With such a smorgasbord of games to choose from, logging into your Steam Account for the first time can be a little daunting. Where do you start? A big PC classic? An indie darling? A new and sparkling must-have? It’s a tall order to contend with, so rather than leave you floundering in a sea of choice, we’ve cherry-picked ten of our favourites from Steam’s impressive library of digital goodness.
And with those fruitful sales almost always looming tentatively on the horizon, our selection of the best games on Steam is guaranteed to keep you gaming well into 2017 and beyond.
1. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
It’s not often a franchise as iconic as Resident Evil gets a new lease of life - especially when you consider the zomb-loving licence had descended into a lifeless farce over the past decade – but here we are with a genuinely frightening horror game with the words ‘Resident Evil’ in the title. What a world, eh?
While us PC folk aren’t allowed to scare ourselves half to death in VR yet (RE7 is a PSVR at the moment), that doesn’t mean it’s any less terrifying. Dropping the third-person perspective that’s felt tired and rote for many a year, RE7 embraces the first-person view that’s helped Outlast and the like re-energize the horror genre, and boy does it make for one chilling 8-10 hour scare fest.
With Capcom’s big budget, a creepy swamp setting (honestly, just go with it) and a storyline that feeds back into the series’ winding mythology, you’d be crazy not to add this to your Steam library.
Get it here: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
2. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
How could we put together a list of the games to play on Steam and not include the latest offering from the master of turn-based strategy and tactical simulation? The Civilization series has been through many a form over the years, but entry number six takes all the best bits from those previous incarnations, smoothes off the edges and serves up one of the most rewarding turn-based video games ever made.
There’s nothing quite like building a nation from its fledgling roots and nurturing it into a cultural powerhouse, and Civ number six gives you more freedom and control than ever. Removing the pre-set paths that hampered the still stellar Civ V, Civ VI transforms into a landscape that rewards plucky explorers and confident conquerors with the opportunity to expand their budding society with new technologies and alliances. Sid Meier’s name alone is part of PC gaming’s lofty heritage, so owning this little doozy is a no-brainer.
Get it here: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Undertale is one of those games that stays with you. A work of digital art whose charm and creativity never fail to lose their edge, regardless of how many times you play it through. And considering just how many innocuous JRPGs are out there right now, that’s a pretty impressive feat in unto itself.
So why is Undertale so brilliant? It takes all of the best elements from the ever-evolving RPG genre and creates a world built on choice, consequence and compassion. As a child dropped into an underground world filled with terrors, you’ll have to face many a monster to make it home. How you face them, and what choices you make, define your journey.
And its Telltale-esque consequence system doesn’t just extend to dialogue choices – you can choose to spare monsters after a fight, forging potential vital alliances for later in the game. You can even end fights by telling your opponent jokes. It’s a game of such warm and affable quality you’d almost believe it was a JRPG from the earliest heydey of the genre.
Get it here: Undertale
4. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
We almost picked the brilliant squad-based mayhem of Rainbow Six: Siege, but it’s hard to deny the sheer enduring charm and addictiveness of CS:GO. It’s become part of the fabric of the PC gaming community, as integral to the continued success of the FPS as it is to the growth of eSports. It’s also still one of the most played – and the most streamed – titles on Steam. Which isn’t bad for a five-year-old game based on an old Half-Life mod.
Even its connection to the skins betting scandal in 2016 has failed to tarnish its position as one of the industry’s most well-loved games – an impressive feat when you consider how much other multiplayer shooters such as Overwatch have remapped the topography of the industry. So whether you’re running around brandishing your combat knife, no scoping someone into a blind rage or leaping about a mad mod with your friends, CS:GO is video gaming royalty.
Get it here: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
5. XCOM 2
Few games garner as much acclaim from both fans and critics as Firaxis’ perma-death RTS, but then few games can really hold a torch to XCOM 2’s alien-slaying goodness . For a game that will wantonly kill members of your squad forever, never to be see in virtual warfare again, the simulated war against an invasionary force of ETs is easily one of the most addictive things we’ve ever played.
Unlike other RTS games, XCOM 2 follows the path of its brilliant forebear and sees you trading control of an entire army for a small squad of hardened human recruits. Thing is, should you make the wrong play and leave one of your poor grunts mopping up bullets, they’ll stay six feet under. No regens. No respawns. The finality of that concept is merciless, but it makes for a moreish risk/reward setup that will keep you coming back for more.
Get it here: XCOM 2
6. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
For years, one game sat atop the dark and misty mountain of action-RPGs. Skyrim was its name, and no other franchise, be it Dragon Age or Dark Souls, could even come to close to unseating its cast-iron grip upon the genre. Then along came Geralt of Rivia, riding atop The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with a confident swagger, ready to give The Elder Scrolls a good thrashing.
If you’re looking for a game that strikes a perfect balance between length of play (you could easily spend 100+ hours across its incredibly diverse map – one that’s a good 20% bigger than poor old Skyrim) and sheer quality, The Witcher 3 is a must. There are just so many virtues The Witcher 3 has to its name – brilliant writing, unforgettable quests, genuinely challenging beasts and a pair of DLC expansions (Hearts of Stone, and Blood and Wine) make this one of the best games of this and any other generation.
Get it here: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Inside will break you heart. Let that be your warning going in.
Don’t see such words as a deterrent, but rather as a mystery to be uncovered scene by heart-wrenching scene. Created by the same studio that made the wonderful 2.5D platformer Limbo – you know, the one about a little boy stuck in a nightmare world where a giant spider chases him endlessly – it should come as a huge shock to learn that Inside will leave you just as tearful as its predecessor.
Thing is, Inside is a brilliant piece of art. Without a scrap of dialogue, you’ll explore a world in a similar platforming vein to Limbo, overcoming various ingenious environmental puzzles and evading both the flashlights of an oppressive government and the shadow of a conspiracy that’s clearly not going to end well.
But it’s worth every second. There’s a reason it won many a GOTY award in 2016, so you’d be a fool not to add this to Steam library. Just remember to pack a few tissues.
Get it here: Inside
8. Rocket League
Once upon a time there was a little game on PlayStation 3 called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. It was all about using remote control-esque cars to knock a giant football around a makeshift pitch. Thing is, no one played it and the game slowly faded into obscurity. Then Rocket League came along, which was basically the same thing, albeit with tweaked physics and a greater focus on multiplayer. One trip into PlayStation 4’s PS Plus lineup later and the game went supernova.
And with good reason, too. It’s simple concept just works – it’s a place where skill shines through as you boost your little RC car and hit the motorised equivalent of a bicycle kick. It’s glorious, offering one of the best ways to play online (whether with friends or a bunch of randoms). Come on, who doesn’t want to spend their evening chasing a football with a car? FIFA? Pfft.
Get it here: Rocket League
9. Portal 2
Portal, back in its day, was a game-changer. Sure, it sounds like we’re filling out boots with hyperbole, but back in 2007 all those portals, companion cubes and sociopathic AIs were blowing our minds on loop. Then Portal 2 came along and made the original look like a crossword puzzle in The Sun.
Okay, the first Portal is still amazing, but Portal 2 took a genuinely revolutionary concept and redefined it. Everything in this game works perfectly - the ebb and flow of its story, the growing complexity of the puzzles and the new ways you’re forced to make your mind think with portals. It’s even got Stephen Merchant and JK Simmons in it!
Portal 2 manages to take a brilliant recipe and somehow make it even more delicious, sprinkling in all new depths of platforming and puzzle flavour. If you haven’t played it, buy it now. If you have, play it again.
Get it here: Portal 2
H1Z1: King of the Hill
While the original H1Z1 failed to win many fans with its mostly forgettable zombie open world, the game was instead split into two parts, with one dropping the undead in favour of a third-person multiplayer shooter. It’s a PvP madhouse, full of players driving cop cars into buildings and clouds of toxic gas flooding over the hills. It’s also still a game with H1Z1 in the title, so King of the Hill is also kind of broken.
It might sound like a negative – and it obviously is – but it’s also a fundamental part of KotH’s charm. Just take a look at a Twitch stream or a compilation on YouTube – when the game loses the plot, it just makes the whole experience that bit more entertaining. Seeing someone try to run you over only to witness their car explode for no reason never gets old (unless you’re the one driving, that is), so strap on your best motorcycle helmet, dust off your AK and forget the word ‘zombie’ even existed.
Get it here: H1Z1: King of the Hill