The best graphics in PC games that will blow your mind in 2018

Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 are powerful consoles that can run even graphically intensive games at high resolutions and framerates. Racing against each other, each company has already released updated versions of their respective platforms, with even better chipsets that can handle the latest display standards. But no matter how strong those systems become, there will always be one platform that's a step ahead, always leading the charge and riding that cutting edge. The one that gets the newest and best tech, first; the one that game studios love to show off their games on. After all these years, the personal computer still reigns supreme.

In this day and age, the big AAA publishers don't have many exclusives anymore (excepting first-party games, of course). What works on one platform almost certainly works on the others. Even indie games these days jump easily from Windows to the Xbox One, given their shared development environment. So you aren't going to find something like the original Doom anymore, which came out for PCs alone and showcased their raw potential — even the new Doom was cross-platform. But that doesn't mean there aren't mind-blowing visuals coming to a PC near you, and soon. And no matter what, if you're running the latest and greatest graphics card(s) in your rig, you'll always have it better than anyone else. If you're wondering what to test your build against, these are the best graphics in upcoming PC games.

Can your PC survive Metal Gear Survive?

Metal Gear Survive will be the first installment in the storied franchise in which creator Hideo Kojima will not be involved in any way. Indeed, at first glance, it doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to spies sneaking around military installations. Instead, this is a survival horror game in which a small multiplayer team must hold out against waves of mindless zombies. How publisher Konami intends to connect this popular gameplay genre back to Kojima's legacy remains to be seen.

But however they do it, it's definitely going to look good. That's because Metal Gear Survive contains one other piece of the Kojima heritage: the Fox Engine, which also powered Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Built in-house in order to get the Metal Gear Solid look just right, it can show a character up close in exquisite detail down to the hair follicles, or back way out to show a broad landscape of varied terrain — all without breaking its stride. Animations are slick, and dynamic weather effects were a key selling point in Metal Gear Solid V.

But the most striking feature of the Fox Engine is just how robust its cinematics system is. Kojima was always a film buff, and wanted his games to have a director's eye towards cutscenes. The Fox Engine is capable of all manner of cinematic techniques, from lens flares to lighting effects to focal lengths. Other engines might have similar feature sets, but none look quite like Fox. All of that power will be coming to Survive, plus whatever new treats Konami has cooked up in the intervening years.

Far Cry 5 will make your rig cry

The Far Cry franchise began on the PC as developer Crytek's debut game. Crytek has always been a very visually-minded studio, and they wanted that first game to show off what they could do with their brand-new CryEngine. Far Cry succeeded in putting Crytek on the map, so much so that they moved on to other franchises. Ubisoft bought the series from them, and has been developing Far Cry games ever since.

There are a couple of elements that are fundamental to a Far Cry game, one of which is a huge open-world environment that players can explore in any direction. That means the game needs to be able to render vast areas seamlessly, and in stunning detail, too. The original CryEngine did that brilliantly back in its day. And in a way, it still is: today, the Far Cry series runs on the Dunia Engine, a Ubisoft-modded version of CryEngine.

Far Cry 5 will feature the latest and greatest version of Dunia, in order to render a mysterious and exotic land: America. And the player will be blowing up a good bit of that landscape, while simultaneously fending off waves of enemy combatants. Dunia will render all of that at once, while offering slick animations and cutting-edge lighting techniques at the same time. Crytek may have moved on, but in this important respect, their influence on the franchise remains: it's just got to look good.

Skull & Bones will make your card walk the plank

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag brought Ubisoft's venerable action series into the Golden Age of Piracy. And what pirate game could possibly be complete without a deep, robust ship exploration and combat system? Black Flag's maritime mechanics turned out to be so good, that it became the standout feature of the game. Fans were disappointed to learn that ships wouldn't be returning in the follow-up game, Assassin's Creed Unity.

But then at E3 2017, Ubisoft revealed that they hadn't forgotten about the pirate's life just yet: they were in fact taking that whole idea and building an entirely new title out of it, Skull & Bones. Indeed, ship-based combat was presented as the core of the experience. And it looks spectacular, from rolling ocean hues in blue and green inflections, to the massive splashes of tossing ships plowing through waves. Meanwhile, a variety of enemy ships, each distinct right down to the sails and gold leaf highlights, will circle around you. Combat is swift and brutal, and showcases particle effects to a spectacular degree. Explosions are always better if mast-shards are flying out of them.

Beyond the sheer graphical fidelity of the game, there are very few other games that will look like this title. At the end of the day, most games take place on the ground, or possibly in space. Very few actually take place on the sea, and naval combat at this kind of close-up resolution is uncommon in the extreme. Skull & Bones will show you a world most games simply don't even attempt.

Anthem is your rig's new theme song

BioWare has carved a niche for itself in the great mountain range of gaming: as the top purveyor of story-centric titles that still feature AAA budgets, scope, and graphics. But as famous and influential as series like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have been, they've never been massive sellers. For BioWare, it's high time they made it into the big-leagues of video game sales, and their weapon of choice is Anthem.

Anthem is a multiplayer action-adventure shooter, in which small teams of power-armored heroes venture forth into an untamed wilderness to complete missions and earn better loot so they can complete more missions. That wilderness is itself one of the star breakouts of the trailer: vibrant, verdant, and voracious, making full use of DICE's legendary Frostbite engine to render creatures and environments alike. Rays of light filter down naturally through the forest canopy, and everything from bird flocks to dust particles dynamically cross the screen.

And none of that mentions the fluid combat animations that can involve duels with massive mechanical creatures, which are capable of destroying the surrounding environment. Throw in some smoke and ember effects while enemy shots spark off of the player's armor, and the result is a freewheeling graphical tour-de-force painting what we all hope will be another BioWare narrative triumph. Quite simply, in all their long history, BioWare has never made a game that looks so promising visually. And hopefully it'll deliver on that promise, as some reports indicate that Anthem is the studio's last shot at survival…

Your PC's never seen a game of this Soul Calibur

Namco's Soul Calibur fighting franchise has always thrived on its superlative presentation: gorgeous environments, slick animations, and distinctive characters. Soul Calibur VI looks to continue that tradition, though at the same time, it will break new ground: the veteran series is bringing the fight to PCs for the first time.

As a fighting title, the actual gameplay takes place in a contained 3D space. Only two players go head-to-head against one another. In other words, there's not all that much for the graphics engine to worry about. Where other games need to deal with a huge variety of characters, or a massive open world stretching off into the distance — or both – Soul Calibur can just concentrate on making a small number of elements pop with relentless style. Every move, every attack, and every throw can be crafted and enhanced to the very limits of the developers' imaginations. At any given moment, your screen will be filled with lightning, flame, wind, or unclassified energy effects, all at the same time, with a bursting exaggeration worthy of the craziest anime fight. Which, in a very real sense, is what this entire franchise is.

While you won't be exploring the environments, they are beautifully rendered and, once again, are focused on size and scope that go beyond any pretense of realism. Soul Calibur VI has no intention of being subtle: it wants to be more. That goes for framerate, too, as 60fps is the target even when running at 4K.

Dynasty Warriors 9 is an army unto itself

For the ninth entry in the Dynasty Warriors series, it's all about numbers. The standout feature here is the sheer size of the enemy armies you will be fighting, and we do mean 'armies.' From the trailers, there appear to be dozens of characters operating onscreen at once; just how many more can be squeezed in by the time the game releases remains to be seen. But flinging your hero against so many enemies at once allows for a form and style of combat that most other games have never been able to represent before.

Great graphics aren't always about polygon count: sometimes, it's about showing you something brand new. Diving into a sea of dozens, only to strike upwards and lift a whole army into the air: Dynasty Warriors 9 is zigging when the rest of the industry is zagging. Typically, weapon or ability effects only target a handful of enemies at once. Dynasty Warriors 9 doesn't know what a 'handful' is, so it just applies those effects to whoever's in range, no matter how many of them there are.

The game certainly seems aware of what it's killer feature is, since all of the various characters, and their distinct movesets, are designed to take full advantage of lifting, shoving, and slashing through huge masses of opponents. There's nothing else that looks quite like this.

Metro: Exodus is a feast for your computer

The post-apocalyptic wasteland has been seen a million times across the video gaming world. But Metro: Exodus wants to make the destroyed and barren look good. From sweeping snow-capped vistas to every last individual hair in a monster's fur, Exodus uses developer 4A Games' custom engine to the hilt. When Microsoft wanted to show off the raw potential of their new Xbox One X console at E3 2017, Exodus was their game of choice. But as good as that is, on PC, it can go even farther.

One of the key artistic elements of the game appears to be a pervasive use of particles. From dust, to snow, to shrapnel, there's almost never a static moment no matter where you're looking. Dust and lighting effects are so natural as to almost disappear from notice. Even if you're not fighting any enemies at all, you're being treated to a visual feast. Barren has never looked so beautiful.

Of course, you'll also fight enemies at some point. Here, too, the graphical fidelity is precise and gorgeous. As the big monster from the debut trailer crashes around the environment, objects bounce out of his way or are destroyed altogether. At the edge of a cliff, rocks fall off as characters get close. And once the monster gets up close, his slobbering jaws don't look any less detailed. This is definitely one to watch.

Monster Hunter enters a bold new world

With Monster Hunter: World, it's all about scale. The titular creatures aren't your size, or even twice your size: they are humongous titans rendered in glorious detail and drawn in a style that is at once realistic and imaginative. But don't forget the other part of the title: the world is huge, too. That includes everything from the sheer area of the open-world to the gigantic cities that stretch up towards the sky.

And there's no shortage of things to look at: the world is filled with strange architecture, colorful animals, and a variety of different environments. And that sense of bigness winds its way into every facet of the game. From the weapons, to the scale of the trees and mountains, there's nothing in Monster Hunter: World that hasn't been boosted far beyond its real-world equivalent. Hugeness in quality and quantity, both: that's the ride you're signing up for when you enter this world.

Graphically, this is a big step forward for the franchise, which has been on the Nintendo Wii and 3DS platforms for the last few releases. For Monster Hunter: World, developer Capcom went for the visual big leagues, coming to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and above all, the PC. With its gameplay refined on weaker systems, the series is now ready to paint its mechanics in the shiniest coat of paint imaginable.

Final Fantasy XV isn't done yet

Final Fantasy XV is the latest in the legendary series from Square Enix, one of the defining Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) franchises. When it debuted for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in late 2016 after a ten-year-long development process, fans weren't sure if it could possibly be worth the wait. Fortunately, reviews for the game were glowing, as critics found the series retained its trademark creativity, charm, and character.

And boy, did it look good. From teeming cities to open plains, from magical spell effects to just cruising on the open road, Final Fantasy XV brought the series' classic imagination to brilliantly-realized life. The franchise's hallmark blend of science-fiction and fantasy is on full display, as our spellcasting heroes have to worry about the gas gauge on their car as much as they do their mana pools. The console powerhouse was back in fine fashion.

And it's not just for consoles, either. Though it's coming late to the party, a PC port of the game is set for March 2018. And it's bringing native 4K and even 8K resolution with it. That's right: Final Fantasy XV will be able to run 8K on a PC strong enough to handle it — with HDR, no less. That all comes at a cost, though: the game will take up a whopping 155 GB of hard drive space. But if you have a rig that can run 8K, you can probably afford the extra space.

Quake is still a champion

More than any other single studio, id Software put PCs on the map as the absolute last word in graphical power. Doom transformed our notions of what could be rendered on a PC screen. And their megahit Quake practically invented the modern concept of the multiplayer shooter. Quake Champions is id's upcoming return to their shooter juggernaut, and it's bringing with it all the technical know-how of one of the industry's most proficient studios.

The developer is so focused on making Champions the best experience it can be, that they are not even bringing it to consoles at all, with id director Tim Willits quoted as saying "We want no excuses, no limitations." 

Unlike the rest of the games on this list, this is a full-bore AAA experience that is PC-exclusive. id hopes to make Quake Champions a staple eSports game, and they don't want anything, at all, to distract it from that goal. That means the controls will be built with a keyboard and mouse in mind, not a controller; and the graphics can be as insane as they want to be, because they aren't locking themselves into any on chipset.

Visually, the game so far looks to be as fast, bloody, and insane as its heritage. The priority here is speed and twitch reflexes, not thoughtfulness or strategic thinking. That said, you'll still have to keep in mind where the power-ups are, and when they'll spawn, and then try to guess how your opponents are reacting to the same information. This is an old-school game in the best coat of paint imaginable.