Single Player Games tend to trade the thrill of playing with or against other folk by giving players deeper, more interesting worlds to explore at their own pace with deeper narrative elements, with some exceptions. Sometimes instead of delving into a multiplayer match or logging into your preferred MMO, sitting down with a good, hearty solo experience is more rewarding. Depending on the game, it won't necessarily be less chaotic or stressful, but generally, most single player titles give players more opportunities to just take their time to take in the sights and progress at their own pace, consuming the content presented to them as they please.
As "single player" is a vastly greater category than any one genre, and even toplists of games confined to just one genre can't possibly catch all games worthy of mention, it's obvious from the get-go that we're not going to mention every game that's a worthy single player experience - but you won't go wrong with the ones we do.
Here's our list of The Best Singleplayer Games on PC:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
You probably knew this would turn up when you clicked on the article. The Witcher 3 somehow still pops up in gaming news with some regularity, hoovered up basically every award it could back in the day, and then got expansions which also bagged a bunch of awards. Wild Hunt packs some of the best writing in the industry, fantastic quest design, a breathtakingly stunning world and memorable soundtrack.
Though the finishing chapter of Geralt's game-universe exploits, players can jump into it without having played the previous titles and still get the complete experience. It picks up after a certain point in the book series with some retcons wherein Geralt's adoptive daughter, Ciri, who has been missing for years, was sighted and the monster hunter is tasked with tracking her down. The game is primarily spread across two open world regions, the Skellige Isles and the region of Velen which contains the free city of Novigrad. The engaging combat and captivating story will have you coming back for more.
Mass Effect Trilogy
We're kinda cheating with this one since it's a whole trilogy, but then the three games did get a collected release, so it's fair game. The Mass Effect trilogy is one of the finest sci-fi RPG experiences out there. The gameplay changes pretty significantly between the first and second games, however they're still similar enough to be feel jarring and it's fun across all three installments. If you go in knowing that the gameplay is more actiony than a straight RPG you won't be disappointed.
Now, this entry may be a controversial choice due to the whole ending kerfuffle, but when 99% of the journey is fantastic, that last percent being bad shouldn't ruin the whole thing, even if it is the ending - plus the free DLC which expanded and slightly changed the vanilla ending is satisfactory in my opinion. I've played these games to the death, and going aboard the Normandy still feels a bit like coming home.
An oldie but goodie, the first Broken Sword title is an absolute masterpiece of the point'n'click genre. This game paired witty writing with engaging characters, and wrapped them all up into a story driven by a consipracy related to the Knights Templar - remember, this was made back when that wasn't too cliché. Notoriously obtuse adventure solutions are few and far between, with the solutions to puzzles actually being pretty logical - though there are some "interesting" solutions as well.
The inner monologues of the game's protagonist, George Stobbart, are pieces of comedy gold, especially when he describes the seemingly mundane junk that fills his inventory. The game is also gorgeous, simulating a hand-painted style which, combined with a marvelous soundtrack, make for great atmosphere. The plot keeps hooking you again and again as you progress with your investigation, and the whole game feels like a great thriller novel that you can't put down.
You might have encountered the idiom "Every time Deus Ex is mentioned, someone reinstalls it". The first Deus Ex title is a constant show on basically every gaming toplist it's relevant to. The FPS RPG is universally praised for its writing, its level design, its atmosphere, its conspiracy-laden storyline and the open-ended gameplay which allows you to approach encounters stealthily, all-guns-blazing and everything in between.
Deus Ex falls into that rare breed of video game which tries to delve into deeper, more serious themes about the nature of humanity, morality and others and succeeds without unwittingly turning into self-caricature. I've highlighted quality writing in all of these entries (because I think that is a major factor) but with Deus Ex it's a bigger feat than in most other cases due to the ease with which the topics it discussed could have pushed the game into pretentiousness.
Nier: Automata is very different from Deus Ex, but many themes the two games explore are shared, however Automata goes an altogether different direction. Keep in mind that this list is about the "best" single player games, not the most cheerful, and Automata can get pretty bloody depressing. The whole game starts off in a post-human extinction world, and things won't get any better later on, but revealing too much would be pretty spoilery.
However, what isn't a spoiler is that the fast-paced and sometimes bafflingly varied combat flows like nothing else. It can get pretty challenging, but it's rewarding all the same. A primarily hack'n'slash game, Automata will toss you into a shoot'em'up scenario out of the blue and still make it work. It's also a sublime and atmospheric game, with the setting telling as much of the story as the conversations.
Planescape: Torment holds a similarly high standing in the pantheon of gaming as Deus Ex does, and is oft mentioned in the same breath as "best RPG of all time" (yes, I did notice that this list has a lot of RPGs). Planescape takes players to a unique and unconventional setting within the D&D Planescape multiverse, where a smorgasbord of various planes of existence are anchored by an infinite spire-city.
Combat isn't too pronounced in this title, as the story takes center stage wherein the immortal protagonist tries to reclaim his memories. Sure, amnesia may be a tired trope in gaming, but back when Planescape was made, it wasn't so worn yet. This journey of literal self-discovery has the player interact with some of the most iconic and memorable characters in gaming history such as Morte, a talking disembodied skull.
Few titles have the kind of clout among gamers like the original Half-Life, the Source engine masterpiece that spawned the franchise which has become the biggest meme in the industry and birthed the fictional universe which gave us the Combine, the G-Man and a silent protagonist who become even more iconic than a particular green-armored bloke. Gordon Freeman's exploits within the Black Mesa facility to stop an endless tide of alien invaders is a technical marvel.
The game's weapon and enemy variety were pretty revolutionary at the time, and it's still a class act of level design which merges the requirements of a video game with a truly realistic setting. Its story isn't anything to write home about - a science experiment opens a portal and spooky aliens come through, so the sole competent individual needs to go close up the tear - but it's the gameplay you're here for, the flawless gunplay and the lovingly crafted world.
Assassin's Creed 2
I was debating whether to put this on the list or Origins (... or Black Flag) from the same series, and you might as well play both if you haven't, but there's just something about Ezio's early exploits in renaissance Italy that ticked not just with me, but with the whole fan community. 2 is still often lauded as the best in the series, and while Ubisoft has made some technical strides since, the gameplay is still stabby, jumpy fun and aside from the character models the game still looks gorgeous.
Assassin's Creed 2 isn't the first game the soundtrack of which I praised in this list, but it deserves special mention as it makes the world feel so much more alive than in subsequent installments (save Brotherhood, which is almost equal and a game you should also play). The beautiful rendition of Florence, Venice and Forlí make shanking guards from haystacks almost poetic.
Star Wars: Dark Forces
I really wanted to mention the Knights of the Old Republic games, but this list is getting a bit RPG heavy, so I'm just going to mention another fantastic Star Wars game. Dark Forces is a Doom-like shooter with 2.5D graphics and a bunch of weapons with flashy and destructive secondary fire modes. This game shows the pre-canonocalpyse version of how the Death Star plans were stolen by a mercenary called Kyle Katarn... in the prologue mission, and then moves on to a completely different story about the Dark Troopers.
Dark Forces came into being during the early phase of the franchise, and took players to a bunch of locations which would later form part of the wider canon. It introduced us to Katarn who would go on to be the main character of one of the most beloved game series within the Star Wars IP, and is altogether a fantastic shooter with creative level design that shows just how different the mentality of games development is today, and will have you thinking "damn, no dev would dare pull something like this today" at least once per map.
Portal is one of those games which can be considered an analogue of required-reading. It's short, fantastically written, and uses a game mechanic that was unique at the time. Solving puzzles in deadly testing chambers initially with the use of blue and orange portals, and later on other objects such as one particularly famous cube flowed perfectly. It wasn't too difficult but did make you think a bit with the puzzles, and the whole framing of this one clever mechanic elevated the game into becoming a huge hit.
Portal doesn't outstay its welcome, offers sufficient challenge and has plenty of moments that will stick with you. This game grew to define a period in gaming culture to the point of being referenced any time confectioneries were mentioned. The sequel is also great, but lacks the short, sweet and unexaggerated nature of the original.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
Splinter Cell is one of the best stealth titles out there, with plenty of neat gadgets at the disposal of protagonist Sam Fisher and a typically campy "save America from the terrorists" Clancy story framing the whole thing. While combat is still present and plenty of times you'll find yourself shooting through a throng of thugs, stealth is your best option as Sam isn't your typical shooter protagonist who can soak up bullets, slap on a band-aid and be good as new.
The stealth mechanics rely mainly on light level (for the record, Fisher's iconic three-pronged night vision goggles don't actually glow green "in-universe"), and the game is a masterclass in level design. You usually have multiple paths to choose from, all offering different kinds of challenges - and challenged you will be.
We went into this knowing we couldn't possibly hope to catch all the best single player games, so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!