Although some first-party games look excellent on consoles — just see our Ghost of Tsushima review for an example — multi-platform games really get a chance to stretch their legs on PC. Higher resolutions and frame rates are what usually set PC ports above consoles, but with new technologies like DLSS 2.0 and DirectX ray-tracing poking around, PCs are now providing a look into the future of gaming. If you just built a gaming PC and want to show it off, these 11 games with the best graphics will do just that.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a landmark title in the series for multiple reasons. Visually, it’s on par with Origins, which makes sense considering the games were developed alongside each other. The difference between them comes from setting. Simply put, Odyssey’s ancient Greece is more visually interesting than Origins’ ancient Egypt. There’s rarely a moment in Odyssey where you’re running on flat terrain, with rocks and subtle slopes guiding you through the mountainous landscape. Alongside the vegetation, Odyssey sports an incredibly detailed world, one that’s just begging for you to explore it.
There are small improvements, including a much-needed splash of color, but Odyssey‘s setting is really what sets it apart. The AnvilNext 2.0 engine — the same engine used from Unity to Valhalla — shines with Odyssey’s complex environment, with subtle shadows adding depth to the environment and pokes of god rays beaming through the dense tree network. The Assassin’s Creed games don’t need a buff to their textures and environmental effects; those are already world-class. What Odyssey provides is a platform, through world design, for those effects to shine.
Read our Assassin’s Creed Odyssey 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 frames per second, 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 frames per second 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
Seeing Death Stranding running on an ultrawide monitor at 60 frames per second is a treat. It’s a divisive game, with some calling it a masterpiece and others chalking it up to no more than an exercise in self-indulgence. The PC version provides some perspective, though. Although the original PS4 release is nothing short of a visual masterpiece, higher resolutions and frame rates go a long way in furthering the immersion level of the game. It’s the same game, so if you didn’t like the PS4 version, the PC version isn’t going to change your mind. However, if you’re just now jumping in to Death Stranding, the best place to do so is on PC.
Death Stranding was built using the Decima engine, which came through a collaboration between Guerrilla Games and Kojima Productions. Death Stranding is our first look at how Decima performs on PC, and thankfully, it’s all thumbs up. If you don’t care too much for Death Stranding’s brooding sci-fi world, Horizon: Zero Dawn is releasing on PC next month, and it uses the same engine.
Read our Death Stranding review
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but recent AAA games usually look the best, and they almost always carry a price tag of $59.99 (maybe more once next-gen consoles hit the market). Destiny 2, though, is one of the few that’s free to play. Although games like Apex Legends and Valorant certainly aren’t lacking in the visual department, Destiny 2‘s sci-fi world and Bungie’s imaginative level design push it beyond simply looking good.
Better yet, you don’t need a supercomputer to run it. Even with a modest , we were able to hit frame rates well above 60 at 1080p. 4K didn’t fare as well, though with some minor graphical adjustments and a slightly beefier graphics card, hitting 60 there shouldn’t be a problem. What’s so impressive about Destiny 2 is that it’s very difficult to make it look bad, so no matter if you’re just dipping your toes in PC gaming or showing off a , Destiny 2 is up for the task.
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