8 Best PC Exclusives to Play in 2021


PC exclusives might not get as much of the limelight as their console counterparts, but that doesn't mean they're not worthy of your attention. PC exclusive games are often just as good if not better than console exclusives. Some even go on to win multiple gaming awards despite being made by relatively unknown studios.

Half-Life: Alyx proves that Valve still has the development chops to create a AAA title if and when they want to do it.

From niche indie titles to full-blown AAA games, we've rounded up some of the best PC exclusives that players can try out and play in 2021.

FTL: Faster than Light

This image perfectly sums up the experience of playing FTL: Faster Than Light.

Very few games come close to FTL: Faster Than Light when it comes to making you feel like you're the commander of your very own starship. However, unlike other games where you feel in control and powerful, FTL will constantly have you by the skin of your teeth as you try to avoid dying from hackers sabotaging your ship's life-support system, giant insects killing your entire crew or just a bad day of having your ship boarded by a larger ship.

Sure, there'll be times when you win. After all, even a broken clock gets the time right at least twice a day. But, the thing is, that happens so very rarely that you might not ever get a chance to win. Not to mention, every time you play FTL, everything changes, so there's never really going to be a concrete strategy that works all the time.

You see, unlike other games where winning is the goal, in FTL, it's the story that matters the most.

As a bonus, FTL is one of those games that you can play on a laptop or low-spec PC and still enjoy it as much as you would on a souped up set-up.

Dota 2

With a new hero and a gameplay update to spice things up, as well as the second half of the competitive season to look forward to, it's safe to say that Dota 2 is going stronger than ever.

To be honest, this was a toss-up between Dota 2 and League of Legends, perennial rivals whose history extends all the over to the past two decades or so. However, with Wild Rift giving players a mobile-friendly alternative to League of Legends, we ultimately went to Dota 2, who remains the unforgiving and complicated game that it was more than a decade ago.

This isn't to say that Dota 2 hasn't evolved. The latest patch proves that Dota 2 has learned a lot from its contemporaries over the years. But, at the same time, it's remained very much like Dota 2, with 2 teams of 5 individuals each battling it out in one map with dozens of objectives scattered all throughout and one ultimate goal of destroying the other team's main structure, the Ancient.

Dota 2's complexity will inevitably scare those who are looking for a more casual experience, but those who stick to it will find themselves rewarded by a strategic MOBA title that should remain relevant well onto the next decade.

Half Life: Alyx

Just when you thought that Valve no longer had the chops to make a genre-defining game, they go on and release Half Life: Alyx. Despite how high the expectations were for Valve's first Half-Life game in over a decade, the game was damn near perfect. The game perfectly nailed telling a compelling story from a first-person perspective without forcing players to look at things. The game made you want to follow its events with your own eyes, and it made Half Life: Alyx a must-have title for anyone who owns a VR headset.

The full-length campaign is a non-stop barrage of amazing sights to see and horrifying creatures to battle, culminating in an ending that made more than 10 years without a Half-Life and the choice to go VR well worth it.

Perhaps the best part about Half-Life: Alyx is that it made even Valve themselves think of making Half-Life games again.

Valheim

The beauty of Valheim lies in how it takes the standard survival game trope and completely does away with all the unnecessary stuff that makes survival games cumbersome to play.

At this point, almost every gamer knows that all Vikings ever want to do is to die a glorious death in battle and wake up drinking mead in the halls of Valhalla. The last thing that they'll want to do is to wake up and have to do it all over again, this time, in a world that even the Norse gods themselves have chosen to forsake.

Such is the weird premise of Valheim, a game set in the titular fictional realm where players explore a procedurally-generated world as they try to survive and explore, either on their own or with friends online.

The goal is simple: rid the world of all the deadly creatures that inhabit it. How you go about it is completely up to you. You might even choose not to do anything at all and just go on exploring Valheim, building multiple settlements and effectively making it your own home. Regardless of how you want to handle things, Valheim has plenty to offer any brave adventurer who wants to set foot in its lush and mysterious world.

Valorant

After years of investing all their eggs in the League of Legends basket, Riot Games finally branched out and created an entirely new IP. The result was Valorant and it was glorious. Riot took the same approach as they did with League of Legends and effectively blitzed the market, getting Valorant on as many gamers as quickly as possible.

What really made Valorant stand out though was how Riot Games played the role of a company that cared about what its consumers wanted.

Industry-leading 128-tick server rates? Check.

Low-latency games? Double check.

Valorant's gameplay is extremely tight and focused, featuring only a few game modes with a handful of maps to choose from and a bit over a dozen playable characters or Agents. But it is this linearity that makes Valorant so appealing as it allows Riot Games to focus on making guns viable regardless of the meta in a game where it would've been so easy to make each Agent's abilities nullify the efficiency of weapons.

Given the success of Valorant and Riot Games' experience in the industry, Valorant is a clear winner that should become a staple of the esports scene for the next decade or two.

XCOM: Chimera Squad

After years of battling against alien invaders, XCOM: Chimera Squad will have you playing as aliens, hybrids, and anyone in between as you battle it out against rebels in a society where extraterrestrials and humans have learned to live together in peace.

The reboot XCOM series is what you'd describe as the perfect traditional strategy games. Every game captured the stress of a high-stakes stress match as you battled against an invading alien force with only a bunch of randomly-generated high-tech soldiers at your disposal. However, just when you thought that they couldn't get any better, the developers went and did it again.

XCOM: Chimera Squad shifts the narrative focus from fighting against an alien invasion to giving you free reigns of a squad composed of extraterrestrial beings and hybrids who now live in harmony as you battle against rebels.

Gameplay-wise, Chimera Squad differed from the previous XCOM games. You're no longer in command of an entire army base full of troops. This time around, your squad is small and tight. You control a small preselected team of aliens and humans, each of which have their own unique abilities. Turn order is also based on the individual characters this time around. This effectively forces you to adjust your tactical abilities on the fly.

In a way, Chimera Squad is still very much XCOM, but it's also different enough, in a good way, to make it an entirely fresh experience.

Evil Genius 2

Evil Genius 2 takes the satirical gameplay of the 2004 title and updates it for the next generation of gamers.

Management games pride themselves in offering varieties. Some let you play as hospital managers while others put you in the shoes of dictators. In the case of Evil Genius 2, you take on the role of one of four evil geniuses. Each one has a unique route to take towards dominating the world, but all feature building your own evil lair complete with a full kit of dastardly weapons, as you spread spies all over the world to find out more information about where your next conquest should be and where your enemies could come from.

A a long-awaited sequel to the 2004 satirical title, Evil Genius 2 does a great job of improving over the first one. Not only are the graphics so much better, but you have far more nefarious plans to choose from as well.

In a way, Evil Genius 2 is very much like Theme Hospital. However, instead of a hospital to run, you have a world to dominate and heroes to repel.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Blizzard celebrated the 16th anniversary of World of Warcraft with a bang. Shadowlands landed just in time for the game's 16th birthday and quickly became the reason why the game has seen a resurgence in its popularity. Not that it's dying or anything, but Shadowlands gave older players a reason to come back and newer players a reason to try the game out.

Shadowlands freshens up the narrative experience of World of Warcraft with a story that takes place largely in the land of the dead and its five major zones. But what really set Shadowlands apart is that it's not an expansion that forces you to play with other people to enjoy it. It's just as enjoyable for solo players as it is for those who prefer to do raids with friends.

At the same time, Shadowlands introduced new and exciting things like more character customization options and a new era dedicated for beginner players who're playing the game for the first time.

If you're looking for a reason why World of Warcraft remains relevant 16 years on, Shadowlands makes for a pretty convincing case.

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is a freelance content writer based in the Philippines. He is a lifelong gamer and a PC hardware enthusiast. He builds and repairs laptops and computers for friends and family in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter.