From the depths of space to faraway kingdoms, the Game Informer staff has compiled a short list of games that deliver awesome escapism and plenty of variety. Many of these games are also large in size and can be great timesinks for those of us who are currently locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you don’t have a PC, we’ve already assembled similar lists for Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This is our final “shelter-in-place” list, but we’ll continue to bring you gaming ideas and suggestions in other ways right here and on our YouTube channel. Again, we hope everyone is healthy and safe and doing their best during this trying time. We’d love to hear what PC games you’ve been enjoying. You can list those in the comments section below.
If you are in the mood for a breezy game with familiar mechanics, then you should avoid Disco Elysium at all costs. But if you want something complex, dense, and unlike anything you’ve seen before, then this investigative RPG from developer ZA/UM is a must-play. As a terrible detective who is barely keeping it together, you try to solve a murder in the fictional city of Revachol. But this isn’t the story of the good cop tracking down an evil killer; it’s more about what a bad cop can accomplish with differing degrees of guilt and redemption. Contending with warring facets of your own mind, you interpret the clues and find solutions to problems – but don’t be surprised if your actions come back to haunt you later. Along the way, you learn about the world’s rich history and meet interesting characters. Even small interactions can have surprising ripples, which helps Disco Elysium reach new levels of immersion and reactivity. – Joe Juba
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Right now, I feel like the Earth is being attacked by an invisible, almost alien threat. If you’d like to put a face to that menace and then kick its ass (you know you do) then XCOM might be the game for you. Firaxis has iterated in its tightly designed turn-based strategy system a number of times, and there are several things that XCOM 2 does well, but Firaxis’ first take on the legendary franchise might still be the best entry for newcomers. When a consortium of monstrous aliens begins to invade our planet, it is your job to assemble a cutthroat black-ops team that can overcome their reign of terror. As your team levels up, they learn a number of awesome abilities – snippers can fire twice, shotgunners can bolt across the field and steamroll anything in their path, and your heavy units can blow up every damn alien that stands in their way. XCOM’s aliens are fearsome and full of their own tricks, but you always have a number of options to approach every situation, so each firefight feels like a unique combat puzzle. Firaxis’ randomly generated environments and a wealth of fan mods have made XCOM: Enemy Unknown one of the most endlessly replayable strategy games on the market, so even if you’ve already played it, I guarantee there is something in the game that can still surprise and delight. – Ben Reeves
“Story generator” is a casual way to refer to many games offering systems that interlock to deliver interesting, player-specific scenarios, but few have “story generator” so baked into the core pitch as Rimworld. The game sets you up with three procedurally generated characters, each with unique backstories and personalities, and lets you choose a storyteller that will spawn events a specific way – controlled and smart, completely random, or chill and non-threatening. You help the characters make choices and build a settlement, but for the most part simply watch them as they interact, work, hunt and build relationships. It’s a satisfying and memorable little world to help guide, and watching the social dynamics of your society develop is engaging to live vicariously through. They get to be outside a lot. – Leo Vader
With rich Steam Workshop support offering just about any board game you can think of for no additional cost (with nebulous legality), Tabletop Simulator is the best value in gaming. You’ll come for the free board games but stay for the social joys, whether you’re gathering friends around the table to try a game you’ve always been hesitant to buy, or joining a random public server to make small talk over a hand of poker. The controls are well optimized and allow pretty much anything you’d want to do at a real board game night, from passing out cards to flipping the table. Scripted games are also allowed, meaning that some games available on the workshop are programmed by the community to run themselves (e.g. calculating hit points), which makes learning them a breeze, as if you have an old pro guiding you. Tabletop Sim is a magical experience like no other, and there’s never been a better time to engage with it as a place to digitally hang out with the people you’ve been missing. – Leo Vader
What is it like to be an artificial intelligence? Observation explores this question by placing the player in the role of a space station’s A.I. that comes online to find the humans in peril. Something terrible happened on this ship, and you need to help the humans figure it out. Did you have something to do with it? Will you really help them? Can you given your programming parameters? The mystery unfolds through Observation’s suffocating white walls and it’s a hell of a story that you can likely get through in one six-hour sitting. As an A.I., you are asked to bring different systems online, figure out why things aren’t working, and even take control of drones to explore the station’s exterior. Developer No Code nails the setting (it’s haunting and beautiful) and also the story, which unfurls in a clever way that takes into account your actions. It ends up being a hell of ride that goes places I didn’t expect. – Andrew Reiner
World of Warcraft
MMORPGs are premium-grade fare for a lockdown scenario, offering tons and tons of content that’s perfect for tackling with your friends in a virtual setting. Get on Discord and have some banter while you plow through dungeons and farm reputation to prepare for the next massive expansion launch, Shadowlands. Not only is it a great time to lose yourself in Azeroth because of what’s happening in reality, but Blizzard is offering 100% experience and reputation gains until the Shadowlands content patch – which means you can level up and farm allied races extremely fast, and get to take a sweet World of Warcraft tour while you do it. Once you hit level 15 just mash that random dungeon button for a tour of history, getting a taste of every expansion on your fast rise to level cap. If you already have level-capped characters ready to rock, maybe it’s time to go back and get some reputation to unlock some of the classy allied races like Dark Iron Dwarves, Vulpera, or Zandalari Trolls. You can then level these new races up from scratch with the buff to get an exclusive set of heritage armor at the end, which ensures you’ll be hanging out in WoW’s afterlife expansion in style. It might be dreadful outside, but now’s a great time to meet up with your friends (or make new ones!) in another world. The world… of Warcraft. – Daniel Tack
As the ominous voice of the narrator ushers you in to join your first adventure in the Darkest Dungeon, a tone of creeping insanity and melodramatic drama sets in. In its rogue-like role-playing game, Red Hook Studios immediately captures that potent flavor of Lovecraftian storytelling, and proceeds to roll out a gameplay loop that matches. In one dungeon run after another, you take a team of beleaguered adventurers into the depths, desperately gathering treasure and experience, and trying not to have your party go mad in the process. A smartly structured combat system is the heart of the game, where character positioning and ability variety must be expertly understood and deployed to overcome the horrors you face. In between delves into the deep, you slowly improve the small town at the mouth of the dungeon, building up additional bonuses that might just let you last a bit longer. Darkest Dungeon is challenging, beautifully dark, and tactically rewarding – and a great way to wile away the hours. – Matt Miller
The Sims 4
The Sims 4 has come a long way since its rocky launch, and the PC is by far the best way to play it. In a world where our lives lack normalcy, The Sims can give us back something resembling the life we’ve had to put on hold, like going into the office each day and visiting parks and bars without having to practice social distancing. More so, in The Sims, you build any life you wish and everything feels in reach. Want to be a best selling author? Just work hard on that writing skill. What about a mad scientist? Better spend some time with the telescope and working in your lab. The Sims 4 has really taken the game to new heights with its emotion system, easy building tools, and fun new items. Yes, you can be a professional gamer and even enter online gaming tournaments. If you’re looking for a low pressure game to just lose yourself in, The Sims 4 is a great choice, and various expansions will also keep you busy by letting you try to become famous or become immersed in university life. Time to build a better life! – Kimberley Wallace
RollerCoaster Tycoon 2
Since we’re all stuck (mostly) inside and unable to visit our favorite theme parks or get together with friends, it’s the perfect time to design the thrill rides of your dreams with one of the great simulation games of the past. Sure, the visuals are dated, but RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 gives you the perfect toolset to design whatever your heart desires in a simple and efficient manner. Whether you want to attack the scenarios in the campaign or dive into the sandbox and create whatever your heart desires without limits – even elaborate death traps for your all-too-trusting patrons – RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 is satisfying and fun. To top it all off, since it’s an older game, it’s extremely affordable, with the Triple Thrill Pack, which contains the base game as well as both expansions, sitting at a mere $10 (or just over $13 for a bundle including the original RollerCoaster Tycoon) on Steam. If you don’t have nostalgia for the older RollerCoaster Tycoon games and want something a bit more modern, forego the subsequent entries of the RCT series and opt for Planet Coaster by Frontier Developments. – Brian Shea