The best places to buy and rent PC games online in 2022

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Hate stepping into a crisp old GameStop to buy the latest video games because there aren’t many physical alternatives? Well let us tell you about this hot new thing called the internet. Online connections are faster than ever, which means you can download huge titles in just a few minutes. Now is a great time to start buying or renting games from the comfort of your own computer by visiting an online video game market. Just like Whole Foods and 7-Eleven meet different dietary needs, not all video game stores have the same types of games. Our guide describes everything you need to know to start shopping.

What are your options?

This story covers eight online game stores: Epic Games Store, GameFly, GOG, Green Man Gaming, Humble Bundle (owned by PCMag parent company Ziff Davis), itch.io, Steam, and the Xbox PC app ( now directly integrated into Windows 11).

These stores mainly offer computer games (Windows, macOS, and Linux) for digital download. Every now and then you’ll find books, movies, software, and other types of entertainment, but that’s not the main topic. That doesn’t mean you can’t download games on console or mobile; Xbox PC app sells Microsoft Flight Simulator, while Humble Bundle has just added Nintendo Switch codes to its catalog.

Unfortunately, some third-party publishers require you to download games directly from their own online stores, such as Blizzard’s Battle.net, EA’s Origin, Rockstar’s Games Launcher, and Ubisoft’s Uplay. Even unexpected places, like Discord or Twitch, can try to sell you individual games or include free games as part of a subscription. Between Apple Arcade, GameClub, and Xbox Game Pass (available on console and PC), platform owners want subscription services to be the next way to sell games on their devices.

As for GameFly and Green Man Gaming, those stores have removed major features since we last reviewed them. Green Man Gaming’s gadget sells keys at a discount to other game stores, a legitimate, but sometimes controversial, practice that Direct2Drive and the much more sketchy G2A also use. Meanwhile, despite being one of the last strongholds for game rentals, GameFly’s delivery was painfully slow even before a global pandemic decimated the post office. Green Man Gaming has also shut down its social network Playfire, while GameFly has shut down its game streaming service (an ambitious feature that even Google struggles to pull off with Stadia).

Library and Features

The biggest thing that you need to look out for when choosing an online game store is the library. Don’t waste your time browsing a store that doesn’t have the games you’re looking for. The stores we’ve covered have surprisingly diverse libraries. Editors’ Choice Steam offers almost every PC game under the sun, new or old, indie or AAA, awash with post-release content or still in development. While they all have limitations, the Epic Games Store, Humble, Bundle, and Xbox are aiming for similar mass appeal as well. Other stores target niche markets. GOG.com specializes in older classic PC games, while itch.io highlights more independent art work.

Other factors can influence your shopping experience as well, such as digital rights management (DRM), customer service, refund policies, and developer tools for budding game makers. Humble Bundle might not offer as strong a library as its competition, but it does offer plenty of great discounts for great charitable causes. Different sites also offer different levels of navigation. If you don’t know exactly what you want, that’s okay. But on, say, itch.io, you can configure the storefront to show only “colorblind compatible Windows games under $ 10 that run for a few hours and include virtual reality support.” Many stores even include social features, so you can interact with other players and creators, read user reviews, and participate in community events. All of these social and recommendation features make it easy to find your next purchase. Follow PCMag Steam preservative recommendations page.

Buyers stand up

These stores would love for you to buy games exclusively from their service, but remember that you have a choice as a consumer. There’s nothing stopping you from buying Death Stranding on Steam in one tab and Maneater from the Epic Games Store in another. Some stores are even looking at this fact. GOG Galaxy clients sync your accounts from rival platforms for a unified gaming hub. You can access itch.io directly in the Epic Games store (much to the horror of Apple’s lawyers). Even Valve’s own Steam Deck laptop works with non-Steam markets. So do what’s best for you. Compare prices on Cheap shark. Claim free games where you can find them. Be a smart shopper and find the best online video game markets before you make your next purchase.

Looking for an audience to watch you play your new game? Find out the best ways to live stream your gaming sessions. Worried your kids are spending too much time playing when they should be studying? Here’s how to enable parental controls on all video game platforms. And why not try making your own video game with the best user-friendly game development software?

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