The 14 Most Gorgeous and Demanding PC Games
When it comes to PC gaming, most players are in pursuit of one thing: the prettiest experience possible. After all, why settle for console standards when you can have 4K resolutions, volumetric fog, cloth physics and Nvidia HairWorks?
However, said graphics come at a great price — a hardware price, to be specific. To get the most out of the shiniest new releases, you'll need a pretty hefty rig. And if you do start to experience stuttering, make sure to disable auto-updating games in Steam to gain more control over what is downloaded and when. Whether you're looking for games to convince you to make the jump or you already have a crazy gaming laptop that's just itching to experience the best in gaming's graphical fidelity department, the games on this list will make your GPU melt and your eyes water.
Credit: Deep Silver
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Assassin's Creed has a lengthy history of being one of the prettiest series in modern gaming, and Odyssey is no different. Ubisoft has taken its flagship franchise to new heights with this Grecian AC installment. The lighting is vibrant, the textures are crisp, the draw distances lay out all of Ancient Greece in front of you—there's a visual extravagance to Odyssey that few, if any, of Ubisoft's other games can rival. Though AC Unity still holds the crown for special achievements in crowd density and world depth, Odyssey takes most other visual aspects of current gaming technology as far as they can reasonably go.
Recommended specs: CPU: 4.0GHz AMD FX-8350, 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-3770 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 47GB | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 | OS: Windows 7, 8.1, 10
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
If you want a game that has every graphical gimmick imaginable running under the hood, try out Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Its incredible textures are just the tip of the iceberg. This game has volumetric fog and particle effect tricks that distort light, enhanced water reflections, advanced anti-aliasing techniques, environmentally reactive foliage, and so many other high-end graphical tricks that it'd be hard not to call Shadow of the Tomb Raider one of the most visually impressive games in existence. And if you can afford an Nvidia graphics card that goes the extra mile, this game is built with RTX-exclusive real-time raytracing in mind, for those who want the bleeding edge of technological innovation.
Recommended specs: CPU: 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 4770K, 3.2GHz AMD Ryzen 5 1600 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 40GB | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB, AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB | OS: Windows 10
Credit: Square Enix
As with the Battlefield titles before it, Battlefield V isn't a very demanding game. However, even while running on minimum specs, it still looks exceptionally pretty. This is doubly true for the game at max settings, wherein it looks absolutely gorgeous. Its scenic WW2 environments are all fully realized, packed with detail, and more destructible than ever, all thanks to the current iteration of EA DICE's Frostbite engine. Plus, the game supports real-time raytracing with RTX-capable cards, in case you own one of Nvidia's latest and greatest.
Recommended specs: CPU: Intel Core i7 4790, AMD Ryzen 3 1300X | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 50GB | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB, AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB | OS: Windows 10
Credit: Electronic Arts
Forza Horizon 4
Though it's not leaps and bounds greater than Forza Motorsport 7 from a technical perspective, Forza Horizon 4 does amp up the Forza franchise's general beauty. By taking its cars off the racing circuit and onto the roads and open fields of the United Kingdom, Forza is endowed with a whole new dimension of environmental splendor. All the graphical effects of Motorsport 7 are here, with the added benefit of colorful plains, lush woods, snowy mountain tops, and so many other biomes that all add an earthy richness to the franchise's already top-tier weather effects and visuals. Just be sure your PC has quality specs so that you can get the most out of Horizon 4.
Recommended specs: CPU: 3.6-3.8GHz Intel Core i7-3820 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 70GB | GPU: Nvidia GTX 970, AMD R9 290X | OS: Windows 10
No other series besides Crysis has become infamous for being technologically future-proof. And while this trend started with Crysis 1, it didn't stop there. Each game kept on upping the ante until Crysis 3, which remains the most graphically stunning game in the series, and arguably the medium, to this day. Though it's relatively easy to run on minimum and recommended settings, if you try to get Crysis 3 running at a playable frame rate at 4K with every setting maxed out, you'd better have a fire extinguisher handy.
Recommended specs: CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-750, 2.7GHz AMD Phenom II X4 805 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 17GB | GPU: Nvidia GTX 560, AMD Radeon HD 5870 | OS: Windows Vista, 7, 8
Grand Theft Auto V
While Grand Theft Auto V isn't all that taxing on normal settings, if you crank it up to its absolute highest graphical settings and really lay on the extras (4K textures, high population variety, maximum distance scaling, etc.), the game can get pretty demanding. And, of course, let's not forget about the main draw of GTA V on PC: the mods. If you want computationally intensive mods that turn the cartoonish base game into a near-photorealistic interactive action movie, you're going to need computing horsepower out the wazoo, potentially more so than with any other game on this list. Before you tinker with your copy of GTA V, though, remember that Rockstar is awfully touchy about modding and might ban you from GTA Online if you toy with any component of the game.
Recommended specs: CPU: 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 3470, 4GHz AMD X8 FX-8350 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 72GB |GPU: Nvidia GTX 660 (2GB), AMD HD 7870 (2GB) | OS: 64-Bit Windows 7, 8, 10
Credit: Rockstar Games
Metro: Last Light Redux
Though this game might not be the most gorgeous thing ever when it comes to basic textures, Metro: Last Light Redux augments the visual experience by adding so many effects into the mix that one can't help but be impressed. It utilizes some of the best shaders and lighting technology to ever hit gaming, as well as neat immersion-boosters like fog, frost and even condensation, the latter of which forms on your mask as you trek through the game's world. That sort of technical ingenuity does a great job of enhancing the already-gorgeous experience. This game's minimum and recommended specs are light, but you can go far with it if your rig sports greater horsepower.
Recommended specs: CPU: Any Quad Core or 3+ GHz Dual Core CPU | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 10GB | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 480| OS: 64-Bit Windows 7, 8
Credit: Deep Silver
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has moments where it shines bright as the prettiest game on this list. If you overlook some wonky-looking AI characters, the inanimate framework of the game offers a level of detail that's practically new to the industry, with every texture featuring some of the crispest art in the entire medium. Couple that with the game's overwhelming amount of visual touches, such as atmospheric fog, volumetric smoke and even cloth physics, and Deus Ex: MD is as much of a looker as a modern AAA game can be. With that said, you'll need some intense hardware to get Adam Jensen's hair and coat flowing in the smoke-laden wind at ultra settings, should you want the full experience.
Recommended specs: CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K, AMD FX 8350 Wraith | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 55GB | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 480, Nvidia GTX 970 | OS: 64-Bit Windows 10
Credit: Square Enix
Assassin's Creed Unity
To this day, no Assassin's Creed game has come as close to photo-realism as Assassin's Creed Unity, a game that, when it runs, looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Though the lack of proper optimization was, and to some extent still is, a cause of the hefty hardware this game requires, the majority of the title's requirements stem from its sheer visual caliber. With the massive crowds, god-ray-lighted stained-glass windows of Notre Dame and concealing shadows of grimy Parisian back alleys, this game is a time machine that plops players into an almost lifelike re-creation of the French Revolution.
Recommended specs: CPU: 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770, 4GHz AMD FX-8350 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 50GB | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 780, AMD Radeon R9 290X (3GB) | OS: 64-Bit Windows 7, 8
Though Quantum Break is undeniably a very pretty game, the reason for its ludicrous PC requirements (the unofficial ones, mind you — not the bogus, unrealistically low ones that Microsoft claims) are due almost entirely to its nightmarish lack of optimization. Few PC ports can hold a candlestick to how poorly executed this one was, at least for the first few months after its launch. With abysmal frame rates on strong graphics cards, constant driver crashes and a host of other issues, Quantum Break on PC has never been the experience it was meant to be. With that in mind, it certainly lives up to our title — if you want a gorgeous and demanding game for your PC, give this bad boy a whirl. You'll be lucky to hit 60 fps on max settings with anything less than a NASA Pleiades supercomputer.
"Recommended" specs (aim higher): CPU: 3.9GHz Intel Core i5-4690 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 42.3GB | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 390 | OS: 64-Bit Windows 10
Final Fantasy XV
If you want to follow the Jonas Brothers on their most exciting tour yet, you're going to need a strong gaming rig. Because it attempts to capture every grain of grass and luscious, flowing lock of boy band hair, Final Fantasy XV requires a respectable mid-range GPU just to manage 30 fps — a requirement that is entirely justified by the game's impressive fidelity. Its incredible draw distance, shiny particle effects and general polygonal perfection (cough, Cindy … or Noctis, take your pick) all mean you'll need a PC that packs a punch.
Recommended specs (for 1080p 30fps): CPU: 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770, 4GHz AMD FX-8350 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 100GB | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB), Radeon RX 480 | OS: 64-Bit Windows 7, 8, 10
Credit: Square Enix
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Thanks to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's bevy of graphics options, this game can run as easily as you want it to — albeit, the further you dial the game down, the uglier it gets (obviously).
Should you choose to amp up The Witcher 3's settings, be ready to support those graphical ambitions with a powerful gaming rig. The game's core recommended specs are hefty as is, and those don't even count for additional features such as 4K, HBAO+ and the most premium of premium features ever conceived: Nvidia HairWorks. If you want your Witcher beasts extra fuzzy and Geralt's tessellated hair to flow dynamically in the wind, you'll want HairWorks enabled. However, that feature is the bane of computer hardware (something even Nvidia admits), so get ready to push your rig to the max in the pursuit of a good digital 'do.
Recommended specs: CPU: 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 3770, 4GHz AMD FX-8350 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 35GB | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 770, AMD Radeon R9 290 | OS: 64-Bit Windows 7, 8, 10
Credit: CD Projekt
Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman: Arkham Knight will forever be one of the more taxing games someone can (try to) play on their rig, though the reasons for placing it on this list are only partially legitimate. Arkham Knight is an absolutely stunning-looking game that requires a lot of horsepower. But it's still true that this game was — and is — a poorly optimized by-product of Warner Bros. Interactive's lack of concern for the PC platform. To this day, the game's requirements remain pretty darn high, and it still doesn't run buttery smooth, even after the game was taken off digital shelves for months in order to be fixed and optimized. With that said, these days, Arkham Knight at least runs well enough to play, but you should never forget its status upon launch in 2015.
Recommended specs: CPU: 4GHz AMD FX 8350, 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 55GB | GPU: AMD Radeon HD 7950 (3GB), Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 (3GB) | OS: Windows 7, 8.1 64-bit
Credit: Warner Bros.
Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)
Though this game is not all that graphically taxing, there's no denying that Star Wars Battlefront II is a gorgeous game. From minute details like leaving footprints in the snowy plains of Hoth to the shining, shimmering armor of each and every clone trooper, this game's graphical fidelity is virtually unparalleled. Its effects are incredible, its attention to detail is superb, and the overall package is, at least on a visual level, worthy of the Star Wars name. For these reasons, you'll need a pretty decent rig to get the most out of Star Wars Battlefront II — though nowhere near the beast you might need for some of the other entries on this list. This is in large part due to DICE's recently consist output of superbly optimized PC ports via its impressive Frostbite Engine.
Recommended specs: CPU: AMD FX 8350, Intel Core i7 6700 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 60GB | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 480 (4GB), Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (3GB) | OS: Windows 10 64-bit