Ray tracing is the lighting tech that defines the look of many modern AAA games. Demanding as it is, most of the best gaming desktops come with ray tracing-capable hardware, allowing you to experience the most graphically demanding technique games currently have access to.
Just because a game has great graphics doesn’t mean it’s a great showcase of ray tracing, though. For example, Hitman 3‘s ray tracing update was a disappointment. We catered our list toward games that best showcase ray tracing, so you can use them for bragging rights or just to see what your PC is capable of.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human might be the most graphically advanced game available today (though our next pick gives it a run for its money). It features ray-traced global illumination, ambient occlusion, shadows, and reflections. You can even apply ray tracing to your flashlight, with light spilling out into dark rooms around you. As our Dying Light 2 performance guide shows, though, ray tracing comes at a steep cost. Even the best graphics cards will be brought to their knees by Dying Light 2, This is a game clearly built for future hardware, so it’s a good idea to turn down a lot of the ray tracing settings if you can.
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition is a PC exclusive that goes all-in on ray tracing. Literal. Developer 4A Games replaced every rasterized light source with a ray-traced version, as well as improved the ray-traced reflection featured in the first version. Needless to say, all of this ray tracing is extremely demanding, so make sure to turn on Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) for the best results. For all of the problems Cyberpunk 2077 has, it’s still a downright gorgeous game. Like our top two picks, you’re looking at ray tracing across the board — global illumination, shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion, and diffused illumination. Night City comes to life with ray tracing turned on, but it’ll tank your frame rate (even with a GPU as powerful as the RTX 3090 Ti). You’ll need to turn on DLSS for the best experience, and thankfully, the game supports FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) if you have an AMD GPU.
Control was one of the earliest examples of the power of ray tracing, and it remains one of the best ray tracing games in 2022. The game doesn’t have ray-traced global illumination, but it still comes with reflections, shadows, and even ray -traced debris. It’s demanding, so Nvidia DLSS is a welcome addition. It’s not as demanding as our top picks, however, which is great if you’re sitting on a 1080p graphics card.
Minecraft RTX is a novelty — there’s no way around it. Similar to Quake II RTX, ray tracing really shines when put against a game that’s graphically simple. You get reflections, shadows, global illumination, and emissive blocks, bringing the voxel world to a whole new level. You’ll need to install an RTX-capable resource pack to use ray tracing, but the results are stunning. A mobile game like Lego’s Builder’s Journey doesn’t seem like an obvious choice to show off ray tracing, but that’s why it’s so brilliant; ray tracing elevates the game visually so much that it’s the perfect showcase. Ray-traced shadows and reflections shine with the minor imperfections on the Lego bricks, making each diorama seem like it’s ripped straight from the real world.
Amid Evil is among the increasingly popular genre of boomer shooters — retro-styled FPS games modeled off of 90s classics like Quake. Amid Evil has all of the retro trimmings, but the developer brings in some modern flare with ray-traced reflections and shadows. It doesn’t look like a retro game with ray tracing overlayed on top; Amid Evil is instead a masterclass in style. You don’t need much to get ray tracing working, either, but Nvidia DLSS is available in case you’re running into performance issues. It took a year from release for Doom Eternal to receive its ray tracing update, but the wait was worth it. The game doesn’t have all of the fancy ray tracing tech as some of our higher picks. Instead, it perfects ray-traced reflections. The game has so many bright, vibrant surfaces for light to bounce off, and flipping the reflections on brings the hellscape to life (or death, I suppose).
Bright Memory: Infinite isn’t a great game. It’s a relatively basic shooter with a few unique melee mechanics thrown into the mix, and you’ll have it beaten in a couple of hours. More than anything, Bright Memory: Infinite is a tech demo. It shows off ray tracing at its best, with reflections, global illumination, shadows, and a world design that seems purpose-built for the light tech.