Except for a few of the much older titles, you should be able to find and play all of these games on Amazon, Steam, Xbox Live, or PlayStation Network. With backwards compatibility becoming more common, you might be able to dust off your original copies and play them, but there are no guarantees.
Overwatch has evolved into a multiplayer shooter that is still at the forefront of its genre. It’s a befuddling mix of one-of-a-kind character design, stunningly realized style, and engrossingly dynamic action. As you’re engrossed in round after magically exciting round, surrounded by beautifully crafted maps rich in detail and charm, minutes turn into hours.
Simply put, Overwatch is the most enjoyable video game I’ve ever played. Overwatch’s gameplay has remained almost entirely unchanged since its release, and it revolves around capturing and controlling points on the map, as well as escorting payloads from one end to the other, all while depleting the enemy team’s health.
Overwatch is brilliant because of the nuance found in how you go about winning each match. It’s a simple setup and not entirely original, but it’s the nuance found in how you go about winning each match that makes it so brilliant.
Each six-person team can be assembled from the current pool of 32 heroes. Not only do they each play differently and bring their own set of tricks to the table, but they also have an impact on the other heroes on the ever-expanding roster.
Overwatch is a game full of personality, which is reflected in the characters themselves. Blizzard has built a world in which anything can happen and anything thrives. The robust Reinhardt is reminiscent of a high fantasy environment seen in previous Blizzard games.
Sombra is science fiction personified, and she wouldn’t be out of place on the streets of Night City. Then there’s Winston, the intelligent and occasionally crazy gorilla cosplaying as Beast from the X-Men.
The beauty of Overwatch is that all of these diverse characters seem like they belong there and aren’t just lifted from other media. They’re thoughtfully built as individuals and as a team, and their interactions with one another before and during battles provide amusement in addition to the combat.
Echo, Overwatch’s final hero (until Overwatch 2), has now joined the fray. She’s an airborne AI who darts through the sky, wielding a vast array of technological weaponry to do damage. She’s a lot of fun to play, but she comes with a lot of risk because she’s vulnerable to accurate hitscan heroes like McCree or Soldier: 76, and she can quickly lose all of her 200 HP.
However, her ultimate, Duplicate, is a game-changer. It allows her to adopt the form of any opposing team member and use all of their abilities, as well as charge up their ultimate at a far faster rate. Cloning an enemy Mercy and having two powerful healers on your side may shift the tide in a game, and it harkens back to the days when multiples of the same hero were allowed on a team. It’s only fitting that the final addition to the roster harkens back to the original Overwatch gameplay.
Last but not least, At first, Sigma, an eccentric Dutch astrophysics tank, was difficult to counter, especially when combined with Orisa to form a double-barrier hellscape. Anyone attempting to deal damage at range with Ashe’s rifle or rain fire from above as the rocket launcher-wielding Pharah will find his constantly changing shield a problem.
But this is merely another challenge to solve, and his arrival resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of close-quarter specialists like Doomfist and Reaper showing up on the battlefield. As a result, I found myself putting together combos as Doomfist, a character I had barely touched before Sigma’s introduction, and firing a rocket punch into an unsuspecting enemy’s side.
It’s just so much better than being on the receiving end of one. This is the essence of Overwatch’s appeal. It provides a lot of variety, and if it starts to seem old, I switch to another hero and everything feels brand new again.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time studying Hanzo’s bow and arrow skill set, but when I grew tired of him, I transferred my sniper talents to Ana and healed my friends instead, which provided a different kind of joy.
Even after 700 hours of gameplay, there are still certain characters I’m unfamiliar with and some with whom I hope to spend more time in the future, even if I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be able to pull off a somewhat successful Dragon Blade as Genji. However, not every character is for everyone, which is perfectly great and, to some part, the idea of Overwatch.
The recently added role-lock system, which has been long in demand, is by far the most significant change to occur in Overwatch throughout its four-year lifetime. You must now choose which role you want to play in the team — damage, support, or tank – before starting the match in standard Quick Play and Competitive modes.
Each team consists of two players from each class, and while you may lose some flexibility during the match (there are still over 50,000 possible team composition combinations), you gain a more satisfying overall experience.
You get so many more moments of joyful team play for all those occasions you wish you could swiftly switch off support to dislodge a difficult Widowmaker sniper with D.Va. Gone are the days of scrambling around a map hunting for a health pack while your lustful eyes wander across to the opposition’s fully built comp.
I must admit that when role queue was originally announced, I was skeptical, but I couldn’t be happier to have been proven incorrect.
A level of flexibility has been lost, and while having to wait up to eight minutes for a game if damage is your preferred expertise can be unpleasant at times, as someone who is ready and able to play any function on a team, it isn’t a big deal to me.
After all, if you’re yearning some old-school anarchy, original Quick Play is still available in the Arcade part of the menu for a dose of anarchic nostalgia.
Overwatch is a one-of-a-kind hero shooter that is unquestionably the greatest in its class. Few things compare to it in terms of variety, depth, and flair. Its four-year-old basis has been painstakingly built into the unrivaled multiplayer experience it now provides.
It’s a masterpiece of competitive gameplay, from its now-loved characters and expertly constructed maps to superb sound design and intense action. But, most importantly, it’s never stopped being wildly entertaining after all these years. All of these features combine to make Overwatch a very unique shooter that I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone.
2. Half-Life: Alyx
The dirt under Alyx Vance’s fingernails was one of the first things that struck me when I first started playing Half-Life: Alyx. It’s a small thing, but you don’t see that amount of fine detail in a VR game very frequently. Virtual hands are usually low-resolution ghostly apparitions or gloved hands.
This grit also reveals something about this character, a tough survivor raised in the aftermath of the Seven-Hour War, in which the extraterrestrial Combine invaded Earth, and it instantly establishes that she isn’t as stuffy as Dr. Gordon Freeman, an MIT-educated nerd. As understated as it is, it sets the tone for the best VR shooter I’ve ever experienced – and one of the best in general.
The massive, 30-foot Strider leg that crushed down immediately in front of me as it walked past, going about its business, was probably the next thing that jarred me out of gazing at my hands like a first-time stoner. That solidified the enormous scale of the mosquito-like alien tanks we first encountered in Half-Life 2 — if you didn’t think they were a threat before, it’s now difficult not to.
The same strange sound design that made the gulag-like City 17 so unforgettable in 2004 is in full effect here, and full-3D surround sound amplifies all of these iconic parts.
Alyx feels very much like a regular Half-Life game, aside from the unusual perspective. It’s organized as a linear series of sections, beginning with a typical City 17 neighborhood and progressing underground, past industrial districts such as a distillery, high-tech Combine facilities, slimy alien nests, and more.
Each chapter of the 15-hour campaign is distinct from the last, with some relying primarily on an unkillable enemy you must maneuver your way past and others being nearly pitch dark but for your wrist-mounted lights.
Combat is a big aspect of the game, but so is solving puzzles. When you seek to unlock certain Combine technology, some hacking puzzles appear.
None of them are particularly difficult – for example, there’s a memory-matching game in which you connect points on a holographic sphere and a very cool-looking one in which you trace the path of electricity through a wall and rotate connectors in a power-flow puzzle – but they all make extensive use of VR’s ability to work in three dimensions, and some of them become challenging as you progress.
It can become really exciting disarming tripwire mines by tracing a path through rings while a flaming fuse follows you – all while trying not to trip the mine with your hand.
Then there are the mysteries of the surroundings. Getting from point A to point B is frequently more difficult than it appears in Half-Life. I’d occasionally wander around an area, unsure if I’d hit a bug or if an event that would have opened a path forward hadn’t triggered; I’d always feel like a fool a few minutes later when I realized the solution was a trick I’d been explicitly taught earlier, or was pretty clearly marked by a wire or something.
It’s all there once you know what to look for in terms of clues. All of this provides a wonderful break from combat and a welcome counterpoint. Although this is a prequel story set five years before Half-Life 2, you must have played Half-Life 2: Episode 2 to be up to date on the events of the series before playing Alyx. (You’ve had 13 years — now is your chance.)
Alyx’s mission begins as a basic rescue operation for her father, Dr. Eli Vance, but quickly escalates into a robbery to recover a Combine superweapon hidden inside a vast floating vault above City 17 — but it’s not that simple. The ending is great and a must-see for everyone who has been invested in this story, and rest assured, there are plenty of surprises for which spoilers should be avoided.
Meanwhile, your lovably clueless and blunt sidekick Russell (voiced by Rhys Darby) chatters away in your ear with some laugh-out-loud jokes about vodka and sandwiches, among other things. Although Wheatly isn’t wicked, it’s a comparable type of humor to what Valve provided us in Portal 2. Probably.
His friendship with Alyx allows her to develop as a character, allowing her to express her optimism for the future as well as her naivete about the world before the invasion. Russ’ signal is appropriately filtered out throughout the moodier, more horror-themed situations, allowing Half-Life: Alyx to create a beautifully creepy atmosphere.
When virtual reality first became a reality and we all started speculating on which gaming worlds we’d like to be fully immersed in, Half-Life was at the top of my list (tied with BioShock). Half-Life: Alyx has more than reached that potential after a few years.
Valve has raised the standard for VR in terms of interactivity, detail, and level design, demonstrating what can be accomplished when a world-class developer goes all-in on the next technological frontier. It feels like a game from the future in many aspects, and one that the rest of VR gaming will take a long time to match, let alone surpass.
3. Crusader Kings III
In her 71 years, Empress Hamam accomplished a lot. She reinstated systematic worship of the ancient Egyptian gods and cemented the power of a new pharaonic dynasty in the medieval Nile Valley, thus ending centuries of foreign rule.
She was born from a poor clan in what is now Sudan (eastern Africa). Her life’s passion, on the other hand, was her 12 children, some of whom would go on to become rulers in their own right. Raising that many children, on the other hand, is stressful, which prompted her to develop a drinking habit and a penchant for extravagant feasts, further ingratiating her in the eyes of her more revelous people.
This is just one of the many human stories that have arisen naturally over the course of the more than 100 hours I’ve already spent playing Crusader Kings 3. And the way it marries the personal and the political, the grand and the intimate, is nothing short of spectacular.
Crusader Kings has always been a story about how individual characters and their interactions affect history, and the third installment finds fresh and interesting ways to depict that. Crusader Kings 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by incorporating court drama, dynasty feuds, and marriage alliances with the more traditional grand strategy game chores of building castles, researching technology, and fighting wars.
A personal insult between two adjacent monarchs can erupt in bloodshed and chaos fit for a fantastic historical fiction novel, yet a well-planned betrothal can form a powerful alliance and finally unify kingdoms under one crown. It’s a game that’s really more about people than objects, and that focus is what makes it genuinely unique and memorable.
Most of the fundamental components that made Crusader Kings 2 work have been refined and expanded upon by Paradox Development Studio. This is exemplified by the stress system, which prompted our jovial matriarch Hamam to seek consolation in the bottom of a bottle. Characters in Crusader Kings 2 have personality traits that affect their stats, although they don’t do anything to influence your actions.
In Crusader Kings 3, a vicious character will become stressed if you frequently show mercy to your adversaries, whilst an honest character would chafe at shadowy deals. This encouraged me to roleplay my characters’ attributes rather of merely seeing them as numerical modifiers, or to live with the repercussions of defying their natural tendencies, both of which I appreciated.
Crusader Kings 3’s system, understandably, lacks the depth of its predecessor’s, which has benefited from seven years and hundreds of dollars in expansions, but it’s well on its way.
Stress, on the other hand, never felt like it forced me into a particular pattern of conduct. When you’ve accumulated too much, you’ll experience a mental breakdown, and you’ll have to choose between a couple of coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of ruling a medieval realm.
Whether it’s drinking, fighting, or frequenting brothels, each of these activities adds depth to the characters and opens up new avenues for drama and conflict. Hamam’s penchant for booze led her to make new acquaintances with other magnates who shared her passion.
However, losing your cool could result in you punching a priest and upsetting the Pope, which is not a good idea in this period. You can always say goodbye to a religious doctrine that no longer suits you, thanks to the in-depth, free-form new religion system. You may invent a new Catholic heresy that promotes cannibalism, believes in reincarnation, and only allows women to become priests.
Everything, from the clergy’s role to views on witchcraft and homosexuality, is customizable. The options are practically endless, allowing you to personalize your experience and leave an indelible mark on the world in ways that were never possible in previous games.
The logistics of running a conquest campaign could still be improved. Crusader Kings 3 has all of your armies arrive at a designated rally point as a single force, rather than raising dozens of small stacks from their home counties and having to merge them together, in an effort to cut down on the micromanagement that bogs down Crusader Kings 2.
The issue is that it doesn’t always send troops where they’re needed, leaving you without the fine control you’ll need to stage an effective invasion. When you call up the banners, setting up multiple rally points is supposed to split your forces fairly evenly, but I’ve never found this to work properly in practice.
Normally, one rally point would attract a small force of troops, while the other would attract the entirety of my army.
This is inconvenient since concentrating too many forces in one location causes attrition, resulting in the loss of men and supplies, and in a battle with numerous fronts, it leaves one or more positions hopelessly undermanned. As a result, you end up micromanaging your soldiers almost as much as you would under the old system, manually splitting them into smaller contingents and marching them halfway across the realm.
Crusader Kings 3 is a fantastic strategy game, a fantastic RPG, and a master class in how to improve existing systems by taking the best parts of them and making them deeper and better. In the previous game, I spent thousands of hours, and I expect to spend at least that many in this third installment.
All of the fascinatingly flawed individuals and compelling stories of love, conflict, success, and sorrow that have already developed from my playthroughs feel like the start of something legendary. In fact, if I had to choose only one game to play for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t have a hard time deciding. There has been a new monarch of historical strategy anointed. Long may the king reign.
4. Disco Elysium
In Disco Elysium, as in all good detective stories, what appears easy at first becomes so much more – and it gets so much crazier, too. It modifies the ancient concepts of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons in unexpected ways to fit a macabre story of violence, poverty, and a civilization on the verge of collapse.
It uses some innovative game elements – such as debating against 24 distinct areas of your own brain – to create a story that will linger with me for a long time, thanks to smartly written dialogue and a wonderfully built world. And it manages to make all of this enjoyable and, surprisingly often, humorous. The Final Cut improves on an already fantastic game by adding a fully voiced cast and even more side missions to do.
The basic notion of Disco Elysium is simple: A body has been discovered in the backyard of a hostel, hanging from a looming tree, and it’s up to you to figure out how it got there over the course of the 30-hour story. Everything surrounding this central enigma, however, is far from straightforward, not least because you begin with a massive dosage of hangover-induced amnesia.
You can’t recall your own identity, let alone that you’re a cop investigating a murder. Even as your snivelling limbic system fights it, a part of your consciousness known as your old reptilian brain – with which you literally converse – tries to urge you to abandon your quest.
As you stumbling around your ruined bedroom looking for traces of your old self, it becomes evident that this isn’t just a mystery, but a journey that will test your ability to solve crises on both a personal and global level. It’s an isometric RPG with a beautiful design that makes you think at every turn of its painted streets.
When you initially start Disco Elysium, you must decide whether you want to play as an intelligent detective (like Sherlock Holmes), a sensitive detective (think Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks), or a bruiser detective (think Marv from Sin City). Each sets your nameless gumshoe’s starting stats and alters the choices available to you right away, but they all provide a fun way to play.
Opening with the Intelligent build, for example, allows you to swiftly deduce that you have awoken in the city of Revachol, thanks to your high Encyclopedia skill level. However, if you start with the Sensitive option, you won’t know where you are and will have to piece together the same information.
The beauty of Disco Elysium’s skill system is that you are always rewarded for your decisions — a Sensitive might not know where he is, but he can start searching his necktie for clues. Yes, it’s true.
But hold on: there is no battle in Disco Elysium, at least not in the traditional sense. Punching your detective is a question of willpower, and the results are usually verbal rather than physical. You’re mostly armed with your (sometimes) silver tongue and a roll of the dice.
Not only while communicating with others, but also with the myriad voices crowding your mind, your choice of dialogue is often critical to addressing difficulties. It’s a refreshing change of pace from more action-oriented RPGs when it comes to dealing with exciting situations. In Disco Elysium, I actually found talking my way through circumstances and filling out my character sheet more fascinating than slashing down adversaries with yet another +2 sword.
Clothing has a good and negative impact on your skills, which will be familiar to fans of Bethesda RPGs. You can increase your Encyclopedia score by 1 by putting a replica of fictional detective Dick Mullen’s hat. When faced with a dice roll that appears to be too challenging at first view, quick wardrobe changes can come in handy.
I once came across a mural in a particularly filthy part of town that took a significant number of Shivers — a skill that allows you to “raise the hair on your neck” and “tune into the city” to comprehend your surroundings.
My character had a low Shivers stat by default, but by changing my jacket and putting some nice shades, I was able to make the percentage likelihood of my roll to an enticing 72 percent. I took a chance, got lucky, and quickly changed back into my usual attire.
You can spend points in your Thought Cabinet, a novel feature that turns abstract concepts like Communism, memories of favorite flavors, or simply believing you’re a rockstar into a kind of mental inventory, in addition to improving your skills. It fits in nicely with the mind that in Disco Elysium, half of the combat takes place in your head.
You can receive a number of awards by internalizing a notion you’ve discovered along your journey. Stat increases, XP boosts, and distinctive qualities are among them. They can also have significant drawbacks, but part of the fun is not knowing what you’ll get from meditating on something like the “Volumetric Shit Compactor” for a while.
For example, after seven hours of gestating a single thought called “The Wompty-Dompty Dom Centre,” I received a perk that gave me 10 XP every time I successfully used my Encyclopedia stat in conversation, but also lowered my Suggestion stat by two points because, according to my own brain, I’m a “pretentious wanker.”
It’s a fascinating system, not least because every time you finish a thought, a new and magnificently hideous illustrated artwork appears on your computer, evoking Francisco Goya’s “Black Paintings” period — that is, they’re filled with disturbing imagery reflecting a dismal outlook on humanity. Disco Elysium is a unique mix of noir detective fiction, classic pen-and-paper role-playing games, and existentialist thinking.
Its complex plot, intriguing cast of characters, and enormous breadth of options combine to create an experience that begs to be savored. Aside from a few minor quibbles, it meets practically every single one of the goals it sets for itself, leaving me wanting to spend more time in its world.
5. Elden Ring
In the 87 hours it took me to beat Elden Ring, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions: rage as I was beaten down by the game’s toughest challenges, exhilaration when I finally beat them, and a fair amount of sorrow for the mountains of exp I lost along the way to some of FromSoftware’s toughest boss encounters.
But it was the many absolutely jaw-dropping vistas, the sheer scope of an absolutely enormous world, the frequently harrowing enemies, and the way Elden Ring nearly always rewarded my curiosity with an interesting encounter, a valuable reward, or something even greater that kept me in near-constant awe.
FromSoftware takes the ball that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild started rolling and runs with it, creating a fascinating and deep open world that prioritizes freedom and exploration above all else, while also effortlessly weaving a full-fledged Dark Souls game into the mix. Nobody should be surprised that Elden Ring turned out to be one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
To establish the scene, you are introduced as a “Tarnished” of no repute who has been blessed by grace and is obliged to travel to The Lands Between and become an Elden Lord. What that implies, how to go about achieving it, and what the problem is with that massive shimmering golden tree are all things you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
The big story is difficult to fully grasp on a first playthrough, especially because there is no in-game notebook to refresh you on the events, characters, or unique phrases you encounter over the course of dozens of hours, as in other FromSoft titles.
There should be, but it’s a story I loved piecing together for myself. I’m looking forward to boosting my knowledge with the painstakingly thorough lore films that will undoubtedly emerge from the community in the future.
Rather than the huge main plot, which names Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin as its scenario writer, it was the organic side stories that kept me most enthralled. FromSoft wisely takes a similar approach to these games as it did to the Souls games, Bloodborne, and Sekiro; you’ll just meet characters as you explore and discover the world, and become engaged in their troubles.
There are no “!” markers on the map, no waypoints to direct you to them, and these characters don’t always approach you or want or require anything from you at first. They’re just ordinary folks with their own motivations and objectives, whose stories are influenced by your acts or inactions.
In such a big world as this one, that was really rather refreshing, and it was always wonderful to see a familiar face turn up again later, as I was anxious to read about what had brought them to this new part of the world and how their journey had evolved.
The trade-off, of course, is that without markers, a quest log, or a journal, it’s all too easy to lose track of story threads and leave them hanging at the end.
That sets a disappointment, and I’ve already felt bad about missing out on some of my coworkers’ stories – but it was worth it for me, because even after 87 hours, I never got the open-world tiredness that usually occurs when my brain is overloaded by a map full of unresolved sidequest markers. In addition, any objectives that I don’t complete provide me an added motivation to move on to New Game+.
Every part of Elden Ring’s design revolves around the phrase “freedom.” You have unlimited freedom to move wherever you choose from the moment you step foot in Limgrave, the first of many interconnected districts of The Lands Between.
And while this isn’t exactly a novel concept in open-world games, the way it’s handled here is simply remarkable. You could be an explorer and spend hours upon hours in Limgrave exploring every little dungeon, fighting every boss, discovering every NPC, and leveling up to better prepare for what’s next if you wanted to.
You could also follow the Light of Grace, which will lead you to the main road and the first major dungeon, or you could locate a hidden passage to a new region designed for higher levels and completely bypass the first major dungeon! While you’re there, you might as well steal a cool weapon.
Again, this isn’t unique, but there are a few features that distinguish Elden Ring apart from other open-world games like Skyrim. For one thing, Elden Ring doesn’t scale enemy levels to match your own, thus switching to a later region always means dealing with stronger foes, making the risk/reward scenario very genuine.
But, perhaps more importantly, the way its various sections are interrelated makes finding these new ones more difficult than simply picking a direction and travelling in that direction.
Limgrave is created with a main path that takes you to Stormveil Castle in mind, and finding a way around that feels like you’ve discovered a hidden passage or other route is a super interesting feeling that I haven’t had in most open environments I’ve visited.
Elden Ring is a large-scale fantasy Action-RPG game created in partnership with renowned author George R.R. Martin by FromSoftware, Inc. under the direction of Hidetaka Miyazaki. The game is situated in a vast kingdom with a long and bloody past. Discover the secrets of the Elden Ring’s power as you journey across the fantastical world of the Lands Between.
Meet opponents with interesting backstories, characters who have their own unique motivations for assisting or hindering your journey, and terrifying beasts. Elden Ring includes a seamless connection between enormous fanciful landscapes and shadowy, labyrinthine dungeons.
Explore the gorgeous world on foot or by horseback, alone or with other players online, and fully immerse yourself in the verdant plains, stifling bogs, twisting mountains, frightening castles, and other inconceivable locations of grandeur.
The Golden Order has come to an end. Rise, Tarnished, and be guided by grace to wield the might of the Elden Ring and rule the Lands Between as an Elden Lord. The Elden Ring, the source of the Erdtree, has been shattered in the Lands Between, governed by Queen Marika the Eternal. The crazy taint of their newfound strength provoked a war: The Shattering.
Marika’s descendants, all demigods, claimed the shards of the Elden Ring known as the Great Runes, and the terrible taint of their newfound might triggered a war: The Shattering. A war that resulted in the Greater Will’s departure.
The Tarnished, who were spurned by the grace of gold and exiled from the Lands Between, will now be brought by grace. Follow the journey to the Lands Between beyond the murky sea to stand before the Elden Ring, you dead who still live, your grace long lost. And rise to the position of Elden Lord.