Are Games CPU Intensive? [5 Best CPU-Bound Games]

Written By Farhan Max

The gaming industry has been booming for the past few decades. With more capable CPUs and GPUs, developers are creating more intensive games.

While some games rely more on the CPU, others use more GPU. So, why are some games more CPU intensive than GPU?are-games-cpu-intensive

In this article, I will discuss some basic queries about CPU-intensive games and also talk about some CPU-bound games.

So, let’s get started!

Are Games CPU Hungry?

Yes, some games use more of your CPU rather than the GPU. Several games can get really CPU intensive in specific scenarios. Open-world and strategy games are comparatively more CPU-intensive. However, most modern games depend more on the GPU than the CPU.

For example, first-person shooter games use more of your CPU while many players play together. Besides, strategy and simulation games can push the CPU to its limit.

So, what makes a game more or less CPU intensive?

Nowadays, you will find various gaming genres, including shooter, action, adventure, role-playing, battle royale, racing games, etc. Some of them need colossal physics calculations. Contrarily, some games have more intensive graphics.

When a game needs to calculate thousands of physical calculations, it uses more CPU. High graphical games use more GPU to render the scenarios.

Minecraft is an excellent example of a CPU-bound game that needs to perform thousands of calculations, though it doesn’t have heavy graphics. That’s why Minecraft is a more CPU-intensive game.

A CPU-intensive game can often crash the CPU for overheating. And the overheating CPU sometimes can cause lag.

Why are Some Games More CPU Intensive?

When a game depends more on physics calculations, it is CPU intensive. Contrarily, everything that involves graphics is done by the GPU. However, it’s also highly dependent on the game developers, and they can decide which component will be used mostly during the game.

The CPU does in-game AI and physics for most games. Though some practical physics can be offloaded to GPU, for instance, NVIDIA’s PhysX.

The CPU also handles the reading and writing of the files. Alongside this, a CPU is responsible for accessing the underlying graphic library to draw. Additionally, a CPU coordinates all things, like controlling the GPU, which is CPU-intensive.

Games like Arma 3 are highly CPU intensive because when you fire a bullet, the CPU must constantly measure the bullet’s position in the air.

On the contrary, games like COD don’t need much CPU calculation because the bullet just looks for a hitbox instead of calculating the bullet’s position in real-time.

Which Games are CPU Intensive?

Most open-world, first-person shooter, strategy, and simulation games are highly CPU intensive because they need to calculate the game’s physics and the object’s movements. Among them, most modern games are also GPU intensive because of their high graphical resources.

This section will cover the five most CPU-crushing games. Remember, the number of CPU-bound games is increasing daily, and it’s hard to discuss them in an article.

Consider the following discussion on highly CPU-intensive games to push your processor to its limit.

Here is the list of CPU-intensive games:

1. ARMA 3

arma-3Arma 3 is an open-world realistic military tactical shooter game. The anomaly on the war scene is far more intensive compared to other first-person shooter games.

This game has heavy scripting and AI missions that could stress the CPU even with a high-end GPU. Some high-end CPUs still struggle to reach a consistent 60FPS while you are in a more CPU-intensive situation in the game.

However, you must tweak the game settings to ensure the best output while playing Arma 3. You should overclock your CPU to increase the FPS and get the best result in game.

Arma 3 is a single-threaded game. So, you must ensure the best CPU and clock speed to get high performance.


total-war-warhammer-3Total War: WARHAMMER III is also a tremendous CPU-intensive game for several reasons. It is a real-time strategy game like Civilization style strategy.

While you are in the overworld, the CPU must calculate each AI player’s moves, strategies, and so on. Besides, the CPU has to calculate the unit’s movement while in battle. All of them are highly CPU-intensive.

Total War is improving its game mechanics and graphics with every update. That means the newer versions are more CPU-intensive as they need to calculate more data for the GPU.

This game can use up to six cores and produce a ton of heat while running longer. To pass the information at a faster speed, you can overclock the RAM to make it fast and lower the latency.

3. Civilization 6

civilization-6Civ (Civilization) 6 doesn’t have heavy graphics like Total War: WARHAMMER, but it has the strategy. The Civ series is probably the most famous among strategy games.

These games rely on AI for their numerous characters, and when you make a move, the game has to adjust every AI opponent’s movement. This calculation is a substantial CPU-intensive task.

You can also use any older version of Civ games to stress-test your CPU. However, only the newer version can utilize all of your six CPU cores.

But, if you are having trouble opening the game, try fixing the Civilization 6 not launching issue by reading the article.

4. Cities: Skylines

cities-skylinesCities: Skylines is a city-building simulation game. As all we know, simulation games are highly CPU-intensive, which is valid for Cities: Skylines.

This game simulates thousands of things, including traffic, cars, and natural disasters. And these simulations force the CPU to push its limit. Besides, the CPU needs to process more data constantly when the city grows with time.

Sometimes, the Cities: Skylines use 100% CPU in different circumstances. Besides, it can utilize up to eight cores while processing the game.

Surprisingly, more than 16 GB of RAM may be needed for this game when you add a significant amount of mods and assets.

5. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Origins

assassins-creed-odyssey-or-originsThe Assassin’s Creed series has multiple CPU-intensive games, including the Odyssey, Origins, and Valhalla. These games push the CPU and the GPU to their limit.

Assassin’s Creed is an open-world game, so the CPU needs to execute numerous tasks simultaneously. Especially during the fight scenes in the arenas can stress the CPU.

However, the Valhalla is comparatively less CPU-intensive than the older versions. It uses the latest DirectX 12 rendering API that dramatically improves CPU utilization. Assassin’s Creed can efficiently utilize up to six cores.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to know if a game is CPU intensive?

Open Task Manager, launch the game and monitor CPU and GPU usage. If the game uses more CPU than GPU, it is CPU-intensive.

Do games use 100% CPU?

Several games can use nearly 100% of the CPU while performing massive calculations. However, ensure the CPU is not getting too hot while using it at 100% for extended periods.

Are all games CPU-intensive?

No, not all games are CPU-intensive. Mostly open-world, first-person shooter, strategy, and simulation games are highly CPU intensive.

Final Thoughts

When a game uses more CPU than GPU, it’s a CPU-bound game. On the contrary, a GPU-bound game uses more GPU than a CPU.

Depending on the game developer and genre, a game may use up to 100% CPU in different scenarios.

I hope this article answers all your queries on this topic. Feel free to mention your valuable opinions below.

About The Author
Farhan Max is a tech geek with a particular interest in computer hardware. He's been fascinated by gaming since childhood and is now completing his undergraduate studies while researching and testing the latest tech innovations. Alongside his love for all things geeky, Farhan is also a skilled photographer.

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