Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really need a beastly spec’d out PC in order to have a good time — gaming on a budget build is also quite viable! Having the latest and greatest hardware or piece of tech is always nice, but it is by no means a prerequisite. Certain limitations do exist, of course, but we live in an age where there’s a myriad of phenomenal, jaw-dropping titles that can be experienced on even the most inexpensive builds and integrated graphics cards.
This is especially important nowadays with the ongoing semiconductor shortages and the whole crypto craze — getting your hands on a dedicated graphics cards for a reasonable price seems to be a challenge of gargantuan proportions. And, well, it is a challenge that is often insurmountable, unless you have a small fortune lying around.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t game and have a great time — on the contrary! You’ll just have to “choose your battles” and adapt to the circumstances. Playing Cyberpunk 2077 is out of the question (and any similar AAA title, for that matter), but that’s by no means a problem as there’s a host of other mind-blowing games out there just waiting to be enjoyed!
In that sense, gaming on a budget PC can really be a blessing in disguise: it forces you to broaden your horizons and unearth many incredible gems!
Criteria: Our baseline for this list will be an integrated graphics card — think AMD’s Vega (found on many Ryzen APUs) and the Iris Xe found on Intel’s top-of-the-line mobility processors like the Core i7-1165G7 with 96 EU. The former can be found on both desktop and laptop APUs, whereas the latter is currently “reserved” for high-end ultrabooks and NUC-like SFFPCs.
Roguelikes & Roguelites
These games need no introduction as they’ve frustrated and enchanted millions of gamers across the globe. We hate them with such passion, with such fervor, and yet we cannot put the control down and step away. It’s always “one more run” until the wee hours of the night.
We won’t delve into the semantics of it all (i.e. what separates roguelikes from roguelites) but will, instead, give you a list of titles you simply have to try out for yourself: Dead Cells, Hades, and The Binding of Isaac. Rogue Legacy, Into the Breach, and Spelunky 2 also deserve a mention, but if we had to give out just a handful of recommendations, it’d have to be the aforementioned three.
These games have seemingly endless replay value and are bafflingly engaging. It’s astounding, really. And, perhaps best of all, they run incredibly well on budget gaming hardware which means you can enjoy their splendors no matter what kind of PC you have!
The great thing about MOBAs — other than the fact that they’re endlessly entertaining and can be played for thousands upon thousands of hours — is that they can run on basically any (even remotely recent) iGPU.
League of Legends and DOTA 2 are amongst the most popular video games in the world and have kept that illustrious position for what feels like an eternity. And, frankly, they probably won’t be relinquishing it any time soon (if ever). League is noticeably more palatable to the uninitiated and is also easier to run, but DOTA has its own wholly unique allure and has an insanely passionate (albeit smaller) playerbase as well.
Either way, even the first Vega iGPU on the Ryzen 5 2400G is powerful enough to run them with basically everything maxed out — great news for those gaming on a budget!
Older/Optimized FPS Titles
We’re talking about games like Overwatch, VALORANT, Rainbow Six Siege, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Back 4 Blood, all of which happen to run beautifully on today’s (surprisingly potent) integrated graphics cards. These are some of the best shooters of all time, all of which can be played for hours on end without ever becoming repetitive — especially if you’re playing with friends!
The sheer fact that we can enjoy these incredible titles without a dedicated graphics card is simply astounding. There’s no other way to put it. Heck, even the UHD 750 graphics from Intel are sufficiently powerful to run most (if not all) of them at 1080p with respectable frame rates (often around the 60 FPS mark).
Digital Card Games
This one’s a no brainer, but it’s still worth the mention: digital card games like Legends of Runeterra, Hearthstone, and Magic the Gathering Arena all run like a dream on integrated graphics cards. They might not be particularly flashy or visually mind-blowing, but they’re nonetheless worth your undivided time and attention.
They’re like MOBAs, in a way, with their own unique metas and strategies, all of which can require tens if not hundreds of hours to master. The good thing is that they never really feel too demanding or overly complex — time just flows away as you’re having fun, lost in their peculiar, vast worlds. And, naturally, they run without a hitch on basically any integrated graphics card that was released post 2018.
Titles like Kentucky Route Zero, Cuphead, Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami (and its equally addictive sequel), Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight, Celeste, The Stanley Parable, Undertale, Don’t Starve, Disco Elysium, Firewatch, Fez, Bastion, Inside, Limbo, Among Us, and many others are proof that you don’t need a huge, Ubisoft-like studio to create a video game worthy of the history books.
All of these games are either fantastic or downright spectacular, and are therefore more than worthy of your time and attention. And, better yet, they’re very cheap and can run beautifully on low-spec machines! What more could you ask for?
It’s natural that we all want to experience the latest and greatest titles immediately upon their release, but if that isn’t possible, why not thumb through our back catalogue and find the many incredible games we had missed out on way back when? Didn’t play Grand Theft Auto V? Now’s your chance! The same goes for, say, Mafia II, Dead Space, Darksiders, Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls III, and many other jewels that had perhaps “flown under the radar” for whatever reason.
GPU prices have skyrocketed beyond belief, so you might as well go “back in time” until the market stabilizes and things return to normal (or close to it, at least). We all have a slew of games we didn’t beat back when they were first released, so if you don’t have a potent graphics card in your possession, why not “right that wrong” as you await better days? Now’s the best time to do it.