A weird thing has happened in PC gaming. After years of getting spoiled by dirt-cheap hard drives and virtually unlimited storage, disk space is suddenly at a premium again. It's not because hard drives have gotten more expensive (although they have, thanks to last year's floods in Thailand), it's because we've gotten spoiled by something different: SSDs. Solid state drives are crazy-fast, and we recommend one for any new PC gaming rig, but they're just not very big. Meanwhile, PC games are getting bigger and bigger, to the point that nowadays you're lucky if you can keep your operating system and 4 games on an affordable SSD. We've put together a list of the worst offenders - the 10 games that suck up more hard drive space than any other.
10. Star Wars: The Old Republic - 19.8GB
Based on the way it looks, you might think The Old Republic wouldn't take up as much space as other modern MMOs. It's a fine-looking game, but it just doesn't scream "HD textures!" like some of the other games on this list. Instead, The Old Republic gorges on audio files, with more than 200,000 lines of recorded dialogue. Even compressed, that much sound data takes up some major room.
9. Total War: Shogun 2 - 20.2GB
The Total War series has never been easy on the ol' hard drive: Napoleon clocked in at just over 20GB as well, and Empire was more than 16GB. It's not hard to figure out where all that space is going, either - 10,000 tiny samurai aren't going to texture themselves. If you install any of the mods available (and you should) expect the disk space used to go up even further.
8. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier - 25GB
As a PC gamer, you get used to some inconveniences. You have to keep your PC upgraded, occasionally reformat Windows, and deal with huge game installs, while your console brethren get to jump straight into the game. So it's nice to see the pain spread around, like with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's mandatory 6.3GB install on the PS3. No, it's not as big as the whopping 25GB PC installation, but PS3 owners can't swap in an extra 3TB hard drive whenever they feel like it.
7. Rage - 25GB
Id Software's John Carmack has always been a driving force behind game engine technology, and the company's infrequent releases are a proving ground for all the most advanced techniques. One of the new engine features on display in last year's Rage is "virtual texturing," a technique which allows the game to load up just a part of a texture file into RAM while it's being used, instead of loading the entire texture at once. Because the smaller size of the RAM is no longer a limitation, larger texture files can be used — up to 128,000 x 128,000 pixels. The result? Great, varied graphics, and an enormous install size.
6. TERA - 25GB
There are quite a few MMOs on this list, but as far as we can tell the award for biggest Korean MMO goes to Tera, which takes up 25GB of disk space, and requires that you have another 25GB available during installation. Between Tera's absurdly-detailed character textures and the even-more-detailed "Big-Ass Monster" models, we'd say the 25 gigs is space well spent.
5. Age of Conan - 26GB (at launch, 31GB after expansions)
Age of Conan was supposed to be the MMO that knocked WoW down a peg, with more realistic graphics, bigger zones, and more mature gameplay. We probably don't need to tell you that the game did not, in fact, spell the end of Blizzard's glorious cash cow, but Funcom did succeed in several of their goals, including high-fidelity graphics and expansive vistas. Those HD textures, combined with some voice-acted quest lines have kept the four-year-old MMO near the top of the size charts.
4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition - 30GB
There are good reasons for the PC version of a game to be bigger than the console versions — bigger textures for higher-resolution displays, for instance, or larger game maps. There are also bad reasons, like, say, "We couldn't be bothered to do rudimentary compressions while porting the game from the PS3's huge Blu-ray media to the PC." If you can't tell where we're going with this, we'll be a little more direct. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a game that has absolutely no business being 30GB, and a sloppy port is to blame.
3. The Secret World - 30.8GB
It's oddly appropriate that the first MMO to surpass Age of Conan's at launch install size is The Secret World — the next game from Conan developer Funcom. Once again the culprit seems to the Norwegian developer's insistence on high-res textures and voice acting.
2. Max Payne 3 - 35GB
When you're dealing with a Rockstar game, it's no surprise that you get a big install size. After all, the developer is famous for sprawling, open-ended game worlds with tons of sights to see and scenery to explore. Except, wait. Max Payne 3 doesn't have any of that. It's a tightly-scripted, linear action game — so what gives? According to Kevin Hoare, lead developer on the PC version, the real reason for the giant install size is scalability. Game textures are four-times as big as in the console version, and the audio is less compressed, all to take advantage of the large variety of hardware available on the PC platform.
1. X-Plane 9 - 70GB
The winner (loser?) of our biggest-games roundup is X-Plane, but calling it a "game" might get you in trouble. "Simulator" is the preferred term among the passionate flight sim community, and simulate is exactly what X-Plane does. In fact, if you choose the full install you get the whole Earth to use as your playground — every hill, valley and creek. That terrain data has its price though: prepare to say goodbye to 70GB or more of your hard drive.