Best Games for Laptops and Low-End PCs
If you’re looking for games you can play on a low-end PC or laptop, you’ve come to the right place. This is ExtremeTech’s staff-nominated list of favorite games that will play well, even if your PC is old enough to run for president, with the computing power of a potato.
You shouldn’t have to give up on immersive gaming just because you’ve got an older or low-end rig. If your hardware can’t handle the games of today, don’t be afraid to explore the games of 10 or even 20 years ago. We’ve tried to round up a wide variety of types and genres here, including several that are mod-friendly. Some of the titles listed here will even run fine with integrated graphics. UIs may be a bit clumsy — in some cases layouts only make sense if you remember gamers in the era were often limited to resolutions of 640×480 or 800×600 — but quality tends to shine through regardless. So, even if your hardware is ancient or your skill level is low, come on in! The water’s fine.✨
Make Your Enemies Crit Their Pants With: Any 64-bit CPU. This game literally does not list a minimum CPU beyond “64-bit.” Unless your 64-bit chip can drink legally, it can play this game. (Sorry, Alpha owners.) 2GB of RAM and an iGPU are all that’s required.
If you’ve played and enjoyed Peggle, you might enjoy Peglin, a deck-building Pachinko roguelike. You play a tiny, adorable green goblin (peg + goblin = peglin), who must navigate through a map created anew for each playthrough. The game takes place across three acts, each with its own boss. It’s also one great big fandom crossover. The whole game is a long series of hat tips and orb puns. There’s the Svoltorb – a portmanteau of “swole” and “Voltorb,” the Pokemon. Then there’s the Bob-orb, named for the Bob-omb of Mario fame. Let’s not forget the Orbelisk, and the Daggorb. And what game would be complete without some Wall Chicken? Adversaries include floor tiles, trash mobs, mini-bosses, bosses, a gigantic tree, a wall, a worse wall, and the four worst Rubik’s cubes ever.
Once you’ve beaten the game, you can play it through in Cruciball mode. The player must cope with increasingly steep debuffs and penalties for each escalating level of Cruciball difficulty. But Peglin won’t be so demanding on your PC. Its 8-bit graphics and MIDI-style chiptune soundtrack mean that this game will play perfectly on an old or slow machine. Peglin also has zero in-app purchases of any kind.
They Are Billions
Defy The Endless Hordes With Several Dozen Veteran Snipers And: Dual-core 2GHz CPUs, 4GB of VRAM, Intel HD3000 graphics. Runs on DX9.
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned zombie apocalypse? And this zombie apocalypse doesn’t have micro-transactions! This zombie-themed tower defense RTS takes place a few hundred years after a mysterious plague tore through society. What happened? Find newspapers and learn the story through gameplay. The game includes survival mode, a campaign mode, and various weekly and user-created challenge maps. Campaign mode, in turn, has its own RTS, survival and horde-defense minigames. Maps unlocked in survival mode remain unlocked thereafter.
At low difficulty it can be like shooting fish in a barrel. At the highest difficulty levels, it turns into a roflstomping so one-sided all you can do is laugh while you lose. You will emerge with a new understanding of how to completely wall off your base. One stray zombie can ruin everything. But they approach, unrelenting, from every side… and they are billions. (Pro tip: middle-click to see beneath the foliage and terrain. You’re welcome.)
Build a New Home on the Rim With: A Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM, and 1 GB of available space.
RimWorld is an even mix of Dungeons&Dragons, an RTS, and an ant farm. Instead of assuming the role of a character, the player is a third-person DM who must keep a group of “pawns” thriving on a hostile planet. RimWorld is an open-ended, cooperative story-telling RPG where you set your own win conditions. The game was “inspired by Dwarf Fortress, Firefly and Dune,” if that helps give a sense of tone. Hazards include pirate raiders, marauding aliens, insectile horrors from the deep, and the ever-present specter of starvation or death by elemental extremes. When gameplay begins, your crew has crashlanded on an unknown, procedurally generated rimworld. Night is coming. Make some shelter!
For modding enthusiasts, RimWorld’s Steam Workshop hosts a huge variety of content, storyline, and QOL mods. Like Minecraft, load time is slower with a bunch of mods installed. But that’s not why I’ve got more than six hundred hours of playtime on record. This game is just as addictive as Civ.
Portal, Portal 2
Now We Can Continue Testing: Portal will run on a Pentium 4, while Portal 2 recommends a Core 2 Duo. Both games require 4 GB of RAM, and 1 GB of available space.
What list of games that you can play on a potato would be complete without the inclusion of Portal? If you haven’t tried out the Portal games yet, you’re missing out. They’re a collection of maddening spatial puzzles that really do require you to start thinking with portals. Evade lasers, experience new depths of betrayal, and throw yourself headlong through holes in spacetime. Portal 2 also has co-op. For the fandom: the deadpan genius who voices Cave Johnson is also the voice of Tenzin and J. Jonah Jameson.
Faster Than Light
To Save the Galaxy, You’ll Need: a slide rule. No, seriously, this game’s requirements are the lightest of the lot. You’ll need a 2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 175MB drive space. But FTL only requires a graphics solution capable of 1280×720 and OGL 2.0, with 128MB of RAM.
Do you enjoy spaceships, pixel art, and chiptunes? If so, FTL might be a great next binge game. Faster Than Light delivers a lot of replayability in a compact, low-overhead “spaceship simulation roguelike-like.” Take your ship and crew on an adventure through a randomly generated galaxy filled with glory and bitter defeat. Permadeath means you have to start over if you die, but it’s worth it for the chance to try again.
Old School Runescape
Kick It Old School With: An i3 or thereabouts, capable of 2GHz. You’ll also need 4GB of RAM, 200 MB of disk space, and a broadband connection or compatible mobile device.
In this free-to-play MMORPG, build your character and step into a low-poly medieval wonderland without giving Blizzard a dime. Do you like PVP? Puzzles? Parkour? Runescape offers a dizzying variety of skills to improve. And there are also a lot of ways to play this game. It’s a little like SecondLife. You can hunt, fish, gather and cook. You can roam around as a murder hobo™ and reap XP for slayer quests. If you want to settle in, you can buy and furnish a house. There are no formal classes — you can level each stat to your own liking. Do you want to be a mage? An archer? A paladin? Shape your avatar’s powers in precisely the way you want.
Weave Your Way Through Time Using Your Wits and: Any processor 1.4GHz or faster, alongside 200 MB of disk space and a gigabyte or so of memory. Requires DX9. Supports Windows XP.
In this dreamy 2D puzzle platformer, the protagonist has come “unstuck” in time. The player must navigate a painterly world where just like their character, only some things move with time’s arrow. Rewinding time and manipulating the timeline are central gameplay mechanics. You can never die, and you never lose. Unlike rogue-type games and grind-heavy open-world RPG titles (cough, ARK, cough), Braid “treats your time and attention as precious.” The game doesn’t force you to solve puzzles by halting your progress until you get it right. If you can’t figure something out, you can simply play onward, and come back when you’re ready.
This game would run on a toaster. But just in case, there’s also a free demo on Steam, so you can try before you buy.
Super Meat Boy
Attain New and Exciting Dimensions of Rage If You Have: Any CPU of 1.4GHz or faster, a gigabyte of RAM, and 300 MB of storage space. Requires DX9; supports Windows XP.
Super Meat Boy is a 2D platformer, and it has a cult following for a reason. Yell in triumph as you finally nail that sweet wall jump and get through the impasse you’ve been swearing at for an hour. Keyboard and mouse controls are tight and responsive, and the title is also gamepad-friendly.
There’s a sequel, Super Meat Boy Forever, but it’s an auto-runner with mixed reviews. Crowd consensus is that in both mechanics and plot, SMBF is more like an expansion pack than a new game.
Give Smaug A Run For His Money Using: Any processor of 1.2GHz or greater, along with 128MB of video RAM and a single gigabyte of RAM. You’ll also need 320MB or so of storage.
Bejeweled is the chillest of the chill. It’s a great way to take a pomodoro break or just wind down. Swap pairs of lustrous jewels to create a lineup of 3, 4 or more. Different game modes offer variations on that central theme. In the Endless mode, Bejeweled actually works with you like a wingman, to enable spectacular combos and cascades. If you like stress, there are also merciless timed and turn-based modes that demand strategy on the fly, like the “Butterflies” mode shown here. I have spent a truly disgraceful amount of time making just one more swap, hoping to hear “EXTRAORDINARY.” Free of in-app purchases, this game is also suitable for kids.
Creeper World 4
Fight the Endless Flood of Goo With: Any dual-core 2GHz CPU (64-bit preferred), 3GB of RAM, and 2GB of storage.
Take charge of an arsenal of weapons to do battle with a strange blue goo that is hellbent on taking over the world. Creeper World 4 is the first Creeper game to use 3D. The battles have a steady challenge level that remains engaging without crushing players via sudden difficulty spikes. Best of all, there’s a free demo on Steam you can experiment with before pulling the trigger.
Bloons TD 6
Dart, Bomb, and Nuke Balloon-Based Foes Powered By: At least a 64-bit 1.5GHz CPU, Windows 10, 4GB of RAM, and an OpenGL 2.0-capable graphics card.
Bloons TD 6 began life as a mobile game and those roots are easy to see. This monkey-themed tower defense game is absolutely ba — well, you know. Your task is to keep an endless stream of increasingly troublesome balloons (“bloons”) from getting through your defenses. (Are monkeys and balloons enemies in the wild?) Choose your Hero, assemble your team of Monkey towers, and pop, zap, scorch and glue your way through dozens of different levels. Bloons is surprisingly complex underneath its bright, cartoonish facade. Difficulty ranges from nearly AFK to completely bonkers.
Hotline Miami 1 and 2
Slaughter the Russian Mob, So Long as You’re Packing: A 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB of RAM, and a DX9 GPU.
The Hotline Miami games both received rave reviews for their unique settings, gameplay, and story. The first game casts you as a nameless character nicknamed “Jacket” by the community. The game takes place in a gritty, stylistically distinctive version of Miami in 1989. Your task? Kill off the local Russian mob. Hotline Miami 2 deals with the aftermath of your actions and the events that led to them, providing additional context around the story. It also skips ahead to 1991 to answer the question of what happened to Jacket after your rampage.
Liquify Demons, Slaughter Hellspawn, and Reduce Your Enemies to Slurry With the Power Of: Any dual core CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a GPU with 256MB VRAM.
Brutal Doom is a bit different than any other game on this list. You’ll need to do a bit of legwork — and you need to own the original Doom / Doom 2, their various shareware versions, or have your own free WAD files you want to run. This list gives the instructions for installation and some links to free maps that are great to play with the mod, if you don’t have any of the official WADs.
As for what Brutal Doom is — it’s the version of Doom you’d want to play if it were made today, in a modern FPS engine. There are new, alternate weapons for your starting pistol. Guns now have load mechanics. There are alternate weapons for the Plasma Rifle and the BFG 9000, and you can find and use some enemy weapons that were not previously accessible in-game. Features like mouselook, aiming, and jumping are all implemented. There’s a fast rolling motion to dodge fire, a new fatality mode, and additional difficulty levels.
In short, it’s amazing.
Learn to Distrust Friends and Family Using: Intel P4 2GHz, Nvidia GeForce 510, 250MB HDD space.
Among Us pits a group of 4-10 players against each other. 1-3 players are Imposters, while the remainder are Crewmates. Crewmates must complete a defined list of tasks and discover who the Imposters are. Meanwhile, the Imposters pretend to be Crewmates so they can sabotage the ship by stealth. If your family manages to remain zen through four-hour Monopoly games, try challenging them with this.
Your Inner Civil Engineer Requires: Pentium 4 2GHz, 2GB of RAM, GeForce 7200 GS, 150MB of storage.
Poly Bridge is a great puzzle game, somewhat in the tradition of now-ancient titles like The Incredible Machine. In this case, you must design bridges that can carry a certain number of vehicles while also coming in under budget. These two simple goals can be difficult to achieve in later levels (there are more than 60), since the game adds various hazards and the need to deploy construction techniques I’m fairly certain the Army Corps of Engineers does not approve of.
The game recently got a sequel (which I haven’t played yet). Reviews of it seem a bit less enthused than for Poly Bridge, with one noting it felt more like an expansion pack to the original. It is, however, excellently rated on Steam.
Stagger Drunkenly at an Adequate Frame Rate Using: Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 20GB HDD space, 512MB graphics card.
In Disco Elysium, you’re an alcohol-and-drug-abusing amnesiac detective who has been hired to solve a murder mystery. This sort of thing happens so often in games, you’d think there’d be some kind of agency in charge of ensuring would-be detectives still knew their own names.
As you work to solve a murder you’ll remember things about yourself. You’ll also have access to a system of traits with which to flesh out your character. There are 24 skills in the game, and they all have an impact on how the game evolves. Pick the wrong (or right) ones, and you may end up arguing with yourself over the correct course of action. Disco Elysium won Game of the Year from several publications, and it’ll run on 14-year-old hardware.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
Search for Scrap On: Core i5-760, Phenom II X4 965, GTX 580 / AMD Radeon 7870 HD, 6GB RAM, 8GB HDD.
This XCOM-meets-Fallout title is based on the tabletop Mutant Year Zero game. If you’ve played the modern XCOM games, you’ll be familiar with most of the gameplay elements. Mutant Year Zero gives you direct control of your squad outside of combat and fuses XCOM’s gameplay with some light RPG elements.
The worst thing we can say about Mutant Year Zero is that you’ll have to do some Googling to figure out which buttons are tied to which keyboard functions. The game’s plot and post-apocalyptic setting recall the best parts of Fallout. While the game isn’t as deep as one of those sprawling titles, it still feels like a spiritual sequel. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden feels a bit like a “AA” game, for lack of a better phrase. Reasonably well-polished with solid aspirations, but you won’t mistake it for a 400-hour dungeon crawler.
World of Warcraft Classic
Visit Beautiful Molten Core if You Own: Is your PC literally old enough to run for office? No? You’re fine. Officially, Core 2 Duo E6600 or AMD Phenom X3 8750, 8800 GT or Radeon HD 4850, or Intel HD Graphics 4000. Unofficially, you can run probably run Classic on less. I’ve tested it on a 2015 Razer Blade Stealth with Intel 520 HD graphics and the frame rate was high enough to make me think there’s some headroom in those already-low-end graphics options. Interestingly, WoW Classic isn’t listed as requiring a DX11 GPU.
Revisit a simpler time, when an MMO that largely takes place outside and requires you to congregate with large groups of people didn’t feel fantastical (at least not for those reasons). WoW Classic is everything you loved (or hated) about original World of Warcraft. I’m a biased fan, to be clear, but just because I’m biased doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
It’s World of Warcraft: Classic, which is to say, #NoChanges (except for a few of the changes, but really, there aren’t that many). There’s a lot to love in the original version of Blizzard’s MMO classic, especially if you like games of this era in the first place. It may use the modern WoW engine, but Blizzard re-used original WoW’s textures and assets. The result is a game that runs just fine on a low-end PC, including Carrizo-powered AMD ultrabooks and Intel integrated graphics.
Untitled Goose Game
Chase People Like an A****** With: Core 2 Duo 8500, Nvidia GeForce 510, 4GB of RAM, 820MB storage. The 510 is a bottom-end card from 2011, which means midrange or high-end cards from 2011. As long as your GPU can handle DX11, you’re fine.
Untitled Goose Game challenges you to find the Canadian goose inside yourself. Yup. Don’t let the cute fool you. This is a game about being an unrepentant asshole. Since the joys of honking and flapping don’t require a high-end PC, Untitled Goose Game is another game that’ll run on just about any toaster you can drag out of storage.
Honk. Flap. Troll people. Get into places you shouldn’t. Steal stuff, trick humans, annoy pets, wash, rinse, and repeat with great relish. It’s a brilliant game for people turned off by “typical” titles looking for a silly, funny, low-key experience.
Soar Through Gotham On: Any dual-core CPU at 2.4GHz or more, Nvidia 8800 GT or AMD Radeon 3850, 2GB of RAM. Supports Windows XP.
I’m sticking with Arkham City in this update, rather than moving on to one of the newer titles. Arkham Asylum is, to be sure, still an excellent game, and it runs on an even lower-spec system than Arkham City. But between the two of them, Arkham City is the better overall Batman game. Batman’s overall bag of tricks gets polished and AC offers you playing time as characters like Catwoman, with her own distinct moveset and animation style.
Arkham City feels as though it genuinely captures what it would be like to “be” Batman. The game also has a clever twist explaining why you face a never-ending army of thugs. If you want to find out if you’re going to like the Arkham game series, I’d say this is the best one to try. If you need something even gentler on system specs, try the original Arkham Asylum.
Into the Breach
Calculate Strategic Micro-combat Using: Any 1.7GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, 300MB storage, and an Intel HD 3000 IGP.
Into the Breach is a turn-based strategy game that takes place on small maps of 8×8 grids. From the makers of FTL, Into the Breach challenges you to beat back waves of attackers in turn-based combat. There are no XCOM-style probability fields to deal with here — you get full transparency into what actions will be taken by both your own characters and the enemies you engage with.
Into the Breach launched in 2018, but it’s still winning recognition for its unique approach to turn-based combat today. Definitely worth checking out, if you’re looking for some turn-based combat options.
West of Loathing
Spittoon-and Snake-Themed Exploration Needs: An Nvidia GeForce 7200 GS, Core 2 Duo 7400, 2GB of RAM, and 4GB of storage. Runs on Windows XP SP2+.
West of Loathing is a “graphical” adventure game that could run on a Lite-Brite. Don’t let the black-and-white stick-based graphics fool you — under the hood is a classic adventure game with RPG elements, killer clowns, demon cows, snake oil salesmen, and a heap of spittoons to dig through in search of loot. The dialog is laugh-out-loud funny and the game’s irreverent humor recalls the best adventure game writing of earlier eras.
West of Loathing came out at the end of 2017, but it’s still a top pick if you need a game that runs on anything and offers some genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
Want to Farm Crops and Help People? Bring Your Pickaxe and: Any CPU at 2GHz or more, any GPU with at least 256MB of RAM and SM 3.0 support, 2GB of RAM and 500MB of storage.
Stardew Valley was heavily inspired by the Harvest Moon series of video games but adds its own spin on the concept. Explore Pelican Town, make friends, fall in love, and restore your grandfather’s farm to health in a gentle, open-ended title that will tease your curiosity as opposed to yanking you hither and yon with frantic quest demands.
Stardew Valley received a second major content update in Patch 1.5. There’s a whole new island to explore, with new villagers and NPCs, alongside new quests, flora, and fauna. The update includes various bug-fixes, quality-of-life improvements, and local split-screen co-op. ConcernedApe has also announced official cooperation with the creator of SMAPI, to add mod support to the game’s vanilla source code in a forthcoming update.
Visit the Era of Classic Animation (and Try Not to Die) if You’ve Got: An Intel Core 2 Duo E8400, AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 2GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT / AMD Radeon HD 3870, 20GB HDD space. Only needs DirectX 9.0c support, but still requires Windows 7.
Cuphead’s visual aesthetic is truly unique — it’s the only game we’ve ever seen that mimics the “rubber hose” animation style of the early 1930s. You’ll need sharp reflexes to beat this frenetic 2D platformer, but not much in the way of PC horsepower.
Cuphead is a great game for someone looking for a game you might fairly call “Nintendo hard,” particularly if they enjoy its animation.
Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Skeledoot With: A Core i3 3210 or A8-7600, Intel HD 4000 or AMD’s Radeon R5 family. You’ll also need 4GB of RAM, 180MB-1GB HDD space, and a 1024×768 display. High draw distances can be hard on performance.
Minecraft is an endearing, engaging open-world sandbox. People have used Minecraft’s redstone mechanic to create everything from 1:1 scale models of the starship Enterprise to functional (if simple) CPUs. For us mere mortals, Minecraft is an easily accessible game with a rich crafting system, dangerous mobs, and huge worlds to explore. Rebel sympathizers may also be pleased to hear that the game has even become a bastion of journalistic freedom, thwarting disinformation and censorship on an international scale. The International Library of Alexandria exists within Minecraft, where Reporters Without Borders (RSF) uses it to bypass Internet censorship efforts like the Great Firewall of China Golden Shield.
This game has inspired millions of people to spend billions of hours stacking 8-bit voxels on top of each other. Its simple graphics belie incredible creative and expressive potential. Minecraft is a phenomenal crafting and building game, but its ending is enough to bring even jaded veteran gamers up short. It’s astonishingly evocative — if you know, you know.
Orcs Must Die, Orcs Must Die 2
The Plot Chickens. Defend the Order Rift Using: Any dual-core CPU at 2GHz or above, a GeForce 6800 or ATI Radeon x1950 with 256GB of RAM, 2GB of RAM, and at least 256MB of VRAM. Supports Windows XP.
Orcs Must Die and Orcs Must Die 2 are some of our favorite titles for mindless slaughtery goodness. There’s an army of marauding orcs coming — and, you see, they must die. This hybrid tower-defense/action game tasks you with burning, blasting, freezing, smashing, dissolving, shooting, and generally wreaking mayhem against wave after wave of orcs, trolls, ogres, and other various bad guys. It’s easy to learn and sometimes surprisingly difficult to master.
OMD excels at offering a variety of fun ways to end monsters in style. Spring-loaded traps that hurl creatures through the air? Check. Acid sprayers and arrow traps? Check. Trinkets to transform you into a massive ogre, hurl fireballs, or turn orcs into chickens? Check.
Face the Unspeakable Horrors Your Ancestor Unleashed in the Stygian Depths: 2GB of RAM, a GPU capable of supporting OpenGL 3.2 (released in 2009), 2GB of storage. 1080p, 16:9 displays recommended.
Darkest Dungeon is a 2D, side-scrolling dungeon crawler with a side helping of Lovecraftian horror (hold the racism) and a mental health management simulator. As your heroes wind their way through the stygian abyss, they’ll face the dripping claws and rasping moans of the eons-damned creatures that dwell beyond the stars. Safeguard them carefully, or you’ll find the abyss staring back at you when you least expect it…
Darkest Dungeon can be legitimately annoying, but if you love mods like “Longest War” for XCOM, this series is a treasure. DD doesn’t pull punches, and if you think you’ve figured the game out, that probably means there’s a DLC or difficulty level waiting to kneecap you around the corner.
So there you have it: our list of favorite games for low-end PCs. Feel free to chime in with your own. What older games or titles still have a cherished spot on your hard drive, and what games do you find yourself returning to, long after they’ve supposedly been surpassed by more recent releases?