Best Games to Play with Integrated Graphics
If you own or are looking to buy an affordable laptop that doesn’t come with a discrete graphics card, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck just playing solitaire. A laptop’s CPU can handle more than you might think all on its own, thanks to its Integrated Graphics Processing Unit (IGPU).
Intel CPUs come equipped with a range of IGPUs depending on what generation they’re from. To find out which one you have, read our integrated GPU guide. So for anyone looking to get in some game time on something like a Dell XPS 13, we made a list of games you can expect to run on high settings while keeping a playable frame rate. If you suddenly run into problems running your games, an update could be to blame. Here is how to prevent Steam from auto-updating games so you can avoid those issues.
Hollow Knight (2017)
A recent 2D-indie game, Hollow Knight might overtax older CPUs in the Broadwell line or earlier generations of IGPUs. The game runs in the Unity Engine, which is known for causing some issues with low-spec systems. But with Skylake and Kaby Lake iterations of Intel HD 500 or 600 series, Hollow Knight’s particle effects shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
With a newer laptop, you should be sitting pretty with this beautiful throwback to games like Metroid and Castlevania Symphony of the Night. Some hitching when particle effects show up, when entering the water or defeating an enemy, might still occur, but the general experience should be very playable on newer CPUs.
Credit: Team Cherry
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (2016)
The latest entry in the classic historicallyflavored strategy game is playable, with some limitations, on integrated graphic systems. Older models in the Intel HD 500 line will eek out play at low settings, whereas newer and stronger IGPUs like the Iris Pro 580 will see more breathing room and be playable up to medium settings.
It can all go a little sideways later on during one of Civ’s notoriously long matches as you and your opponents create more units and more graphical assets pile into the game. With enough players, even old Civ games get cause modern gaming rigs to slow down a tiny bit. Thankfully, the game is turn-based, and any loading lag should have a limited impact on playability.
Credit: 2K Games
Overwatch is a true Blizzard game when it comes to fun, polish and, of course, system requirements. On high settings, Overwatch holds its own visually against a lot of contemporary releases, but when the settings are lowered it can still be run on very low-end systems.
To keep things at a playable 30 frames per second on a non-gaming laptop, you’ll have to play on low settings. But if you’re coming at this game with a Kaby Lake processor with Iris Pro 580 onboard, feel to bump those sliders up. Just don’t expect 60 frames a second.
Credit: Activision Blizzard
Owlboy was an indie darling in 2016 with an incredibly long development cycle that resulted in some of the most smoothly animated pixel graphics ever seen. It’s an endearing adventure about companionship and fitting into society, and it doesn’t require a strong system to play. Owlboy is part of the 2D-indie renaissance that has buried us in great games with low-impact system requirements. Expect to be able to run this game well on all but the most beige of electronics.
Credit: D-Pad Studios
FIFA 17 (2016)
The FIFA games dominate the world of sports titles and that legacy has a lot to do with accessibility. PC versions of FIFA offer as much visual flair as their modern console counterparts, but with a lot more leeway. FIFA games often support previous hardware generations on consoles for many years, so running the latest FIFA on lower settings with integrated graphics should make for a fine experience as long as you have a Skylake CPU or above. An Intel HD 500 series should see a smooth 60 frames at low settings with playable frame rates on medium. More robust IGPUs shouldn’t have an issue hitting high settings and delivering well above 30 frames.
Credit: Electronic Arts
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
Metal Gear Solid V is a really big ask for something to run without a dedicated graphics card, but some powerful CPUs can still manage it on medium to low settings, if you’re not dead-set on 60 fps. Chalk this up to the game also needing to run smoothly on original Xbox 360 hardware with components that are now 12 years old. Intel HD 500 and 600 IGPUs should sit at 30 frames on low settings, while an Iris Pro 580 can get close to 60 frames on medium.
MGSV has a vast open world with all kinds of things to do and interact with, which can make your system pretty toasty, thanks to the CPU doing all that heavy lifting.
Rocket League (2015)
The breakout multiplayer success of 2015 is also quite CPU-friendly when played on lower settings. Rocket League is a great way to kill a few minutes by playing a fast-paced game of soccer with cars. Aside from a stable Wi-Fi connection , a strong CPU and IGPU aren’t required to play this online-only game. Broadwell integrated graphics can perform well, but bring things up to the current generation and you should hit close to 60 frames on low settings, and near 30 frames on medium.
Bioshock Infinite (2013)
Bioshock Infinite is another game that not every old laptop can run. Some older Broadwell-based IGPUs like the HD 6000 can keep a playable frame rate on low settings if you can tolerate frames close to or slightly below 30. For better performance, the Iris Pro 580 is the safe bet for getting this game running at medium or low settings without a major performance hit. A very flashy first-person shooter with a deep story, Bioshock Infinite was cutting edge when it was released, so expect it to draw a lot of power and generate a lot of heat in compact or poorly ventilated systems.
Credit: 2K Games
Diablo III (2012)
Diablo III was never a technical powerhouse, but it’s seen significant content additions ever since its release in 2012. A whole new character, the Necromancer, was rolled out earlier this year that brings the playable roster up to seven. It does require an internet connection, which is a bummer for a game that’s great to play solo and runs well on standard laptops. Even older CPUs should muster a good frame rate on low settings when playing Diablo III. Step it up to something like a Core i5 or i7-6000 series, and you’ll hit playable frame rates even on ultra.
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment
The original Dishonored is now old enough that Intel HD 500 or 600 series integrated graphics can hit playable frame rates at low or medium settings without much trouble, but the newer Dishonored 2 is, unfortunately, just too fancy for any IGPUs at the moment. The original 2012 game, however, is still a great game that plays like Bioshock, but with a stronger emphasis on stealth and far more neck-stabbing.
Credit: Bethesda Softworks
Portal 2 (2011)
If you have a friend with whom you haven’t yet played co-op with in Portal 2, don’t let your low-end system specs keep you from jumping in. This is easily one of the best multiplayer experiences you can have on a PC, and the single player is no slouch, either. Portal 2 is showing its age by now, but even for its time, the Source Engine that it runs on played very well on less powerful computers.
If this or any other Valve Source Engine games have passed you by, like Team Fortress 2 or the original Portal, they often go on a steep discount and shouldn’t have a problem running on high settings on Skylake- or Kaby Lake-generation CPUs.
DOTA 2 (2013)
DOTA 2 is incredibly popular, regularly topping the player charts on Steam, and you can run it even with the Intel HD 5300 IGPU found in older Broadwell CPUs. You’ll be locked to low settings, but your frame rates will stay above 30. DOTA 2 is a highly competitive online game that should be played with a mouse rather than a trackpad -- and a stable internet connection is a must. It’s not all high-skill play, as the title offers plenty of casual matches on a laptop running below 60 frames. However, I don't advise playing ranked matches at anything below 60fps.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012)
The original Counter-Strike was easily playable on the school-issued laptops I and my classmates received in high school back in 2005, and the 2012 refresh of the game didn’t move the needle all that far ahead. New Kaby Lake and Skylake CPUs will be able to run this game with no concessions on all but maximum settings and full resolution. Intel HD 500-series IGPUs should hit a smooth 60 frames on medium and below, while older Broadwell CPUs with HD 5000-series equipped should still hit playable frame rates on low or medium.
League of Legends (2009)
League of Legends is many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t is cutting edge. The game uses some basic geometry and character models that have been updated since the game’s launch in 2009. As such, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for a new non-gaming laptop to run the game at medium settings, or a system with a budget or old CPU to run it on low settings while achieving very good frame rates.
Of course, you still need that pesky internet connection. But you knew that already -- this is League! It’s been a big deal for a long while, and getting in some quick 5v5s over reliable Wi-Fi on your work laptop is totally doable. Just don’t get caught.
Credit: Riot Games
Age of Empires III (2005)
An oldie but a goodie, Age of Empires III is now 12 years old as of this writing, and that means you should be able to get playable performance out of something from back in the Sandy Bridge era of CPUs as long as you cut resolution and settings down. Any integrated chip that’s even close to contemporary will let you strategize to your heart’s content.