Having the right amount of RAM (random access memory) is important for getting the best performance out of your gaming PC. But how much RAM do you really need? Is 32GB of RAM overkill, or does it provide worthwhile benefits?
For most gamers, 16GB of RAM is sufficient for modern games. 32GB of RAM only provides minor performance improvements in some games and can be considered overkill. However, there are benefits to having 32GB for gaming:
- Future-proofing – More RAM helps ensure your system remains capable of running newer games
- Multitasking – Having 32GB makes it easier to have games, streaming software, web browsers etc open simultaneously
- High resolution gaming – At 4K resolution, some games may benefit from the extra RAM
So while not completely necessary, 32GB of RAM offers some advantages. But it also comes at a premium cost. Overall, 16GB remains the sweet spot for most gaming PC builds.
Does more RAM improve gaming performance?
In general, having more RAM can lead to a small performance increase in games. This is because with more RAM:
- More assets and textures can be stored in the faster RAM rather than your hard drive
- The system has more memory bandwidth for data transfers
- Background tasks have more RAM available so they interfere less
However, the relationship between RAM and gaming performance is not linear. There are diminishing returns beyond a certain point. Going from 8GB to 16GB of RAM can provide a noticeable speed boost in some games. But increasing from 16GB to 32GB usually only results in single digit percentage framerate gains.
This is because for most modern games, the video card ends up being the limiting factor for performance, not the RAM. Once you have “enough” RAM for that game engine, extra RAM won’t make much difference.
How much RAM do you need for gaming?
Most gaming PCs today come with 8-16GB of RAM. This is enough to run any of the latest AAA games at high settings in 1080p or 1440p resolution. Generally 16GB is considered the sweet spot for a good gaming experience. With 16GB you can have your game open, along with apps like Discord, Chrome, Spotify etc in the background.
32GB of RAM can provide a small boost in some games, but for most users it is overkill for 1080p or 1440p gaming. Games rarely use more than 8-12GB of RAM at those resolutions. You only start to see benefits from 32GB when gaming in 4K on ultra settings.
Here are some RAM requirements for modern games:
|Red Dead Redemption 2||12GB|
|Call of Duty: Warzone||12GB|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||8-12GB|
|Microsoft Flight Simulator||16GB|
As you can see, even most RAM-hungry games run fine on 16GB. Certain simulation games like Flight Simulator are an exception due to the amount of terrain data they load. But overall, 16GB remains the recommended amount for 1080p and 1440p gaming.
4K gaming RAM requirements
At 4K ultra settings, some games can benefit from having 32GB of RAM:
- Total War: Warhammer 2 shows 10-15% faster turn times with 32GB RAM
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs Legion have 5-10% higher frame rates with 32GB
- Microsoft Flight Simulator gets a small performance boost from 32GB
This is because rendering games at 4K puts more demand on the system RAM. Textures and assets take up more space at higher resolutions. So games at max settings need all the RAM they can get.
However, the extra performance is not substantial in most titles. So 16GB remains a good baseline even for 4K gaming. But if you want to max out every last drop of performance, 32GB can help provide a small boost.
Future proofing with 32GB RAM
One argument made for 32GB of RAM is future-proofing. As games become more complex, RAM requirements may increase:
- New consoles like PS5 and Xbox Series X have 16GB of shared RAM. PC games may be designed to take advantage of this.
- Higher resolution textures consume more VRAM and system RAM
- Some games are already asking for 12-16GB of RAM. Requirements may go up further.
By having 32GB now, your system will remain capable of running newer games 3-4 years from now. You likely won’t need to upgrade RAM for the life of the PC. Whereas with 16GB, you may fall short on RAM sooner as games become more demanding.
However, RAM is one of the easiest components to upgrade later on. So when 16GB does become limiting in a few years, you can simply pop in more RAM. The cost of a 16GB module in the future will likely be lower too.
Given how RAM prices are currently inflated, it may make sense to start with 16GB now and upgrade later when needed. This can provide a better overall value.
Prediction: Will games use 32GB RAM soon?
It’s unlikely that 32GB of RAM becomes the new standard or “recommended” amount for gaming PCs any time soon. Here are some reasons why:
- Developers aim to cater to the majority of users. Most gamers still have 8-16GB RAM.
- Consoles only have 16GB total RAM. Games are optimized for this hardware.
- RAM capacity has been stagnant. 8GB sticks from 5 years ago are still common today.
- Faster RAM and VRAM does more to improve performance than capacity alone.
Games will continue getting more complex, but they also get more optimized over time. Clever programming allows more to be done with the same hardware. And most developers try to target a broad range of hardware capabilities.
Overall any RAM usage increases in the next several years are likely to be incremental, not exponential. While having 32GB can provide some headroom, 16GB should remain the recommended amount for most gaming PCs in the foreseeable future.
Even if games themselves rarely need more than 16GB of RAM, having 32GB can still improve the overall system experience. With more RAM:
- You can have more apps and browser tabs open while gaming
- Your game won’t slow down as much if you are streaming/recording gameplay
- Background tasks like antivirus scans interfere less with gaming performance
So even if the games don’t use all that RAM directly, it provides breathing room for your whole system. With 32GB, your game isn’t fighting for memory with other processes.
Of course you can still multitask fine with 16GB. But having more RAM means you can push things further before running into issues. This is especially true if you like to stream, record, or even edit gameplay videos.
While 32GB of RAM can provide some benefits for gaming, it is overkill for most gamers today. At 1080p or 1440p resolution, most games perform essentially the same with 16GB vs 32GB RAM. The extra RAM only helps significantly in certain 4K ultra settings scenarios.
However, there are valid reasons you may want 32GB for a new gaming PC build:
- Future-proofing – More headroom for increasingly demanding games
- Multitasking – Ability to do more while gaming
- Workstation uses – Video/photo editing, coding etc
Given current inflated DDR4 prices though, it’s harder to justify the premium for 32GB RAM kits. For most mid-range gaming PC builds, 16GB remains the smart target.
The sweet spot for a good gaming experience is still 16GB of fast DDR4 RAM. Only consider going up to 32GB if you want to max out your system’s capabilities and budget is not a concern.