Here’s which games really require 16 GB of RAM:
While most modern games will technically run on 8GB of RAM, to have a smooth experience without much video stuttering, most AAA titles from the past 5 years are better off with 16GB.
If you need to host a server or want to stream at all, then 16GB of RAM is pretty much the starting point and can go up from there.
So if you want to learn all about which games really require 16 GB of RAM and why exactly, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get started!
Why Do Games Need RAM? (4 Reasons)
Talking about how much RAM a game needs is really skipping a few steps.
The whole conversation makes more sense when we first cover why a game needs RAM.
If you’re familiar with computers at all, then you know that RAM helps them run quickly and efficiently.
RAM is the short-term memory that helps the computer system keep track of specific bits of information while processes run.
But, what do video games do with RAM?
In basic terms, a video game is just another program, so it uses RAM the same as anything else on the computer.
But, video games can get pretty deep and large, so we can single out a few ways that video games use RAM.
More importantly, we can talk about how more or less RAM might impact game performance.
FPS stands for frames per second.
When you play a game, your computer is really rendering a bunch of images on your screen in a sequence.
It’s the same idea as how old movie reels worked.
If the images flash fast enough, then you get a smooth video performance.
Because of this, a higher FPS count is usually associated with a better gaming experience.
Now, I want to skip the technical conversation about how video games utilize graphics memory and computer memory.
It’s pretty convoluted, and it changes substantially depending on how the game is designed.
Instead, we can use a very zoomed-out explanation and say that as a general rule, having more RAM helps a game perform at a higher FPS.
That’s because the computer has to do a lot of calculations in order to render the video you see, and additional RAM resources make it easier for the computer to be fast about the whole thing.
There are two components to video games and multitasking.
Actually, there’s a whole other discussion on multitasking that I’ll take you through later.
For now, let’s talk about how a game itself invokes multitasking resources in your computer.
The first has to do with multithreading.
If you ever read about new computers or their processors, you have probably seen claims that they have multiple cores.
Basically, a single processor can have individual units that can work on different problems at the same time (which is multithreading).
It might not sound like a big deal, but enabling one processor to do multiple things at once is a huge deal.
There’s a catch, though.
The processor can’t figure out how to divide tasks on its own.
Instead, the software has to provide instructions to the processor.
In computer terms, this means that for a game to benefit from multithreading, the game’s software has to be written for multithreading.
It’s why a lot of old games don’t necessarily perform better on new computers.
Multithreading design is somewhat recent.
Where does RAM come in?
Well, multithreading allows a process to go through a lot more calculations per second.
That means that the processor can make use of more files and data in a second, which ultimately means that the computer can take advantage of more RAM.
When video games design around multithreading, they tend to need more RAM for optimal performance (again, this is shared with video RAM in very complicated ways).
#3 Even More Multitasking
I said there were two issues here, and we’ve only covered one so far.
The other issue is that modern games are more likely to interact with different apps and resources on your computer.
You can integrate games with things like Discord or Twitch.
That’s to say nothing of using something like Steam or Origin to launch and run the game.
The point here is that your games interact with more things on your computer than they used to, and this invokes even more multitasking.
And, multitasking uses RAM.
It’s just one more way that modern games push up RAM requirements.
To clarify, some of that interactivity of the game pushes RAM requirements more than it might seem.
The game itself will use more RAM to interact with Steam or any other app on your computer.
At the same time, Steam has its own RAM allocation.
A really good example of this idea is Discord.
A lot of gamers use Discord to communicate while they play.
If the game seamlessly interacts with Discord, then you can control Discord audio functions without the need to look away from the game.
The controls are right there on the game screen.
This increases the RAM demand for the game because you’re adding more functions.
It also means that you are running Discord while playing, and that increases RAM demands overall.
You’re pushing RAM limitations on two fronts.
Discord happens to be a low consumer of RAM, so it’s not the most extreme example.
I have it open right now while I’m not actively talking to anyone, and it’s using 41.3MB.
But, this interaction shows you how RAM is used, and if you integrate something that eats up more memory, then RAM limitations are going to be more pronounced.
How Much RAM Do Games Need?
Ok. That’s the bulk of what RAM is doing when you game.
You can see that you need enough RAM to run the game, properly multitask, and push performance to acceptable levels.
RAM can help with FPS performance, integration with other apps, and plenty of other facets of the game itself.
With that covered, how much RAM does a game need?
Clearly, that’s going to depend on more than a few factors.
I’m going to get into some specific titles and scenarios in a bit.
First, I want to give you a pretty good average.
To run a modern operating system, you really need at least 8GB of RAM.
Some will claim that they run on 4, but realistically, that’s going to be a slow and frustrating experience.
Since you need to run an operating system to play a game on a computer, the realistic minimum amount of RAM you should have is 8GB.
That means that 8GB will run games that are not taxing the limits of your computer.
If you want to play games that really push things, then 8GB won’t be enough anymore, and that brings us back to the original question.
Which Games Need 16GB? (4 Titles)
Since this question depends on how you’re using the computer and what kind of performance you are chasing, there’s too much to cover it all.
What I’m going to do right now is talk about titles that need 16GB of RAM to run normally.
We’re not squeaking out extra FPS, and we’re not multitasking the computer as hard as we can at this point (I will cover that idea later).
You can play a lot of games that aren’t graphically intense (or are maybe just a bit older) on 8GB of RAM and have a good time.
The games listed below are ones that won’t provide a nominal experience unless you have at least 16GB.
On top of that, the specific reasons you need so much RAM actually vary from title to title, and I’ll explain that along the way.
#1 Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark: Survival Evolved is a great example of how a gaming experience can require more than the traditional install-and-play style that is so common.
You can play this game with 8GB of RAM, but you need access to a game server.
If you don’t have access to that, then you might host the server on your own computer.
You can, and the game makes the process relatively easy, but this is a different way to play a game.
If your computer is hosting the server and running the game for you at the same time, it’s going to need a lot more RAM, and 16GB is a great place to start.
This concept applies to any game where you need a server to play.
Multiplayer Minecraft is another good example.
There are a lot of professional cloud servers available for a fee, but if you want to run the server yourself and play on it, you’ll need extra RAM to keep performance up.
#2 VR Games
Virtual reality headsets are a big part of the gaming world these days.
If you want to get in on the action, you have a few options. I don’t want to get into which VR set you should use.
Instead, I want to make sure it’s clear that some headsets are self-sufficient systems while others use your computer to do some of the processing for the experience.
If you have a self-contained system, then this section doesn’t apply.
But, if you’re running a VR set with your computer, then we have something to talk about.
VR can dramatically increase memory demand.
When you use this setup, your computer has to run the game as is.
It then has to do additional rendering and communication in order to send video to the VR headset and respond to the VR controls.
To put it simply, VR complicates gaming for your computer.
Take Half-Life: Alyx as an example.
This is one of the most popular VR titles, and Valve recommends a minimum of 12GB of RAM to play it.
That’s a minimum.
If you want to play nominally, 16GB is a safe expectation (plus it’s easier to run a build with 16GB than 12GB these days)
There are VR games that you can probably play on 8GB, but as a general rule, you should expect to need 16GB to run VR through your computer.
#3 New AAA Titles
This might be what you were expecting from the start of this conversation.
Top-billed AAA titles often have rich graphics, and as a result, they tend to task memory really hard.
If you’re getting the newest, prettiest game, you’ll probably need 16GB to play it.
Any less, and you’ll probably have very choppy video and an unpleasant experience in general.
A few titles that come to mind while writing this are Elden Ring, Starfield, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl.
They’re all big titles that push computers pretty hard.
If you’re into this type of gaming, go ahead and assume you need 16GB of RAM.
#4 Additional Titles
Even if you aren’t buying the latest and greatest new games, there are plenty of titles that will still push your computer and demand extra RAM.
The truth is that games have been in the 16GB territory for more than 5 years now.
So, these are some well-known titles that need a lot of memory:
- Batman Arkham Knight
- Mass Effect: Andromeda
- GTA 5
- Call of Duty Warzone
If you wanted, you could probably find a few dozen more titles to add to the list.
If it’s a major, graphically intense title released after 2016, then it might need 16GB of RAM.
What If You Do a Lot of Multitasking?
Hang on for a minute.
That list above is looking at games that need 16GB of RAM all by themselves.
What if you multitask the computer a little while you play?
I already talked about using Discord.
What if you like to listen to your own music or watch a stream while you play?
That’s more intense for memory, right? Yes.
If you start to multitask your computer, then you’re going to need extra RAM to keep up with everything.
If you’re doing light multitasking, like listening to music, watching a stream, or keeping internet tabs open, then you’ll probably need 2GB to 4GB more RAM than what the game needs on its own.
So, if you’re running an 8GB game, then you’ll need 10 to 12 gigabytes to play the way you like.
Since the easiest upgrade is usually to go from 8GB to 16GB, you’re going to want 16GB to play games and multitask in general.
Really resource-light games will be ok with just 8GB.
But, computers and gaming are fast getting to a point where 16GB is just going to be the new standard expectation.
What About Streaming?
Now, that only covers light multitasking.
What if you want to stream your gameplay?
That’s going to push things even further.
The general rule is that you need 16GB of RAM to play and stream a game.
If your game is resource-intense, or if you’re trying to stream at top quality, then you might need 24 to 32GB of RAM.
Twitch actually has a whole sheet of hardware recommendations that can help you explore ideas and set expectations.