The PS4 and Xbox One tend to steal the headlines, but it’s an under-discussed fact that there’s never been a better time to be a PC gamer.
Fire up the platform’s ubiquitous game delivery platform, Steam, and you’ll be presented with a vast collection of titles that spans four decades of gaming history, from the beginnings of the first person shooter in the early '90s to the big budget blockbusters of today.
Best of all, Steam combines its overflowing library with some seriously wallet-friendly prices, and that's before you take into account the regular, monstrously generous sales and deals.
But where does the discount-hunting PC noob start? With a wee read of these top picks, that's where!
Additional copy by Sam Kieldsen
Life Is Strange (Episode 1 free)
The first episode of this five-part series is now available gratis - a sizeable free sample of one of 2015’s very best video games, and a tantalising glimpse of where the medium is heading next. For a tale that revels in the past, this masterful fantasy is most successful when it makes you ponder the future.
You play Max Caulfield, a painfully shy photography student who suddenly wakes from an apocalyptic daydream to discover that she can time travel. Rather than being able to hop in a blue phonebox and head back to the Middle Ages or when there was life on Mars, Max’s powers barely extend beyond the last five minutes.
Being able to reverse very recent history means Max can twist previous conversations to her benefit, pre-empt the actions of others and change what happens next. You’re invited to agonise over small choices and watch as their consequences snowball in unexpected directions.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (£24.99)
What can we say about this stupendously well-received RPG that you haven’t already heard? The Witcher 3 is a sprawling fantasy yarn set in a vast open world (or more precisely, several open worlds) packed with side quests and other optional tasks.
Even if you forego the bits on the side, however, there’s dozens of hours of main line adventure awaiting you as you pull on the armour of Geralt, a gravel-voiced mutant and Witcher who makes his living hunting monsters but is now tracking a decidedly different quarry: his surrogate daughter.
Brilliantly written, populated by engaging characters (several of which you can sleep with, should you be that way inclined) and rich with gritty, grimy atmosphere, The Witcher 3 brings a focus and personality to open world adventure that many outwardly similar RPGs (Fallout 4 and Dragon Age Inquisition, for starters) simply can’t match.
The two DLC add-ons are highly recommended too, but the base game has plenty for you to plough through first. If you want to get lost in another world for a few weeks, here’s your gateway.
Papers, Please (£6.99)
An indie game in which you pull on the (doubtless beige polyester) shirt and tie of a border control official in a fictional totalitarian state might not sound like much fun, but Papers, Please isn’t your average time-sink. At times, it feels more like a transportive experience than a form of entertainment.
Don’t get us wrong; there are game mechanics here, and they’re solid – you have to check would-be immigrants’ documents against an ever-increasing list of rules and regulations, with mistakes punished in the form of docked wages, all the while battling against the clock – but they’re really there to further immerse the player into the mindset of a human being asked to become an unthinking cog in a hellish bureaucratic machine.
And it’s when the game asks you to think – to bend or break those rules you’ve been given – that it becomes truly compelling.
Stardew Valley (£10.99)
Had enough of combat, globe-trotting and intrigue? How’d you like to spend your evenings engaged in something a little more relaxing and gentle – while still retaining that dopamine-dumping gaming loop that ensures you’ll be playing long past midnight?
Allow us to present Stardew Valley, a game in which you take over and run a dilapidated old farm; not a farm plagued by zombies, not a farm upon which an evil corporation wants to drill for oil – just a farm on the outskirts of a sleepy countryside town, with some land and a few buildings you can develop. As the seasons roll by, you’ll meet your neighbours – and maybe even fall in love and start a family.
And don’t worry, this has far more in common with Harvest Moon than it does Farmville, concentrating on gently prodding you into being more productive rather than constantly chucking stuff in your face.
80 Days (£6.99)
Inspired by Jules Verne’s Around The World in Eighty Days but with a steampunk twist and possibly even more words to read, 80 Days is the perfect game for those seeking atmosphere and adventure – but who don’t have 100 hours to sink into a game such as The Witcher 3.
You can sail (or drive, or elephant-ride) through a trans-global playthrough of this in little more than a couple of hours, and the beauty of it is that it’s very replayable. While Verne’s novel had Phileas Fogg and Passepartout taking one route around the world, 80 Days gives you dozens of potential combinations, each of them packed with unforgettable moments.
Be warned: it’s an interactive story rather than a reflex-testing action-fest, and heavy on text (but still a feast for the eyes). So if you’re from the Donald Trump School of Reading Dislikers, it might not be the game for you.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game (£22.99)
If you’ve never played a Telltale adventure then the concept goes something like this: you take charge of a character (or a whole bunch of characters) in a story and guide them through a series of choices that affect the way the plot plays out. Occasional quicktime events and perfunctory puzzles also crop up, but the game’s focus is that all-important decision making.
This particular Telltale adventure follows the trials and tribulations of House Forrester, a minor noble family in the north of Westeros . Things aren’t going so well for the Forresters since their liege lords the Starks took a one-way trip to the Lannister abattoir, and their lives are being made hell by the forces allied against them.
It’s a testament to Telltale’s storytelling finesse that it can create an episodic game that constantly flits between four playable characters and still make it work. The cast is eminently likeable, the choices excruciatingly hard, and it expands a peripheral area of George R.R. Martin’s universe that fans of the series will be giddy with excitement to explore.
The Fall (£6.99)
From the world of grand budgets and massive scale to a superb example of what can be achieved with very few resources. The Fall is a platformer in which you play a hyper-intelligent space combat suit. No, not the person inside the suit, the AI of the suit itself, which is named ‘ARID’.
After a disaster in space, both ARID and her occupant crash land below the surface of a strange planet, but her charge is in dire need of medical care. In order to bring her human cargo to safety, ARID must battle her way past a nest of psychotic robots with little more than a hand pistol and a torch.
The whole escapade is short, but handled with deft care. The storytelling here is genuinely superb, and a cut above many of the ideas you’ll find in games ten times the price. We’re not of a fan of spoilers, but we will say that ARID’s journey takes a turn toward existential horror that is utterly delightful and will leave you slack-jawed.