10 gorgeous, graphics-intensive games that will utterly punish your PC

These graphically intense PC games dial the eye candy up to 11 -- and make your PC sweat while they're at it.

punishing pc games hero
Pixel-pushing, PC-melting graphical firepower

So you built yourself a brand new gaming rig, you've slotted your sweet new graphics card into the PCIe slot, you've sealed up the case, and you've heard it all POST—congrats! Now it's time to throw games at your brand new build until it breaks, then cry when you realize if you'd spent just two hundred dollars more you could've run the game in 4K instead of mere 1080p!

Don't know what to play? No old favorites? Well, allow us to point you in the right direction when it comes to handing your computer a stack of heavy weights and saying "Lift this." These 10 punishing PC games will bring even powerful rigs to their knees—but the eye candy is utterly delicious.

crysis 3
Crysis 3

For a long time the original Crysis was the frame-rate equivalent of Mike Tyson in Punch-Out. "Think you built a great new rig? Think again!" said Crysis, punching you in the face with a slideshow. Even now, thanks to a criminal number of particle effects, the original Crysis can make your machine sweat.

Crysis 3, while not quite as absurdly future-proofed as its ancestor, inherits the same penchant for machine-punishing graphics. And it’s fun, too!

ryse son of rome
Ryse: Son of Rome

If you prefer your Crytek games flavored with a bit of Ancient Rome instead of the near-future science fiction of Crysis, strap on your gladius and check out Ryse: Son of Rome, which runs on an updated version of the same CryEngine. Originally an Xbox One launch title, Crytek retooled Ryse for some seriously gorgeous PC graphics.

Regrettably the game part doesn't quite live up to the rest of the package , but you're not here to actually play games, right? Just look at them and drool.

sleeping dogs definitive edition
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition

Sleeping Dogs isn't as intensive as some of the games on this list, but it sure does look pretty—and the recently-released Definitive Edition did give the graphics a well-deserved shot in the arm (not that they looked bad to begin with). If you really want to feast your eyes, be sure to ride around the game's recreation of Hong Kong at night after a decent rainstorm, and keep your eyes on the street reflections.

metro 2033 redux
Metro Redux games

Ah, the Metro series. Honestly, I think the Redux version of Metro: 2033 runs better than the original, thanks to a more streamlined engine and better optimization.

Either way, the two Metro games are top-of-the-heap in terms of atmospheric shooters. Post-apocalyptic Russia's never looked more real than it does here. With a whole host of graphical abilities plus a standalone benchmarking tool, these should definitely be part of your testing arsenal.

Additionally, they're some of the best PhysX-enabled games if you're running an Nvidia card.

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The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings

If you want the true successor to Crysis look no further than The Witcher 2. Proof: The game came out in 2011, and my system still hates running it with certain options turned on.

In particular, graphics aficionados will love what happens when they enable "Ubersampling," wherein the scene is rendered multiple times per frame and then those renders are composited for a smoother, more accurate view of everything.

Okay, Ubersampling is actually pretty dumb in practice, and Supersampling (rendering at a higher resolution than your monitor and then scaling down) is a much more effective way to get the same effect (to speak nothing of traditional anti-aliasing techniques), but hey, The Witcher 2 will melt your machine regardless.

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Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation is honestly one of those games where you're surprised how good it looks even without requiring a monstrous GPU. Creative Assembly's meticulous attention to detail when it comes to the Alien franchise makes this one a real visual treat, from the VHS-treated menus to the industrial-infused design of the ship itself.

There's the odd stilted animation or awkward texture, but by and large Alien: Isolation looks fantastic.

far cry 3
Far Cry 3

With Far Cry 4 right around the corner (it's slated for a November 18 release) I'm sure this spot on the list will soon be better served by the successor, but Far Cry 3 is still a graphical feast. Look at all that grass! Look at those trees! Look at those explosions! Look at those procedurally-generated fires!

Look at that draw distance.

arma 3

While Far Cry 3's draw distance is respectable, if you want the crowned champion look no further than Arma 3. Go ahead, set the draw distance to 25 kilometers. I dare you.

Arma 3 also has some beautiful lighting and particle effects, and thanks to the fact that it's pretty atrocious at utilizing multiple processor cores you can stress-test your CPU at the same time. What a deal!

battlefield 4
Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 doesn't aim for the same sort of realism achieved by Arma 3, but it's still a graphics powerhouse in its own right. Between shooting and getting shot at, you won't have much time to sit around and admire the particle effects generated by an entire skyscraper collapsing, but trust me when I say it looks beautiful.

And now that you don't have to worry about the server crashing every time that same skyscraper collapses? Battlefield 4 is a totally viable way to test out your new rig's capabilities.

tomb raider
Tomb Raider

While Nvidia's PhysX technology is pretty ubiquitous nowadays, AMD's TressFX is still a rarity. If you just bought a brand new AMD card and want to see the future of digital hair, make sure to snag a copy of Tomb Raider.

Remember to ooh and aah appropriately as Lara Croft's ponytail bounces around, or blows in the wind. "Yes. This is why I just spent $300 on a top-of-the-line graphics card ."