The stereotypical computer gamer is someone who has a high-powered PC packed with the latest graphics card, several times more memory than most consumer machines, and a processor that cost as much as a smartphone. They have also probably spent time customising their computer’s case, installing lights, liquid cooling, and clear sides so they can see their machine while it’s working.
Those that own these gaming computers will spend thousands to get this setup and will continue spending as they upgrade components over the years.
It’s not always necessary to spend all this money though. If you’re not interested in playing the latest blockbuster releases like Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, or Hitman 3, then a cheaper, lower-powered computer will work just fine. Even excluding these AAA titles, you’ll have access to more games than you could ever have time to play in your lifetime.
So if you only have a standard consumer laptop or an aging desktop machine, these are some of the games you can play on your hardware.
Lightweight Casino and Social Games in Your Browser
Online casinos have become immensely popular since the first was launched in the mid-1990s. Over the last two and a half decades, casino games have become more advanced, with new features and better graphics.
The biggest change has come from video slots, the direct descendants of the old mechanical one-armed bandits found in Las Vegas casinos during the mid-20th century. These games have more reels, multiple win lines, bonus rounds, and exciting theming using movie characters, TV shows, and musicians. By taking advantage of free spin offers, you can even play many of them for free.
Almost all casino games can be run on low-powered computers thanks to their low overheads. Most even use HTML5 to run inside your web browser. Even the live casino games, which use HD video feeds to broadcast a human dealer run smoothly on older and cheaper devices.
Classic Games Available Through Emulators and Steam
Did you enjoy playing video games in the 1980s and 1990s? Then the chances are you played many titles that ran in the DOS environment. DOS was a command-line operating system that was used on most PCs before Microsoft released Windows. Even then, all consumer versions of Windows before XP ran on top of DOS, so most games were programmed for it.
Since the turn of the millennium, DOS hasn’t been available in Windows, rendering most old games unplayable on modern computers. Meaning the original versions of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Quake, and Prince of Persia wouldn’t run anymore.
A team of retro game enthusiasts came together to fix this. They created DOSBox, a DOS emulator that runs on top of Windows and allows you to run all of your favourite retro titles.
DOSBox is a free application that emulates an x86 environment with DOS installed. It is lightweight, with minimum hardware requirements so laugh you’ll have to try hard to find a computer that won’t be able to run it. It will even run from a memory stick with a PortableApps version available so you can play without installing the software.
It emulates most graphics and sound cards from the DOS era, allowing it to be compatible with most games.
Some classic games have also been remastered and are now available to download through Steam and other platforms. Popular examples include Doom and Wolfenstein, though if you already own a copy of these games, then using DOSBox gives you a legal way to enjoy them for free.
Some other games have been rebuilt by the community. For example, Transport Tycoon, the first business simulation game created by Chris Sawyer was a DOS game that has been rebuilt using open-source software. The OpenTTD project has not just copied the software but improved on it with better AI, larger maps, and more detailed graphics. In doing so, they’ve made OpenTTD compatible with almost every device you could want to play it on.
Modern Games With Low Hardware Requirements
Not all new games come with hardware requirements that would make even a supercomputer break into a sweat. Some developers focus on fun rather than graphics, which makes them compatible with far more machines.
Steam has several compilation lists for games that are compatible with lower-powered devices, including the aptly named “Good games for bad computers”.
This includes the 2017 version of Hitman and the 2018 sequel Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. The life simulators Stardew Valley and SimCity 4 will also run just fine, as will the popular Game Dev Tycoon and even Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.
There are plenty of games being released to Steam every week, with many compatible with modest machines, so keep an eye out as you may be surprised at what you can play.
AAA Titles You Can Still Play on a Low-Powered PC
Despite usually requiring expensive hardware, it is now possible to play blockbuster games on low-end machines. The way this works is by offloading all the number-crunching to the cloud and streaming the video feed back to your computer.
This does mean that you need a fast and stable internet connection for it to work, but most people with 5G internet or fibre broadband should be able to take advantage.
The most famous of these video game streaming services is Google Stadia. Gamers can access the service through the Google Chrome web browser and use their keyboard and mouse or a dedicated game controller.
You’re not tied to a single machine while using Stadia, you can pick up where you left off on certain smartphones and tablets, as well as on other computers and Google Chromecast.
Stadia sees releases of many games at the same time as PC and consoles, with recent games including Cyberpunk 2077, DOOM Eternal, and F1 2020. Through the service, you can play these games on a machine with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (from 2006), integrated Intel HD graphics and just 4 GB of memory.
Of course, higher specs will yield a better experience, but if you bought a computer within the last decade you will almost certainly have a more powerful machine than this.