Best Bethesda games you should be playing right now
Bethesda, now a Microsoft studio, is one of the world’s most beloved video game publishers thanks to its famous IPs like The Elder Scrolls, and its efforts as a publisher as well. Let’s take a look at seven of the best Bethesda games that are readily available and worth playing right now.
The Elder Scrolls: skyrim
You’ve probably heard of Skyrim? It’s the sprawling, fantastical open-world RPG that’s still played by tens of millions on pretty much every gaming platform nearly a decade after its initial release. How else can we start a list of the best Bethesda games?
Of course, Skyrim is a must-play, even if the graphics and certain elements of the gameplay feel a bit dated by modern standards. But few modern video games can recreate the same sense of boundless, limitless exploration as Skyrim. And for the lore hounds out there, there’s simply no rival to the incredible depth of history and lore in The Elder Scrolls Universe.
Even after playing the 100+ hours of story and DLC content, Skyrim’s thriving modding community has realized hundreds, if not thousands, of new ways to experience the snowy plains of Tamriel’s icy northern expanses.
The yin to Skyrim’s Yang, Fallout is Bethesda’s other major open-world franchise with equal emphasis on exploration and role-playing. The big difference, of course, is the aesthetics and setting, which trades the colorful palate of high fantasy for a grim post-apocalyptic vision of 1950s America.
If you’re into weird and wonderful settings, Fallout games have always been written and presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner that satirizes capitalism and corporate greed as 50s consumer culture confronts the grim aftermath of nuclear fallout. It’s a bizarre but brilliant juxtaposition.
In terms of gameplay, it is very similar to games from The Elder Scrolls series. Although there are no classes in the traditional sense, the depth of the RPG mechanics allows players to experience the game with almost any playstyle they like. There are also factions to join and companions to recruit, with compelling stories told across main, side, faction and companion missions. The amount of content is staggering.
We’ve chosen to highlight Fallout 4 here as the series’ high-water mark, both because it featured a cool settlement-building system and the best shooting mechanics in the series. But you can’t go wrong with either Fallout 3 or New Vegas, which arguably have better stories.
The revival of the DOOM series this console generation has been one of the most successful in memory. Somehow, the founder of the FPS genre is now back on his tour de force 30 years after the very first game.
DOOM and its sequel DOOM Eternal are fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping shooter experiences that both feel incredible to play and look absolutely stunning. The intensity of gameplay is simply unmatched, with a design that entices you to keep pushing forward and keep hanging in even when the odds seem insurmountable.
It’s honestly hard to see how the franchise can improve on the formula already after setting such a high standard. You just have to try DOOM.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
Speaking of successful revivals, the Wolfenstein series has had an equally triumphant return to the top of the FPS pop.
Developed by MachineGames, the Swedish studio has done a fantastic job with both New Order and The New Colossus in finding a sumptuous blend between tight shooting mechanics and cleverly written storytelling. It looks and feels fresh and modern, but it feels so typically 90s Wolfenstein.
A big part of the appeal is the game’s setting, an alternate sci-fi story where the Nazis won World War II and now command impossibly futuristic and scary weapons. From giant robot dogs to laser guns capable of dismembering those unfortunate enough to be caught in the line of fire, there’s always some kind of bombastic situation waiting around every corner in Wolfenstein.
We’ve picked the second game in the series for our list of the best Bethesda games, but you might as well start on The New Order and enjoy the excellent standalone DLC The Old Blood first. Just make sure you skip Young Blood, the terrible co-op spin-off that flopped completely in 2019.
Dishonored & Dishonored 2
You’ve noticed that this list is mostly made up of first-person games of one kind or another, and here we have another one for you. But Dishonored is a completely different kind of animal than the intensity of DOOM or the freewheeling exploration of Fallout.
Traversing the shadowy steam-punk streets of Dunwall, players take control of Corvo Attano on a quest for revenge as he tries to save his daughter and slaughter those who falsely accused him of murder.
Dishonored is a stealth experience, and one of the very best ever made thanks to an absolutely stunning sandbox level design that allows for several different approaches to assassinating targets.
Corvo’s supernatural abilities also add to the playground feel of each level as he teleports to different locations or takes out patrolling guards in all sorts of strange but inventive ways, such as summoning a horde of rats to tear them apart.
Dishonored was originally released for the previous console generation, but it is still superior to its successor. Still, if you prefer better graphics and the ability to play as a female character, Dishonored 2 is ultimately just as good.
The inner evil
Before Capcom decided to remake Resident Evil 2 and 3, The Evil Within was the industry leader when it came to AAA reimagining of the classic survival horror experience.
And it’s little surprise how well it fits that design given that the director is the great Shinji Mikami, the former Capcom developer behind the beloved and trendsetting classic Resident Evil games.
But while there are all manner of hideous monstrosities stalking you in The Evil Within, there’s not a zombie in sight. The premise is completely different as players traverse a nightmarish fantasy world that shifts and changes throughout the game.
If you’ve played classic Resident Evil, however, you’ll be familiar with the third-person perspective, limited ammo, safe houses, and other hallmarks of the survival horror genre.
There’s a sequel, too, if you find yourself totally in love with the original game and wanting more. Although the first game is definitely a better overall experience.
The Elder rolls online
The final entry on our list of the best Bethesda games takes us full circle and back to The Elder Scrolls. This time, however, it’s the excellent MMORPG game developed by the ZeniMax team that, like many games in the genre, started life on the wrong foot before turning things around completely with a huge content expansion.
With the launch of the Tamriel Unlimited version of the game back in 2015, ESO finally felt like a true Elder Scrolls experience tied to single-player gameplay.
Where before it was just a generic MMORPG with an Elder Scrolls skin, Tamriel Unlimited added the kind of gameplay mechanics familiar to fans of Skyrim and Morrowind.
Since then, the pack has only gone from strength to strength, with increasingly ambitious expansions taking a now thriving and sizable community of players to Morrowind, Summerset, Elseweyr, and most recently back to Skyrim with the Greymoor expansion.
If you’ve never played an MMORPG and you know you like Bethesda games, look no further than ESO. And for those MMORPG players who have long been committed to something like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings online, you might consider this a new adventure to sink hundreds of hours into.
Prey received a mixed critical reception when it launched back in 2017, but it’s become something of a cult classic since then and one that we think is definitely worth a playthrough if you’re a fan of sci-fi shooters. It’s from the same Arcane Studios team behind Dishonored, and you can feel the lineage of those games throughout Prey. Well-crafted level design, clever puzzle mechanics, and fascinating lore to tie the story together are prominent.
The exchange takes place on the Talos research space station, a former prison used to house an alien species known as the ‘Typhoon’, which was discovered in the 1980s aboard a Soviet satellite. Fast forward fifty or so years and players take control of Morgan as he visits Talos after a break in containment has killed the majority of the crew.
It’s a fascinating alternate story premise, and the quality of the stories throughout the game is absolutely top notch. Surprisingly for an Arcane shooter, however, the combat and stealth systems are not. The gunplay is serviceable, and the player abilities are fine (but not at Dishonored’s level), but the enemy AI isn’t particularly inspired, and combat is generally a bit of a chore due to how cool the spongy enemies are.
Still, there’s something about the atmosphere of the Talos space station that’s captivating, and the many missions that can be accomplished through its murky confines are genuinely interesting. For everything Prey gets wrong, it’s equally convincing in other facets of the overall experience.