In this guide, we will take a look at SLI and tell you which games we feel make the best use of this engine developed by Nvidia.
We will start by explaining what SLI is and discuss its relevancy in the current gaming landscape.
So, if your setup supports this technology and you want to get some good use out of it, read on to find out what games will shine the most when using it.
First off, we’ll explain why SLI may be beneficial to you.
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Why Is SLI Important?
SLI, also known as Scalable Link Interface, is a proprietary graphics card scaling engine developed by Nvidia. Simply put, it allows multiple GPUs to be connected within one machine. The multiple GPUs share the rendering of real-time graphics to create one single output.
The technology was initially developed way back in the late 1990s by 3dfx. Nvidia bought out 3dfx and thus became the proprietor of the tech. The graphics giant re-engineered SLI in 2004 to become the technology we currently see in most modern Nvidia GPUs.
SLI supports up to four GPUs at once (2-Way SLI, 3-Way SLI, 4-Way SLI). However, for the consumer market, the trend is to limit the use of the technology to two units.
The idea is to increase a machine’s rendering capacity by having multiple GPUs working in parallel, each undertaking an equal share of the workload, and improving the performance of games — especially in terms of frames-per-minute count, shadows, lighting and textures quality.
For SLI to work, multiple copies of the same GPU need to be implemented in available PCI-Express slots and linked through the SLI Bridge connector.
At this point, each card works on independently assigned parts of the 3D rendering process before completed work is sent back to a “master” GPU and forwarded as a unified output. The process is controlled by the graphics driver, which shares out the workload and decides the rendering priority for each card.
Within the SLI framework, there are two rendering processes. These are Alternate Frame Rendering (AFR) and SLI Antialiasing (SLI AA).
AFR is geared towards better overall performance by having the GPUs use the added firepower to render as much as possible without any overlap. It assigns a specific number of frames to the two GPUs, and these work on them independently. By way of example, frames 1-10 are covered by the first GPU, while the other GPU works of frames 11-20, and so on upwards.
SLI AA, in turn, is all about rendering the crispest, most breathtaking visual experience with the available hardware, sometimes at the cost of performance, by divvying up the antialiasing process.
The GPUs are assigned antialiasing work on identical frames. Still, then the workload is divided when it comes to sub-pixel sampling, and each GPU covers a different set of points within the frame — the amalgamated result in a more visually enticing image.
Is SLI Still Relevant?
Since 2004, the SLI technology has come on leaps and bounds to keep up with the ever more demanding needs of modern games, particularly of the AAA variety.
SLI tech still features in the majority of Nvidia’s line of GPUs, including the most recent RTX series, which boasts SLI transfer bandwidth upwards of fifty times that of previous technologies thanks to the new SLI NV-Link Bridge.
Where SLIs relevancy starts to waver is when it comes to game developers. Optimizing a game for SLI support is a painstaking process and requires the release of purpose-designed updates on the part of the developer and specific driver tweaks on the part of Nvidia.
More often than not, an AAA title will deliver poor SLI performance at launch, that is, until the patches and drivers mentioned above can be updated, and a stable SLI profile is developed. At this point, the technology unquestionably comes into its element and drastically improves games.
The first month is when SLI users suffer, but given time, the experience becomes well worth it. For games that are a year or two old and support SLI, the performance is better across the board (20%-40% range, generally), other than a few exceptions and variations in how much improvement the tech contributes.
For Nvidia, SLI, as a proprietary tech, is worth propping up and supporting for years to come; it means more GPUs are sold, increasing their annual profits.
With the advent of extremely powerful single GPUs — read GTX and the RTX line —, that are more than capable of handling the demands of “ultra” settings on the most power-hungry games, the need for multiple GPUs is less and less apparent.
Developers are, therefore, increasingly less likely to invest time and resources into SLI support when the majority of players migrate or stick to the single GPU setup.
The rendering techniques required of an engine to support SLI are complicated at best. In many cases, bugs and fixes that affect a majority of gamers rank higher in a developers’ to-do list than SLI optimization. For these reasons, fervor for SLI support on the developer’s end is not as pronounced as it used to be.
SLI is also the GPU technology of the tinkerer by excellence. In most cases, SLI profiles supplied by Nvidia and developers do relatively well. Still, more often than not, the in-game graphics options are there to be tinkered with before obtaining optimal performance.
Arguably, the golden age of SLI support was around the time when the Nvidia 900 series was all the rage around 2015-2016. The relative affordability of these GPUs made SLI a far more accessible technology back then.
In many ways, the GPU market is at a turning point where SLI could quietly be confined to the annals of history, or remain a niche yet in-demand technology.
For example, SLI is a good tech for those with the finances to build a state-of-the-art dual RTX setup or those who are avid partakers in older games, say World of Warcraft, and can get their hands on two GTX 980s or GTX 970s.
Best Games That Support SLI
With the above in mind, a wealth of games support SLI and do so extremely well. In these cases, SLI genuinely improves the visual quality of the game, especially at higher resolutions — notably 4K.
Let’s take a look at the games with the best SLI profiles. You’ll note that many of them aren’t what you’d call “new” games, which is symptomatic of the decreasing support for SLI.
Recent heavy hitters such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 have SLI support and a dedicated profile, but the results are unsatisfactory. Players complain about stutters, frame loss, and overall a much more jagged experience compared to using a single card.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
CD Projekt Red’s enduring action-adventure RPG epic sits comfortably among the illustrious alumni of the best games of all time, and with good reason.
Geralt’s poignant and tumultuous journey through a vibrant, detailed fantasy world is only outdone by the quality of the narrative, whereby he must track down his adopted daughter, Ciri, while fighting off hordes of otherworldly demons, trolls, monstrosities, and so on.
The irreverent humor, the cast of vibrant characters, multiple endings, and the quality of combat make for an all-around immersive and compelling experience.
Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar’s long-running gangster simulator series entered new territory with Grand Theft Auto V.
With a world designed as a playground for our most murderous and mischievous impulses, Los Santos and the surrounding area is oozing with criminal potential.
The three-pronged hero gameplay is also innovative and fits perfectly in the sweeping story that depicts the unraveling of three men in their search for riches and meaning in what is a fame-hungry, money-grabbing cesspit of crooks and swindlers.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 is all about riding a fictionalized version of Montana from the grip of a crazy cult of doomsday naysayers led by a lunatic. Sounds good, right?
Factions, an arsenal of colorful weapons, and an expansive open world prop up Far Cry 5 as arguably the best in the franchise.
Half-RPG, half-action-adventure, few games rival the irreverence of one of Ubisoft’s flagship franchises. It’s also one pretty game, perfect for SLI scaling.
The battle royale game that spearheaded a phenomenon that has since spread to all corners of the gaming world, PUBG — as its colloquially known — is a game of wits, deft aim, and frantic gunfights.
Although superseded by Fortnite, it retains its crown as the more realistic of the BR games and its positioned among the most played game on Steam.
Dark Souls III
The closing chapter in a trilogy known for being among the most challenging gaming experiences around, Dark Souls III is an action RPG about a rising tide of undead creatures taking over a fantasy medieval world.
You’ll die countless times in your quest to prevent the incoming age of dark by stopping the first flame from dying out. Enemies are smart, adaptive and bolstered by changing attack patterns.
Unforgiving and iconic, Dark Souls III is worth any gamer’s time.
Although much of our attention is now drawn to Bethesda’s first foray into survival multiplayer with Fallout 76, Fallout 4 remains the most recent single-player Fallout game to date.
Players gallivant across a post-apocalyptic world teeming with nuclear-induced aberrations as terrifying as the next while unpicking the rich lore that courses through the series.
The RPG elements that define the franchise are back and better than ever. You also get a dog as a sidekick.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The latest Kojima made MGS game, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a fitting homage to two decades of Snake’s stealthy adventures through many locales.
Fending off colorful enemies with style, and set before much of the events of the previous games, in this game players land in far off Afghanistan and Angola.
Big guns, seemingly unwinnable odds, and packed full of emotion, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain merits the praise showed on the title from pundits across the board.
League of Legends
Dota 2’s playful little brother, League of Legends, is a worldwide phenomenon with reportedly over 60 million unique monthly players across the globe.
With what is arguably the biggest eSports scene in the world, it’s hard to disagree with how easy League of Legends is to pick up and enjoy.
Not the hardest MOBA around, League’s numbers don’t lie, and a steady stream of new heroes keep the game fresh and exciting.
Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed isn’t for everyone, that much we can agree on, notably as Ubisoft churns out yearly iterations with very little innovation, barring the most recent Origins and Odyssey.
However, among a lukewarm catalog, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag stands as an exception. The naval warfare and piracy in Black Flag make the game.
No wonder copycat games like Sea of Thieves and the upcoming Skull & Bones borrow heavily from the same template and explore a similar formula.
World of Warcraft
The MMORPG that rules them all. More content that you could ever wish for, PvP, PvE, and a vast world all set in a fantasy world brimming with Warcraft lore and depth.
Although showing signs of age, the latest Battle For Azeroth DLC injects new life into a game that still attracts thousands of players daily.
Most cards run World of Warcraft with no trouble at all, so SLI is overkill, but back in the day, it proved a great way to reveal the beauty of Blizzard’s most ambitious game to date.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
A multiplayer game through and through, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is among the most finely tuned FPS games around.
Tactical, intense and cerebral, no wonder the game is among the most exciting eSports to watch. The realism is also worth noting: one false move and death comes quickly.
The latest edition of Blizzard’s seminal hack and slash isometric RPG is a fitting homage to the original two titles that released around the turn of the century.
Spruced-up graphics, as well as the same classic choice of classes and a world crawling with a vibrant selection of enemies, make for a great single-player experience and an even better co-op game to be played with friends for hours on end.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim needs no introduction. Although Bethesda merits a lot of the criticism thrown its way, no one can argue that the developer can’t make a phenomenal open-world RPG.
- Tom Clancy’s The Division
- Middle Earth: Shadow of War
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Batman: Arkham City
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- Starcraft II
- Borderlands 2
- Battlefield 3
- Age of Empires III
- Beyond Good & Evil
- Civilization V
- Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
- Dead Space
- EVE Online
- Fable: The Lost Chapters
- Fallout 3
- Final Fantasy XI
- Gears of War
- Just Cause
- Path of Exile
- Resident Evil 6
- Silent Hill 3
- Tropico 3
- Watch Dogs
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- XCOM: Enemy Within