Congratulations – you’ve just built your first gaming PC. Or maybe you’re like Cecilia and you’ve just bought your first pre-built rig. Either way, you’ve got some fresh new hardware and now it’s time to put it through its paces.
Question is, what should you play? Here’s 12 games to put a new gaming PC through its paces.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
The Witcher 2 was a fantastic way to test your rig whenever you upgraded your graphics card, and the luscious open-world of The Witcher 3 is even better. Every machine will eventually hit a wall with Geralt’s last adventure, whether its at 4K or pushing Hairworks to the maximum. But whatever settings you finally settle on for your flash new gaming PC, The Witcher 3 will look downright gorgeous nonetheless.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
One of the best ways to test a new rig is by taking a slightly older game that already looked good, and bumping the resolution up natively or through in-built downsampling features (like the ones you find in GeForce Experience or the resolution options in the AMD driver settings).
And a great game to do that with is the orc-slaying simulator Shadow of Mordor. AMD and NVIDIA cards alike struggled to run the game at 4K before the Pascal and Polaris-based GPUs were released, but in 2017 that target is much more achievable. You’ll want to run the game on the High or lower graphics presets if you’re running anything under a GTX 1080. Alternatively, most modern rigs should have no issues maxing out all the settings at 1440p, provided your new PC has at least a GTX 970/Radeon R9 380X.
The mouse and keyboard interface opens a door to a whole world of management and strategy games that never cross the console divide, and one of the best over the last year was Frontier’s virtual theme park land, Planet Coaster.
It’s a little light on the management side, but the first-person rollercoaster rides are a joy to muck around with. And Planet Coaster has the benefit of full Steam Workshop integration, which is great for filling your park with some completely off-beat creations – like the theme park built on a giant cruise liner.
You’ll get the trademark Fallout jank no matter what platform you play on, but the PC is the only place you can say “fuck it” and download a 58GB high-res texture pack. The system requirements are probably beyond the vast majority of gaming PCs, but if you want to really push your new hardware to the limit and off a proverbial cliff, this will do it. Crysis just doesn’t brutalise hardware the way it used to.
But filling the void that Crysis left is another Cryengine-powered game, Star Citizen. It’s far from finished, and the fanbase is expecting a huge optimisation boost when the game’s netcode is updated with Alpha 3.0, due out later this year.
But who cares about that when you can see space in all of its glory. Or at least an idea of what Chris Roberts and co. believe virtual space should be like, anyway. There aren’t too many games where their developers openly brag about pushing the boundaries of PC hardware in the introduction video. Star Citizen is one of those games.
Grand Theft Auto 5
The vast modding scene is already a good enough reason to explore Los Santos again, if you already played Grand Theft Auto 5 on another platform. But if you’ve just upgraded or purchased a new rig, GTA 5 has plenty worth looking at: triple monitor support, support for resolutions beyond 4K, and plenty of PC-only customisations that will make the most of that absurd graphics card.
Project CARS was the gaming equivalent of car porn years before it even came out, and the fact that people are running around with 8K and 12K screenshot galleries only further highlights how stupidly pretty the game is.
Project CARS is also great for showing off VR, if you’ve got a Rift or HTC Vive lying around. The game was one of the best showcases of VR in the days of the Rift DK1 and DK2, too.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Are you even kidding? Just look at it.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Before Berdu started working in the media team at EA DICE, he built a reputation as one of the best screenshotters in video games.
With shots like this, it’s no wonder DICE hired him. And if you want to try your hand at Battlefront beauty, here’s a set of cinematic tools that will give you all the control you need.
Far Cry: Primal
Far Cry games have always looked stunning, but it’s Primal that’s the most visually intriguing and the best showcase of new hardware. It was a decently well-optimised game from the outset, but the Stone Age open-world is a treat at higher resolutions and a good way to put any new PC through its paces.
If you’ve really gone all out with your rig, you’ll also be pleased to know that Far Cry Primal got a 4K texture pack last year.
DmC: Devil May Cry
Sometimes the best thing you can do with a new PC is push an older title to the limit to see how far it can go. DmC: Devil May Cry is great for that kind of treatment. It’s a visual treat – the opening levels are almost entirely bathed in red, then you have the shift to Limbo, that level in the nightclub – and it only gets better when paired with a neat SweetFX preset.
The PC version also wasn’t beset with any of the problems the console editions had at launch, although you’ll still want to play the game with a controller. Diehard fans of the original Devil May Cry games still haven’t forgiven Capcom and Ninja Theory, mind you.
Total War: WARHAMMER
Unsurprisingly, throwing massive stacks of Warhammer armies at each other in siege warfare on a massive battlefield while the skies rain with spells and blood is a solid way to test a new rig. But Total Warhammer is also a useful title for exploring the kinds of strategy games that only really work on PCs, thanks to all the various abilities and armies that require managing.
What are the first games you like to play after an upgrade, or after buying/building a new gaming PC?