As you might expect from a game that uses the same engine as its four-year-old progenitor, Mass Effect 3 isn't particularly demanding. Unreal Engine 3 was already a year old when the first Mass Effect launched, as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas used it November 2006. While this might disappoint enthusiasts with an insatiable demand for cutting-edge graphics, it's good news for mainstream gamers.
Steam's latest hardware survey suggests anything even remotely resembling a modern "gaming" PC should be able to play Mass Effect 3. Those wanting to enjoy the game maxed out at resolutions up to 1680x1050 can do so with an HD 5770, HD 6770, HD 7750 ($110) or GTX 550 Ti ($120). The Steam report shows that 8.24% of its users have an HD 5770, 6.68% have a GTX 560 and 6.20% have a GTX 460.
ME3 still has low requirements at 1920x1200 with the HD 5830 and HD 7770 exceeding 60fps. Heck, the HD 6850 and GTX 460 neared 70fps, and they're a better bargain over the HD 7770 (~$150 versus ~$160).
Again, keep in mind, our tests were done with the quality settings maxed, so even if your card didn't make the cut, you might be able to dial down the settings a little for some performance savings.
Gamers looking to play ME3 at extreme resolutions -- be it on a single large display or across several smaller ones -- will want a higher-end card. The HD 7970 was the fastest GPU tested averaging 87fps at 2560x1600, but the HD 7950, GTX 580, HD 7870 and HD 6970 were no slouches either, landing north of 60fps. Anything above the HD 6870 (52fps) would likely deliver a respectably smooth experience.
When analyzing CPU performance, we found that ME3 only really takes advantage of two cores, so core efficiency is critical for maximum performance.
Unsurprisingly then Intel's Sandy Bridge processors did much better than AMD's Bulldozer parts. Still, the primary bottleneck in this game comes from the GPU and unless you have a high-end graphics card, the CPU will have little impact on performance.