Editor’s Note: List last updated October 25, 2017.
When we look back at the last 10 years (from October 2007 to October 2017), we see continuing proof that the PC is the most diverse gaming platform ever created. This platform has not only the most games but also the most different types of games you’ll find anywhere. Picking our top 25 best and most memorable experiences from that time was a huge challenge, but IGN’s panel of experts — including James Duggan, Chloi Rad, Miranda Sanchez, Steve Butts, Tom Marks, and Dan Stapleton — have compiled a list that represents our collective thoughts on the decade’s highlights.
Before we jump in, a quick word on our criteria for this list. The primary question is “What are the best PC games released from 2007 to 2017?” But our definition of “best” includes both games that are at the top of our list of recommendations today and games that were amazing in their heyday, even if those glory days are over. Again, this list considers only games from the past 10 years, so if you’re wondering why there’s no Half-Life 2, System Shock 2, Quake III: Arena, StarCraft, TIE Fighter, or X-COM: UFO Defense on here, that’s why. And naturally, there are dozens of games that almost made the list, but with only 25 slots, some painful sacrifices had to be made. And now, on with this year’s list!
It’s difficult to imagine a more appropriate setting for the bickering, battling and betrayal synonymous with the Total War series than inside the bloody fantasy universe of Warhammer. The benefits of this masterful mashup go far beyond aesthetics, as Warhammer’s eclectic unit roster brings unprecedented variety and readability to the Total War franchise. The counterplay between the series core unit types is still present, but unconventional additions greatly deepen the strategy potential. The sequel expands that roster even further, topping its predecessor while also working with it to grow the series’ scope.
Kerbal Space Program is a one-of-a-kind simulator. Its iterative spaceship design gameplay requires math, attention to detail, and intelligent responses to unexpected problems. Deep customization and an extraordinary galaxy allow even casual space nerds to learn and enjoy its intoxicating, challenging, inventive, and adorable brand of space exploration.
It took more than a decade for a new Metal Gear game to make it to PC, but the series came back in incredible fashion. Metal Gear Solid 5 is an excellent stealth shooter with missions that you could beat a dozen different ways and still have more to try. Its open world acts as a military playground between ops, and who doesn’t love attaching balloons to unsuspecting soldiers?
Fancy playing a game to unwind? Don’t play Left 4 Dead 2. Despite being released only a year after the zombie-infested original, Left 4 Dead 2 still managed to better its predecessor in every way: its maps more detailed, its zombie types more diverse, and its arsenal of great-feeling guns and melee weapons more fully featured. (In particular the gory devastation inflicted by its additional melee and explosive weaponry ensured that it was initially censored almost beyond recognition in Australia and Germany.) But it’s the ability of its improved AI Director to intelligently orchestrate the drama and keep tension at panic attack levels throughout that sustains it as one of the most relentlessly entertaining and nerve-wracking co-op experiences available on the PC today.
The Witness is one of the best puzzle games ever designed. It uses the power of mystery and awe to compel you forward, then provides you with the tools you need to make meaningful progress through its challenges. Clever puzzle design often makes these challenges a joy to solve as well, building new layers of depth on top of a simple, yet versatile framework. The way The Witness encourages you to carve out your own path on its beautiful, open-world island also means it never looks down on you for your failures. It recognizes struggle as part of the learning process, allowing you to move on at any point. Stepping away from particularly frustrating problems is often the best way to solve them in the first place, and the calming isolation of The Witness only makes this easier to do so.
Stardew Valley makes the mundane seem more wonderful. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but marvelously distills the best essence of Harvest Moon’s long’s genealogy into a simple, accessible, and incomparably addictive game. Tranquil and purposefully provincial, Stardew celebrates the simple joy of watching the fruits of your labor grow. A world of opportunities beckon from the first moments, and while there’s some guidance, you’re free to experiment, change your mind, and play as efficiently or loosely as you wish. Your choices carry the gravity of consequence, but learning what does and doesn’t work, fiddling with your clock management, and discovering ever-more efficient ways to play out your days is half the fun.
Undertale is a delightfully inventive exercise in subverting expectations. It knows you’re playing a roleplaying game and messes with you at every turn, remembering your saving habits, following your story decisions, and constantly adjusting itself in surprising ways to remind you that actions have unexpected consequences. An involving and emotionally charged story thematically supports Undertale’s underlying message: every choice you make matters, not just to you but to the people around you. It’s subversive, occasionally confounding, replayable, unapologetically melancholy, and a worthy member of the fraternity of all-time great PC games.
No game simulates the feeling of being in command of a starship flying by the seat of your pants like FTL: Faster Than Light. It’s a game you shouldn’t expect to survive – more likely, you’ll be blasted out of the sky by a vastly superior enemy ship or boarded by a death squad of giant killer insects who massacre your crew. Maybe your life-support system will be hacked and everyone will suffocate. But FTL’s not about winning – it’s a story generator, where you get to talk about the time you got a killer beam weapon combo that cuts enemy ships to ribbons while your ship remains cloaked, or vented a boarding party into space. Its tactical combat never gets old, tons of loot and random events keep every game feeling unpredictable, and unlockable ships force you to change up your strategies. And every so often, you might even win.