If you’re looking for the best PC games to play today then you’ve come to the right place. At T3 we love gaming, and one of the perks of the job is that when we’re testing the best gaming laptops, best gaming desktops and best graphics cards we can do it by playing the best PC games and calling it work.
As much as we love our consoles, there’s something special about PC gaming. There are several reasons for that. First of all, there’s sheer spectacle: with the right hardware, the best PC games can achieve resolutions and frame rates that leave consoles far behind; in some games, such as the ray-traced version of Minecraft, you get visuals that you simply can’t get on a PlayStation 5 or Nintendo Switch; and for many games there are mods that enable you to make serious or silly changes to your favourite games.
And of course there’s the sheer range of gaming-related hardware to choose from: hardware that includes the best gaming monitors, the best gaming keyboards and the best gaming mice on the market, all of which give you a serious edge in online multiplayer.
Make sure you check out the best Black Friday deals pages to bag some bargains: from high street shops to Steam, there are usually stacks of sales in and around Black Friday where you can pick up the best PC games for considerably less cash. That means it's a good time not just to buy the blockbusters, but to invest in Indies too: you might find your new favourite game from a developer you didn't previously know about.
So what are the best PC games in 2021? Let’s find out.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the pinnacle of the series, a spectacular combination of thrilling action, beautiful environments and superb storytelling featuring beautiful environments, compelling characters and what feels like an infinite variety of missions. It was plagued by problems when it first launched, but today it’s a very stable and solid game that you’ll lose months to.
The Witcher 3 is a very adult game, with lots of gore, swearing and even the odd bit of nudity, but it doesn't feel gratuitous in the way some bits of Cyberpunk do: here it just reflects the game world, a place where life is cheap and violence is never far away. The characterisation is excellent, the storytelling is largely superb and while there are a few issues – we're not fans of the controls for your horse and the camera can be annoying during some fights – this is one of the best RPGs ever made.
It may have started its life on consoles, but the PC version of Red Dead Redemption is the definitive one. It looks absolutely beautiful despite the often grim subject matter, and it retains everything that’s great about the same studio’s Grand Theft Auto – the scale, the storytelling, the complex characters and the heart-stopping action – without the schoolboy sniggering that often mars the GTA universe. It’s an incredible open world to explore with genuinely fearsome enemies and absolutely stunning scenery, and once you’ve completed its epic adventure you can have fun with an array of mods from the sensible to the utterly deranged.
Hades is a winning mix of roguelikes’ punishing difficulty and sarcastic humour, a bright, fast and often very funny hack and slash set in the bowels of Hell. Your task is to escape the underworld, and to do that you will die many times. But each time you’re reborn you still have the tools, weapons and powers from your previous run, enabling you to push that little bit further and kill a few more monsters. It’s pitched absolutely perfectly: unlike some roguelikes it won’t have you rage-quitting in disgust at too-long runs or too-hard boss battles: just when you think a level’s too tough you’re granted with the perfect power to survive it. Hades is an absolute hoot.
The long-awaited sequel – 15 years! – to Double Fine’s inventive and unusual platformer doesn’t disappoint. From the mind that brought you Grim Fandango and Brütal Legend and of course the original Psychonauts, Psychonauts 2 is a zany and funny adventure that takes place in the bizarre worlds that live in people’s heads, places where inner demons are downright dangerous and emotional baggage can crush you. To give you an idea of the playfulness here, one level is a fever-dream version of The Great British Bake-Off with living ingredients that can’t wait for you to cook them. It’s a playful platformer with cinematic style and real depth to its story: if you’ve ever struggled with mental health or are close to someone who has, Psychonauts 2 takes on extra layers of meaning.
If you’re a fan of isometric RPGs and you haven’t already got this game, go straight to the deals and buy it: it’s a stone cold classic with a 93 meta score on Metacritic and near-universal acclaim from gamers. It’s one of the best RPGs ever made, with beautiful environments, a superb soundtrack, online and offline co-op and much more. It’s the digital successor to the classic pen-and-paper RPGs with all their richness and variety, the kind of game that repays the hefty initial investment – this is a huge game with lots to learn – in weeks, months and years of glorious gameplay.
There are many, many multiplayer shooters for PC, but Rainbow Six Siege is our pick thanks to its focus on thinking first and shooting second. It’s pretty overwhelming if you’re new to the genre, intimidating in a way that free-to-play generally aren’t, but if you’re serious about your shooters there’s a great deal to experiment with and enjoy here. Although it’s been out for a while Ubisoft continues to update and improve it, so it’s a game that’s actually better the older it gets.
Minecraft isn’t so much a game as a phenomenon, and while it’s available on pretty much anything electronic it’s at its best on PC. It’s digital LEGO, a playground where you can build or fight, explore or destroy, and the ecosystem of mods and maps that surround it has become truly incredible. If your hardware supports it there’s also a ray tracing version for Windows 10/11 that adds extraordinary lighting to the familiar Minecraft blocks, making it look incredible without losing that trademark boxiness.
You’ll find Arkane’s Dishonored 2 in many must-play PC games guides, but this brand new title from the same studio is our pick for PC: it has the same incredible visual style of Arkane’s other titles, but this time it’s more cartoonish and campy in the service of a timeloop-based run-and-gun. You’re an assassin tasked with murdering nine targets, but unfortunately for you there’s also an assassin targeting you – and the same day replays again and again and again. The level design is fantastic, the gunplay feels amazing and it’s just hard enough to press that must-keep-playing button when you die.
Bungie’s ever-evolving space shooter isn’t so much a game as an ever-growing universe of epic campaigns and massively challenging multiplayer combat. There have been three major versions so far since the original in 2017 – Forsaken, Shadowkeep and Beyond Light – with The Witch Queen coming in early 2022 and at least two more, Lightfall and The Final Shape, are due in 2022 and 2023 respectively. It’s one of the best FPSes on any platform.
VR remains something of a niche in PC gaming, but if you’ve got the right kit then Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx is virtually perfect. It’s a VR FPS set in the familiar Half-Life universe between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, with Alyx Vance – that’s you – attempting to steal a weapon from the Combine. We are huge fans of the series so any chance to return to City 17 is something we’ll embrace with open arms, but the game really is something special and one of the best PC VR games so far.
On consoles, CD Projekt Red’s supposed sci-fi masterpiece was an absolute disaster: it was released far too soon, with show-stopping bugs and pathetic performance. But on PC it’s really rather brilliant, a gorgeous, grimy and shiny open world SF epic where you can turn your arms into giant swords and equip yourself with enough weaponry to take down tanks. If you ignore the often tawdry marketing and the game’s occasionally crap writing there’s a brilliant open-world shooter here with some spectacular set-pieces and lots of challenging missions.