The Witcher: best OS X games

We outline the best games for OS X. Here's the 31 best games you can play on your Mac mini, iMac or Macbook.

 Just a few short years ago, any list of best OS X games for Mac would have ground to a halt after a half-dozen half-decade old PC game hand-me-downs. Not any more. While Apple doesn't appear to put half the effort into Macs that they do into iOS, their silver computers' continuing rise has seen a true software explosion in great Mac games in the past couple of years.

Many of the Mac games below are available from the built-in Mac App Store, but if they're not there you'll find them in alternative e-store Steam, whose application is an essential download for even casual OS X gamers.

There's an unbelievable amount of choice now: old and new, mainstream and indie, action and puzzle, sequel and original. In alphabetical order, here are just a few of our most recommended OSX games. See also: The 18 best role-playing games for iPhone and iPad.

Best OS X games: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Most of the four hundred million-part Assassin's Creed stealth/parkour series is available on OSX now, but alas most are also drawn-out and samey exercises in self-indulgence. The one you want is third game Brotherhood, which takes all the best bits of its predecessors, adds a couple of new things and basically turns them into one wild party. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood review.

Assasin's Creed: Brotherhood

Best OS X games: AI War: Fleet Command

Don't let the relatively simple 2D graphics fool you - this is deep, detailed and agreeably sadistic space-strategy. Dense but rewarding stuff, ideal for you when you feel like going Full Introvert for a weekend.

Best OS X games: Amensia: The Dark Descent

Feel something other than lust for that aluminium oblong of yours: feel fear. Amensia might be an indie game, but it out-horrors pretty much anything from the mainstream in recent years. A deeply menacing adventure filled with puzzles, physics and what may or may not be monsters, it's an essential.

Best OS X games: Avernum: Escape From The Pit

The problem with 'classic' roleplaying games is that, though their stories and depth may be impressive, their user interface and compatibility with modern machines often isn't. The Avernum series is a smart throwback to the early 90s golden days of dungeon-exploring - retaining old-school values and presentation, but slick and intuitive where it needs to be.

Best OS X games: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Opinions are divided as to whether this or its sequel Arkham City is The Best Batman Game Ever, but hey, being spoilt for choice is no bad thing. Our choice is the leaner first game. The Arkham games understand what/who Batman is rather than simply being generic action games starring a guy with funny ears. Stealth, gadgets, scares and dramatic grappling hook-based movement: it might even be the best superhero game ever. Batman: Arkham Asylum review.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Best OS X games: Bejeweled 3

You're almost as likely to have played a Bejewelled game by now as you are to have ever drunk a cup of coffee, but that doesn't undermine how expertly-done these match-3 puzzle games are. The glitzy third game is compulsion incarnate. Bejeweled 3 review.

Bejeweled 3

Best OS X games: The Binding of Isaac

Twisted, sacrilegious and utterly unforgiving: The Binding of Isaac's dungeons full of mutant babies and Bible satire isn't a game to show granny. At the same time, it's a brilliant remix of 'roguelike' roleplaying games (where death is as inevitable as loot), fusing monster- slaying with high-speed shoot 'em up values. The Binding Of Isaac review.

The Binding of Isaac

Best OS X games: BioShock

In an age where shooting games dominate the entertainment industry but appear to only be interested in raising the spectacle, anything that adds intelligence to the wanton violence is to be welcomed. Fortunately BioShock does this in style (thanks to the incredible underwater city it's set in) and doesn't shirk on the action. Literate, evocative, weird, menacing and packing one of the all-time great twists, it's one of the most important videogames of the 21st century. BioShock review.

Bioshock

Best OS X games: Borderlands 2

Proving that OSX can now be right up there with the best of them when it comes to recent blockbuster releases, this almost unbelievably big, brash and noisy shooter is as happy on Mac as it is on console. With a near-infinite number of weapons to collect, approximately 1712 jokes per minute and all the levelling-up and looting compulsion of a good roleplaying game, Borderlands 2 is as spectacular as it is knowingly juvenile. Borderlands 2 review.

Borderlands 2

Best OS X games: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty might rule gaming, but it's a mere bit player on OSX. Recent iterations of the ubiquitous man-shooting series haven't arrived here yet, but frankly it's all been downhill since this one anyway. From back before egos grew out of control, COD 4 offers a moving and shocking singleplayer narrative, backed up by robust and frantic multiplayer first-person shooting. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Best OS X games: Civilization V

The classic, history-spanning turn-based strategy series Civilization series has always been good to Mac, so you're spoilt for choice. Civ V is the glossiest and makes bigger departures from the age-old conquer the world by might, politics or science formula than its predecessors, but (whisper it) the older Civ IV might just be the better game. Civilization V review.

Civilisation V

Best OS X games: Company of Heroes

Traditional real-time strategy games - of the sort popularised by Command & Conquer - are very much on the wane now, with the exception of the enormous StarCraft II. As authentic as it is bombastic, this World War II-set game of tanks and soldiers, base-building and (destructible) terrain makes for a pretty fantastic full stop to the genre which once ruled PC gaming. And with Macs no longer quite so averse to right-click buttons on mouse, you can actually play the thing properly now. Company of Heroes review.

Best OS X games: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

The former king of multiplayer shooting games has had a recent revamp. Counter-Strike, a team-based game of terrorists vs counter-terrorists, is fiercely competitive, ruled by players who know every map and every weapon inside-out, and you will suffer horribly if you play it. That's basically the point, though. The ultimate skill-based shooter, if you will. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

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Our list of the best OS X games for Mac continues...

Best OS X games: Crusader Kings 2

Historical strategy on a grand scale, and with a distinctly European focus. This is as much about raising a dynasty, heirs and marriages and all, as it is conquering your foes. Crusader Kings II is all about the big, distant picture, not the small fight right before your eyes.

Best OS X games: EVE Online

In a just world, this massively multiplayer, spaceship-based roleplaying game would have spawned a new age of thoughtful, player-driven virtual worlds. Sadly it didn't, and instead everything just copies World of Warcraft instead. No matter though - EVE is still going strong, and while it offers about the steepest learning curve in gaming once you've got to grips with it you're in for an ever-changing universe of galactic war, devious politics and a fully fledged in-game economy.

Best OS X games: Football Manager 2013

The ultimate football game, one of the UK's perennial best-sellers and the single most effective way to wave goodbye to at least a month of your life. Football management simulators don't come more detailed than this - though the price paid for that is that the long-running series has all but closed the door on inexperienced players by this point. The 2013 version has a special, cut-down classic mode to help with this, but really you want the full-fat version.

Best OS X games: FTL: Faster Than Light

Effortlessly disproving the claim that there's nothing new under the sun, FTL mixes up roleplaying, strategy and spaceship sims to come up with something fast, surprising, hilarious and utterly unfair. It's spaceship command with none of the complicated science but all the tension, and it was one of the best games of 2012, on any platform. FTL: Faster Than Light review.

Faster than light

Best OS X games: Half-Life 2

The poster child for singleplayer PC shooters finally moved to Mac a couple of years ago, and everything survived intact. An amazing post-alien-invasion/ruined city setting, a compelling plot and plenty of action against now-iconic enemies, human and otherwise. Sure, it's traditional on-rails stuff, but few other action games are as finely crafted as this.

Best OS X games: King’s Bounty: The Legend

Strategy and roleplaying put into a blender, with added surreal humour (e.g. the option to marry zombies and perform dragon dentistry). King's Bounty is akin to the more famous Heroes of Might & Magic series, with its turn-based battles and roaming adventures in between, but it cranks up the silly, ditches the unnecessary weight and just gets on with being a carnival.

Best OS X games: League of Legends

Bit of a cheat this one, as what's on its way to being the most popular game in the known universe isn't officially available on Mac. However, there's a third party way to get this massive MOBA (a sort of high-speed, ultra-competitive strategy game) working on OSX. The iLoL project should get you up and running - and, like the PC version, it's entirely free-to-play. Though you won't be able to resist buying new characters.

Best OS X games: Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes

Officially speaking it's a game for kids, but don't let that stop you. A delightful, wildly imaginative mash-up of plastic bricks and every superhero in the DC Comics stable, Lego Batman's building, jumping and thumping is at its best when played with a faithful sidekick - or your equally-thrilled offspring. LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes review.

Lego Batman

Best OS X games: Plants vs Zombies

Speaking of all-ages games starring iconic characters, this tower defence game starring anthropomorphised plants and cute zombies will put a smile on almost anyone's lips. Technically it's a strategy game of a sort, but in practice it's more of a high-speed, comedy puzzle starring zombies on tractors. Plants vs Zombies review.

Plants vs Zombies

Best OS X games: Proteus

A game entirely without action, and with it a demonstration of just how much more can yet be done with the entire medium. A surreal pixel-art world packed with amazing sights, beautiful music and the all-too-precious opportunity to just sit and watch the stars dance, the sun set or abstract frogs bound into the sea: Proteus is a game to make you feel better about life.

Best OS X games: Serious Sam 3: BFE

If Proteus is the antidote to first-person shooters, Serious Sam 3 is the other extreme: everything turned up to 11, everything beyond implausible and able to generate the death tolls of every Arnie movie combined within the space of five minutes. It's absolutely ridiculous, and it absolutely knows it. It also manages to look pretty amazing even as the endless bullets fly. Serious Sam 3: BFE review.

Serious Sam 3

Best OS X games: Starcraft II

Like its stablemates World of Warcraft and Diablo III, this real-time strategy game has about as much soul as an investment banker watching a Michael Bay movie, but it's beyond polished. It's strategy as a perfectly-tuned engine, and its multiplayer battles between future-humans, Alien-like horrors and otherworldly energy-creatures are legendary in their competitiveness and balance. Singleplayer is self-regarding nonsense, but superficially spectacular with it. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty review.

Best OS X games: Team Fortress 2

The stablemate yet polar opposite of Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2 is multiplayer first-person shooting for everyone. Brimming with character and humour, offering an array of different playable classes to suit all play-styles and now also free-to-play (though you can spend money on new weapons and costumes if you like), it's a dead-cert good time despite being a half-decade old by this point.

Best OS X games: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Sweeping, amazing-looking, adult-orientated roleplaying in a fantasy setting that avoids Tolkienesque stereotypes. Elves and dwarfs are racial outcasts, magic is terrifying and deadly, and political duplicity has as much power as the sword. It's the game you want if you're a big Game of Thrones fan, basically. It's equally lascivious mind, so don't play it in company. The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings review.

The Witcher

Best OS X games: The Walking Dead

Mean-spirited comic, tedious television serial - and now deeply moving videogame. Who'd a thunk it? The Walking Dead was perhaps 2012's biggest gaming surprise, managing to turn the story of a zombie outbreak into a sweet, sometimes shocking tale of family and friends. The 'game' element can be disputed, but even if you rarely do much more than choose conversation options, you'll nonetheless find yourself utterly engrossed in the fate of The Walking Dead's characters. The Walking Dead (Episodes 1&2) review.

The Walking Dead

Best OS X games: World of Goo

An ingenious, hilarious, ever-changing and slightly sinister puzzle game. What could have been Angry Birds with balls of giggling goo instead embraces sweeping ambition, gorgeous animation and a steady stream of surprises. A true classic, and so much more than the sum of its low-key parts.

Best OS X games: Torchlight

Sometimes you just want to go into a dungeon and hit stuff over and over again. Torchlight has you sorted, and unlike its arch-rival Diablo III it doesn't take itself too seriously in the process. It's all about collecting bigger and better weapons, slaying 200 monsters a minute and feeling that wonderful/terrible compulsion to keep on going, to keep on click-click- clicking, forever. Sadly the bigger, sillier sequel hasn't made its way to Mac yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Best OS X games: World of Warcraft

The MMO to end all MMOs - a huge, and hugely popular, virtual world of dwarves, goblins, gnomes and were-people so famous that you've probably seen adverts for it in the cinema.

It might be past its glory days by now, but it's still enormous and still striving to do new things with the age-old formula of beating up monsters and levelling up. Sadly the super- detailed cartoon world is rather more mechanical than it might appear, but WoW remains a sure-fire way to kiss goodbye to months of your life.