How To Computer: Everything You Should Know about PC Gaming [MASSIVE V4 Update September 24]

How-to-pc

So! Apparently, I'm one of the biggest PC-gaming Polynauts on the forums, because I've been receiving some requests to write up a thing about how to get into PC gaming. Plus, over the past few days, we've had a few topics (located here, here, here, here,and here) that discuss PC gaming, how to get into it, whether it's worthwhile, and stuff like that. In other words, it seems like a good idea to write up an overarching, PC gaming thread that anyone can understand and benefit from.

It sounds like we need a 'one size fits all' post--something to describe why PC gaming is great, how to get into it, and basic info you should know. First things first, you should read my original PC gaming post, which provides a basic overview for why I love PC gaming; if you've ever wondered what makes PC gaming special, that's a great place to get started. There are other reasons, of course. You might find this thread, which covers my theory about how large monitors appear to positively influence the PC gaming experience, to be quite interesting as well.

What is PC Gaming?

PC gaming is, basically, gaming on one's computer, the way console gaming is gaming on one's console, or mobile gaming is gaming on one's mobile device. But it's... a lot more than that. PC gaming is the most versatile form of gaming there is. You can play it on a desk, on a television, or even take it with you. You can experiment. You can tweak. You can adjust. You can do whatever you want. Want to simply walk around Liberty City, without a care in the world, in real time and first person? Cool, PC gaming has you covered. Beaten Oblivion and want a new world to explore? Cool, because some enterprising modders have created two new Oblivion-sized worlds to explore, with their own questlines and everything.

If we equate gaming to methods of transport, then PCs are like automobiles, with everything from cars you can build yourself to cars that can fly to cars that you can buy prebuilt with no tweaking involved whatsoever. Consoles, on the other hand, are like public transit--you don't control the experience and it tends to be overpriced--and portable gaming is like biking in the snow, or, in other words: portable gaming is impractical for long periods of time and tends to lack most of the advantage of having vehicular travel at all.

PC Gaming can be a simplistic, console-like experience if you want; you hook a machine up to a TV, boot up a game, and bam, good to go. Or, if you want to go all the way and build yourself a complete mech cockpit to do some hardcore simming, you can do that too. For the purpose of this article, I'm going to assume you want to have the optimum PC gaming experience for a reasonable amount of money.

PC Gaming is really expensive, though!

No. Yes, too, but mostly no.

PC Gaming is expensive up front. If you make a fairly small amount of cash and want to get into gaming right away, console gaming would appear to be the simplest thing (unless you build a computer like this). If you're on a budget--and believe me; as a student with just four dollars to my name, I know what that means--buying a console is the obvious choice.

Problem is, console gaming is more expensive overall. You know how people go "if you paid for live every year since launch, you'd more than double the cost of your Xbox 360?" Well, that's kinda what I mean. Whether you're paying for a service like LIVE, buying used games that require codes, or just buying games new, you're spending more for games on consoles in the long run than you are if you simply bought them on the PC, where new games can be had for close to $30 less than their console counterparts on release, where you'll never need to worry about online codes, and where all that wonderful online stuff is free.

Some of you might point out that you can save money by trading games. While this is true, there are two problems: first, the most money you're likely to get back on a trade is $35, and that's for a brand new, $60 game. That means you effectively rented a game for $25. On the PC, it's very likely that you could wait a month or two and buy the game--keeping it permanently--for that same $25, or, in other words, you've saved $35. Or you could preorder it with a massive discount, assuming that the publishers themselves didn't just randomly decide to release the game for $20 less than the console versions.

Second: you'll regret trading. Sure, not always--I regret purchasing Tom Clancy's Speak 'n Murder RTS game--but I have come across far more games I wish I hadn't traded because I want to play them again, such as Red Dead Redemption. I bought the game and all its DLC for $90. I got $25 on the trade. Basically, I spent $65 to rent Red Dead Redemption. To buy it back, I'll have to spend another $30, meaning my trade actually cost me $5, and I'll have lost the special edition stuff I got. On the PC, not only do you get games cheaper, but in buying digitally, you always have that game. You'll never regret getting rid of a game you actually want to play, and you won't have to spend even more money to get it back.

When it comes to buying games--which is where you're going to spend the bulk of your money--PC gaming is far and away the best way to go.

Besides, chances are you need a computer to function in this modern day and age. You don't need a console, or even a television (which, combined, will cost you just as much as a new PC, and that's if you decide to go cheap--buying a quality television alone is far more expensive than a good PC). Given all the things the PC can do (word processing, web browsing, communication with chat and skype software, media management, and an incredible number of other tasks), it's just a sensible investment.

But what about upgrades? Surely those cost a lot of money.

Upgrades? Sure, they cost money, but not all that much, and since you only have to do it once every three years or so, it's pretty much on par with--if not cheaper than--console gaming.

I built my computer back in 2007, and aside from the new graphics card I bought in 2008, it runs brand new games just fine. Sure, I have a little trouble maxing out The Witcher 2 (but, for what it's worth, no one on the planet can max out The Witcher 2) in higher-than-HD resolution, but that's leagues beyond what a console is capable of. Besides, repairing my PS3 (most of which will not last the entirety of a console generation) is a far costlier proposition than a part repair on my computer.

The time when you had to upgrade once a year died out more than a decade ago. At worst, you'll have to change a part or two once every three years, which is about on par with the current gen consoles. No one I know owns a launch PS3 that I'm aware of; everyone owns a slim, which most of them upgraded to for $300 and tax, which is quite a bit more than the $100 PC upgrade I'm considering right now. If you bought a launch PS3 and upgraded to a Slim at a later date, we're talking about a potential $1000+, not to mention all that extra money you would have spent on games and accessories.

With the guide posted below, you'll be able to build a similarly-priced computer that might need another $100 or $200 throughout the next generation of console games and will save you a lot more money in the long run.

Alright, so, what can the PC do?

The better question is what it can't do. I covered this more in detail in the other post, but the simple answer is that there's nothing that the PC is incapable of. The current, biggest weakness it has right now is navigating everything with a controller, so if you hook it up to your TV for some nice comfy couch gaming, you'll still have to use your mouse to launch from Steam or whatever other program you use. Fortunately, Valve's already working on a solution.

While the PC can replicate other experiences with relative ease, it has a wholly unique set of experiences for you to enjoy as well, like the aforementioned "build a complete cockpit." There's no genre that doesn't work well on the PC. Sure, some genres might work better with a controller, but that's why God invented Microsoft. And Razer. And Logitech. And XPadder.

So the PC has no problem playing controller-friendly titles like racing games or twin-stick shooters, but it also does genres that other platforms can't do (or can't do well), like RTSes and shooters. Where other platforms groan, the PC sings.

...and then there's the immersion factor.

Having a large (24" or larger with better-than-1080p resolution) monitor near your face produces an effect similar to watching an IMAX film--it heightens that feel of being in the game world, increasing your sense of involvement with the game. This means that unlike consoles, where there's an established disconnect between player and game, PCs get closer to the the medium's true potential: to allow players to enter other worlds. Other things, like surround sound headphones and force feedback controls, can help increase this sense of immersion.

This creates a truly unique gameplay experience, much the same way 4D Cinema (those theatres with moving chairs) or IMAX Domes create something revolutionary.

Of course, if you don't feel that the immersion of a wide screen is enough, why not check out Oculus Rift, a lightweight VR setup that many gaming luminaries have hailed as the future of gaming?

Okay, now what?

Let's build an ideal computer.

Why build?

Because it turns out that building your own computer creates a certain sense of ownership that you will derive infinite satisfaction from.

Infinite?

Have you ever cooked a delicious meal that was made all the sweeter by the fact that you made it? It's kinda like that. It's not really a feeling one can just explain--you have to experience it to understand it. Building something--making it your own, is one of the most powerful experiences you as a gamer can have. It's also something you can never have with a console, unless you are insane.

Cool. I don't know anything about building a computer, though.

That's why I'm here.

A computer is basically a brain. First, you've got the motherboard: think of it like the body's central nervous system, the thing that helps your heart beat and your brain make things move. For the actual thinking, you need a frontal lobe, or, in the computer's case, a CPU (that stands for Central Processing Unit). RAM, or "Random Access Memory," is like your short term memory, while a hard drive is like long-time memory. A GPU, or graphics card (some call it a video card), is like the visual processing section of the human brain. Then you've got a power supply to make sure everything can actually run and a case to store everything in.

So!

Motherboard, CPU, RAM, Hard Drive, GPU, Power Supply, Case.

Optionally, you can also have a disc drive of some sort (for burning blu-rays or whatever), a sound card (to handle audio processing), and a network card, but none of these are strictly necessary. Then you've got the peripherals, like a mouse, keyboard, speakers/headphones (headphones are better for a more immersive experience), printer, monitor, and stuff like that.

Surely there are parts you'd recommend or recommend avoiding, though, right? What about stores?

Yes, there are definitely parts I'd recommend and parts I'd tell you to avoid. As for stores, your best deals are going to be online. In fact, one of the most important rules of thumb in building a computer is never buy from stores, because they are overpriced. What's that extra $100 doing on that outdated GPU, Best Buy? WHO KNOWS?

As for parts, the best, easiest thing you can do is to go to Newegg--even if it's not in your country--and check out the reviews for parts. Pick a part you're interested in and see what the reviews are like. Read lots of them--good and bad. You may find that some people just had bad luck with a particular part (or worse, picked the wrong part) or you might found out that they gave it a good review just because they wanted to answer someone's question, even though they don't own the part.

Chris Plante, one of the editors here on The Verge, recently decided to build his own machine, and the ensuing discussion took place here. You can also check out the community's various PCs here. If you've got a question about mice, try reading this neat thread on mice for PC games.

The best place to buy parts, in the US (let me know in the comments if you recommend other retailers), at least, are both Amazon.com and Newegg.com. For Canada, you can try the respective .ca versions of both sites. Amazon.co.uk is apparently a good place to buy computer parts in the UK.

For the specifics:

  • For a CPU, go with Intel. Most people are recommending the i5 2500k. Intel's more expensive than AMD, but offer much better performance. I'm personally an AMD man precisely because of that cost difference. Whatever you do, get an aftermarket cooler, ideally from Coolermaster (or whoever has a good rating)
  • For a motherboard, I recommend something produced by ASUS. Make sure that you can plug an i5 into it. To find out whether that's possible, look at the mobo's "socket." Its socket number should match the CPUs. So, for instance, you might need a socket LGA 1155 or an AM3+. You should make sure you have an ATX motherboard, as opposed to a micro ATX.
  • For a GPU, I recommend getting Nvidia. There are waaaaay too many problem with AMD cards (Rage says hi). As for brands, EVGA. Why? Because they have the absolute best customer service I have ever encountered in my life. Once, I called them at 2 in the morning, a guy with a discernable, Californian accent picked up, and he proceeded to help me even though I was out of warranty. They're nice, they're available, and they have amazing warranties.
  • When it comes to a power supply, go Corsair every time. Also, you can probably get by with 500 or 550 watts, but I'd personally recommend a 650 watt PSU. They're rock solid.
  • As for RAM, there are a lot of good companies out there. I'm currently rocking some G.Skill stuff. Make sure you get DDR3, make sure that you don't mix and match RAM types (that'd be like sticking two different peoples' brains in one body), and make sure you have a minimum of 4GB. Since you can get 8GB for around $45, which is pretty cheap, it's worth doing that.
  • Seagate and Western Digital make the best hard drives. Seagate's my favorite brand.
  • When you get a case, consider how long your GPU is going to be. A full ATX tower is going to give you the most room to work in, but if you don't have a lot of space, a mid tower is acceptable.
  • When it comes to sound cards, don't buy Creative. They used to be legends. Now they are terrible. I'm rockin' an X-Fi, but I had to use daniel_k's fan drivers to make it work.

Okay, so I've got the parts--how do I build it? It's hard, right?

Building a computer is like assembling legos. You can't physically plug something into a slot it's not designed to go in.

The first, and simplest, thing to do is to check out The Verge's guide to building a pretty sweet gaming PC. It actually lists all the parts you could want to make a total boss of a machine, so if you found what I said above too confusing, well, The Verge has you covered. When it comes to picking up Windows, the cheapest way to go is to get the OEM version of the software. That said, IF YOU ARE A STUDENT: GET IT FROM YOUR BOOKSTORE OR A STUDENT DISCOUNT SERVICE. It can be had for as little as $15.

You don't really need an SSD, and a lot of the parts in the list have gone down in price (I've seen hard drives four times the size for the same price on Newegg sales, for instance), so I'm betting you could save about $100-$200 on a similar build to what they've offered, while getting a superior hard drive, and if you decide not to get a blu-ray drive (you won't even need a disc drive if you download everything--you can install Windows from a USB drive, in fact), you can save even more money.

If you're looking for more flexibility--maybe a cheaper machine or more comprehensive parts advice, then you absolutely must visit NeoGAF's latest "I NEED A NEW PC!" thread.

If you're interested in a PC gaming laptop, ASUS has their G-series (I use one), Alienware has their M##X series, and... then there are the rebranded Clevo computers (such as Xotic's selection). I'm personally looking into picking up a Clevo for my next machine, because as much as I like my G74, it is a bit large.

If, on the flipside, you want to make a fancier (read: excessive) machine, there are only three parts I'd really recommend changing, and one part I'd add:

  • CPU: replace the 2500 with a 2600k. The advantage isn't really all that, but some people swear by it.
  • Case: Cosmos II or Fractal Design's silent, sexy case.
  • GPU: GTX 680. It's the most powerful single-GPU card on the market.
  • Sound Card: ASUS Xonar. You don't need a sound card, but it's worth checking out.

Now, one word of advice: the best graphics card you can get for the lowest price and the longest term use is going to be a GTX 660 Ti, when they come out. That should last you a while. That said, the rule of thumb I've tried to live by this generation is that the best time to pick up a 3D card is the year after a major console release, so it's whatever card releases in spring 2014 that's going to last you all through the next generation. If you buy a GTX 660 now, it will probably last you until the NextboxS and Playstation 4 Slim arrives.

Let's talk about the other, optional stuff:

Display: You've got a few options here. There's the high-end BenQ gaming option or ASUS' nice solution. They're both great monitors, though BenQ's is obviously nicer (and has the 3D option if you're so inclined). While not a monitor, it's worth checking out Nvidia's 3D Vision 2 kit if you're into 3D. I'm personally interested in an Overlord Tempest, which is an American version of those Korean Catleap monitors.

Mouse: You can't really go wrong with a Logitech or Microsoft mouse (Razer's are nice but they break far too easily); I'm currently planning to pick up a G700. You don't need the absolute best mouse on the market when whatever you've already got will very likely do, but if you want a brand new mouse fit for a power user, the G700's a great way to go.

Keyboard: I'm partial to the Logitech Wave, because it's the best ergonomic keyboard on the market, though the Microsoft Sidewinder isn't a bad choice.

Headphones or Speakers: I currently use a Turtle Beach X12, which is incredible (and the mic's great!), partly because I can use it on my 360, PS3 (mic doesn't work on the PS3, though), or my PC. If you want a full surround sound option, check out Logitech's neat wireless 7.1 headset. For speakers, I don't think there's anything better than Logitech's 5.1 surround sound option, but here's a 2.1 alternative if you're interested.

Controller: The 360 controller, is the best controller in the world (from an ergonomic, compatibility, and build quality standpoint), is the most compatible controller you can find on the PC right now. You really can't go wrong with it. Plug it in to pretty much any game and it will work. I've heard people say that even the new 360 controller has a bad D-pad, but not playing fighters, I can't really offer much of an opinion. It's really well made, and nobody's matched its ergonomics, which are the best of any controller around. Plus, if you've got the wireless version, you can replace the batteries when they die, which isn't something you can do for the PS3--eventually, they'll stop recharging and you'll have to buy new ones.

That said, it's worth noting that you can hook up a Dualshock or pretty much any controller in existence. I know some people have got their old NES controllers working, in fact.

If you're not interested in a traditional controller, and want to try something a bit more unusual, you can check out Logitech's Racing Wheel, Razer's Hydra, Microsoft's Kinect, and Logitech's Force Feedback Joystick/Pedals set. Force Feedback is really awesome--think rumble, but way better, and you've basically begun to understand the concept. There are a ton of other options as well--I, for instance, own a yoke and pedal set. CHKilroy, in his awesome DayZ series, The Days Ahead, uses TrackIR to look around, adding another degree of control to his gaming experience.

Chair & Desk: Okay. Right. Chairs. Chairs don't seem all that important, but a bad chair is a huge part of the reason people don't enjoy PC gaming. They need comfortable chairs that one can sit around for hours in, on a desk that is at an appropriate height. I personally enjoy this one. As weird as it may sound, for a gaming surface, there's really nothing better than a six foot particle board folding table.

Setting Up Your Computer:

Alright! You got all the stuff you needed, built it, and set it up. What now?

First things first: you currently own a computer, so you should obviously know that you should be running antivirus, anti-malware, and spyware software fairly regularly. You might not have heard about running CCleaner or a defrag program for your hard drive, but those are definitely worth doing. I've heard people whine about how PC gaming means you need to run these things, but that's like assuming you only need to change your oil if you race your car--it's an absurd, stupid idea. If you own a computer, run maintenance stuff. That's common sense.

The greatest website you can possibly visit for "stuff every new computer should have" is FileHippo. Chances are, if you need it, it's there. To keep your various software updated, check out FileHippo's update checker.

If you do any serious modding, you'll want Winrar so you can open most of the rar files you'll be downloading. Other viable alternatives are 7zip and Peazip, but I personally prefer WinRAR. Remember, of course, to install the latest drivers for your GPU--they update once every couple of months, won't destroy your computer if you forget, and tend to let you know if you have forgotten (if not, Microsoft will often autoinstall some of them for you). If you don't want to remember all your passwords, try KeePass.

There's some other stuff to do as well. Are you running Windows 7? For a more productive work area, make sure to resurrect Quicklaunch and fix your Taskbar.

Want to record gameplay video to do awesome LPs that don't look like they've been recorded off your cellphone? Get you some Dxtory! Or Afterburner Predator! Want to do some voice chat? Well, you can do that through built-in Steam chat, you can do it through Skype, or you can do it through game-specific services, like Ventrilo, Teamspeak, and Mumble, which is basically the best voice chat program ever conceived.

There are some power user programs out there, like Nvidia Inspector or D3DOverrider, but you shouldn't need to use them. They're mostly for if you're either taking sexy screenshots or experiencing input lag because you've enabled vsync. I personally like to disable some other stuff on my computer, like Search Indexing or UAC, to boost performance, but it's not absolutely necessary. If you want to see all the tweaking you can do to make your computer as absolutely beastly as possible, TweakGuides is the go-to place for that.

If you're interested in emulation, the best software to use is Dolphin. While you can get emulators for just about everything, barring the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, Dolphin--an emulator designed to run everything for the Gamecube and Wii--runs incredibly well, and is the most notable emulator out there.

Some other software you might try:

  • LibreOffice is a great open source version of Microsoft Office. If you don't feel like spending hundreds to get a word processor... yeah, go with LibreOffice.
  • If you can't afford Photoshop, there's always GIMP.
  • For chatting, whether it's on MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk, ICQ, or whatever else you can think of, Pidgin does it all.
  • If you want to uninstall software, use Comodo Programs Manager, but make sure you install it before everything else, so, as SirMarth01 pointed out in the comments, you can
  • When it comes to media software, Zune is the best music library software ever. I know, I know, Foobar's a lot more customizable or whatever, but Zune? Wow. Just... yeah. It's gorgeous, has a ton of options, and lets you buy music with Microsoft points (which you can get free, by the way, with Bing Rewards). For video playback, install K-Lite Mega Codec Pack's "install lots of stuff" option (and the bundled Media Player Classic, which is a superb all-around media player; I set mp3s to open individually with MPC, but use Zune to listen to my library), followed by Shark007's Windows 7 codecs. If you want to set up a Home Theatre PC, you can always use Microsoft's built-in Windows Media Center, or the vastly more cool XBMC.
  • For mounting disc ISOs, use Daemon Tools.
  • I prefer Chrome as a web browser, but some people prefer Firefox or Opera. It's really up to you. Internet Explorer 9 isn't that bad at all, but it won't edit new forum posts on The Verge's forums, which is weird. Again, if you participate in Bing Rewards, you can get a lot of Microsoft points.

Where do I get games?

Right.

I'd be somewhat remiss if I were going to provide you a fairly broad guide if I didn't talk about games, then, wouldn't I? So let's talk about games and where to get them.

First, and most obviously, you should install Steam on your computer, not only because they have great games and great sales, but because, chances are, if you buy a PC game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Rage in store, you'll have to activate your game's code on Steam. It's got a lot of advantages--like being able to download your games whenever you want or back them up on discs, as well as cloud storage for savegames and screenshots--and some disadvantages (like a perpetually-broken offline mode). As far as online services go, however, Steam is the best of them. Xbox Live, PSN, Origin, whatever Nintendo has, you name it--Steam is far better.

Then there are the other guys (this is by no means a comprehensive list). If you buy EA games like Battlefield 3 on PC (and you should, because it's at its best on the PC), then you'll require Origin. While I wish I didn't have to recommend it, some games will require it... so make sure you have Games for Windows Live installed, unless you're planning to avoid all GFWL games.

If you want to download old, classic PC games (with a ton of bonuses, like old-school, huge manuals) that have been made to work on modern systems, you should check out GoG.com, which has a bunch of wonderful, DRM free games available for sale. Plus, they're the same company that made the Witcher games, so they're worth supporting.

...and then there's Greenmangaming.

They are... odd. I don't really understand how they work, but they do, and that's really all that matters. Basically, they sell games and they sell them cheaply. Some of these games--in fact, a great number of them--include Steamworks, that thing that uses Steam as your benevolent, perhaps even desirable, DRM. Would you like Darksiders 2 for $35 brand new? Sure! Go for it! GMG has some of the best possible pre-order sales you could ever imagine.

Oh, and let's not forget Amazon, who do basically the same thing as GMG. I just got Binary Domain for $10 the other day, and Spec-Ops: The Line for $25, which was cheaper than even Steam's offering.

There's also Abandonia, which is a great place to get games that have become abandonware, like the original System Shock.

Finally, the games:

To come up with a list of "games wot you should get" would take far, far too long. The PC has the largest, best library of video games in the history of the world, and that's even if it couldn't emulate all but three game consoles currently on the market. Even its multiplatform titles are better, simply because they generally run a lot better while looking far prettier and having multiplayer communities that refuse to die decades after their release. What I'm going to do, then, is list several games that make PC gaming something worth doing in this day and age:

  • Orcs Must Die! 2: I don't really know how to explain Orcs Must Die! to people who haven't played it. The first was one of 2011's best games, and the second is even better. It's a tower defense game, but also a third-person action game. Place traps and barricades to prevent Orcs from breaking through rifts into the real world. I know, I know, based on that description, it might not sound worth buying, but trust me--it's incredible.
  • FTL: The first time I played FTL, I played it for three hours straight, almost obsessively. Since I am trying to keep this list somewhat brief, I'll let Justin McElroy's superb review of the game tell you what you need to know.
  • The Witcher: When I first played it, I got frustrated, bored, and a little angry at the people who had told me that this was the greatest RPG of the generation. After beating it, I pitied myself. Yes, the game looks like it was built in order, and CD Projekt RED learned how to make games as they went along, but the raw talent at work in The Witcher is incredible. "Get past the swamp," is my mantra. Act IV will blow you away. The multi-platform sequel is an even better game.
  • Thief: Have you ever played a game that reminded you of what games had the potential to become? That, for me, is Thief, a game so intelligently designed that it influenced nearly every stealth game released since its inception--yet none has ever been as good. It's old, so the graphics are weak, the keybindings are odd, and there's no widescreen support without mods, but once you start playing... well, it might change the way you think about stealth.
  • World in Conflict: There are strategy games, and then there is World in Conflict. It's a game I like to call an Action RTS, because base-building and resource gathering has been replaced by a mechanic where you call in unit air drops based on a number of requisition points made available to you. The fantastic gameplay is enough to make World in Conflict a standout title, but the gut-punching, intelligent narrative is what really sells it. I remember sitting there, slack-jawed, at one point in the story. It's a profound disappointment to me that Massive Entertainment is stuck working on multiplayer modes for Ubisoft's other franchises.
  • System Shock 2*: I believe it to be the greatest game of all time, and chances are, games you believe to be the greatest game of all time (such as Portal or Bioshock) were heavily influenced by System Shock 2. Few games can lay claim to having as much of an influence as Looking Glass Studios' entry into the first-person role-playing classic--it's up there with the Dooms and Ultimas of the industry.
  • Homeworld series*: I shed a tear when Homeworld 2 ended, which is a rather odd thing to do for a strategy game. It's a sad, beautiful, and inspiring game. I could spend hours just listening to the sound of space ships pulsing through space, while Paul Ruskay's soundtrack sends shivers down my spine. Never before or since, with one exception, has a game run me through the full gamut of emotions while I played. Homeworld is truly a beautiful series. I've often said that Relic were the best RTS studio out there, and it was Homeworld, not Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, Impossible Creatures (these are all amazing PC exclusives, by the way), that cemented their status.
  • STALKER series: Yeah. I mention this game a lot, don't I? For those of you who haven't read "Edik Dinosaur is Dead," it might be hard to understand why. I have never played a game that has changed me so wholly as STALKER. It's not flawless, mind you--the game, particularly on launch, was rife with bugs, the writing and voice acting has never been great, the controls are a little odd, and the game holds your hand even less than Dark Souls--but it is perfect. STALKER is the best survival horror games, one of the best shooters, and one of the most interesting role-playing games I have ever played. When you play it, understand this: like Dark Souls, it is a game that teaches you to think differently.
*these games are not available on digital download services and must be purchased from places like Amazon or Ebay.
Thanks to the people who helped!
  • Chris Plante
  • Fysi
  • itchyichi96
  • Jezzarisky
  • PrinceLUDA21
  • SirMarth01
  • Solowing
If I left you out, let me know!
Changelog:

V2: Made some statements less controversial. Cleaned up grammar. Changed recommended computer parts to be a bit more reasonable. Updated to show a few new "how to get into PC gaming" posts at the start.

V3: Added remarks about modding fairly early on, updated "three dollars to my name" to "four dollars to my name." Updated explanation of the low cost of PC gaming. Included a link to a mech cockpit build. Linked to several threads on the Verge's forums detailing members' PC setups, computer parts, and stuff like that. Linked to Chris Plante's "Let's build a PC" thread. Included link (currently not working) to Overlord Computer's website, as well as Sammael's Catleap thread.

V4: Software you should use, implementing the good suggestions in the comments below, creating a better, more focused games list.

V5 Upcoming: discussing mods at length. Also a section on overclocking.