While the launch of Xbox Series X and PS5 marks the start of a fresh console generation, the PC can also ring in a new era of framerate and hi-res milestones with a slew of hardware lineups from Nvidia and AMD, including the launch of the former’s RTX 3000 series of video cards. Though most of these cards went out of stock within minutes of launching, some of you out there may have been lucky enough to snag one. Naturally, you may be eager to get some of your older games running in glorious 4K at framerates too fast for the naked eye.
Whether you’re looking to drink from the legendary chalice of 4K at 60fps, to max out a 144hz display, or to bask in the glorious beams of ray-tracing, here are ten games to revisit once you’ve procured your pass to the world of next-gen PC gaming.
Remedy’s powerhouse third-person shooter seemed to come from nowhere in 2019. Along with a chilling sci-fi story of psychological hijacking and government conspiracies, Control wowed both critics and the public with stunning visuals, courtesy of bombastic telekinetic superpowers and ray tracing support.
The game was one of the first AAA titles to support the new lighting technology. For early adopters of the RTX 2000 series, the result was an astounding spectacle of god rays, particle effects, and light reflections. A graphical tour de force with a complex story, Control is the perfect contender for showcasing your $500 – $1,500 ticket to the next-gen party.
There’s an irony to buying a powerful, expensive graphics card at the turn of a generation to test it out on the most popular low-fidelity game of our time. But Mojang’s recent updates to the standard FCK version of Minecraft warrants a re-download of the game.
Microsoft launched a beta version of Minecraft on Windows 10 with RTX compatibility, and despite the game’s pixelated art style, it benefits greatly from ray tracing. The flattened textures of those iconic bricks pop into tangible, breathing reality with small details, like soft sun rays through a window, or how your screen adjusts to the light as you step into the daylight.
Minecraft has long held the potential for beauty, and ray tracing adds to its effective, minimalist style.
If you look up cyberpunk games that launched in 2020, you’re likely to come across a couple of dozen articles about CD Projekt Red’s controversial Cyberpunk 2077. You may also come across Ghostrunner, a speedrunner’s dream of stage-based platforming action and neon-lined skyscrapers.
The game supports RTX ray tracing, but it’s best played with a super high framerate, so earlier graphics cards might not be the most optimal way to experience this reflex-reliant cyber-samurai sim. The new Nvidia cards, however, let this game run smooth with ray tracing turned on.
7 Battlefield V
One of the first games to support ray tracing, Battlefield V maintains the franchise’s reputation for eye-popping explosive effects and realistic landscapes. Grenades cast momentary flashes of light on the wartorn earth. Mud splashes as tanks roll through the pits left by mortar strikes. Gunshots flash along the few brick walls that remain standing.
6 Cyberpunk 2077
Despite its tumultuous launch, rife with controversy and often hilarious bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 can be an incredible spectacle of cityscapes and eye-popping special effects. Night City is full of neon lights, AR advertisements, skyscrapers, and all manner of technical fireworks on display. CD Projekt Red built this RPG shooter to shine, and Ray Tracing allows it to do just that.
It’s a long road until Cyberpunk 2077 looks even remotely like what the demos promised, but if you just want to see the glamor of urban dystopia in 4K with ray tracing on, this game might be worth the trouble.
Folks often reduce all of games culture to a simple image of a single game. Fortnite has served as that reductive image more than once, but that does not detract from the game’s quality. An ever-changing and evolving service game, cultural phenomenon, and even advertising platform, Epic’s battle royale shooter is a monumental achievement in continuous design and upkeep.
All that said, Fortnite’s appearance has changed little since its sharp rise in popularity. So when Epic announced that it would support RTX ray tracing in the game, Fortnite became an essential game to try out on the new cards.
4 Death Stranding
With Hideo Kojima’s departure from the Metal Gear Solid saga, the visionary’s already explosive imagination seemed to be unleashed. With Death Stranding, players were treated to a beautiful wasteland of rocky, green hillsides and snowy mountaintops, all serving as a backdrop to a terrifying world of alien ghosts waiting to drag Norman Reedus into a pool of ink at a moment’s notice. It’s a game that stuns, as often with its realism and beauty as its bizarre mythos.
There’s no ray tracing support in Death Stranding, but it supports Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0, allowing for 4K resolution at 60 frames per second on any 3000 series card. Also, if you got a free copy of the game from Nvidia’s past promotions, you might already be set to revisit this visually stunning game.
3 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Before the hype monster 2077 reared its neon-emblazoned head, CD Projekt Red was best known for its watershed open-world RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. In 2015, both critics and the community lauded this game as the new title to beat in multiple categories, including graphical fidelity.
Everything from the rays of sunlight scraping past mountaintops to the wind brushing through Geralt’s long silver hair has specific sliders in the “graphics” options menu. Few owned a rig powerful enough to max out all of those sliders. Fortunately, any of Nvidia’s 3000 series cards will get you the power to enjoy every ripple in Geralt’s beautiful mane.
2 Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar’s most recent open-world part-shooter, part-life-simulator sandbox, Red Dead Redemption 2 is also one of the current pinnacle games in photorealistic artistry. It is quite possibly the most visually detailed game ever made, with meticulous attention given to things like the engravings of a pocket watch or how a civilian might flee in pure terror upon witnessing a shootout.
Most impressive is the world – a majestic rural landscape unmarred by the imminent civilizing of the industrial revolution. There’s no ray tracing support in RDR2 or Red Dead Online, but the in-house lighting and overall graphical fidelity of this game are still unmatched two years after its release. Throw in some incredible work from the modding community, and you’ve got a great-looking game to test-drive your new card.
1 DOOM Eternal
Bethesda Softworks has made its hyper-violent shooter almost synonymous with the new line of Nvidia cards. For the hardware announcement, the company released this promotional video of DOOM Eternal running on an RTX 3090, touting the game’s use of ray tracing and DLSS technologies.
Even without top-of-the-line gear, id’s high-octane shooter is one of the prettiest to have come out in recent years. However, a high-framerate count with all the bells and whistles makes this successor to the illustrious DOOM ’16 a beautiful hellscape.
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