Rather than try and capture the inherent-spectacle of mech combat, BattleTech opts to focus on the little things. Between battles, you’re asked to arbitrate disputes among your crew and budget for things like fuel and repairs.
Even if this respite from conflict is more mundane, it’s never tedious and it all contributes to the larger notions the game attempts to tackle - such as the precarities of freelance labour, power, privilege and political change.
29. The Sims 4
The Sims 4 sees Maxis’ iconic life-sim series abandon the feature and frills of the third entry in lieu of a new focus on the fundamentals. A redesigned set of build tools and more robust character customisation than ever before allow for greater freedom while additions like the emotions system and multitasking give additional depth to the series’ core gameplay loop.
While many of Maxis’ other franchises have been eclipsed, The Sims 4 remains the king of life sims for good reason.
28. World of Goo
A physics-based plaything with a vibrant and colourful look, The Tomorrow Corporations’ World of Goo oozing with charm and incites your wildest will to create. Let a choir of bulbous, inky smiles cheer you on as you build up structures that span chasms and reach for the sky.
World of Goo was the indie puzzler so good, the developer basically gave it away.
27. Civilization V
The fifth game in Firaxis’ venerable strategy game series, Civ V builds on the mechanical bones of its predecessors and emulates the look and feel of board games like Settlers of Catan to great effect. If the 4X strategy genre is one of those iconic PC gaming genres, then Sid Mier’s Civilization V is a neoclassical example of it.
Where previous entries in the series embraced unbridled complexity for complexity’s sake, Civilization V is unafraid to trim the fat in pursuit of accessibility without losing anything that really matters.
Id’s remix of the DOOM franchise took a little longer in the oven than expected but the results recapture much of the lighting in a bottle charm of the original.
2018’s DOOM is ultra-violent and over-the-top in all the right ways, leaning into everything that worked about earlier entries and leaning away from the horror elements of the series’ divisive third-installment. It’s a science fiction shooter that updates the power fantasy of its ancestors for a new generation.
25. Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program pays homage to the sandbox construction and physics simulation games of the PC gaming eras past with a simple premise and a goofy sense of humour.
The task is childishly simple here - fly one of your Minion-like Kerbals to the moon and back - but the details are bound to trip you up. KSP simulates realistic aerodynamic and orbital physics and there’s always (always!) room for something to go wrong. It’s easy-to-learn, hard-to-master and fun-to-tinker-with in a way that feels like a hobby unto itself.
Though the sequel often steals the show for its introduction of physics-based action and the Source 2 engine, the original Half-Life is arguably the more important of the two games. It features tighter level design, thrilling combat and a plot that’s still talked about today. Valve’s Half-Life is the link between the progenitors of the FPS genre and the modern shooters like Call of Duty.
Regardless of whether you play it in its original form or the fan-made Black Mesa remake, Half-Life is a PC game that everyone should play through at least once.
23. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is a peerlessly-accurate encapsulation of what traditional tabletop roleplaying can often feel like. More than just conflict, your journey across the titular peninsula is flavoured by banter, exploration, decision-making and relationship management.
As a sequel, Deadfire offers up cleaner combat, more lively storytelling and a deeper exploration of themes like colonialism, isolationism, determinism, spirituality and identity. You also get to be the captain of a pretty cool pirate ship.
22. Far Cry 5
Ubisoft really changed things up in this instalment of the Far Cry series, giving fans of the open world shooter the opportunity to customise their character’s appearance for the first time. There is also more emphasis on melee weapons, and a new ballistics system that gives weapons a more realistic feel.
Although campaign-based, we like how much thought has gone into the non-campaign gameplay. You can recruit ‘guns for hire’ and animal companions to help you on your quests. If you feel like taking a rest from the action, activities like hunting, fishing, flying a wingsuit and crafting items will keep you busy for ages.
21. Kentucky Route Zero
Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero is a modern point-and-click with striking visual sensibilities, endearing characters, rich branching dialogue choices and an aptitude for the post-modern and the existential. However, in many ways, that description sells the game short.
Over the course of five acts, KRZ mutates and metamorphs both in form and function. It transcends the limits of its medium in the most literal of ways, and it’s unafraid to dig into what the wider implications of that might mean.
Kentucky Route Zero is, at its simplest, a journey worth taking.
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