Best PC games 2021: the must-play titles you don’t want to miss

Despite the staggering number of PC games out there, there are a few that surpass expectations and do the most kitted-out gaming laptops or gaming PCs justice.

Only the best PC games of 2021 can really showcase the prowess of powerful GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 3080 and AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, thanks to their stunning graphics, challenging gameplay, and immersive quality. These games will transport you to worlds you couldn’t imagine that will keep you glued to your screen for hours on end, whether they’re taking you for a ride around a fantastical open world, having you slicing up enemies with a katana in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, or learning how to fly the world’s most iconic aircraft. 

From open-world games that will take days to traverse to the best co-op PC games to play with friends as well as the best MMOs or MOBAs if you’re looking for some online play, there’s something for every taste. Here are the best PC games 2021 has to offer to get you going on your next adventure. 

The best new PC game: Life Is Strange: True Colors

Life Is Strange: True Colors characters standing, looking at something, with one of them holding a lamp

(Image credit: Square Enix)

The Life Is Strange games have always put an emphasis on strong narratives and its newest entry, Life Is Strange: True Colors, is no different. Like the previous games, the main protagonist has a subtle power you can use to move forward in the story while keeping it grounded.

In this game, you play as Alex Chen trying to uncover the truth behind her brother’s accidental death. You use her power of empathy to find out what’s going on, a power that lets you experience and manipulate others’ emotions. Roam around a gorgeous open environment and follow the different story threads to uncover the town’s dark secrets.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher battling a monster with his powers

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is aging like fine wine. Even several years after it hit the streets, it’s still one of the most impressive open world games that’s ever existed – mixing Skyrim’s unapologetic scale with Grand Theft Auto V’s incredible depth. It’s such a jam-packed game, which is why it claims the top spot on our list of the best PC games in 2021. Staggering, beautiful and an absolute time sink – in a good way – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t just the best PC game of 2021 or among the best open world games on PC. It might just be one of the best video games of all time.

 2. Ghostrunner

Expect lots of violence in the post-apocalyptic Ghostrunner

(Image credit: 505 Games)

Ultra-violence and constant motion meet in this post-apocalyptic dystopian game. This FPP is not for the faint of heart – it’s tense, exhilarating, and you will probably die over and over trying to beat it. If you ever wanted a game that came in equal parts Doom Eternal and Mirror’s Edge, you found it in Ghostrunner.

The game is set in Dharma Tower, a sort-of last refuge for humanity, where you ascend the tower through platforming and katana-induced carnage to take revenge on a ruthless ruler. You do so by slicing up your enemies, dodging bullets, and using a number of unique abilities to continue making your way to the top. This is the kind of game that will leave you out of breath just playing it. And, if that sounds like your kind of game, then you’re in for a treat.

3. Hades

Zagreus in Hades trying to escape the underworld

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Supergiant Games has made a name for itself thanks to the great reception that Pyre, Transistor, and, most recently, Bastion has received. Fans of the studio have a new entry to add to the studio’s pantheon of great games: Hades. Hades uses the same isometric view of the other games and tells the story of Hades’ son, Zagreus, trying to escape the underworld.

This roguelike dungeon crawler has a few new features up its sleeve. Not only can you romance some characters for extra bonuses, but dying in the game doesn’t start you at the last checkpoint. When you die, you might start at the beginning but you’re not starting over. You’re able to upgrade your character and weapons to improve your chances of escaping with each subsequent death. This leads to a sense of progression that makes for a very addictive game.

4. Control

Jesse Faden battling enemies in the Oldest House

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment/505 Games)

It’s not hard to see why Control has taken the gaming world by storm. The creative team at Remedy Entertainment made sure to pack this title with plenty to love, paying very close attention to the intricate details. A deeply cinematic game, this action-adventure offers its players staggering visuals, inspired environment design and brilliant performances – not to mention, a deeply satisfying combat experience.

Control places you in the capable shoes of fiery-haired Jesse Faden. You’re tasked to seek out The Oldest House, a building in New York City that’s in a constant state of architectural flux and only appears to those who desire to find it, and locate your missing brother, all while heading the Federal Bureau of Control as its director and overseeing the containment of paranatural entities.

There’s nothing quite like Control on the market, and it makes it one of the best PC games to play right now.

5. Deathloop

Colt in Deathloop battling enemies

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

If you ever wondered what Groundhog Day would look like in-game form, wonder no more. Deathloop, from the makers of the Dishonored series, gives the first-person shooter a fun little twist with some added strategy.

In this stylish game, you play as Colt, who’s stuck on an island in a time loop with a rival assassin. And, to break the loop, you have to kill eight targets before the day ends; otherwise, you start over. However, as each day resets, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, changing playstyles and learning the terrain until you find the best way to break the loop.

6. Microsoft Flight Simulator

An aircraft flying over a city at sunset in Microsoft Flight Simulator

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Beyond its impeccable graphics and its excellent peripheral support, it won’t take you long to realize that the Microsoft Flight Simulator is a labor of love. There’s a great attention to detail here, as well as a level of realism and immersion you won’t find elsewhere. So much so that if you’re not a fan of flight simulations, you’ll want to start getting on the bandwagon. Though that also means this game won’t be for everyone. Still, if you’re a flight sim fanatic or you love planes and flying, you’ll relish the chance to fly iconic vehicles in some of the most beautiful yet dangerous locations and conditions in the world.

Read the full review: Microsoft Flight Simulator

7. Hitman 3

Agent 47 on top of a building overlooking the clouds

(Image credit: IO Interactive)

Hitman 3 closes out the rebooted trilogy with another gorgeous entry that hews close to what makes these games so unique. It doesn’t redefine the gameplay but it does introduce six new maps and wraps up the story started in 2016’s Hitman. Just like the previous games, Hitman 3's maps will take you all over the world from Dubai and England to China and more.

If you’re not familiar with the gameplay of this series, you’re in for a treat. As Agent 47, you play a calm and calculating hitman whose job is not to run and gun through a mob of bad guys as most games would have you do. Instead, you move around large maps like an English manor to find and eliminate your targets quietly and undetected. On top of that, you can play the same map multiple times to find a multitude of ways or story paths to take out your targets, giving this entry, as well as the previous ones, the kind of replayability you don’t see in most games.

8. Monster Hunter World

Monsters in Monster Hunter: World

(Image credit: Capcom)

Monster Hunter is one of the biggest gaming franchises you’ve probably never heard of for years now. With Monster Hunter: World, the series broke into the mainstream and came to the PC (much to many gamers’ relief), and now, it’s one of the best PC games you can play to date. 

Monster Hunter: World puts you in the shoes of a monster hunter, and you’ll hunt increasingly bigger and meaner monsters, strip them for parts, and craft bigger, badder armor. It’s a deviously simple gameplay loop that ends up being one of the most compelling and rewarding PC games you can play right now. 

There’s an incessant onslaught of content in this game, and Capcom, the developers of this monster hunting hit, are committed to bringing a wealth of free DLC to the game – as well as a new frosty expansion in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. If you’re looking for an addictive, immersive and most importantly, fun game to play on your own or with all your closest friends cooperatively, Monster Hunter: World is the PC game of your dreams. There’s no doubt it’s one of the best PC games you can buy today.

9. Death Stranding

Sam Bridges traversing an apocalyptic United States to deliver valuable cargo in Death Stranding

(Image credit: 505 Games)

If the name Norman Reedus is what got your attention when someone mentioned Death Stranding, well then you’re in for a treat. However, this game is getting a lot of attention for more than just the big names attached to it, which incidentally include Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Seydoux. As porter Sam Bridges, you bravely traverse an apocalyptic United States to deliver valuable cargo, navigating lands overrun by terrorists, bandits and these invisible creatures called Beached Things. This award-winning action game is a treat to all the senses as well, thanks to its great storyline, which may be reminiscent of the current pandemic, good gameplay, fun quests, and impressive sound and visuals. 

10. Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect Legendary Edition battling an enemy

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition may not be a new game, per se, but it gets a shiny coat of paint as well as a few extras that make one of the most exciting gaming series ever worth revisiting. It’s not only been remastered with the ability to play in 4K, but it comes with just about all the content of the first three games including their DLCs. Additionally, there have been some technical and gameplay improvements for a more seamless experience. 

If you’ve never encountered Commander Shepherd and the vast ME universe, this is the perfect time. This epic space saga not only takes you across multiple galaxies and worlds but pits you against all sorts of enemies. Whether you follow the main story or one of the many side quests, the narrative is engrossing. Best of all, you get all three games in a single package.

11. Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 characters traversing a snow-covered mountain

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

The newest release from Rockstar Games was an instant hit upon release. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an engrossing western following Arthur Morgan and his gang as they try to survive a fictionalized Wild West as outlaws on the run. However, the game is much more than just that.

Whether it’s getting lost in the story, following through on every side quest to its conclusion, or just bonding with your horse, RDR2 is one of those games where you can easily sink 50+ hours into and still have something to do. The gameplay is stellar, and the graphics are gorgeous. You can even run the game in 8K, if you have the hardware. Definitely give this a look if you haven’t already.

12. Doom: Eternal

Monsters in Doom: Eternal

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Doom: Eternal takes everything from the remastered Doom of 2016 and turns it up to 11. The game is intense, visually and sonically overwhelming, and is exactly what you would expect a fever dream inspired by Doom would feel like.

The gameplay is a seamless first-person shooter where you trek into hell to battle an assortment of never-ending demons and reclaim an overrun earth. Refilling your health sometimes requires quite literally tearing monsters apart, and there is some need to be creative with your weapon choice, depending on what demon you’re facing. However, this game is all about creating havoc and rushing into battle as loud and as brash as possible.

Not only is Doom: Eternal a hell of a ride (pun intended). It’s also a gorgeous looking game that takes advantage of the newest hardware. And, it’s a 2v1 multiplayer mode where one player takes control of the “slayer” and faces off against two more player-controlled demons.

13. Half-Life: Alyx

Protagonist in Half-Life: Alyx encountering enemies

(Image credit: Valve)

No game has been as anticipated for as much or as long as Half Life 3. So, as gamers will have to wait a little longer for it, Valve has graced us with what may be the most compelling reason to get a VR headset with Half-Life: Alyx.

Half-Life: Alyx is set 5 years before Half-Life 2. What starts as a rescue mission for the protagonist’s father evolves into attempting to steal a superweapon from the alien overlords. From the interactive puzzles, the well-thought out combat and the fantastic story, this prequel is a welcome dive back into the Half-Life world that has been universally praised for its quality.

If you’re looking for an excuse to get into VR gaming, this might be the one for you. Half-Life: Alyx’s attention to detail shows what can be done with VR when taken seriously.

14. Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 cars racing around the UK

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's racing series is only getting better with each release, and in many ways this spin-off has exceeded the main Forza Motorsport line as the best racing games on PC at present. They're definitely more fun, adding a dash of arcade fun to the strikingly recreated cars and race tracks we've come to expect from Forza.

Forza Horizon 4 is easily one of the best PC games you can buy today, and this entry brings the racing to the UK after having explored America, France, Italy and Australia in the previous three instalments of the franchise. Now, you can rip through charming villages, seaside towns and the city of Edinburgh by way of many miles of country roads and dirt tracks in between. It's fast, frantic and a lot of fun.

You can purchase Forza Horizon 4 through the Microsoft Store. It's also available as part of the Xbox Game Pass for PC, or you can buy the Xbox One version and get a download code for PC using the Xbox Anywhere feature.

15. Nioh 2

Protagonist in Nioh 2 battling enemies with his skills

(Image credit: Koei Tecmo Games Co, LTD)

If you like the idea of playing games like Dark Souls that are so hard you’ll exhaust the depths of your expletive-filled vocabulary, then Nioh 2 should probably be next on your list to buy. Like From Software’s games, Nioh 2 rewards you for learning the fighting systems inside and out and squeezing every advantage out of its loot, weapons, and Yokai skills to gain the upper hand. You can gain more and more Yokai skills as you defeat enemies. You also have quite a bit of customization available to you for deeper gameplay. This sequel is a worthy follow up to the first game, also set in a fictionalized, fantastical version of historical Japan, that will have you either squealing in delight or screaming in anger.

16. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Young Wolf performing a maneuver in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

(Image credit: From Software)

From Software is a household name when it comes to designing the best PC games. The minds behind the critically praised Dark Souls series have transported PC gamers to some of the most forsaken landscapes and through some of the most challenging yet rewarding gameplay. From Software is back at it once more, with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Sekiro places you in the shoes of the Young Wolf, a shinobi tasked with rescuing his young master. The game will take you through 16th-century Japan, but things will get eerie and supernatural: this is From Software we’re talking about. 

Don’t expect an easy time of it, however. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an awfully difficult game to master, and you’ll need quick reflexes to deflect enemy attacks, as well as to master stealth. You won’t be able to hide behind a shield all day, like you were able to in Dark Souls III.

17. Minecraft

Characters in Minecraft next to a pond and a tree

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The phrase "build it, and they will come" rings truer than ever with Minecraft, the survival-based sandbox RPG that has now been bought more than 100 million times since its release in 2009. In it, you can construct your own worlds using resources you find in the wild, or discover existing ones created by other players online. 

In Minecraft, you can either limit yourself to the numerous tools and blocks offered by the developer, Mojang, or you can install mods to truly capitalize on your investment. Moreover, sometime in 2021, you’ll be able to take part in the Super Duper Graphics Pack, an optional piece of DLC that offers more realistic lighting effects and textures to an already amazing game.

18. Sid Meier's Civilization VI

Building a civilization in Sid Meier's Civilization VI

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Sid Meier's Civilization VI is the most recent installment in the iconic turn-based strategy game, and it's without a doubt among the best PC games you can play to date. One of the things that make the PC the best platform for gaming on is the sheer breadth of different game genres on offer. And, what Civilization VI has to offer is its massive scope, despite the fact that it might seem slower paced next to the likes of Fortnite.

Spread your empire across the map and crush your enemies. You build up your empire from a simple settlement to a world power, and you can decide to do this through military might, technological supremacy or cultural influence. Since its launch in 2016, it has had two expansion packs that really cement this game as an epic entry in our best PC games list. Civilization VI: Rise and Fall released in February 2018, with Civilization VI: Gathering Storm following in February 2019.

19. Fortnite Battle Royale

Fortnite Battle Royale characters shooting at enemies

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Still among the biggest games in the world a few years after its release, Fortnite Battle Royale is a natural shoo-in for this list. After all, it is a global phenomenon and among the best PC games to play right now if you like super-competitive online games. This is a game people keep coming back to, and that's mostly due to its addictive gameplay and regular updates from Epic.

Fortnite Battle Royale is actually a game mode for the Fortnite game, but this mode has become so popular, many people consider it a separate game in its own right. As with other Battle Royale games, the aim of Fortnite Battle Royale is to fight your way through an ever-shrinking map until you're the last player standing. While that might sound simple enough, there's a whole lot of depth to this game once you start playing.

20. Paradise Lost

An abandoned Nazi bunker in Paradise Lost

(Image credit: All in! Games)

Paradise Lost is a game that will intrigue fans of alternate history. It’s set in a world where World War 2 ended in the nuclear destruction of Europe by the Nazis. Almost 20 years after that apocalyptic event finds you, playing as 12-year old Szymon, exploring an abandoned Nazi bunker looking in search of a mysterious man.

The gameplay is in line with other walking simulators. And, since your only communication is through the bunker’s technology with a mysterious girl named Ewa, this game may remind you of Firewatch by way of Bioshock. Though it’s a short game, the cost of entry is just right to dive into this adventure.

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