The videogame wars have been a constant presence down the years, ever since the days when gamers argued the relative merits of the Commodore 64 versus ZX Spectrum, right up until today's Project Scorpio versus PS4 Pro bun-fights. But there have also always been overarching arguments about whether home computers or consoles provide a better overall gaming experience.
The truth is that both PCs and consoles have their respective advantages, but when it comes to certain genres, the PC clearly offers more for various reasons – such as greater graphical power, better control schemes, modifications to inject more life into games, and so forth.
So which genres are best experienced on the PC? Click through our gallery to find out.
Welcome to TechRadar's 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.
In 1989, SimCity was the simulation game to rule them all. Governance over an entire city was revolutionary at the time, but it wouldn’t have worked on, say, the Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, console ports of these kinds of games have proved worthless time and time again.
And, while they’ve begun to stagnate over the years due to their improved viability in the mobile market, simulation developers have — for whatever reason — decided to keep controller support coming to the presumed disappointment of their audience.
Whether you’re building a sprawling metropolis in Cities: Skylines (pictured), joysticking it to the man in Microsoft Flight Simulator or raising a family in The Sims, simulation games are undoubtedly most at home on PC. We admit there’s certainly some potential on mobile platforms too.
We're including both real-time and turn-based because, quite frankly, they're all better on PC. Civilization VI is a case in point – it's only truly available on PC, as Mac OS can only support the single player campaign and consoles cannot handle it all. Looking back, it took three years before Civ II was ported to the PlayStation, and by that time the PC already had Age Of Empires II.
Most strategy games have to be pared down for console consumption as their internal architecture means the processing power is balanced heavily on graphical output rather than raw number crunching. That's why football manager sims always feel like demos on consoles. The Total War series, the newest of which is Warhammer 2, release date pending, has never ventured out to our console brethren – consoles just can't handle the real-time battles and system requirements.
That's not to say that it's impossible and foolhardy to make a playable and enjoyable strategy game on a console, as Halo Wars on the Xbox and Advance Wars on the humble GBA proved. Certain concessions have to be made – the lack of keyboard and mouse means that not all the options are available all the time as they are on PC, and selecting units can be finicky without a mouse. So it's a strategic move to stick with a PC.
Yeah Halo, yeah, yeah, Call Of Duty, blah blah blah, whatever! There is no way of nailing a satisfying headshot without a mouse. With the pointer you can even pick which eyeball you want to pop out first. Counter-Strike, DayZ (although it’s more of a survival horror), Team Fortress and Portal were all originally PC mods. They were all so successful as mods that they were made into games in their own right, many sprouting sequels. Modification is at the heart of PC gaming and the FPS genre is where most of the innovation takes place.
Garry’s Mod converted FPS classic Half-Life 2 into a sandbox game with no objectives. It could be said that it was the blueprint for the all-conquering Minecraft, another game that started on PC. But we’re getting away from FPS here – let’s get back to shooting, first-person shooting.
It’s all about the mouse, there’s no need for auto-aim on a PC, because targeting is so precise with a mouse. It’s apt as the original trackball was invented in 1946 as a post WWII firing system. Its inventor Ralph Benjamin felt that a trackball was more elegant and accurate than a joystick and how little things have changed.
You can keep your Final Fantasies and Skyrim (though it is very good on PC), an RPG’s home will always be on PC. From the early days of Ultima, which was the first to dip into the waters of online gaming, up to the hulking monolith that is World Of Warcraft, RPGs on PC have more scope to play with, and more hard drive space too. Of course it’s difficult to compare these games to poppy platform JPRGs such as the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III, which are great fun to play but lack depth and online capability.
Consoles are also closed platforms, unless you count Sony’s Net Yaroze, meaning that even if you know how to program you won’t be able to make a game, let alone release it. PCs don’t have those kind of restrictions meaning Kickstarter campaigns have sprung up everywhere including the exciting looking sequel to Planescape: Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera. Another Kickstarter to look out for is Moon Hunters, which looks like a cross between Harvest Moon and Gauntlet.
Adventure games have an incredibly long history on the platform, though many times people have rang their death knell. Just like the music critics who keep predicting the end of guitar music, it never dies out does it?
Telltale Games are now making a six part Game of Thrones adventure – a few years ago it would have been a hack-and-slash affair. Adventure games are back with a bang and the biggest innovations are on PC. Papers, Please has won oodles of awards for combining a simple border checkpoint sim (and no, we can’t think of any others) with the sharpness of a point-and-click adventure.
Older franchises are being resurrected – graphical text adventure pioneers Sierra announced its return last year and is currently making a brand new King’s Quest game. It’s been 17 years since the last one, that’s almost as long as My Bloody Valentine fans waited for their latest album (22 years in case you were wondering).
Tim Schafer classics such as Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango have been or are in the process of being remastered. And oddball games are sprouting up on Kickstarter such as Aviary Attorney – think Phoenix Wright with pigeons – and the Flashback inspired Candle.
Surely one of the original sandbox games was the demo to Motorcross Madness back in 1998? Ignore the idiot NPCs going around the track and head straight out into the desert. Before long you'd hit a cliff. With enough speed and the right angle you could get up the cliff. On top the view was breath-taking, and possibly a little foggy if your graphics card wasn't up to it.
Head away from the cliff edge and before long an invisible wall would hurl both you and your bike for miles over the desert to land in a crumpled mess on the floor. Fast forward to GTA V on PC in 2015 and things aren't that much different, except this time you've got a parachute and a rocket launcher.
Second Life is perhaps the most divisive of all sandbox games. On the one hand it's an innovative open world in which the late, great Terry Pratchett visited for a live Q&A, and Jay-Z has performed live in there, but it also has a reputation for attracting geeks who live their first lives in there.
Minecraft is still the crown jewel in the PC sandbox crown (a crown made of sand probably wouldn't work very well, though). And although it has been released on consoles, its home is here on the PC. Boasting nearly 20 million sales, unlike Second Life, Minecraft is getting younger gamers into PCs and it's creating the PC gamers and designers of the future.