Do Games Use Multiple Cores? – How Many Cores Games Need?

With many high end CPUs featuring upwards of 8, 10 and even 16 cores, the gamer in you may rightly ask, do games use multiple cores? 

Well the answer to that question depends upon the particular game you are interested in. Generally. the answer is a resounding yes. Games do use multiple cores. However, depending upon the particular game, it can use anywhere between 1 – 8 cores generally. But a vast majority of the games still use 4-6 cores optimally.

You can further breakdown the core requirement of a game by what type of game it is. Is it a popular online title such as Fortnite, or a new AAA gaming title. The former demands fewer cores, whereas the latter benefits from a higher core count.

An even further breakdown would be the genre of the game. Strategy and simulation games often tend to benefit from a higher core count as compared to Shooters, RPG, Racing, Sports or Platformers.

In the following text I will talk in detail about whether games use multiple cores and more importantly how many core do games need. 

So Do Games Use Multiple Cores?

The short answer is yes. Almost all of the games these days, even the simplest indie games, make use of multiple cores.

The real question is, how many cores do games need? 

There are two ways to figure out how many cores a game needs. The first is through the official game requirements. Looking at minimum and the recommended requirements would give you an idea about the amount of cores the game needs.

The second is through benchmarks. One particular benchmark I would like to reference here is the DSOGaming.com PC Performance Analyses. DSOGaming.com does a great job of detailing how many cores the latest popular AAA titles require.

Again, the amount of cores a game needs depends upon what type of game it is as well as its genre. There are two types of games generally:

  • Popular Online Games / Esports Titles
  • AAA Titles – Latest and Demanding Games

CPU Core Requirement by Popular Online Games / Esports Titles

Since popular online games such as Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends, Rocket League etc are intended to be played by the masses, they generally have a lower core count requirement.

This is because not everyone can afford to procure a high end and top of the line CPU for their PC.

The following table summarizes the minimum and the recommended CPU requirements of the popular online games.

  Minimum
Requirements
Recommended
Requirements
Minecraft Intel Core i3-3210
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
Intel Core i5-4690
(4 Cores / 4 Threads)
Roblox Single Core Single Core
Rocket League 2.5 GHz Dual Core 3.0+ GHz Quad Core
Fortnite Intel Core i3-3225
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
Intel Core i5-7300U
(2 Cores / 4 Threads)
CS:GO Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
(2 Core / 2 Threads)
 
League of Legends 3.0 GHz 3.0 GHz Dual Core

Popular Online Titles Require 2 Cores Generally

You can see here that most of the popular online titles can work well with a CPU with 2 cores and at best they require 4 cores.

CS:GO, League of Legends, and even the graphically appealing Fortnite requires 2 cores to play.

CPU Core Requirement by Latest AAA Titles

AAA titles have a higher core requirement since the latest titles tend to feature the most cutting edge engines that are increasingly making use of higher core count.

DSOGaming.com often conducts CPU performance analyses on the newer games. I will reference the DSOGaming’s performance analyses for my study here on whether games use multiple cores and if so how many.

God of War

Do Games Use Multiple Cores
God of War CPU Core Count Requirement Benchmarks. Source: DSOGaming

God of War simply cannot work with a dual core CPU. It requires at least four threads. With 2 cores and 4 threads the game is certainly playable if you happen to have a decent enough graphics card.

God of War works best with a CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads.

Intel Core i3 from 10th and 12th gen and older Intel Core i7s feature 4 cores and 8 threads.

Again, you have to take note of both the core AND thread count for gaming performance.

For instance, here you can see that a 4 core processor with 4 threads gives 106 average FPS in God of War; whereas, a 4 core processor with 8 threads gives an average FPS of 123.

Anything beyond 4 cores and 8 threads gives minimal or no benefit in average FPS for God of War.

TL;DR God of War requires at least 2 cores and 4 threads. Recommended requirement is 4 cores and 8 threads.

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite Core count benchmark
Halo Infinite Core Count Requirement benchmark. Source: DSOGaming

Unlike God of War, Halo Infinite CAN work with a CPU with 2 cores and 2 threads. But doing so will severely bottleneck your graphics card.

The most optimal core count for Halo Infinite is 4 cores and 4 threads.

Far Cry 6

Far Cry 6 Core count benchmark
Far Cry 6 Core Count Requirement Benchmark. Source: DSOGaming.com

Far Cry 6, like God of War, simply cannot work with a CPU with 2 cores and 2 threads. It requires 2 Cores / 4 threads at the bear minimum.

However, for best performance 6 cores and 6 threads are recommended for Far Cry 6.

One interesting observation here is that on a CPU with 6 cores and 12 threads or hexa core CPU with hyperthreading enabled, surprisingly results in a lower performance.

Therefore, if you have newer Intel Core i5 or Ryzen 5 CPU with 6 cores and 12 threads, It is recommended here to keep hyperthreading turned off for this game.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 Core count benchmark
Forza Horizon 5 Core Count Requirement Benchmark. Source: DSOGaming.com

Forza Horizon 5 despite being a graphically pleasing and an intense game, can work with a CPU with 2 core and 2 threads.

The game experiences the best performance with a 4 core and 8 thread CPU. Beyond this, the performance gains are minimal.

Call of Duty Vanguard

Call of Duty Vangaurd Core count benchmark
Call of Duty Vanguard Core Count Requirement Benchmark. Source: DSOGaming.com

This is yet another game the gets the best performance gains with a CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads.

It does receive some performance benefit from a 6 core and 6 threads CPU, but anything beyond that would not matter much.

Crysis 3 Remastered

Crysis 3 Remastered Core count benchmark
Crysis 3 Remastered Core Count Requirement Benchmark. Source: DSOGaming.com

Crysis, like its original release, sets itself apart with being one of the most demanding games in terms of core count.

The best performance gains can be seen until 6 cores and 6 threads, but with an 8 core and an 8 thread CPU, you get the max FPS.

Again counterintuitively, like many games, Crysis 3 actually sees deteriorating results from a CPU with hyperthreading enabled.

For instance, with 6 cores and 6 threads, the game gets an average of 167 FPS; whereas, with 6 cores and 12 threads the game clocks in 162 average FPS. 

Also Read: Laptop CPU vs Desktop CPU

Summary of CPU Cores Required By Newer Games

The following table summarizes how many cores the newer titles require. I will be looking at four metrics:

  • Minimum: Minimum amount of cores for sustaining playable frame rates with a good GPU.
  • Optimum: Core count at which the game experiences the best FPS gains.
  • Max: Core count at which the game experience the maximum FPS. In other words, beyond this number, you won’t see any benefit.
  • Multi-Threading: Whether multi/hyperthreading benefits or damages the FPS.

Do note that along with the core count, the thread count also has to be noted, since some games benefit from multi-threading while for others multi-threading is detrimental.

GameMinimum
Playable
Optimum
Gains
Max
FPS
Multithreading
Beneficial or
Detrimental or
Neither?
God of War2 cores
4 threads
4 Cores
8 Threads
8 Cores
16 Threads
Neither
Halo Infinite2 cores
4 threads
4 Cores
4 Threads
6 Cores
6 Threads
Beneficial
Far Cry 62 Cores
4 Threads
4 Cores
8 Threads
6 Cores
6 Threads
Benefits with 4 Cores
Detrimental with 6 Cores
Forza
Horizon 5
2 Cores
2 Threads
4 Cores
4 Threads
6 Cores
12 Threads
Beneficial
Call of Duty
Vangaurd
2 Cores
4 Threads
4 Cores
8 Threads
6 Cores
12 Threads
Beneficial
Crysis 3
Remastered
2 Cores
4 Threads
6 Cores
6 Threads
8 Cores
8 Threads
Detrimental (at 6 cores and higher)
Final Fantasy 7
Remake
2 Cores
2 Threads
4 Cores
4 Threads
4 Cores
4 Threads
Neither
Sherlock Holmes
Chapter One
2 Cores
4 Threads
4 Cores
8 Threads
8 Cores
8 Threads
Neither
Riftbreaker2 Core
4 Threads
6 Cores
6 Threads
8 Cores
8 Threads
Detrimental (at 6 cores and higher)
Tales of Arise2 Core
2 Thread
4 Cores
4 Threads
8 Cores
8 Threads
Neither
Days Gone2 Core
4 Threads
6 Core
12 Threads
6 Core
12 Threads
Neither
Resident Evil Village2 Cores
2 Threads
6 Cores
12 Threads
8 Cores
8 Threads
Neither
Outriders2 Cores
4 Threads
6 Cores
12 Threads
8 Cores
16 Threads
Beneficial
Cyberpunk 20774 Cores
4 Threads
8 Cores
16 Threads
8 Cores
16 Threads
Beneficial

Most Games Require ATLEAST 2 Cores and 4 Threads at the Bear Minimum

So do games use multiple cores, well the table above should answer that question for you now.

When talking about the latest AAA titles, almost all of the games require a dual core processor at the bear minimum WITH hyperthreading enable meaning 2 cores and 4 threads.

As such playing on Intel Celeron is out of question since most Celeron CPUs have only 2 cores and 2 threads.

Also Read: Is Intel Pentium Good for Gaming?

4 Cores and 6 Cores are Recommended for Gaming

As far as the question of how many cores do you need for gaming, my recommendation is 4 cores if you have a relatively low budget and 6 cores for the best performance gains.

So for a budget gaming system I would recommend Intel Core i3 from 10th gen, and newer, feature 4 cores and 8 threads. AMD Ryzen 3 3000 series CPUs feature 4 cores and 8 threads.

For a performance and enthusiast gaming build I would recommend an Intel Core i5 from 10th generation and newer or an AMD Ryzen 5 from 3000 series and newer.

The following video also shows how a 6 core CPU can give the best results on various games.

So to answer the question, do games need multiple cores? Yes they do and my recommendation is to opt for 6 cores for best performance/dollar value.

Also Read: Is Quad Core Processor Good for Gaming?

8 Core CPU is NOT Recommended But Can Give the Best FPS

For the MAX FPS achievable, 8 core CPU can help occasionally on a few rare titles, however, the gains are very marginal often 1-2% compared to a 6 core CPU.

In other words, the performance gains/dollar invested in an 8 core CPU is very very low for gaming.

Hence, I wouldn’t recommend investing in an 8 core CPU for gaming UNLESS you want to stream.

Streaming on services like Twitch or YouTube using x264 CPU encoding can eat your core count.

Encoding can be taxing on your system. x264 will utilize a lot of your CPU, resulting in lower FPS. – Twitch.tv

Also Read: Is Intel Core i7 Good for Gaming?

Games and Graphics Card BOTH Use Multiple Cores

It is just not a matter of asking do games use multiple cores or not, this question can also be applied to graphics cards.

High end graphics card particularly need to paired with a powerful enough CPU, otherwise the graphics cards will be bottlenecked. 

Also Read: Does Graphics Card Affect FPS?

Summary

This brings us to the following generalized summary

Do Games Use Multiple Cores?

Yes, they do!

How Many Cores Do Games Need?

  • 2 cores at the minimum
  • 4-6 cores optimally (best performance/dollar value)
  • 8 cores for max FPS (often it is only marginally better than a 6 core CPU). 

Also Read: Does Motherboard Matter for Gaming?

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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