Monitor Magic: What Games Look Like At 21:9

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I keep banging on about it to all who will listen, but like a mid-life-crisiseer and their ridiculous sports car, I am increasingly in love with my new ultrawide monitor. I had to use a standard 1080p one recently – oh the humanity! – and felt as though I was trapped inside a tiny box. 21:9 is the only way to play. At least until 32:9 arrives and I decide that of course I cannot live without that. CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME. Genuinely though, ultrawide is lovely: it really brings games to life.

The games that support it, at any rate. Many don’t, many say they do but display with black bars down the side of the screen, and many require obtuse hacks. I hex-edited Headlander’s main executable earlier today, for instance. I don’t begrudge devs not supporting a res that only a tiny minority of players require, but I will say this: your game at 3440×1440 is your game at its best. It’s worth doing. Let me demonstrate a few examples.

I’m sorry if it seems like I’m showing off. That’s really not the plan. It’s just that I’ve really, really been enjoying games at this aspect ratio, and wanted to give some evidence as to why I don’t believe that ultrawide is pointless e-peenery. It’s funny, so many of put so much time, energy and cash into our PC’s performance, the monitor – the part of it that we interact with the most, that is the ultimate reflection of what everything else is doing – often gets short thrift. A good monitor is bloody expensive, yes, but maybe it’s a better investment than most any other part of a gaming PC. I’m expecting to get at least half a decade of merriment out of this one.

Anyway! Look-see. You can use the arrow keys above or below the image to navigate, or the arrow keys on your very own keyboard. Click to embiggen also.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    And the crown jewel, Kentucky Route Zero. A game which truly could and even should be played on a cinema screen. It feels as though it’s made for 21:9. Blissful to behold.

    It’s surprising that it scales so well: The readme specifically mentions that their target resolution was 1920*1080!

    • ephesus64 says:

      Argh, games in general would be great, but now I want a 21:9 just for KRZ.

      Does it get squinty with Divinity Original Sin, if anyone has played that on a 21:9? Guild Wars 2? Seems like menu-heavy games would be a strength unless you’re leaning in all the time just to read things. That’s to say nothing of sims like Project Cars, that must be great.

      • hp7015ca says:

        Currently playing D:OS on a 29″ at 2560×1080 and it’s a beautiful thing.

      • BattleMage says:

        Can confirm that both, D:OS and GW2 are great with 21:9 aspect ratio.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Kemuel says:

    A good monitor is bloody expensive, yes, but maybe it’s a better investment than most any other part of a gaming PC.

    I’m torn at the moment between shelling out for a better quality monitor or for an update to my rapidly-ageing 670GTX card. I’ve been putting both off for a while, and all this talk of monitors is giving me further pause for thought.

    • Premium User Badge

      liquidsoap89 says:

      Getting a higher resolution monitor will basically require a better video card to properly support it. If you were just getting a bigger/better looking screen then maybe it would be okay; but if you’re looking at 1440p/4K, or higher refresh rates then a video card is probably the first thing you should check off the list.

      That is of course unless you just like to play 10 year old games. In that case go hog wild!

    • gunny1993 says:

      As someone with 1440p monitor and a gtx 670 I would say the extra resolution is great, but if you want decent fps in any game more demanding than Gta V you’re gonna want a new gpu

  3. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I’m in the market for a monitor at the moment (as discussed in the forum thread I created in the tech help section.) Certainly not in the market for 1440 ultra wide screen monitor, but the 29″ 1080 ultra wide screen from LG is kind of tempting and more in budget than the 27″ 1440p ips screens I am mostly looking at. Have a feeling that the vertical size of the 29″ is probably too small to be particularly practical though.

    These screens do look beautiful though…

    • onionman says:

      If you’re in the USA, literally a few days ago I got a refurbished XB270HU (the Acer 27″ IPS with G-Sync) for $430, just over half price; no dead pixels, everything working great. Still not “cheap,” but not a whole lot more than the LG.

      Check around eBay (I got mine through Acer’s official channel there) if you’re interested.

      • Premium User Badge

        Vandelay says:

        In the UK. Ended up with an Acer 27″ 1440p ips. Don’t recall the model number of the top of my head, but it doesn’t have gsync, so think it is a different one to that. Cost just under £300 and was the cheapest I could find with those specs.

        Absolutely gorgeous picture, but the build quality feels a bit cheap. Also, games now run shit (at least Overwatch does,) so I’ll be needing a new graphics card.

    • SingularityParadigm says:

      The vertical height of a 29″ 21:9 monitor is the same as the vertical height of a 24″ 16:9 widescreen monitor. The same goes for the 34″ 21:9, it is the same height as a 27″ 16:9.

  4. Kefren says:

    I wish monitors had got squarer, rather than wider. It feels more like a letterbox than a window. Top-down games that scroll in each direction just don’t work well on widescreen monitors (why would you have only half the visibility when you look north or south?), ditto vertical scrollers. I can look up and down as easily as I can look left and right, whatever biologists tell me.

    • SlimShanks says:

      If you can look up and down as easily as left and right, you must have some CRAZY eyeballs. Or mercury poisoning.

  5. zerosociety says:

    I recently joined team 21:9 and I dis not expect it to make such a big difference but I do not ever want to go back. I had been encouraged to try one out by an occupational therapist to help with work-related issues (1 monitor vs 3 scattered ones) but was wowed by how much better it makes games look. I think it may be something about engaging the peripheral vision more, but I find games to be far more engrossing now.

    FYI: Went with the Dell Curved 34″ U3415W. It has a lot of useful features, like a built-in KVM switch, but for gaming, one thing of note is that it easily overclocks to 80hz, right out of the box. That’s not quite in line with the super high-end high refresh monitors, but it can also be found for significantly less than the 144hz Gsync/Freesync beasts.

    Also: The Flawless Widescreen program can avoid manual hex editing for ultrawide fixes for many games. (Tho not Headlander, currently.)

  6. stele says:

    I’ve got three 24″ monitors right now, 1920×1200. Thinking of replacing them with a single 34″ wide monitor. I do like splitting my screens up into browser, dev environment, and email though. Do these super wide displays have features to support stuff like that?

    • Ragnar says:

      Why would you want to replace your current 48:9 setup with a lowly 21:9 one? Do you not game on them in glorious triple-wide?

      • stele says:

        No, I don’t. I may be downsizing my desk and thought that maybe my current setup is a bit overkill (I mostly do dev on this system, and some gaming) and a single superwide may be a better fit for a smaller desk.

      • hp7015ca says:

        I have 3 24″ 1080p monitors at work, and I yearn every day to go home to my 29″ 2560×1080. Having 1 ultrawide monitor with no bezel(s) in the middle just makes it that much better.

  7. Lorax-V says:

    Got me a 34″ AOC ultrawide monitor at home and a EZIO 4k monitor for work (deal with raster imagery a lot). Although they are for different purposes, I can tell you right now hands down I prefer the ultrawide for gaming and any other entertainment purpose. Its a natural fit for my eyes and is much much more immersive. The 4k monitor is much more at home in a work environment due to extra screen space that I don’t really miss in games at all.

    With that said, I’ve tried 2560×1080 and I don’t feel the same. Although the ratio’s are the same, there just doesn’t feel like there is enough space horizontally to justify to loss of vertical pixels.

    Its easily the best computer-related purchase I’ve made in the last couple of years and always rave about it to anyone who has a chance to use it.

  8. Halk says:

    “your game at 3440×1440 is your game at its best”

    What about 10320×1440? 21:9 isn’t really much wider than 16:9.

  9. foobar88 says:

    I get that 21:9 is a great experience, but it seems impossible to justify. Why spend twice as much on a nice ultrawide versus a larger 4k screen that can simulate 21:9 with horizontal letterboxes?

    • Lorax-V says:

      You can justify it by having the disposable income to spend on it. If you can only get one, I would get the 4k then as it has more applications.

    • mavrik says:

      Hmm, where do you get a 30+” 4K display for the same price of a 34″ 21:9 display?

      • Lorax-V says:

        Who said you need 34″? Get a smaller one then.

        • Grant says:

          Size is the most impactful feature of a monitor. Right now if you want a large PC monitor without running into the problems of using a television (high input lag, Often Max 60 hz) then ultrawide is the only way to get bigger than 30 inches. Thats a pretty solid market niche to fill and it requires less graphical horsepower to run games in ultrawide than in 4K.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      Hell, you can letterbox on a 1440p screen too. If the aspect ratio of 21:9 is so glorious, it should work on most any display. The only reason people don’t is that more pixels is always more important than aspect ratio.

      Personally I miss 16:10. It’s a bit more content flexible, especially if you have two displays already. If you had to have only one display, I could see a 21:9 being practical.

  10. Stevostin says:

    Would have liked to see some GTA V and Elite vistas here.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Flavour Beans says:

    I’ve been using an ultrawide for over a year now, and while there are occasional moments that I regret it (generally out of jealousy of higher-refresh-rate monitors), I’m almost always pleased to have it, and the odd form factor makes it a lot more eye-catching than a typical monitor if I have visitors over.

    Funny enough, the issue with game compatibility doesn’t come up often for me, and it’s been increasingly rare as more developers realize that 21:9 isn’t just a niche thing from the professional world that gamers have forced into their own turf, and enough people have the monitors now that within a day or so of a game that has trouble coming out, there’s someone in a forum who can point you to the right INI setting to edit.

    The most common issues that crop up are UI-related, with things hanging over the edge of the screen (while CSGO’s HUD can be adjusted freely, trying to mute or report the bottom two or three players through the scoreboard results in the options showing below the screen) or mouse-over locations not lining up with their visual representation (XCOM 2’s base had this problem until someone found the right INI fix to get it to draw the mouse-over areas right).

    The advantage it affords you in many games, though, is fantastic. Again, using CSGO as an example, having that extra couple inches of real estate on each side of your screen can often mean covering an extra sight-line or catching someone as they’re about to flank you. Oddly enough (though you’re generally fog-of-war limited), Blizzard refused to support 21:9 on HotS for a long time, claiming that it was an unfair competitive advantage (though they’ve since added it, and it really seemed like they were just looking for an excuse not to).

    From an aesthetic standpoint, though, 21:9 is often downright gorgeous, giving a cinematic quality to a lot of first/third-person games. If you’re a strategy gamer, then games have a real command-center vibe to them; the first time you zoom out in Europa Universalis and are able to look at the entire world at once (even wrapping a bit if you zoomed out further) is almost worth grabbing a 21:9 if the thought of that excites you at all.

    Yes, some games don’t want to play nice with the format, but then you just play on a slightly-smaller 16:9 format with a couple black bars. It sucks, sure, but it’s a rarity, and most of the games I’ve ran into that don’t like it are smaller titles that wouldn’t take advantage of a large screen, and you might’ve ended up playing windowed anyways.

    • Baines says:

      It is an unfair competitive advantage. But the PC master race has abused unfair viewing advantages for so long (adjustable FOV being the prime example) that they not only consider it a standard feature, but get upset if it isn’t allowed.

      • Premium User Badge

        Flavour Beans says:

        But when you have a pretty strictly enforced sight range for your character, it mitigates a lot of the edge it might give you. I could see enforcing a set of rules for proper competition play, but for the average user, it wouldn’t really make a huge enough difference versus the alternative of forcing people to play with stretched displays or black bars.

        Besides, the mere nature of having graphics settings alone leads to advantage and disadvantage. Other types of monitors provide advantages (higher refresh rates and response times), and graphics alone let you get into playing at low-res to work with larger pixels, or tweaking lighting, shadow, and smoke effects, in order to get advantages on spotting targets, and so on.

        From how many games I’ve seen that run 21:9 perfectly except for the UI having quirks, I think competitive advantage just provides an easy excuse for not having to code for a different aspect ratio sometimes, or at least gives them reason to make a big deal of it when they otherwise might not care.

    • Middy says:

      I would have written more or less the same comment, only the pros would not have outweighed the cons. Compatibility issues versus some games looking nice? Games look nice regardless.

  12. Ragnar says:

    Oh, you poor soul, confined to a meager 21:9. ;)

    48:9 is already here, and has been here for some time. Eyefinity, Surround, multi-monitor, triple-wide – however you want to call it, it’s amazing. Moving from a single screen, it’s like taking the blinders off.

    It’s also relatively affordable, depending on what features you want and how much you want to spend on each panel. Already have a monitor you love? You’re already 1/3 of the way there.

    • OmNomNom says:

      But bezels. Eww.

      • Premium User Badge

        AutonomyLost says:

        Exactly. Those bezels, when set side-by-side one another are intolerable in/to my eyes.

        Single 21:9 is all ya need.

  13. headless97 says:

    This is why all PC games should be able to accept any arbitrary resolution. If they were designed that way, they wouldn’t have any issues coping with the future of 21:9, 32:9, 4K, 8K, whatever.

  14. Monggerel says:

    Little known tidbit: the human eye cannot perceive anything above 1024×768 resolution. It just goes translucent above that.

  15. OmNomNom says:

    21:9 is absolutely amazing for gaming, or at least it would be if all of the current monitors at that ratio weren’t so turd.
    Still, i will be re-adopting (returns) once the tech is up to scratch.

    • Premium User Badge

      AutonomyLost says:

      Have you personally gamed on an Acer X34 by chance? The color depth and reproduction is astounding, and paired with G-sync… Well, frankly, I can’t understand how you can look down on such a monitor. I love mine.

      • OmNomNom says:

        I actually purchased that exact one after much reading and deciding it was the best of the bunch. Way too blurry for me I’m afraid :/

    • Premium User Badge

      Flavour Beans says:

      Dell’s 21:9s use their UltraSharp panels. It looks incredibly nice.

  16. Raoul Duke says:

    On your mobile site, I can’t see any images. I can see the controls to flip images, but they’re underneath an obnoxious and unclosable ad.

  17. Premium User Badge

    AutonomyLost says:

    I’ll never buy another 16:9 monitor. My Acer X34 is a BEAUTY and makes playing games more enjoyable than I ever remember.

  18. pillot says:

    I actually hate ultrawide, I’ll take 16:9 and uber high refresh rate any day

  19. Cederic says:

    I don’t understand it.

    I game on a 27″ 16:9 2560×1440 monitor, and I can’t see it all at once. With my varifocal glasses on there’s a sizeable shift in head position just to look from one side of the screen to another.

    Why do people want to accentuate this issue? Or are they sat so far away that it isn’t an issue – in which case, why are they gaming on a narrow band in the distance, and wouldn’t a bigger monitor be the better answer?

    Confused :(

  20. nocturne113 says:

    Is there any way to disable this site showing up in my Steam games updates? It’s usually biased shitpost but this one in particular has nothing to do with Doom in the slightest.

  21. Leroy976 says:

    What’s the different for a 21:9 monitor of similiar size of an 27″ 16:9? It’s about 5cm-8cm wider, that’s it! Try a triple monitor setup, that’s a difference! Experiencing a game with full natural vision radius has a bigger impact than 3D. As for the monitor borders, not much of an issue it’s like the columns of a car window or the frame of the glasses you wear. If you go back from a triple monitor setup, you feel like looking through a keyhole. Also, a triple setup works far better than a single wide monitor when not playing games because windows is designed for this. So you can easily attach and move application windows to another montior, while you would need addional software to defined multiple work areas on a single big monitor.