This is a list of the best games I've played and why I love them. It's by no means exhaustive: I've left off the obvious ones (Zelda, Fallout, Cyberpunk, BioShock, Witcher etc), only including some big games if I wanted to say a little about them or they're particularly special.
If you enjoy any of the games I recommend here, I'd love to hear about it.
The unforgettable stories
- Horizon: Zero Dawn (and its sequel, Forbidden West): this remains my favourite game story of all time. You play Aloy, an outcast in a post-apocalyptic world full of robotic dinosaurs, who learns what really wiped out the "Old Ones" and what she has to do to save the world as it is now. I'll never forget what it was like to experience that story for the first time. The worldbuilding and lore are absolutely incredible (plus the gameplay is really fun). Also, Lance Reddick is in it 💔
- Outer Wilds: completely unexpected, and utterly mesmerising. Another incredible storyline and lore that I kept reading about for days after I finished playing. You play a member of a space exploration team called Outer Wilds Ventures, exploring the galaxy and studying historical ruins to understand the mysteries of the past. I can't emphasise enough how amazing this game is. I played the DLC with my husband - him steering, me puzzle-solving - and it was such a great experience. I wish I could experience it for the first time all over again.
- Any/all of the Monkey Island games: one of my favourite series of all time, absolutely iconic, with incredible writing and brilliant jokes. It'll stay with you forever. In the same way that there are those lists of books that you're meant to read before you die, this is one of those games. Ron Gilbert is a genius.
- A Short Hike: you play a cute little bird hiking up a mountain in a national park, collecting things and talking to people along the way (with some very witty dialogue). I absolutely loved this game, short as it is.
- The Longest Journey, Dreamfall and Dreamfall Chapters: I was so enthralled by the intertwined parallel universes of Arcadia and Stark when I first played TLJ in the mid 00s - several years after it had originally come out in 1999 - and I remember waiting years and years for a sequel, which finally landed in the form of Dreamfall in 2006 and later Dreamfall Chapters in 2014. In the first game, the protagonist April Ryan learns she can shift between the two parallel universes, and has to restore "the Balance" between them. A thoroughly engrossing story. You don't have to have played the first game to play Dreamfall, but I recommend it just because it's so good.
- Stardew Valley: I feel like everyone knows this game by now, but it's still one of my favourites. So comforting, like a favourite jumper. I've got a multiplayer farm with my oldest friends and every now and then we jump on and grow crops together, talking about life. It's also got a strong modding community, and I'd be nowhere without my 3x walk speed.
- Chants of Sennaar: It's a linguist's dream, a puzzle game where you have to decipher the languages of the civilisations around you through context and environmental clues. It's also really beautiful. One of the most unique puzzle games I've played - I actually played this with my husband, solving puzzles together, and it was very wholesome.
- Return of the Obra Dinn: a mystery solving game where you play as some kind of weird supernatural detective in the 1800s trying to identify the crew members on a ghost ship and correctly guess how they all died. The graphics are really unique, in an old 1-bit style.
- Unpacking: a short but sweet indie game with a truly impressive amount of foley. The story of a girl moving house again and again, the belongings you unpack into the new homes and the stories that you unpack alongside them.
- Hacknet: a terminal-based hacking game, where you work in a Unix-like environment to hack into networks and investigate the death of a hacker named Bit. The soundtrack is excellent for working to.
- Strange Horticulture: you run a plant shop and match plants to your customers' requests, learning more about the plants as you go. Dark and mysterious.
- Superliminal: a really unique and surreal game where you mess with perspective to solve puzzles. I get Portal vibes from the humour.
- Escape Simulator: I LOVE an escape room, and these games are just a load of escape rooms, one after the other. Escape Simulator also has user-created rooms, so there are basically endless rooms to play. (I also enjoyed The Room series of mobile games, though they're super old now.) It's perfect if you're ill in bed and need something distracting.
- Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines: this game is pretty old by now, and it was famously never really finished before the studio went bust - but it's still one of my all-time favourites. Play as different vampire clans, experience the world in different ways depending on your choices, and the music absolutely rocks. Just beware of the sewer level.
- Ghost of Tsushima: you're a samurai fighting off the Mongols in a heavily fictionalised 13th century Japan. The visuals are absolutely stunning, and I actually got pretty good at the combat. Plus you can pet the foxes.
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey: I actually really like the big open-world AC games, and this one is particularly good. It's set in Ancient Greece, with mythology woven into the storyline in creative ways. Kassandra is the best AC protagonist by far. Valhalla was good too, but Odyssey was my favourite.
- Prey - you're on an abandoned space station overrun by alien monsters called the Typhon, trying to figure out how to escape. Interestingly, the DLC for this inspired Deathloop. Another great game.
- I really love the first two Borderlands games, especially the Borderlands 2 DLC Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep (which was made available as a standalone game when Tiny Tina's Wonderlands came out, also worth a mention). I've always enjoyed the writing, though I've found the games that followed those were not quite as good. Assault on Dragon Keep and Wonderlands are both set in a D&D-like fantasy world and are, of course, utterly unhinged.
Adventure/Point & Click
- Undertale: okay, this is more adventure than action, but it's another of those iconic indie games that everyone should play.
- Hypnospace Outlaw: a game unlike any other I've ever played, where you're a moderator on a version of the internet that you access in your sleep. It's all styled like late 90s GeoCities websites, and it's a brilliant nostalgia trip for those of us who used to make websites back then.
- Tunic: for fans of Zelda but with extra puzzles and boss fights so fiendishly hard I ended up turning on invincibility in accessibility settings.
- TOEM: warm-and-fuzzy puzzle-solving by taking photos, very cute graphics, and a lovely little story. A really nice short indie game.
- Stray: the cat one, where you play as a cat trying to escape a city populated entirely by robots. Compelling stories, beautiful worldbuilding, and you get to knock things off shelves.
- Paradise Killer: absolutely unhinged vaporwave mystery game. Like someone crossed Poolside FM with Persona 5.
- Control: very much my kind of story, like something out of Fringe. You're the newly-appointed director of a top-secret government agency, but you don't know why, and a mysterious Board keep asking you to do missions in a building that's literally shifting around.
- Chicory: A Colorful Tale: you're an adorable dog who wields a magic paintbrush that can restore colour to the world around you and help out your friends. All the characters are named after food, it's super cute, and it's also a poignant allegory for depression.
- Oxenfree / Oxenfree 2 — Lost Signals: a spooky thriller with ghosts (but not too spooky), rifts in time, and mysteries to solve. The studio got bought by Netflix, so if you're a subscriber you can get both games on mobile for free.
- Wytchwood: a crafting adventure game where you play "the mysterious old witch of the woods" collecting ingredients and solving puzzles.
- Thimbleweed Park: a classic LucasArts-style point and click by our friend Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame. Great puzzles and very entertaining writing.
- Untitled Goose Game: I spoke to someone recently who hadn't heard of this so apparently I do need to mention this. You play as a goose, causing havoc in a tiny English village. I cackled throughout. (The goose honk is now my computer alert sound.)
- Alba: A Wildlife Adventure: you play a young girl visiting her grandparents on a Spanish island, who gets together with her friend to start a campaign to save the island's wildlife. It's so wholesome and the fauna is very accurate — I spent far too long running around the island looking for teals and kestrels. It's a great gateway to real life birdwatching!
- Divinity: Original Sin & Divinity: Original Sin 2 — by Larian (creators of Baldur's Gate 3), this is a turn-based RPG which is very D&D and great for loot goblins such as myself.
- Baldur's Gate 3: A natural follow-on from Divinity (it's by the same studio), this is an absolutely incredible game based on Dungeons and Dragons. Prepare to get unreasonably attached to your companions. It's very long, but also entirely engrossing. I'm a druid, how about you?
- Transistor: a cyberpunk turn-based role-playing game with a beautiful soundtrack by the same folks who made Hades.
- It Takes Two: some of the most unique and inventive two-player mechanics I've ever played, with a truly terrible storyline. We had a great time playing through, and the attention to detail in the levels is amazing — but definitely wasn't invested in the story for this one.
- Escape Academy: like Escape Simulator, loads of virtual escape rooms — but this one has couch co-op.
- Hammerwatch: a classic dungeon crawler with retro graphics and a pleasing number of secret passages. I love a secret passage in a game.
Roguelikes & Roguelites
- Hades: great fun even if you're shit at roguelikes like me. This is the game that made me learn to like them. And no, I haven't finished it. Great story, great graphics, absolutely awesome soundtrack.
- Children of Morta: I never actually finished this one, but I'm including it because it's so beautiful. Incredibly intricate pixel art graphics. It's a roguelite fantasy dungeon crawler where you play as a family trying to save the world from corruption.
- Rogue Legacy 2: definitely better than the original. A proper roguelike where each subsequent "generation" of hero has a randomly selected trait such as gigantism or everything looking Christmassy. Another one with pleasingly customisable difficulty settings.
I'm atrocious at platformers so there aren't many in this category, but the ones that are are especially good (because they made me stick with them).
- Ori and the Blind Forest/Ori and the Will of the Wisps: fantasy platformer where you play a spirit creature trying to save the forest he lives in. It's really beautiful and poignant, plus it's a Metroidvania kind of game which I love. I found some of the platforming really hard, and it has some "escape the thing chasing you" parts which I hate, but it was still really great.
- Steamworld Dig 2: you're a little steampunk robot called Dorothy in the desert digging through the earth, searching for your friend and collecting power-ups and abilities. Another favourite Metroidvania game.