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Is 16GB RAM Enough for Today’s Games?

It’s been a truism that with every CPU and GPU upgrade, game designers have pushed the envelope and made use of every ounce of performance and then some. But RAM requirements had been holding steady. That’s starting to change.


Read the requirements for the newest gaming titles and you’ll see the same increases in CPU and GPU recommendations. That’s natural, because as Intel and AMD produce faster products, game developers do everything they can to squeeze out every ou6eneration with anticipation of faster CPUs and GPUs to come.


For the last ten years or more, the recommended RAM has mostly held steady at 16GB. That is starting to change. Today, several games are including 32GB of RAM in their recommendations, primarily for running at 4K and/or with ray tracing turned on.



Here come RAM hungry games


The following are a couple of examples of ultra-demanding games that might make you want to consider configuring your next PC gaming PC with 32GB, or upgrading your existing machine.


Returnal


Returnal originally recommended 32GB of RAM but took that back when the game was released. The implication is that 32GB is likely a good idea, but it’s a lot to swallow especially with DDR5 RAM being so expensive.


Right now, its specifications show the following:

Minimum

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB or AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB

  • RAM: 16GB DDR4

Medium

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 2600

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT

  • RAM: 16GB DDR4

Recommended

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8700 or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super or AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT

  • RAM: 16GB DDR4

Epic

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9700K or AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 10GB or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT

  • RAM: 32GB DDR4

Ray Tracing

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-11900K or AMD Ryzen 9 5900K

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 6590 XT

  • RAM: 32GB DDR4


Diablo IV


This title pushes the envelope when it comes to RAM requirements.


Low-end

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K or AMD FX-8350

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or AMD Radeon R9 280

  • RAM: 8GB

Medium

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K or AMD Ryzen 1300X

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 470

  • RAM: 16GB

High-end

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 or AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT

  • RAM: 16GB

4K

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 40 Series for DLSS3, or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT

  • RAM: 32GB


Which games benefit the most from more RAM?


Even if a game doesn’t require 32GB, many will run much better than with 16GB. This is particularly true for multiplayer games where you can host your own server. In that case, you’ll want as much RAM as possible as you add more players.

But that’s not the only kind of game where more RAM is helpful. Games with extremely immersive environments and ultra-high-quality graphics can use more RAM. This depends in part on how much VRAM (video RAM) your GPU has installed, because if a game’s graphics max out VRAM then the overflow goes to normal RAM.

Games that use large maps can also take up more RAM. The larger the map, the more elements of the virtual environment that need to be stored. Some games have incredibly large maps that can use as much RAM as you’re willing to throw at them.

Examples of games that can use a lot of RAM include Ark: Surival Evolved, Star Citizen, Galactic Civilization 3, and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Some of these are older games that have received updates over the years increasing their requirements for the best performance.


While you can still get away with 16GB of RAM with most games, if you want to future-proof your gaming PC, then 32GB is the way to go.


Can you allocate more RAM to a game?


Windows 11 allows you to allocate more RAM to any program that needs it. That’s important if you’re multitasking, that is, if you’re running other applications along with your game. In fact, the more you multitask, the more RAM you’ll need. If you’re a heavy multitasker who also runs high-end games, then 32GB of RAM or more is a wise investment.

To allocate more RAM to a game, you simply need to open the Windows Task Manager, select the Details tab on the left-hand side, right-click on the game’s executable, and select “High” under “Set Priority.” That will allocate more resources to the game, including RAM.

Note, though, that this means your other background applications will receive less RAM. Again, that argues to add as much RAM to your PC as you can afford.

The more RAM, the better (usually)


As applications, not just games, become more complex and demanding, the need for RAM continues to increase. There was a time when 8GB of RAM was sufficient, but today, you’ll want to opt for at least 16GB of RAM. If you’re buying a laptop, then you’re probably stuck with whatever amount you buy up front, so plan carefully.

Heavy gamers should start considering 32GB as the norm, especially if they multitask. And it won’t be too long before you’ll be required to run with 32GB if you want the best experience.

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