Category: Uncategorized

Crapshoot: I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, a game censorship made unfinishable null

Posted on July 4, 2021 by


From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. This week, a dainty little story of fire and pus and slithering hate… but in a good way, as long as you don't find yourself one of its participants.

There are three basic ways to make a controversial game: crank the sex and violence up to 11, dare to take on subjects thought 'not suitable' for something as trivial as a 'game', or send a copy to the Daily Mail on a slow news day. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream stands out as one of the best examples of the second one; a horror adventure that kept the gore in the background and focused entirely on psychology. There's not many laughs to be had this week, just one very creepy little tale.

I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream… and just to get this out of the way, yes, it was indeed the first of a long-running series, including I Have No Nose And I Must Sneeze, I Have No Arse And I Must Poop, and the somewhat disappointing finale, I Have No Ideas And I Must Sequel… is a strange game. It's based on a Harlan Ellison short story of the same name, that I'm sure you wouldn't be able to find online with any kind of searching, and is one of the rare games that was originally intended not to have a 'good' ending. There was only going to be loss, and pain, and pus, and the gnawing of starving rats against dehydrated bone.

The premise is that it's 109 years after humanity had the genius idea to build a computer, give it complete control of the world's weapons, and then let it become self-aware. What was once the Allied Mastercomputer, but is now simply AM, promptly did what all genocidal computers do and obliterated everyone. At least, almost everyone. For reasons known only to itself, it picked five specific human beings as its personal playthings, made them immortal, and spent the next century sadistically torturing them with its ability to warp both their bodies and the world around them to its every whim.

The original short story is a suitably chilling tale, with AM dangling the promise of food in front of the group and sending them on what unsurprisingly turns out to be an extended joke—there is indeed food, but it's canned, and none of them can open it. The joke turns out to be on AM though, as a fight breaks out, and the group suddenly realises that while AM can stop them committing suicide, he's forgotten to stop them killing each other, and the narrator, Ted, takes everyone out before it gets the chance.

AM is… oh, what's the phrase? A little miffed? No, stronger. He's a teeny-bit ticked off at having his toys taken away, and in revenge turns Ted into an immortal blob monster who will never be able to escape his torment, and in fact perceive time slower, just to make sure he appreciates it. Ted resigns himself to this on the grounds that at least the others have been spared the same, and the story ends.

Cheery stuff. Though maybe more suited to a platformer than an adventure game.

There's more going on than just that, not least that while the title obviously refers to Ted's eventual fate, it also applies to AM—an arrogant, omnipotent god trapped by wires and logic subroutines and unable to ever fill its full potential. What there isn't is much on the characters themselves, who are pretty two-dimensional and a little squicky. Ellen for instance, as the only woman in a sci-fi horror story, has inevitably been turned into the group's prostitute, there to be used and abused. Benny on the other hand, originally gay, has been turned straight, but also into a simian style mutant with a huge penis. It feels like there's at least four unfortunate implications in that, though I'm not entirely sure I want to try and work out the specifics. The final two, Gorrister and Nimdok… uh… are also there.

The basic idea for the game was "Why these five?", though honestly with the exception of one character, that's not really answered. Instead, it plays out like a series of seemingly unconnected short stories that ultimately reveal a few running threads, quietly fill in the backstory, and ultimately come together in a battle for AM's soul that can even end with something approaching optimism.

Initially though, it's this simple—AM is bored, so he challenges his captives to a game. Each of them will enter a psycho-drama of his devising, designed specifically to—actually, no. First, he delivers his most memorable speech from the short story. You might not get the gist of it first time round, though. He's not exactly open or interested in talking about his mixed feelings towards humanity.

Who voices AM, you may be wondering? That would be Ellison himself, and… uh… I think the acting quality speaks for itself. Still, the passion is there, and that's what counts, right? Somewhat oddly, and unfortunately, he ends up being the only credited voice actor on the game.

Anyway, having reminded the people he's been torturing that he's not their biggest fan, he presents them with the game. Each will be set a challenge designed to play off their fears and their fatal character flaws. If they win, he'll totally, absolutely set them free, pinky-swear and pony promise.

(Spoiler: He has no intention of doing anything of the sort.)

These aren't Saw-style body horror challenges though, or anything as banal as "eat this spider". Gorrister for instance is suicidal as a result of having his wife committed over a century ago, with his promised reward being to finally get permission to die. He wakes up on a zeppelin, surrounded by both easy ways to kill himself and the certain knowledge that AM would never be so kind. In exploring though, he discovers something else— that things didn't happen quite as he remembers… or at least, that he can believe that, since the line between reality and fiction is very loose at the moment… and he ends up literally and metaphorically burying the past with help from a vaguely friendly talking jackal.

A talking jackal who doesn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the psychodrama.

Hmmm… It's almost as if there's something else going on here, isn't it?

Of the others, Ted and Benny are the simplest. Instead of being gay, Benny's backstory puts him as a soldier who killed his own men, who AM usually leaves brain-damaged and perpetually hungry without being able to chew. He finds himself in a primitive village whose people sacrifice each other to AM, and stuff happens.

Ted's story picks up on his paranoid tendencies from the original short story, as he's thrown into a spooky castle to compete with wolves and witches for a virtual version of Ellen, and stuff happens. They're perfectly OK segments, with interesting settings and lots of suitably horrible storytelling. They simply don't have the same emotional kick as the other bits.

The controversial two are Ellen and Nimdok, though for very different reasons. Ellen's doesn't initially seem like it's going to be. Her story takes place in a yellow pyramid, and the only reason I mention it's yellow is that she's scared out of her wits by that colour for reasons that aren't immediately explained. Her goal is to track down some of AM's key components, with AM hinting that she might even get to destroy them. And why would an evil supercomputer lie about something like that?

Being scared of the colour yellow doesn't sound too bad, until you discover why. This is revealed when she steps into a cramped elevator and starts having a panic attack, before being given a narrated tour of her life as a great student, a promising electrical major, a new employee at a company called INGSEC… and then being violently raped in a lift by a workman in a yellow uniform.

At which point AM brings her rapist back to life for an encore.

There's a definite sigh to be had that Ellen's big personal tragedy had to be rape—not to in any way brush off the crime itself or in any way suggest it's not an appalling thing that nobody should ever have to go through. Speaking purely of fiction, it's developed into the lazy writer's standard go-to, to the point that if a female character needs some kind of tragedy in her life, it's almost always going to be that rather than something like "I killed my father to end his suffering and then they found a cure."

In games though, it's still shocking. Making it more so here, this event and the bits leading up to it weren't simply part of the game, but the demo. It came out of nowhere, even for people who hadn't bought the game. You can probably guess what follows—Ellen finds the strength to fight her fear, blah blah blah, you know how this story goes.

The moment of that revelation though is easily one of I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream's most shocking moments. And this is I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. At one point, one of the characters hangs his mother-in-law in a harness so her brain can fly an evil iron zeppelin.

It's nothing, however, compared to the last character.

Nimdok—not his real name, but one given to him by AM for its own amusement—proved so controversial that his presence in the game actually broke it, at least in Germany. He's introduced as the only one of the group AM feels any kinship for, indeed, sees as something of a kindred spirit. This doesn't say very good things about Nimdok. Then you find out what his story is, and they get worse—quickly.

In short, Nimdok was a concentration camp doctor during the Holocaust, and not just in the Dr. Mengele sense, but one of his best buddies. By the time we meet him, those memories have long since faded to the point where he only dimly remembers what he did, but AM is quick to remind him. His psychodrama recreates the concentration camp, with his first assignment being to perform surgery on a patient who's already had his eyes surgically removed and placed in a jar, but still connected via wires.

Yes, it's extremely painful. Ether? That's what you'd call an 'optional extra'.

As the story rolls on, Nimdok slowly remembers his past. There are very few Nazi symbols and such specifically. Instead, a stylised AM logo takes the place of the flag. The camp's victims are primarily described as the "Lost Tribe", which somewhat confusingly, AM assigns Nimdok to track down, as if he has any reason to care about his own world's NPCs. Only when Nimdok finds a mirror do the real words start to come out, as he remembers that he himself was born Jewish and sold out his own parents, before embarking on his pointless, sadistic experiments. With no chance of forgiveness, he either shuts down or embraces his punishment at the hands of his victims—a move that deeply disappoints the always cheery AM. Or, if you're evil, he can keep working. But that's not exactly a good idea.

The problem with this section is that censorship in France and Germany led to it being cut in those countries, which actually made the game impossible to win. After all five characters have faced their demons, they move into a final chapter, where they discover that AM isn't simply unstable, but vulnerable, and assorted characters like Gorrister's jackal friend are actually avatars of Russia and China's own supercomputers who have been trying to take it down. 

For the sake of humanity? Ha. Hardly. They're no better than it is, just sane. If AM wins, he turns any surviving character into the short story's blob monster. If they win? They… tell him to have his fun, and he turns any surviving character into the blob monster out of sheer spite. Moral of the story: Computers suck.

They do however give the five survivors an opening, by heading into AM's cyberspace core and restoring control over its ego, id, and superego. If all goes perfectly, they also discover that humanity isn't quite out of the game just yet—that the Lost Tribe AM wanted Nimdok to find for him really referred to some cryogenically preserved humans on the moon who might have a chance of retaking the planet. All but one of the team dies in the process of making this happen though, and without Nimdok to throw himself into the fire when his turn inevitably comes, it just 'aint going to happen.

In short, yes. Humanity gets wiped-out… by censorship. Hurray for censorship!

As an adventure game, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream is distinctly not-great—fairly short, and more than a little buggy. It's unusual enough to have punched through that though, and is fondly remembered by most who played it. At the very least, it told a good story and took a grown-up approach to doing so.

Here's the entire game in handy Let's Play format that covers both the main story, and the many ways it offers to screw things up. There are quite a few. In case it's not obvious, this isn't a very nice game. Not a nice game at all.

I Have No More And I Must Stop.

New Mass Effect Legendary Edition modding tools arrive Miranda looks disappointed

Posted on July 4, 2021 by


The Mass Effect modding community has been hard at work on a toolset for the Legendary Edition, expanding how far modders will be able to go in altering BioWare's RPG trilogy. That toolset, which is called Legendary Explorer, has just made it to public beta. As the @MassEffectMods Twitter account says, "If you're a mod user, get hyped, because you're going to start seeing proper package-file DLC mods appearing on the Nexus very soon."

Though this isn't the full and final version of Legendary Explorer, and is "NOT YET STABLE" as the Twitter account warns, a look at the new releases on Nexusmods shows modders (some of whom had pre-release access) are already taking advantage of it. 

Check out the DLC Timings Mod, which delays Mass Effect 2's DLC missions so they aren't available until it would actually make sense for them to crop up, or Conrad Verner Remembers, which fixes the bug that prevented Shepard's fanboy Conrad from remembering you made the Paragon choice when dealing with him in the first game (BioWare gave him some dialogue in ME3 to explain his memory lapse, which is presumably why the Legendary Edition didn't fix it). Both of those are the work of Khaar Machinima, and require the Mass Effect Mod Manager.

And yes, there are also mods to change the camera angles in Mass Effect 2 and 3 so they once again focus on Miranda's rear end during her dialogue scenes. As the description of the Miranda Butthsots Restored mod puts it, "Now you can enjoy the sight of this woman's backside as she talks about extremely sad and serious things, just like you used to." 

Here’s 7 minutes of System Shock remake gameplay System shock remake

Posted on July 4, 2021 by


The rather-long-awaited System Shock remake has a new length of gameplay out for your eyeballs to peruse, following our brave hacker through the bowels of Research for seven minutes. It's a nice slice of game, showing off some hacking, some exploring, a bit of finding alternate routes, and even some popping off a few rounds at cyborgs and mutants. It's a nice reminder of how far Nightdive has taken the remake over the extended development—I'm a big fan of these UI improvements, personally.

It ends with the player emptying their shotgun ammo into a giant robot they have no  hope of defeating. How nice.

We recently sat down with Nightdive Studios to talk about the demo of System Shock, going into details like the dismemberment system, the cyberspace minigames, and the return of the dynamic music system. You can check out the demo on a few platforms, but it's a good one—a contributor to the feeling that game demos are back, baby.

System Shock is a seminal game in the history of shooters, the one that branched off and made the immersive sim genre that later gave us games like Bioshock, Dishonored, and more. It's the story of a hacker who wakes up on a space station, Citadel Station, and finds a world of cybernetic horrors under the control of the AI SHODAN—one of PC Gaming's most iconic antagonists.

You can find Nightdive Studios' remake of System Shock on Epic, GOG, and Steam.

How many games are on your wishlist? Epic Games Store

Posted on July 4, 2021 by


Assuming you have a wishlist, roughly how many games are on it? Do you use Steam's wishlist feature to keep it organized, or does yours have its home somewhere else? Do you use your wishlist to make sue you receive notifications when games release or come on sale or come out of Early Access. Do you add games then completely forget about them like an alcoholic detective forgetting his troubled past?

How many games are on your wishlist?

Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.

(Image credit: REMEX)

Andy Kelly: There are currently 18 games on my Steam wishlist. A mix of stuff I'm waiting to go on sale, and lesser known upcoming games I find intriguing. A lot of them have been 'coming soon' for years, like bush pilot sim Deadstick and dreamy driving game Transmission. I dunno if these will ever come out, or are even still in active development, but I like using my wishlist to check in on them now and again.

Robin Valentine: I'm not super organised with my wishlist, but I do tend to add stuff on Steam when I see something cool that I suspect I'll soon forget about otherwise. It could probably do with a prune at this point—it's up to 122 games, which is probably ambitious even for me. 

Writing this out has just made me realise that I've gotten so used to having a huge pile of shame that I've basically built a second, theoretical pile of shame for the future. 

(Image credit: Team Reptile)

Natalie Clayton: I have a single item on my wishlist and it's Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. I should, really, get better at using the thing, but I find my head just doesn't gel with this kind of planning. Besides, most of the things I'm really, truly excited for either don't have pages set up, or may not necessarily come to Steam at all.

Rachel Watts: I currently have 162 games on my wishlist, 15 of which have actually released and are available to play. I definitely use my wishlist as a way of keeping up with new releases, especially for indies where there are SO MANY. Wishlisting also helps smaller games get noticed by Steam, so every time I spot a game that's still early in its development, if it has a Steam page you bet I'm going to wishlist it.

(Image credit: Studio Zaum)

Alan Dexter: I've got 11 games on my Steam wishlist, three of which are duplicated on my Epic Games wishlist—I'm not a single-game-store kinda guy. They are mostly games I've earmarked for benchmark inclusion, although there are a few on there that are just for enjoying in their own right: No Man's Sky (which I played briefly when testing VR and really enjoyed), Disco Elysium (still haven't got round to playing this), and Frostpunk (I'm just not sure I can cope with the bleakness of this game right now). I do like wishlists, but I've got such a massive back catalog that I rarely get around to actually buying anything new. These lists will probably just grow and grow.

(Image credit: Games Operators)

Christopher Livingston: I have 70 games on my wishlist. Naturally, my #1 is probably the same game just about everyone has in their top spot: Cyborg Mechanic. A simulation game about fixing up injured cyborgs.

Other highly anticipated titles filling my wishlist: Bakery SimulatorElectrician SimulatorDinosaur Fossil HunterZoo Cleaner, and of course, I Am Jesus Christ. If a weird simulator crosses my vision, onto the list it goes. I probably won't wind up playing most of them (except Cyborg Mechanic, which I am definitely going to play), and a lot of them will probably never even get released. But I don't want to forget I saw them! I just like the idea of weird sims.

Sarah James: I just checked and I currently have 23 games on my wishlist. Most of them have been there for ages and I'll get notified when they go on sale, which is nice—or soul-destroying, depending on the state of my bank account at the time. It's mostly taken up with old Final Fantasy games at the moment, either ones I've never played (or did play but need to own on PC) but didn't feel I could justify the full price when I first added them. Others are random games I'll see or hear about that sound cool and I may get around to picking up at some point. 

(Image credit: Studio Zevere)

Wes Fenlon: I currently have 15 games on my Steam wishlist, which is a mix of games that at one point I decided I should buy and games that I wanted to keep an eye on to cover on PC Gamer someday. In the former category I've let a dozen Steam sales pass without actually buying them. Sorry, Owlboy and Blue Revolver. In the latter I need to give a shout out to She Dreams Elsewhere, which I added to my wishlist in March 2019 after seeing a demo at GDC. More than two years later, it's still "Coming soon." The list of games I'm excited for lives only in my fractured brain, but right now the top of that list is a fan translation of Boku no Natsuyasumi, a slice of life sim about spending a week in the Japanese countryside as a boy in the 1970s. It's 20 years old, but being able to play it in English for the first time is going to be a real treat.

Phil Savage: I generally use my wishlist as a way to bookmark games to consider in the next Steam sale. But the seven that are currently on my list have been on there for a while—some for a few years, never being bought. That's probably a sign that I'm actually just not that interested in them. So… hold on a second… there. Now there are no games in my Steam wishlist. Sorry, Greedfall.

(Image credit: Jacob Janerka)

Jody Macgregor:  I've got wishlists on a couple of storefronts, and over 300 games on them. Plus a lot of DLC. Like other people I add stuff that isn't out yet as a way of keeping up with it, and stuff that is out so when there's a sale on I can idly grab one off the top. Paradigm is 69% off right now, I respect that. Maybe it's time to play a surreal adventure game.

Andy Chalk: 148. I'll throw pretty much any pre-release game that looks kinda interesting onto my list, mainly to do a little solid for indie devs, but it's handy for keeping track of things that I actually want to remember exist, too. 

The first game I added to my wishlist is apparently The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, on November 9, 2015. It's possible I'm doing this wrong.

From our forum

Pifanjr: I have 4 games on there (6 before I opened this thread). Heat Signature, Cultist Simulator, Dominions 5, Fata Deum. And then the DLC for Civ VI and Total War: Warhammer II. I use the list partially to get a notification when they are on sale and partially to just not forget these games exist. Most of these have been on there for months or perhaps even years.

(Image credit: EA)

mainer: Current wishlist on Steam sits at 73. Before the Steam Summer Sale started, it was at 83. Yeah, I bought 10 games this year on the SSS, whereas the past two years I didn't buy anything. Only one of those would be considered a "new" game, that being the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, the rest were older games (at greatly reduced prices) that I either had in boxed cds/dvds, or were games I had on other store fronts that I really wanted on Steam.

I'll wishlist a game on Steam if it interests me so that I can keep track of it; development progress, release projections, updates, etc. It doesn't always mean I'll eventually buy the game, but if I hear/see/or read about a game that sounds interesting to me, whether on PCG or elsewhere, I like to keep track of it to see how it progresses and when it's released, whether in early access or actual final release. On one hand, I've discovered a lot of games, especially Indie games, that I would have never know about otherwise; and on the other hand, it's saved me money by not just buying a game because it sounded or looked good.

My current top 5 Steam Wishlist games:
1-Elex 2
2-System Shock
3-Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
4-Solasta: Crown of the Magister
5-Weird West

JCgames: I keep a wishlist, then buy games when they are a few dollars years later.. then they sit in my library and wait for me to play for a few more. It's so hard for me to pass up 2 dollar sales! I never bother with checking e-mails for sales, I just click on the wishlist and see whats cheap from time to time. It also helps me keep track of a few games that have been on my wishlist for 5+ years waiting for it to launch. Maybe this is the year asylum!

Ryzengang: My steam wishlist (which is only one I really use) is sitting at 77 right now. Is it organized? LOL no, I don't bother to upkeep it to that extent. Really it is used for two things: (1) Keeping an eye on early access games or games that are yet to release and (2) getting notified when games are on sale. To the first point, my current wishlist is perhaps 50% or more future releases that I'm keeping an eye out for. Especially in the case of indie titles, I primarily do this to remember they exist and to check reviews when they come out. For bigger titles I'll be reminded one way or another that they are out.

(Image credit: Hempuli Oy)

XoRn: I keep my wishlist fairly low. If a game goes on a good sale and its on my list and I still don't buy it, then I usually kick it off the list. I have 12 games now and plan on buying 3 of them for this steam summer sale (Spelunky 2, Baba is You, and Due Process).

ZedClampet: I've read the other responses so far and am just going to plead insanity.

The thing is, I don't watch Netflix or television of any sort. When I'm tired in the evening, I just window-shop Steam, spending more time looking for games than actually playing them. I look at all the upcoming games, use the tools they give to pull up niche games, go through my discovery queue, etc. I have meant to actually go through my wishlist and start removing games, but even then I have a problem, and my thinking goes something like "There are tens of thousands of games on Steam. If I remove this from my wishlist, I'll never find it again…"

But I'm going to clear it out eventually because it's pretty useless the way it is. Just for the record, it has 760 games on it. As I said, it's not my fault. It's the insanity.

Here’s a stunning mod that remakes the original TIE Fighter Image from TIE Fighter Total Conversion Mod

Posted on July 4, 2021 by


A group of dedicated fans have remade 1994 LucasArts classic TIE Fighter to frankly stunning effect, giving new life to the nearly 30 year old game. Using the engine from 1999's X-Wing Alliance, given new life by a major mod project to update that game, the creators of TIE Fighter: Total Conversion have remade all 13 campaigns, and their training missions, to deliver the original experience remade in a far superior engine. 

Between the classic campaigns, some 104 missions, and a new suite of reimagined campaign missions, the mod has 145 unique missions to play. It also supports VR, courtesy of the X-Wing Alliance Upgrade project, and sports both a remastered and original MIDI soundtrack.

To boot up the mod you'll need a copy of X-Wing Alliance, which is available various places games are sold like GOG and Steam. You'll also need X-Wing Alliance Upgrade, a nice big mod in and of itself. You can find TIE Fighter: Total Conversion mod on its moddb page.

If you're interested in TIE Fighter, go check out our in-depth feature about the making of one of the best Star Wars games ever released.

Here’s the sick toad-bug-dragon coming to Total War Warhammer 2 Concept art of a frog-toad-demon-dragon-bug Jabberslythe from Total War: Warhammer 2.

Posted on July 3, 2021 by


Today's new trailer for Total War: Warhammer 2's big update shows off the Jabberslythe, a horrible amalgamation of toad and dragon and insect and goat, kind of, I guess—look, what I'm saying here is that it's butt ugly, poisonous, and poses a threat to the integrity of reality itself. Just standing near the creature drains opponents' health, making the Jabberslythe an anti-infantry monster of the highest caliber.

Total War: Warhammer 2 is going out with a bang, updating both the Beastmen and Dwarves factions as developer Creative Assembly ramps up to release Total War: Warhammer 3 before the year is out. The upcoming The Silence & The Fury DLC, alongside the free patch and updates that accompany it, will revisit some of the oldest factions in the game for new updates. Including the Jabberslythe, a unit long-requested by the TW: Warhammer community that became a meme due to a developer's reactions to implementing the complex character.

Back when the Call of the Beastmen DLC for Total War: Warhammer hit, the Jabberslythe was notably not included, despite being a fan-favorite of the tabletop Beastmen faction. A developer for the game helpfully commented that the uniquely modelled and rigged animations for the creature would take as much development resources as the entirety of the Total War: Attila – Age of Charlemange DLC. Naturally, from that day on, the TWW community has measured the feasibility of new DLC  characters in potential Charlemanges.

Total War: Warhammer 2 is one of the best games to play on PC right now, so you can imagine that as a Certified Beastmen Enjoyer I am excited to get my hands on this upcoming release.

A Jabberslythe monster from Total War Warhammer 2

(Image credit: Creative Assembly)

Solve wild-western mysteries in Frog Detective 3 An image of the Frog Detective from the game Frog Detective 3.

Posted on July 3, 2021 by


Yeehaw, pards, time to saddle up and hit the trail. The trail… of a mystery. Or something.

PC Gaming's premier amphibian mystery-solver is back for what I am absolutely sure will be a very goofy romp through yet another mystery, trying to figure out if crime is in fact real or not. Developer Grace Bruxner announced the latest Frog Detective game on Twitter, called Frog Detective 3: Corruption at Cowboy County. It's confirmed that both the titular detective and sidekick(?) Lobster Cop will make a return.

The previous games in the Frog Detective series have sold over half a million copies.

"Frog Detective 3 is a first-person mystery game. Talk to witnesses, collect clues, smile vacantly and be a frog. If you're looking for hard-hitting detective work, you've clicked on the wrong store page," says the Steam page. Sounds good to me.

Frog Detective 3 is developed by Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker in association with worm club and SUPERHOT PRESENTS. The previous games in the series are available on both Steam and Itch.io—you can find those on the official frogdetective.net website.

Respawn developer shares the reason behind Wattson’s awkward animations Apex Legends Wattson holding her finger in a 'sh' gesture

Posted on July 3, 2021 by


Respawn's principal animator Moy Parra recently took to Twitter to explain why Apex Legends character Natalie 'Wattson' Paquette holds her weapons "a bit awkwardly", in a fun behind-the-scenes video.

The reason is because the motion capture was done by Parra's niece, who had never held a gun before, "and we wanted to capture this natural innocence in all of Wattson's move sets."

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The video shows a side-by-side comparison of the original motion capture performance and some of the animations used for Wattson, including Wattson running with the gun clasped in her arms.

In a reply to another comment Parra added, "Much of our direction was: don't try to play a character, just be yourself and we will find Wattson together!"

At 22, Wattson's character is one of the youngest in Apex Legends, but also distinctly non-combative in both her background and playstyle. As the daughter of an engineer, who then took engineering on herself as a special interest, her toolkit is all themed around electricity-based defensive play.

Wattson also received a "major buff" as part of quality of life updates accompanying the Genesis Collection Update that sees new characters revisiting old maps from Apex Legends' original launch. Quote: "Wattson can now place more than one Nessie on the map at a time with her Epic emote." There can, in fact, be up to twenty Nessie plushes in the map at once.

You can read more about how best to play Wattson (and all the other Apex Legends) characters in our guide.

Cheap SSD deals of the week SSDs

Posted on July 3, 2021 by


SSD prices are so cheap compared to what they cost just a few years ago, every SSD feels like a cheap SSD. But even so, some are really really cheap. While we're stuck at home with more time to devote to the best PC games, it's nice to have the drive space to keep tons of games installed at once. That's where these deals come into play. Find a cheap SSD deal, and you can add 1-2TB of affordable storage to your PC.

The best gaming PCs these days all use SSDs as their primary boot drives, thanks to their speed and reliability. But it's also affordable to have a big secondary drive solely devoted to a king-sized gaming library. For some games, it'll remarkably speed up loading times, and with a big enough drive you won't hae to stress about uninstalling old games every time Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has another 50GB update.

Here are the cheap SSD deals we've found this week. We keep this guide updated as new deals appear, so check back frequently. If you want a top-of-the-line SSD, check the sales against our guide to the best SSDs for gaming. There's a tasty variety of SATA SSDs with some awesome deals, along with our choices for best NVMe SSDs we found on sale, too.

(Image credit: N/A)

Samsung 980 | 1TB | NVMe | $119.99 (save $20)
This is one of the fastest NVMe drives currently available, with read speeds of up to 3,500 MB/s and write speeds of up to 3,000 MB/s. (Posted: 7/3)

WD Black SN750 | 1TB | NVMe | $140 (save $60)
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Crucial BX500 | 1TB | SATA | $100
If you care more about cost than performance, or you just don’t want an NVMe drive for any reason, this 1TB SATA SSD from Crucial is a good deal at $100. (Posted: 5/24)

Kingston A400 | 120GB | SATA | $25 (save $3)
If you’re upgrading an older non-gaming PC, this 128GB SATA drive is a cheap and fast choice for a Windows boot drive. (Posted: 7/3)

The best PC games right now

Posted on July 3, 2021 by


On this list you'll find the best PC games we're playing right now—recent singleplayer hits, thriving esports, and a few modern classics that would improve any library. We'll continue to update this list as new games release, removing older favorites and replacing them with our latest obsessions. Rather than an ever-expanding list that reaches deep into the past, we're shooting for a practical answer to the question: 'What new PC game should I get?'

If you're looking for a more comprehensive list which includes our favorite games from the past few decades, check out our yearly Top 100 list  or our list of the most important PC games. For an up-to-date look at upcoming games, we've assembled a guide to the new games of 2021. For free options, check out the best free games on Steam and best free browser games

Need a new system to play these games on? You can build an entry-level gaming PC for around $750,  or our recommended mid-range PC for $1,000. If you want something that works out of the box, we also recommend some pre-built PCs.

What we’re playing right now

WOW

Cruelty Squad
A garish and surprising immersive sim that has earned our highest score of 2021 so far. Find out why in our review.

Old World
A turn-based 4X strategy game that, at least for the moment, outdoes Civilization at its game. Highly recommended. 

Scarlet Nexus
One of the most ambitious games of the year. This action RPG doesn’t succeed at everything, but it’s definitely fun to watch it try. Our review explains

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance
We’re outliers here: A lot of people weren’t into this co-op action RPG, but Andy had a great time. It’s a combat-focused D&D adventure, meaning you won’t find character development that doesn’t have to do with killing monsters.

REMASTER

Resident Evil Village
The tall vampire lady took over the conversation a little, but hey, there’s also a horror videogame here: A really good one, too. (And a tall vampire lady, of course.)

Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
Our 2019 Game of the Year, detective RPG Disco Elysium, has been updated with more voice acting and quests. The developers call this version “definitive,” so if you waited to play one of our favorite recent games, now is a good time.

Battle Royale

Apex Legends
Warzone’s nuke event was a bit of a letdown, but Apex Legends is thriving right now—Season 9 is its biggest yet, and a lot of people (including ourselves) have been jumping back in.

Valheim (Early Access)
The team got into Viking survival game Valheim for a bit: Chris said it was making him love survival games again, and set up a server where other PCGers eagerly entered the Viking afterlife. Interest has cooled a little, but we’re still looking forward to updates and we keep finding cool mods

Great recent PC games

Nioh 2 (92%)
Dark Souls has many off-brand imitators, but Nioh 2 is the real deal—a great samurai adventure set in Japan’s Sengoku period.

Hitman 3 (90%)
Our first 90% score of 2021 goes to one of our favorite contemporary series—if you haven’t checked out IO’s modern Hitman games yet, you’re missing out. 

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (92%)
It’s the best Assassin’s Creed yet, said Steven in his review, which is pretty impressive given the breadth of the series. Go have a Viking adventure—it’s worth it.

Crusader Kings 3 (94%)
“Crusader Kings 3 is incredible,” said Fraser in his review of the new medieval grand strategy game and family drama generator. “I can’t imagine being done with it.”

Factorio (91%)
The factory-building game is finally out of Early Access, and it’s brilliant. A “stupendously intricate mechanical cake,” as we put it in our review.

Half-Life: Alyx (92%)
It isn’t Half-Life 3, and it’s VR only, but it’s one of the best VR games you can buy, so if you’ve got a headset it’s a must have.

Hades (90%)
The one roguelike that doesn’t punish you for death, instead rewarding you with more of its excellent NPCs drawn from Greek myth. 

Super Mega Baseball 3 (90%)
It’s the best baseball game on PC, and helped get us through the sportsless times.

Doom Eternal (94%)
High-tempo demon slaying that’ll make you sweat. It might take an hour or so to click, but when it does it’s better than the 2016 reboot.

Valorant (90%)
It can’t be called original—it’s Counter-Strike, but different—but Riot’s free-to-play shooter is still the year’s best new competitive game.

Paradise Killer (91%)
The zany vaporwave world might be a bit much for some, but the sleuthing is good. One of the best detective games you can play.

Amnesia: Rebirth (91%)
It plays a lot like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but goes much, much deeper into the pit of eldritch horror. 

Call of Duty: Warzone
Like any huge multiplayer game, it’s got its problems—glitches and cheaters have been an issue, and its first event was just so-so—but Warzone is still one of our favorite battle royale games right now.

The Top 100

Disco Elysium

(Image credit: ZA/UM)

Every year, we publish a new version of the PC Gamer Top 100, a list of the best PC games from throughout time that we think you'll enjoy right now. Here are the top ten games on that list:

  1. Disco Elysium
  2. Divinity: Original Sin 2
  3. Red Dead Redemption 2
  4. The Witcher 3
  5. Slay The Spire
  6. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  7. Dishonored 2
  8. Hollow Knight
  9. Outer Wilds
  10. Titanfall 2

Competitive multiplayer games

Call of Duty: Warzone (82%)
Warzone is the most popular battle royale game you can play right now. It’s an interesting time to be playing it, too, because we’re expecting changes to come with the launch of the new Treyarch Call of Duty game, Black Ops – Cold War.

Apex Legends (93%)
Apex Legends is one of our favorite current battle royale games. The map is fantastic, the ‘ping’ communication system is something every FPS should have from here on, the guns and movement are great fun (no wallrunning, but sliding down hills feels great), and it’s free-to-play with nothing to pay for except cosmetics. It isn’t the game we expected from Respawn, but we’re glad it’s here. Check James’ review for more.

Valorant (90%)
Riot’s take on CS:GO, Valorant successfully adds character abilities to that design sheet, which introduces new possibilities for surprise tactics and delightful skill shots. It also adds a bunch of quality of life improvements.

Rainbow Six Siege (90%)
Siege might lack the sharp hit detection and purity of CS:GO, but it’s a more accessible and modern FPS that rewards clever timing and coordinated teamwork as much as aim. Siege’s learning curve is a result of all the stuff (characters, gadgets, elaborate maps, and guns) that’s been added since December 2015, but eventually you find yourself picking operators, map spots, and roles that you’re comfortable with.

More competitive games we like:

Singleplayer and co-op action

Grand Theft Auto 5

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Grand Theft Auto 5

Released: 2015 | Developer: Rockstar North | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

GTA 5 runs beautifully on PC, and its open world is still the best of any game, a gorgeous sprawl that replicates everything we associate with Los Angeles: the flat heat, the atmosphere, the fact that the city is so damn big. The campaign is the series' best ever, punctuated by ambitious heist missions involving all three protagonists. It's a lot of fun to spend time in this world.

If you want to take things further, GTA Online is waiting for you with an absolute ton of stuff to do. Not all of it is amazing, but with a few friends, it's great fun to knock through the Online mode's bespoke heists, and owning a business feels pretty cool too. There are plenty of ways to play this game forever, including all of these great mods.

More of our favorite action games:

Action and turn-based RPGs

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Released: 2015 | Developer: CD Projekt RED | GOG| Our review

The Witcher 3 follows Geralt, the world's grumpiest monster-slaying bounty hunter, as he fights and magics his way across a medieval fantasy world. It tells a well-written, clever story, but more importantly, The Witcher 3 is the best open-world RPG you can explore right now (and quite possibly the best there's ever been).

The Witcher 3 is great mostly because it's so full of things to do. It's a huge world chockablock with ghouls, vampires, and wraiths—and the people can be pretty nasty, too. The size and depth of the world gives every quest context, an anchor that feels like it stretches back into history. Investigating a haunted farmhouse, for example, turns up clues about the type of spectre involved. Choosing the right weapon and brewing up a special potion feel like steps in a centuries-old ceremony. The Witcher 3 is a triumph of worldbuilding.

Besides the world, Geralt himself is the star of the show. He's frequently dour and funny and jaded, and he's an appealing character to spend time with. Some of the storylines will mean more to long-time fans of the Witcher books and games, but even without playing the earlier games in the Witcher series, The Witcher 3 is worth several hundred hours of your time.

More of our favorite RPGs:

Exploration, survival, and building games

Stardew Valley
Released:
2016 | Developer: ConcernedApe | GOG, Humble Store, Steam| Our review

The Harvest Moon farm-life sims used to be console-only. Then indie designer Eric Barone came along and made this tribute so we too can enjoy the pastoral fantasy of chicken ownership and mayonnaise profiteering. In Stardew Valley, you inherit a farm in the countryside and split your days between growing crops and befriending the locals, a colorful cast of eccentrics, some of whom can be romanced. You either get super serious about maximizing your income, creating the perfect grid of profitable crops for each season, or just potter about, taking the occasional fishing trip or delving into the monster mines as the mood takes you. An entire subgenre of farming/crafting sims with obligatory fishing minigames has sprung up in its wake, but Stardew Valley remains the best.

(Image credit: https://www.reddit.com/r/KerbalSpaceProgram/comments/3duql5/one_of_my_best_ksp_screenshots_decommissioning_a/)

Kerbal Space Program
Released:
2015 | Developer: Squad | GOG, Humble Store, Steam | Our review

You build a spacecraft, and fly it into space. Simple, right? Usually it's not. A lot of things can go wrong as you're constructing a vessel from Kerbal Space Program's vast library of parts, almost always explosively so. But as you trial-and-error your way to a stable orbit, you start to unlock the full breadth of what Kerbal offers. You can build many different types of ship, and use them to edge further and further out into the solar system, enjoying your achievement as you contemplate the vast solitude of space. Kerbal Space Program is equal parts slapstick comedy and majestic exploration—incredibly silly, but evocative where it counts.

(Image credit: Лимонная жёпа)

Subnautica
Released:
2018 | Developer: Unknown Worlds | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Depending how you feel about diving, Subnautica can be either a wonderful opportunity to explore an alien aquarium or a straight-up horrorshow. Even with the survival stuff turned off so you don't have to regularly grab fish and eat them as you swim past, its depths contain claustrophobic tunnels and beasts big enough to swallow you whole. The thing is, Subnautica works as both a tense survival game about making it day by day in a hostile alien ocean and a way to drift around meeting strange sea creatures (and eating them).

More building and survival games

Factorio
Surviving Mars
Rust
See our full list of the best survival games

Proteus
Released:
2013 | Developer: Ed Key and David Kanaga | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Proteus takes nature and simplifies it into evocative shapes and sounds. Curved hills, solid tree trunks, frogs that burble and bounce. Wandering over its island of pastel plants and animals triggers a variety of pleasant noises, a symphony that builds as you chase birds or stand still among the fireflies. It's what every chillout room aspires to be.

Strategy games

Into The Breach
Released:
2018 | Developer: Subset Games | GOG, Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Try to save the human race from an alien invasion, five turns at a time, in the brilliant bite-sized roguelike strategy game from the makers of FTL. Into the Breach feels almost like a puzzle game, because it presents you with clear information on what the enemy is doing every turn, and it's so well-balanced, there's almost always a solution that will get you out of a mission alive. There are multiple teams of mechs to unlock and choose from, and their abilities play off one another incredibly well. In the Rusting Hulks squad, for example, the nimble Jet Mech can drop a bomb that deals damage and envelops enemies with a smoke cloud, while the passive ability on the Rocket Mech causes smoke clouds to deal damage to enemy units. Each squad has its own playstyle, and you can freely mix and match mechs to create your own team-ups. Ending a mission after preventing all damage to the fragile civilian buildings scattered around the map never stops feeling like a triumph.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
Released:
2017 | Developer: Firaxis | XCOM 2 on Humble | War of the Chosen on Humble | Our review

This brutal strategy game puts you in charge of a resistance force during an alien occupation. The XCOM format blends base building, squad construction and strategic command with tense turn-based tactical battles. As you pilot your enormous home base between territories, you gather materials and research the enemy to unlock cooler space lasers and rad-as-hell armour for your crew.

Vanila XCOM 2 was a tough, lean survival game that held you to account with a doomsday countdown. War of the Chosen gives you even more problems in the form of three minibosses who stalk you throughout your campaign. Fortunately, you can befriend three resistance factions—each with their own suite of gadgets for you to research—and use their leads to track down your nemeses. The result is a layered, engrossing tactical game with a lot of dramatic intrigue. We developed a strong love/hate relationship with the Chosen. Hate to see them messing up our plans; love to blow them up with massive space guns in revenge.

Total War: Warhammer 2
Released:
2017| Developer: Creative Assembly | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Warhammer is a dark fantasy setting shared by multiple games, popular because of its grim maximalism (it has two Mordors and about three Draculas). The Total War games are a venerable series of historical strategy games with unit-shuffling battles and large-scale nation management. The combination of Total War and Warhammer is a perfect match. Warhammer's factions are strong mixes of trad fantasy archetypes and oddballs like the beloved ratmen called skaven, who are easily set against each other on a big map. Meanwhile, the abstract scale of Total War seems less odd when removed from recognizable historical events. It's the best of both worlds. There's a campaign where each faction races to control a magical vortex by conducting a string of rituals, each providing a significant boost when performed, but if you want to slow the pace you can spring for both this and the previous game, then combine their maps together into a gigantic life-consuming war for domination called Mortal Empires.

Best PC games: Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire
Released:
2019 | Developer: Harebrained Schemes | Steam | Our review 

A brilliant singleplayer deck builder, Slay the Spire hooked the PC Gamer team back when it was in Early Access, and now it has even more to offer, including daily challenges and custom runs. The joy of it, as Evan explains in his review, is how much power you can accrue through smart deckbuilding. Because it's a singleplayer card game, the monsters don't have to have fun, and your deck doesn't have to be balanced with any other—which means absurd combos are possible. But it's also possible to create terrible decks as you ascend the spire, picking new cards along the way and finding relics that encourage certain builds. There's so much strategy to learn that it can take tens of hours to reach the endgame, but starting a new run always feels exciting.

More strategy games

BattleTech
Released:
2018 | Developer: Harebrained Schemes | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Lead a scrappy mercenary company across a half-scripted, half-procedurally generated singleplayer campaign as you complete escort, assassination, base capture, and other missions for cash, salvage, and faction reputation. In the style of XCOM, BattleTech is about sending roster of mechs (and to a lesser extent pilots) into planetary combat, then managing the monetary and mortal aftermath of that spent armor, broken mech legs, dead pilots, and plundered parts of your enemies in the comfort of your spaceship base. 

Unlike XCOM, the turn-based combat is a wonderfully granular game of angles and details: mechs have 11 different armor segments, and weapons and ammo are housed in these individually destructible locations. The orientation, heat level, speed, and stability of your mechs matters, and fights between the durable walking tanks play out like heavyweight boxing matches.

On the next page: Puzzle games, great stories, simulations and city-builders…

Puzzle games

Best PC games: Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn
Released:
2018 | Developer: Valve | Steam, itch.io 

Our favorite puzzle game of 2018, Return of the Obra Dinn is a detective game set upon a ship once lost at sea. You, an insurance investigator, must determine what happened to the crew. We're sure you've never played anything quite like it (unless you've played it).

Portal 1 + 2
Released:
2007/2011 | Developer: Lucas Pope | Steam

Portal would be great if it only had inventive puzzles. It would be great if it only had clever writing. Somehow Valve managed to pack both into an unmissable, unforgettable experience that messes with your head in more ways than one. Its titular mechanic teaches you to think differently by letting you instantaneously create paths to almost everywhere, and its underlying story, at once grim and gut-bustingly funny, is constantly egging you on. 

Portal 2, meanwhile, delivers more of everything that made Portal great, and a peerless co-op mode besides. Portal 2's world is bigger and its puzzles are more complex, and it doesn't sacrifice any of the series' sinister, sassy humor to pull them off. But the sequel's true triumph is that it invites you to play with a friend—not through some tacked-on bonus levels, but through a handcrafted co-op campaign so good it makes the stellar singleplayer feel like a prelude.

Opus Magnum
Released:
2017 | Developer: Zachtronics | Humble Store, Steam | Our review 

The challenge of Opus Magnum isn't just to figure out how to solve each puzzle, but how to solve it the best way. With programmable robot arms you'll build alchemy machines that are more or less efficient at the transmutation task put before you, and there's an amazing number of ways to succeed—simple parts and simple instructions can produce some not-so-simple machines. If it grabs you, Opus Magnum doesn't let you go easily.

More puzzle games

SpaceChem
Infinifactory
Stephen's Sausage Roll (This one'll infuriate you)
Yankai's Triangle and Yankai's Peak (Nice and relaxing)
See our full list of the best puzzle games

Gorogoa
Released: 2018 | Developer: Buried Signal | GOG, Steam | Our review

The gorgeous, hand-drawn Gorogoa is one of our favorite recent puzzle games. The premise is simple: arrange illustrated tiles "in imaginative ways" to solve puzzles. The complexity, and the feat of its creation, is in how those tiles interlock with impeccable elegance. As Pip said in our review: "Chunks of interiors and exteriors match perfectly without seeming out of place in either of their respective scenes, an image in a thought bubble lines up with a balcony scene, a star in the sky is positioned perfectly so that it peeps through the gap in an overlaid tile and becomes the light from a lamp." It's best to see it in motion, so check out the trailer here.

Lumines Remastered
Released:
2018 | Developer: Resonair | Steam | Our review

The classic musical puzzle game, which was first released on the PSP, returns in top shape and is still great after 15 years. The new version is far superior to the original PC port, and the remastered music is fabulous. Lumines doesn't translate perfectly to PC—it's one of those games that feels like it was meant for handheld devices—but if you missed it the first time around, take any opportunity to play it.

Best PC games: Baba Is You

Baba is You
Released:
2019 | Developer: Hempuli Oy | Steam, itch.io | Our review

A wonderful puzzle game in which you rearrange words to create new rules for the world. "It’s part logic puzzle, part existential quandary, part love letter to how much potential is contained in the tiny building blocks of language," said Philippa in her Baba is You review.

Great stories

What Remains of Edith Finch
Released:
2017 | Developer: Giant Sparrow | GOG, Steam | Our review

Explore the curious home of a doomed family in this surprising and varied narrative game, which at first feels like a familiar walking simulator but then transforms into something else. Each member of the Finch family has a story to tell about what became of them, and each tale is presented in almost a minigame-like way—some of these chapters are thrilling, most of them are quietly devastating, and you should play this game without having a single one spoiled. You deserve to discover the secrets of this mysterious house for yourself if you haven't already. More than deserving of our GOTY award for Best Story in 2017.

Life is Strange
Released:
2015 | Developer: Dontnod | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

You could argue most videogame stories are Young Adult fiction, but Life is Strange is actually like the kind of story in the YA section of your local bookstore. It's about teenagers, small towns with secrets, and coming to terms with adult responsibilities through the metaphor of being able to rewind time. It's Twin Peaks for teens. 

Life is Strange benefited from being released episodically, able to adapt to what players enjoyed about the early chapters and then focus on those elements later. That means you have to give it an episode and a half to get going, and the finale's divisive too, but in the middle it's as affecting an emotional rollercoaster as anything that's about to be turned into a movie and make someone very rich.

Tacoma
Released:
2017 | Developer: Fullbright | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Calling a game a 'walking simulator' was probably meant to be pejorative, but I can't think of a better description of what games like Tacoma and Gone Home—and developer Fullbright—do better than any other game: build a world I want to walk around in, explore, and learn to love. In Tacoma, the player walks into an abandoned space station and a mystery. Exploring this detailed setting feels like spending time in a real place, and hours spent there make the departed crew intimately familiar. I saw dozens of tiny stories, comedies and dramas, unfold as I watched the crew through VR recordings and dug into their discarded belongings. If you want to see the future of storytelling, to experience characters and plot in a way that can't be duplicated in a book or a movie, go for walk in Tacoma. 

Simulations, sports games, and city builders

Best PC games: Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4
Released:
2018 | Developer:  Playground Games | Microsoft Store | Our review

Unless you're looking for a hardcore sim, Forza Horizon is still the best racing series around.

Euro Truck Simulator 2
Released:
2013 | Developer: SCS Software | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

A lot of players have the same story about Euro Truck Simulator 2. Lured in by curiosity, we try this ridiculous-looking game about driving trucks back and forth across a low-budget Europe. Then, hours later, we're flicking headlights up and down while driving through the night. It starts to rain somewhere outside Berlin, the sound adding percussion to whatever's playing on the central European radio station. We're hooked and don't even know why. Even on a different continent in American Truck Simulator it can have the same effect, proving that ordinary inspirations modeled well enough can make for extraordinary games.

Elite Dangerous
Released:
2014 | Developer: Frontier Developments | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Space, to borrow a phrase, is big. Really, really big. In Elite: Dangerous, players can become deep-space explorers spanning the entire Milky Way galaxy, or they can be asteroid miners whose entire world consists of two space rocks and the vacuum between them. Both are equally worthy ways to use your flight time in Elite, an open-world (open-galaxy?) space flight sim that masterfully gives players total freedom. At the high end, you can spend your time being everything from a space trucker to a bounty hunter, but newbies shouldn't overlook the simple joy of being a pilot, of the tactile way that flight skills grow and deepen over time. Anyone into sci-fi or flight sims owes it to themselves to spend time in an Elite cockpit—especially if they can do it in VR.

Football Manager 2019
Released:
2018 | Developer: Sports Interactive | Steam | Our review

The best game yet in the best football management series.

Frostpunk
Released:
2018 | Developer: 11 Bit Studios | GOG, Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Part city-builder, part survival game, Frostpunk is about making difficult choices and dealing with the consequences. Trying to keep a handful of citizens alive in a perpetually frozen world isn't just about managing resources but managing hope, and to keep people working toward their future means convincing them there is one, often through brutal means.

Unlike most city-building games, Frostpunk isn't an open-ended experience: it takes place over a 45 day period, with narrative events occurring periodically that can throw a wrench in the gears of your city and society. It's a tense and grim experience where you can wind up regretting your finest moments or defending the harshest choices you made. What are you prepared to do to save lives, and what will the ultimate cost be?

Super Mega Baseball 2
Released:
2018 | Developer: Metalhead Software | Steam | Our review 

With so few great sports games on PC, Super Mega Baseball 2 gets squished into our sims category for now—though with Madden finally coming back to PC this year, we may need to add a proper sports category. Super Mega Baseball 2 may look cartooney, but look beyond that, because as we said in our review, it's the "best on-field baseball sim on PC."

On the next page: MMOs, local multiplayer games, and platformers…

MMOs and online RPGs

World of Warcraft
Released:
2004 | Developer: Blizzard Entertainment | Official site | Our review

World of Warcraft might have a few grey hairs here and there, but it's still the undisputed king of MMOs. Set in the high-fantasy setting of the famous Warcraft real-time strategy games, World of Warcraft is the story of you, a hero who rises from lowly pawn to god-slaying badass as you strive to save your world from all manner of fiendish enemies. With 12 classes and 13 races to play as (and an ever-growing list of subraces), who and what your character will become is entirely up to you. And whether you want to play for two hours a month or two hours a night, there are a nearly unlimited number of places to explore, quests to complete, raids and dungeons to conquer, and items to craft. It's less of a videogame and more of a part-time hobby.

World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is a bit of a low-point for the series according to its most hardcore fans. That doesn't mean it's bad—the austere mountains of Kul Tiras and lush jungles of Zandalar are evocative and fun to explore—but it is disappointing because World of Warcraft's usually stellar endgame of dungeons and raids are hamstrung somewhat by its wonky gear system. There's exciting news on that front, though: the next update is going to be huge

World of Warcraft is the jack-of-all-trades MMO that can satisfy nearly any kind of player. Whether you want competitive PvP battles, white-knuckle raids, or just a fun, colorful story to follow along with while you collect mounts, World of Warcraft delivers.

Warframe
Released:
2013| Developer: Digital Extremes | Steam | Our review

Set in a bizarre science-fiction universe full of esoteric secrets, Warframe sells itself on one amazing concept: You are a space ninja. And yes, it's as fun as it sounds. This free-to-play third-person shooter gleefully taps into the fantasy of being a gun-toting, sword-wielding killing machine through its versatile movement system. You'll air dash, wall run, and slide through levels with up to three teammates as you eviscerate hordes of android enemies in exchange for oodles of crafting resources.

But Warframe's true strength is just how complex it is. Each Warframe (a kind of suit of armor that you wear) plays like its own character class, complete with unique abilities that define its combat style. You might charge into packs headfirst as Rhino or silently assassinate your targets as Ivara. Hell, there's even a Warframe that lets you compose your own music using an in-game sequencer to inflict debuffs on enemies. Learning how to craft and equip these Warframes is a daunting task for new players, but those who endure will find a rich action RPG that can easily devour thousands of hours. What's more, Digital Extremes is constantly taking Warframe in bold new directions, like adding open world zones to explore with friends. It might not be an MMO in the traditional sense, but Warframe is every bit as massive.

Path of Exile
Released:
2013 | Developer: Grinding Gear Games | Steam | Our review

A free-to-play spiritual successor to the beloved Diablo 2, Path of Exile is a dauntingly complex action RPG that will make even the most zealous theorycrafter weep tears of joy. Behind that familiar loop of dungeon diving and looting are several dozen features that each feel like the Marianas trench of progression systems—they're that deep. Skill gems can be chained together to create practically limitless spell combos, while the passive skill tree has hundreds of nodes to choose from that each shape your character in their own small way. And then, of course, comes the gear, which is a whole separate school of learning that can take months to fully understand. Path of Exile is certainly daunting and it won't appeal to everyone.

It's good news then that it's also fun as hell. There's 10 acts to explore, each one touring you through desecrated temples or corrupted jungles full of the walking dead. It's a grim place to be, but the kinetic combat and enticing rewards make the journey worth it. Every few months, Grinding Gear Games rolls out a new temporary challenge league that introduces entirely new progression systems, cosmetics, and enemies but requires starting a new character. Normally that'd sound like a chore, but Path of Exile is so robust that starting fresh is just a chance to learn something new. 

EVE Online
Released:
2003 | Developer: CCP Games | Official site | Our review

Brutal, uncompromising, and intimidating—there's a good chance that EVE Online's reputation precedes it. While its players will say that it's mostly hyperbole, there's no denying that EVE Online isn't an MMO for the faint of heart. But in return for a considerable investment of your time and energy, EVE Online achieves something remarkable: It feels alive.

The galaxy of New Eden is an ever-evolving virtual world full of merchants and pirates, mercenaries and warlords, and, yeah, the occasional spy. It's a thriving ecosystem grounded by a player-driven economy where players are encouraged to group together to achieve long term objectives like conquering territory or just becoming filthy, stinking rich. To participate, you'll need to contend with a hopelessly unintuitive user interface and familiarize yourself with a daunting number of systems. But it's worth it. The focus on player-driven experiences creates stories that just don't happen in any other kind of game, and being apart of those narratives is thrilling. It's an experience that is so absorbing, there's a good reason why EVE players joke that quitting for good is "winning at EVE Online."

Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn
Released:
2014 | Developer: Square Enix | Steam | Our review

Final Fantasy 14 is a dream come true for Final Fantasy fans who don't mind the rigamarole that comes standard with MMOs. Set in the high fantasy world of Eorzea, you play as one of the series' iconic classes, like a black mage, and set out to help the locals defend themselves from constant invasions by the evil Garlean Empire. It's as generic a Final Fantasy story as they come, but FF14 lives up to the series legacy by populating the world with an endearing ensemble of characters that grow significantly over the course of its two expansions. If you like story-driven MMOs, Final Fantasy 14's sweeping epic is undoubtedly the best.

Square Enix doesn't try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to being an MMO, though. Final Fantasy 14 is formulaic in its progression and the equipment system is pretty bland. It is by no means boring, however. The story reaches some surprising highs and Final Fantasy fans will be pleased to hear that FF14 has a nearly endless supply of memorable boss fights to work through. It might not be as expansive as other MMOs, but Final Fantasy 14 is beautiful and charming.

Local multiplayer games

Nidhogg 2
Released:
2017 | Developer: Messhof | Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Some say Nidhogg 2's clay-monstrosity art style and added weapons marred the elegance of the first game, but they're both great in their own ways. Whichever one you choose, the basic format is the same: two players duel across a single screen, attempting to push their opponent left or right into the next screen, all the way to the end of the map. That's a big part of the brilliance of the series: get pushed all the way to your corner, and it's still possible to make a comeback and finesse your opponent all the way back across the map for a clutch win. Pure thrill.

The fighting itself is great, too, like an ultra-lo-fi Bushido Blade. Kills come in one hit as you thrust and parry and throw your swords with simple controls that result in complex dances of stance and aggression. It's exciting, hilarious, and tests the hell out of your reaction time and ability to predict your opponent's moves. There's nothing quite like either Nidhogg.

TowerFall Ascension
Released:
2014 | Developer: Matt Thorson | GOG, Humble Store, Steam | Our review

As cool as bows and arrows are in games like Tomb Raider, TowerFall does them best. Whether played by four people against each other, or two in co-op against waves of monsters, TowerFall makes leaping from a ledge and skewering somebody with a perfect shot easy to do. It also makes shooting at someone above you, missing, and then impaling yourself as the arrow falls back down easy to do. It's as chaotic as it sounds, but the clean pixel art and expressive animation makes it simple to follow, and every triumph and screw-up is visible to all. 

More local multiplayer games

Overcooked 1 and Overcooked 2
Released:
2018| Developer: Ghost Town Games | Steam | Our review

We hate Overcooked. Wait, no: We hate anyone who gets in the way in Overcooked, or doesn't bring us our damn tomatoes when we need them, pre-chopped. This four-player kitchen catastrophe simulator sets up some brilliantly simple basics—working together to prepare ingredients, cook basic dishes, and turn them in on a tight timetable—and then mercilessly complicates them with devious kitchen hazards. In one level, on the deck of a pirate ship, some of your counters slide back and forth, forcing you to switch up tasks on the fly. In another cramped kitchen, there isn't enough space for two characters to squeeze past one another, forcing you to coordinate all your movements or get into shouting matches about which direction to go.

There's a lot of shouting in Overcooked, but barking orders, properly divvying up jobs, and setting a new high score feels so good. The controls are intuitive enough that infrequent gamers can get onboard. Just beware of playing with anyone with a truly explosive temper. While both are great, if you haven't played either we'd recommend Overcooked 2, which adds online play.

2D platformers

Spelunky
Released:
2013 | Developer: Mossmouth | GOG, Steam | Our review

Spelunky deserves much of the credit (or blame) for the boom of roguelikes in the 2010s, but none have bettered the rich interactions of this game, which sees you adventuring through mines, the jungle, caverns, and even Hell in search of riches and escape. You'll die many, many times along the way—sometimes suddenly, sometimes hilariously, and often because of your own stupidity. But that arms you with knowledge of what not to do and how to exploit the game. Can you trick two NPCs into fighting each other? Can you use a damsel you should be rescuing to instead safely set off a trap for you? What's the deal with the Ankh, anyway? 

These are all things you'll discover as you play more Spelunky. Half the game is 2D platformer; the other half is a rich simulation packed with secrets and interlocking pieces that make the entire game feel like a living organism designed with the express purpose of killing you. That's what makes pulling those pieces apart and using them to your advantage so endlessly satisfying.

Celeste
Released:
2018| Developer: Matt Makes Games | Steam | Our review

In this age of quick saves and infinite lives, action-oriented platformers need to be difficult. And this difficulty almost always becomes the talking point, even for games that seem to hide something more profound beneath their mounds of countless dead (see: The End is Nigh). But no one talks about how hard Celeste is—or at least, that’s not why we talk about it. Even if you roll your eyes at the masochistic appeal of Super Meat Boy or N++, you might find yourself seeing Celeste through to the end. Sharing the vibrant, chunky pixel-art of Matt Makes Games Inc’s TowerFall, Celeste charts its protagonist Madeline’s efforts to scale a gigantic mountain. She’s not going up there to save the world, she’s going up there to save herself. It’s hardly a visual novel, but the light narrative dabs make progress more meaningful than “simply wanting to do it”, and its set-piece moments are really spectacular. It feels great too: Madeline can grab onto walls and quick-dash through the air, and there’s never a lack of new environmental challenges to ward off monotony.

Hollow Knight
Released:
2017| Developer: Team Cherry| Humble Store, Steam | Our review

Hollow Knight is still slightly too new to be regarded as highly as Nintendo's genre-defining Super Metroid, but it might actually be the better game (gasp!). It's at least the best game to follow in Metroid's footsteps in a decade (if you want more games in this vein, make sure to play Cave Story). You play as a small explorer venturing through the remnants of Hallownest, an underground bug civilization, with remarkably little hand-holding showing you where to go. Subtle environmental clues and smartly doled-out powerups will help you find your path through the world, and from the first moments the 2D essentials of jumping and attacking have a perfectly tuned weight and snappiness to them. That's what will keep you playing Hollow Knight long enough to be pulled into its world, and then there's no turning back.

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