The 15 best single player games, ranked

When loneliness is bliss.

The gaming landscape as a whole has greatly shifted from the good days of the single-player games and the split-screen co-op, to a more online-oriented strategy. It’s not the case that these games just don’t exist, obviously, but the big-picture look drives us more and more toward online-focused, multiplayer experiences. That’s fine if done well, but we’ll always need great single-player campaigns, so let’s honor the best of the best. Easy task.

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Below, I’ve outlined 15 of the best games you can play by yourself. While some of these may have a co-op campaign or some online functionality, those aren’t their driving factors. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and break down those top picks, spanning console and PC generations new and old.

Baldur's Gate 3 Astarion, as he takes a moment to think
Screenshot by Destructoid

15. Baldur’s Gate 3

Please don’t take Baldur’s Gate 3‘s “low” ranking in my list of best-ever single-player games too harshly.

I just think it’s too early to find a more permanent placement as BG3’s very young, and I still, admittedly, have to get many more hours into the RPG so I can properly gauge its grandeur. Please see this awkward placement in this ranking as me just putting a pin oi it and betting that this will be an all-timer. Perhaps even one higher on the list in a future update.

The Witcher 3: Geralt riding a horse as he looks out into a foggy valley.
Image via CD Projekt Red

14. The Witcher 3

Even though its rather simplistic combat mechanics leave its action paling in comparison to the likes of the Souls series, that’s the only nit I have to pick with The Witcher. And not doing one thing as well as one of the best series of games ever made can’t be that big of a problem. Everything else is there, from gorgeous graphics to a captivating story filled with dozens of memorable characters. Also, the DLCs could probably take a few ranks, too. But I’ll limit it to one.

Truth be told, just hopping on Roach and going on a roadside trip alone to see all the moving vegetation will release more happy brain chemicals than most games out there.

Final Fantasy VI, Celes at the Opera house
Screenshot via Square Enix

13. Final Fantasy VI

Allow me to spoil it for you right now: you won’t find Final Fantasy VII higher than this. This is the only Final Fantasy game on this list, and it was a pretty tough decision to make.

Wanna know what’s weirder? I actually would’ve gone with VIII, and I know various loyal soldiers at Destructoid who would have my back. Still, even I have to accept that if there’s one game in the series that came closest to doing everything right, that game is VI. It might look old as heck nowadays, but I’d argue that its 2D art style holds up better than VII’s, and its gameplay mechanics definitely beat VIII’s. Final Fantasy VI remains as crisp as ever, and its soundtrack is also one of the best in the series.

Valve's first Portal game, with a red and blue circle visible
Image via Valve

12. Portal

You either love or loathe puzzle games, a challenge that the people at Valve triumphed over very easily by making a puzzle game that’s both fun and funny.

Underneath a simple level structure, Portal hides layers and layers of some of the best gaming mechanics and overall writing I’ve ever seen in a game. Oh, and yeah, there’s always the fact that the Portal mechanics themselves were never before seen — almost wizardry-type stuff back when it came out — and still remain puzzling to this day.

Play it now, play it ten years from now. Portal will never get old.

The Titanfall 2 mechs as they appear in EA key art
Image via EA

11. Titanfall 2

Please don’t let Titanfall 2’s supposed emphasis on multiplayer fool you. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all just extra fluff that pulls you away from one of the best campaigns of all time.

Despite being rather short, there’s no wasted time here. Those five or so hours will have players finding one awesome new mechanic per level, enjoying some of the best setpieces in the history of gaming, and, perhaps, crying because of a robot.

A modern city in CIV 4
Screenshot via Steam

10. Sid Meier’s Civilization IV

Though the series was only about midway into its journey back in ’05, I’d argue that Civilization 4 was likely its highest point yet.

Even if I’m wrong, I can at least hope you’ll forgive me for snubbing your favorite game in the series. That’s because all games in the series are responsible for the “just one more turn” curse that has destroyed so many of my nights I would’ve otherwise spent sleeping. Oh, and because doesn’t go absolutely Nuke-crazy on this one.

Hades key-art with Zagreus
Image via Supergiant Games

9. Hades

If you’re looking for the perfect balance between fun and challenging gameplay, then Hades is the game for you. Hades is trial and error perfected. It also features a beautiful art style, fun dialogue, superb gameplay, and gorgeous animations, if that helps.

Even the people who were already used to the marvelous games by Supergiant were surprised by the quality of this one, so it’s quite a blast to start this one if you’ve never touched the team’s other bangers like Transistor or Bastion.

Image via ConcernedApe/Festival of Seasons

8. Stardew Valley

Paraphrasing philosopher Henry David Thoreau, it’s fine to leave the city and any current measure of success to just take it to the countryside to chill and stuff. Stardew Valley would be the video game version of that quote, if not for the fact that its sole developer ended up creating one of the most successful games of all time.

It’s a curse he deserves, though, as this immersive farm life sim can truly steal you away from your life — and you’ll feel all the better for it.

A Bloodborne hunter pointing a Musket toward the camera
Image via MobyGames

7. Bloodborne

All Bloodborne required for success was to be Dark Souls but faster. But FromSoft didn’t set out to “merely” succeed with Bloodborne. The company completely revamped the Souls genre for action addicts and created the most lusciously engrossing world in the series.

You could call Bloodborne “Lovecraftian”, but it just adds so much more to the table that even calling it the best Lovecraft-inspired creation in history feels demeaning.

Red Dead Redemption port adds 60 FPS for PS5 John Marston
Image by Rockstar

6. Red Dead Redemption

I love Red Dead Redemption 2, but the simple fact that its entire plot cares more about setting up the events of the original than it does about creating a satisfying stand-alone series should leave no doubt over which one has the better plot.

The development of Red Dead Redemption varied from completely bonkers to nightmarish, but the result is, in my opinion, the most personal and personally fulfilling work in Rockstar’s catalog.

Morrowind anniversary
Image by Bethesda

5. The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind

Though its combat mechanics feel a little lackluster when compared to the games of today, I’d argue it’s still much more fun and immersive than Oblivion and Skyrim.

The thirst for adventure, discovery, and treasure hunting that I got from Morrowind has yet to be surpassed by a Bethesda game or by any other company — and I fear Morrowind will never be beaten in that regard.

Manny Calavera in Rubacava
Image via Lucasarts

4. Grim Fandango (Remastered)

Over 25 years since its initial release and its massive commercial flop, Grim Fandango remains the funniest game I’ve ever played and the best classic adventure game in history.

It’s just a miracle that the good people at Lucasarts managed to come up with an adventure game that only features one or two awful puzzles that make no sense. While I wouldn’t recommend the original version nowadays, the remaster is ace.

Gordon Freeman and Alyx from HL2
Image via Valve

3. Half-Life 2

Even though Half-Life is the one that got it started, I maintain that Half-Life 2 is the one that perfected it. By “it”, I’m talking about this concept that I’ve made up called the “Immersive FPS”, a very exclusive game genre that pretty much just features the games in the Half-Life series.

Even though it might not look as technically impressive as the more recent FPS games of nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that immerses you so well simply via its beautifully well-realized world and its writing. Much like Portal, I believe that Half-Life 2 is one of those games that will never age a day — but you will, so think about getting to it.

Completing tears of the kingdom without touching the surface
Screenshot via Nintendo

2. The Legend Of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

I thought about Ocarina of Time, about Majora’s Mask, and I even thought about A Link To The Past. Then I mulled over, “Yeah, but which Zelda game would I recommend to a kid of today that I didn’t want to strike as completely stuck in the past?” Well, the answer would be Breath of The Wild, so I picked Tears of The Kingdom — because it’s Breath of the Wild but better.

You can complain that it just reuses a large portion of the area from the original Zelda game for the Switch, but, well, I really like that game, so that actually feels like some sort of retro compatibility, which I also love.

In all seriousness, though, I do feel like Tears of the Kingdom shows Nintendo at its most ingenious, and that’s saying a lot about the video game company that built its brand on ingenuity.

elden ring 20 million sales fromsoftware
Image via Fromsoft

1. Elden Ring

Even though it’s only two years old, you already know damn well that no one who has played it will ever forget Elden Ring. The only reason why I’m not saying that this is the culmination of everything FromSoft has been working on for the past decade is that I just know that those mad people will manage to come up with something even better next. Still, this is absolutely the most fulfilling single-player experience you can have right now.

… And, even with everything I’ve just said, I’m cool if you hate me for not having Dark Souls occupying this spot. I kind of hate me for that as well.

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Tiago Manuel
Tiago is a freelancer who used to write about video games, cults, and video game cults. He now writes for Destructoid in an attempt to find himself on the winning side when the robot uprising comes.