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What is ray tracing in games? Everything you need to know
For the past few years, one phrase that’s been repeated by tech enthusiasts and gamers is “ray tracing,” though many don’t even fully understand what it is. But what is ray tracing? Today, we’ll unpack the technology, from how it works, whether it’s worth it, and what games and graphics cards fully support it.
What is ray tracing and how does it work?
Ray tracing is the realistic rendering of light and shadows. This technology is often used in film and television to realistically blend CGI into live-action scenes. In video games, turning on ray tracing can help improve the visuals. However, it can also be incredibly taxing on one’s gaming system.
Ray tracing is the realistic rendering of light and shadows.
Ray tracing simulates and tracks every ray of light created by a game’s lighting source, so as a result, only gaming systems with powerful graphics cards can truly support ray tracing. The benefit of ray tracing is less about the light itself and more about how it interacts with the world. Ray tracing allows for more lifelike shadows, improved translucence, and reflections.
Is ray tracing worth it?
The biggest benefit of ray tracing is that it improves a game’s visuals, specifically the lighting and shadow effects. While there is some benefit to turning on ray tracing, the caveat is that it is extremely demanding on a graphics card – and only the most powerful ones fully support it.
Whether ray tracing is worth it depends entirely on how much you value visual enhancements for your video games, and if you happen to play the latest AAA games that take full advantage of the technology. If you rarely play newer AAA games, stick to older titles, or prefer smaller titles from indie studios, purchasing a graphics card that supports ray tracing probably won’t be worth it.
If you rarely play newer AAA games, purchasing a graphics card that supports ray tracing won’t be worth it.
It’s also important to consider that enabling ray tracing will also significantly impact performance. So, not only do you need a powerful graphics card, but you will also need to have a powerful processor as well.
It might be worth it if you want to have the best experience possible and plan on mostly playing new AAA games that use ray tracing technology. Remember that most graphics cards that fully utilize the technology are fairly expensive. With that said, some cheaper options on the market (below the $500 mark) support the technology, such as the AMD Radeon RX 7600.
What graphics cards support ray tracing?
NVIDIA GPUs with ray tracing support:
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 Ti 16GB
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090
AMD GPUs with ray tracing support:
- AMD Radeon RX 7600S
- AMD Radeon RX 7600M
- AMD Radeon RX 7600
- AMD Radeon RX 7600M XT
- AMD Radeon RX 7700S
- AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX
- AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 6800
- AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
What games support ray tracing?
These are some of the games that currently support ray tracing technology:
- Battlefield V
- Battlefield 2042
- Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
- Crysis Remastered
- Crysis Remastered Trilogy
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Dead Space (2023)
- Doom Eternal
- Dying Light 2
- Elden Ring
- F1 22
- Far Cry 6
- Five Nights At Freddy’s: Security Breach
- Forza Horizon 5
- Ghostwire: Tokyo
- Gotham Knights
- Halo Infinite
- Hitman: World of Assassination
- Jurassic World Evolution 2
- Lego: Builder’s Journey
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
- Metro Exodus / Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition
- Minecraft (Bedrock Edition)
- Portal with RTX
- Quake II RTX
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
- Resident Evil 2
- Resident Evil 3
- Resident Evil 4
- Resident Evil 7
- Resident Evil Village
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
- The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
- The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition
- Watch Dogs Legion
- Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
- World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands
Keep in mind that more and more games are adding support for ray tracing. This list does give you a good example of which titles could offer the experience. Ray tracing is still a fairly new technology; a limited number of games utilize it. More titles will eventually support it later down the line, however.
Yes, the PS5 is powerful enough to support ray tracing. While not all of the games on the console utilize the technology, there are a fair amount of PS5 games with ray tracing currently, including several console exclusives such as Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Forspoken.
While the Xbox Series X is every bit as capable of ray tracing as the PS5, with support for dozens of titles, less powerful Xbox models do not support the feature to the same extent. The Xbox One and Xbox One X do not support ray tracing for any of their games, and the Xbox Series S only supports ray tracing for a much smaller list of titles. And for the few games that do have ray tracing, the Xbox Series X has quite a bit better ray tracing than its less powerful brother.
Yes, AMD GPUs support ray tracing, however only AMD RX 6000 series and AMD RX 7000 series graphics cards are capable of employing the technology.