As we start shifting into the ninth era of console gaming, games are beginning to up their graphical fidelity to take advantage of all the power under the hood of the new consoles. While the Xbox Series X and PS5 are awesome consoles, PC gaming has always been the premier platform for graphical fidelity. It will continue to be at the forefront of new technologies no matter what. However, we are beginning a new era in graphics, one with ray tracing and AI image reconstruction. Games that once were the pinnacle of graphical fidelity on PC have started to fall by the wayside as the industry moves forward.
I fired up my PC and made it sweat to find the current best looking games on PC. At the expense of rising room temperatures and a costly electric bill this month, here are the 10 PC games with the best graphics.
Don't let that 2015 release date fool you; Batman Arkham Knight is still a graphical powerhouse. Rocksteady are technical wizards that pulled off an incredible feat of magic when they built Arkham Knight on top of Unreal Engine 3, an engine that was almost ten years old at the time. Rocksteady's efforts paid off big time, and Arkham Knight still has some of the best character models and lighting in a game to date.
However, this game's real stars are Arkham Knight's realistic rain physics and volumetric smoke effects. Both of which are enhanced thanks to Nvidia's PhysX technologies, exclusive to the PC platform. I can confidently say that Arkham Knight could trade blows with any game on this list despite its age.
Slowly but steadily, Capcom has been embracing the PC platform as the premier platform for video games. Recently, Capcom has even stated that they would like PC to be its primary platform for video games. Resident Evil Village was released this year and has embraced many PC-specific features and is hands down a must-own game if you would like to see what video games are capable of in 2021.
Using the PC's superior hardware-accelerated ray tracing solutions, present in recent AMD and Nvidia graphics cards, Resident Evil Village shines with realistic reflections and lighting throughout Castle Diminescreu. Ultimately, PC's capabilities create far more contrasted scenes than on console; shadowed areas are darker and more sinister while the outdoor settings have thicker and more realistic looking fog. This is a must-play and a must-see for horror fans.
Battlefront II realizes the worlds of the Star Wars universe to an almost photorealistic degree. The teams at DICE have mastered the Frostbite engine through multiple iterations of Battlefield games, and while newer Battlefield games are still releasing, none can compare to Battlefront II.
Detailed, photo-mapped environmental textures litter every meticulously handcrafted map, making Battlefront feel very authentic. This detailed texturing extends to the player models, with each character having war-torn uniforms featuring visible tiny scratches. Lightsabers have a blinding glow that also extends to how vibrant blaster shots look as they whizz past you in the heat of combat. Also, Theed at dusk is just pure eye candy. Live out your Star Wars fantasies with Battlefront II.
Square Enix has never been a slouch when it comes to graphical fidelity. Final Fantasy VII pushed the whole medium forward in CGI and cinematics, and Final Fantasy X was easily one of the highest fidelity PS2 games ever. With a reputation to uphold, Square Enix delivered what is still one of the best looking PC games almost five years after its initial release with Final Fantasy XV.
Utilizing the Luminous Engine, Final Fantasy XV features a sprawling open-world while retaining a crazy amount of detail within its nooks and crannies. Thanks to the horsepower of modern PCs, Final Fantasy XV's graphical capabilities have plenty of room to breathe compared to last-gen consoles, where the technology always felt quite cramped, and corners were cut. Go get Final Fantasy XV and look out at the breathtaking horizon.
Simply put, Control on PC is a sublime experience. Remedy's Northlight engine is the backbone of Control and was also used to create the stunning Quantum Break, which put the Xbox One through its paces back at release. With multiple refinements to the graphical tech in the Northlight engine since Quantum Break, Control ends up a whole step above anything on the market to showcase what PC graphics are capable of.
As one of the first adopters of ray tracing tech and Nvidia's AI-powered DLSS image reconstruction technologies, Control is a showpiece of where PC graphics are headed. Featuring five ray tracing options: reflections, transparent reflections, indirect diffuse lighting, contact shadows, and debris, Control has a far more robust suite of RT options than most ray tracing enabled games that came after it. Watching it all coming together and seeing Control in motion is a treat.
When it comes to the intersection of video games and film, Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding might be the closest thing we have to a perfect marriage of the two. Replicating that cinematic feeling is no easy task in a game; still, Death Stranding accomplishes it by having well-thought-out camera work and cinematography both in cutscenes and gameplay.
Death Stranding contains what I believe are the most beautifully melancholic environments in any game. Every rock in this game looks fantastic. I'm serious; I love to stare at rocks in this game. From the grassy plains to arid deserts to blistering cold mountain tops, the whole world feels immersive while feeling very lonely. And I have to mention how incredibly well animated and crisp the character models all look. You can literally see the pores on their skin.
Okay, okay, I know racing games always look good. It's not particularly resource-intensive to render tracks and cars. But believe me when I say that Forza Horizon 5 is on another level. Forza Horizon 5 takes place inside a massive realization of Mexico, complete with jungles, cities, and deserts, and all of these locations look amazing.
Forza is dazzling to look at when the sun shines down and casts god rays through the jungle canopies. Obviously, I have to mention the cars, which are by far the most detailed cars I have ever seen in a video game. There are also over 500 of them in the game, impressively enough. I'm pretty sure that any unassuming onlooker could mistake Forza Horizon 5 for real life, understandably.
Cracking into the top three of the PC games with the best graphics with Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition. Earlier I stated that Control is a showpiece for where graphical technology is headed; well, Metro Exodus Enhanced decides to make a game from the future right now. 4A Studios returned to the original version of Exodus, removed all pre-baked lighting, and reworked the whole art direction to serve an entirely ray-traced lighting game. This is the first fully ray-traced game; you can't even launch it without a ray-tracing capable GPU.
The results are magnificent and show how lighting impacts how much we perceive realism in games. All light sources cast simulated light rays that bounce off surfaces and naturally diffuse as they reflect, just like a light in real life. Metro Exodus Enhanced is best experienced on PC as DLSS cleans up a lot of the performance cost of a fully ray-traced game. Pick this one up if you want to see what the future of gaming will be like.
Somehow, Rockstar always delivers and is constantly pushing the envelope of graphical fidelity. Red Dead 2 is far and away one of the most demanding and best-looking games that you can play. I first played it on PS4, and when I booted it up on PC, I was astounded at how much better everything looked in comparison. Nowhere else can you see Red Dead stretch its legs like you can on PC.
Rockstar's rendition of the American southwest is unlike other open-world games. Everything is so detailed that you want to simply get lost in the world despite only being surrounded by otherwise benign trees. And dusk or dawn, every moment is a Kodak moment. While I love ray tracing and will sing its praises until the end of time, Red Dead 2 is proof that excellent art direction, mastery of your tools, and a painstakingly crafted world can make a fantastic looking game regardless of the technology being used.
The definitive PC game with the best graphics has to be Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, the game is still in a less-than-optimized state. Sure, not every promise about what it was going to be was upheld. But you cannot deny the beauty in Cyberpunk that is only possible due to the power of the PC platform.
What makes Cyberpunk stand out from the crowd is Night city and the sense of presence that CDProjekt Red creates in it. I will once again bring up ray tracing because, like with Metro Exodus Enhanced, there is a night and day difference with it on and off. Aside from ray-traced lighting drastically changing the visual makeup of a scene, cyberpunk aesthetic worlds look great in a ray-traced environment due to the bounty of neon lights that paint the city as they illuminate and reflect off city walls. It's an experience that right now can only be had on PC and is a delight to see.
As PC gamers, we all get into PC gaming for different reasons. The freedom of choice, the thousands of games, the Steam sales. Regardless of why you choose PC, one true thing is that PC will always be ahead of the curve for graphical fidelity. If you're on PC and want to see what your rig can do, fire one of these up and bask in how great modern games can look.
More in gaming: