Returnal might be the first PC game to recommend this much RAM

Sony’s Returnal is coming to the PC, and while it does call for a pretty decent computer, only one requirement really raises eyebrows — the amount of RAM.

According to the system requirements on Steam, Returnal calls for 32GB of RAM in order to run on the recommended specs. Does that mean that a RAM upgrade is on the horizon for many PC gamers?

Screenshot from Sony's Returnal, showing a woman wearing a spacesuit.
Sony Entertainment

Returnal originated on the PlayStation 5 and is now making the jump to PC sometime in 2023. It’s a game with stunning visuals, as can be expected from a PlayStation 5 exclusive, but the majority of the system requirements are fairly reasonable.

The minimum specs, as shared by Steam, include an Intel Core i5-6400 CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, which was, up until recently, the most common GPU used by Steam gamers. The 16GB minimum RAM requirement feels hefty when you compare it to the rest of the build, but it’s common in AAA titles.

Even the specs that are recommended for optimal, smooth gameplay are understandable for a title released in 2023. A Core i7-8700 processor and an RTX 2070 Super are both hardly new hardware. And then, there’s the RAM requirement, calling for a whopping 32GB.

To put those numbers into perspective, we checked some of the most taxing games available on PC right now. Cyberpunk 2077 only recommends 12GB RAM. Microsoft Flight Simulator calls for 16GB, and the freshly released Marvel’s Midnight Suns recommends the same amount, but 8GB will suffice if you don’t mind playing on lower settings. The same is true for Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered.

Looking through more games, the same trend continues — none of them ask for more than 16GB RAM, and a lot of them are capable of running with just 8GB, although most gaming PCs these days benefit from having 16GB.

Even titles that originated on the PlayStation, such as Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves, settle for 16GB. Deathloop, a strictly PS5 game that’s unavailable on the PS4, has the same requirement.

Asking for 32GB RAM might be overkill

The choice to call for 32GB is even more bizarre when you consider that the PlayStation 5 console only runs 16GB RAM. This does make us wonder: What exactly is the PC version of Returnal going to do with all that memory?

RAM is a necessity for smooth gaming, but after a certain point, it doesn’t matter how much of it you have — at least not for the purpose of gaming alone. It may improve your loading times, but there is only so much the RAM can do before stacking it becomes redundant.

With that said, Returnal‘s PC version is certainly shaping up to be quite impressive as far as extra features go. A clip of the game’s PC menu emerged a while back and has since been taken down, but thanks to that little spoiler, we know that Returnal will support both Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s FSR. There’s also resolution scaling and dynamic resolution, unlocked frame rates (which is something we don’t get on the PS5), and top-notch ray tracing. More RAM can certainly help here, but 32GB sounds like overkill.

Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 RAM inside a computer.

Picking up some more RAM to upgrade your PC to 32GB is not a bad idea — modern enthusiast computers often come with that much, anyway. However, if yours doesn’t have 32GB memory right now, the upgrade could prove to be pricey.

Some users may have to swap out their existing RAM to install two 16GB sticks instead. If you’re running one of the best AMD or Intel CPUs, you may also be using DDR5 RAM, and that makes the upgrade even more costly. Assuming you spend around $130 to$180 on 32GB of DDR5 memory, it becomes quite an investment just to fulfill the requirements of one title.

Ultimately, you can play Returnal with 16GB RAM, but it’s hard to say what kind of performance you’ll get without 32GB. We’ll have to wait for the PC port and hope for the best.

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