So you just got yourself a brand-new gaming PC and you need some games. But you have no idea where to begin? Worry not, Startselect hand-picked the finest games that should be installed on every gaming PC.
by Thijs Kaagman
*This article was updated May 2016*
We've got some fond memories of the early Simcity games. Building a city proved to be a real challenge, especially because disaster – in the form of an earthquake or hurricane – could strike any minute. So we were really excited for SimCity (2013), right up until it proved to be… Well… Not that good.
Finnish developer Colossal Order saw this as an opportunity and filled that hole in our souls with Cities: Skylines. The game falls into the 'easy to learn, hard to master' category. The interface is clear and gameplay is – in its most basic form – very simple. Within minutes of loading up a new game, you can have a small town bustling with activity. But expanding those few streets and buildings into a sprawling metropole requires hours of meticulous planning.
Like any good PC-game, Cities: Skylines has an active modding community. Deleting and adding certain gameplay elements or expanding your city beyond the standard measurements, anything is possible thanks to a plethora of mods.
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Fans of the strategy genre know where they need to go when they feel the need to command massive armies. And we mean MASSIVE. The Total War series is all about that, ever since the first game – Shogun: Total War – came out in 2000. Since then, there have been nine different games, spread out over five different historical periods. But according to both critics and fans, 2011's Total War: Shogun 2 (the seventh game in the series and a direct sequel to the original) is the best one.
The game is split into two parts. On a turn-based campaign map you make political choices, form alliances and make sure your citizens are happy. On the battle maps, you control your massive (MASSIVE!) armies directly.
Though the game was notorious for its high system requirements, most modern gaming PC's shouldn't have any trouble meeting its demands.
If you're looking for turn-based strategy, you can't go wrong with the Civilization series. You start out with a simple town, but before you know what's happening, you're negotiating with Ghandi or waging war on Stalin.
Like any strategy game, you can expand your territory by waging war on your enemies, but you can also take the peaceful diplomatic route. Trading resources and being a good neighbour often gets you just as far as a bunch of missiles do.
After launching in 2010, Civilization V was enhanced by two expansion packs, Gods & Kings in 2012 and Brave New World in 2013.
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If you're new to PC gaming, you're probably new to MOBA's as well. But games like DotA 2 and League of Legends are notoriously hard to get into. That's why Blizzard chose to make their own all-star MOBA a lot more accessible.
Start out with the slow-but-steady Uther from Warcraft, work your way to the fast-but-fragile Demon Hunter Valla from Diablo or try your hand at the invisible (but even more fragile) Zeratul from Starcraft. Blizzard not only introduced a whole slew of characters from their beloved franchises, the maps are inspired by locations from their games as well. Maps? Yes, Heroes of the Storm doesn't have the usual 'tri-lane' map like other MOBA's, but instead has a couple of different maps each with their own lay-out and objectives.
The roster of freely available characters switches every week, but you can also pay with an in-game currency to permanently unlock a hero. There's also the option to buy heroes, mounts and skins through microtransactions, but other than that Heroes of the Storm is entirely free to play. So there's no reason this game should not be on your PC.
XCOM is a classic franchise from the late '90's about an international organization tasked with defending the earth from alien invasions. After a couple of not so successful spin-offs and variations on the turn-based gameplay, the series got canned and put on the shelf for ten years. In 2012 developer Firaxis successfully rebooted the franchise by sticking to the classic gameplay.
XCOM is a turn-based strategy game that uses an isometric 3D perspective. As a commander you're not on the battlefield yourself, but you hover over it while giving commands to your squad. Be careful though, because when one of your soldiers dies, he or she is gone. Like a lot of old-school games, XCOM can be brutal. A soldier that you've been playing with for multiple battles, one that you've been training and upgrading for days, can easily be lost because you underestimated the enemy.
XCOM is one of those games that not nearly enough people have played. Critics and fans of the franchise were delighted by Enemy Unknown, but most gamers have no idea this game exists. They don't know what they're missing.
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Originally developed by a couple of gamedesign students, Portal made quite the impact in its The Orange Box package back in 2007. Even with Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode 2 being in the very same box, it managed to stand out.
In this puzzle game you're shooting portals in increasingly difficult test chambers. Throw something (or yourself) into the blue portal and it comes flying out the orange portal, or the other way around. Even though the main character is completely mute and there's only one other interactive character in the entire game, Portal managed to build its own collection of inside jokes like 'The cake is a lie' and the loveable Companion Cube.
It didn't take long for Valve to come up with Portal 2, adding more interactive elements to the puzzels and providing a little backstory to the bizarre test chambers. Both games are absolute must-haves for any PC gamer.
The Orange Box didn't just give us Portal, it also contained Team Fortress 2, a team-based multiplayer shooter with a collection of different characters and weapons. We fell in love with the quirky characters as soon as we saw Heavy caress his machinegun Natascha and saw Spy plant his knife in Pyro's back.
In Team Fortress 2 the BLU and RED team compete with each other for several objectives on different maps. Sometimes it's capturing and defending bases, other times it's getting a cart full of gold to its destination.
These days Team Fortress 2 is completely free to play. You can install Steam, download the game and get shooting without ever getting your creditcard out. In the years since its release, Valve has also introduced a slew of new weapons, items and hats. Especially hats. You can craft, collect and trade these with other players or just play the game and pray you get lucky.
Before Call of Duty was the biggest name in shooters, Counter-Strike reigned supreme its genre. Though originally a mod for the first Half-Life, it didn't take long for Counter-Strike to make a name for itself as a separate game.
Global Offensive (GO) is the newest generation, taking classic elements from the earlier games and adding some new modes and maps. You can still play in de_dust2, you still can't aim down sight and you still need to buy new weapons and tools each round. But there's also new modes like Arms Race (previously a player-made mod), where you get a new weapon for each kill.
With this newest rendition, Valve also stepped back into the eSports-game. So if you're an aspiring e-athlete, Counter-Strike: GO is the way to go.
Another strategy game in this list? Yes, the PC is where the genre truly shines, so there's a bunch of strategy games. You can play your casual stuff on your peasant console! (just kidding, we love our consoles)
StarCraft is perhaps the most well-known sci-fi strategy game in the world. Especially in Asia, this game is huge. And that's not surprising really, because this game has everything. There's multiple races with their own playstyle, hundreds of different units, an impressive story mode and it's all made extra tasty with that delicious Blizzard sauce.
StarCraft II is split into three parts, all of which are available as of last year. The base game is called Wings of Liberty (2010), which got an expansion pack called Heart of the Swarm in 2013. Legacy of the Void, the final standalone expansion was released in November 2015.
You haven't experienced true freedom until you've played Skyrim. This fifth part of the famous Elder Scrolls series offers players an immense world filled with towns to explore, secret caves to discover and arrows to take in the knee.
You are Dovahkiin, the last of the Dragonborn. Because the blood of dragons flows through your veins, you are the only one who can stand up to these firebreathing, flying lizards and save the ancient land of Skyrim. But not before you've explored every nook and cranny in this enormous world.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim also appeared on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but if you want the full experience you'll need to play it on the PC. Not only are the graphics notably better, there's a huge amount of mods to enhance your gameplay. Everything from the graphics and the interface to actual fan-made story content can adjust the game to your liking.