So you’ve got a PC for Christmas. Or maybe you’ve got the final piece for your PC build. Or maybe you’ve always had a PC, but now you want to play games on it. Either way, you now have a PC and you’re ready to play some games!
I’m not a big fan of top 10 lists, and I don’t expect anyone to research my tastes before following recommendations, so my list will be in no particular order, but organized by topic. Also these games span a variety of technical requirements, release dates, genres and themes. Here goes!
You just want to make enemies blow up set to power metal: DOOM
DOOM is a classic. This isn’t that DOOM, though. The new DOOM was released last year, but I’m still playing it every once in a while. The action is fluid and visceral, the demons splatter very well and the music and sound design is fantastic. It’s also a surprisingly charming game, especially if you have a history with the series, nodding to its predecessors both in easter eggs and through its mechanics. If your PC is relatively beefy, you’re old enough to clear the “mature” age rating and you don’t have a soft spot for demons or megacorporations DOOM might be the game for you.
You like dying over and over, cute visuals or big whales: GøNNER
GøNNER is a rogue-like designed by Swedish solo dev Ditto. It sees you playing through procedurally generated worlds filled with monsters to help your friend Sally, who is a giant whale. Don’t be fooled by the cutesy visuals, GøNNER is a very challenging game and learning to control the little bastards while getting your combo as high as possible is a real challenge. However, the rogue-like structure means you get to try over and over and over again, so you can really dedicate yourself to mastering the game and saving Sally. If you like a challenge, are easily charmed by whales or want to support a Swedish game designer, GøNNER might be for you.
You like spaceships, teleportation and catastrophic failure: Heat Signature
Heat Signature is the latest game from the developer of Gunpoint (which is also very good). Heat Signature is about breaking into spaceships, making ridiculous plans and then failing spectacularly. At least that’s how I play it. The game is full of wonderful mechanical touches, like how each teleportation device has interesting drawbacks to its use, or how losing a character allows you to go on a mission to rescue them. That said, you should expect to lose characters for good. A lot can go wrong when you have to kidnap a heavily armored guard from far inside a huge spaceship flying through a war zone. Especially when you forget about the destructive range of your grenade launcher. If any of this sounds interesting to you, Heat Signature is the game for you. Also it’s currently “space winter” so there are colorful lights and gifts to find.
You like claymation and want to have a think about death, loss and RPG’s: Dujanah
Dujanah is a “clay-punk” adventure game by Jack-King Spooner. It’s set in a fictional muslim-majority country with aesthetics inspired by Arabic pottery and rendered in clay. The player is “Dujanah”, a woman who has lost her husband and child and sets out looking for answers. I don’t want to say too much, but Dujanah is an incredibly thought-provoking game about death and loss with a charming and genuinely funny take on RPG’s and adventure games. Maybe not for everyone, but give it a go if that sounds interesting.
You like vikings, psychological horror or fantastic acting performances: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
We’ve sung Hellblade’s praises before, but it’s hard to recommend this game too much. It’s beautiful, genuinely frightening and full of little touches. It’s also technologically very impressive for a (relatively) small team and contains a stellar voice acting performance by Melina Juergens as Senua. Mechanically, Hellblade is relatively simple – consisting of environmental puzzles and a bare-bones combat system, but it is worth playing for the narrative and visual wow-factor. This is another game that might require a relatively powerful computer, at least for the full extent of visual splendor.
You like coming-of-age narratives and/or are a sad college student: Night in the Woods
Night in the woods is an adventure game with some light platforming about Mae Borrowski – a young cat who drops out of college to go home to Possum Springs. It’s also a game about small American towns, knife fighting, band practice, growing up, feeding small animals and ghosts both literal and metaphorical. It is also a very charming game, both visually and narratively, with anthropomorphic characters and well-written awkward dialogue. Also, the “Weird Autumn” update went live earlier in December, so this is a perfect time to play it. Night in the Woods is relatively short at 8-10 hours and is perfect to snuggle up with for a weekend.
You like painterly art, great soundtracks and fantasy sports: Pyre
Pyre is the latest game by indie darlings Supergiant Games. If you haven’t already played them, their previous games Bastion and Transistor are wonderful as well, but Pyre might be the best of the bunch. Mechanically it’s a party-based RPG where combat is replaced by a sort of fantasy basketball called Rites. While the sport-part is definitely worth trying (it has some pretty cool rules and twists on real world team games) the game really shines as we follow the growing party through a beautiful, but harsh world. Of you want to see a beautiful game, or are interested in sports, religion and judicial systems, Pyre might be the game for you.
You like clever platforming and old-school JRPG’s: Even the Ocean
Although it was released in November of 2016, Even the Ocean was probably the best 2D platformer I played this year. The core mechanic is balancing light and dark energy, which influences you vertical and horizontal motion respectively. Too much of one energy and you die, too little and you might not make that jump. In addition to some brilliant platforming levels designed around this mechanic, Even the Ocean has an epic story told by travelling through an over-world reminiscent of old-school Japanese role playing games. The narrative lies in the intersection of ecology, history and social issues and the game is worth a go if that sounds intriguing. Also it’s worth a go for the platforming.
You absolutely love pixel art: Owlboy
After the better part of a decade in development, Owlboy released in November of 2016. Inspired by older games like Kid Icarus and other Nintendo games, Owlboy is a love letter to pixel art and exploration. All the art in the game is absolutely stunning (and drawn by one man: Simon Stafsnes Andersen!) and the story is very charming. Although it was hard to miss its release to critical acclaim, Owlboy is a game it is worth being reminded of, and if you are only now getting into PC gaming it’s definitely worth playing.
If you haven’t played Hotline Miami: Hotline Miami
A game from 2012 in this post-Christmas 2017 list? You’re goddamn right. Hotline Miami is the best game of the last decade and you can quote me on that. This fever dream of rhythmic violence set to an incredible soundtrack has to be experienced in my opinion. So unless you are very much opposed to video game violence (in which case I will point you back to Night in the Woods, Even the Ocean or Pyre) you should play Hotline Miami. Just do it, and thank me later.
Oh and I guess since everyone is playing it: PLAYERUNKNOWN’s BATTLEGROUNDS
Yes, it’s on Xbox One too now. Yes, you’ve already heard of it. No, you may not think it’s your kind of game. Nevertheless, PUBG is looking like it will be the trendsetting online shooter for the foreseeable future so it might be worth a look. Especially if you can get a few friends together for the sweet tactical banter, PUBG is an adrenaline rush almost without equal (well except for Hotline Miami of course).