Building an extreme gaming PC is about designing a rig that crushes any and every game you throw at it. If you're unsure when it comes to pairing parts, this list will give you the framework for a monster machine. This beast will run Elden Ring at 4K on max settings, without flinching, and will likely keep even the games of tomorrow running smoothly. Putting together a gaming PC with the best CPU for gaming (opens in new tab) and the best graphics card (opens in new tab) is the best way to future proof your gaming setup.
All that will cost you, however. With this exact build you're looking at around $4,000. If that number made your wallet shrivel up, the more fiscally responsible PC gamers among you can check out our high-end PC build guide (opens in new tab). Otherwise, a smaller SSD or a RAM downgrade can shave off a few hundred dollars from the overall cost.
The final price doesn't include accessories or peripherals either, so don't forget to pick up the best gaming mouse (opens in new tab), and best gaming keyboard (opens in new tab) combo. And if you're going all-in on 4K gaming, you should pick yourself up a quality gaming monitor (opens in new tab) that'll make the most out of your GPU. Don't bottleneck your high-powered components with a super out-of-date gaming panel, people.
Over the years, myself and my colleagues have tested more components than your could shake a stick at, and here's where we've collated all the most powerful PC components that work together. It's a true monster of a gaming PC with little to no care about cost. It really is the PC of our dreams.
Extreme gaming PC build
Why you can trust PC Gamer Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The Core i9 12900K represents the very best in Intel's desktop 12th Generation processors, and the fastest chip out there today. That said, AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D (opens in new tab) does give it a run for its money in gaming performance, but we're looking at a more holistic chip in the 12th Gen unit. Its hybrid Core architecture, characterised by Intel's addition of Performance Cores (P-Cores) and Efficient Cores (E-Cores), gives it an edge—the P-Cores especially when it comes to gaming.
It's second on our best CPUs for gaming (opens in new tab) list only because it's a little ridiculous, and can get pretty pricey as a result, so it's the perfect recommendation for an intense build like this. You'll need a decent motherboard, some serious cooling, and a powerful PSU to get the most from it, but that's what this build is all about.
Read our full Intel Core i9 12900K review (opens in new tab).
With DDR5 support, and space for up to four NVMe SSDs, the totally specced out Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro is perfect for an extreme build. It leaves hardly a thing to be desired, with 13 rear USB ports and strong VRM for delivering clean and consistent power to your components.
And by limiting it to Wi-Fi 6, and 2.5G Intel wired networking connections, and eschewing such unnecessary luxuries as Thunderbolt 4 or another M.2 slot, Gigabyte has managed to keep the price at least relatively sensible.
If you want more options, then check out our list of the best gaming motherboards (opens in new tab).
Read our full Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro review (opens in new tab).
This rig has a beastly CPU, and yes, it loves some overclocking. Liquid cooling is highly recommended when you're trying to get the most out of Intel's unlocked enthusiast chips, and the 12th Gen Core i9 processors require it.
The NZXT Kraken X62 is an impressive piece of kit and works with all major platforms. It's reasonably easy to install and features a large 280mm radiator with a pair of 140mm fans. Once everything is installed, having a small water block on your CPU instead of a massive air cooler makes things look much cleaner. You'll need a large case capable of housing the radiator, naturally, but we'll get to that shortly.
But even with the X62, you may run into thermal limitations. If you're serious about pushing the i9 12900K to its limits, you'll want to consider going with a fully custom liquid cooling loop. That's beyond this buying guide's scope, but know that even a good AIO cooler likely won't allow maximum overclock with the i9 12900K.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti essentially offers the same gaming performance as the RTX 3090 but costs $300 less. Even here, with our extreme build, we can't help but keep a vague eye on value for money, and with the release of the 3080 Ti, Nvidia has basically retired the RTX 3090 when it comes to gaming. The RTX 3080 Ti is still a $1,200 graphics card, and that's if you net the Founder's Edition and not a pricier third-party job. While it's one of the best graphics cards (opens in new tab) around, it's hardly a budget option.
The only reason you might want to track down an RTX 3090 (opens in new tab) still is if you want to pair up your graphics cards. At least for Nvidia Ampere, the RTX 3090 and its even more pricier sibling, the RTX 3090 Ti (opens in new tab), are your only options for dual-GPU action. Even with that installed, you'll still have to worry about whether the games you play will use both GPUs. Hint: most don't, and support is only dwindling further as time marches on.
Speaking of the RTX 3090 Ti (opens in new tab), that costs even more and makes even less sense for normal gaming—although if you dabble with more professional workloads, you may be able to make a case for it.
Comparisons to the RTX 3090 cards aside, the key consideration for the RTX 3080 Ti is that it is a supremely capable card for 4K gaming. Even ray tracing is on the table, especially if you're happy to turn on the modern magic that is DLSS 2.0—framerates are smooth, and the final image quality stands up to scrutiny without issue.
Read our full Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti review (opens in new tab).
You could put more memory into this build (up to 64GB), but two sticks of 16GB DDR5-6400 RAM is more than sufficient for gaming. There are many memory options, and speed is more about bragging rights than actual performance, but we love the look of G.Skill's Trident Z5 RGB sticks.
Sure DDR5 is blisteringly fast compared to yesterday's standard, but most importantly, the designs haven't shied away from including pretty lighting.
Besides G.Skill, we recommend Corsair, Kingston, HyperX, Crucial, Adata, and Team as safe picks. RAM has reached the point where most modules work well, so it's often a question of price—and color, if that's your thing—rather than minuscule performance differences.
Need other options? Here's the best RAM for gaming (opens in new tab).
Read our full G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB review (opens in new tab).
We've been pretty scathing about QLC SSDs in the past, even recently with Samsung's 870 QVO (opens in new tab), but it seems that if you match the cheapest, slowest form of SSD memory with a high capacity and an M.2 interface, some magic happens. The Sabrent Rocket Q 4TB (opens in new tab) drive packs a huge amount of storage into an SSD the size of a stick of gum and still maintains performance on par with MLC drives.
The Sabrent is not quite as bandwidth-friendly as some other PCIe 4.0 drives, but without platform-wide PCIe 4.0 support on our chosen combination of CPU and motherboard, that speed would only go to waste.
The Sabrent's speed and capacity mean you can have a fast, capacious SSD boot drive without having to pick a slower option for data storage. If you're capturing a lot of footage or want to have all your games installed at any one point, the Sabrent Rocket Q is a genuinely impressive drive.
And if you want to go all out, there's the similarly spectacular Sabrent Rocket Q 8TB (opens in new tab) drive too. Though that is around $1,400 for the privilege...
These are the best SSD for gaming (opens in new tab) options right now.
Read our full Sabrent Rocket Q 4TB review (opens in new tab).
A wise man once told us never to underestimate the power of the dark supply. Or something like that. The point is, you don't want a crappy PSU taking down the rest of your rig, and when you're putting together the best PC possible, that means getting an equally bodacious power supply.
The EVGA SuperNova 1000 G5 is a great option to build an extreme rig around when it comes to power supplies. If the name hasn't given it away already, this sucker offers up 1000W of power for your extreme build to turn into super-smooth gaming experiences. And you'll need most of that, as the i9 12900K and Z690 motherboard can draw a hell of a lot of power under load, and the RTX 3080 Ti is no wallflower either—and power draw only goes up if you run the CPU and GPU overclocked, which is the point of an extreme build.
If you only plan to run a more modest GPU, or a lower-tier CPU (like the i7 12700K), EVGA's SuperNOVA 850 T2 (opens in new tab) is a great alternative that will save some money. If you want to save even more, the SuperNOVA 850 P2 (opens in new tab) costs about $50 (£50) less and is every bit as good. But saving money isn't the objective here.
Need more? Here are our best power supply units for PC (opens in new tab).
The Corsair Obsidian Series 1000D is a behemoth of a PC case ready to house the biggest and baddest systems. Standing tall at a staggering 27.3-inches, this "super-tower" boasts enough space to house 18 fans and up to four massive radiators installed simultaneously.
The 1000D features a unique triple-chamber design with convenient French-door-styled storage compartments and telescoping radiator trays for easy installation in addition to the stellar cooling support. Of course, there is also an RGB lit front panel I/O with built-in smart lighting and fan control courtesy of Corsair's integrated Commander Pro controller.
The Obsidian 900D has long been a top choice for massive, over-the-top builds, and it only fits that the 1000D was designed to knock it off its throne.
Extreme Gaming PC - the full build
Extreme gaming PC build FAQ
Should I build my own extreme gaming PC?
One thing to consider: With the component supply chain still recovering, CPU and graphics card stocks continue to fluctuate a bit. It's more common to find them in stock and at MSRP, but you can't count on it quite yet. You still might want to consider picking up a pre-built system (opens in new tab) if you're after the best gear. Otherwise, if you're determined to build it yourself, and manage to spot some available stock of a like-for-like product, go for it.
Handling the high-end components of an extreme gaming PC can be daunting, especially if this is your first PC build. Have a look at our guide on how to build a gaming PC (opens in new tab) before you jump in to ease your worries.
Is it cheaper/better to build my own gaming PC?
Generally, manufacturers of pre-built gaming PCs will add an extra service charge on top of the cost of the components, but it's possible to find a good deal every now and then. Just make sure you double check, don't take their word that it's a good deal.
We recommend building your own, though, for that feeling of ultimate satisfaction when the fans whirr to life and the splash screen seems to whisper "Good job, mate. You didn't mess it up."
Of course, if you rush or botch the job, building your own PC could result in some expensive mishaps. Handle your components carefully, and it's sure to be a much more rewarding, intimate experience than just buying one someone else has put together. And you'll probably save some dollar, too.