Although a dedicated graphics card is considered by many to be a must-have for PC gaming, it is not as important as it once was. Sure, you need it to play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at ultra graphics settings, but if you don’t mind losing a little bit of a visual quality and delving into the many great indie games out there, there are tons of great games you can play using your onboard graphics.
This guide is for those who find themselves without a dedicated graphics card. This is our list of the best games you can play on Intel integrated graphics.
It’s important to note before we start though, that some of these games are not designed to be run using onboard graphics. They can all be played at decent frame rates, but you will have to sacrifice visual quality to do so. You may also need to make manual adjustments to graphics settings before you can start to play properly. For tips on that, Intel has its own guide.
Best games for onboard graphics
As pretty as it is, Overwatch’s brand of MOBA-inspired first-person shooter combat is a very inclusive game when it comes to its requirements. Although you want to make sure that you have at least 4GB of RAM, graphically an Intel HD 4400 is enough to meet the official minimum specifications. That is not going to get you much beyond the lowest graphical settings, but it is playable.
There are videos around of people making Overwatch work on even weaker hardware, though that tends to require big sacrifices in terms of resolution.
Blizzard is often quite considerate of gamers with entry-level hardware and like Overwatch, Hearthstone is no exception. As a collectible card game, Hearthstone is a much less frantic experience, so its specifications are lower than that of its popular FPS cousin. Although the official specifications don’t mention Intel HD graphics, there is a ton of evidence of people being able to run the game on a variety of integrated Intel graphics chips. In some cases, you might even be able to opt for medium-detail levels.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the biggest breakout hit of 2017, being hailed by many as the pinnacle of “battle royale” gameplay. It would never have reached such heights if gamers with weaker systems couldn’t actually play it. While the minimum system requirements do suggest having at least a low-level graphics card, some have managed to make it work without that and if you’re willing to put up with sapped colors and a blocky resolution, Battlegrounds is perfectly playable on a variety of Intel HD graphics chips.
The Grand Theft Auto series of anarchy simulators is one of the most popular franchises in gaming history. Its most recent entry, GTA V, is often held up as an example of beautiful world building and it looks just as good today as it did following its 2013 release. That doesn’t mean you can’t play it on integrated graphics though. You might need to sacrifice detail levels and frame rate smoothness, depending on your preferences, but there are plenty of people who have made this game work without a graphics card.
There are even mods that can help you run the game on ultra-low-end hardware if you need to.
Arguably the most popular competitive PC game in the world and poster child for the MOBA’s dominance of online gaming, League of Legends is easy to get running on a variety of hardware. You want to make sure you’re hitting a good frame rate, as low frames per second can give you a disadvantage in online play, but that’s not hard to do, even with older Intel HD graphics.
Riot Games is continually tweaking its game’s visuals to make sure that it looks good, while still supporting lower-end and older hardware. Its minimum specifications barely even hint at the need for a graphics card.
The other big MOBA name in the game, DotA 2 is a little more taxing on a system than League of Legends, but it’s still playable on entry-level hardware. You may need to make some tweaks to the settings and sacrifice some visual clarity to get it running smoothly, but there’s no reason to think you can’t be competitive online, even if using integrated graphics.
As one of the most beloved franchises in gaming history, the two Portal games are considered classics by almost anyone who has played them. As well as being cutesy, surprisingly dark action puzzlers, they are also very easy to get running on all sorts of hardware. As older games than some of the others on this list, that is perhaps not too surprising, but it doesn’t take away from both Portal and its sequel’s well-deserved inclusion on this list.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, otherwise known as CS:GO is one of the most enduring titles on Steam. Built upon the strong foundations of its predecessors, CS:GO offers the same great gameplay today as it always has and that’s irrespective of the hardware you’re running it on. Although it’s not quite as well optimized for lower-end systems like some of the other games on this list, with a few tweaks, you can get it working nicely on Intel HD graphics of various strengths.
The Mount and Blade series has never been known for its graphics, but what it lacks in visual beauty it more than makes up for in gameplay. Warband offers enormous, open-ended single-player campaigns as both a ruler and soldier in a combination of action and management. The fact that it isn’t that pretty lends itself well to being played on older systems, though the heftier your CPU is, the more soldiers you will be able to have in your battles.
Combining soccer with rocket cars might not seem like a combination that would work, but when Rocket League debuted in 2015 it quickly became the breakout hit of the summer. It’s maintained a solid fan base ever since and the skill ceiling just keeps on rising with it. Playing Rocket League doesn’t need a powerful PC at all and as long as you’re willing to forego a few of the fancier particle and lighting effects, you can play Rocket League using integrated graphics without difficulty.
Left 4 Dead gave gamers the zombie apocalypse they wanted well before the genre became oversaturated. As good as the original Left 4 Dead was though, its sequel contains all of the first game’s campaigns and features, with plentiful additions of its own.
Left 4 Dead 2 is as fun today as it was when it was first released in 2009, and it plays well on integrated graphics. You will have to run it at reasonably low settings, but the game still looks good for its age, even with a few jagged edges.
Half-Life and its sequel are some of the most well remembered first-person shooters ever made — the fact that Half-Life 3 is still missed, tells you just how much. They are solid games and although a little dated in some mechanics, they still make for great single player and multiplayer experiences. Better yet, due to their age, you can play them on most modern Intel integrated graphics chips at full, or near-full settings.
They might not be quite the visual feasts that they were when first released, but Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are still fantastic games and being able to play through them without a graphics card is a real treat.
Firewatch is as much an experience as it is a game. Some might call it a “walking simulator”, but everyone knows it as a fantastic looking game. While it might not look quite as good as it can on Intel graphics chips, stylized visuals still suck you into its relaxing atmosphere, even at lower settings.
Divinity Original Sin is a real Kickstarter success story. Beyond its financial success though, it is also a really solid, old-school RPG with great characters, deep and varied combat and a beautiful world to explore. You do lose some of that when playing with Intel integrated graphics, but not enough to negatively impact the experience.
An extremely quirky survival title with a Burtonesque art style and feel, Don’t Starve is a brilliant game to play either by yourself or using the standalone multiplayer expansion, Don’t Starve Together. It’s not remotely demanding on your system, so should be playable even with older integrated graphics chips.
Its cartoonish graphics mean you don’t even lose too much visual detail when running it at lower settings.
A tough roguelike with resource management, real-time strategy and branching, randomized quest events, FTL: Faster Than Light is a brilliant indie game that is far from taxing to run. You will be able to run it on all sorts of integrated graphics chips with no trouble at all, though higher resolutions might benefit from a slightly faster chip.
Kingdom: New Lands is a deceptively simple game that can suck up hours of your life if you let it. Its pixelated graphics look good on powerful and older hardware alike and all you need is a graphics chip with DirectX 9.0c support to run it. If your processor is a little on the weak side, you may encounter some slowdown in the later stages of the game, but most of the gameplay will be buttery, pixelly smooth, even on integrated graphics.
For a simple premise, the Five Nights at Freddy’s series of games are surprisingly spooky and full of jump scares for those who love a good fright. Since they aren’t particularly visually intensive, they play perfectly well with onboard graphics chips and there are a ton of them to play through if you like this style of gameplay.
Updated 10/03/2017 by Jon Martindale – Added link to Intel optimization page.