Having a minuscule budget but still wanting to play games on PC is the story of my childhood. I remember adding Ram, more hard drive space, and whatever I could to enable my old computer to play the games I wanted it to.
So, I set out to do something I've never done before; build a budget gaming computer in the $200 range that plays today's latest free online titles (like Fortnite). I'll give you a budget range that goes up a bit more for those who'd prefer to have a wider upgrade path.
Sound impossible? It's not. One caveat, though. If you want longevity you may want to spend $300.
Below, I'll show you the parts you'll need to purchase in order to build your inexpensive gaming machine along with why I've chosen them.
Budget CPU Options for 2021
If you're working with a small budget, PC building experts will point you in the direction of the Ryzen 3 3100 or, if you need an iGPU, the Ryzen 3 3200G.
On the Intel side of the 4 core 8 thread Intel i3-10100, along with an inexpensive B460 motherboard is also a good choice at $120. Considering many of AMD's CPUs aren't available, this might be a good alternative for you.
And if you can afford it, going this route won't stunt your performance capabilities going forward. So, I absolutely recommend it. I've also put together a build for around $300 to $350 that includes this CPU. So, if you'd prefer to go that direction reading this article and referring to that one may help you decide.
Unfortunately for this build, we only have $200.
So, if you have to play now and don't need super high performance, where should you turn to?
There is, of course, the used market. But, I think you'll find this a very difficult route once you've assembled the parts.
The APU Alternative
Instead of these options, we're focusing on a few cheap APU options that give you processing power along with decent graphics. Overclocking isn't going to be much of an option here as the CPU cooler would be too expensive.
Please keep in mind that the i3-10100 and Ryzen 3 processors I've mentioned above will give you vastly more performance in the long-term.
Ultimately, the A6 9500 or A8-9600 can be talked about here but you're much better off today going with the AMD Athlon 3000G or the 200GE which is very similar in performance. Depending on what's available in your area, you may decide on one or the other.
Since most people on a budget of $200 aren't aiming to play AAA titles like Witcher 3, we'll be focusing on free-to-play or inexpensive games like Fortnite, Hearthstone, and other popular online e-sports games. Again, If you're wanting to play AAA titles, I highly recommend you fork over the extra cash for something like the Ryzen 3 3100.
A6-9500 vs A8-9600 vs Ryzen 3 2200G
|Athlon 3000G||A6-9500||A8-9600||Ryzen 3 2200G||Ryzen 3 3200G|
2 / 4
L2 / L3
Radeon Vega 3
AMD Radeon R5
AMD Radeon 7
Radeon Vega 8
Radeon Vega 8
Graphics Base Frequency
Rebates on Everything
Before I get into my parts list, it's important to realize that staying under $200 means you'll have to get rebates on everything you can. For me, that included the ram, motherboard, case, and power supply.
Typically, this is easiest accomplished around the holidays but can be done in other parts of the year with some patience. Without these rebates, your price may come in 25-45% more.
Pilfering Your Old Parts
In order to truly reach $200 on a new build, you may want to pilfer some parts from an old build. And if you've got an old case hanging around and power supply you'll be there with or without rebates.
Otherwise, you can expect to pay around $250 for what I'm recommending in 2021.
*$200 PC Build Parts List for 2021
AMD Athlon 3000G
MSI A320M-PRO MAX
*DIYPC Solo T2
*EVGA 400W ATX PSU
G. Skill Aegis 8GB
Regardless of what you choose it's nice that you can go with a socket AM4 motherboard for any of them. This should keep you up to date. Keep in mind that if you go with a B350 motherboard and the Ryzen 3 2200G, a BIOS update may be required if it's been sitting around a while at the warehouse.
A Cheap but not Too Cheap Power Supply
It would be easy to go out and find a $10 power supply that would run this computer. Still, considering how much it costs to run your computer each year, you're much better off in the long-run going with something that will not only last you a long time, but cost you less over time.
For that reason, I recommend you find a PSU that's 80 PLUS certified that's on a rebate. Often times, you can find something nearly as good for cheap if you're willing to look.
Typically you'll find what you're looking for in EVGA's 430 W1 or the Corsair CX 430. Try to find one on rebate for around $20 to $25. Typically, they're more like $35 to $45. I used a gold certified power supply from another build that I had lying around as I already had an extra.
That being said I've used the W1 model on a $450 i3 build that I built for my brother a few months back. For the money, it's one of the better options available. At the time of writing this Corsair has a deal on their VS 600 80+ PSU for $20 after a $25 rebate. So, again just look around a lot.
*Today this build costs more like $200. However, with the right rebates you may get close.
Interactive Reader Poll
A Cheap and Good Gaming Case
Xion Performance mATX Case Review
The case I used was Xion's mATX case. However, in the update I'm making to this article I found the Rosewill FBM-05 and 01 available for just $20. Look around to make sure you can't find a better deal than the Xion here as it certainly had some limitations.
I was a little hesitant in purchasing this case because of the price; however, in the end this no frills case did exactly what I wanted it to.
By no frills, I simply mean that this case excludes an optical drive in the front and has no easy-mounts for installing your storage. Still, it does include 1 120mm Blue LED fan in the front and screw holes for in the drive bay area for mounting your drives.
The outside of the case looks great with a brush aluminum finish and dust filter grill in front of the fan. The USB 3.0 port in the front I/O was not compatible with the USB headers of our motherboard; however, I used a cable to convert it to USB 2.0.
Overall for $20, I couldn't have expected any more than what I got.
Ram - Dual Channel is a Must
This article has been updated through the years. When I first used a Kaveri APU I used a 2x2GB kit of memory. For this build, we're actually using a 2x4GB kit of DDR4-2200. This is the main reason the budget tilts toward the $200 side rather than the original $150 price I made it for.
Right now I can find the Geil Potenza 2x4GB 2400MHz kit for $59.99 after rebate. Try to find something similar or better to this in price. Faster is, of course, better and will affect your framerates in games. However, you'll want to stick with whatever is most affordable if you plan on staying within our budget.
If you go with an older build, you may be able to go with DDR3 memory, which would probably save you a significant amount of money and get you to the $150 price point. Still, the upgrading path for that is even more limited.
$150 to $200 Gaming PC Build Parts List
A Good and Cheap Hard Drive:
At the time of writing this post I can purchase a 320GB Western Digital Caviar Blue Hard Drive for $15, and a 120GB solid-state drive from Kingston for $20. In my opinion, you'll want to go with a solid state drive here if you can.
Purchasing a solid state drive makes this build feel, overall, very snappy. In fact, it's definitely a viable option as an every day working PC.
A6 9500 PC Build
|Hardware||$200 (Only Changes Shown)|
A6 9500 (Consider Ryzen 3 2200G for $50 upgrade)
G.Skill 2x4GB NT Series (Try and stick to $60)
WD Caviar Blue 1 TB or 240GB Kingston V400 SSD
*Price After Rebates
My Previous A4 7300 APU $150 Build
Initially, I went with the A4 7300 for this build. It's often available for cheap. Right now, I've seen it as low as $35. Here are some benchmarks for that APU.
A4 7300 Bechmarks for Tomb Raider, BF4, Bioshock Infinite, and CS:GO
While it would have been nice to have benchmarks for Minecraft, League of Legends, and games like Diablo 3, these benchmarks should give you a really good indication of what the A4 7300 is capable of. Clearly if you go with the Kaveri A6-7400k for around $20 more, these numbers will be higher.
Still, at this price point you have to be careful about going with higher-end APUs. while the A6-7400k makes sense, many other $100 options don't simply because you can purchase a more effective dedicated CPU/GPU at that price point.
A4 7300 Review
Overall, I was impressed with the benchmarks I got with the A4 7300. These might not be impressive to PC gamers who have a $1,500 budget, but for 1/10th the price you really have a lot of games which you could play.
The CPU aspect of the A4 7300 was also a lot quicker than I expected. The dual core with up to 4GHz turbo was quick to respond and makes for a good budget option. Those who want to use this as a cheap browsing or video watching option will certainly not be disappointed.
Motherboard Options Under $30
There were few FM2 or FM2+ motherboard options in the $30 price range. For that reason, I was thrilled to see Gigabyte's FM2+ F2A68HM-H as an option. It has 2USB 3.0 ports in the rear I/o, 4 USB 2.0, and even an HDMI port.
FM2+ Backward Compatibility:
FM2+ motherboards are backward compatible with socket FM2 APUs and work with the current Kaveri generation of APUs as well. Sticking with the newer technology here, should provide you with some additional value down the line.
I got more performance than I thought I'd get out of our $150 (after update $200) build. It's amazing how far performance for the money you spend has come in the past few years. A few years ago $200 wasn't enough to expect any type of gaming, now you can accomplish quite a bit.
In addition to its performance, the build has a small form factor that would make it great as an HTPC or emulator gaming PC to put in your entertainment center.
AMD Carrizo and Other New Options
As time goes by AMD continues to release new APUs into the market. Typically the generational number changes for each year. So, some of the latest released options are now, for example, the A8-7680. If you really do go for an APU, pay attention to those numbers to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck.
I'm hoping in the next few years APUs may be good enough for even AAA titles. With AMD's Ryzen 3 2200G and Intel's focus on internal graphics, gaming may soon be cheaper than ever on the PC.
$150 Gaming PC Video Review
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Does this gaming PC have built-in WiFi?
Answer: If you want built-in WiFi, just be sure to purchase a motherboard with it.
Question: Will this computer play GTA V in 4k on ultra?
Question: How would one upgrade this pc in the near future?
Answer: This isn't really a PC I'd upgrade. You could get a higher-end APU, or install a dedicated GPU. However, this is more of a placeholder PC. If you're on the fence, you might want to go with something like an inexpensive Ryzen 3 2200G. I've been able to put them together for around $350. The upgrade path there is much more clear.
Question: Did you buy or make this gaming PC?
Answer: I made this one myself like I do all of my PCs. This one is a couple of years old now but really the only solution in this price point.
Question: Can I add more cores to the A6 CPU later?
Answer: No, not unless you switch out the APU.
Question: Are prices for gaming computers up because of Bitcoin?
Answer: It's not just Bitcoin; it's cryptocurrency mining in general that is the cause of current GPU and memory fluctuation in the market.
Question: Is this an i3?
Answer: It's an AMD APU. The i3 is Intel's processor.
© 2015 Brandon Hart
Discussion Area for Minimalist-Type Gaming PC Builds
Brian on June 26, 2020:
can you put down a list of the items you need to buy
Anonymous on April 20, 2020:
if i get this will it come with the things i need to build it or will i need to buy them
Yeeter on February 01, 2020:
Can run roblox?
walker on December 09, 2019:
is there an assembly vid? also can it run rust or destiny
anonymous on June 03, 2019:
all i have to say is, do NOT buy this PC. Its already old, aging hardware and it is much better to just save some more for a 2200g/2400g. An old AMD APU in a shitty budget case that cannot fit any but the smallest, loudest and hottest GPUs (which would be pointless to use with this CPU as the bottleneck would be MASSIVE) has no upgrade path whatsoever and is a waste of money.
Ayden on May 21, 2019:
Would this be able to run games like Skyrim, New Vegas, and TF2? (note: would it be able to run mods well?)
me on May 13, 2019:
does fortnite run well on it?
Bruva on April 01, 2019:
where is the graphics card? no graphics card no point owning the damn thing, good luck seeing things
simon on March 04, 2019:
can i play fortnite on this pc ? if i can respond please !
ur mom lol on December 16, 2018:
Hurts my eyes, buy used and buy intel if on a low budget.
Tom Triumph on November 16, 2018:
My son is creating with GameMaker Studio 2, but my build here is slow. The "game" is simply making a block move left or right, yet it is SLOW. Can anyone recommend a build that is a) inexpensive, b) will run GameMaker Studio 2? Or, to speed up this here?
Tom Triumph on November 16, 2018:
ReViewMeMedia, Not only did I NOT have paste, I didn't have a fan! The PCs I had seen the guts of thus far had no fan, and the CPU was used and came without one.
I have since gotten a fan and used paste and it works (magic!). Thanks.
ReViewMeMedia on October 06, 2018:
Tom, did you put heatsink paste on the CPU?
Rohan on September 22, 2018:
Is this Really going to work
shazykhan on September 13, 2018:
Tom Triumph on August 25, 2018:
First time build for my son's first gaming computer. I chose the A4 7300 chip because I had one (used), 2 x 4gb RAM, and a different case, but other specs are same.
My computer either shuts off after 5 seconds or gets to screen that says Windows repair or proceed and then, before you can do anything, it shuts down.
I checked all plugs, took one RAM out, reseated, etc. All of the tips.
I did notice the CPU is really hot. Really hot. Considering I have yet to do anything, and it has barely run, is this where I should focus or is it a red herring?
I'm not sure where to go from here.
GamerMom on August 20, 2018:
What motherboard product with WiFi would recommend?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on August 16, 2018:
you can get a cheap OS off something like G2A and then use a thumb drive for the OS installation on boot
Tom Triumph on August 13, 2018:
Once I have the hardware, I'm unsure of where to get the OS and what-not. I've only every gotten a base model PC and upgraded.
I've gone on eBay and find a number of the parts cheaper there than new. Once I build it, I think I'll find ways to build a second one by being creative (like modding an old case).
Thanks for this.
JP1912 on July 03, 2018:
Hey off topic but I’d like to build my own media player for mostly streaming video from Kodi sources and playing video files all in at least 1080p. I want to be able to use the tv as the viewer without a dvi adapter. Any opinions? I’m trying to stay away from the pre-fab mini devices. I really don’t care for the matricom “gbox” I have currently, it tends to lag too much for my taste.
Gamer on June 22, 2018:
Will this run a game like vrchat smoothly, and have less lag.
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on June 18, 2018:
Jet Le on June 15, 2018:
What kind of ram does it use or does it not matter?
dsj tanki on June 04, 2018:
can i play league of legends on this pc?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on May 23, 2018:
Honestly I'm not sure - it'll run CSGO pretty good in 720p so I'd assume it'll run Fortnite similarly
seth on May 22, 2018:
how would it run on fortnite?
Jameson on May 10, 2018:
Recommending Excavator in 2018 is fucking laughable. You can't even get real playable framerates in 720p on LOW settings in most games with this piece of trash.
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on May 10, 2018:
CS:G0's requirements are actually pretty low - it doesn't take much - I'd recommend a ryzen 3 2200g build - it'd do just fine
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on May 03, 2018:
In 720p you should be ok
Todor on May 02, 2018:
Can i play fortnite with those specifications?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on April 08, 2018:
that depends on the resolution and settings you're playing at. I'm not sure I have those numbers, but I know that it would play it in 60FPS with a little tweaking
Kaiden on April 06, 2018:
What is the estimated FPS for Minecraft and league of legends for your build Brandon? I just want something under $200 for league of legends and Minecraft and small titles like that
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on April 05, 2018:
Unfortunately, I don't do the builds for you. However, you can do something like the above if you're willing to build it.
yasser747 on April 05, 2018:
plz can you build pc for me near 200$ or 150$ plz
i need for ONLY Silkroad Online not for play i need for Bot
" the bot there is legal "
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on March 27, 2018:
I did put together a video a while ago of something similar - but it's not really a how-to on assembly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJnwp9lSyts
ramy on March 26, 2018:
how did you make this.
Jose on March 26, 2018:
Is there a video or something on how to actually assemble it?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on March 13, 2018:
From what I've seen you should be able to maintain above 60FPS - of course, those tests were with a stronger processor but the GT 1030 doesn't need a lot - and those achieved an average of around 70.
Exavius on March 12, 2018:
And the gt 1030 (forgot to add it to the list)
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on March 12, 2018:
Do you have a GPU?
Exavius on March 12, 2018:
Corsair cx 430
AMD Athlon X4 860k
Crucial Ballistix RAM DDR3 1600mhz 8GB (2x4)
Deepcool wave V2 micro-atx case
Exavius on March 10, 2018:
What about fortnite, medium settings
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on March 09, 2018:
Admittedly it's not a very expensive PC. However, along with the GT 1030 I'd expect around 75 FPS in BF1 around medium settings. A game like WoW around 116 FPS 1080p in quality level 4. So, it really depends on what you're playing.
Exavius on March 08, 2018:
Just ordered the parts, only change I made was the ram, I added 8GB and the case. And im also adding my gt 1030.
How well do u think this will perform?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on March 02, 2018:
What I've listed is what I've tested. It does well with most online eSports games - MOBAs Hearthstone etc... or ok even in 720p games - Keep in mind the Ryzen 3 2200G is a more attractive option and doesn't cost a whole lot more at this point in time.
Kenneth Keefer on March 01, 2018:
What other games performed well with this build or did you test any other games out with this build.
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on February 15, 2018:
Try and switch the input on the monitor - that can sometimes be the cause. Make sure you've got it on the right connector.
Ryan Carty on February 14, 2018:
I am currently trying to build this pc. It is my first time building a pc so I am obviously not very good at it. I have all the same parts as the author listed, except I have an 8 gb ram. My motherboard, system fan, power supply, and hard drive are all working. But when i plug in my monitor to the motherboard, the monitor says no signal found. I have tried two different monitors and even put in a graphics card. I plugged my monitor into my graphics card and it still says no signal. Does anyone know whats wrong?
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on January 04, 2018:
Personally I've never tried those on this; however, it does run counterstrike fairly well in low settings at 720p - So, that should give you an indication. My guess is that it would struggle a bit.
anonymous on December 26, 2017:
Here is my build
GPU: XFX R7 360 2GB DDR5 $69.99 with $30.00 mail in rebate from NEWEGG = $39.99
CPU: AMD FX 8320E 3.2 GHz $79.99 with $30.00 mail in rebate from Microcenter =$49.99
Motherboard: ASUS M5A78L AM3+ Motherboard $29.99 (Originally $59.99 but you save $30.00 when you purchase with AMD FX8320E as bundle from Microcenter) and $10.00 mail in rebate = $19.99
RAM: 2GB DDR3 PC3-10600 DESKTOP Memory Module (240-pin DIMM, 1333MHz) $13.99 from Amazon. I bought FOUR = $55.96
Power Supply: EVGA 450W B1 80 PLUS Bronze Certified PSU $39.89 with $20.00 mail in rebate from B&H=$9.89
Tower case: Rosewill FBM-X1 Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mini Tower Case with Side Panel Window $19.99 with $10.00 mail in rebate from NEWEGG=$9.99
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AACS 500GB 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s Hard Drive $24.99 from Amazon=$24.99
Here is my Spec:
XFX R7 360 2GB DDR5 $39.99
AMD FX 8320E 3.2 GHz $49.99
8GB DDR3 1333MHz $55.96
ASUS M5A78L AM3+ Motherboard $19.99
EVGA 450W B1 80 PLUS Bronze $9.89
Rosewill FBM-X1 Black Mini Tower Case with Side Panel Window $9.99
WD5000AACS 500GB 7200 $24.99
All bran new parts cost me around $210.00, it's something massively better than A series APU , I play PUGB with 1920 x 1080 resolution with low to medium setting in a 75Hz 27" monitor in an average of 35 FPS. If you have time, you could get something much better than what you expect.
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on December 06, 2017:
Have you already built this Greg? I feel like if you're thinking about a secondary graphics card to use in Crossfire you might be close enough on your budget to upgrade the APU itself or maybe even to venture into Pentium / cheap motherboard territory.
If you've already built it, then for $20 it might be worth a chance, just don't expect a $200 GPU out of the combination.. it'll still feel like a $50 to 70 GPU overall.
Greg on December 04, 2017:
So if I wanted to add a graphics card what would you say to the amd 6450 would it be a good addition at $20?
Dre on December 01, 2017:
Thanks Brandon. I'm thinking I might have a ram issue so I'm replacing it in a last ditch effort to make this rig feel somewhat usable. Will try some older games on it later on.
Zack on December 01, 2017:
Can you change the processor to something like intel snd if so what intel processor would you suggest ( If you know any good intel processors)
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on November 25, 2017:
With a solid state drive mine felt snappy for every day usage - I did end up using that. For gaming, I had to tweak my settings down quite a bit for most games for it to feel fast enough.
Dre on November 25, 2017:
Hi Brandon; thanks so much for posting this build guide - I appreciated the info.
I built this computer for about $140 after deal hunting for the past few months. I got the A6-7400k for $31 on a deal on bukoos, 2x2 ram @ 1600mhz kit from Atech on ebay for $24, and a fm2+ motherboard from biostar for $31.
I did run into a problem though; the computer is sooo slow for general usage. Even opening web browsers and the like take a long time. For this reason I haven't tried gaming much on it yet. I replaced the hard drive and processor and I'm still getting ultra slow performance.
How fast should this thing feel for general every day usage? Because to me it doesn't even feel adequate for that. I'm thinking maybe it's an issue with my ram but I tried using a computer at a local library with an older pentium dual core and only 2 gb of ram and it felt faster than the A6-7400k + 4gb ram.
Thanks so much for any suggestions or feedback! Much love.
Ashtron on October 20, 2017:
What if I don't want to use AMD, i've had problems in the past where it just stops working at one point?
RonaldoBeast on October 08, 2017:
i want a gaming pc without me building it or i want the build to be in step by step is there any ways you can help me?
ManaMoon on September 27, 2017:
Interesting! I want to build a PC in this budget range,but I want use a AMD A10
What ver and motherboard would you recommend? (To play overwatch,guilt gear xrd in good frame rate)
(A shopping list I guess ^_^' )
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on September 15, 2017:
It's likely that she doesn't need any of that. Just a basic processor should be more than enough. Something like the i3 7100 or Pentium G4560 is plenty for browsing. If you want her to think it's "snappy" install a small solid state drive for the operating system. For the power supply, no 500W isn't necessary at all and you can go with something smaller if you'd like. EVGA has a 430W one that's very budget-friendly.
ShadowGhost on September 14, 2017:
I'm looking to building a PC for my parents needs NOT gaming. For instance skypping, YouTube, Web browsing, and etc. Do I need a 500Watt power supply, and what do I need as a graphic card? (Note: my mother is a high school math teacher so she uses the computer to generate tests.)
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on August 20, 2017:
Depends on the resolution you want to play at but yes, it should work with Rocket League.
Sjjn on August 16, 2017:
does thise work with new games like rocket league or do I need to up the price?
ns on April 06, 2017:
does this need an wifi adapter?
BOB on February 10, 2017:
How much is this right now?
Ismael Ek on February 03, 2017:
How long would you say this build lasts? And this also good for editing or just games?