Built to last
Far too many games these days are built to be played in small bursts: brief encounters, designed for a world with too few hours in the day and too many digital distractions. And that’s fine! Blasting through a few rounds of Overwatch or Rocket League matches is a wonderful way to spend some time.
But sometimes, you want something more—something meatier. Whether you’re looking for an entertaining way to blow a long stint at home or simply want to wrap your head around a satisfyingly complex experience, these 20 deep, intricate, and just plain great PC games will hold you for hours and hours and hours on end. They’re the best long PC games that you can play, and better yet, several of them are available as Microsoft’s fantastic Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription, the best deal in PC gaming.
Editor’s note: We periodically update this article as new games are released.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
The series sat dormant for years, but Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 was worth the wait. The scale and scope of the game—you can explore the entire world!—stuns, and it’s made even more impressive by the use of real-time weather provided by Microsoft’s Azure service. Shortly after the game launched, a hurricane struck the United States, and you could fly into the middle of it in Flight Simulator while the storm battered the coastline. That makes revisiting previously toured locales rewarding over and over again, especially since the available planes each handle very differently. Dust off that flight stick and prepare to be enthralled for a long, long time.
Wasteland 2 was our favorite game of 2014, heralding a glorious return to form for CRPGs. Wasteland 3 is better in every way, with wonderfully defined worldbuilding, much more streamlined gameplay, and a story that keeps you hooked. The turn-based tactical gameplay never starts to feel stale, unlike the end of Wasteland 2, and the game is brilliant at responding to your choices. Crucially, it’s much more polished as well.
Is Wasteland 3 innovative? Not really. But it’s terrifically executed. This is the true Fallout successor that Bethesda never delivered. Don’t miss out on this silly, yet serious post-apocalyptic thrill ride.
Crusader Kings 3
It’s not easy running a country, but Crusader Kings III is significantly easier on newcomers than its beloved—but dense—predecessor. The deep tutorial is a much-needed improvement, but Paradox also added a heavy coat of polish that makes the game feel much more friendly. Of course, that friendliness disappears the second your nephew initiates a plot with a coven of witches to try to assume your throne, but Crusader Kings III easily stands out as the best grand strategy game yet, with incredible levels of complexity, flexibility, and insane political machinations.
Crusader Kings II became a cult classic. Crusader Kings III seized the crown outright. You can sink hundreds of hours into this and still barely scratch the surface.
As CD Projekt Red’s first triple-A game after the legendary Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077 wound up becoming hyped to impossible levels, then saw its reputation dragged through the mud when the game launched in a dire state on last-gen consoles. Don’t let that scare you off it on PC, though. Sure, there are bugs, but Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City feels alive like no other virtual metropolis, with dense streets and an unprecedented verticality that opens up all manner of paths. You’ll find secrets tucked everywhere too. CD Projekt’s writing remains best-in-class, the deep character builds allow immense flexibility in play styles, missions often have more than one available outcome, and a robust photo mode provides hours of extra entertainment if you’re into that sort of thing.
Cyberpunk 2077’s story can be completed in a couple dozen hours if you stick to the main quests, but the real depth lies in the abundant side missions and gigs, and just exploring every nook and cranny of Night City. Take your time and enjoy—though since the character builds are so varied, and the quests offer so many outcomes, you can hop right back in with a totally different playthrough as soon as you’re done.
Pokemon, for all its popularity, has never really had a great PC equivalent—until now. Temtem, released January in Early Access, is a “loving homage,” by which I mean it’s as close to Pokemon as you could get without being sued. It’s the knock-off Oreos of video games.
Still, I’m not complaining. Sure, it’s a bit disorienting visiting Professor Konstantinos and picking from three starter Temtems and capturing your first definitely-not-Pidgey in a card instead of a ball. You get used to it though, and Temtem even improves on the source material in some ways, upping the difficulty and depth with two-on-two battles. I wish it was less of a grind, but hey, it’s in Early Access and it’s as close to a competent Pokemon clone as we’ve ever received on PC.
It’s been a long time coming but the Yakuza games are finally on PC—or at least the first three. That’s still quite an introduction though, with over 100 hours of game between Yakuza 0, Kiwami, Kiwami II, and the newer Like A Dragon.
It’s a journey worth taking. Yakuza vacillates between silliness and soap opera with more grace than any other series, making you laugh right before it punches you in the gut. It’s a fascinating dichotomy, and only becomes more interesting over time as you get to know Kazuma Kiryu, Majima, and the rest of Yakuza‘s sprawling cast. The city is a character in itself as well, with Kiryu’s small slice of Tokyo evolving over the course of multiple decades. New buildings appear, old ones disappear, and occasionally Kiryu’s actions leave scars the city never quite recovers from. It’s an incredible saga, and I can’t wait for Sega to bring the remaining games over as well.
Battle royale games
This is less a specific game, more a blanket recommendation. After having Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds on this list for years, perhaps it’s time we finally give the rest of the battle royale genre a shot. Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, they all involve dropping onto an island with 100 other people and competing to be the last one standing. But which one should you choose?
Really, the answer’s probably as simple as “Whatever your friends play.” That said, PUBG is the granddaddy, the one that popularized the genre. It’s slow and complicated and has mostly been surpassed by everything that came after. Fortnite is on the other end of the spectrum, cartoony and frantic, with a unique crafting mechanic and ambitious one-off events.
And in the middle you’ll find Warzone and Apex Legends. Both are faster than PUBG but more grounded than Fortnite, with Warzone based on Call of Duty and Apex based on Titanfall. You can’t go wrong with either, and I generally find these two to be the sweet spot—great shooting, streamlined loot systems, active communities. Might as well try them for yourself, since everything but PUBG is free.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar’s critically acclaimed and utterly massive open-world western finally landed on PCs a long year after its console debut, but the wait was worthwhile. Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is the definitive way to play, with options galore and luscious graphics that can even bring a fearsome GeForce RTX 2080 Ti to its knees if you crank up all the eye candy.
It’s one of the longer games in recent memory too, fleshed out even more by all the diversions. We’ve been even more enthralled by simply wandering the massive landscape, hunting animals, buying pomade for Arthur Morgan’s mustache, and caring for our horse than the actual story. Rockstar truly made a living world here, and you’ll want to get lost in it for a while—especially if the superb Photo Mode sinks its hooks into you.
Disco Elysium is like Planescape Torment, if Planescape plopped you in the shoes of an amnesiac drug-addicted cop recovering from one hell of a bender in the middle of a murder investigation. And, uh, your party consisted of the warring voices and emotions shouting in your head instead of other people. And there was no combat.
It’s the most transformative RPG we’ve played in a long time, and the best PC game of 2019. Better yet, it transforms around you, heavily adapting to the skills you choose, the voices in your head you decide to listen to, and whether or not you decide to play things straight or indulge the wild impulses suggested by those whispers. It’s wild stuff—much more than we can get into here. Check out our review for more details. And it’s more than you can likely bite off too, as the developers say the game last 60 to 90 hours, and it just screams for repeated playthroughs.
If you prefer your deep roleplaying experiences with a more Fallout-y vibe than Disco Elysium’s strict CRPG roots, check out Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds, a.k.a. the Fallout: New Vegas spiritual successor you always pined for. It’s great.
The Division 2
The Division wasn’t a very good game at release. It got there eventually, but it took multiple years and myriad updates. So when Ubisoft announced a sequel, the question was “Will they get it right this time?”
The answer is yes. The Division 2 is still a fairly grounded game, and I’m more partial to Destiny‘s weird guns and space opera story myself. If you like modern military realism though, The Division 2 has plenty of loot-shooting to keep you occupied for days and days and days. “Finishing” the story is just the start too, as wrapping the campaign introduces a brand new faction and new subclasses for your character, and resets the world in the process. Then when you finish reclaiming Washington D.C. for a second time? It resets again. And again. Ubisoft’s made it so you can basically keep playing The Division 2 forever if you’d like, and once you hit World Tier 5? You can head back to Manhattan to play through the new Warlords of New York expansion.
I still wish the loot were more interesting than AK-47s and knee pads, but The Division 2 definitely learned the lessons of its predecessor. It had a strong endgame from the get-go, and Ubisoft’s only expanded it in the year-plus since release—though I’ll admit, it’s a bit weird to play in the shadow of a real-world pandemic.
Planet Zoo is dangerous. While writing this, I thought “I guess I’ll pop into the Steam Workshop and see what people have been working on.” Then almost an hour disappeared, as I dug into donation bin covers and custom flower arrangements and different fences and reptile houses and—wow, apparently someone made a McDonald’s?
There’s an incredible construction set at the heart of Frontier’s builders, both Planet Coaster and now Planet Zoo. If you want to design every last detail of an exhibit, every plant and rock and water feature, then there’s nothing better than Planet Zoo. And if you just want to watch the simulation play out, watch animals go about their lives? Yeah, it’s pretty great for that too.
It’s one of those games I’m always sad to stop playing—and after tonight’s trip through Steam Workshop, it looks like it’s about time to start again.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Dark Souls is over, but From Software isn’t done yet. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is From’s first game in the post-Souls era, and it’s…well, in a lot of ways it’s very similar. Sekiro is still about pattern memorization, about painstaking combat finesse, about breezing through a few dozen small enemies only to get crushed by the boss again. Flavor text for items is still mostly nonsense, and there’s a bonfire stand-in. Souls fans will recognize the shared lineage.
But Sekiro differs in key ways. It’s a more vertical (and more mobile) game, allowing you to jump and even use a grappling hook to get around. And on that note, Sekiro also encourages stealth when possible, leaping down from above or stabbing from the bushes to quietly thin out encounters. Failing that, you’d better get good at parrying. Dark Souls was a game of rolling and dodging, but doing so in Sekiro is a losing gambit. Stand your ground, match sword with sword, and hope you come out on top.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
It didn’t seem possible for Creative Assembly to make a historical Total War game with the same depth as their recent Warhammer games. I would’ve played it anyway, because I got my start on historical Total War and I’m a fan of those games. Warhammer gets to play with dwarves, vampires, elves, and more though, while mainline Total War is still a story about humans, and there’s only so much creative license you can take. I was expecting essentially just another Rome II reskin with some slight interface and unit changes.
Total War: Three Kingdoms is much more than that though. It’s easily one of the best entries in the series, drawing on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period for flavor that makes every battle, every conquest, every tense diplomatic give-and-take feel more meaningful than it has in the past. How? By making characters the center of every decision. It worked for XCOM, it worked for Crusader Kings II, and now it’s made Three Kingdoms an instant classic as well.
Though hey, if you’re dead set on sending oversized bats into a unit of charging dinosaurs? Those Warhammer games are great too.
Final Fantasy XIV
I can’t believe we got here. Lest we forget: Final Fantasy XIV was so bad upon initial release, Square Enix killed it dead. Buried it. Then they rebuilt basically the entire game from scratch and released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
But from ignominious beginnings arose perhaps the best MMO of the modern era. Maybe even more than that. According to our own Leif Johnson, “There’s no longer any question that Final Fantasy XIV warrants inclusion in discussions of the best Final Fantasy games of all time.” The catch? You’ll need to put in upwards of 100 hours in order to experience its best bits, working your way through six years of story and the accompanying grind. Then again, that’s perfect for this article, so what are you waiting for? Better create your very own cat-lady and give it a go.
Anno is a series about supply chains, and that hasn’t changed for Anno 1800. The only difference, really? Now you’re doing it in the Victorian Era and building up a transatlantic empire in the process. That adds all sorts of complications, sloooowly shipping steel to your colonies, using it to construct a distillery, then sloooowly shipping rum back to Britain and hoping it’s enough to keep your citizens placated.
I’m making it sound easier than it is, as Anno 1800 has dozens of different products you’ll need to supply in both the New and Old World. A few farms, a factory—before you know it you have a metropolis numbering in the thousands, twelve fisheries, a dozen breweries, and somehow you’re short on cigars again. Time to construct another tobacco farm or five. Oh, also it’s 3 a.m. and you were supposed to be asleep hours ago. There’s probably time to lay out one more road though, right?
Into the Breach
“Into the Breach begins with the end of humanity. The Vek, a subterranean race of giant bugs, swarms out of the ground and kills everyone on Earth. And that’s it! Party’s over. Luckily, time travel exists. There’s enough power to send a squad of mechs back to the earliest moments of the Vek onslaught. Humanity gets one more shot, one final run—unless you screw this timeline up too, in which case the whole process repeats again. And again. And again.”
Unlocking new mech squads and carrying solo pirates over to new timelines (with randomized maps) provides endless fun. And each run can be completed far more quickly than your usual Civ or XCOM campaign. It’s turn-based tactics distilled, a bite-sized version that still manages to have deep and complicated combat systems to discover within its otherwise-limited scope.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
The first Divinity: Original Sin was one of the best PC games of 2014 thanks to its deep systematic combat, which felt like what isometric CRPGs could have been if they had thrived over the years instead of temporarily dying in the early 2000s. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is better in every way, and sits beside The Witcher 3 as one of the best role-playing games released this decade.
Original Sin 2 doubles down on the XCOM-like mechanics of the original, but the real improvement came in the story. To say narrative was an afterthought in the original would be an understatement. Divinity: Original Sin 2 steps it up, weaving compelling dialogue together with Larian’s hallmark mechanics-first approach. Every quest, dialogue, and interaction is modified by your character’s unique traits, such as race and upbringing—doubly so if you play as one of five preset “Origin” characters.
This game clocks in at a meaty 80-plus hours. The ability to roll your own characters, shift around the characters of your party, or even play the whole thing in four-player co-op gives the game near endless replayability. Play this!
Rainbow Six Siege
We’re nearing the end of this console generation, and I still feel like Rainbow Six Siege is the only shooter to really make good on that “next-gen” feel. Maybe PUBG too. Maybe. The two are such opposite ends of the spectrum though, with PUBG focused on enormous maps and high player counts while Rainbow Six Siege pits twelve people against each other in a house or a bar or whatever.
Focusing on the micro allows Rainbow Six Siege to pull off some of the tensest multiplayer I’ve ever played though, attackers and defenders both vying for control over sightlines that could explode into pieces at any second. Shooting through walls—or blowing them up entirely—is the tentpole feature of Siege, but the moments between explosions are even more tense, holding your breath and wondering “Was that a footstep? Where did it come—” and then you’re dead. You could play for years and never master all its tricks, and it’s the one multiplayer game where every time I see it I think, “Damn, I should play more Siege.”
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky might never be the game people wanted it to be pre-release, but it’s gotten damn close over the past few years—particularly with 2018’s No Man’s Sky: Next update. Multiplayer! Better crafting! Base building!
As I said when we re-evaluated the game, “If you’re still somehow hoping for that ‘Wow’ moment, exploring this ‘limitless’ universe, I don’t think you’ll find it.” No Man’s Sky is still the greatest example of procedural generation’s failings, as you keep seeing the same plants and rock formations and et cetera across the entire universe, watching the ingredients combined and recombined into “new” combinations like a video game version of the Taco Bell menu.
That said, actually playing No Man’s Sky has improved a lot since release. If you’re looking for a light space sim, an Elite Dangerous or a Star Citizen where you can lean your chair back and explore in peace, it’s worth a second look—especially if you bought it in 2016 and it’s still kicking around in your Steam library. I’m sure that applies to some of you reading this.
Kingdom Come Deliverance
Skyrim and the other Elder Scrolls entries aren’t on this list because most gamers have played—or at least heard of—Bethesda’s buggy masterpieces by now. But if you’re a fan of open-world western-style RPGs, don’t miss out on Kingdom Come Deliverance. This game is basically a realistic Skyrim set in the Holy Roman Empire, and it leans into accuracy hard. You’re the son of a blacksmith. Moving up in the class-obsessed circa-1400 society takes real time, and real hard work. You’ll spend a day lugging a spoiled nobleman’s armor into the woods to hunt rabbits. Earning your first sword comes hours and hours into the story. Merely reading requires leveling up the skill.
It’s deep, and like Bethesda’s games, it’s kind of janky. But to Kingdom Come Deliverance’s credit, its incredible ambition and unique aesthetic made the game’s rough edges never feel that rough. For now, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is decidedly niche, and all the better for it.
The final chapter of witcher Geralt of Rivia’s trilogy mixes the grim, realistic atmosphere the series is famous for with an open world reminiscent of Skyrim—but oh so different.
Rather than ruining the experience, I’ll just say that Witcher 3: Wild Hunt earned a rare five-star review, easily won PCWorld’s 2015 game of the year award, and is my personal favorite game of all time. If you’re rushing, you’ll wrap it up in 60 to 80 hours. Feeling more explorative? Expect to spend as much as 200 hours-plus wandering the world, slaying monsters, and that’s before you dip into the fantastic expansions.
XCOM 2 ratchets the tension even higher than the original reboot by putting you on the offense, as XCOM becomes a guerrilla force in a world conquered by aliens. You command a force of soldiers putting their lives on the line to conquer the threat. That’s no joke: If one of the commandos under your watch dies, he stays dead, taking his hard-won experience with him. Too many wrong moves could leave your squad stacked with rookies rather than grizzled vets, possibly forcing you into restarting the game.
XCOM 2‘s tactical, turn-based combat is tough, with both maps and enemies randomized for every battle, but the game gives you plenty of time to think through your moves. During the strategic phase between missions, you deal with organizational tasks—managing finances, expanding XCOM’s influence, researching newly uncovered alien tech, et cetera. You have to balance between striking the aliens where it hurts while avoiding their counterattacks, juggling scarce resources all the while. It’s excellent.
The game offers near endless replayability, but if you get sick of the basic scheme, two additional modes turn XCOM 2 into whole new games, essentially. War of the Chosen is an official expansion by Firaxis that adds a ton of new factions, enemies, storylines, weapons, and more, while the sublime Long War 2 total conversion mod greatly extends the duration of the game and ramps up the importance of the strategic map and resource planning. They’re both excellent, full stop.
Grand Theft Auto V
It took years for Grand Theft Auto V to land on PCs, but the wait was worth it. The PC version of GTA V is easily the definitive version of the game, bundled with a video editor for custom clips and overflowing with all sorts of tweakable settings and sliders to bend the look of Los Santos to your will.
And oh, what a glorious world Los Santos is. GTA V features not only the massive city, but also the surrounding countryside, along with numerous suburbs, towns, and wilderness areas, all overflowing with stuff to do. This playground is utterly massive—and it’s fully open and ready to explore from the get-go, unlike previous GTA games. You could waste days simply people watching in first-person mode, and that’s before dipping your toes into the addictive GTA Online, which Rockstar has kept stocked with frequent updates that add new game modes, heists, vehicles, and more.
A sequel to the beloved Elite from the Amiga-era days, Elite: Dangerous is massive. This mammoth game drops you into the middle of a ginormous universe with more than 400 billion—yes, billion—individual star systems, each with their own planets, space stations, asteroids, players, and more. And new things are being added all the time, aided by the game’s connectivity requirement. Simply traveling from our reviewer’s starting point to Earth’s home system took roughly 30 hours.
Elite: Dangerous would be well served by better introductory tutorials. But for sheer size and scope, virtually no game beats this living, breathing universe, which receives ongoing updates, adding in things like gameplay enhancements, more story, and even full-fledged alien invasions.
I’m admittedly not far into The Longing, and I won’t be for…a while. Described as “an unusual mix of adventure and idle game,” The Longing is a meditative game about waiting. Underground, nestled in an armchair, you sit and wait for your King to awake once more.
It will take 400 days.
You want a game that eats days of your life? The Longing will do that. You can try to explore the caves, try to speed up your watch, take action—or you can simply let The Longing and its loneliness wash over you. As your character, The Shade, says early on, “There is no need to hurry. I have plenty of time to walk.” Hopefully you have plenty of time to watch.
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