Ray tracing is one of the most exciting new capabilities of the Xbox Series X. Brought to market by Nvidia’s RTX range of graphics cards, ray tracing adds a new level of depth and realism to games. Instead of using predetermined lighting points or shadow maps, ray tracing follows each simulated photon of light, rendering reflections, shadows, and lighting overall in a more true-to-life way.
The problem is that ray tracing is extremely demanding, so not every game supports it. Worse, some games that originally advertised ray tracing don’t support it now. We did the digging so you don’t have to, compiling a list of every Xbox Series X game that supports ray tracing. Because of the mix-ups in marketing, our list is focused on released games only. It should grow significantly as the console generation matures.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War features ray-traced shadows on Xbox Series X. Although reflections are easier to spot, ray traced shadows do a lot to bring a scene to life over traditional rasterized shadows. Black Ops Cold War continues the story of the original Black Ops game. You play as a highly specialized operative sent on a black operation to neutralize a Soviet spy at the behest of Ronald Reagan.
Call of the Sea
One of the most overlooked games of 2020, Call of the Sea is a delightful, surprising adventure/puzzle about exploring an island. We’ll leave the narrative description at that (Call of the Sea really has an excellent story, and we’d hate to spoil it). The Xbox console exclusive supports ray tracing on Series X consoles, making the gorgeous, pseudo-realistic island look even prettier.
Control Ultimate Edition
Control Ultimate Edition, which includes the next-gen version of Control along with all of the DLC, supports ray traced shadows and reflections on Xbox Series X. The game has two graphical modes, one without ray tracing that runs at 60 fps (frames per second), and another with ray tracing that runs at 30 fps. Control comes from Remedy Entertainment (Alan Wake, Quantum Break), and like the studio’s previous games, it’s a high-octane action game with an engaging, if unsettling, narrative.
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
Originally, Capcom announced that Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition would not feature ray tracing at launch on Xbox Series X, but the game launched with the same suite of graphical options across Series X and PlayStation 5. It actually features four graphics modes, two of which enable ray-traced reflections. Quality mode renders the game at 4K and runs between 30 fps and 60 fps, while performance mode renders the game at 1080p and stays locked at 60 fps.
Enlisted is part of Xbox’s Game Preview program, meaning it’s still in active development. It’s a squad-based FPS/MMO set during World War 2, allowing you to play in the battles that defined the war. Enlisted is a game all about scale, and ray tracing helps with that a lot. Developer Darkflow Software actually uses a proprietary system for ray-traced global illumination, allowing the studio to achieve accurate lighting and shadows in even the largest scenes.
Fortnite has ray tracing on PC, but information about the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions is sparse. The visual upgrade between current- and last-gen is clear, though. On Series X, Fortnite’s lighting is softer and more accurate, with the iconic ray tracing shine that comes from any object emitting light. Fortnite isn’t the best showcase of ray tracing, but if you play a lot, the graphical enhancements are enough to justify the jump to the Series X.
Gears 5 doesn’t actually use the ray-tracing hardware inside the Xbox Series X, instead using software ray tracing in screen-space. That doesn’t mean ray tracing looks bad in Gears 5, though. Compared to the previous version of the game, the software ray tracing renders shadows much more accurately. Gears 5 has been a technical marvel since launch, and with the power of Series X, it looks better than ever.
Maneater features ray-traced reflections and refractions on Xbox Series X, which makes a huge difference for a game that takes place primarily underwater. It’s an open-world sandbox where you play as a shark terrorizing shallow waters. As you gnash through aquatic and land-bound foes, you’ll earn perks and experience, allowing you to grow and take on larger threats.
The Medium is a pretty, if under-optimized, Xbox Series X exclusive that features ray-traced reflections. The feature is available on Xbox Series X and PC, and the Series X version is capped at 30 fps. The Medium is a physiological horror game that follows a medium named Marianne as she ventures deep into an abandoned communist resort. The game is rather unique as far as adventure/puzzle titles go, featuring a dual reality mechanic where two worlds are rendered on screen at the same time.
Sports games are rarely a reason to upgrade to next-gen, but NBA 2K21 makes a compelling argument. The difference is night and day, bringing the character models, courts, and animations to life in a way that no sports game has done before. As a game, NBA 2K21 continues to build on 2K’s sports franchise, featuring the MyCareer and MyTeam modes, as well as franchise mode. NBA 2K21 doesn’t change much when it comes to gameplay, but the graphical improvements are worth the price of admission alone.
You know ray tracing is hitting the mainstream when a poker game decides it’s an important graphical feature. Poker Club is one of the most unlikely games to support ray tracing, but it does. While you’re bluffing your way to an early demise, at least you’ll be able to spot a few accurate reflections bouncing off your chips.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Watch Dogs: Legion was one of the few Series X games available at launch, and although the game itself is a bit prosaic, it still looks great. It’s a great showcase of early-gen ray-tracing effects and a benchmark that will likely be compared to future releases. Legion continues the story of Watch Dogs 2, following DedSec as they recruit, hack, and fight to build a resistance against the oppressive private military group Albion.