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How often do you hunt through your PC game library for something different and end up playing an old favorite instead? New games can be a big commitment. It might take hours to decide that a game is not for you, and you have only so much free time. The thing is, it’s OK to play one game forever. PC games often have a bit more depth and staying power than their console counterparts, and you can usually add mods to the game for a richer long-term experience. Our picks here have almost infinite replay value and can keep you entertained for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of hours.
More of a console gamer? Try our guides to the Best Xbox Series X/S Games, the Best PS5 Games, or the Best Nintendo Switch Games.
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Can you think of another game with the longevity of Minecraft? It’s surprisingly easy to get addicted to and so alive with creative possibilities that you can return daily for years and never exhaust them. Randomly generated worlds to explore combine beautifully with a survival challenge that drives you to build shelter, craft items, and defend yourself from monsters. The best Minecraft builds are awe-inspiring examples of what you might achieve, but there is a powerful social element, too, with the choice to play couch co-op or online multiplayer.
Some multiplayer servers boast their own lore and dramatic story arcs that unfold on YouTube to enormous audiences. More than a decade old now, Minecraft continues to evolve, and a big part of its enduring appeal is its ability to be whatever you want it to be.
Though I'm old enough to remember the original game, Civilization II was the first in the celebrated turn-based strategy series to get its claws into me. The “one more turn” mantra led to frequent all-night sessions that may or may not have impacted my college career. Oops.
The absorbing challenge of guiding a fledgling civilization through exploration, settlement, discovery, and war over centuries in a struggle to dominate the globe is endlessly engrossing. The game has grown tremendously over the years, and the latest Civilization VI is every bit as dangerously addictive as its predecessors. You can spend weeks nurturing your chosen nation, but a part of the charm is how quickly the sting of defeat fades into motivation. You'll always want to try again with the conviction that you will do better this time.
Truly a game without end, The Sims series is unlike anything else. Engage in some digital DIY, mold characters in your image, and sit loftily like a Greek god on Olympus, occasionally poking and prodding at your subjects to see how they react. Whether you want to nurture them and build happy families with fulfilling careers in idyllic neighborhoods or provoke a little drama and indulge in some weirder fantasies, the power is in your hands.
The series has lost some charm, growing sanitized and commercialized with curbs on your darker impulses and endless expansion packs, but you can still get lost playing it for days on end. The modding scene adds to the considerable replay value, and it is refreshing and relaxing to play at your own pace.
Even after sinking 700 hours into Rimworld, I feel like I’m still learning. There is always more to discover and fresh strategies to test. Building a successful colony can be tough when you're tending to a ragtag band of shipwrecked survivors on a hostile alien planet. Space pirates, giant insects, and wild weather test your endurance. Play as intended, with permadeath on, and your hard-won victories will feel all the sweeter for the people you sacrificed along the way. Simple 2D, top-down graphics don't impede the complex stories that often pack a real emotional punch. The Royalty and Ideology downloadable content allows for new directions, and there is a lively modding scene, but you can play the vanilla game for years.
There is a purity to Counter-Strike’s multiplayer gunplay that remains unmatched by other first-person shooters. Valve somehow distilled the essence of great FPS gameplay built upon team-based games and masterful level design. Teams of terrorists try to successfully bomb, assassinate, or seize hostages while counterterrorist groups strive to foil them. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is faithful to the original, and it regularly tops the Steam charts, for good reason. Slick, fast, and incredibly competitive, CS: GO can be downright painful for newcomers, and you need lightning-fast reactions to compete in the big leagues, but find a group on your level and the team games are extremely fun.
You may have doubts about the appeal of a farming simulation, but Stardew Valley stirs in RPG elements with a bucketload of charm and proves to be unexpectedly captivating. The cute art style and gentle music make for a refreshingly relaxing experience. You have boundless choices beyond improving your farm, nurturing and harvesting crops, and tending to animals. There's fishing, monsters to slay, quests to complete for the local townspeople, and even the possibility of a budding romance. A choice of online and split-screen multiplayer lets you play with friends, and annual updates have steadily expanded the game.
Stardew Valley is a nicer world than ours, a world that doesn’t judge you, and getting lost there for a while can be a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.
When Fortnite emerged, it resembled Valve's timeless Team Fortress 2, but developer Epic Games pulled in elements from other popular titles, citing Minecraft as an inspiration. Then PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds popularized the battle royale genre, where 100 players fight to the death on an island, and Epic quickly developed the mode that would catapult Fortnite into the zeitgeist.
Games usually have a particular audience, but Fortnite is adept at offering something for everyone, with creative and role-playing elements alongside frenetic third-person-shooter action. Epic also cleverly melded pop culture by including viral dances, musical events, and crossovers with movie and TV franchises like Star Wars and Stranger Things. Themed seasons keep things fresh and encourage players to keep coming back for more.
The Total War series combines a turn-based map with real-time historical battles to offer the ultimate strategic challenge. Rome: Total War, which arrived in 2004, was the pinnacle, giving you the chance to test your abilities as an armchair general, fighting to unite ancient Rome. Since then, the series has covered many periods and regions, most recently ancient China with Three Kingdoms. But the fantasy Warhammer version frees Total War from its historical shackles and allows for much greater variety in battles, with factions and unit types that have genuinely unique play styles. Owners of the first Total War: Warhammer game can play on a mega map that combines both games for a truly epic campaign. With the third game set to land this year, that world is about to expand even further.
Affectionately dubbed “Cracktorio” by fans, Factorio is more of an obsession than a game. If you choose to delve into this factory building simulation, you can expect to see conveyor belts when you close your eyes at night and dream of optimizations to perfect your production and improve your base. Tower defense elements make the base building more challenging, and the game throws waves of alien bugs at you. The familiar backstory of crashing on a planet is incidental, because this is really about perfecting a complex automated machine. It is hard to convey just how satisfying that can be. Countless updates and a wide range of mods have expanded on a base game that is very good at consuming your every waking moment.
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