The Games You Should Really Play In 4K

So you've just built yourself a brand new gaming PC. Lots of RAM. Big graphics cards. A speedy CPU. One, two, or maybe more special SSDs. A nice, 4K capable monitor, and a nice set of headphones to match.

But what do you play? Hardware hasn't evolved to the point where it can play everything in 4K, and there are plenty of older games that really shine with the bump in resolution. So if you've just built a brand new gaming PC and you're looking for things to test the waters, here's the games you should really play in 4K.

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The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

You could be playing in 8K and 12K and The Witcher 3's world would still be worth journeying through. The way the light breaks through the trees, the way the branches sway in the wind, the sound of Roach travelling through the snows of Skellige or sailing through the mist: it's a gorgeous, often haunting world.

Another advantage of playing a slightly older AAA game is that you get years of patches, performance improvements and driver optimisations. I still wouldn't enable NVIDIA Hairworks if you want the best performance, mind you, but outside of dutch angle shots most people won't notice the difference in hair quality too much.

Elite: Dangerous

Image: Elite Dangerous

Star Citizen will be amazing to play one day at 4K - or higher - but the game's still got a lot of development to go, and as nice as it looks you've got buckley's of getting a smooth 60fps at 4K. Elite: Dangerous, on the other hand, is in a much better state. One of the best titles for showcasing VR and a well-optimised game in its own right, E:D has plenty of moments where you can get dwarfed by the magnitude of space.

If you've been thriving for a first-person view of space full of aliens, marauding pirates, space stations to accidentally crash into and the newly discovered TRAPPIST-1 star system, Elite: Dangerous is the trick. It's best played with a full HOTAS setup, but you can fly around the galaxy just fine with an Xbox controller or a mouse and keyboard.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Image: Kotaku

The facial animations might be a little janky at times, but the combination of the Frostbite engine and Mass Effect means the environments are stunning. Andromeda also shipped with day one support for NVIDIA's in-game photography tool, Ansel, allowing for super high-resolutions shots as well as stereo, 360o and VR-viewable images. Here's a couple of examples:

Image: Twitter (@sarge0079)

Image: Twitter (@BFCaptures)

DOOM

Image: Kotaku

One of the best shooter campaigns in years, DOOM also has the luxury of being one of the most well optimised games for the PC. The introduction of Vulkan support is second to none, allowing most medium to top-tier GPUs to run id's demon slaying simulator at 4K without missing a beat.

There are plenty of games worth running at 4K regardless of performance because the environments and scope are worth it. There's older titles worthwhile playing at 4K because PC hardware has advanced to the point where they can handle it. And then you have games that are so well developed that they smash it out of the park from the beginning.

DOOM is that game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Image: Xanvast

Like Andromeda, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a great game for just stopping to smell the roses. It was already a good looking game when it first launched on the Xbox One, but Lara's latest adventure is best served by a high-end CPU and a similarly powerful GPU. Rise of the Tomb Raider also encourages a lot more exploration than the reboot did a few years ago, which is even all the more worthwhile when you get to sit back and enjoy stuff like this:

Image: Xanvast

Stunning.

House of the Dying Sun

Image: Supplied

The final frontier has always been a great way to push PC hardware to its limit. But if you want a take on space that's more action oriented and more stylised than Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen, House of the Dying Sun is a great alternative.

A mix of traditional dogfights with some real-time strategy elements, the indie title from Marauder Interactive channels a bit of X-Wing vs TIE Fighter and comes with full support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Most importantly, Kirk found the controls were tight - a must for any space shooter - and the aesthetics were always a joy to behold.

Image: Kotaku/Kirk Hamilton

Mario Kart

Another advantage with building a beefy PC rig is that you can push games on other platforms well beyond what they were originally intended for. Case in point: Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Kart look fantastic in motion at 4K, thanks to all of the graphical enhancements and tweaks added by emulators like CemU and the Dolphin community project.

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Fair warning: you shouldn't do this if you don't own a copy of the games in question. But if you've got everything up and running, you really owe it to yourself to play a few rounds of Mario Kart at insane resolutions. It brings the whole game back to life again, and the same treatment can be applied to a whole host of other games from platforms of old.

ArmA 3

Image: Xanvast

There are games like DOOM that run amazingly at 4K. And then there are games that are purpose-built to punish your PC now, tomorrow, and for the next 5 years.

Case in point: ArmA 3. If you don't believe me, fire it up and set the draw distance to 25 kilometres. Go on.

Fallout 4

Image: Steam

The textures in Bethesda's post-apocalyptic trip through Boston aren't on the same level as The Witcher 3 or a more linear game. But then again, other games don't have official high-resolution texture packs that recommend users have a Core i7-5820K CPU or better and a GTX 1080. And 58GB of extra space, on top of Fallout 4's base install.

It might push your PC off a cliff - a time-honoured tradition for Bethesda games - but hey, the Commonwealth will have never looked better. And if you want to really go for broke, you can add throw the Texture Optimisation Project mod into the mix while you're at it.

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

Image: Александр SanchouS

If you're going to pump the visuals up as far as they go, sometimes you just want to take your time enjoying them. And the perfect game for doing that is the murder-mystery adventure The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, which looks even better these days after it was ported to the latest Unreal Engine.

Set in the American midwest, Ethan Carter is a story about a paranormal detective who receives a letter from a boy who goes missing. It's the detective's job to wander through the forest and piece together exactly what happened to Ethan Carter.


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Comments

    Although it's not on PC, I'd add Horizon Zero Dawn to the list of games to be played in 4K. Horizon is more atmospheric than even The Witcher 3, especially at night with the patches of mist glowing in the forest moonlight, or at dawn with the bloody sunrise reflecting off the underside of clouds.

    Unreal Tournament is another I'd add to this list. It looks stunning at 4k, but you do need a hella beefy rig to get it running smoothly at that res. Same goes for Dirt Rally.

    Given how simplistic the graphics are in The Witness, I was surprised at just how damn nice it looks at 4k too. Started playing it the other day, and really took me by surprise!

    Also, Carmageddon Max Damage and GTA5 look super nice at 4k :)

      Until Horizon, The Witness was probably Sony's best advertisement for 4K/HDR. DiRT Rally is a real good point as well. Top game, that.

        Indeed it is! I wish I had a VR kit to try it out and get the full experience! At least now I have my 1080ti, I can actually play it at 4k though. Had to run it at 1440p on my 960 cos it was just too choppy.

          The 960 being able to play at 1440p is ... pretty bloody good.

            I had a 4gb 960 which probably helped. I was quite surprised at just how well it handled most 4k gaming. There were only a few games I couldn't play consistently at 4k due to low fps. Mostly Doom, UT and Dirt Rally. I'd get around 25-30 fps for the most part, but dropping to 1440p would push me well over 60 :)
            Other games like Reflex FPS, I could play at 2160p at around 70-90fps, which was just lovely!
            Having the 4gb of dedicated memory was well worth it. Most 960's that were around at that stage had 2 or 3.

    Battlefront is a way better showcase of the Frostbite engine. Most photo-realistic environments in any game so far imo.

    I'm still rocking a 980Ti at 4k, while some of these games can be played mostly fine with graphics tweaks and get 40-60fps range 'most' the time, however I'll largely be waiting on the Rx Vega cards to arrive because I also have a freesync monitor and I would like to use that. (no the rx480/580 isn't enough!)

    Last edited 07/04/17 3:06 pm

    Highly recommend anyone who isn't into PCs in getting a Ps4 Pro. Controversial as it has been releasing a decent upgrade mid console cycle, its a delightful console to own, especially with older games like Dark Souls 3 getting an upgrade patch.

    At least this 'partner content' is related to gaming rather than some crass click bait like you see on some tabloid site.
    It's still f-ing advertising though.

      I know right!? i mean i don't even know who its advertising for.. it even encourages emulators lol. I did see one game that tickled my fancy though.. The vanishing of ethan carter. Might have to try it. :)

    120/144 fps/refresh rate >>> 4k

    Once you get used to higher refresh rates/fps it's pretty rough playing at 60 or lower. Playing at a lower resolution is much more tolerable.

    So you wasted a couple thousand dollars on a pc parts that will be obsolete in under a year.

    Ps4 pro = cheap easy way to experience 4k and have the same satisfaction as if you were to play on pc. Plus HZD and uncharted 4 look amazing... Pc players just don't understand.

    Pc master race is dead... Only old nerds play on gaming PC's

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