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The RPS 100: our top PC games of all time (100-51)

Our new annual countdown of our top 100 all-time Bestest Bests

Welcome to The RPS 100, our brand-new annual countdown of our favourite PC games of all time. We've wanted to do a big top 100 list like this for some time now. In fact, we first started compiling this list about a year ago, although for reasons that will forever remain a mystery, it's taken us until now to actually wrangle it into shape. At long last, here we are.

The RPS 100

When we set out to create the RPS 100, we wanted to go further than simply listing the best PC games you can play right now. Instead, we wanted to celebrate the greatest games from across the ages. It's not a ranking of the most important or influential games of all time, but rather our collective Bestest Bests, as voted for by the RPS staff and some of our finest contributors.

This isn't a one-off thing, either. The RPS 100 is going to become a staple event in the RPS calendar, and we'll be casting our votes all over again this time next year. After all, tastes change over time, team members come and go, and who knows, maybe 2022 will be a banner year for some incredible new PC games. For the most part, we've limited ourselves to one game per series in order to reflect the breadth and variety PC gaming has to offer - although I'll hold my hands up now and say there is one exception to this rule that we just couldn't bring ourselves to omit. The important thing, though, is that The RPS 100 reflects who we are as a team.

We've split the RPS 100 across two articles this year. In Part One below, we'll count down the games that ranked 100-51, while Part Two (available tomorrow) will cover numbers 50-1. Remember, if there's a favourite game of yours we haven't included, know that it's at number 101. Indeed, why not write your own celebration of your all-time Bestest Bests in the comments below, so you can convince others (and us) to give it a try. For now, though, please enjoy our very first RPS 100.


100. Microsoft Flight Simulator

The latest in Microsoft's fleet of traditional aeroplane 'em ups, Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 is as much a deep and slow-burning affair for off-duty pilots as it is a gleeful cloud-skimming challenge for hobbyists. You can fly planes as small as a Cessna 152 or as large as an Airbus over a planet gleaming with photorealistic cities, seas and salt flats. It's a spectacular sight, made possible by capturing and rebuilding seemingly the entire world using (of all things) Bing maps. Even the otherworldly bugs have become famous landmarks.


99. Hollow Knight

hollow-knight.jpg

It's anything but hollow. This is a subterranean world full of angry wasps and skull-faced beetles waiting to bite and sting. It sprawls out in every direction, a modern mash-up of Metroid and Dark Souls. The insects of Hallownest are grim-faced, mysterious and adorable all at the same time. But within its cartoon gothic lies a tough game of death and rebirth, unlockable skills, boss battles with set patterns of attack, and the satisfying feeling of learning your way around a cavernous, dim world with its own bug-sized culture. Look at this map, and tell me you aren't intrigued.


98. Final Fantasy XIV

Two Final Fantasy XIV players face the camera with a welcoming look.

An MMORPG that began life in 2010 as an unremarkable online spin-off to Final Fantasy, that ostentatious yellow bird of single player JRPGs. In the decade since it has been revamped and expanded to the point where many players dive into the land of Eorzea simply for the story quests. Make no mistake, this is an MMO with plenty of rat-whacking. But it might be the best example of a genre that too often forgets to spin you a yarn as you level up. Here, colour is provided as much by players as by the developers. There are fashion contests, theatre troupes, even a full-blown housing crisis. And, of course, enough lore to fill a small library.


97. Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

Boarding up windows is a zombie movie cliche. In Resident Evil 2, it's an art form. This shiny remake of a twenty-year-old survival horror game has recreated the Raccoon City police station of 1998 with the meticulous hand of whatever architect decided it would be funny to build a secret passage under the lobby fountain. Much else has changed. There are no fixed camera angles, no cumbersome controls that see your character moving like a wounded Roomba. Yet it still manages to feel like the apocalyptic undead night you remember. You've got a handful of wooden boards, and a whole lot of windows. If you've never played a Resident Evil game before, this is the place to start.


96. Viscera Cleanup Detail

A player holds out a mop in a yellow room full of cartoonish dead bodies in Viscera Cleanup Detail

"Cleaning up after Doom guy" is not an elevator pitch many would pay heed to, until that elevator opens to a hall way dripping with gibs and a mop is thrust into their hands. Viscera Cleanup Detail is a simulation of janitor life for the everyday citizen of first-person shooters. You will clean blood, burns and bulletholes in an effort to make each level as sparkling as it was before Barnstorm McNuclear, or whoever, came in and trashed the place. If this sounds straightforward, be warned. Physics is against you (and sometimes, so is a partner, if you're playing in co-op mode). Buckets will spill, mops will get too gore-soaked to use. You might scrub up your own bloody boot prints as you walk backwards out of the room, only to look up and see your workmate leaving their own trail across the pristine floor.


95. Forza Horizon 4

Drifting through the streets of Edinburgh in a Forza Horizon 4 screenshot.

Slap the bonnet, kick the tires, flip the drinks tray open and closed a few times - Forza Fourizon is one of the best racers out there (Ed. - voting closed before Forza Horizon 5 came out, also one of the best racers out there right now). No, it doesn't take itself too seriously (you can race a hovercraft across the Scottish highlands) but it does enough that gearheads will appreciate the attention to detail on their Alfa Romero 4C. Forza speeds firmly along in the "arcade" lane, rather than the hard shoulder of simulation, but it is all the better for it. It's also set in a beautified version of the UK, an open-world map with all the rolling hills and grey skies you ever dreamt of. No, honestly, the weather is even more "changeable" than the real UK. Seasons only last a week of real time in the game. So the drizzle will be gone by Friday.


94. NieR: Automata

What kind of video game is this, I hear you ask. Well, obviously, it is a story-led character action bullet hell hack 'n' slash shoot 'em up JRPG. That much is clear from the genre-churning opening hours. Please, do not make me explain it. One of the wonderful things about Nier: Automata is going into it as blind-folded as your protagonist - a sightless android sword warrior called 2B. This is a world where the words "machine", "robot", "drone", and "android" are not necessarily synonyms. The war in which you are fighting makes less sense the more you fight it. Funny and touching, this is a game about humanity with nary a human in sight.


93. GeoGuessr

A screenshot of a Google Map landmark from Geoguessr

If the invasive cataloguing of all human settlement by Google has produced one good thing, it is not getting directions to your cousin's wedding venue. It is GeoGuessr, a game that plops you in the middle of nowhere with Google Streetview as your only tool for guessing which country you're in. "Walk" around to see where you are. Palm trees, blue skies, advertisements written in Portuguese... this must be Brazil! Drop a pin on a big map to find out, and... No, it's Portugal, you fool. Didn't you notice the European road signs? The game appeared in 2013 as a welcome internet novelty and one of the most immediately playable games on PC. It is something anyone with a web browser can understand and enjoy. You could break this out over Christmas dinner instead of Trivial Pursuit, and everything would be fine. Unfortunately, the free version doesn't let you walk around anymore (a subscription is now £2 a month). If you only play once in a while, there are some nigh-identical offerings without ads or demands, such as Geoguess Master. So... I guess that's technically the better game.


92. Devil Daggers

Never stop shooting. Never stop moving. The first-person principles of warfare are taken to their logical conclusion in a hellish time trial of reflex and spatial awareness. Horned beasts, floating skulls, boney leviathans, dark squid. The flow of polygonal terrors is as constant as the daggers spewing from your fingertips. You can fire them as a stream, or in a single shotgun-like blast. Either way, you'll need your wits as well as a whip-like wrist to survive for 30 seconds. What more is there to do in Devil Daggers? Well, you try to survive for 31.


91. With Those We Love Alive

A screenshot of white text on a pink background in With Those We Love Alive

As vivid as white text on a crimson background can get. In this text adventure, you are in the empress' court, forced to serve a being described as both monarch and monster. Her city is a labyrinth of "dream distilleries" and "sporeflesh" gardens. And as the days pass and your work for the empress goes on, you'll draw symbols on your forearm in real life, totems of the time spent in this other world. You come away from this Twine game (so simple in its hyperlink structure) feeling scarred, changed. Razorlike pen marks or thick permanent marker strokes across your limb, completely different patterns and symbology to anyone else who plays. With Those We Love Alive is like falling asleep to a Grimm's fairytale at the tattooist and waking up with a dream printed on your skin.


90. Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Chicory: A Colorful Tale - The played character stands with a brush in front of a grey and white tower. The ground has been partially colored rainbow and some of the nearby trees have been filled in green.

Chicory is a truly special game. Despite its big, chunky picture book veneer, this top-down adventure strikes hard at what it actually means to be creative, celebrating its joyous and fulfilling highs while also tackling its (sometimes literally) monstrous lows. When all the colour in the world suddenly disappears one day, your character comes into possession of the Wielder's Brush, a magical tool you can drag and splodge across the screen to cover it in paint. As well as using it to bring some life back to this monochrome world, you'll also be solving puzzles with it, and finding out exactly what's causing mysterious black roots to appear around the map and why they're giving off such bad vibes. An ode to self-expression, Chicory's the kind of game that stays with you long after the end credits start to roll.


89. Dead Cells

Something of a Frankenstein's monster, Dead Cells is best described using other games (the lungs of Spelunky, liver of Bloodborne, skin of Castlevania). But all these organs come together to create a nearly flawless beast all its own. It is about killing with momentum. Storming across ramparts, through sewers and prisons, plucking up a new spear, a fancy shield, a ferocious grenade. Strike, kill, die, repeat. Every deathblow is another droplet into a beaker full of XP, unlocking more explosives, more traps, more abilities. For a game that likes to kill you with its undead pirate cannonballers and royal guardsmen, it is hugely generous, even as it smirks with every mortal blow. "Good," it says, "now go again with this crossbow and the ability to smash the ground with your toecaps."


88. RimWorld

The ultimate space colony disaster simulator. You are the overseer of a marooned squad of interstellar sailors, some of whom may or may not be diagnosed sociopaths. Maybe Carl over there has an addictive personality, but I doubt it will be a problem. Also, Min was born rich and doesn't engage in menial tasks (like hauling the potatoes into storage) as a matter of snobbish principle. Oh, and see Kendra? She loves to fight. She will do a murder before the week is over. All these characters may be tiny figures in a top-down management sim that mostly involves trying to build walls, ceilings and furniture with drag-and-drop cursor tools. But each of these "pawns" is a crankshaft in the game's storytelling engine. Raiders will attack, and a comedy of errors will unfurl. Carl will be too stoned on spaceweed to care. Min will be trapped by a boulder she refuses to move. And Kendra the psychopath will be forced to save everyone once again by killing the raiders and cooking their bodies, because - I forgot to mention - the potato cupboard is on fire and all the food is gone.


87. Shadow Tactics: Blades Of The Shogun

A hillside temple scene from Shadow Tactics: Blades Of The Shogun

Let the bodies hit the floor (and then pick them up and hide them in a bush). This here's your top-down stealth game set in Edo Japan, featuring the usual cast of seasoned killers. You've got your silent ninja, your honourable samurai, your Geisha assassin, your urchin with a bear trap and a whistle, your old man with... a sniper rifle and a trained Tanuki? It imitates the Commandos games of old, presenting the level like a diorama of possible deaths, and asking the player to come up with a perfect sequence of backstabs, shurikens and environmental "accidents" so they can get through town, eavesdrop on soldiers, or assassinate their leaders. It might take some quicksaving and quickloading, but when the plan comes together it feels like a lethal puzzle well-solved.


86. Grand Theft Auto 5

Two men do wheelies on motorbikes in GTA 5

The online murder-frollicking by itself makes this third-person crime caper worth the price of admission. Rockstar's expensive, blockbuster open worlds are often touted for their long stories and South Park-adjacent sense of humour. But we all know what matters in a GTA game is chaos. And chaos works best when you have a van full of friends to cause it with. The online world might see you performing heists with your buds, getting matching tattoos, buying more property than you can rightly afford, or dressing up as green aliens and getting into a gangland turf war with some purple aliens. Like all good online games, it is a simply solid place to hang out with your pals. Even if that sometimes gets interrupted by a harrier jet.


85. Diablo II: Resurrected

The Amazon player character from Diablo II: Resurrected stands, javelin razed to strike, on top of the corpse of a gargantuan beast. The image has been brightened slightly to make it more visible

Click to crush skeleton into boney bits. Diablo II is the scarred veteran of action RPGs who simply cannot be killed, as evidenced by its recently released remaster, Diablo II: Resurrected. Maybe it is the crunchy loop of "kill, collect and clear outta there" or maybe it is the just as crunchy sound effects that made every item pinched and every enemy batted feel like you just cracked open a delicious little pistachio of dopamine. Granted, newcomers to this series (or dungeon-crawling ARPGs in general) are perhaps better off with Diablo III, the modern sibling with shinier armour and all his teeth still intact. But Diablo II is still the better game because... well, because our deputy editor Alice Bell said so.


84. FTL: Faster Than Light

An overhead view of a spaceship in FTL: Faster Than Light

Close the door, you are letting the heat out. Also: the oxygen. FTL is a spaceship management game that puts you in the astroboots of an off-brand Star Trek captain who does not know what they are doing, until they do. Your ship can leap from star to star but always with a mighty enemy armada on its tail. You just need your crew to stay alive long enough to beat the mothership at the end of the road. Open airlocks to douse fires or suffocate boarding parties. Keep all the ship's systems running. And collect enough firepower to help in your final stand. All this is done while looking at your ship like it's the floorplan of an apartment you're thinking about renting. And as we all know, every apartment has a weak point.


83. Dragon Age 2

A warrior firing a beam of light in Dragon Age 2

There is a cinematic in this fantasy RPG sequel that is like being punched in the kidney and the gut and the lip all at once. It's a horrific moment if you stop to think about it (or a grimly comical one if you find it hard to ignore videogame puppetry). But it is also the solidifying event for Hawke, a refugee who becomes the champion of a single city over the span of a decade. Most games would shy away from a story as sweeping as the years-long rise to power of a single family (it doesn't sound very pacy, does it?) but Dragon Age 2 is not content to tell another A to B questy road trip. Even if it doesn't always work, it takes the world established by its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, and zooms in to see how a single hero might change over time.


82. Celeste

A young girl battles against the wind on a mountain in Celeste

Platforming at its peak. You are Celeste, a climber making leaps on a mountain that is only as treacherous as you make it. With all its dashing and wall-jumping, this pixel-perfect platformer not only offers players a firm-fisted Meat Boy style challenge, it also sets the standard when it comes to accessibility options. It lets you crack open the case and grant yourself invincibility, or infinite stamina. It lets you skip whole levels. And when I said "pixel-perfect"? I was lying. Because as the developer has pointed out, to make things so precise would, counter-intuitively, annoy the player. That's why you are allowed to jump for an unnoticeable millisecond when your feet have already left a ledge (known in game maker circles as "coyote time"). It's why you slip to one side of a wall if you bump your head on it. None of these are unique to Celeste, but it has applied all these microscopic wisdoms of game design with a fastidious hand to create a platformer that is both tough as toffee in cold weather, and as forgiving as the grandad who gave you said toffee.


81. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey

Assassin's Creed is an action game series that has stabbed its way through history like an angry marlin. Here we join Kassandra or Alexios (your choice), a Spartan warrior dilly-dallying about in ancient Greece, home of theatre, myths, and a crap form of democracy. It's as big a world as AssCreed gets, requiring plenty of sailing to get between islands, and often some warring when you do reach your destination. You might easily replace this entry with the newer Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, set in Viking-era England. But then you couldn't visit the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Oracle at Delphi, the big statue of your boy Zeus at Olympia. And you wouldn't have Kassandra.


80. Red Dead Redemption 2

Wanna get dead drunk? How about Red Dead drunk? Ha ha ha. No, for real, if you get drunk in this game you'll trip on a railway line and get flattened by a steam train. Rockstar, the developers of this cowboy life simulator, did not hold back. It is not precisely a world of "realism". You will kill hundreds of people and swallow enemy bullets like they are delicate pastries. But there is something about the way plain-faced anti-hero Arthur Morgan walks, the way he rides his horse and holds his revolver. Everything is weighty, everything requires a bit of work. From opening up and scoffing down a jar of health-regenerating offal, to getting out your lasso to hogtie some do-gooder witness to your recent crimes. Red Dead Redemption 2 is video games as wild man power fantasy. But it is also your sit in a canoe and chill out fantasy. Go fishing in the wild west fantasy. Get eaten by a bear fantasy. Drink too much whiskey and wake up in a canyon fantasy. It's a big world out there, and a man can only spit so far.


79. Sunless Sea

A ship nears an island labelled The Chapel of Lights in a screenshot from Sunless Sea.

Like sailing into a dark and magical book. This permadeath fantasy realm has you taking command of a ship on the Unterzee, an ocean H.P. Lovecraft would look at and say, "nope". Half of the appeal is in slowly discovering new islands and distant shores with story events and colourful prompts full of world-building prose. The other half is in organising and managing your ship, its supplies (fuel, food) and its people. Yes, your crew may go mad when they spend too long adrift on an eerily glittering doldrum. Yes, they may resort to cannibalism. But can they be so quickly judged by a captain who took them to... let me check the map. Ah yes, the Labyrinth of Eels.


78. Battletech

The go-to stompy robot game. In the Battlemech universe, war is a strictly ordered, almost bureaucratic constant. Soldiers are less important than the big metal warhorse they wear into battle. Here, that combat is all top-down tactical warfare. Fights happen on a slow boil, as mechs manoeuvre around each other in attempts to hit a weak spot. Metallic arms and legs are shorn off by lasers, robots overheat and have to have a timeout, eager mechwarriors jetpack over their foes with all the elegance of a cruise ship learning to fly. It's all part of a grander campaign set in a scowling sci-fi galaxy of mercs and fighty royalty. But mostly, it is an earnest attempt to recreate the pleasure of a tabletop war game for PC in a post-XCOM world, with a lot of nitty-gritty robo-management in between the battles.


77. Six Ages: Ride Like The Wind

A band of travellers ask for your help in Six Ages: Ride Like The Wind

In 1999 we were visited on this earth by a fantasy tribal management game called King Of Dragon Pass. It was a blessed time. But those days are gone, and now… wait, what glimmering is that from the woods? Ah, it is Six Ages, the spiritual successor to that ancient game of decision-making and clan-gathering. You play the chief of a (sorta) bronze age people, guiding them through daily problems, such as appeasing ghostly ancestors that appear to cause mischief, or deciding what to do with the baby they found in the river (one of the options is "put it back"). All your choices create a curious and gnarled tree of a story, a tale of inter-clan diplomacy and ill-informed council advice that is sometimes funny, and sometimes a little distressing. As returning deities go, it's worth the worship.


76. Nidhogg

The fighting game that is also a physical comedy. You are a lethal yellow fencer, a swordsperson of renown. But so is your opponent, except they are orange. So begins the battle of an era. Each stabber must kill their foe and race toward one end of the screen like a violent NFL player seeking a touchdown. You can lift and lower your rapier and edge towards your friend with careful jabs, hoping to pluck the sword out of their hand with a tricky upward flick. Or you can go hell for leather and throw the sword across the room, roll under their legs as they deflect it, and race to the endzone, where you will earn the glory of being digested by a giant worm. Ah, victory. Nidhogg is best enjoyed with somebody sitting next to you (or with a house party of people having an impromptu tournament). The online fighting is sadly defunct. But if you want to pierce a friend over the internet, there's always - oh I don't know - Nidhogg 2.


75. Invisible, Inc.

A woman hacks into a terminal in Invisible Inc

XCOM for stealthy hackers. As squad leader of a group of well-dressed anti-corporate saboteurs, your job is to infiltrate randomly generated buildings and steal everything that is not locked away. And then you hack the locks and steal that too. It's all on a tidy isometric grid that becomes uncovered as you go, peeping through doors and around corners to see the CCTV cameras, laser fences, and armoured security goons patrolling the place. Shh, they don't know you're there… yet. This is Invisible Inc's best feature, a little "alarm level" wheel in the corner that ticks up with every turn. Stay in the building too long without stuffing all your team members into the exit elevator, and more cameras and drones and enemies will start to appear. That's pure danger in a game where, once spotted, there is no fighting back. At some point, you've got to bug out. Even if that last room has precious loot calling out to you. It's a strategy game about pushing your luck to breaking point, and coming away from a mission thinking "that was close, I won't be so greedy next time." But next time the "loot" might be one of your friends.


74. Post Void

You hold a skull and point a gun at an enemy with a big toothy mouth face.

Four guns, one hard guitar, and one shrivelled head of lifeforce that only refills if you blast a monster in its guts. Post Void is Doom with all the colours set to "what". This is about getting fast and staying fast, shooting your way through feverish hotel corridors and bum-sliding your way both into and out of trouble. The upgrades you earn between levels are chaotically yet simply named. "BULLETS BOUNCE OFF WALLS" shouts one. "MORE SHOOTING LESS RELOADING" screams another. As one famous mascot of the games industry is wont to say: you should probably go fast.


73. OlliOlli 2: Welcome To Olliwood

OlliOlli 2 is a game about becoming the best. Or at least the 17th best. It is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater meets endless runner. Every level is a gauntlet of rails to grind, trashcans to ollie, ramps to fly off, and staircases to tumble down in a bloody heap. You can spin and flip like a pro but the landing is the only thing that matters. To land properly you need to hit a button exactly as the board meets the concrete. You can (and will) fumble through the whole game by landing sloppy kickflips and sketchy 360s. The game will even shout these words at you if you land a trick poorly. "Sketchy", it says. "Sloppy!" And let's not forget the shrugging "OK". But when you land your first trick with a precise clap and the game yells "PERFECT" in big green letters of approval? That's when this twitchy toughie clicks. It recreates something about skateboarding that other arcade skating games don't. That feeling of having a trick on lock. An entire run perfected. And eventually, a whole game.


72. Heaven's Vault

This adventure game will teach you how to read again. Granted, it won't be in English, or any language used by the people of earth. Anyone can muddle through a French menu, but not everyone can read Ancient. That's the hieroglyphic script used by a long-dead civilisation and it's your job, as scholar and cosmic sailor Aliyah Elasra, to reconstruct the history of "The Nebula" by deciphering this long lost lingo.

This is not a mere gimmick. An entire language has been created especially for you to scratch your chin over. If that sounds hard, don't worry. The game massages your guesswork if you are too far off the mark, but never so much that it takes the satisfaction away. It doesn't just make you feel clever, like when detective stories guide you to a solution. It really lets you be clever. Discovering what makes one word a verb and another an adjective is just one early revelation waiting for those who go all in on this constructed fantasy language. There are so many other joyful discoveries. Every compound word is made of smaller components that come together in their own logical way. The word for "star" is literally "high bright light thing". Tenses have their own defining symbols. And figuring out how the Ancients used to write big numbers is a particular head scratcher with a fascinating solution.


71. XCOM 2

A soldier closes in on an alien in XCOM 2

If you gave XCOM 2 a score of 90%, it would smile with glee, aim at an alien soldier, and miss. And I don't mean this in a bad way.The tactical game that dominated the genre has been here remoulded and improved. In the previous XCOM you were tasked with fending off an alien invasion, and it looks like things did not go well, judging by the set up for this game's story. You are now a resistance force. This means the first turn of most fights is a powerful ambush, rather than a messy run-in with enemies you couldn't see. As a trade-off, the old trick of using Overwatch (an ability that let you sit tight and shoot anything that moves) is no longer a universally useful strategy. XCOM 2 takes everything that its predecessor already did incredibly well, and shakes it until it is somehow better. There is a base-building overworld to think about. Resources to manage. Troopers to keep healthy. Psychic supersoldiers to train. This is one of the most moreish, plenteous, and - dare I say it - replayable games on this list.


70. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

csgo.jpg

Do you want to shoot a man? Couter-strike. Do you want to be shot? Counter-strike. Do you want to go on a firearm shopping spree? Counter-strike. Do you want a quick blast of adrenaline? Counter-strike. Do you want a long night of simple gunfights with pals? Counter-strike. Do you want the feeling of getting slowly better at something pretty tough? Counter-strike. Do you want to defuse a bomb as your teammate valiantly fires AK-47 bullets into the haze of an exploding flashbang in a doomed attempt to keep you safe from the brute storming the room with a shotgun? Counter-strike.


69. Butterfly Soup

A visual novel about being gay and playing ball. There's a lot of emotion stuffed into this two-hour talking simulator about a posse of girls from different Asian-American backgrounds, all handling their burgeoning queerness in their own way. Some funnel energy into baseball (even if a future in the sport seems to be forever yanked out of reach). Others struggle to understand their feelings, and what it might mean for the friend they fancy. All this is transmitted through dialogue choices in the mall, on the field, or within a poppy WhatsApp-style chat group. We do not get to see many characters written warmly in video games. They are usually too busy throwing grenades. Butterfly Soup offers something gentler, even everyday in its tone. If you want some new fictional friends to care about, they're all here.


68. Opus Magnum

Lead into gold? That's easy. Opus Magnum is a puzzle game about being an arrogant alchemist who toys with base metals in a cool yet scarily efficient manner. You've got to put the right chemicals into a machine, and get the right product out. But also, you must build the machine. This involves a lot of mechanistic parts - pistons, claws, telescopic metal arms. Like other games made by the same developer, Zachtronics, this is a puzzler about programming your way to a solution. But of all the Zachlikes, it is the most immediately "gettable", not to mention the most satisfying to look at once your hacked-together solution is complete. They churn and whirr with steampunk precision. It doesn't take long for the thought of these alchemical conundrums to seep through your skin and into your bloodstream, like puzzle poisoning, leaving you obsessed with building ever more efficient machines for problems you've already solved.


67. Star Traders: Frontiers

A battle scene in Star Traders: Frontiers

While most space sims are known for an impressive cockpit full of perfectly rendered hands and blinking lights, Star Traders goes for something more low-key - an economy that actually reacts and evolves beyond the idea that discounts on one planet can be sold for a high price on another. Black markets will emerge, blockades, warzones calling out for supplies from the willing profiteer. It's a mash-up of a game, with bits of RPG, strategy, turn-based tactics, sim, and management all working together to form the interstellar equivalent of Mount and Blade's medieval roamer. There is a certain fearfulness to be felt when looking at any menu-addled screenshot of it. But behind all those cards and statistics awaits a crew of fanciful space scoundrels, eager to make some money among the stars. And although "traders" is in the name, it's more of a suggestion.


66. Pyre

Mythical netball with your best friends. Pyre is a sports movie, if there was a sports movie was about a band of outcasts who were thrown into a mystical purgatory realm for the crime of knowing how to read. Part visual novel road trip, part ball game tournament, this is a fantasy wagon journey that won't just capture your imagination, it will put your imagination on the squad and tell it to dribble up-court. The developers, Supergiant Games, went on to make Hades, a roguelike praised for its ancient mythical storytelling. But the characters of Pyre are as wild and loveable as anyone in the Greek killzone. Only one team can escape purgatory by winning the tournament, and your team is in the running. From the hulking, horned tackler Jodariel, whose standoffishness hides a loyal heart, to the speedy talking canine Rukey, who keeps his inner hurt at bay with wisecracks. These are people you'll grow to adore, which gives the mid-game twist and hard choices that follow the sad impact of a judge's gavel.


65. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

A monster creeps up behind a masked soldier in STALKER: Call of Pripyat

Get down, maybe they didn't see you. Stalker is the first-person post-apocalypse survival shooter with all the bits and even some of the bobs. It is an open world full of enemy bandits, mutants, harmful anomalies, and friendly fellow Stalkers. Brown and dark sea green in palette, it's an expansive land that you can almost smell through your screen. Your mission is to find artifacts scattered throughout the "Zone" - an irradiated hellscape inspired by the Chernobyl exclusion zone (and the Russian film with an identical name). There is a larger objective to fulfill, based on finding the whereabouts of downed helicopters. But like everything in this blasted radioactive heath, your actions are dictated by necessity.


64. Civilization VI

An overview of some civilisations in Civ 6.

Civilisation VI may not have been a massive, revolutionary step in the series, but it's still the best one yet. As always, it's your job to guide a nation from birth to technological domination, conquering the world and shaping it as you see fit - and maybe getting nuked by Gandhi in the process. It's a game of many small, incremental improvements to what came before, but their cumulative impact was felt far and wide. More games are cottoning on to this fact - Humankind came within an inch of muscling out this stategic juggernaut earlier in the year - but the sheer scope and personality of Civ IV remain unmatched.


63. Into The Breach

A desert scene from Into The Breach

As close to the perfection of chess as a strategy game about giant robots is likely to get. While not exactly "minimalist", this dollop of turn-based tactics from the makers of FTL still gets a lot done in a tight space. You command a trio of mechs fighting off swarms of giganto-insects on a 8 x 8 board of tiles. The megabugs are out to topple any buildings on the board, and if too many buildings crumble (or all your pilots are killed) it's game over. What results is a cavalcade of punching, hopping, vapourising, smoke-bombing, and mech-sacrificing that turns a straightforward game of abstract repositioning into a brainy battle for supremacy betwixt humanity and beast.


62. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games

Santa and June converse in Zero Escape: The Nonary Games

Technically two games in one, Zero Escape: The Nonary Games sees the excellent visual novels 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward come together in a grisly, murderous double-pack. With their fiendish puzzles and mind-bending plots, the Zero Escape games are hands down one of the best visual series you can play on PC right now. To say too much about the story would only spoil its many surprises, but each game's respective melting pot of fraught personalities, bitter betrayal and tentative alliances is thrilling, gripping stuff. What's truly brilliant about Zero Escape, however, is the way it turns that classic visual novel trope of multiple playthroughs on its head, as the idea of jumping back in time and making different decisions based on what you've just experienced is built straight into the game's story. And it doesn't always play out like you might expect, either. If you like games that give you plenty to chew over long after the credits have rolled, Zero Escape is the thing for you.


61. Bernband

A pair of hands reach out into an alien bar in Bernband

Take a walk through the streets of another world. Bernband is all about atmosphere. It's a walking simulator in the best possible sense (you have visible hands but you won't be using them). But also a full-body transplant into the clattering frame of an extraterrestrial in a pixelly alien city. A ringed planet hangs in the sky, hovercars zip through the air below, alien rockers headbang in a dank club. There are plenty of other secrets to discover, and alleyways to canter down (take a good look around that seemingly abandoned underground car park) but I'll say no more. Bernband is best enjoyed in a quiet, unpressed moment. It's free as well. And a follow-up is in the works.


60. System Shock 2

Two monsters fight in a hallway in System Shock 2

How can you challenge a perfect, immortal game? You are a space soldier waking up in disarray aboard the spaceship Von Braun. Everything is terrible. There are fleshy weirdoes stalking the halls, icky worms on the floor, crazed robots coming at you. You're going to have to re-jig your controls a bit to make this comfortable to play by modern standards. But aside from that, it holds up. It doesn't only blend the sci-fi and horror genres, it whisks together the first-person shooter with RPG-style inventory management and character-led storytelling to create one of the industry's defining moments: the slimy, cybernetic birth of the immersive sim.


59. Doom II

An archvile throws up its arms in Doom 2

Doom II has the super shotgun. Case closed, your honour. You will have by now noticed that this list skews towards present-day playability, rather than historical significance. We care less that a game is "important" and more that a game is still good to play today. Doom II is both exception and rule. It is still a beast, so goreishly elegant that games are still paying homage to its lineage today (would Devil Daggers and Post Void be on this list without Doom?). Doom II, over the first game, hits the sweet spot. It remains a pacy and brutal shooter, solid and steady, simple to pick up, challenging if you want it to be (how many levels have you scoured to 100% completion on the highest difficulty setting, mum?). And it has the better shotgun. Moderno-Doom came close to supplanting it during our discussions but there's something about the straightforward killrunning of Doom II that has kept up its bloody momentum to this day.


58. Call of Duty: Warzone

A gunfight breaks out near Train Station in Call Of Duty: Warzone.

Lots of battle royale games nowadays feature faff. There's a lot of sticking attachments on your guns and rifling through your inventory and stopping and starting and stopping. God, it's exhausting. Call Of Duty: Warzone, doesn't have any of this clunk. This is as smooth as an FPS battle royale game gets, with a focus on getting you into the action as quickly as possible. You hoover loot up, movement is quick, the guns feel meaty. Warzone's map is paced wonderfully too, with just enough down time to get your act together, but plenty of firefights breaking out around you to keep things engaging. And did I mention that it's free-to-play with regular updates? Worth a shot, I reckon.


57. Night In The Woods

Trash fires of the world unite. This is a story about Mae, an anthropomorphic cat who owns another, smaller cat. Do not linger on the implications of this. You've got other problems. Returning to your hometown after a long time away, you spend the game reuniting with old friends. Going to the mall, hanging out with "the band", drinking too many beers in the wilderness. As a literal cat lady, you can leap on buildings and tightrope walk on telephone wires, but this is as close to a platformer as things get. There are other gamey bits - some rhythm action and lightbulb smashing - but really you are here for the characters. It is a pretty cartoon that you can play. Mae is, in essence, a self-absorbed waster. And her friends react to the return of this hot mess of a feline in different ways. It probably has more in common with Bojack Horseman or Tuca and Bertie than any game. But even that makes it special.


56. Destiny 2

Saint-14 in a Destiny 2 screenshot.

Emotes, shoots, and leaves. Destiny 2 is the first-person shooter for the following people: Parents whose children just got put to bed. Retail workers too tired after a shift to go out on Friday. Teens with buds. Teens with no buds. Teens who will make buds and join a clan in Destiny 2. It's good, clean, alien-shootin' fun is what I'm saying. You can smash the ground with your fist every once in a while, and wipe out a whole squad of robots, or take out a big, blunt sword and batter an insectoid miniboss to death. Everything is laid out for you on a platter - objective, reward, bonuses. As multiplayer games go, this is one of the cleanest and most approachable. Until it's time to do a raid, that is. A raid is this sci-fi world's tough dungeon dive and it requires solid teamwork amongst a bunch of geared-up pals. It's a commitment, but one that Destopals often call a rewarding struggle. People often talk about Bungie's 30 seconds of fun philosophy, but Destiny 2 is more like a full 15 minutes. Or an hour. Maybe two hours...


55. NEO Scavenger

We all like to think we'd be the rugged survivor in a post-apocalyptic scenario (the resourceful rangers of Wasteland, the courier of Fallout: New Vegas). But in NEO Scavenger, your character is as underprepared for the collapse of civilisation as you are right now, sitting in your pants eating another bowl of cereal. It's mostly a game about managing what's in your pockets, and navigating across tiles on a world map to escape a strange beast that is on your trail. You're not sure what has happened to the world you've woken up in. But the only way to survive is to stuff as many bottles as possible into a plastic carrier bag and keep moving. If you find a shoe, that's terrific. A second shoe? Unbelievable luck. There are many ways to die in this terrible place (food poisoning, starvation, hypothermia) but none as clumsy, dramatic and pitiful as getting into a chaotic fist fight with a random stranger. The results of these fights are described to you in lines of text, but it remains one of the most vivid, eyebrow-bursting experiences you can have in a video game.


54. The Last Express

Two people converse in a train carriage in The Last Express

The Last Express is a 90s classic, but was remade and re-released on Steam only a few short years ago. Think of it as a kind of neo-Christic video games' answer to Murder On The Orient Express (and it does indeed take place on The Orient Express in 1914, and, err, murder occurs). The Last Express is a hell of a ride, notable for the highly-scripted yet non-linear story - which the player can have a large effect on. Oh, we could talk about the dramatic, unbelievable plot - you, an American doctor suspected for murder on the run from international police forces, only to be embroiled almost immediately in more murder involving an arms dealer, an anarchist, and the start of the First World War. Or the unique rotoscoped art style to create an art nouveau effect. Or you could just play it and see for yourself.


53. Cities: Skylines

A screenshot of Cities Skylines showing a new train station at night added as part of the Train Stations content creator pack.

What is the best method of urban waste disposal? Perhaps a single, centralised landfill site with garbage truck routes spreading out like tendrils. Or maybe multiple smaller rubbish heaps in a secluded zone of each suburb. No. The correct answer is to dedicate an entire offshore strip of land to your city's trash and call it "Stink Island". Cities Skylines presents you with more than the problem of smelly litter. How far should your business district be from housing? What is the most efficient way to get electricity to the retail hub? How many roundabouts is too many roundabouts? At its cosmopolitan heart, this is a management game about making people happy en masse (or at least vaguely satisfied). It is the best building game for the municipal-minded and it staunchly refuses to guide your planning. This is your sandbox, so build some castles. Or, uh, some incinerators.


52. Terraria

A bustling base in a Terraria screenshot.

Minecraft without the fussy third dimension. You can craft your way to a stunning cabin in the wilds of Terraria's lushest forests. Or you can dig a nice troglodyte's hole in the ground and make it just as cosy. This is all about homemaking, and I don't mean in the traditional "cook dinner and do some sewing sense". No, it's about literally creating yourself a home, a place to call your own among the zombies and creepy things that lurk in the ground beneath. Oh, you'll be going down there, make no mistake. You didn't think you'd be crafting without the mining, did you? Don't worry. The randomly generated 2D world can be as forgiving or nasty as you want to set it. The game got its final update in 2020. But for anything you think is missing, there exist countless Terraria mods.


51. Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic

A lightsaber fight from Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic

The more recent lightsaber 'em up, Fallen Order, might put you in the shoes of a Jedi. But Knights Of The Old Republic puts you in the waistcoat, gloves, beard and brain. This is a chance to roleplay a person in the Star Wars universe, not just pull triggers or wave around a fancy sword. You awake in the middle of an attack, and are thrust into a Jedi vs Sith civil war taking place thousands of years prior to anything from the movies. You will pilot a rustbucket from system to system, you will fill that rustbucket with strange, alien companions, you will talk morality and interstellar politics with robots, you'll turn to the dark side and convince people to kill their friends with spacebuddhist brainwaves, or you'll calmly put aside passion and stick to the lightside. And you know what? You don't need to be a boring starpriest all the time. Pick up a blaster. Throw a thermal detonator once in a while. Your choice of weapon is less important than the other choices you'll make along the way. Granted, the Mass Effect games have far more sheen to them in terms of spacey roleplaying, but they are just not Star Wars. Until someone makes a spiritual successor (and rumours suggest this may happen) KOTOR is the best adventure through Jedi history you can get.


To see what games made it in our top 50, come back tomorrow for Part Two.

About the Author

Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle

Editor-in-chief

Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent a lot of time in the RPS hardware mines, testing all the bits that go inside our PCs, but now she gets to write about all the lovely games we play on them, too. She'll play pretty much anything she can get her hands on, and is very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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