The Most Graphically Demanding PC Games (2017)

Want to know which PC games will push high-end rigs to their limits? We’ve rounded up 16 of the most graphically demanding PC games we could get our hands on. We also tested and ranked them by how much they made our high-end PC struggle.


We used built-in benchmarks whenever they were available and frame-rate capturing tool Fraps when they weren’t. We ranked all of the games based on their average frame rates. The lower the average frame rate, the higher the ranking in our list.

To really push the games to their absolute limits, we ran every single game at 4K (3840×2160) with maximum settings. Yes, this includes fully pushing anti-aliasing, which admittedly doesn’t make much sense at 4K where the high resolution handles much of the aliasing issues for you. This isn’t at all an optimization guide where we’re trying to find an effective balance between performance and fidelity, however. The point of this story is to really push these games to test the ultimate limits of our current high-end PC.

The only features we disabled were VSync–so we wouldn’t be bottlenecked by our monitor’s 60Hz refresh rate–and supersampling–to keep all games on the same resolution playing field. We played roughly five minutes of every game on our list, and to avoid Internet connectivity issues, we stuck to single-player. We also avoided third-party mods.

We realize that certain levels may be more graphically demanding than others, and so this experiment admittedly isn’t going to be an exact science, but it should hopefully at least give you an idea of each game’s relative performance. It’s important to note that your results will vary depending on your personal rig.

Our Test Bench

For our PC, we constructed a system using Corsair’s barebones Bulldog 2.0 kit, which includes a Mini-ITX Z270 motherboard from MSI, a Corsair Hydro Series H6 SF CPU liquid cooler, and a 600-watt power supply. We added Intel’s high-end quad-core 7700K CPU clocked at 4.2GHz coupled with 16GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 2133MHz running in dual channel mode. For the GPU, we used a water-cooled GTX 1080 from Corsair and MSI that features 8GB of GDDR5X video RAM and has a GPU core that’s overclocked to 1683MHz. It’s not the most powerful PC you can build, but it’s certainly a high-end rig. And since we’re using a single graphics card, SLI-scaling issues won’t be a concern.

Another important aspect to consider before you scroll through the gallery is that many of the games on our list are multiplatform titles, some of which you can argue haven’t been optimized to perfection for the PC. It’s rather difficult, if not impossible, to precisely quantify a port’s optimization quality, since graphical beauty is often going to come down to the eyes of the beholder. As a result, we’re going to focus on the raw numbers with our rankings.

16. Doom

Developer: id Software
Game Engine: id Tech 6
Release Date May 13, 2016
Minimum FPS: 47
Maximum FPS: 91
Average FPS: 65.2

For as hellishly beautiful as 2016’s Doom looks, the game’s id Tech 6 engine helps it run really well on PC. Shooting monsters in the beginning minutes of the game with everything maxed out at 4K, our rig managed to achieve a 65.2 frames per second average. While it did dip to a low of 47, which will undoubtedly cause frame-rate enthusiasts to lower settings, it was very playable overall.

15. GTA V

Developer: Rockstar North
Game Engine: RAGE
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Minimum FPS: 16
Maximum FPS: 270
Average FPS: 60.9

GTA V has an almost dizzying array of graphical options on the PC. You can tweak texture quality, shaders, tessellation and even increase population density. When you crank everything to the max, video memory is taxed really hard. Luckily, our GTX 1080 has 8GB of fast GDDR5X VRAM, which helps mitigates this bottleneck. As a result, our rig achieved a 60.9 average FPS running the game’s built-in benchmark. We did notice the odd, occasional framerate hiccup, however, which is evident in our 16 FPS minimum.

Just Cause 3

Developer: Avalanche Studios
Game Engine: Avalanche Engine
Release Date: November 2015
Minimum FPS: 44
Maximum FPS: 381
Average FPS: 55.9

Just Cause 3 is a big, wacky open-world game that features colorful environments that stretch to the horizon. Its Avalanche Engine also incorporates complex physics, which allow you to blow up and destroy the world around you. This makes it a pretty computationally intensive game. As a result, Just Cause 3 is the first game on our list with an average frame rate that falls below 60 FPS. Still, at 55.9 FPS on average, it remained very playable. We also didn’t notice too many framerate hitches, with it hitting a low of 44 FPS, which isn’t terrible.

13. Battlefield 1

Developer: EA DICE
Game Engine: Frostbite 3
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Minimum FPS: 42
Maximum FPS: 68
Average FPS: 55.5

EA’s Battlefield 1, released last year, barely edges out Just Cause 3 with its 55.5 average FPS to garner the 13th spot on our list. We played through the opening few minutes of the single-player campaign and the battlefield looked realistic running maxed out with explosions and fire effects going off all around us. The Frostbite 3 engine allowed the game to run fairly consistent, and it never dipped below 42 FPS.

12. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Developer: CD Projekt RED
Game Engine: REDengine 3
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Minimum FPS: 24
Maximum FPS: 52
Average FPS: 39.9

The Witcher 3 is a beautiful game, thanks in part to its wonderful artistry and sophisticated REDengine 3 tech. The action RPG offers a bunch of graphical settings that allow you to enable advanced levels of Nvidia hair physics, ambient occlusion, and depth of field effects. Roaming through the game’s lush countryside environments on horseback, we could see the game’s advanced lighting effects cascade down between the tree branches below. All of this beauty comes at a cost, however. While the game was able to muster an above 30 FPS average, which is the minimum of what we consider to be playable, it did occasionally stutter, and reached a low of 24 FPS.

11. Arma 3

Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Game Engine: Real Virtuality 4
Release Date: September 12, 2013
Minimum FPS: 28
Maximum FPS: 44
Average FPS: 35.6

While Arma 3 may be one of the older games on our list, and you can argue that it isn’t the prettiest candidate here, its Real Virtuality 4 engine allows it to render massive environments that scale up to 270 square kilometers. The game also sports sophisticated physics with CPU-taxing destructible environments. Going on a helicopter ride in the beginning of the game allowed us to see the game’s vast draw distances. Here, our rig achieved a 35.6 FPS average. While it was largely playable, it did occasionally dip and reached a low of 28 frames per second.

10. Watch Dogs 2

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Game Engine: Disrupt
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Minimum FPS: 23
Maximum FPS: 55
Average FPS: 30.0

Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs 2 cracks the top 10. The game uses a modified version of the Disrupt engine, which we saw in the first Watch Dogs, and renders a pretty realistic rendition of San Francisco. With everything maxed out, Watch Dogs 2 offers vast draw distances, vibrant colors, and realistic water effects. Driving around virtual San Francisco, our rig was able to achieve a 30 average FPS on the nose. It often dipped into the choppy 20s, however.

9. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Game Engine: AnvilNext
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Minimum FPS: 24.4
Maximum FPS: 34.6
Average FPS: 29.8

Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is one of the more recent games on our list. When we ran the built-in benchmark, which offered panning shots of the game’s detailed outdoor environments sprinkled with fancy fire and smoke effects, it performed marginally worse than Watch Dogs 2. This makes it the first game in our list to go below the 30 average FPS threshold.

8. Mass Effect: Andromeda

Developer: BioWare
Game Engine: Frostbite 3
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Minimum FPS: 10
Maximum FPS: 40
Average FPS: 26.7

BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda is the newest game on our list. While the action RPG’s face models may need improvement, its Frostbite 3 engine allows it to create intricately detailed worlds coupled with gorgeous lighting effects. While you can certainly get Andromeda to run well on modest systems, it can really push high-end PCs to their limits if you crank all the settings up at 4K. While our 26.7 average may not look atrocious, the frame rate was highly inconsistent and dipped as low as 10 FPS.

7. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Game Engine: AnvilNext
Release Date: November 19, 2015
Minimum FPS: 1
Maximum FPS: 33
Average FPS: 25.6

While Assassin’s Creed Origins is on the horizon, Syndicate is the latest game in the series that’s out on PC. It uses AnvilNext, which is the same engine that Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Wildlands uses. As we discovered last year, the PC port has some performance issues and perhaps isn’t as optimized as it should be. For instance, not only does the game not support SLI, but it’s one of the few games that actually runs worse with two graphics cards. It’s still a good looking game, though, with its relatively accurate recreation of Victorian era London. Our rig achieved a 25.6 average FPS running through the opening moments of the game. Our performance did hit some brick walls, however, with it dipping as low as one frame per second.

6. Crysis 3

Developer: Crytek
Game Engine: CryEngine 3
Release Date: February 2013
Minimum FPS: 18
Maximum FPS: 31
Average FPS: 23.0

When the original Crysis released in 2007, it was so graphically demanding that it started the “But can it run Crysis” meme. While Crysis 3 is the oldest game on our list, like the original, it was designed to be graphically future-proof. The CryEngine 3 pushes a ton of particle effects, complex physics, and a lot of tessellation. The game also serves up very high-resolution textures, which can eat up a lot of video RAM. When we cranked up all the graphical bells and whistles at 4K and played through the opening minutes of the game, we got a 23 FPS average.

5. Ark: Survival Evolved

Game Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Release Date: June 2015 (early access)
Minimum FPS: 17
Maximum FPS: 42
Average FPS: 21.4

Ark: Survival Evolved is the only early access game on our list, so its performance is highly subject to change with potential optimizations. Having said that, the Unreal Engine 4-powered open-world game offers large and lush landscapes with great draw distances. The game also has realistic water effects, crisp textures, and lush vegetation with lots of geometry. Cranking everything to the max and playing the opening minutes of the campaign, the game broke into our top five with a choppy 21.4 FPS average.

4. Metro: Last Light Redux

Developer: 4A Games
Game Engine: 4A
Release Date: August 2014
Minimum FPS: 6.6
Maximum FPS: 112.8
Average FPS: 20.0

When Metro first burst onto the scenes, it took the crown for most graphically demanding game. As a result, it became a benchmark staple for just about every respectable GPU reviewer. Several years later, Metro: Last Light Redux is still a beast of a game with its heavy use of geometric tessellation, volumetric fog, bokeh, sharp textures, and more. When we ran the game’s benchmark and enabled all the bells and whistles, we got a 20 FPS average.

3. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Game Engine: Foundation
Release Date: January 28, 2016
Minimum FPS: 2.2
Maximum FPS: 56.3
Average FPS: 18.7

Developer Crystal Dynamics built its own Foundation engine for Rise of the Tomb Raider, which allows the game to render great character models that offer life-like animations. Rise of the Tomb Raider also has beautiful, detailed environments. When we ran the game’s built-in benchmark, which placed Lara in various tombs and frozen tundra environments, our system mustered a 18.7 average FPS, which makes it the first game in our list to drop below 20 average FPS.

2. Project Cars

Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Game Engine: Madness
Release Date: May 6, 2015
Minimum FPS: 15
Maximum FPS: 19
Average FPS: 17.9

Project Cars is the only racing game on our list, and when you crank everything to the max, it’s arguably the most realistic-looking game here. At these settings, it can really bring powerful PCs to their knees. Developer Slightly Mad Studios made heavy modifications to the Madness engine, which the Need for Speed: Shift games have used. Duking it out with roughly a dozen other cars on a race track, our system mustered a 17.9 FPS average. This made it so choppy that it was often hard to steer effectively.

1. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Developer: Eidos Montréal
Game Engine: Dawn Engine
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Minimum FPS: 2.6
Maximum FPS: 8.7
Average FPS: 6.1

A lot of the games on our list will make the beefiest gaming PCs sweat, but running Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s benchmark maxed out at 4K will make them cry. It’s important to note that the benchmark seems particularly brutal, and perhaps represents a worst-case scenario for the game. Regardless, it was the most graphically demanding game that we tested by a country mile with our system getting a 6.1 FPS average, which made it look like a slideshow. Its maximum frame rate only managed to hit 8.7, which is crazy low given what we have under the hood of our rig.

The chart above shows the spread of all of our average frame rates.

Raw numbers aside, which game do you think looks the best? Let us know in the comments below.

from GameSpot


Author: Adventures Gate

Hey everyone, I'm Jonathan but people will know me as Jon... I enjoy hiking and exploring the outside world as well as getting to see fantastic views. It can bring you to the most beautiful places on earth and into contact with amazing plants and wildlife and can be done all year round which is why I enjoy it so much despite it being challenging sometimes due to the weather - it has allowed me to meet a lot of new people and experience things I wouldn't have before. I also find it relaxing and interesting. I also really enjoy blogging and sharing my experiences with similar people. Hopefully you will read mine. My company Adventures Gate displays my other hobby - gaming! I love collecting items to do with gaming and playing in general. I guess I am a bit of a geek when it comes to this. Adventures Gate now offer free postage options when you spend more than £20 (there may be a small additional charge for larger items). That`s free 1st class post in the UK and free airmail to Europe.

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