Even with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X making the rounds, PC remains the platform to play on if you’re looking for the best in terms of visual quality. With features like Nvidia’s deep learning super sampling and DirectX 12 ray tracing, gaming PCs have the features and horsepower to push games with the best graphics to their limits.
We selected 11 games that show off the power of a fully tricked-out gaming PC. You’ll need a hefty rig to run most of the titles below, let alone run them at optimal settings. If you’re just getting into PC gaming, make sure to read our roundup of the best gaming desktops, and if you want to build a computer yourself, read our guide on how to build a PC.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is still using the AnvilNext 2.0 engine that Odyseey and Origins used, and on PC, the three games are very close when it comes to overall visual quality. We’re giving this slot to Vahalla not only because it’s one of the best Assassin’s Creed games — as well as the most recent — but also because it offers a nice setting change from the games that proceeded it.
As expected from a modern, open-world Ubisoft game, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks great, but it’s the game’s snow-filled setting that makes it stand apart from Origins and Odyssey. Valhalla doesn’t have ray tracing or many of the visual features that other games on this list will showcase (Valhalla is using an engine from 2014, after all). Despite that, Valhalla remains a visual powerhouse that can go up against any of the games on this list, especially with HDR turned on.
Read our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review
Godfall isn’t a great game, but it sure is a pretty one. There’s almost nothing interesting about Godfall from a gameplay perspective. It’s a self-proclaimed “looter-slasher,” and sure enough, the game revolves slicing and dicing baddies to earn better loot. It’s not that this system is bad — just look at Borderlands 3 and Destiny 2 — it’s just that Godfall doesn’t do anything to further it. If you’re a fan of action RPGs, you’ve played Godfall before.
You haven’t seen Godfall before, however. With ray-traced reflections and enough particle effects to make you sick to your stomach, Godfall is a game that goes beyond just being visually impressive.
Although Godfall might not hook you for hours like Borderlands 3, it’s still a fun time in short bursts. And that’s when it looks best, too. Godfall has gorgeous visual design, even if developer Counterplay Games decided to reuse much of that visual design throughout the game.
Read our Godfall review
Although the Battlefield franchise has always been known for excellent visuals, it wasn’t until Battlefield 3 that the series started pushing in a hyper-realistic direction. Battlefield V is no different, though it has one unique advantage over its predecessors: Ray-tracing. The bombastic lens flares and larger-than-life explosions burst off screen with ray-tracing turned on, but you’ll need an extremely powerful computer to render all of those reflections.
Battlefield V doesn’t require much in its base configuration (you can get by with aand 6th generation Core i5). With DirectX ray-tracing, though, the recommended specs are a or 8th gen Core i7, as well as a and 16GB of RAM. Simply put, if you’re running Battlefield V with ray-tracing and hitting consistent frame rates, you have one crazy powerful computer. If that doesn’t count for bragging rights, we don’t know what does.
Read our Battlefield V review
From Max Payne to Quantum Break, Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment was always pushed the graphics envelope forward, and its latest release, Control, is no different. It’s a perfect showcase for how ray-tracing can elevate an environment, with lighting bouncing off of every possible surface inside The Oldest House. Although Control has a stark visual style, the environments themselves don’t have too much going on (outside of a whole lot of concrete, that is). With Remedy’s excellent lighting system, though, even concrete looks good.
The big reason we love Control’s graphics is DLSS 2.0 (a common thread throughout multiple entries on this list). The technical details behind DLSS are, frankly, a little dry. In short, though, DLSS uses machine learning to essentially upscale your games. If you have Control running at 1440p, for example, DLSS will render the game at 1080p and then upscale it to 1440p based off the references the A.I. has. The end result is simple: Games run with higher frame rates and resolutions with fewer system resources, and Control is an excellent showcase of that.
Read our Control review
The dreaded “but can it run Crysis” question continues to this day, despite the fact that Crysis released in 2007. For PC gaming circles, the benchmark for computing power was quickly replaced by Metro 2033 when it released in 2010, and the series has remained a pillar of PC performance since. The latest entry, Metro Exodus, is fit with all of the current graphical trends, including real-time ray-tracing, per-object motion blur, and liberal use of tessellation.
Metro Exodus is Crysis for 2020. Everything comes down to the rendering. Although there are quite a few low-resolution textures in the game, they rarely detract from the experience given how much else it has going on. Metro Exodus is a visual masterpiece, and although seeing it running on consoles is nothing short of mesmerizing, the game looks and feels at home on PC. If you want to see what next-gen visuals look like before the PS5 and Xbox Series X hit the market, Metro Exodus is for you.
Read our Metro Exodus review
Final Fantasy XV
Say what you will about Final Fantasy XV as a game — we certainly didn’t take kindly to it in our roundup of the best Final Fantasy games — but there’s no denying that it’s a visual powerhouse. The install size alone tells you everything you need to know. Final Fantasy XV needs around 150GB of space to install, and once the dirty work is done, takes up over 100GB on your hard drive. It’ll put even the highest-powered machines in check (we couldn’t hit 4K at 60 frames per second with a 1080 Ti, even).
If have the power, though, there are few games that look at good as Final Fantasy XV. Even if you don’t have the power, you can endlessly tweak the graphical settings. From the amount of RAM you’re dedicating to textures to Nvidia HairWorks, Final Fantasy XV has a setting for everything.
Read our Final Fantasy XV review
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare/Warzone
The Call of Duty series has always focused on performance over visuals, making each entry look as good as possible while keeping a solid 60 fps, even on consoles. 2019’s Modern Warfare and the free-to-play add-on Warzone are no different. However, because of the focus on performance, it’s easy to forget how far the Call of Duty series has come. Going back and playing the original Modern Warfare, it’s clear that Activision’s blockbuster series has grown beyond higher resolution textures and better lighting effects.
The level of detail in Modern Warfare is stunning, even down to how colors are portrayed in the game. Combined with ray-tracing, Modern Warfare brings a depth to the game world that few titles can rival. The visual style is only furthered by the sound design, with both elements working together to bring a visceral sense of realism.
Read our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review
Red Dead Redemption 2
If you want to see what your PC is made of, boot up Red Dead Redemption 2. Notoriously under-optimized upon launch, Rockstar’s open-world epic beat even the fieriest graphics cards into submission. Since launch, Rockstar has issued several performance patches, but you’ll still need a hefty rig to see Arthur Morgan in his full glory.
As is the case with most other console ports, the visual buff to Red Dead Redemption 2 comes down to two things: Higher frame rates and resolution. There are some other, not so obvious improvements, too, though. Draw distances, for example, are much better on PC, with fine detail even on distant mountains. The same goes for tessellation on tree and foliage, as well as global illumination and ambient occlusion. These environmental effects may not be the bread and butter that makes Red Dead Redemption 2 look so good, but they add a level of realism, and for a game focused entirely on that, there’s nothing better.
Read our Red Dead Redemption 2 review
Hitman 2 is one of the few games on this list that will push your GPU and CPU to their limits. 2016’s Hitman wasn’t the most well-optimized game, stretching the limits of chips at the time to the point where players with top-of-the-line gear were getting less than 30 fps in certain sections. Thankfully, IO Interactive solved these performance issues with Hitman 2. Visually, the games look the same; though, with Hitman 2‘s performance improvements, it ends up looking better overall.
The screenshot above showcases how good Hitman 2 looks, but you won’t get a sense of how much it stresses a CPU until you boot up the game. The Hitman franchise is known for huge maps with countless unique ways to take down your target. That means a lot of NPCs and interactive elements, pushing your PC as it renders not only the character models and animations, but also the intelligence behind them.
Read our Hitman 2 review
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
A game from 2015 on a list written in 2020? Yep. The Witcher 3 looks as good as it did five years ago, and that’s saying something (Bloodborne also released in 2015, and that game is more than a little rough around the edges by modern standards). It’s CD Projekt Red’s dedication to PC as a platform that allows The Witcher 3 to shine. It’s a scalable game, with a slew of rendering effects to push even modern PCs to their limits. It struggles in one area, though: Textures. No matter how many graphical options you turn on, The Witcher 3′s textures still look like they’re five years old. They certainly look good, just not in the realm of “best graphics of all time.”
No epic PC RPG is above a few mods, though, and the community has been hard at work updating The Witcher 3. The extremely popular HD Reworked Project has nearly 1,000,000 downloads on Nexus Mods, replacing the simpler geometry and textures of the base game with beautiful 4K scans. The results are stunning. Most PC graphics mods verge into the “cinematic” territory, where the modder takes a liberal amount of artistic license. Like some popular Skyrim mods, the HD Reworked Project retains the exact look and feel of the base game, just with some slightly higher-quality visuals.
Read our The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review
If a CD Projekt Red game from 2015 can make this list, then there’s no reason why one from 2020 shouldn’t be able to. Cyberpunk 2077 is shrouded in controversy right now, with the base PS4 and Xbox One versions running worse than many Nintendo Switch ports. On PC, however, Cyberpunk 2077 is the game of the future promised to us by CD Projekt Red for years.
Aesthetically, the game is flawless, with high asset quality and texture detail; but that’s to be expected from a AAA open-world RPG released in 2020. It’s CD Projekt Red’s world design that makes Cyberpunk 2077 such a looker. Night City is a dynamic metropolis, from the rural Santo Domingo outskirts to the bustling city streets in Heywood. A series of surprisingly accurate highways connect Cyberpunk 2077′s locations. The incredible attention to detail makes Night City feel real; CD Projekt Red’s beautiful art direction is just the cherry on top.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game from the future, and it also requires a PC from the future. Even on Nvidia’s latest 30-series graphics cards, Cyberpunk 2077 can absolutely slay your machine (especially if you turn ray tracing on). The game will continue to look better as PC hardware improves, and it’s just the game that PC gaming has been waiting for.
- The best Xbox One games to play right now
- Here are all the games that support Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing
- The best PC games for 2021
- The best PS4 games you can play right now
- The best Xbox 360 games backward compatible on Xbox One