed a proper run at it. I sat down on a whim one weekend and became transfixed, beating it in two all-day sessions. For me, it was a game about leaving home and starting a new job, turning the scary and unfamiliar into a home.
But for others, it can be anything—Citizen Sleeper holds a mirror up to your heart and forces you to make a choice about who you are, what you want, and why. I think you should play it, especially if you're going through a transitory period of your life. It'll help, trust me.
73. Project Zomboid
Released Nov 8, 2013 (Early Access) | Top 100 Score 225.93
Chris: Face it: you're doomed. No one knows that better than zombie survival sim Project Zomboid, which begins each new game with the words "This is how you died." It's been in early access for a full decade, the sort of thing that typically enrages gamers, but it's only grown bigger, better, and attracted more players over the years. The depth of the sim is staggering with intricate systems that govern nutrition, injuries, farming, weather, vehicles, and everything else you could imagine. It's daunting to learn, engrossing to play, and utterly heartbreaking when you finally die. And you will.
Released Apr 24, 2018 | Top 100 Score 226.07
Fraser: Turn-based tactics with mechs is an easy sell for me, but even with that in mind BattleTech is a brilliant adaptation, full of huge machines beating the oil out of each other in absolutely gripping conflicts. Managing heat and ammo, obsessing over positioning, trying to sneak through a forest with a building-sized monster—it's all great stuff. Unlocking and then equipping new mechs became an obsession for me as I tried to create the perfect murder machines, experimenting with all sorts of loadouts. Of course, nothing feels quite as good as sticking jetpacks and axes onto a metal behemoth and watching it hack off limbs.
Evan: Bingo; mechs are durable, fighting piñatas that break apart in stages, which makes them a perfect fit for turn-based tactics.
71. Risk of Rain 2
Released Aug 11, 2020 | Top 100 Score 226.15
Harvey: This game rules top-to-bottom, and I'm glad to see it make the list. It's a killer roguelike experience where you buy void-corrupted items from a giant newt tucked into liminal space, with some of the most wildly varied class design I've seen out of a third-person shooter.
Wes: Last year I modded the hell out of RoR2 and spent a week flying around as Goku kamehamehaing mushrooms that spit acid at me. 10/10.
Morgan: You have to appreciate the gall of a game that challenges you to become so thoroughly coated in lethalities that you cannot be touched, killed, or even truly perceived.
70. Left 4 Dead 2
Released Nov 20, 2009 | Top 100 Score 226.16
Harvey: Left 4 Dead 2's shown more staying power than some MMOs, all without any kind of deep progression system, loot grind, seasonal structure, or battle pass—it's a well-designed horde shooter with no fluff, and that's been enough to keep its heart beating for years.
Wes: Once a year I crank up L4D2, forgetting that I installed a mod that turns all the survivors into velociraptors. Scares the shit out of me then makes me laugh every time. Thanks, modders, for keeping it going.
Rich: Still the single best PvE co-op shooter out there, and there is no feeling in gaming quite like when you absolutely crown one of the infected with a gigantic skillet.
Jody: Don't startle the witch!
69. Forza Horizon 5
Released Nov 8, 2021 | Top 100 Score 226.20
Phil: For casual pick-up-and-play racing there really is nothing better than Forza Horizon. What it lacks in realism, it makes up for with an expansive celebration of vehicular competition—its enormous open world packed full of distractions. The sheer freewheeling joy of its skill system makes this the rare open world game where the journey is as entertaining as the destination. And its absurdly large garage full of lovingly recreated cars means there's always something new to try.
Morgan: My eyes usually glaze right over racing games, but Horizon hooked me by being one of the best, chillest co-op experiences I've had in years. What an effortlessly fun map that Playground can throw together these days. The variety of cars is staggering, which is great because I prefer to race in old Volkswagen bugs and force all the CPU racers to stoop to my level.
Jacob: I keep a Forza Horizon game installed on my PC at all times. It's part of the reason why I'm facing a chronic storage shortage. Nevertheless, it's absolutely worth keeping around just to drop in and break a few speed camera records. Any qualms I once had with this game's slightly miffed racing wheel support back at launch have dissolved, and it's now a breeze to plug in my racing wheel and start drifting. Just beware plugging in a full 11Nm direct drive racing wheel and driving off a cliff straight into a wall—my arms were nearly ripped clean off.
Released Feb 2, 2021 | Top 100 Score 226.55
Sarah: I've always enjoyed survival games but micro-managing your hunger and resources has always slightly irked me. So when Valheim came along, did away with the starvation mechanic, and let you just enjoy your time in the Viking afterlife, I was hooked. When I realised I could tame wolves too, I fell in love.
Chris: A perfect balance of a cozy farming and home-building experience and a deadly world filled with adventure.
Sean: I'm not typically into survival crafting games, but Valheim totally hooked me. I love wandering the wilderness, finding an abandoned shack to restore into my own cosy little base, or hunting trolls and trying to outrun sea monsters as I sail my longship across the ocean. The game really benefits from its clear progression, as you hunt down ever harder mythical bosses, and in turn, upgrade your base to get better armour and weapons.
Fraser: One of the few survival sandboxes that doesn't just piss me off. Valheim might still be in early access, but it's easily beefy and full-featured enough to be considered a finished game. New biomes and features keep being added, though, and after a long break I've started up a new world—this time playing on my Steam Deck. Performance on the Deck is not great at the moment, even though it's Verified, but on low settings it works fine, and I've been having a blast fighting trolls and making the perfect viking settlement.
67. Alien: Isolation
Released Oct 6, 2014 | Top 100 Score 226.56
Jody: Alien: Isolation casts you as Sigourney Weaver's daughter, trying to find out what happened to your mum after the first movie. You're sent to a space station at the arse end of the galaxy for answers, and what you find is a xenomorph.
Eventually. First, you spend ages wandering around a place that looks shockingly like the set of a sci-fi movie from the late 1970s, from the CRT monitors to the dipping-bird office toys. It's a slow build that makes the tension excruciating. And then, when the alien finally appears, it's so horrifying you wish you could go back.
66. Papers, Please
Released Aug 8, 2013 | Top 100 Score 226.94
Mollie: "Political passport sim" isn't a pitch that usually sways me but Papers, Please is an exception. It's a game that regularly challenges your perceptions and ideals, placing the lives of hundreds of people in your stamp-holding hands as an immigration officer. Who doesn't love a good moral dilemma with their rhythmic mechanical gameplay? It's dark but brilliant, one of those games that has to be experienced firsthand to truly value how good it is.
Wes: Wait, how often are you getting pitches for political passport sims? I kid, but Papers, Please remains impressive in how it conveys so much with such a simple presentation. Lucas Pope took the more puzzley side of this game and built it into the even more brilliant Obra Dinn, higher on this list.
65. Shadowrun: Dragonfall
Released Feb 27, 2014 | Top 100 Score 227.00
Jody: In the future, some genetic switch flips and people find out they're actually orks, wizards, or whatever. Apparently D&D was an accurate depiction of prehistory. In this world fantasy adventurers and cyberpunk gangers are the same thing, so you lead a squad with an ex-military troll and a punk shaman. Between heists you uncover their backstory (even the dog has a dark secret) in a cyberpunk take on the classic BioWare RPG.
Fraser: I vibe with Shadowrun: Hong Kong's story and setting a bit more, but Dragonfall still boasts a great party of cyberfantasy mercs and Berlin is a pretty cool place to get up to no good.
Joshua: I'm the reverse of Fraser: I love Hong Kong, but Dragonfall just manages to pip its sequel to the post in my list of faves. I think it's the inherent melancholy of its main hub. Your base in Dragonfall is Berlin in 2054—the Flux State—an oasis of anarchism that has, somehow, managed to stay free of government and corporate control in Shadowrun's cyberpunk setting for years. You spend a lot of your time there functioning (perhaps paradoxically, given the whole anarchism thing, but perhaps not) as something of a community leader, securing supplies for run-down clinics, helping naive young runners extricate themselves from bad situations, and generally just doing what you can to keep this unlikely social experiment running.
It's doomed. In Shadowrun's lore, corporate forces and the German state invade the city a year after the game, and the Flux State goes the way of revolutionary Catalonia. Dragonfall, being a very good game from some very smart people, is quite aware of this, but I don't think it's cynical. Yeah, your efforts might be for naught in the long run, but that doesn't mean they weren't worth doing, the example you set lives on. The future is hard to predict, but we'll always have the Flux State.
64. Microsoft Flight Simulator
Released Aug 18, 2020 | Top 100 Score 227.18
Chris: One of those rare games that sounds like it's completely overpromising something—a photorealistic simulation of the entire planet, including accurate real-time weather conditions streaming from around the globe—but actually delivers. Even years after launch Microsoft Flight Simulator still feels like a game that's visiting us from the future. Throw in some astoundingly detailed aircraft, realistic physics and sound effects, plus dedicated communities like modders and VATSIM (who convincingly roleplay as pilots and air traffic controllers) and it's hard to imagine another sim ever feeling as gosh darn real as this one—until Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 comes along, of course.
63. Deus Ex
Released June 23, 2000 | Top 100 Score 227.41
Ted: "The human organism always worships," Opines the failed AI, Morpheus. "First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment."
Hold on, let me just tweet about that really quick on the self-aware system of observation and judgment that lives in my pocket.
Deus Ex remains a sci-fi triumph, its lovable '90s conspiracy vibes belie a story of how power and profit corrodes society, and whether it's too late to fix that. It doesn't hurt that it's also one of the best RPGs ever, one where exploration and discovery is as much the reward of character building as murder and looting.
Wes: I love that someone discovered just this year, 23 years after Deus Ex came out, that even loose sheets of paper can set off security lasers. Deus Ex is visually crude by today's standards, but damn is its world incredibly convincing nonetheless.
62. The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
Released May 1, 2002 | Top 100 Score 228.41
Joshua: The wonderful final breath of Bethesda at its weirdest. Morrowind's world was strange and hostile and its inhabitants walked like newborn foals. Where later games held your hand through plots you now barely recall, Morrowind ditched you in the backwater of a backwater and left you to sink or swim amid conspiracies, contested histories, and truly alien moral systems. There's been nothing like it since; there may never be again.
Sean: Speaking of weird; is it bad that I've had Dagothwave playing on repeat in my head for years?
Andy: Joshua nailed it: Morrowind's brilliance is its willingness to be weird. Oblivion and Skyrim are fine, but they feel so bland by comparison: Generic fantasy and vikings don't really stand up when compared to a clan of honor-bound warriors living in the mile-wide shell of an ancient crab at the foot of a cursed, storm-swept mountain. Bethesda was more daring with Morrowind's systems, too, which opened the door to all kinds of (occasionally game-breaking) freedom. You want to fly? Okay, you can fly! (In fact, you have to fly if you want to get up to talk to some of those Telvanni weirdos.) Everything about Morrowind is bolder and more creative than anything Bethesda has done since—by all measures, it's a genuine landmark game.
61. The Case of the Golden Idol
Released Oct 13, 2022 | Top 100 Score 229.50
Tyler C: It’s like solving a murder in a room full of FromSoftware characters. Half of the time you’re just trying not to be deceived by its eccentric characters and caricaturistic art style. A strange and brilliant little game.
Chris: The individual mysteries are satisfying to solve as the scattered pieces slowly click into place, but unraveling the story that connects the murders is just as great. An epic mystery novel, in game form.
Morgan: You've both said it. Such a smart, perfectly compact puzzler that I've particularly enjoyed on the Steam Deck. It's the first game I've tried on the handheld that's actually more comfortable to play with the Deck's two touch pads, which is neat.
60. Prey (2017)
Released May 4, 2017 | Top 100 Score 229.58
Andy: Prey breaks my heart. A brilliant immersive sim, Prey is the direct evolution of System Shock, a game it builds upon with expanded systems, convincing zero-G environments, and a genuinely terrifying enemy. It accommodates players who want to run-and-gun, and rewards those who prefer a quieter, more exploratory approach. It's as good as anything Arkane has done—and it bombed. It, and Arkane—masters of the genre, never forget—deserved so much better.
Robert: The closest thing we ever got to Half-Life 3, it still boggles the mind that a game so good as Prey, one that took immersive SIM gameplay to a whole new level while weaving a compelling sci-fi story, sold so poorly and remains to this day massively underrated and undervalued. Arkane was firing on all cylinders here and, the Dishonored series aside, Prey remains the developer's finest achievement. It's available now for peanuts, too, making it incredibly easy to recommend.
Morgan: Hard to believe the team responsible for one of the best immersive sims of the modern age went on to make Redfall, a profoundly disappointing co-op FPS.
59. Apex Legends
Released Feb 4, 2019 | Top 100 Score 229.97
Phil: I thought I was out, but somehow the call of Respawn's battle royale proved too great to resist. The speed, the movement tech, the frantic gunplay—there's just nothing quite like it. Even if I'm playing much less these days, I'll still grab a few friends every couple of weeks for some chaotic landings on Mirage's absurd party boat.
It's not just the moment-to-moment play that keeps me engaged. Thematically, as a battle royale, it feels perfectly pitched. In the sliding scale between Fortnite and PUBG, it fits nicely in the middle. Not too cartoony, not too tediously milsim-y. It's just right. The characters have outlandish abilities, but they feel in service to interesting tactical play and planning. The guns have distinct characteristics and drawbacks in a way that makes your loadout matter. And the maps are—for the most part—visually arresting and full of impeccable crafted spaces that enhance every fight.
Morgan: I'm a fan of Apex Legends' characters, but the two of us have never really clicked in terms of maps, modes, or guns. It's a static, not particularly adventurous time for the game. Consistency is commendable in its own right, but 2019's battle royale darling doesn't stand out in a year where shooters are experimenting with extraction modes and Call of Duty has a co-op raid.
58. The Sims 4
Released Sep 2, 2014 | Top 100 Score 233.19, demoted by Lauren Morton
Mollie: The Sims 4 continues to reign supreme in the life sim genre, but with nine years and $1000s of expansions, it's starting to come apart at the seams. Building is still a 10/10 experience, but the actual gameplay can be a bit unruly. There's still oodles of fun to be had with the free base game and fan-made custom content, though.
Lauren: The Sims is a tentpole PC series, but until some as yet in development competition arrives, it holds that title by default more than merit. Every year I feel a little more trapped in EA's gilded cage life sim, wondering what might live outside the pastel, crown-moulded walls I've come to know so well.
57. Outer Wilds
Released June 18, 2020 | Top 100 Score 230.4
Tyler C: A pure space exploration game that expertly balances melancholy and optimism. It's a humble story of community and curiosity, and finishes with one of the most poignant endings I’ve ever experienced in a game.
Phil: An expertly crafted timeloop sandbox, full of puzzles that are a joy to unpick. The folksy sci-fi soundtrack is first rate, too.
Robin: There's such a wonderful sense of genuine discovery in Outer Wilds, despite its galaxy actually being so small. Travelling between its strange planets, you're constantly learning, gaining a greater knowledge of their unique physical rules and the intricate history behind them. By the time you've pieced together the larger truth at play, you're a master of this tiny-yet-huge environment, and it's such a satisfying journey to get to that point.
Fraser: I'm a big ol' thicko with no spatial awareness, but I'm so glad I stuck with this one despite my many deficiencies. None of the puzzles left me frustrated—just occasionally stumped and then, ultimately, incredibly satisfied.
56. Thief: The Dark Project
Released Dec 1, 1998 | Top 100 Score 231.48
Jody: There were games about sneaking before Thief, but there weren't stealth games. Thief: The Dark Project, or Thief Gold as the re-release is called, codified a genre. Here's a guarded location and a valuable object: now invent your own solution. Too few of the stealth games that followed gave us as much freedom as this.
Fraser: There just aren't enough games letting us rob the rich and stick it to weird cults. Despite being one of the grandaddies of the stealth genre, mechanically it still feels up to the task of competing with the young 'uns, and while, sure, it's no longer looking all shiny and new, it's still rich in atmosphere—can't beat those spooky vibes.
Andy: Thief is different: A seamless blend of steampunk and the supernatural, it's a world where violence has its place but real rewards are found in patience, concentration, timing, and exploration. It's all about professionalism, and it doesn't forgive those who dick around: The downside to its open-ended gameplay is that there are a dozen ways things can go wrong at any given moment, and trying to fight our way out of trouble is almost never a good option. (Garrett may be a master thief, but as a fighter he's iffy at best.) It took me longer than I care to admit to adjust to its ways, but once I did, I was absolutely all in—there was, and frankly is, nothing else like it.
55. Deep Rock Galactic
Released May 13, 2020 | Top 100 Score 231.63
Wes: Earlier this year Robin wrote an article online about Deep Rock Galactic having "one of the last positive communities in gaming," and I think that speaks to the niche this co-op game carefully carved for itself (extremely generous post-launch support for three years now hasn't hurt). A bit less focus on shooting, a bit more on jolly cooperation between dwarves just trying to get a job done. Working class solidarity.
Harvey: Rock and stone!
Evan: But really, though, that rock and stone: the cave-generation tech is one of the few things I've seen in the last five years and said, "That's a genuine innovation."
54. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Released Nov 11, 2011 | Top 100 Score 231.70
Mollie: It's strange to call an action game about fighting dragons comfy, but Skyrim has such a cosy vibe. I still get just as much fun out of it as I did 12 years ago, which not many games can do. Plus with such an extensive modding scene, no two playthroughs have to be the same.
Jody: Skyrim modding has had an actual renaissance over the last year—the scene's thriving. Modders have been repurposing Anniversary Edition assets to make new quests (Sirenroot, Saints & Seducers), making Skyrim look nicer and run faster (Community Shaders), improving combat without turning it into Dark Souls for once (Precision), letting me go on ridiculous drug trips (Skyrim on Skooma), and more.
53. Chivalry 2
Released June 8, 2021 | Top 100 Score 231.79
Tyler W: Somehow both a chill goof-off game where it's fun to ignore the objective and dance in place while enemy players pelt you with arrows, and the most serious I ever take medieval combat in a game. Chivalry 2 hits the sweet spot between frivolity and competition, with what remains my favourite first-person sword fighting system in a game. It's not the hottest multiplayer game around, but there are always players online, and a big update with new maps is coming in August.
Evan: What it has in common with another 64-player game, Battlefield, is that you're sometimes able to chain seven, eight, 10 kills together in sequence, against logic, which feels incredible. Chiv 2 deserves massive credit for how technical but accessible its fighting is.
Morgan: A favorite that I've reinstalled several times since launch, played for a few hours, then put back on a shelf feeling glad it exists.
52. Total War: Three Kingdoms
Released May 23, 2019 | Top 100 Score 231.96
Wes: This vast strategy has real depth to chew on in its political and economic systems, as well as giant armies of little guys to smash together like toy soldiers. I remain enamored with the one element Three Kingdoms borrowed from the Warhammer games (or Dynasty Warriors), giving you larger-than-life champions to lead your armies. My enemies will rue the day they crossed Guan Yu and his magnificent beard.
Fraser: I switched sides a while back and I'm now firmly a Total War fantasy boy, leading wars in Warhammer 3's Immortal Empires campaign, but when I want a bit more history in my battles, I couldn't ask for a better Total War than Three Kingdoms. It helps that it splices history with legends, with the larger-than-life champions that Wes mentions basically being represented like ancient Chinese superheroes, taking on hundreds of troops on their own. And what a looker it is: taking full advantage of China's diverse geography to create some of the series' most fetching battlegrounds.
51. Cities: Skylines
Released Mar 10, 2015 | Top 100 Score 232.11
Chris: The unchallenged titan of modern city builders—until the sequel comes along in October, at least. It's chill and engrossing to grow your city from a tiny neighborhood to a massive, gleaming city, and with mods and new DLC every few months it never had a chance to get stale.
Fraser: The only thing that's going to stop me from playing more Cities Skylines is Cities Skylines 2, and to be honest given all the mods I use and all the DLC that's come out over the years, I might still be playing the original when the sequel appears.
50. Vampire Survivors
Released Oct 20, 2022 | Top 100 Score 232.26
Robin: There is no purer power fantasy in games than building your vampire hunter from a humble whip-cracking Belmont-alike into a flying god of destruction, filling the entire screen with exploding particle effects and building combos so broken you end up killing the Grim Reaper himself. Vampire Survivors is a wonderful, ever-escalating fever dream of a game and I still regularly crack it open and slay another 10,000 monsters in 15 minutes.
Mollie: Worth skipping out on my $3 coffee for.
Harvey: Much like the vampires of old folklore, this game will hypnotise you, then drain you of your blood. Okay, maybe not that last part.
Evan: Sometimes videogames are just a process of making numbers get bigger, and that's enough.
Phil: Ah, but the trick to Vampire Survivors is just how much work has gone into making that process so engaging. The way it slowly metes out its unlocks and secrets, as you discover weapons that combo with specific passives to unlock something even more powerful, or levels that hide relics that unlock a whole new part of the game. It's always about a character autofiring the weapons that you collect to kill thousands of beasties, but at the macro level there's always something new and interesting to experiment with.
49. Total War: Warhammer 2
Released Sep 28, 2017 | Top 100 Score 232.39
Jody: I've conquered the world as queen of the dead, queen of the faeries, an opera ghost, an elven Batman, an elven dominatrix, a skaven leading a mutant army, Elric, and Dracula. While I could do the same things in Warhammer 3, Warhammer 2's DLC campaigns, like the one where you collect magic shanties to tame a sea monster, made them much more memorable.
Fraser: Warhammer 2 is phenomenal, but for me Warhammer 3 beats it slightly just because it gives you access to the Immortal Empires campaign for free, even if you don't own the earlier games. Then you can just grab the games and DLC that contain the factions that you like, adding to the beefiest campaign Creative Assembly has ever designed.
Sean: You're definitely right, Fraser, that it's hard to argue for Warhammer 2 when Immortal Empires gives you access to everything. Still, I do think it's the strongest individual instalment of the series, and it doesn't feel like Warhammer 3 has really hit its stride yet. Sure, Chaos Dwarfs were a great addition, but it's hard to imagine any new expansions reaching the same highs as Curse of the Vampire Coast or Rise of the Tomb Kings. There just aren't that many Warhammer races left to add.
48. Dishonored 2
Released Nov 11, 2016 | Top 100 Score 232.54
Fraser: It might be at 48, but Dishonored 2 will always be in my top 10. This is Arkane at its best, with the studio filling the game with some of the best sneaky puzzles gaming has ever seen. Every level is a treat-filled novelty, able to be completed in a ridiculous number of ways, whether you want to be an invisible ghost or a chaotic mass-murderer who also possesses animals.
Phil: For me this remains the peak of immersive sims, and I'm waiting impatiently for anyone—even Arkane—to beat it.
Andy: I got giggly for Dishonored 2 for one reason, and his name is Stephen Russell. The game is a brilliant immersive sim that showcases Arkane in full stride, but hearing the voice of Garrett (you may have seen me raving about the glories of Thief elsewhere in this list) bring Corvo Attano to life was the real chef's kiss moment for me. Yes, it's fanboyish, and I don't care: Arkane's revival of the master thief in a new guise made my heart sing.
47. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Released Nov 16, 2004 | Top 100 Score 233.20
Ted: This one of my favorite games. I could, and have, gone on at length about its reactivity, characters, and depth, but it's the vibes. A kind of grungy, punk Hollyweird that, if it was ever "real," is increasingly on the way out. Pondering a dying vampire society in a dying city at the geographic end of America.
Jody: Vampire, like every World of Darkness game, is about being a teenager. Hear me out. Your body undergoes a drastic change you barely understand, you realize you have the ability to change the world around you, and then you find out a shadowy cabal of tedious elders run everything and you'll have to wait for them to die off before you get a chance at actually doing that. Metaphorically, it's 100% about being a teenager, which also explains why it's so horny.
46. System Shock (Remake)
Released May 30, 2023 | Top 100 Score 233.73
Andy: System Shock is a legendary immersive sim and the Nightdive remake demonstrates why: It modernizes the interface, tarts up the graphics, and otherwise lets the glory of the original shine through. It's unforgiving on that front—you can forget about mission markers or regenerating health—but frankly, that's how it should be. The remake plays like a modern, "new" immsim, while absolutely nailing the vibe of the mid-'90s. And it is great.
Joshua: There are two kinds of remake. The first takes the vibe, the themes, the spirit of an old game and puts it into something sleek and modern that, for better or worse, barely resembles the original. The second type, on the other hand, takes a light touch, preferring to maintain many of the rough edges and quirks of the original while putting it into a skin (and a control scheme) that players who weren't around for the pre-mouselook days can figure out.
The System Shock remake is the second type. It's a loving and conservative revisit of that original 1994 game, and while I'm on record saying that I would have liked to see what Nightdive would have done if it had taken more of a freewheeling approach, I still love what we got. It is exactingly faithful, with just a few tweaks and additions to keep you afloat in a sea of early '90s game design. I really see no reason why a person looking to play System Shock 1 in the 21st century—unless they're desperate for the museum-like authentic experience of the original—should look further than Nightdive's effort.
45. Half-Life Alyx
Released Mar 23, 2020 | Top 100 Score 233.83
Chris: Tough one to gauge—how important can a game be if most gamers don't have a VR setup to play it? And how playable is it as a result? On the other hand, nuts to those concerns because Alyx is friggin' awesome. It breathes new life into a storyline that Valve abandoned for almost 15 years, and it's one of the most stunning and technically impressive VR games ever made.
Morgan: It's the game that made me want to get a VR headset, and a large part of the reason I don't regret it. Valve doesn't fix VR's biggest issues in Alyx, but it does skirt around them in clever ways, leaning into what makes VR cool—tactile interactions, manual operation, and unbelievably cool landscapes that literally nothing else on the platform has topped. The story got me interested in the rest of the Half-Life series too, so thanks for that.
Jacob: Half-Life: Alyx remains the VR game I tell any new headset owner to play. It's one of the best examples of how a game can be crafted, top to bottom, for virtual reality. By now I had hoped there'd be heaps of VR games clearly building on the foundations that Alyx laid down, but while we wait there's no denying that Alyx set a high precedent for VR.
44. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
Released May 8, 2018 | Top 100 Score 234.00
Ted: 20 years after its heyday, Obsidian achieved peak pre-rendered backgrounds. Disco Elysium is also up there, but Deadfire's fantasy vistas are just so rich and technically complex in addition to being artful and creative.
They contribute to one of the best pirate games, period. Few videogame moments evoke that feeling of yo ho high seas adventure better than stepping into the bustling, cosmopolitan port of Neketaka, or considering some ruin emerging out of the sand on a distant shore.
And this is maybe one of the best RPG world maps ever? Just clicking your ship around from a bird's eye view feels so satisfying and immersive thanks to the sound design of your creaking hull and the crashing waves, as well as the crew-dependent sea shanties.
Like New Vegas, Deadfire just nails factions, this feeling of competing, mutually-exclusive visions of the world and the likable, believable people you might be betraying by committing to any one of them. Shout out to companion Maia Rua, your quirky, charming sniper who's also a fascist assassin gunning for local politicians.
43. Nier: Automata
Released Mar 17, 2017 | Top 100 Score 234.10
Mollie: Nier: Automata is undoubtedly one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Heart-wrenching storytelling with a dash of existential crisis? Check. Sick as hell combat set in a gorgeously dystopian world? Check! The PC port is a lot better these days too, leaving no excuse not to play it.
Wes: I don't understand why Mollie neglected to mention the horny robots, but: there are horny robots.
Mollie: Come for the thighs, stay for the cries.
Ted: The robots are still horny, but the first game was even harder to justify to someone looking over your shoulder as you play.
Phil: It's a game that references a who's who of philosophers—Marx, Engels, Pascal, Sartre—but everyone's just talking about robot thighs. That's peak anime right there.
42. Doom (1993)
Released Dec 10, 1993 | Top 100 Score 234.5
Ted: There's a reason they put it on everything, man. Id practically invented 3D level design as we know it, and it speaks to Doom's excellence that thirty years later, we're still playing by its rules. The fact that the source port WAD creation community is still one of the most vibrant modding scenes in gaming is just gravy.
Wes: It took playing Doom Eternal to make me realise how much I missed the labyrinths of classic Doom. The shooting is really secondary to the excitement and tension of feeling your way through these moody levels and never knowing if the next door you open will have a couple cacodemons waiting behind it, which is why new WADs will keep Doom relevant until the actual apocalypse.
Robert: A game that was so ahead of its time that it not only established the entire modern first person genre but lay down the rules that many FPS games still follow to this very day in 2023. Doom remains a staggering achievement. Talk about lightning in a bottle! Normally pioneering games are notable for pushing the boundaries either creatively or technologically, but Doom did both, and then some. Romero, Carmack and the rest of id travelled to the future of PC gaming, and brought back with them an absolute legend.
41. StarCraft 2
Released July 27, 2010 | Top 100 Score 235.15
Rich: Still my favourite RTS after all these years, because this is just loops within loops (within loops). Every single thing you are doing can be done better and faster. Every time you're paying attention to one thing, another needs it. You're constantly juggling the macro base-building with the micro of army management, your brain pulled between economics and army splits, and almost every time you get comfortable, oh god they're dropping in the back of my base.
Jorge: StarCraft 2 might be what I consider the last great RTS game. They simply don't make 'em like this anymore. It has a great campaign with epic production values, and it was one of the most well-balanced competitive games out at the time.
40. Dave the Diver
Released June 28, 2023 | Top 100 Score 235.76
Chris: If it were just a cute sim about fishing and running a restaurant, it'd be plenty, but that's just the start. It's a surprisingly charming adventure as new activities, systems, and minigames are added nearly every time you play, and 30 hours in—heck, even during the end credits—it's still giving you new stuff to do.
Evan: Stardew Valley's feeling of passive accumulation with some of Subnautica's sense of danger and wonder, overflowing with anime charm. This is the biggest 'small game' in years.
Robin: I think it's so unique and interesting the way Dave the Diver finds so much fun in the introduction of new systems—something that normally bogs games down these days. Every chance it gets, the game is throwing some new layer of play at you, revealing again and again and again that it's a bigger, wilder, more ambitious experience than you expected.
39. Team Fortress 2
Released Oct 10, 2007 | Top 100 Score 235.94
Phil: Call it cope, but there's comfort in Team Fortress 2's current period of stagnation. It's a gentle old friend, ready and waiting should I ever decide to return. And because it's still somehow one of the biggest, most populated free-to-play multiplayer shooters on Steam, I know that if I do, it'll be full of people to match with. Even typing this now, I'm feeling the nostalgic pull of flanking with Scout on pl_badwater, or ambushing as Pyro on koth_harvest.
Rich: I played TF2 as various classes before falling head-over-heels with Pyro, and ever since then the most delicious dopamine hit gaming has been able to offer me is the built-in 'ding' you can activate to play on hit. When you're shooting guns, it just goes 'ding'. When you've ambushed someone and they're flailing in a corner, screaming, it goes DING DING DING DING DING.
38. Titanfall 2
Released Oct 28, 2016 | Top 100 Score 236.40
Wes: I keep waiting for a singleplayer FPS campaign to wow me like Titanfall 2's, but all that's happening is I keep getting older. Why can't they all give me a lovely robot buddy and a new fully explored gimmick every level? I'm going grey, here!
Robin: There's a reason games journalists will never stop banging on about this game. It's just this unrelenting barrage of wonderful creativity and action movie bravado, including one of the best and cleverest FPS levels ever made.
Tyler C: Robin’s right, people have been annoying about this game every year since it came out. And after finally playing it a few years ago, I am too. I’ve never played an FPS so compact and exhilarating. Within minutes you’re wall-running and sliding through levels like you’re on a speedrun. Titanfall 2 rules.
Released Apr 24, 2018 | Top 100 Score 236.63
Chris: Frostpunk showed the real potential of survival city builders, demonstrating that the struggle is deeper than limited resources and harsh weather. It's not just about keeping your citizens alive, it's about holding society together and trying to avoid becoming a ruthless tyrant in the process. One of the best survival games ever.
Fraser: I am so tired of survival games, but not Frostpunk. It's harsh and the world is trying very hard to kill you, but it manages to avoid ever feeling like a slog. Even after finishing it and its DLC, I crave more. Good thing Frostpunk 2 is coming.
36. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Released Dec 3, 2019 | Top 100 Score 236.88
Wes: It's a real shame that Halo Infinite completely failed to adapt to the live service era, but we do have the ultimate consolation prize: a bundle that will let us relive Halo's glory days far into the future. Y'all remember how good that ODST campaign is? Did you know you can mod in maps now and there's a custom game browser? God bless the ring.
Morgan: A perfect 10 for importance if you ask me. Halo was more of a console series for most of Bungie's run, but PC is the definitive way to enjoy these classics in 2023. 343 brought this one back from a crap launch and has kept updating it for nine years. You can fire this up, press three buttons, and materialize on Halo 1's Blood Gulch with a full lobby. Magic.
35. Return of the Obra Dinn
Released Oct 18, 2018 | Top 100 Score 237.21
Wes: An improbably brilliant mystery game about using a magic stopwatch to solve the deaths and disappearances of a crew of sailors aboard a 19th century merchant ship. In 2018 I voted for Into the Breach as our GOTY, but over time I've come to regret it. The 10 hours I spent unwinding this game remain vivid and singular in my memory. Five years later it's still wholly unique.
Robin: I can never get over how brilliantly bold a decision it was to make a game all about searching for visual clues, and render it with 1-bit graphics. On paper it makes no sense at all, but in practice it provides both a uniquely unsettling atmosphere and a kind of clean visual focus—it's all signal, no noise. Even putting aside its engrossing mystery, that distinctive look makes it one of the most memorable settings in gaming.
Released May 9, 2016 | Top 100 Score 238.03
Robin: Like the universe itself, Stellaris is ever-expanding. At the rate Paradox is still releasing DLC and free updates, I know which one is going to end up being bigger. Coming to it in 2023, you're treated to a near-exhaustive toolbox of sci-fi simulation, letting you build an empire in almost any form you can imagine. Embracing every genre trope it can, Stellaris invites you to become the CEO of an all-conquering megacorporation, the uniting will of a relentless hive mind, the barbarian king of a horde of radioactive marauders, and more. You can easily lose hundreds of hours to its rich sandbox galaxies—and I have.
Fraser: At just over 350 hours played, my time spent in Stellaris pales to what some of the diehards have put into it, but for a perpetually distracted boy like myself this is quite a long time, and a testament to this 4X's ability to keep me coming back. In fact, I've just started a new game, playing it on my Steam Deck this time, so I can consume the galaxy as a leviathan-zombifying hive every night before I go to bed.
33. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Released Sep 1, 2015 | Top 100 Score 238.10
Wes: Despite Hideo Kojima being the biggest film geek in the world, I love that the latest stage of his career has largely been dedicated to the rich stories and surprises that come out of deeply systemic games rather than drawn out cutscenes. The worst bit of MGSV, by far, is the on-rails opening; it then opens up into an open world stealth game that embarrassed Assassin's Creed so badly they had to go off and make RPGs instead for eight years.
Rich: I love the approaches in this game. You've been dropped off nearby and slowly approach the target, tagging guards, noting landmarks and weapons, and then you go in and… sometimes it's a perfect run, silent and fruitful, and sometimes total chaos. But the freedom you feel you have to do what you want in this place is the thing. The best Metal Gear, the best stealth game, the best systems-driven open world sandbox, with the best controls. This is a masterpiece.
Morgan: For years, Phantom Pain was my favorite game for all the reasons Rich listed. It's such a playful sandbox, but time has shown the ways in which it's shallow, too. There are a hundred fun ways to knock out or avoid a guard, but no mission or compound complex enough to make them relevant. The best strategy for every situation is to tranq it. It's Kojima's worst habit, but thankfully the options are there to set personal limits and make your own fun.
Released June 15, 2021 | Top 100 Score 239.38
Harvey: Some games, like Disco Elysium, capture the feeling of playing a few killer sessions of a tabletop game spectacularly. Wildermyth hits a different beat, recreating the sensation of those years-long campaigns where characters change, die, grow old, become cursed, and eventually find a place to fade from the story.
Robin: I adore watching my party members grow and change over the course of a campaign. Especially the ones that turn into were-ravens.
Fraser: Few RPGs can boast such a compelling approach to character development as Wildermyth. In a few hours you can experience the sort of progression you'd normally have to wait years for in a tabletop campaign—its main source of inspiration. Plucky adventurers can grow into elemental gods, limbs wreathed in fire, or make pacts with witches that bless them with wings and talons. Entire dynasties of adventurers sprout up across a playthrough, with their members sometimes reappearing in new campaigns, creating these memorable, long-lasting legacies.
31. Yakuza 0
Released Aug 1, 2018 | Top 100 Score 239.7
Lauren: It's difficult to choose just one of these crime dramedies. Much as I adore the newest Yakuza: Like A Dragon, I'm proud to supplant it with the best entry point to the series. This top-tier brawler sealed Yakuza's success in the west, and the bubble-era glitz of organized crime in the '80s takes on almost mythical status as Kiryu and Majima punch their way through melodrama and tomfoolery in equal parts.
Phil: Do still play Yakuza: Like a Dragon, though. It's a surprisingly robust JRPG, and its endearing new protagonist gives the series its biggest refresh in decades.
Jody: The Cabaret Club Czar and Disco minigames are so enthralling I spent over 80 hours in Yakuza 0, despite finishing the story mode in roughly half that time.
30. Monster Hunter Rise
Released Jan 12, 2022 | Top 100 Score 240.13
Morgan: There's a good argument to be made that Monster Hunter Rise is the best in the series, with transformative Wirebug moves, faster traversal options, and finally pretty good co-op. There's an equally valid voice in my head saying Capcom has taken the "hunt" out of Monster Hunter by flattening the search phase and trivializing old survival mechanics. Maybe a theoretical World 2 will be the great unifying Monster Hunter.
Mollie: Hunting Horn forever.
Rich: The best Monster Hunter and that says it all really. This series has been iterating for over 20 years on the same basic concept because it turns out that killing a giant dragon in an amazing fight half-a-dozen times then making a snazzy outfit from his bits (which makes you strong enough to kill an even bigger monster) is one of the best gameplay loops ever invented. Rise has the series' core weapon paths, all amazing, a huge roster of monsters to fight, easy drop-in co-op, an almost inexhaustible supply of new content, and whenever I think about this game I want to play it again.
Sean: Few other games match the high I feel zooming around in the air with my Insect Glaive.
29. Planescape: Torment
Released Dec 12, 1999 | Top 100 Score 240.16
Jody: Planescape is the coolest D&D setting. You want to go from Valhalla to the Para-Elemental Plane of Ooze? Every plane of existence is here, connected by a city with doors that lead literally everywhere. While it's a practical conceit, a transit hub for adventure, Planescape stops to ask, "What would a city where angels and demons walk down the same street be like?"
The answer is "weird as fuck" and Torment focuses on that. It's still a fantasy RPG with combat and quests, but everything's twisted at least 90 degrees from the norm. Your party includes a clockwork robot, a talking skull, a reformed succubus, and a wizard who is permanently on fire. The questgiving factions include the Dustmen, who believe everyone's dead and just don't know it yet, the Sensates, who've decided enlightenment comes via experiencing absolutely everything, and the Xaositects, who consider "lol so random" a holy writ.
Meanwhile, you're an amnesiac who wakes in a morgue with a letter you wrote to yourself tattooed on your back. Somehow, you manage to out-weird the whole lot of them.
28. Kerbal Space Program
Released Apr 27, 2015 | Top 100 Score 240.30
Wes: One of only two astrophysics simulations masquerading as slapstick videogames in existence, and the one we're still recommending while Kerbal Space Program 2 goes through its early access growing pains.
Chris: The best way to get me to forget I'm learning science is to make failing fun, and in KSP disasters are just as rewarding as success.
Phil: When it comes to KSP, me and failure are old friends. My sandbox save is littered with the remnants of past launches—Kerbals stuck in orbit, unable to return; others that, thanks to an unfortunate landing, will never even get the chance. And yet their replacements are always happy to climb into my latest contraption—eager to venture into the unknown. For all the complicated maths that underpins KSP's simulation, it's this sense of excitement that keeps me coming back.
27. Hunt: Showdown
Released Aug 27, 2019 | Top 100 Score 240.86
Evan: The best-designed multiplayer FPS on the market. Combining slow cowboy weapons, an eerie overgrown environment, high-fidelity sound design, and undead AI hazards, Crytek created a novel kind of stealth-extraction shooter where a single hard-earned kill feels meaningful and can stick in your head for hours. An antidote to the kill-die-repeat sugar rush of some mainstream FPSes.
Morgan: Hunt is a tough game to get into, but at the end of its tunnel of rules is an absolutely brilliant competitive FPS that challenges our ideas of balance. Fights are intentionally topsy-turvy based on the quality of gear you decide to enter a match with, but good tactics and a steady hand can overcome the worst odds.
26. Hitman 3
Released Jan 20, 2021 | Top 100 Score 241.38
Jorge: Name another game where you can hit someone in the face with a brick of supercocaine. Go ahead, I'm waiting. More importantly, Hitman 3 includes all the levels and modes from the two previous Hitmans, which were also incredible. It's the perfect sandbox murder simulator.
Fraser: After Absolution's change in direction I really thought the series was done for, but IO came back with a trio of spectacular social stealth romps that have now been packaged into one 'World of Assassination', and the only disappointment now is that it's over. God, there are so many high points. The lavishness and scale of Sapienza; the pure, raw sandbox of Berlin; even the playful tutorials deserve more than a nod. Honestly, if it wasn't for the final train mission, this would be pure perfection.
Joshua: I've loved every Hitman game since 2016 (and a few before), but this year's addition of Freelancer Mode—a new roguelike-style approach that uses the series' base maps to serve up randomly selected targets across infinite campaigns—really felt like modern Hitman entering its final form. In fact, I'll make a confession: I have 60 hours in Hitman 3, but I've not even gotten around to playing the story yet. My whole time has been spent slowly mastering the series' levels as a freelancer. It just feels like what the game has always wanted to be, forcing you to improvise and make full use of your arsenal of tools instead of save scumming your way to a silent assassin rating. Plus, you get a nifty new hit-house in the woods to decorate and upgrade. It's like House Flipper with murder!
Morgan: Now that's what I call a hit, man.
Phil: You're fired.
25. Fallout: New Vegas
Released Oct 9, 2010 | Top 100 Score 241.57
Jody: New Vegas has the best factions in Fallout—like the Elvis impersonators whose scavenged knowledge of Elvis is so patchy they don't even know his name—and being able to side with those groups helps make it replayable. It's got some of the creepiest vaults too, like Vault 22, overgrown with mutant plants thanks to an agriculture experiment gone predictably wrong, and some of Fallout's wildest juxtapositions of atomic age sci-fi with post-apocalypse grit in Old World Blues. When Lauren, Chris, and I did the Fallout tier list, New Vegas came in with the top ranking: Dogmeat. (The bottom rank was "Dogshit".)
Robin: It's such a lightning in a bottle game, in the way it combines the expansive sandbox style of Bethesda with the intricate interactivity and RPG sensibilities of Obsidian. How often do you see such different studios combine their strengths like that? For all its janky flaws, it's so unique that it still casts a shadow over the whole genre. Genuinely, Baldur's Gate 3 might be the only RPG since to have truly challenged it for scale and depth.
Fraser: The best Fallout game. Fight me in the Mojave Wasteland.
24. Into the Breach
Released Feb 27, 2018 | Top 100 Score 242.09
Robin: It's easy to forget about Into the Breach. It launched, it was incredible, we all played it to death, and then it faded from our minds. If you haven't played it since 2018, do me a favour: go boot it up right now. Surprise! It's still one of the best turn-based strategy games ever made. Brilliantly minimalist and impossibly elegant, it's a game that makes you think about the whole genre in a new way.
Wes: Whatever you do, don't install Into the Breach on your Steam Deck. Not because it's bad or runs poorly; because it's great and runs, er, greatly. Someday someone will find your skeleton gripping a dust-covered Steam Deck and determine you died from dehydration while playing just one more five-minute mechs vs. kaiju puzzle battle.
23. Elden Ring
Released Feb 24, 2022 | Top 100 Score 238.66, promoted by Wes Fenlon
Wes: The exhausting scale of FromSoftware's open world RPG may explain why it's dropped from last year's #2 spot—I know I find revisiting it daunting. But this is FromSoftware's most generous and truest roleplaying game: there are so many ways to craft your character. Skills and elements can be freely swapped between weapons, parrying is no longer bastard hard, and if you get stuck on a boss, you can go somewhere else for 20 hours before coming back and squishing them with a giant club. That's videogames.
Tyler C: FromSoftware really made a massive open world RPG to play the same tricks on you for hundreds of hours, and everyone, including me, finished it begging for more. Elden Ring proved we all want the game to bite back sometimes, and that double jumping horses rule.
Ted: I don't think Elden Ring makes a single compromise being an open world game. Remove the Lands Between and just stitch the legacy dungeons together like some kind of fantasy locale Megazord and you're still left with a phenomenal Dark Souls 4.
22. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2
Released Feb 8, 2005 | Top 100 Score 242.89
Joshua: The best Star Wars game ever made, and coincidentally also the one that takes a sledgehammer to so much of the series' underlying themes and morality. A tight development deadline means it's infamously underbaked—though that can be rectified to an extent with mods—but even basic, as-released KotOR 2 is still an immortal and ambitious achievement. With a cast that matches BioWare's best, it conjures up a sceptical, murky picture of a very familiar universe that's still worth returning to today.
Ted: Planescape: Torment, in space. KotOR 2 is one of my gaming first loves, a vision of the Star Wars galaxy that shocked and enthralled me with its sense of melancholy and loss. Everyone talks about the writing, but I also don't think this game gets enough credit for the big gameplay swings it makes like mutually exclusive companions or a full-on crafting and upgrade system years ahead of its time. Seriously, KotOR 2's crafting system is better than the one in Dragon Age: Inquisition a full ten years later..
21. Resident Evil 4 (Remake)
Released Mar 24, 2023 | Top 100 Score 243.27
Ted: Ever since 2019's RE2 Remake dropped everybody was asking: "Do they even dare to remake Resident Evil 4?" How do you improve on one of the greatest shooters ever made, a game that knocked its own series off-kilter for ten years and change? The answer, it turns out, is cribbing off Sekiro and implementing one of the best parry mechanics in any game, and incidentally turning the Krauser knife fight into a knockout boss.
Rich: I'm surprised by how high this landed, though I do think it's a great game and folk won't be disappointed. I was around when the original came out, however, and missed a lot of the stuff they didn't include from that OTT horror rollercoaster. This is a more straightforward experience but dripping with Capcom polish and, as Ted rightly points out, the parry is the gimmick that seals the whole deal: because in a game that was always about dealing with crowds, you've now got both a fallback and an opener. Get it wrong of course and—perhaps the most fun thing about the Resi 4 remake looking back—it never fails to shock just how quickly and brutally these enemies will murderise poor Leon.
Sean: The strongest praise I can give RE4 is that it's as good as I remember; one of those rare instances of a remake winning out against the rose-tinted glasses and absurd expectations we all harbour for our favourite games.
20. Final Fantasy 14
Released Aug 27, 2013 | Top 100 Score 243.48
Mollie: Every MMO has their quiet period, but that hasn't stopped Final Fantasy 14 from staying strong as Endwalker's patch cycle wraps up in anticipation of the next expansion. While its downtime isn't super exciting, there's still a lot of fun to be found in its raids, relic weapon grind, and AFKing in Limsa with pals. Hype will no doubt ramp back up in the next few months with the 7.0 reveal!
Harvey: Endwalker made me cry 18 times—I counted. Final Fantasy 14 is so, so important to me. That said, I think its place on this list at 20 is warranted: the post-launch experience in Endwalker has been a mixed bag, with an absence of long-lasting content in favour of one-and-done experiences, and a patch storyline that's just okay. While I'm waiting for a return to form from an MMO player perspective, it's still one of the best RPG stories in gaming.
Tyler C: I downloaded this MMO to play a bunny girl and it delivered. Final Fantasy 14 is one of the few games in the series I’ve spent serious time with and it’s largely because the story had me hooked for way too many hours than I’d like to admit. I’ve spent less time in it recently, but Eorzea will always be home to me.
19. Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Released May 14, 2021 | Top 100 Score 243.94
Ted: Mass Effect is just Star Trek with sex, guns, and a militaristic contempt for democratic government. I don't care, it absolutely rules. One of my favorite game series, a world I still kinda want to live in—demon robots from beyond the dark and all. And the Mako/Uncharted Worlds were always great—Starfield who?
Jody: I will not stand for this Uncharted Worlds revisionism. They're still a repetitive chore with boxy alien shooting gallery warehouses, and the weakest part of Mass Effect. Fortunately we've got the Legendary Edition to recommend so we don't have to talk about which Mass Effect is best again, because wherever you stand on the individual games it's a trilogy best seen as a whole.
A friend of mine who only got into them recently blasted through the first two and almost didn't play the third because she'd heard so much bad stuff about it, which is madness. Other RPGs have let us import savestates and carry over characters, but Mass Effect is about our Shepard and who they become over the course of these games—who they save and who they fail to save, who they romance and who they befriend, where their moral code takes them. It's a journey you should experience as a whole, one whose high points are so high they yank the low points up to sea level through force of context.
Released Nov 15, 2022 | Top 100 Score 244.98
Joshua: A gorgeous narrative game where Obsidian's historical materialist storytelling hits full strength, Pentiment pretends to be a 16th-century murder mystery but is actually a meditation on how we live with the past. Every move you make is boxed in by history, but you've still gotta press on, taking failures with you as you go.
Ted: A true advancement in Obsidian's "make you feel like a monster for your RPG decisions" technology. The fact that there are no "canonical" killers means there's always a shadow of doubt to who you accuse of one of the murders. The decades-long span of the game's story means that you get to see the village of Tassing go on without the residents you effectively killed and disgraced, and wonder what they would have made of their lives.
Jody: You can tell me there are no "canonical" killers, but I swear I figured out whodunnit with 100% truth and accuracy. Admittedly, that was only after I finished Pentiment and the first person I accused and saw executed was, in retrospect, fully innocent. He wasn't a nice man though, so whatever. I'll go back to being able to sleep at night real soon, I'm sure. Whether you get it right or wrong or live in a fog of mystery forever, Pentiment is one of the best choice-and-consequence engines of personal torment around. I love it.
17. Persona 5 Royal
Released Oct 21, 2022 | Top 100 Score 245.57
Mollie: Yeah it's 100 hours, but it's the best hundred hours you'll ever spend in a mega-stylish turn-based JRPG. It's a top-notch experience with one of the best gaming soundtracks of all time and a cast of teens you'll feel fiercely protective of by the time it's over. I struggle to think of another game that plays quite like it.
Robert: If you've never played a Persona game then this is the one to take the plunge with. Live the life of a Japanese high school student by day and then transition into a 'Phantom Thief' by night, diving into the mind palaces of antogonists and stealing the heart of their corruption. It's like a turn-based JRPG was spliced together with Psychonauts. Not as edgy and dark as the seminal Persona 3 (soon to come to PC in a remaster), but it's undoubtedly the better, more accessible game.
Robin: Persona 5 was already one of the best JRPGs ever made, but the improvements in Royal really add up to an even better experience. There are so many clever quality of life changes, adjustments to the game's biggest pain points, and welcome additions that it really feels like a revitalised experience. Yes, that does mean it's even longer.
16. Portal 2
Released Apr 19, 2011 | Top 100 Score 245.62
Tyler W: The original Portal is arguably more influential as one of the first in a new class of relatively short first-person puzzle and environmental storytelling games, but Portal 2, which adds co-op and significantly expands the Aperture Science lore and puzzle-solving toolset, is the meatier pick. Adding length, complexity, and new characters while holding onto the original's charm was no easy feat, but Valve pulled it off, and portals remain one of gaming's all-time great physics innovations.
Wes: Movie directors, and eventually Valve, discovered a cheat code for improving whatever they're making: put J.K. Simmons in it. The guy just nails it 100% of the time.
Robin: The singleplayer story is obviously great, but when I think back on this game what I remember is the co-op. If you can find a buddy to play it with, it's still an absolutely joyful experience, full of all these excellent 'a ha!' moments that are so enhanced by reaching them with a friend.
Sarah: Portal 2 can be surprisingly complex—I remember it making my brain hurt on more than one occasion when trying to wrap my head around exactly what it was I was meant to do when discovering a new room. Thankfully, co-op exists which lets you drop the platform out from underneath your friend for some comedic relief.
Phil: Its Steam Workshop page is an absurd treasure trove of new puzzles, too. Everything from standalone test chambers to full, multi-part conversions featuring custom graphics and puzzle tools. You can play Portal 2 forever.
Released Nov 18, 2011 | Top 100 Score 245.75
Morgan: It's nice that we don't have to really explain why Minecraft still ranks so high here. Its appeal is universal and enduring, equally recommendable as a gentle introduction to PC gaming or as a rabbit hole that leads to elaborate custom worlds, complex engineering mods, and massively-multiplayer community servers. A pretty cool game.
Mollie: Nothing beats the little 'pop' sound when you punch a tree trunk to death.
Sarah: Minecraft is a game that I like to mess around in without having any clear goal in mind. Sometimes I'll spend weeks building a home, collecting resources, and generally just trying to survive whatever the game wants to throw at me—usually creepers. Other times, I'll have something far more grand in mind, like building a full-scale replica of Winterfell, only to get bored after finishing one part of the wall. More recently though, I'll turn on Creative mode and fly around looking for run-down villages to repair. Seriously, it's almost as relaxing as Powerwash Simulator.
Released Oct 17, 2018 | Top 100 Score 246.3
Katie Wickens, Hardware Writer: Timeless tomfoolery and tonnes of emergent storytelling fun, Rimworld was the start of a long and intense love affair for me. A colony builder with endless modding potential, Rimworld sets a high bar, with countless clones having popped up over the years. None of which have quite managed to capture the level of charm this solo-developed procedural chaos machine exudes. The game puts free creativity at its core, while pummeling you with intensely destructive forces—like the infamous rabid squirrel attack—to keep you invested in whatever randomly generated narrative threads you choose to follow. I will never forget my first time staying up till 6AM making human skin hats. Take that Minecraft.
Fraser: In my latest colony I make everyone wear bowler hats and consume human flesh. I'm not an entirely bad dude, though. When a child visited and pleaded with my smartly-dressed cannibals to save their beloved pet, they were thrown in jail, brainwashed and given a new life cleaning up all the blood and dirt in the butchering room. Now they're gainfully employed and learning lots of new skills. Good wholesome fun.
13. Baldur's Gate 2
Released Sep 21, 2000 | Top 100 Score 246.84
Andy: For a nerd who loved the idea of D&D but hated interacting with people, Baldur's Gate 2 was pure perfection: A sprawling romp through a classic fantasy world filled with "real" characters who had minds and ideas of their own. It was the quintessential party-based adventuring experience, and almost immeasurably influential: BG2 ushered in a CRPG renaissance that continues to echo in games like Pillars of Eternity, Dragon Age, and of course Baldur's Gate 3—one of the best RPGs in years. The AD&D ruleset is dated now, but BG2 remains an essential experience: Beautiful, unpredictable, and utterly unforgettable.
Ted: Suiting up like Arnold in Commando but I'm grabbing Belm, the Flail of Ages, and casting Stoneskin, Improved Haste, and Mirror Image to bum rush some Beholders.
Joshua: The game that established the BioWare model of RPG for at least a decade to come, and whose spirit continues to linger today in everything from the Shadowrun games, to Disco Elysium, to, well, Baldur's Gate 3. It was so, so clever in its structure. After escaping the initial dungeon, the game turns you loose. Your job is to amass enough money to go and rescue a friend from imprisonment, and there wasn't a single "main quest" way of doing it. Licence, then, to goof off and pursue any and every side quest you come across. You know, the way you usually do in any RPG, but here there's a narrative justification for it, and boy was it satisfying.
And then there's the companions. I love Baldur's Gate 1, but its myriad NPC party members were barely there, and most of them are only memorable for their barks when you select them with your cursor. BG2 fleshed its party members out, giving them personal struggles and questlines that only you—being the protagonist of an RPG—could solve. That's all very familiar now, but imagine what an experience that was in 2000, fresh off of BG1. Suddenly you had a reason to cycle out party members, rather than just finding the nearest fighter, mage, and thief and calling it a day until the final boss. Excuse me, I need to go start a fresh playthrough.
Released Sep 17, 2020 | Top 100 Score 246.96
Harvey: How do you take the sting out of dying in a roguelike? Make every death a gift, with opportunities to advance storylines, flirt with hot gods, and unravel familial trauma. Hades still staggers me with how well it conveys its story over hundreds of runs, and it helps that it's a kickass action experience too. Dusa is also the best character.
Jody: Megaera's right there, Harvey.
I recently lost my save and had to start over. Without my precious upgrades, it's affirming to see I've improved. I defeated the Bone Hydra on my first try, though Theseus still kicked my butt. Hades teaches you the dash-attacks and wall-slams of its kinetic combat so smoothly you don't realise how much you're learning.
Wes: There's so much to love in Hades, but I most fondly think of the interplay between the gods' different boons and those runs where I was able to craft a killer build around some rare duo skills. It's just quintessential videogame stuff, adding a twist to a skill you already like that opens up an entirely new way to play with it. Hades does an incredible job of making the randomness of a roguelike a joy rather than an obstacle: I never went in with my heart set on a particular build, because figuring out how I could piece one together over a run was so much more exciting.
Tyler C: As a fan of Supergiant's first game, Bastion, Hades was made for me. I wanted to like their other games but playing them never felt quite right. Hades made up for all the years I spent waiting for Supergiant to make another killer action game with loads of creative ways to play it. Also, I'm sorry Jody and Harvey, Nyx is the best character.
11. Stardew Valley
Released Feb 26, 2016 | Top 100 Score 247.89
Mollie: Stardew Valley wasn't the first to tap into the cosy pixelated farming sim genre, but it's undoubtedly the best and most influential. Many have come in the years since Stardew's release and tried, but the sheer charm of Pelican Town and its deeply relatable residents keep it on top.
Lauren: It makes sense that Stardew leads its score with Importance—it did spawn a new era for a dormant genre and has since become a cornerstone of the cozy gaming community. As a counterpoint to The Sims and its lack of competition, every successive farm sim chasing Stardew's tail proves it's still the best experience out there.
Eric Barone is still working on yet another update, and even when he finally puts it away to focus on Haunted Chocolatier, Stardew will maintain a Skyrim-like level of replayability with its prolific modding scene.
Jody: When I play The Sims, I eventually stop because it gets kind of sad—everyone growing old and dying off. When I played Stardew Valley, I stopped because I had a nice house and a loving partner in a thriving community. I've never felt more satisfied staying up all night to ensure an imaginary farmer got to bed by 12.
Wes: We could spend ages debating what other farming sims do better or worse than Stardew Valley and analyzing why nothing else has hit it nearly as big, but I think the answer is actually pretty simple. Eric Barone just did the work, and you can feel the singular touch of one passionate creator in every pixel of this game. Just like Lucas Pope's Return of the Obra Dinn, Stardew is proof that something so clearly hand-crafted resonates like nothing else.
10. XCOM 2
Released Feb 4, 2016 | Top 100 Score 248.91
Harvey: A squad tactics sim that accidentally gets you real attached to your toy soldiers. Everyone who's played XCOM 2 has a story about a brave soldier sacrificing themselves for the greater good.
Robin: Such a simple yet brilliant premise, to flip XCOM's script and turn you from Earth's defenders against alien invasion to insurgents against alien rule. And with its DLC and expansions (not to mention many user-made mods), XCOM 2 grew into an expansive and truly definitive strategy game. No one's done it better since, and they've certainly tried.
Fraser: XCOM 2 turned me into a save-scumming little goblin and I have no regrets. Permadeath is a great system for a game like this, even if you try to ignore it and just fire up an old save. I cared deeply about my toy soldiers, who I spent so much time customising, including a very good facsimile of PCG fave Geralt. He's as good at hunting aliens as he is at hunting monsters.
9. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Released Sep 14, 2017 | Top 100 Score 249.13
Jody: Your party of adventurers in Divinity: Original Sin 2 might include a cannibal elf, a dwarf pirate, a fire-breathing lizard prince, and a skeleton who hides his undead nature by wearing a bucket over his head. By the end of the game, one of them will be a god.
Original Sin 2 takes the traditional map-hopping fantasy quest structure and adds a mind-bending array of abilities (enough to fill multiple hotbars), sidequests that feel like tonal breaks from the main storyline but still seem like they matter on their own (even if the questgiver is a chicken named Big Marge), and a huge amount of personality. Every party member has their own thing going on, their own plot to follow and life to live, and can even replace the protagonist if you die. They can also be selected to take the lead in conversations, although saying hi to people as the skeleton without putting a disguise on first will raise some eyebrows.
Robin: I love classic isometric RPGs, but they can be a little… stuffy, y'know? Grand but self-serious. By contrast, Original Sin 2 embraces this wonderful spirit of goofy chaos that makes its world feel so much more alive. Unlike all the monsters that I killed by electrocution, explosions, poison, freezing, and rains of blood thanks to all the elemental combinations allowed by the game's astonishing level of interactivity.
Lauren: The theme song gives me goosebumps and the constantly fiery combat gives me sweats—Original Sin 2 makes me feel alive.
Wes: We wrote this year's Top 100 before Baldur's Gate 3 released, but that game has everything I loved about Original Sin 2 only moreso. It remains a fantastic RPG, but it's now my "if you've already played Baldur's Gate 3 two or three times…" recommendation.
8. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Released Aug 21, 2012 | Top 100 Score 249.20
Phil: Oh, this is awkward. We locked in our Top 100 list before the release of Counter-Strike 2. Which would be fine, except—as a result of the sequel's release—CS:GO no longer exists. If nothing else, that should drastically reduce its Playability score. Instead of a recommendation, then, think of this as a memorial for what CS:GO meant to the team. We'll find out how CS2 fares in next year's vote.
Rich: It is extremely odd that CS:GO is no longer playable but CS2 in many ways is CS:GO. Valve took a pretty brave stance here in upgrading everything behind-the-scenes but keeping the experience essentially identical: the developer had so much confidence in the fundamentals of CS:GO that the sequel was not additive, but iterative.
CS:GO's high placement in this list is a fitting capstone to a remarkable decade-long arc, during which this game went from a slightly shoddy launch to becoming the world's premiere competitive FPS, accidentally creating a new paradigm for gun skins along the way as it judiciously added, pruned, re-jigged where needed and, whatever its community says, ultimately always delivered: Counter-Strike players love a good moan, but just under 30 million players a month tells its own story.
CS2 will evolve further from here but, during this brief window of time, the new game almost feels like the director's cut of CS:GO. For my money Counter-Strike is the best competitive FPS ever, which is not just down to the precision shooting but the mix of simple objectives, focus on teamwork and economy management. The real secret to CS:GO's success is that, under the gaudy skins and the esports razzmatazz, it always stuck to those guns, and placed the integrity of the competitive experience above all else. Which made it not just the best PvP shooter around, but the perfect foundation for its successor.
Ted: I remain a Counter-Strike: Source partisan purely out of aimless nostalgia. Counter-Strike 2? Nah nah nah, gimme Counter-Strike Source 2.
7. Red Dead Redemption 2
Released Dec 5, 2019 | Top 100 Score 249.98
Chris: The best thing a videogame can do is give you a big open world and leave you alone while you explore it, and Red Dead Redemption 2 (eventually) does just that. While the story missions test my patience in the second half of the game, the sheer beauty and almost ridiculous amount of detail of the world still hasn't been matched. Meanwhile, aging cowboy Arthur Morgan remains one of the best and most believable characters in games. If a genie could grant me one wish it's that Rockstar would can GTA 6 in favor of another Red Dead game.
Morgan: Yea, that guy sure has a cool last name. Probably the coolest part about him.
Phil: Never mind the name, there's a weariness to Morgan that makes him a fascinating character to inhabit. Rockstar is never afraid to make a protagonist who's just a big mess of a person, but Arthur has a depth and likeability that elevates him above the cynical caricature of a GTA lead. He's got plenty to react to, as well, because RDR2's world is just so impossibly lavish and detailed. I love the incidental moving parts of the world—the train tracks being laid, the house under construction, the wood being felled—that offer a sense of progression as the wilderness is slowly tamed. Through it all, Arthur is keenly aware that he's being left behind.
6. Street Fighter 6
Released Jun 2, 2023 | Top 100 Score 250.66
Mollie: Street Fighter 6 ushered in the new generation of fighters, and did it with a bang. It's a complete package straight outta the bag, with a stellar online mode and a diet Yakuza RPG mode. It's super approachable to boot, making it a great entry point for fighting game newbies.
Tyler W: The entire UI is arcane to me, but once I found Street Fighter 6's tutorials, it became my favorite Street Fighter. I'm finally understanding concepts and techniques that I never learned in 30 years of futzing around in the training level. I can do combos on purpose now! Bonus points for having a preposterous character creator in the diet Yakuza mode, as Mollie put it.
Robert: Yes, versus fighters have never been a big PC genre, but Capcom showed this year with Street Fighter 6 that this is definitely changing. The same-day, cross-platform, all-the-bells-and-whistles PC release of Street Fighter 6 showed other developers how it should be done, and PC Gamer's glowing review recognised just how impactful the release was for PC gamers worldwide.
5. Half-Life 2
Released Nov 16, 2004 | Top 100 Score 256.85
Morgan: It's not just tradition and importance keeping Half-Life 2 around these parts: it's one of my favorite singleplayer FPS experiences 19 years after launch, largely because guns take a backseat to puzzles, characters, and level-specific gimmicks that branded its biggest moments into my brain.
Jody: I came to Half-Life 2 eight years late, and was surprised how much it lived up to its reputation. I yelped through Ravenholm, gawped at the expressive NPCs, even enjoyed the vehicles.
Rich: Still a fantastically grim and surprising journey, one that has aged beautifully thanks to Valve's big bet on sticking the gravity gun front-and-centre, peerless environment design, and one of those narrative threads that pulls you on and on. And I still think how they did the Combine chatter is the best and creepiest enemy barking in a game.
Ted: I think Half Life 2 can suffer from its own outsized reputation the way a canonical book or movie might. I've played the damn thing multiple times and I still fall into this mental rut of the "memetic" Half-Life 2 with Episode 3 jokes and the like. That might be a defense mechanism—this cloud of jokes and memes and mods disguising a very deep sadness that we may never see this world again, or a proper conclusion to its story.
Wes: I can't believe you guys put up with that buggy. If I ever play Half-Life 2 again, I'm going to turn on noclip and fly through the world just to avoid ever driving that POS again.
4. Dwarf Fortress
Released Aug 8, 2006 | Top 100 Score 259.26
Wes: One of the few games to nearly max out our Importance meter, Dwarf Fortress is the template for all colony management sims and the shining beacon on the hill for procedural narrative in games. It can generate 1,000 years of history for the world where you'll build your fortress; also, one of your dwarves can go insane if he's not allowed to craft a legendary bucket he saw in a dream. Dwarf Fortress contains multitudes. It used to be a harder recommendation, but the Steam release's sprites and mouse controls make it a game everyone should experience at least once.
Joshua: CK3 is an incredible story generator, but let's be honest, it—and everything else like it—pales in comparison to Dwarf Fortress. Zach and Tarn Adams' ludicrously complex mayhem engine fully deserves its semi-mythical reputation as a producer of the most buckwild after-action reports in gaming. It just keeps track of so many variables, everything from mood to history to whether a chicken's left knee is wet, and ties them all into its simulation with incredible results. This is a game where dwarves spill their beer, local cats get it on their feet, lick themselves clean, get drunk, and vomit all over your tavern. This is the level of obsessive detail we're dealing with here. It's absolutely wonderful, and despite all the games it continues to inspire, there's still little else like it.
Plus, it even has modern fripperies like "graphics" now, so there's really no excuse not to try it anymore.
3. Crusader Kings 3
Released Sep 1, 2020 | Top 100 Score 260.09
Robin: The enormous, colour-coded map that confronts you when you first boot up Crusader Kings 3 makes you think you're in for some fiddly, demanding grand strategy game. And… well, you kind of are, but that's not really what the game's about. At its heart, it's a role-playing game—one where you can step into the shoes of almost any landed noble in European medieval history, and live through every wedding, birth, revolt, feast, and suspicious hunting trip that touches their life. As you play each of your dynasty's successors, you build your own fascinating alternate history of the world—but more importantly, a history of people, being as messy as real people are, but on the grand and often absurd stage of medieval politics.
Fraser: RPGs and grand strategy games are my greatest loves, so naturally Crusader Kings 3, which effortlessly combines them both, is one of my all-time faves. CK3 let go of very little from its predecessor, forming an incredible foundation to which Paradox has really been able to emphasise what makes this series so special, adding so many great ways to develop your noble characters and their dynasties, from tournaments that are now more than just pop-up events to new ways to develop your heirs. It's complex, and only growing moreso, but deep down it's really just an incredible story generator that rewards you even if you're just bumbling around.
Joshua: I love Paradox games, but honestly? I'm not much of a strategy guy. For me—and many others, I think—these things are story machines. They're boxes you chuck a load of ingredients into and shake around, waiting to be surprised by the weird, never-before-seen mixture that comes out at the end. In CK3, those ingredients are the kings, khans and queens of Europe, Africa, and Asia, and it's my favourite one Paradox has made. The emphasis it places on its RPG mechanics, the life paths and the stress system, makes each ruler you play feel like their own distinct person with their own patchwork of impulses and neuroses. Also, I once kidnapped the king of Estonia so many times it turned him into an unhinged nudist, so as far as I'm concerned this is probably the greatest game ever made.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Released May 18, 2015 | Top 100 Score 264.80
Wes: The 2020 launch of Cyberpunk 2077 (and its notable absence from this list, which we wrote before the big 2.0 patch and Phantom Liberty) make it clear just how hard it is to make a dang videogame, much less a massive RPG. With every year of distance from The Witcher 3 I marvel at how much it nailed.
Few of the quests you'll find trotting around in the open world will ask you to just go kill three nekkers or whatever. Instead you'll solve a haunting, or chat with a troll, or face a tribunal of angry monsters. And there are so many of them. Even the simple quests often have a twist to them that makes them linger in memory. I still remember helping a man hunt down a rare black pearl—essentially a fetch quest—and learning, at the end, that he'd hoped it could cure his sick wife. But it couldn't. The pearl's healing qualities were a myth. The Witcher 3 was always finding some twist of the knife to give your actions weight. In the eight years since, too few RPGs have followed its example.
Robin: I look back on The Witcher 3 and think, "Will I ever get to lose myself in a videogame like that again?". When the game came out, I was junior staff living on my own with more time than money, and could freely devote the 150 hours to conquering Geralt's world. But it's a world that truly justifies and rewards that time investment, a vast landscape that is impossibly dense with crafted narrative. I look back on simple journeys I made from one main quest location to another and remember all the sprawling, intricate detours along the way—sidequests that made me feel like I was creating my own stories of sword and sorcery every time I mounted up and hit the road. And then, impossibly, they put out expansions that were even better and richer. Hearts of Stone still stands as my favourite adventure in any RPG. Cyberpunk 2077 may have been a mess, but CD Projekt Red's masterpiece still hasn't been bested.
1. Disco Elysium
Released Oct 15, 2019 | Top 100 Score 271.61
Jacob: What can I say about Disco Elysium that hasn't been said already? Released four years ago, it's been our top pick for the Top 100 for four years, and I've played it every year for four years. That said, in my fourth year playing, I've come to appreciate the game in a different manner: it's become the perfect Steam Deck title.
Disco Elysium is not a complicated game to play. You don't need to mash any keys, quickly access any skills or abilities, or really do all that much at any great speed. For weary-eyed flights or lounging around after a long day, its slow pace and mechanical simplicity makes it a game I'm often reaching for despite having piles of newer games I really should be playing instead.
It's also a picture of performance for the less-than-mighty Deck. Feel free to crank down the frame rate, turn down the wattage, even half the shading rate if you really want to; graphical performance isn't required to enjoy Disco's easy tempo or gorgeous backdrops. While I still feel your first playthrough should be writ large on a monitor, it is one of my absolute favourites to play on Steam Deck.
Lauren: I was beginning to feel self-conscious that I can't imagine a new game beating Disco Elysium for the top spot but this year it's backed by math. We ran the numbers and this really is the new seminal RPG experience.
Ted: My friends still clown on me for how hard I tried to get them to play this game. "It's like, an RPG right? But there's no combat, just skill checks, and it's kinda like Planescape: Torment but, like, political and stuff." Too bad, breathless Disco Elysium rants will continue until morale improves.
It's all the more precious now that further exploration of the world of Elysium seems like a distant impossibility. A recent investigative documentary by People Make Games revealed that the dispute between developer ZA/UM's founders is far from a clear cut "fat cat moneymen vs. passionate artists" situation, and Disco Elysium, a handful of short stories, and a fan-translated Estonian novel may forever remain our keyhole view into what feels like a boundless alternate history created by a scrappy punk collective.
Wes: Sometime soon I need to do an all-muscles run of Disco Elysium. I think most of us eager to play such a wordy game gravitate towards drama or rhetoric or Inland Empire or whatever, and the game is frequently hilarious no matter what, but I really need to know what it's like to be the strongest, absolutely dumbest loser of a detective to ever wear a badge in Revachol.
Joshua: Disco Elysium captures post-Soviet malaise like nothing else I've seen. Revachol is a body whose spirit has left it. It knows—at the edge of its senses—something has gone wrong, that the locomotive of history has stopped short of its destination. The future is cancelled in favour of an interminable present, but that situation can't hold. Something has to give, and it's a damn shame that we might never find out what that something was going to be.
Only 100 games? It's not enough! There are plenty of amazing games that didn't make the cut, so here are some of the PC Gamer team's personal favourites.
Homeworld Remastered Collection
Believe me, I tried very hard to keep Homeworld in the Top 100, but it looks like most of my fellow RTS-lovers are dead. RIP. Anyway! Homeworld is incredible. A fully 3D RTS developed at a time when most of them were still completely 2D, boasting a tragic but gripping sci-fi story and blessed with a truly exceptional soundtrack. Play it.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Walking simulators trade interactivity for narrative, and none do it better than What Remains of Edith Finch, the haunting tale of a young girl, her family, and their strange, sprawling multi-generational home. It's absolutely heart-wrenching—I still choke up thinking about parts of it—and a masterclass in digital storytelling. If you're not at least dewy-eyed by the end, check your pulse.
Fishing is PC gaming 2023, and at this point if you can't fish in Starfield I'm not interested. I don't need to launch into space, though, when I can get all my exploration, intrigue, and yes, fishing, in the cosiest creepy boat-game ever. Bobbing about between islands, landing deformed fish, and dredging wrecks for treasure has been my most pleasing gaming experience this year.
It had a rocky start but Diablo 3 quickly became one of my favourites and had me coming back season after season for nearly ten years—the trusty Templar, or Ned (Stark), as I like to call him, almost feels like family. Sure, Diablo 4 might be flashier, but it hasn't quite reached the demon-slaying satisfaction levels of its predecessor.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution
I got into VR gaming this year and was surprised this roguelite survival horror game takes full advantage of what a VR headset can do. I found it oddly cathartic sulking around abandoned hotels in a post apocalyptic New Orleans looking for salvage while occasionally shanking zombies in the head with a rusty knife.
Neverwinter Nights' original main campaign is a bit rough, but BioWare really brought their A-game with expansion packs Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. The real kicker is that NwN's Aurora toolset is about as easy to use as Super Mario Maker, just with an insane depth that's allowed talented module builders to make everything from huge, epic campaigns to mini-MMO servers.
I wouldn't have guessed peering at plants through a magnifying glass would be a thrill but, darn it, it is. As a botany shop owner you get to solve dozens of little plant-based mysteries for oddball customers, while also slowly uncovering a dark conspiracy that threatens the entire world. It's both cozy and creepy, and an utterly engrossing detective adventure.
The Wolf Among Us
The juxtaposition of neo-noir storytelling and fairytale characters makes Telltale's mystery something special. When you have to decide how rough to be with a suspect, the fact it's Toad of Toad Hall lends a definite frisson. And though it's a trite observation, fairytales are dark too, which comes across in the scene where the Little Mermaid winces through a strip-club audition, every step 1,000 knives.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Beyond its performance—I didn't experience any major issues—Jedi: Survivor is one of the best and most expansive Star Wars games made. It's got great combat, exploration, traversal; the robot chase sequence on Jedha rivals any of the best Uncharted games. Hell, you can even grab a blaster and run off to be a bounty hunter if you're bored with Jedi nonsense.
A massive-scale real-time war MMO on a single server that supports thousands of players at once. It's incredible that Foxhole works in the first place, but what got me into it is how social and often non-combative it is. I've spent most of my hours transporting cargo, refining scrap metal, and repairing vehicles for the war effort.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekrio: Shadows Die Twice still has the best boss fights in any soulslike game bar none, and I will die (a lot, it's a hard game) on that hill. Your toolkit's stripped back—the Wolf only has one sword to swing—but every boss is tailored to what he can do. Study the blade, and you'll unlock some of FromSoftware's best work.
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb says it's okay to be a little devilish sometimes. Play the bad guy, convince your indebted followers to consume the flesh of others, stuff them into stocks when they disagree—it's all good. A macabre Animal Crossing at times, calling it that is a disservice to its moreish roguelike combat. Once you start rampaging through spawn-filled dungeons, you can't stop.
The best of Zachtronics' brand of singular construction puzzlers. Each level asks you to take a handful of disparate reagents and turn them into the desired output. You lay out tracks, pistons and rotators, and program them to manipulate the elements into their desired form. It's abstract in the extreme, but that lets you focus on the open-ended beauty of creation.
DJMAX Respect V
An incredibly neat rhythm game with endless bangers to discover. You can keep things DDR-style with a four-button layout, or become a rhythm game god with daunting eight-button note charts. It even has a robust online mode that lets you set up lobbies and play songs with friends. The base game is regularly on sale for cheap, too.
A puzzle game hasn't blown my mind like this since Portal, and I don't make that comparison lightly. With the ability to turn 2D photographs into 3D objects, you explore a wonderful variety of surreal brain-teasers and optical illusions that really have to be seen to be believed. It's like having the front seat at a digital magic show.
No imitator has come close to matching Rocket League's subtle simulation of what it would be like if rocket-powered cars played soccer. Unlike those sports games that automate the skills of athletes, to whom players merely suggest actions, Rocket League facilitates the development of new skills entirely. The Flip Reset, The Squishy Save, The Musty Flick: these are real things on account of car soccer.
Plead with kings, treat with thugs, solve a murder at sea, fall in love, die in deserts of sand and snow, and there'll still be so much more to do in this alt-history adaptation of the Jules Verne novel. A beautifully written CYOA that captures all the chaotic variability of humanity, this might be my favourite game of all time.