What Makes a Gaming CPU Intensive?

What Makes a Gaming CPU Intensive?

Modern triple-A games have dramatically increased the dependence on systems to push the best graphics and effects from gaming while running the latest hardware. While this is marginalized for CPUs to perform with as little as two cores, having multiple cores and a wide range of clock speed increases the performance delivered. 

CPU intensive games are those where most cores schedule work to the GPU. The workload for the GPU requires the CPU to schedule and deliver a seamless experience to the user by using 2-4 cores or a single core. This core usage compounds as Triple-A titles tend to use multicore tactics more than the free-to-play arena shooters like Fortnite and Valorant that primarily rely on the CPU for better performance on broader platforms. 

This leads to CPU intensive games where the processor needs to handle a bulk of the work for elements like AI behavior and environmental draw distance.

This article will cover the most CPU-intensive games and the variation between multicore and single-core preference for game engines.

What The CPU Does In A Gaming PC

A PC's CPU is central to driving the content experienced in both workstation applications and video games. The CPU allows video games to retrieve assets for your GPU to project into your frame of view at different FPS values. Behavior like stuttering or hitches in frames are attributed to the relationship between the GPU and CPU and is indicative of a potential bottleneck or troubleshooting issue. 

What Makes a Game CPU Intensive?

The leading cause of CPU utilization is the GPU's settings to generate more detail. These settings include draw distance, AI behavior, and other miscellaneous add-ons that require pre-graphics processing to display correctly. 

Assigned workloads vary depending on what the game requires from the CPU before assigning work to the GPU. This process either relies on multiple or one core in the CPU, depending on the game. 

Most importantly, developers of these games dictate how a game demands both the CPU and GPU and establish a balancing factor of the graphics engine, loading assets, and many more subtitle decisions during development. Hence, no matter the setting, CPU hardware has a chance to perform components with reduced performance. 

Benchmark Testing Your CPU for Gaming

Benchmarking often shows the culprit of a system bottleneck when gaming. Depending on the test, the CPU, GPU, or a combination of the two. Here are some of the most reliable tests in the benchmarking marketplace, which are entirely free:

ADIA 64:

Adia 64 is a reliable program to ensure a CPU takes an unrealistic simulated workload to simulate what a CPU does at its stock power threshold and boost clock. 

Unigine Superposition: 

Unigine Superposition is a reliable, more recent benchmark to contest with modern CPUs and GPUs. This tag team benchmark relies on the GPU and CPU to balance each other and is reflected in the final score, which depends on the CPU and GPU clock speeds.

3D Mark (Time Spy):

3D Mark by the people at Underwriters Laboratory has been an industry leader in their pursuit of pushing components to be an absolute edge of productivity and stability and detailed statistics of every test performed. 


FurMark is one of the leading GPU stress tests in the gaming sphere due to its ability to simulate workloads pertaining to gaming. Coming at no cost to the user, it is easily accessible and has tools to monitor hours-long test results at a time. 

Types of Games That Rely On The CPU More

 Games that attribute high CPU utilization of background processes and numerical calculation are easy to spot by game genre. Generally, the kinds of games which rely on your CPU for performance include:

  • Turn-based and real-time strategy
  • Open world
  • Simulation

Examples of CPU Intensive Games. 

Turn-Based/Real-Time Strategy 

Turn-based/real-time strategy games are notorious for being CPU locked in most aspects due to their vast AI-controlled characters that must generate their strategy and determine their next moves. The Civilization series and Stellaris are notorious for CPU utilization.

Behavior that causes more intensive CPU utilization would be spawning movable units, complex calculations of resource generation, and giant battles taking place with multiple units for damage calculations. 

Open World

Open-world games become subject to the most variability regarding the intensity of workloads. Games like Far Cry 6 make more modern CPUs commit to a  low-load multicore structure with 20-30% of cores being used to schedule work for the GPU.

This percentage varies depending on the exact hardware you have. Monitors pushing 1080p to 4k resolutions contribute to the overall GPU and CPU utilization. However, having a good balance of hardware will ensure that demanding games like Far Cry can run on most systems. 


Games like Microsoft Flight Simulator demand more from recently released hardware. Primarily the boost clock on the CPU when attempting to keep up with the GPU. 

Through multiple hardware releases, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has demanded everything and more from the recent RTX 20 and 30 series from Nvidia and AMD Radeon series due to its simulated world environment.

Finding A PC To Run CPU Intensive Games

A PC geared towards these genres of games is easy enough to configure, depending on your budget. A Good tactic for finding the best CPU-oriented gaming system is to go mid-tier or above with your CPU choice.

The current Intel mid-tier chips would be classified as its generation number, followed by its series number, followed by its designation. For Example, 12600KF; 12th generation, 600 series, KF variant. You can learn more about the naming of Intel or AMD CPUs here


To stand up to the task against CPU-intensive games, getting a mid to high-end CPU over GPU may be your route. At the same time, keeping a balance of hardware is essential when displaying monitors that are 1440p or 4k, depending on the CPU/GPU combination. 

At Apex Gaming PCs, our systems are capable of 4k gaming in our high and enthusiast end products. Our technicians offer overclocking services to push the CPU and GPU of most builds. Whatever your CPU configuration needs, we hope to fulfill it at Apex!  

Written By William Wilson

Header Photo Credit: Pavan Bhakta

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