Video games, along with many other software for Windows computers (or even other operating systems) have always had an upward trend when it comes to their requirements. RAM or random access memory, is one of these, and a lot of people often end up asking is ’16GB of RAM still enough?’
For the time being, 16GB of RAM is still enough for 2023. But that might change sooner rather than later depending on how this year goes for gaming. More about that below.
It’s also worth noting that a few years ago, the same query was being asked for 8GB of RAM, and several years before that, it was for 4GB of RAM. The point is, these kinds of questions about RAM standards are inevitable, what with the rapid pace of computer hardware development.
As for why 16GB of RAM might become inadequate later on depending on certain video games and applications, here’s why.
Some New Games Are Already Pushing for 32GB
A lot of you might not keep up to date with the recent video game scene, but these are the types of applications that tend to push RAM standards more so than anything else.
And right now, there are a couple of yet-to-be-released video games for 2023 (at the time of writing) that are looking to push that boundary.
Those games would be the PC version of Returnal and Forspoken. Both of these games are big triple-A titles from well-known studios, and their pushing this aspect for hardware requirements might be a telltale sign that video games these days are getting more hungry for performance overhead.
As such, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for other games to follow suit in the coming months or years, especially if requiring more RAM could indicate stability.
It’s also worth noting that both of the aforementioned games requiring 32GB of RAM are graphically-intense open-world titles with a sprawling virtual space. Other unreleased games that don’t fall into that template likely won’t require the same amount of RAM.
16GB Will Still ‘Work’ on Some of the Latest Upcoming Games
Now, Returnal and Forspoken requiring 32GB of RAM is not a cause for worry just yet, particularly for those who are stuck with 16GB and have no motherboard space left to accommodate more RAM.
Returnal, for example, recommends 32GB back in December and the minimum is only 16GB though you can guess that performance might be more stable with less stuttering if you have 32GB. Come January, Returnal’s developers changed the recommended RAM requirements to just 16GB. It might also be worth noting that the 32GB requirement is now for higher screen resolutions such as 4K or higher game settings like the “Epic” preset.
Usually, a well-optimized video game itself will warn its users to tone down the graphical settings to improve stability.
Meanwhile, there’s also Forspoken which now recommends 32GB of RAM if you want to see it at its full glory in the “Ultra” preset. In fact, Forspoken deems 16GB of RAM as suitable only for a resolution of 720p and a framerate of 30 FPS, both of which are painfully low and uncomfortable by today’s standards. Do note that there are other more important factors that determine performance, such as the GPU; RAM, however, can affect overall performance and the existence of graphical stuttering.
If you want Forspoken at 4K and 60 FPS, then 32GB is the recommended amount while 1440p or higher means you need 24GB which is a rather lopsided amount of RAM since most sticks or modules come in 8GB kits and only either work in pairs or in a quartet on most CPUs. Needless to say, if you’re aiming for a game that requires 24GB of RAM, you might as well get 32GB.
So in summary, a couple of big mainstream games are already pushing the narrative that 16GB might not be enough for the near and foreseeable future. Whether that’s due to poor optimization or a more advanced video game structure remains to be seen once Forspoken is fully released early this year.
Demanding More Than 16GB of Ram Isn’t New
Before Forspoken and Returnal started demanding more than 16GB of RAM, other games and applications had already gained notoriety for being hungry for multitasking capability.
The usual video or photo editing software, for example, benefits a lot from 32GB of RAM so most computers used for such an endeavor are packed with as much RAM as the budget allows. If you frequently use Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, or other creator software, then 32GB is somewhat of a standard.
There’s also the fact that ever-hungry applications such as Google Chrome could always use more RAM or its latest generation, especially if you keep opening and using 10 browser tabs frequently while doing other stuff.
For games, certain big titles such as those below might use or demand more than 16GB of RAM.
- Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
- Star Citizen
- ARK: Survival Evolved
- Galactic Civilizations 3
However, it should also be duly noted that their demand for RAM could mostly stem from a lack of optimization or the limited technology of their time back when they were being developed.
Should You Upgrade?
The more important question apart from whether ‘16GB of RAM is still enough’ would be whether ‘should you upgrade or not?’
Ultimately, that depends on what video games you want to play or the applications you want to use. If you saw Forspoken or Returnal and you like it enough to dedicate your time and money to those two as a hobby or profession, then you really need that 32GB of RAM. Because looking at those games right now, it’s easy to see how and why they demand this kind of hardware.
So far Forspoken and Returnal are the only two mainstream games pushing for 32GB of RAM. Most games and applications find 16GB of RAM more than enough; some are even fine with just 8GB.
Still, it might only be a matter of time before a paradigm shift. The two aforementioned games already drew first blood; once other developers realize the people are willing to upgrade or already have upgraded, then they will surely cater to a new and more capable audience.
In turn, this could also incentivize or compel developers of productivity and work applications to push their recommended hardware requirements to 32GB. The whole phenomenon could well be a domino effect that we’ll have to monitor in the span of the next few months or years.
Right now, the highly referenced Steam hardware survey claims results that more than ¾ or 75 percent of PC users (laptop and desktop included) still use 16GB of RAM or below. So, you’re probably still safe if you only have 16GB of RAM.
It’s a waiting game whether the couple of bold video games mentioned above are true to their demands or are merely trying to bite off more than they can chew. It’s typically easy to upgrade RAM anyway in case you need more in the coming months, assuming you’re staying within the same generation.
All that’s left for us to do is wait and see.