The PC gaming scene has long been known as the home of some of the most innovative and original gaming experiences in the world. The best PC games of 2019 justified that reputation.
Due to a relative lack of high-profile releases, many of the best PC games of 2019 came from indie developers and other surprising sources. As a result, the games on this list are truly unique. From detective games that are secretly elaborate psych tests to a puzzle game that plays by its own rules, the best PC titles of the year offered an experiences we didn’t expect but absolutely loved.
As an added bonus, you can run most of this year’s best games on even the humblest of gaming PCs. One of them was even first released 15 years ago…
Here are 10 of the best PC games of 2019 in alphabetical order:
Baba Is You
March 13 | Hempuli Oy
Most great puzzle games are defined by a series of rules that help govern the experience. In Baba Is You, though, the rules are anything but defined. Actually, you’re able to change them by simply interacting with a few key blocks in each level that not only change the layout of the level but can alter how you win the game.
It sounds strange, and it is. However, the ability to manipulate what can and can’t be done in each level makes Baba Is You is one of the cleverest, most inventive, and downright challenging puzzle games in recent memory. There’s nothing else quite like it.
October 15 | ZA/UM
One part isometric RPG in the style of Baldur’s Gate and one part gritty detective adventure, Disco Elysium combines genres and ideas that we never knew we wanted to see on the same plate. Yet, we can’t help but go back for more.
Disco Elysium‘s “urban fantasy” setting is a compelling enough reason to give this game a look, but the real draw here is Disco Elysium‘s deep RPG mechanics. Not only are the game’s playable characters fully-customizable, but Disco Elysium asks you to determine what kind of cop you’re going to be in this rough world. It may be easy to position yourself as a righteous lawman, but the moral line in this dark universe may be too tough to see. For the intelligent ways it evolves the idea of discovering who you are in a video game through your actions and decisions, Disco Elysium deserves to be experienced.
December 2018 Early Access | Supergiant Games
Supergiant Games, the studio behind Transistor and Bastion, has always done things a little differently, and Hades is no exception. After all, it’s not every day that you play as the prince of the underworld as he tries to escape to Mt. Olympus with help from the gods.
Based largely on feedback its developers received from their other projects, Hades is a brilliant isometric action title that combines the best of role-playing and dungeon crawling. This addictive roguelike will have you carefully considering how you upgrade your character as you work towards the seemingly impossible. It highlights why Supergiant Games is one of the best in the industry when it comes to simple, refined, and ultimately clever PC gaming experiences.
April 4 | GrizzlyGames
We all need a break from high octane AAA games once in a while, and Islanders may prove to be one of the best breaks from the same old same old released in 2019. Combining elements of SimCity, Tetris, and other city builders, Islanders gives you a small collection of buildings and has you build the best settlement possible.
Be warned that this an almost cruelly addictive game. Islanders masters the art of “easy to learn, tough to master” like few other city builders ever have. Its puzzle-like mechanics ensure nobody feels overwhelmed while its surprisingly deep late game will thrill genre enthusiasts. It’s the kind of game you lose hours to while the more technologically demanding games on your powerful gaming PC go untouched.
Risk of Rain 2
March 28 | Hopoo Games
The original Risk of Rain is one of the best roguelike games ever made. Defined by its simple looks and accessible action gameplay, developer Hopoo Games took a tremendous…err…risk in converting the game to 3D, but Risk of Rain 2 manages to brilliantly re-imagine the incredible original.
Risk of Rain 2 features everything that made the original so notable, including unique characters, skills, and weapons, while addinga third dimension that greatly enhances the fundamental appeal of the original experience. It’s quite simply one of the best multiplayer games of the year and a tragically underrated expansion of the roguelike genre and its many compelling trappings.
Slay the Spire
January 23 | Mega Crit Games
This is a bit of a cheat considering that Slay the Spire has been in early access for quite some time, but the game’s official release was in January. As a roguelike deck builder, Slay the Spire is a unique experience. Even if it had more competition, though, we’d have a tough time imagining a game that can equal its brilliant strategy gameplay.
Slay the Spire has you maneuver through a series of branching levels as you try to build the best deck of cards possible and defeat all who stand in your way. This insanely addictive game is simply one of the best games on Steam and the type of game you can recommend to anyone who has a few (dozen) hours to burn.
January 31 | Failbetter Games
It’s a bit too easy to describe Sunless Skies as a Gothic horror sci-fi version of The Oregon Trail on a massive scale, but that description does a fairly good job of capturing just what makes this game so compelling. Sunless Skies takes what made Sunless Sea such a fascinating take on the role-playing/strategy genre and amplifies nearly all of it.
This is a game of discovery in which you must make some difficult choices and rely on the aid of some potentially unsavory characters in order to have a chance of surviving the horrors that lurk in the skies. Whether you see the best of what the game has to offer depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice.
June 2019 | Riot Games
2019 saw the rise of the auto-battler genre, with a few different competing for the top crown. While Hearthstone and DOTA‘s takes on the auto-battler concept are certainly worth your time, it’s the League of Legends-themed Teamfight Tactics that ends up being the best overall example of the genre.
Like other auto-battler games, Teamfight Tactics benefits from a simple, yet deep, core gameplay design that sees you draft units and strategically arrange them on a board in order to see if they can beat an opposing army. However, Teamfight Tactics separates itself with a brilliant item system, clever units, and constant updates from Riot Games that have kept the title’s meta fresh as new tactics constantly emerge.
They Are Billions
June 18 | Numantian Games
Available via Steam’s Early Access program since 2018, They Are Billions finally received its official release this year. Along with the full release comes a new story campaign, new technology, and more. However, the draw of They Are Billions remains the same as it ever was.
With its horde mode-like gameplay and expansive base-building options, They Are Billions is one of the most exciting and addictive real-time strategy titles of the last decade. It forces you to think on your feet while also planning ahead in order to survive some of the most daunting, zombie-filled strategy scenarios imaginable. More often than not, the thrill doesn’t come from “winning” (which many will find to be a nearly impossible prospect) but in finding a way to hold out just a little longer.
World of Warcraft Classic
August 27 | Blizzard
World of Warcraft is hardly a new game, and that’s especially true of this Classic edition, restores the game to its original vanilla state and 2004 glory. World of Warcraft Classic was certainly one of the most anticipated games of 2019 and arguably of the last few years. As it turns out, the hype was worth it.
Whether you simply long to relive your memories of first playing World of Warcraft or you want to see what the game was like before 15 years’ worth of expansions and updates, WoW Classic shows why World of Warcraft is considered to be one of the best games ever made. More than a nostalgia trip, WoW Classic is an epic adventure that rewards its most dedicated players with a grand-scale RPG that leaves even the largest modern titles feeling thin.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.