Getting a new PC, and wondering if you can get away without having a dedicated graphics card? Well, in this blog post, I outline why you still will be able to play less demanding titles, as well as showcase a list of games you’ll be able to play without a graphics card!
Can I Play Games Without A Graphics Card Verdict:
It is possible to play games without a graphics card. Within your CPU, there is what is known as integrated graphics, this allows you to play less-demanding games, without a graphics card.
What Is Integrated Graphics?
Integrated graphics are part of your CPU. This means that the graphics are processed within the CPU itself.
For example, just about all Intel CPUs have what is known as Intel HD, which is Intel’s integrated graphics.
As for AMD CPUs, the majority of them do have integrated graphics as well. AMD Ryzen APUs (Accelerated Processing Unit) has some of the fastest integrated graphics.
This means that your CPU processes the graphics, which then goes through the back panel of your motherboard (because your CPU is mounted on your motherboard), which is then outputted to your monitor. (Some motherboards don’t have connection ports to connect it to your monitor, more on that under How to connect integrated graphics to a monitor down below)
But you will need to keep in mind that as fast as integrated graphics can get, dedicated graphics will handle it much better. Hence, don’t base your purchasing decision of a CPU just because it promotes fast integrated graphics, because a cheap, even $50 graphics card will be much better.
I found a cheap & affordable graphics card that should be able to handle mid-tier games: The MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710, it is capable of running Fortnite at about 40-50 FPS, GTA 5 at about 35-40 FPS, and CS:GO at 100 FPS. The GeForce GT 710 is best for mid-tier games, such as, League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, and will run them in high settings, 720p without much problems, but will start to struggle when getting to modern games. (Benchmarks for the GT 710, Benchmark 1 & Benchmark 2)
The most common area that integrated graphics is utilized, is in laptops. As laptops don’t have much space to fit a full-fledged graphics card, manufacturers typically opt-in for integrated graphics. Integrated graphics also equate to less power being consumed, and less heat being emitted, meaning less noise generated by the laptop, in comparison to the jet engines of gaming computers we see today.
But it does come with the disadvantage being that the majority of laptops aren’t capable of playing high-end games. However, most laptop users don’t mind as they usually only run applications such as Excel, Word documents, and Chrome.
How To Connect Integrated Graphics To Your Monitor
It is widely known that you connect your monitor via the ports on the graphics card. But what if you are utilizing the integrated graphics within your PC?
As mentioned above, the CPU is the one processing the integrated graphics. This means that the motherboard will simply have to supply the display ports (HDMI, Display Port, VGA, and so forth), to connect the computer to your monitor.
On the back panel of your motherboard, if you can locate a connectivity output such as a HDMI, Display Port, VGA, or any other connectivity options that allow you to connect your PC to a monitor, you should be good to go. What you then have to do is to purchase the necessary cables to connect your PC to your monitor.
Keep in mind that you only need one connection either HDMI, Display Port, or VGA, so you just need to choose one. HDMI is the industry standard right now, and I suggest this cheap 15-feet HDMI cable for that use-case.
If your motherboard doesn’t have the necessary outputs to connect it to the monitor, you can still purchase a USB to HDMI converter, which you can then use to connect the motherboard to the converter, then to your monitor. I suggest you use this USB 3.0 to HDMI converter, as it supports 1080p and audio as well.
If you have yet to purchase your motherboard, you should look for a specification sheet. From the screenshot in the example, the specification sheet for the Gigabyte motherboard has 1x HDMI port, 1x VGA 15-pin port, and 1x DVI-I port, which allows you to utilize and connect the integrated graphics from a CPU.
To find the specification sheet on Amazon, you firstly need to scroll down to the product information segment, from there, down below is a technical specification subheading where the specification sheet is located.
Or on Microcenter’s website, you can locate it down below, under the “specs” tab.
Integrated Graphics VS Dedicated Graphics
The main difference is that a dedicated graphics card receives its own RAM, while integrated graphics have to share it with the CPU. Besides RAM, the integrated graphics and CPU also need to share transistors to process data.
Furthermore, CPUs aren’t meant to process graphics, instead, a dedicated graphics card simply has more resources and power to render and process graphics.
The reason for having dedicated graphics is because integrated graphics aren’t good enough currently, especially for hardware-intensive applications, such as running triple-A games, or other GPU-intensive tasks, such as 3D rendering, and so forth.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean integrated graphics are useless and manufacturers should stop integrating it into their CPUs. One such example would be that integrated graphics help decode the videos you watch online and the local videos stored within your computer.
Moreover, for some individuals, integrated graphics is all that is required, especially for those who just need to run a few spreadsheets, and to occasionally play some browser games. (If you aren’t into browser games, check out the full list of Steam games you can play with integrated graphics down below!)
So, Is Integrated Graphics Any Good?
Yes! As mentioned, if you aren’t interested in running hardware-intensive games, such as GTA 5, or the latest and greatest titles, integrated graphics is just fine!
But, if you start facing issues with bad frames per second (FPS), or stuttering gameplay, you might want to consider changing to a cheap graphics card, such as the aforementioned MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710 that will run mid-tier games just fine.
I suggest you try out your integrated graphics first, and if you dislike it, then hop over to dedicated graphics, as they do cost a fortune, and won’t be worth it if you don’t require that power. A quick advice if you are buying a dedicated graphics card: is to Not buy SLI graphics cards, which is when you combine the power of two graphics cards. As most, especially modern games, don’t have support for SLI configurations, and sometimes may even cause issues. (A mistake I learned the hard way)
Does My System Have Integrated Graphics?
There are many ways to check & verify if you have integrated graphics. The easiest way to do so would be by going to device manager>display adapters.
If there is at least one display adapter listed here, this means that either your CPU has integrated graphics, or you already have a dedicated graphics card in your system.
For example, if your CPU has Intel HD graphics, (which is essentially integrated graphics) it should show up here. Or, you could search up that specific graphics card to see if it is a dedicated graphics card or integrated graphics.
How To Enable Integrated Graphics
By default, if you don’t have a dedicated graphics card, integrated graphics should be automatically enabled.
If you have Intel HD Graphics and need to re-enable it, I recommend you check out this Reddit post I found.
If your current system has a dedicated graphics card, you can rest assured that your system will choose between the integrated graphics, and dedicated graphics as required.
For more about switching between your integrated graphics and dedicated graphics, I recommend you checkout this video:
Alternate Solution To Play Games Without A Graphics Card
For those that are on the fence on purchasing a dedicated graphics card, and aren’t sure if it’s worth it just to play a few titles, you might want to try a cloud gaming service.
These are services that you pay a monthly fee to rent a server that has capable components that allows you to play triple-A titles. Examples of these services would be Shadow, which charges a base price of $14.99/month, and Vortex which charges about $10/month to play In HD Quality.
But, I wouldn’t suggest utilizing these services for more than a few months, as the costs will certainly start to stack up, and buying a dedicated graphics card will be a much better investment.
However, if you’re only playing games a few times per year, you might want to look into these cloud gaming services, and only pay for the months where you know you can utilize it the most.
Games That You Can Play Without A Graphics Card
Integrated graphics can only play low-end games that don’t rely heavily on the graphics card, so they definitely will be limited in the number of games playable.
Disclaimer: The games here should be playable on most modern CPUs with integrated graphics, but might not be playable on lower-end ones.
You can also make use of the Steam minimum requirements section to see if a specific game supports integrated graphics. (If the game is not on Steam, you might have to look online for the minimum requirements)
You can then compare your system’s video memory and verify if it has enough to play the game. Here is a video on how to check your system’s video memory for Windows 10:
For Mac, Linux, and other Windows versions, I recommend you check out this article from Computerhope.
1.1 Stardew Valley
Stardew valley is a farming simulator, with a relaxing atmosphere. The story starts when you inherit your grandfather’s old farm plot. You slowly built up your farm & inventory, while completing tasks. This game is perfect for those who seek to “slow things down” and take on an award-winning game.
Undertale is an RPG that allows the player to control a child who has fallen into the Underground. You then go on to meet monsters during your journey back to the surface, some of which engage you in a fight. There is so much more to the game than meets the eye, and I highly recommend you check it out, considering its phenomenal reviews!
2) Action Games
2.1) Half Life 1 & 2
In the Half-Life series, you control Gordon Freeman. The story takes place after the Black Mesa Research Facility accidentally triggered an alien invasion. Half-Life is best known for its immersive storytelling, just don’t get too addicted, cause Half-Life 3 hasn’t been annouced in decades.
2.2) Grand Theft Auto III
The Grand Theft Auto series has long been known as one of the best the gaming industry has seen. Grand Theft Auto III follows Claude, who found himself in the world of crime and corruption in Liberty City.
2.3 Max Payne
In this game, you follow Max Payne, a fugitive undercover cop framed for murder. Follow him, as he relentlessly fights to clear his name, while being hunted by the police, and the mob.
3) Casual Games
Minecraft is a lightweight game, that has singleplayer and multiplayer features. In your own singleplayer world, you can venture out, collect resources, and to survive!
3.2) Papers, Please
In Papers, Please, you play as an immigration officer, who needs to carefully inspect passports, and legal documents, while making as little mistakes as possible, as you need the money to support your family.
4) Multiplayer Games
As bizarre as it sounds, you can actually play Overwatch on integrated graphics, note that this game isn’t on Steam. Here are the minimum requirements for Overwatch. Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer FPS.
4.2) Rocket League
Rocket League is one of my favorites of all times. Learning the mechanics of the game is easy, mastering them is something all players seek. I highly recommend this game, it has brought me hours of fun!
4.3) Dota 2
Dota 2 is a free-to-play MOBA. There are two teams consisting of five players competing to destroy the opposing team’s structure while defending theirs.
5) Other Lists For Games To Play On Integrated Graphics
There are many other games that can be playable on integrated graphics, and the above few are some of my recommendations. If you are looking for more lists, I have a few down below that I suggest you should take a look at:
- DigitalTrends List On The Best Games For Intel HD Graphics
- Reddit Post On Intel Graphics Game List
- MakeUseOf List On 9 Great Games To Play On Integrated Graphics
In general, most classic & indie games should run fine on integrated graphics. Furthermore, Steam offers refunds within 14-days from the purchase date, and you’ll need to make sure that you’ve played the game for less than 2 hours. But remember to not abuse this policy.
To sum it up, yes, you can play games without a graphics card, but there are limitations, being that you can only play less hardware-intensive games.
If you are unsure if you need dedicated graphics, I suggest you try using integrated graphics, and if you receive bad FPS, or have stutter in your gameplay, then you might want to upgrade to a dedicated graphics card.
This topic might be a little confusing to some, so if you need extra help I open my contact form to all, or you can contact me directly: email@example.com