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Best PC games 2021: What we're playing right now

Best PC games
(Image credit: Kassia Rico)

The best PC games come in all shapes and sizes, from massive open-world AAA titles, like The Witcher 3, to small but immersive indie games, like Disco Elysium. But, given the 500-plus games you're likely to have between your Steam and Epic Games Store library, how do you know which to play first? That's where we come in with a list of the best PC games we're playing right now.

Laptop Mag kicked off its best PC games race a year ago now with our gaming reviews program, in which we test how games perform on PC. We've recently reviewed The Medium, Hitman 3 and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.

Don't count out our Xbox Series X and PS5 coverage either, as we were able to review both consoles and the accompanying games when they launched. Speaking of which, here are the the first games we'll buy on next-gen consoles.

We recently reviewed Monster Hunter Rise, which is currently on the Nintendo Switch, but is heading to PC sometime in the future. We also got some hands-on time with Dungeons & Dragons Dark Alliance, which is set to launch on June 22.

We know that the best PC games out there ranks in the thousands, including games like Divinity: Original Sin 2, Doom and Minecraft, but we can't list all of them. So, these are the best PC games we're loving right now (this list isn't ranked from best to worst).

What are the best PC games? 

Despite everything that’s going on right now, 2020 was a strong year for PC gaming. The game of the year contender that jumps right to mind is Doom Eternal. Doom Eternal is everything that fans of first-person shooters could want, boasting a fantastic single-player campaign that soars far above its predecessor. With an incredible world, phenomenal original soundtrack and necessary quality of life changes, Doom Eternal provided some of the most unadulterated fun we’ve had playing a video game in quite some time. 

Third-person action-horror Resident Evil 3 just launched, and although it’s not as good as Resident Evil 2, it still has a solid foundation with thrilling boss fights, gripping environments and a refined combat system. Looking for something that’s a little like Overwatch but different? After landing board-first into one of Bleeding Edge's colorful maps and launching into the hack-and-slash brawler-esque chaos of combat, we quickly realized that this could be one of the best PC games — that is, as long as Ninja Theory can deliver post-launch.

Outside of 2020, there are amazing PC games, like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (fantasy adventure), Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (how to die simulator), Fortnite (battle royale) and Rocket League (competitive sports?). Just last year, Gears 5 (cover-based shooter), The Outer Worlds (first-person RPG) and Mortal Kombat 11 (fighting game) kicked so much ass that they made it on our 2019 games of the year list. Some of our personal favorites are Monster Hunter: World (action RPG) and Beat Saber (VR rhythm game).

The best PC games you can play today

1. It Takes Two

It Takes Two best pc games

It Takes Two is a brilliant marriage of ideas. It boasts tons of superb puzzles, gorgeous worlds and exciting mechanics, but suffers from an unsatisfying ending and inconsistent quality. (Image credit: EA)

It Takes Two is the essential co-op experience, presenting an amalgamation of mechanics and designs originating from the most revered multiplayer genres. It refuses to let the player rest, barraging them with plenty of excellent ideas. Although not every one of these ideas stick, they always feel different enough to justify their existence.

Both narratively and mechanically, the game expects the player to travel a mile a minute as they explore new worlds, gain new abilities and decipher clever puzzles. As a cherry on top, all of this is set to an adorable backdrop featuring a bickering couple pushed along on their journey by an irksome book of love.

— Mohammad Tabari

See our full It Takes Two review.

2. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life PC review best pc games

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is an excellent conclusion to one of the most underrated RPG series in gaming. (Image credit: Sega)

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is Kazuma Kiryu's swan song, so it was hard not to scrutinize it more than previous entries in the series. It also had the honor of being the first title in the series designed solely around the PS4 hardware when it first debuted. With so many new fans meeting Kiryu for the first time at the beginning of his adventure with the smash hit release of Yakuza 0, it seemed almost too soon for Yakuza 6 to arrive when it did. After all, we were just getting to know him.

Yakuza has been a cult hit for years now, but it wasn't until Yakuza 0 that the series started to resonate in the west. Because of its blossoming popularity, much of the Western audience has a vastly different perspective on the franchise. New fans love Kiryu and Yakuza because, well, they're excellent games. However, many don't have the years of history with the franchise as longtime fans do. 

As a result, Yakuza 6 ran the risk of alienating one of the two crowds especially since those who started the series with Yakuza 0 likely haven't had the time to play through each game yet. Thankfully, Yakuza 6 manages to strike a fantastic balance. It fills new players with the information they need from past titles without being so referential as to alienate those who have already played through previous Yakuza games. And now that the game is on PC, it opens the floor to more fans around the globe.

— Brittany Vincent

See our full Yakuza 6: The Song of Life PC review.

3. Little Nightmares 2

Little Nightmares 2 best PC games

Little Nightmares 2 is an adrenaline-pumping adventure with an unpredictable, thought-provoking ending that will leave you aggravated and afraid. (Image credit: Future)

Not only does Little Nightmares 2 elicit explosive emotions with its challenging levels (nothing is more frustrating than failing to escape a monster by a razor-thin margin), but it will knock you off your seat with scream-inducing jump scares and exhilarating chases that require parkour expertise.

From heart-tugging “oh, no!” moments to repeating levels a zillion times, the Bandai Namco-published IP had me on the verge of tears more than I’d like to admit. Little Nightmares 2 is an infuriating game, but once you finally escape that relentless enemy without dying for the umpteenth time, a euphoric rush of fulfillment takes over and neutralizes the frustration-filled fury that made you want to flip a table. Little Nightmares 2 is like a toxic relationship; it drags you through a turbulent rollercoaster of emotions, but you’re not ready to hop off because it’s far too thrilling.

— Kimberly Gedeon

See our full Little Nightmares 2 review.

4. Bugsnax

Bugsnax best PC games

Bugsnax is an easy game to recommend for players of all ages. It blends a Pixar-worthy narrative with challenging puzzles, a compelling mystery and interesting characters — but it is the unconditionally innocent whimsy that will put a helpless smile on your face. (Image credit: Young Horses)

Bugsnax is the game we need going into 2021; a reminder that creativity can cure. While the concept borrows from other materials, the execution is wildly original. But that's no surprise; Bugsnax is the latest creation from Young Horses, the studio behind the hilarious and bizarre adventure game Octodad. 

This latest release is larger in scale than the studio's previous games, and I'd argue it's more successful, if not quite as memorable. Bugsnax is an easy game to enjoy, but difficult to describe. It takes you on a whimsical adventure in which your goal is to capture Bugsnax, half-snack, half-bug creatures, using various tools and techniques. Doing so helps you uncover the mysteries of Snaktooth Island where the game takes place. Along the way, you'll encounter a cast of characters brilliantly brought to life by excellent voice acting. 

Bugsnax is an easy game to recommend for players of all ages. It blends a Pixar-worthy narrative with challenging puzzles, a compelling mystery and interesting characters — but it is the unconditionally innocent whimsy that will put a helpless smile on your face.

— Phillip Tracy

See our full Bugsnax review.

5. Doom Eternal

Doom Eternal best PC games

id Software has perfected a formula. Doom Eternal's striking world serves as the optimal playground for slaughtering demons and hunting collectibles. (Image credit: id Software)

Exploring Doom Eternal's wicked hellscape is far more delightful than one would expect in a game that boasts brutality and violence. Players travel through futuristic alien worlds, metropolitan cities torn asunder by demonic corruption, and gigantic buildings taking inspiration from Renaissance-era architecture. Further heightened by its extensive color palette, Doom Eternal's environments are so staggeringly beautiful that every moment requires time to reflect and appreciate the sights.

Doom Eternal understands the franchise too well, getting so wrapped up in its own memes that it's often difficult to engage with its more serious moments. As muddled as the story is, it quickly takes a backseat, wasting no time throwing the player into the demon-slaying action. Thankfully, the narrative builds toward the latter half and wraps things up in an epic fashion.

Mohammad Tabari

See our full Doom Eternal review.

6. Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator best PC games

Microsoft Flight Simulator is an all-encompassing, picture-perfect platform that captures every nook and cranny of Planet Earth. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Flight Simulator — a visually striking, breathtaking virtual experience that launches you into Earth’s vast skies — will have you singing Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird.” You’ll be captivated by Bora Bora’s stunning paradise of aquamarine lagoons. You’ll be enthralled to spot the vegetation-covered, limestone cliffs of Thailand. You’ll be wowed by the colorful and bulbous cathedrals of Moscow.

“I don’t know where my soul is! I don’t know where my home is!”

As skydiver Felix Baumgartner once said, “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.” Planet Earth seems boundless in Microsoft Flight Simulator, from the deep coastal fjords of Norway to the majestic baobab trees of Madagascar. Despite Earth’s vast expanses, Microsoft has managed to stuff Bing’s massive satellite data of Earth — all two petabytes of it — inside this hypnotizing game, leaving simmers feeling awestruck by the sheer number of cities (over two million) that one can visit. 

With what seems like an infinite number of locales to explore, you’ll never get tired of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

— Kimberly Gedeon

See our full Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 review.

7. Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla best pc games

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has a number of issues and janky moments, but its impressive exploration and gorgeous world-design are too immersive to pass up. (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is my first AC game since Unity, so I didn't get to experience the RPG transformation that took place in Origins. I've only dabbled in Odyssey, so I really didn't know what to expect with Valhalla. The pessimist in me thought I would find a bloated, aimless open-world action RPG, but what I actually found was something more carefully crafted.

Don’t get me wrong, Valhalla has its fair share of issues, and it doesn’t really keep up with other big action-adventure RPGs currently out there now or launching soon. However, the moment that Assassin's Creed Valhalla clicked with me was when I roamed the lively snowy peaks tops of Norway and randomly encountered the Elk of Bloody Peaks only to go axe-to-antler with it at the edge of a glowing pool of water on a mountaintop. It was immersive and magical.

Between its fun combat and stealth mechanics, immersive exploration and gorgeous world design, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a great game if you find it on sale. At a lower price, I could see Valhalla being one of the best PC games to play.

See our full Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review.

8. Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics best PC games

Do you like Gears of War and XCOM? You’ll fall in love with Gears Tactics. Do you like only one of those games? You’ll probably still enjoy Gears Tactics. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Gears Tactics looked kind of silly when the trailer first dropped at E3, but it should have been apparent then that a Gears of War-meets-XCOM game is a match made in blood, guts and glory. The turn-based strategy combat works well for Gears because it’s a cover-based shooter, so technically the format is the same, except you can plan out your moves more tactically.

What Gears Tactics brings to the table apart from thoughtful turn-based mechanics is how well the developers Splash Damage and The Coalition approached cosmetics and character creation -- everything is free from both currency and gender. Even diving into the settings proved to be fruitful, as I discovered a wealth of performance and accessibility settings.

While I enjoyed the gameplay, the story failed to immerse me into its pre-Gears universe. I played 8 hours before reaching an interesting plot point. Despite that, for the gameplay alone, Gears Tactics is one of the best PC games you can play right now.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Gears Tactics review.

9. Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn best PC games

Horizon Zero Dawn is a phenomenal game with an awful PC port. While it's one of the best PC games you could play, we recommend picking it up on a deep sale and play it with the best hardware. (Image credit: Sony)

Horizon Zero Dawn is a phenomenal game. If you missed Guerilla’s critically acclaimed RPG back in 2017 and have strong enough hardware to handle the poorly optimized mess that is this PC port, I would recommend picking it up on a very deep sale.

Horizon Zero Dawn drops the player in a large open world to scavenge materials, hunt beasts both robotic and organic, and craft an arsenal of elemental weapons and armor. The game’s already dangerous lands became even more threatening as I played on Ultra Hard, which often forced me to sneak through environments to avoid its lengthy catalog of fierce machines. Because many enemies had the potential to devastate me in a single hit and set me back by up to 10 minutes of progress, I found most encounters to be deeply horrifying. 

This design philosophy emphasizes how unexpectedly gorgeous the end of the world can be. Stories revolving around a planet void of life are plenty compelling for sure, but Horizon Zero Dawn perfectly understands how to best illustrate what will actually happen once nature reclaims the Earth.

— Mohammad Tabari

See our full Horizon Zero Dawn review.

10. Resident Evil 3

Resident Evil 3 best PC games

Resident Evil 3's shift in tone is successful thanks to increased combat fluidity, great boss fights, gorgeous scenery and striking enemy encounters. (Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil 3 is a solid game that, unfortunately, has to live up to the hype of Resident Evil 2. It doesn’t come close to the excellence of its predecessor due to many underwhelming moments, bland puzzles, and a campaign that is shorter than it should be (which is probably why it’s bundled with Resident Evil Resistance). However, Resident Evil 3 still has a solid foundation with thrilling boss fights, gripping environments and a refined combat system.

Improved combat fluidity makes enemy encounters more engaging in Resident Evil 3 compared to its predecessor. Rather than stumbling around aimlessly, players can now execute a dodge to swiftly maneuver around lethal blows. When performed shortly before an enemy attack, players will activate the Perfect Roll, causing time to slow down, fire rate to increase and the cursor to automatically lock onto the enemy’s head for a short period of time.

Mohammad Tabari

See our full Resident Evil 3 review.

11. Bleeding Edge

Bleeding Edge best PC games

Bleeding Edge is impressively complex, superfun and an overall great start to what could be the hottest multiplayer of the game of the year. (Image credit: Ninja Theory)

Bleeding Edge arrives at a time after hero-based games like Overwatch and DotA transformed their respective genres so radically that, for better or worse, countless others have attempted to replicate what they've accomplished. However, none have attempted to take that hero-based concept and integrate it into a different type of game. But that's where Ninja Theory's latest hack-and-slash brawler comes in.

Bleeding Edge is immediately captivating thanks to its colorful cast of characters. Representing New York is my personal favorite: Daemon — a ninja-punk who formed the gang of digital misfits known as the Bleeding Edge. Each member of the Bleeding Edge has three special abilities and the option to choose from two super-moves. As far as basic abilities go, you have your regular attack, evade, parry and jump. 

While Bleeding Edge offers only two game modes right now (Objective Control and Power Collection), both of them are incredibly intense. On top of that, Bleeding Edge's maps offer colorful environments and immerse you into the world with the map hazards in place. 

Bleeding Edge has so much potential, and it's one of the few competitive games I've played that I'm going all in for.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Bleeding Edge review.

12. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Best PC games The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Sword fights, magic and plenty of Gwent, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is a must-play title for fans of the books or the Netflix series. (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Coasting off the popularity of the Netflix show "The Witcher," CD Projekt Red's trilogy of Witcher games is enjoying a resurgence. And The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is not only by far the best in the series but it's also one of the best PC games to date. The final chapter in Geralt of Rivia's video game adventure offers all the sword wielding and spell casting you'd expect, with plenty of dialogue and morality trees, along with a massive bestiary of mythical creatures to fight. 

In the final entry, you're on the trail of a grown up Cirilla, on the run from the titular Wild Hunt. Along the way, you'll meet series favorites, including Triss, Dandelion (Jaskier) and, of course, Yennefer of Vengerberg. So, toss your coin (and several hundred hours of your life) to your Witcher and play through a fun, engaging story. 

Sherri L. Smith

See our full The Witcher 3 retrospective.

How to choose the best PC games for you 

Choosing the best PC games you’ll enjoy most comes down to what you’re looking to get out of the game. Are you looking for a well-written story? The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is a safe bet. Or maybe just a fun multiplayer experience? Try Fortnite. If you want something that focuses on gameplay, you could always try out the VR rhythm game Beat Saber.

There’s also genres and gameplay styles to consider. Do you like first-person shooters? Apex Legends might be for you. Or are you into third-person action games? If you can take challenging difficulty, then Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a good choice. For a third-person cover-based shooter, none master the form more than Gears 5. If you’re looking for a hyper-realistic third-person western to play, then Red Dead Redemption 2 has your name written all over it. A fighting game fan? Look no further than Mortal Kombat 11. There are thousands upon thousands of games out there, you’re bound to find something for you.

We also have a list of game hubs that are keeping track of the most anticipated games coming down the road, including: 

How we test the best PC games 

While we haven’t reviewed or tested every single game on this list, we have played them and recognize which ones belong here. However, for the ones we have reviewed, we test how they perform on a PC. 

First, we benchmark the game on a laptop to see how it runs, and then we dive into any bugs or glitches we experienced during gameplay. We also rate what kind of graphical settings the game has. For example, some games give you one option for overall graphical quality, while others will go all out and offer twenty different settings for each graphical component that makes up the game. For each game we also dive into the minimum and recommended requirements, so you know exactly what kind of laptop you need to run it. As an added bonus, we also detail what launcher the game is on, since that is a contributing factor for someone buying a game (although, it really shouldn’t be).