The best PC games of 2018

The countdown is over and we’ve solidified our list for the top 50 games of 2018, which covers the gamut of big-name blockbusters and small-team triumphs. But we know it’s a pretty long list, so here are the picks that can be played on Windows PC (and sometimes Linux and Mac, too).

Out of our top 50 picks, 35 can be played on PC. That’s more any other platform. Of those, seven titles cannot be played on any console: Frostpunk, Wreckfest, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, The Red Strings Club, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, BattleTech, and our #2 game of the year, Return of the Obra Dinn. That’s more than any other platform represented on our list.

As for the inclusion of games like Hollow Knight which technically first came out prior to 2018, well, what we said in the top 50 post holds true here as well:

You may notice the inclusion of games that were either fully released or made available in Early Access prior to 2018. Because many games change from update to update, let alone year to year, we will include previously available games that receive a significant update within the year or become available on a platform that substantially impacts how that game is experienced. For example, Fortnite Battle Royale is included, ranked No. 13, because we feel its recent seasons were the first great game of 2018.

Don’t worry too much about the ranking. It’s a fun and light exercise. Ultimately, we recommend all of these games. That’s why we’ve included a bit on what makes each one special: so you can find the best games of 2018 for you.

Related, we’ve nixed the numbers from this because, out of the context of the top 50, the rankings lose their value.

If you’re looking for recommendations that expand beyond 2018, check out our essentials page for the all-time best PC games.

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom - Prince EvanLevel-5/Bandai Namco

NI NO KUNI 2: REVENANT KINGDOM

No, you needn’t have played the first Ni no Kuni to enjoy its sequel, a feverishly optimistic (and welcomingly naïve) Japanese role-playing game inspired, in part, by the works of Studio Ghibli. Its colorful animation conceals a rich but not overly complicated kingdom-management system that gives the adventure a grand sense of scope. A fairytale storyline gives its motley band of heroes a playful pep that feels anachronistic, if not flagrantly in conflict with our times.

Here’s Cameron Kunzelman’s take from our review: “There’s not a wasted breath or a plot point that doesn’t manage to pay off in a significant way. Ni no Kuni 2 is a solid contemporary JRPG that brings a lot of design ideas that I love into sharp, clear focus while staying entertaining and engaging throughout.”

—Chris Plante

Available on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
Get it here: GameStop | Steam

Read more:

  • Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is a classic JRPG transported into the contemporary era
  • Ni no Kuni 2 is better because it’s aimed at Western fans
Frostpunk - person trailing behind group walking across glacier11 bit Studios

FROSTPUNK

Frostpunk gives me a deep sense of dread and satisfaction I didn’t think a city management sim could deliver. Unlike its contemporaries, which might include fiddling with a city’s economy, zoning and the happiness of its citizens, in this game, all my decisions have life and death consequences. Because in this world, resources are limited and there’s hardly any safety nets to be found. Mismanagement could mean folks might starve, freeze or beat each other to death.

While I enjoy the leisurely pace of similar sims, I really love how Frostpunk always manages to keep me on edge. Keeping a society alive, stable, and most importantly hopeful, in the darkest of scenarios is reason enough to keep playing. Not every decision I have to make is easy — many of which are the toughest I’ve ever been asked to make in a virtual world — but being the pillar of a crumbling society is a task I couldn’t help taking on time and time again. There’s something about crawling from the depths of despair to find hope over the horizon that keeps me coming back, even when all I could see ahead was an approaching storm.

—Jeff Ramos

Available on Windows PC.
Get it here: Amazon | Steam | Microsoft Store | GOG | Humble

Read more:

  • Frostpunk is a game about suffering on an industrial scale
  • An opt-in Frostpunk quest throws a lavish Christmas party at the end of the world
A ninja jumps over a lava pit in The MessengerSabotage/Devolver Digital

THE MESSENGER

I devoured The Messenger over a vacation at my in-laws. After a slow start on the flight, I found myself staying up late and waking up early to make my way a little further in this throwback 2D action-platformer that borrows gleefully from the Ninja Gaiden series and Metroidvanias. Its creators stuffed the crunchy, pixelated world with small, smart creative choices. A shopkeeper with a winning personality; secret, bad bosses with good intentions; environmental puzzles that bend the fabric of reality.

Many critics rightfully celebrated The Messenger’s second-act twist, which shifts the structure of the game in an unexpected way. It’s neat! But what’s stuck with me after that sprint through the campaign are the characters, who both get a complete story and feel primed for a sequel. Plus, the technical problems from launch on Switch seem to be fixed. Have a vacation coming up? Have I got the game for you.

—Chris Plante

Available on Windows PC and Nintendo Switch.
Get it here: Steam

Read more:

  • The Messenger is a shaggy but lovable adventure
  • I had no idea it was possible to hate the mid-game twist in The Messenger (via Waypoint)
Fallout 76 - a barn/garage marked ‘The Devil’s Pitchfork’Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

FALLOUT 76

Fallout 76 understands that an open world needs to be rewarding — not in terms of finding resources or new quests, but because the act of exploration itself should be engaging. Foregoing the skeleton-on-a-bed storytelling that worked so well in past games, Fallout 76’s landscape of wasteland West Virginia is speckled with descriptive mise-en-scènes. Every time I stumble on one, I feel like I’ve uncovered a secret about the world. I’ve found a birdhouse workshop, a gladiatorial arena and a household studded with cat-head wall plaques. That’s just a small slice of what’s on offer.

Fallout 76 can manage because there’s just so much good content; tons of enemies, buildings, quests, outfits. Sure there are no NPCs, but with the spice of online multiplayer added, I found I haven’t missed it much. The interactions I’ve experienced have been mostly kind — strangers showing off their bases or handing out desperately needed clean water. Occasionally they’ve been violent, but the wasteland is a dangerous place, and the repercussions for being murdered are pretty minor. More importantly, anything is possible in a virtual world, and Fallout 76 opens up the possibilities in a way few games do.

—Jenna Stoeber

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