What Logical Increments Tier is Required to Run the Most Popular Steam Games?

What Logical Increments Tier is Required to Run the Most Popular Steam Games?

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(Information on Steam’s top games were gathered for this article from Steam Charts)

Back in January 2020, I crafted a neat little piece discussing the Logical Increments tier needed to enjoy each of the top games on Steam at the time. Fast forward to now, and oh, how the scene has shifted! Back around that period, we were seeing trade tariffs causing a good bump in prices for PC hardware​. As we ventured into late 2020, high demand meant the cost of PC parts kept climbing, and 2021 brought even higher prices—especially for graphics cards due to a cryptocurrency boom. Oh, and let’s not forget, the world was just getting acquainted with Covid-19, adding a whole new level of complexity to tech market dynamics through supply chain issues.

Now, at the tail end of 2023, with prices and availability having normalized in some (though not all) component categories, and just a week left until Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s about time we take a fresh look at what Logical Increments PC building tier you’d need to dive into the most popular Steam games today. Let’s see what changed in the last few years, and whether that ol’ system still has some life in it, or whether it might be worth a little upgrade. Stick around as we unpack the current gaming demands and discuss today’s tech landscape.

 

Criteria:

 

Logical Increments keeps its primary tier list consistently updated, showing you the cost of building systems geared towards particular performance milestones. From the humble ‘Destitute’ system to the jaw-dropping ‘Monstrous’ setup, it shows what is attainable at each price point, offers a roadmap for some upgrading, and generally makes it convenient to knit together a balanced system with top-notch parts.

With that list in hand, we can match each of the most popular games on Steam right now with a Logical Increments tier. In this piece, I cross-referenced the 8 most played Steam games with our tier list to see what is required to hit 60 frames per second at 1080p (referenced as 1080p60), 120 frames per second at 1440p (referenced as 1440p120), and 60 frames per second at 4K (referenced as 4k60).

Last time, I stuck to two non-negotiables for a system to land in a specific category. This time I made a few changes:

  • The lion’s share of the time, we’re talking 99% or more, it had to cruise within 10% of the minimum frames per second or higher at the chosen resolution. So, I care more about the ‘minimum’ than the ‘average’ frames per second.
  • It had to strut with at least very high graphical settings.

What should you do with this information? Find the games you play most often, or at least the games that interest you. Look at the resolution and frames per second you’re interested in, and (assuming you’re not bursting your budget), get the suggested tier for a satisfying, pleasant experience. You won’t have any regrets, as these systems have been vetted to ensure a proper balance of performance and price.

Now, let’s get on with what you came here for! On with the games!

 

Games:

Counter-Strike 2

Counter Strike 2 300x140 1

Counter-Strike 2 is the freshest iteration in the cherished Counter-Strike series, known for its intense competitive gameplay that’s been honed by Valve (and then by millions of players worldwide over two decades). Built on the Source 2 engine, this game was released on September 27, 2023, 11 years after CS:GO. Interestingly, even though it had a massive graphical upgrade and several systems were overhauled (to the disappointment of some), the minimum specifications haven’t really changed that much. Really, any gaming computer built in the last 5 years would be able to run this at 1080p60 without any issues. But I digress. Here are my recommendations:

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Modest Tier Superb Tier Superb Tier
An RX 6500XT 4GB, RX 580 8GB, or GTX 1060 6GB would be plenty to run CS2 at this tier of performance. In fact, the above graphics cards would run it in excess of 80 FPS on average, but I wanted the minimum to be above 54 FPS. If you needed to save some money, you could get away with the Great tier, but Superb provides some extra smoothness and stability using those more graphically intensive parts. It’s actually pretty similar to the 1440p120 tier. I am not overly surprised as both 1440p120 and 4k60 are pushing out a similar number of total pixels per second.

DotA 2

Dota 2

Another Source 2 engine game. Last time, I said that “the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) Dota 2 was officially released in 2013, and quickly rose in ranks to become one of the most popular games on Steam. Allowing for a range of different gameplay styles, such as strategical and tactical or more aggressive, you can play the game almost any way you want. It has a fairly steep learning curve, and can be an exercise in frustration for newcomers, but once you get the hang of the controls you’ll be greeted with fun, exciting gameplay.” Not much has changed on that front, so let’s see if the recommendations have changed:

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Entry Tier Great Tier Good Tier
Similar to last time, I feel that a dedicated graphics card would help immensely keeping the minimum FPS above 60. If you went with the Minimum Tier you’d be getting framerate dips down to below 40 FPS. Not desirable. This surprised me a little. This system would comfortably push 200 FPS normally, but it would also drop to around 109 FPS on occasion. If you don’t care about smoothness that much, or you’re happy to drop settings, I think you could get away with the Good Tier. Huh, you don’t need as powerful a GPU at 4k60 compared to 1440p120! Probably because the CPU doesn’t need to push as hard. At the Good tier, you can reach a minimum of 69 FPS, and average around 135 FPS.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)

PUBG

Released in late 2017, this battle royale game catapulted to the top of Steam’s most popular games, and it hasn’t really dropped from the list. Thankfully, it’s a lot more stable to run these days; in the early years, there were stability and optimisation problems, but hey, that’s now mostly a worry of the past.

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Modest Tier Great Tier Great Tier
This tier will run this game at a comfortable average of 79 FPS, sometimes dipping down to 55 FPS. Considering the minimal price difference between this tier and the Entry tier, this is definitely the one to go for. With the Great tier, you’re getting a comfortable minimum of 109 FPS, averaging around 161 FPS. It seems like you need to pair it with an AMD CPU for that tier, because with the same graphics card, using the i5-13600KF (from the Superb tier) instead of the R5 7600 causes a minor drop in FPS. Not significantly, but enough to bring it below the standards outlined above. With the CPU working less hard in the 4K tier compared to 1440p120, you could use the i5-13600KF and still achieve stable FPS. But I’d still stick with the specified Great tier and use the R5 7600.

Baldur’s Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3

A role-playing game released in early August, 2023. Baldur’s Gate 3 received high praise for its narrative, gameplay, and player choice. It has a fantastic amount of flexibility and replayability. You really can play this game any way you want. Its popularity has surprised its creators though, with a peak of around 800,000 players on release, and a current count still above 100,000 months later. The suggestions below include using upscaling technology in the game’s settings; if you don’t want to use it, I suggest going up a tier or two.

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Modest Tier Great Tier Great Tier
Considering the minimum specs, the equivalent current-generation tier would be the Modest tier. You’d get respectable performance with this. With the Great tier, the RTX 3070 can comfortably push 100+ FPS using upscaling tech, though it will fare slightly worse in Act 3 in the big city. Similarly to 1440p120, the Great Tier is perfectly fine for 4k60 as long as you use upscaling tech.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends

Apex Legends is a battle royale game released in February 2019. Though it’s another game built on the Source engine, it isn’t similar to Counter-Strike 2 and Dota 2 because the engine of Apex Legends is a fork of the original Source engine from around the time Portal 2 came out. I’d argue that Apex Legends is really pushing the original Source engine to its limits, so I’m interested to see how well it performs on lower-tier systems. Without further ado, let’s check out the recommendations:

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Modest Tier Great Tier Great Tier
This game can push out over 60 FPS minimum on an RX 6400, so I’m comfortable recommending the Modest tier. The Great tier can provide excellent performance, pushing close to 110 FPS minimums and averaging over 150 FPS. The Great tier is also fantastic at this resolution, offering minimums just a smidge below 60 FPS and averaging closer to 77 FPS.

Team Fortress 2

TF2 300x140 1

Last time, I said that it’s “nearly impossible to get good data on how well current GPUs run this game.” And you know what? That still holds true today, thanks to the age of the game. Team Fortress 2 has been running for around 15 years, and still has popularity and longevity. Which makes perfect sense to me; it’s a great game! My only question is about how well supported current generation graphics cards are, comparatively. So, with some interpolation of available data, here are the choices I’ve made:

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Entry Tier Modest Tier Modest Tier
Similar to last time, the integrated graphics on an AMD APU is enough for this game. Getting the Entry tier with the R5 5600G means you could pop in a dedicated graphics card in the future, knowing your CPU is powerful enough and won’t bottleneck your system. An entry-level dedicated graphics card should do well here. I would get the RX 6500 XT over the RX 6400 in this case, but I expect this to run well on this hardware. Since 4k60 pushes only slightly more pixels per second than 1440p120, and lower frame rates tend to be more stable, I’m comfortable recommending the Modest Tier here as well.

Call of Duty

Call of Duty

So, this part encompasses Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, Modern Warfare II, and Warzone. Having both solid single-player campaigns and a “multiplayer combat arena with battle royales, resurgence and DMZ” this game, whose earliest member came out in 2022, does require a powerful system to get the most out of it. I definitely recommend using upscaling tech like DLSS or FSR if the visual artifacts don’t bother you.

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Great Tier Outstanding Tier Outstanding Tier
The Great tier is really required to push this game. Though you’ll get averages of around 90 FPS, the minimums are just under 60 FPS at native resolution. You could drop a tier if you run it as a balanced preset instead. Check out whether upscaling tech is helpful or degrades your image quality too much. At this tier, you should be able to use upscaling tech and still maintain high-quality graphics. Without it, your minimum FPS drops to around 90, and at this stage you really want to get 100 FPS minimums for proper smoothness. Again, we see an overlap in requirements for this column and the previous one, so the Outstanding tier is my recommendation here too.

The Finals

The Finals

A really recent entry, The Finals is a new shooter game that’s just been released. As in, I was typing this section the day The Finals was released (in open beta) so there’s not a huge amount of information available yet. To further exacerbate this situation, the system requirements on Steam all say TBD. Lovely. But that doesn’t mean there’s zero info, and we can extrapolate data from similar games and similar engines as well. Anyway, this game is much more arcade-like, and has some really solid destruction physics. Keep in mind though that at present this is in beta, so stability and optimisation isn’t the best yet (and may not be the devs’ current priority).

1080p60 1440p120 4k60
Modest Tier Enthusiast Tier Exceptional Tier
You definitely want a dedicated graphics card for this game, but it doesn’t seem to require too much to run. An RX 6500XT is my recommendation over the RX 6400. Quite the jump up between the two tiers. Now, I’m removing ray-tracing from the equation here, because you’d definitely need something stronger than this otherwise. As I’ve mentioned before, 4k60 pushes a relalitvely small number of additional pixels per second when compared to 1440p120. But the CPU doesn’t have to work quite as hard at lower frame rates, and lower numbers tend to be more stable. Hence the Exceptional tier works here.

 

Conclusion:

 

Something that surprised me was that for the most part, 4k60 required the same tier as 1440p120, or sometimes even the tier below. Personally, I prefer 1440p120 over 4k60—but for slower, single-player games it’s worth knowing. Nonetheless, whether you are chasing the thrill of multiplayer games like The Finals or Apex Legends, or getting immersed in the narrative of Baldur’s Gate 3, getting the right hardware is instrumental to a good experience.

It’s not just enough to look at the average frame rates, but the minimum you’ll get as well. You want to ensure the experience stays smooth, which is what my analysis has done here. It is fantastic that most of these games don’t require powerful hardware. You can get a fully enjoyable experience at 1080p60 with a fairly budget-oriented system. So, even though games continue to evolve and push new heights with new releases and updated versions, you can still be assured that your old favourites will be hanging around for years to come, and that you’ll have the system to run them.

 

Sources

Logical Increments