The best Steam games span multiple genres. They transport us to fantastical worlds, undiscovered frontiers, outer space and back again, and are as pretty as they are nuanced and intuitive. In 2022, Valve’s digital storefront is brimming with games, which means it’s harder now than ever to sort the wheat from the chaff. If only someone gathered the best Steam games in one place, right? Read on, you lucky desktop dweller.
Best Steam games
Released in 2011, Terraria still stands out as one of the best examples of a sandbox game and why the genre is so beloved. With its procedurally generated worlds, Terraria offers you a lot to literally dig your way through. You can build your own home and furnish it, find treasure, fight monsters, craft equipment or just spend your time exploring.
Unlike games like Minecraft, exploring the world in Terraria means trying your best not to get killed. Thanks to the game having been updated generously over the years, there are over 3,000 items for you to discover, enabling drastically different styles of play, all without ever making things feels too easy. It’s that eye for balancing and a sense of wonder that makes Terraria enjoyable to play for hundreds of hours.
24. Persona 4 Golden
One of the most beloved JRPGs of all time, Persona 4 surprise-dropped on Steam in 2020, making it the only way to play this game outside of owning it on Sony’s Playstation Vita handheld (or even earlier, the original Persona 4 on PS2). It’s a great example for how much headway Japanese RPGs have made on PC, and it’s a testament to JRPGs being much more than Final Fantasy.
In Persona 4 Golden, supernatural elements, a philosophical look into our innermost desires meets normal high school life and a crime thriller. All of that not only works, but Persona 4 also has characters that will grow on you and one of the funkiest soundtracks in all of gaming. If you’re interested in Japanese RPGs, this one is near-unmissable.
23. Cities Skylines
The city-building genre is one of the original pillars of PC gaming, next to CRPGs and real-time strategy, but many of its past franchises have seen better days. But then Paradox Interactive made an attempt at a city-builder in the style of classics like Sim City, to great success – the formula of whiling away your time building a sprawling metropolis holds true.
By now there is likely no bigger game in this genre than Cities: Skylines, and we mean ‘big’ literally – several DLC allow you to build even more stuff and enjoy different seasons. If you like to simply build and maintain a city without having to worry about managing people (ew!), Cities: Skylines remains the best game in that category.
22. DOTA 2
DOTA 2 is your ultimate entry into the world of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games, and thanks to being adopted by Valve, one of the most popular games you can really only get on Steam. On paper, working together in a team of five to destroy another team’s ancient might sound simple, but there is a lot to becoming a good team, and choosing your equipment to fit your opponent.
As so often with multiplayer games, it’s the community that sets the tone – how you play, and who you play against, trends and discussions. All of this will have an effect on how you play, which makes it so fascinating. Give it a try if you’re intrigued by games that take time to learn and that may frankly take up a lot of time to keep up with too.
This cooperative shooter/RPG removes a common hurdle that keeps many people from trying a looter shooter, simply by being in third person instead of first person. It’s also a game that lives and breathes movement – quick dashes and jumps are the key to success here, instead of cover shooting.
Warframe has grown past mere combat, too, even though it features admittedly tons of weapons – if you want to explore a vast galaxy, take care of pets, fulfil quests to follow the game’s narrative or explore an open world zone, you can do all that and not spend a cent on it – this game completely free to play and it doesn’t bug you into spending money, either.
20. Monster Hunter World
To most PC gamers, Monster Hunter: World was the introduction to the Monster Hunter franchise, and what an introduction it was. In this game, you roam through a beautiful world in search for giant dinosaur-like monsters to, well, hunt. It’s the loop from searching for monsters to taking them on to investing in new equipment that makes this game so irresistible.
There is a strange thrill in coming across a monster, seeing it interact with its environment, and getting ready yourself for the big fight, especially when you’re playing with friends. It’s not all simple hack and slash, either – you need to get a proper feel for your weapon, with each type handling differently, and learn the move set of your opponent before you take it on, making things feel like a proper hunt.
19. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Following on from the classic original, Ori and the Blind Forest, the sequel continued to proved that you can combine beautiful visuals, music, smooth animation, and a very emotional story in a platformer.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps not only upholds those proud achievements, it even enhances upon them. The result is a pitch perfect – if difficult – platformer that controls beautifully, takes you on a journey through a stunning world and might even make you cry.
18. Death Stranding
There is no game like Death Stranding, and that’s what makes it so enticing – essentially, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima went all out on a game about hiking. While there is the occasional combat sequence, Death Stranding is really more about a guy who delivers items, all by himself, on his back.
This way it teaches you not only that walking with a lot of equipment to carry can be as meditative as it can be treacherous, but it also tells the story of a different kind of post-apocalypse, one that isn’t about zombies or marauding gangs. It’s a unique game that really needs to be experienced to understand its draw.
17. Crusader Kings 3
Winning territory and becoming a ruler are the themes of many strategy games, but Crusader Kings 3 comes with a unique social layer that’s really all about your character holding it together. Diplomacy turns into a soap opera, and you’ll love exchanging stories about how both your empire and your family developed in unexpected ways.
Crusader Kings 3 is a lot like life in medieval times must have been – war, intrigue and scheming were part and parcel to life of the nobility, and while you can be quite goofy with designing your own alternate history, this is a credit to how deep the game’s simulation truly runs.
16. GTA 5
GTA 5 is a game that has shaped PC gaming with its open-world design and storytelling, which is often as vapid but simultaneously enjoyable as a movie blockbuster. While the story alone makes it worth a play – as exaggerated and trippy as it can get – GTA 5’s eternal charm lies in how you’ll inevitably get distracted by side missions, or beautiful cars to steal, or simply seeing what’s around the next bend.
Everything in GTA 5, from its online multiplayer to its heists, lives from its tight, open world, an exceptionally well-designed place you simply want to get to know – not a lot of games have offered such a good open-world since, especially not in a metropolitan setting.
15. Doom Eternal
Doom Eternal is the embodiment of an adrenaline kick – tense, gripping and fast. Some fights require precise timing and feel almost like something inspired by a rhythm game, and the Doom’s trademark goriness makes every win feel impactful and earned.
How you choose to eviscerate your foes also determines what kind of equipment you can earn, adding a strategic layer to combat. Doom Eternal asks you to take risks and sometimes it’s just those split second decisions that let you be the last man standing in a room full of monsters. It’s frankly thrilling stuff.
14. Stardew Valley
Created by a single developer, Stardew Valley brought the farming sim craze back in a big way. It’s easy to see why – updated and enhanced to this day, five years after its initial release, Stardew is a labor of love. Day after virtual day, you work on your small farm, growing fruits and vegetables, taking care of animals, and weeding your land, but you can also unearth the secrets of the town’s old mine or get to know the villager’s stories, each of them memorable enough that the whole community will grow on you.
Stardew Valley understands that seeing the (literal) fruits of your labor is an extremely satisfying process, and it’s always a joy to plan out a new farm and try something different.
With Journey, another Playstation classic made its way to PC, and it’s nothing short on an experience. Here, visuals, animation and perhaps most importantly, music, come together in a game that needs no words to be emotionally gripping. It’s a masterclass in inciting emotion with seemingly very little, and also proves that anything can be a game, even without a fixed genre in mind.
Journey needs to be played in order to fully understand why it’s so many people’s favourite game, so if you haven’t yet, you really should.
12. Final Fantasy 14
Final Fantasy 14 is an MMO for people who don’t like MMOs. This incredible comeback kid, which began its life as a series of repetitive fetch quests, has grown into one of the online games with the best story. Best of all – you can play a large chunk of it completely free before you start paying the monthly subscription.
To get to the good stuff, you may have to put up with the old, boring incarnation of Final Fantasy 14 first, but it will be worth it – and if you do decide to play with others, you will meet a large and friendly community. Out of current Final Fantasy releases, this is simply the best one you can play. So if you like your RPGs with a large world and a bit more fantasy than futuristic technology, similar to the direction Final Fantasy 12 took, this is the best option right now.
11. Apex Legends
First and foremost, Apex Legends is incredibly smooth to play. Everything from movement to shooting feels good, and the helpful ping system makes finding anything again quick and easy. With a hero system that’s similar to Overwatch, you get rewarded for putting a lot of time into your favorite character, and get to take on a new challenge simply by playing someone different.
Maps feel incredibly dense, too, and you need to get to know them in order to find the spots at which you can revive your allies, which is a vital cooperative tool that emphasizes you’re playing with, as much as against, other people. We can’t stress enough how good movement feels however, because this is a top concern for any frantic battle royale, and no game has mastered it like Apex.
10. Hollow Knight
Possibly the most alluring thing about the best Metroidvania games, other than the gameplay challenge the boss encounters pose, is their sense of exploration. Hollow Knight has that feeling down pat. As a small bug knight, you explore an atmospheric underground kingdom, take on a large number of fellow bugs and develop your skills to reach even the last nooks and crannies.
Hollow Knight is an intriguing mix of difficult and relaxing, beautifully animated and mysterious enough to make you want to keep going even when the boss standing between you and the next section may make you want to tear your hair out – learning their move sets and eventually overcoming even the toughest foe is all part of the fun, after all.
9. Dishonored 2
When people talk about the freedom to play a game their way, Dishonoured 2 is still the most common example. As assassin Corvo or Emily Attano, you sneak your way through the city of Karnaca, in order to learn the identity of a mysterious killer. Dishonored isn’t only an achievement in stealth, it also manages to give you compelling reasons to approach situations non-violently, while still making sure you end up with your back to the wall often enough that sticking to one playstyle isn’t all too easy.
Renowned for its level design, Dishonoured gives you many different approaches, and to pull off a particularly daring play is a joy all of its own.
8. Return of the Obra Dinn
Detective games don’t get much better than Return of the Obra Dinn. Gruesome murders and other mysteries took place on a merchant ship, and it’s up to you to figure out what exactly took place, simply by gathering clues and coming to your own conclusions. It’s fascinating how hands-off the game is, too, simply asking you to pay attention to small things many other detective games regularly forget. You need a good eye and patience, but working a mystery out is immensely satisfying.
Return of the Obra Dinn shows that detective mysteries can be so much more than reading text-based clues and doing random puzzles – this is the full sleuthing experience.
7. Destiny 2
Destiny 2 is a game that keeps changing. Its latest incarnation, Beyond Light, deleted a good half of what’s there to simply replace it with better things, like the fun new Stasis power. This is a loot shooter that lives from, you guessed it, it’s excellent loot. Now that it’s free, there is also no other online shooter quite like it, both in setting, feel, and sheer breadth of content.
One thing is for certain – Bungie will keep trying to innovate, and Destiny 2 isn’t going anywhere, so this is a great time to start the game everyone’s playing.
6. Kentucky Route Zero
A standout among narrative games, Kentucky Route Zero knows how to craft a wonderfully dense atmosphere with seemingly very little. Here, the way that text moves can be more expressive than fully animated characters in other games. Kentucky Route Zero inhabits a space in magical realism storytelling no other game does, and it successfully explores how you use text to describe many different forms of gameplay. This is a game that fully delivered on its intent to be a magical experience, and it has very evocative art to boot.
5. XCOM 2
The XCOM reboot revived the landscape of round-based tactics, but while its gameplay has been often copied, there is nothing quite like the original. It’s one of those “just one more round” games, where getting your squad through an encounter takes good planning (and a few lucky surprises). Even though your home base grows and your soldiers become stronger over time, XCOM 2 is enjoyably tense because none of that ever means you’re safe – you’re simply gaining more gameplay options.
The excellent XCOM 2: War of the Chosen DLC adds a lot of flair to the game thanks to its warring factions. What before was little more than just an assortment of missions about humanity surviving hostile takeover by aliens that way even eventually got an exciting conflict.
4. Into the Breach
It’s chess, but with rocket launchers and mechs instead of knights and bishops. Okay, it’s not actually chess, but Into the Breach’s rules feel equally as simple and elegant. Your alien enemies – usually giant insects – always telegraph their next move, whether that’s moving one square, attacking a skyscraper, or spitting bile in your direction. It’s your job to slot those puzzle pieces into place, and decide how you can wipe out as many of them as possible in one turn.
You take control of one of eight mech squads, which you unlock sequentially, each with its own specialty. The Blitzkrieg are lightning specialists, the Frozen Titans use ice, the Steel Judoka use raw physical strength. Your three units have their own skills, and you must work out how to apply them to the situation at hand. As the Blitzkrieg, you might use your Hook Mech to move enemies into a line, then strike with your Lightning Mech to send a pulse of electricity through them all, for example. Randomized levels and the chance of upgrading your units keep tempting us back for one more round.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
More than anything else, it’s the world of The Witcher 3 that fascinates because it’s so large, beautiful, and stuffed with history. The Witcher 3 a lot less clunky than Skyrim, which it often gets compared to, and it shares its adult tone with some of the best high fantasy RPG franchises out there.
Gruff Witcher Geralt will grow on with each crotchety response, and the story paints a delicious, slowly unraveling mystery you will want to see through to the end. There’s a reason this game tops so many best gaming lists.
2. Divinity: Original Sin 2
The term “CRPG”, or “computer roleplaying game” may have lost its meaning, but it still describes a certain type of adventure, isometric and heavily inspired by famous pen and paper roleplaying games such as Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the best game of its kind you can play. You have the freedom to make a ton of really granular choices in regards to how to solve a quest, talk to your party members, and progress with the main story. Combat, too, can be endlessly versatile, if difficult, and you will have hours upon hours of fun teasing of each of the game’s secrets.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
For most genres, you have multiple games to choose from, but when it comes to spending time in the Wild West, the buck stops at Red Dead Redemption 2. This game encompasses every facet of what you thought being a cowboy would be like – senseless mass carnage, muck around at a saloon, enjoy the quiet of nature – and connect to those who have it hard out in the West. On the technical front, it’s beautiful and detailed, the performances are top-notch, and, like with almost every one of the best open-world games, you will frequently turn away on the road to your next objective, simply because you happened across an interesting encounter first.
Red Dead Redemption 2 feels like an adventure in best sense – it can be dramatic and quiet, moving and brutal. It’s a big, big, fulfilling one of the biggest gaming fantasies from our youth, next to being a knight and a ninja.
If you’re after some more great games for your PC, check out our list of the best pc games (opens in new tab).