Most Realistic Video Games, Ranked

If you prefer playing more realistic video games, then this list of the most realistic video games of all time will be very useful to you.

What makes a video game feel realistic? Is it sprawling environments filled with tons of small, seemingly insignificant details, or is it simulations of real-world occurrences like weather, weapon degradation, and managing your character’s hunger and thirst?

The answer ultimately depends on your personal definition. That being said, some games are better at convincing us to believe what we’re seeing is actually plausible, or at least tricking us into suspending our disbelief until credits roll.

In this list, we’ll be ranking the most realistic video games of the last decade. This includes a mix of racing sims, first-person shooters, action-adventure games, and more.

If you feel like we overlooked your favorite game, sound off in the comments and let us know. And lastly, make sure to check back as we continue to update this list with new games in the future.

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We know what you’re thinking: how can a video game about zombies be considered realistic in any way? Hear us out. The Resident Evil series has come a long way since the days of having to use tank controls and look and feel very different today.

Starting with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Capcom now uses the RE Engine to develop all Resident Evil games, including 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake. It’s quite impressive what this engine can do, allowing for more photo-realistic cutscenes, character models, and environments than previous games.

Combine this with limited storage space, brutal chase sequences, and fragile protagonists, and you end up with a semi-plausible interpretation of how a zombie apocalypse would play out. However, things like the ridiculous puzzle solutions requiring random objects are what prevent Resident Evil 2 remake from ranking higher on this list.

Ready at Dawn’s criminally-short action-adventure game for the PlayStation 4 is still a sight to behold, even by 2021 standards. The Order: 1886‘s production quality is on par with big triple-A releases at the time like Uncharted 3 and Tomb Raider.

The game features high-resolution textures, superb lighting, and some of the most expressive facial animations in a video game, not to mention a stunning recreation of 19th Century London. With all that said, we still run into the same issue as Resident Evil, where the subject matter is too supernatural in nature.

The plot revolves around killing werewolves and vampires as the legendary Knights of the Round Table, which sounds like a lot of fun, just not realistic. Additionally, the limited scope of its story prevents the player from getting fully invested in The Order’s world or any of its characters.

We used to think we were past the days of jokingly asking, “can it run Crysis?” anytime someone tried bragging about their PC specs. And then Crysis: Remastered came out, and a new benchmark for PC gaming was established.

While the remastered version’s architecture may be based on the inferior console version of Crysis, there’s no denying the realistic quality of its graphics. Crysis: Remastered also sports improved lighting effects thanks to raytracing and up to 8K resolution textures.

Of course, since this is Crysis we’re talking about, the gameplay isn’t quite as convincing. You play as a super-soldier whose suit deflects bullets, increases speed, jump height, and physical strength, which are not realistic in the slightest but would be pretty cool to have.

Metro Exodus does a great job at immersing you in its post-apocalyptic Russian wasteland by filling its world with small details. It also helps that the game features some of the best-designed environments in the series to date, all of which benefit from real-time raytracing support.

From the animation your character performs every time they have to swap out their mask’s filter to using their hand to wipe the moisture off their visor, these elements can be easy to overlook but help suspend your disbelief while playing.

Although there are just as many unrealistic elements, such as battling mutated creatures, things like dynamic weather, a day/night cycle, and increasingly high stakes keep Metro Exodus grounded in reality just enough to keep you engaged.

Quantic Dream is known for creating multilayered, narrative-driven interactive experiences like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. The studio’s most recent title, Detroit: Become Human, tells a science fiction story revolving around three androids that become sentient following separate tragic events.

Depending on your choices, each protagonist’s story can branch out in several ways, including death. If a character does end up dying, the plot moves forward without their involvement. This raises the stakes quite a bit and can cause you to view the androids as real human beings with strengths and weaknesses. 

The game also does some interesting things with its setting by juxtaposing current-day Detroit, Michigan, with an imaginative depiction of it in the year 2038. While the end result is a hyper-realistic yet plausible future for mankind, the sci-fi-heavy subject matter is a bit too far removed from reality to warrant a higher spot on this list.

Although the GTA series is more concerned with presenting a hyper-realistic depiction of modern life, the most recent installment ends up getting terrifyingly close to the real thing. GTA 5‘s map is bigger than any of its predecessors and traveling from one end to the other safely can be challenging even for the most experienced player.

 Just like in real life, random unscripted events can catch you by surprise. This can be as innocent as overhearing someone else’s conversation about some weird rash, to getting caught in the crossfire of two rival gangs.

The game goes much further than that, allowing you to own your own house, vehicles, hangars, secret bases, and more. There’s even a GTA version of the internet where players can shop for all of the above as well as access online dating, stock market exchange, ancestry info, and where to find the nearest Taco Bomb location.

Inspired by the film noir era of the 1940s, L.A. Noire is a stylish detective game that sees you solving criminal cases for the LAPD as Detective Cole Phelps. It manages to stand out from other detective games by incorporating facial animations into its gameplay mechanics.

During interrogations, suspects will react to questions differently depending on whether they’re being honest or trying to hide something. It’s your job to pick up on these subtle cues and respond accordingly in order to crack the case.

This is made possible using MotionScan technology, which uses 32 surrounding cameras to capture an actor’s facial expressions from every possible angle. As a result, characters in L.A. Noire look and act like real humans to the point they sometimes enter into uncanny valley territory.

The Anno series of city-builder games may not be the most historically accurate but make up for it with realistic gameplay systems. Set during the 19th Century at the start of the Industrial Revolution, Anno 1800 focuses on two parallel civilizations: the Old World and the New World.

 In the Old World, citizens, workers, and artisans are at the forefront of production and supply-and-demand. However, in the New World, it’s the products themselves that take center stage as far-off islands and tropical forests offer bounties of raw materials that are then transported via trade routes.

The game does a fantastic job of representing the boom of industry during this time period, depicting farmers moving from the countryside to work in bustling cities as factory workers and merchants. Additionally, many of the game’s goods, such as sugar, tobacco, and coffee, mirror what was in demand at the time.

Despite being set in the near future, the Arma series has always managed to stay grounded in reality, with Arma 3 often touted as the most realistic military sandbox on PC. Although the game’s story is obviously a work of fiction, the visuals and gameplay do a great job simulating real-life.

Inspired by real-world locations in Greece, Arma 3 takes place on the islands of Altis and Stratis. Both islands feature photo-realistic terrain and water and are scaled to realistic proportions, with Altis covering roughly 100 square miles.

This ends up playing a significant role in minute-to-minute gameplay since your character is vulnerable to fatigue after running for a considerable time. The game also factors in wind conditions and simulated ballistics to determine where a shot will land upon being fired.

Microsoft Flight Simulator has existed for nearly four decades and continues to improve with each new installment. The latest iteration released in 2020 borrows textures and other data from Microsoft-owned Bing Maps to simulate Earth’s entirety, including terrain and bodies of water.

On the structural side of things, Flight Sim uses Microsoft’s Azure Cloud technology to generate 3D representations of mountains, forests, and airports. The end results are quite astonishing. The game can accurately recreate notable landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Mount Fuji, and even our own backyards.

Controls are where the immersion sort of falls apart, as the game employs a surface-level attempt at simulating real-life piloting. However, considering the massive scale and amount of detail in Flight Sim’s all-encompassing sandbox, we’re willing to overlook a few gameplay inconsistencies.

When it comes to realistic racing sims, you’ll find that most prioritize either graphics or driving mechanics. While Assetto Corsa Competizione falls more into the first category, it’s still no slouch in the simulation department.

The game uses sophisticated mathematical models to simulate realistic tire grip, suspension, and drivability based on how much damage a vehicle takes. This helps boost immersion and improve your skills behind the wheel of iconic GT racing vehicles from brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren.

Additionally, Competizione features a roster of real-world drivers, teams, and circuits with stunningly detailed environments. Lastly, photo-realistic weather conditions can impact your performance as roads can become slippery from rain, and visibility is reduced during snowstorms.

What Competizione has to offer in terms of breathtaking vistas and flashy supercars, the F1 games have doubled down on simulated racing physics. The series continues to get better with each year’s game, and F1 2020 is the most realistic take on Formula One racing to date.

It includes several improvements and innovations based on feedback from both players and real-life drivers. Some changes include an increase in the number of mistakes made by the AI, more realistic traction while braking, and an overhauled Energy Recovery System that ups the stakes during races.

All of these features come together to deliver one of the most authentic simulated racing experiences currently on the market. That’s before even mentioning the game’s stunning recreation of real-world tracks like Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands or Vietnam’s Hanoi Street Circuit.

Like countless other survival games, Rust mimics real-life by forcing you to monitor things like hunger and thirst in addition to numerous other physical conditions ranging from hypothermia to radiation poisoning. There are also wild animals to watch out for, hostile NPCs, and the worst of them all, other players.

Pretty much every activity in Rust is modeled after real life, with trees requiring you to hit them from certain angles before they fall over, firearm combat that imposes projectile drop-off, and vehicles that must be manually fueled before they can be operated.

With all that said, the most realistic and frankly stark aspect of Rust has to be the unscripted interactions you have with other human players. Stripped of any governing body or set of laws, players are free to encroach upon each other’s lands, rob material goods, or simply kill one another for sport.

Rockstar pulled out all the stops to ensure Red Dead Redemption 2 was not only a satisfying prequel to the original but also stayed true to historical accuracy. While the characters and story beats may all be a work of fiction, many are based on real-world people and events.

For example, the Van der Linde gang was based on real-life outlaws like Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, the Saint Denis mafia mirrors the Sicilian mob family that controlled New Orleans during the late 1800s, and racism, violence, and disease can be seen running rampant all throughout the game.

From a gameplay perspective, things are just as convincing. Fast traveling is extremely limited, requiring you to travel by horse for the majority of the game. Additionally, the methodical manner in which Arthur approaches most tasks is meant to reflect the slower pace of life most people followed at the time.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the exact kind of action RPG that PC gamers have been requesting for decades. It’s a game that makes no compromises or concessions in order to cater to casual audiences or anyone unwilling to brave the harsh realities of life during the medieval period.

In it, you play as the son of a blacksmith who decides to join a group of rebels to protect others after his parents and village are slaughtered by raiders. You’re not some magical or even charismatic hero but instead, a bumbling oaf forced to navigate the same obstacles as everyone else.

This includes finding food, water, and a place to lay your head each night, in addition to bathing yourself and carrying weapons for protection. NPCs will also react to your presence in various ways depending on your appearance, which adds to the immersion and sense of realism.

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Justin Fernandez
Justin Fernandez

As a fan of both indie and triple-A games, Justin finds joy in discovering and sharing hidden gems with other passionate gamers. In addition to reporting on the latest and greatest titles, he manages GamingScan’s social media channels.

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