ByNicholas Montegriffo, writer at Creators.co
NowLoading's Lucky Office Goth. Tweets: @unstabledweomer
Nicholas Montegriffo

PC gaming has always been about testing the limits of computer technology, particularly when it comes to graphics. It's an arms race between games and machines, with developers always pushing for higher and higher system requirements.

When buying a new , the first question anyone should ask themselves is 'what kind of games do I want to play?' If you decide to invest in a top tier video card, you'll want to know which games are the most graphically demanding, so you can make the most of your shiny new hardware.

Let's start with the elephant in the room...

'Crysis'

Crysis [Electronic Arts]
Crysis [Electronic Arts]
  • Developer: Crytek
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Release date: 2007

When Crysis was released back in 2007, its graphical technology and rendering techniques were so advanced that it was literally impossible to run the game on its maximum settings. There just wasn't any system available capable of running Crysis at 60+ fps without turning down the graphical settings. The situation was so absurd it became a meme.

Impressive machine, but...
Impressive machine, but...

Even almost a decade later, Crysis still remains a challenge for modern hardware. The sequels toned down the demanding system requirements relative to the commercially available technology of the day, but 2013's Crysis 3 still pushes today's top end PC set-ups to keep up the frame rate.

Crysis [Electronic Arts]
Crysis [Electronic Arts]

The fact remains, that if you're serious about having the best graphics around, 'Can it run Crysis?' is the first question to answer.

'ARK: Survival Evolved'

ARK [Studio Wildcard]
ARK [Studio Wildcard]
  • Developer: Studio Wildcard, Instinct Games, Efecto Studios, Virtual Basement
  • Publisher: Studio Wildcard
  • Release date: 2015 (Early Access)

So Ark: Survival Evolved is still in early access, but after over a year of new content and tweaking, it still boasts a drop dead gorgeous world that will stomp your machine's hardware with the fury of a stampeding Stegosaur.

ARK [Studio Wildcard]
ARK [Studio Wildcard]

If you want to run ARK at it's 'epic' level preset with a raptor-fast frame rate, you're going to need a pair of seriously high-end GPUs or you won't have much luck getting over 30 fps.

Check out the trailer to ARK: Survival Evolved - Scorched Earth:

The fact that the ARK devs are confident enough to release expansions to their early access game is testament to just how many people wanted a piece of that pretty prehistoric action, even in its unfinished state. ARK is good looking, but damn, doesn't it know it. However, with younger, slicker competitors emerging every year, it's going to need serious optimization to keep its place on this list.

'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt'

The Witcher 3 [CD Projekt RED]
The Witcher 3 [CD Projekt RED]
  • Developer: CD Projekt RED
  • Publisher: CD Projekt RED
  • Release date: 2015

Ok, so it's true the graphical quality of The Witcher 3 wasn't exactly as jaw-droppingly beautiful as the preview images released to promote the game. But you have to think about performance, because the released game is still incredibly demanding, especially if you enable HairWorks and all the optional graphical extras.

The Witcher 3 [CD Projekt RED]
The Witcher 3 [CD Projekt RED]

There's no question that The Witcher 3's highly-detailed environments look best on PC—just check out Novigrad's sprawling architecture in incredible 4K, or even Geralt's flushed pink feet as he relaxes in the tub.

'Rise Of The Tomb Raider'

Rise of the Tomb Raider [Square Enix]
Rise of the Tomb Raider [Square Enix]
  • Developer: Crystal Dynamics
  • Publisher: Square Enix (PC)
  • Release date: 2016 (PC)

Lara Croft has never been so beautiful, or so high maintenance. Rise of the Tomb Raider was the first game to utilize Nvidia's Voxel Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO) technology. VXAO realistically calculates shadows based on environmental surroundings, captivating the player in an immersively lit and shaded world.

Rise of the Tomb Raider [Square Enix]
Rise of the Tomb Raider [Square Enix]

All the typically finicky visual elements, like water textures and hair movement, have been given extra attention. Tomb raiding has never looked this glamorous.

'Battlefield 1'

Battlefield 1 [Electronic Arts]
Battlefield 1 [Electronic Arts]
  • Developer: EA DICE
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Release date: 2016

War is an ugly business, but I'll be damned if Battlefield 1 doesn't make it look good. The game's fantastic lighting and physical rendering tech bring WW1 battlefields to life, and the game is effectively optimized to run smoothly on a range of hardware, but there's a catch.

Feast your eyes on Battlefield 1's war poetry in motion:

Battlefield 1's multiplayer can get pretty hectic, with over 60 players running around and blowing stuff up, and that's going to be pretty taxing on the average rig, even one that can handle the single player campaign easily. You're going to want a high end processor (Core i7) if you want to participate in a pitched multiplayer battle without your frame rate bombing.

'Tom Clancy's The Division'

The Division [Ubisoft]
The Division [Ubisoft]
  • Developer: Ubisoft Massive
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Release date: 2016

Speaking of demanding multiplayer, Tom Clancy's The Division features cutting edge graphical features such as dynamic lighting, contact shadows, reflections, parallax mapping and a host of other knobs that can be turned up to 11, making this one of the most gorgeous games out there. Just be prepared to make your PC sweat for it.

The Division [Ubisoft]
The Division [Ubisoft]

The Division is online-only, so performance is key if you want to keep up with the competition. Luckily, it runs well on most PCs without maxed settings, but you'll probably end up wishing you could crank it up just a little more.

'Deus Ex: Mankind Divided'

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [Square Enix]
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [Square Enix]
  • Developer: Eidos Montréal
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Release date: 2016

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided might just be the Crysis of its generation, developed to handle such a ridiculous level of detail that it can severely tax specialised gaming machines at max settings. Designed with future, unreleased video cards in mind, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided utilizes pretty much every trick in the book when it comes to visual fidelity.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [Square Enix]
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [Square Enix]

Right now it's likely Deus Ex: Manksind Divided will gobble up your GPU and spew it out in a spray of fine powder if you so much as think of running it at max prettification. It might still be a few years before most of us will be able to get our hands on a machine that will really let us see everything Eidos Montréal are trying to show us.

Beautiful, But High Maintenance

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [Square Enix]
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [Square Enix]

Looks aren't everything, but it's understandable that graphics remain the most compelling aspect of modern PC gaming. It's what keeps us upgrading, year after year, so that we can feast our eyes on the latest realistically rendered digital world.

Graphics are no substitute for good gameplay, and in some cases a pretty face might hide a shallow heart. That still doesn't stop me dreaming of the next GPU upgrade, though.

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