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People are buying fewer desktop PCs, but PC games are still going strong. The question is, how do you sort through all the releases to figure out the best games? Here are the questions you should askmore

People are buying fewer desktop PCs, but PC games are still going strong. The question is, how do you sort through all the releases to figure out the best games? Here are the questions you should ask before -- and after -- you pull the trigger on a new Windows or Mac game.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get the most bang for my buck?
If you're looking for a game that's inexpensive but gives you lots of hours of playtime, there are two types that can fit the bill: sandboxes and multiplayer, such as Factorio, Stardew Valley, Subnautica, Skyrim, and Terraria. In the Steam store, use a tag search to browse for games where users have added the "sandbox" tag, and compare those results to Steam's activity chart. If a game is a year old and is still in the chart's top 20, then it probably has staying power (or it's recently been discounted). Not all PC games are available on Steam, of course. Minecraft and Overwatch are popular bang-for-the-buck games that you won't find there.
Will this game run on my PC?
Entire websites have been built in an attempt to answer this question, but the sheer variety of possible components in your PC makes it pretty difficult to answer definitively. The bottom line is, do the games you already have feel slow? If not, then you're probably OK. If you're still running Windows XP, however, be aware that most current games no longer support that OS. Also, storage requirements may be outpacing what you have available. It's not unusual now for a game to take up 50GB or more, so plan accordingly. If you're running low on space, consider getting an external hard drive for long-term game storage, then transferring those games to your PC's smaller internal storage device when you want to play (since the internal drive is usually faster). If you want to upgrade your PC's components, check out GameSpot's hardware recommendations.
What if I'm not happy with the game I've bought?
If you decide that you don't like a game after you've purchased it, Steam, Amazon, GOG, Origin, and other stores will give you a refund under certain conditions. Check the policies on their websites for specifics.
How do I tell if a game is good?
How can you tell whether a game is worth your money? Check the reviews -- you can start with some of our sister sites that cover PC games, including GameSpot, Giant Bomb and CNET. There you'll get unfiltered opinions on the games you're interested in, or, if you're just browsing for something fun to play, you'll find overviews of the most recent popular titles.
What are the best stores and times to buy?
Though some gamers still buy physical copies of Windows and Mac games from stores like Best Buy or Target, it's more common to download games from online stores like Steam and Amazon iOS, Android. Amazon sells download codes that you can redeem on Steam, Origin, GOG, or uPlay -- all of which have their own stores as well. When looking at the Amazon product page, check the section labeled "DRM" to find out which store the code can be redeemed at. Steam has several big sales throughout the year that are worth waiting for. And Amazon offers deep discounts around Black Friday and sometimes in the December-January period.
How do I tell if this game is appropriate for kids?
In the United States, major releases get evaluated by the Entertainment Rating Software Board (ESRB), using a system similar to TV and film ratings, including E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature. These ratings are displayed in a badge in one corner of the game box. The back of the box should have a description of what content earned this rating. If not, the description should be available on the ESRB's website. Here is the one for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Recommended Free Game Apps for Windows

GOG Galaxy

GOG Galaxy


GOG is like Steam, but all its games are DRM-free. Meaning, once you buy and download your copy, you never have to log in to a service to play or to prove that you're the authorized owner. Not every game publisher is on board with this, so GOG's library is smaller than Steam's. But it frequently offers up older games that you can't download legally from anywhere else (GOG used to stand for Good Old Games).