All About Cloud Gaming on Mac

One of the main reasons why gaming on Mac is a lot easier and a lot more accessible today than it was, say, ten years ago is the existence of cloud gaming services. To be fair, when we first started hearing about cloud services, we were quite skeptical about their practicality. 

Today, however, cloud gaming platforms are what allows instant access to hundreds, nay, thousands of titles on our Mac computers. With cloud gaming, we can play Apex Legends, FIFA 23, Hogwarts Legacy, Genshin Impact, Elden Ring, Overwatch 2, and other popular titles on Mac. 

Obviously, there are a fair bit of downsides and rough edges that need smoothing, but it’s still undeniable that services like GeForce Now, Boosteroid, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and others have made gaming a lot more accessible, especially to Mac users.

What is Cloud Gaming and How Does It Work on Mac

Cloud gaming is a type of service that bears a lot of resemblance to streaming platforms like Netflix and Max. 

Just like them, a cloud gaming service runs the game you want on powerful gaming rigs and then streams the game to your device. You get to control and play the game on your Mac (or another device) as if it’s installed locally while, in reality, it’s running on a totally different machine that’s probably hundreds or thousands of miles from you.

Benefits and Advantages of Cloud Gaming on Mac

There are multiple benefits to playing games like this, especially if you are on Mac. As you are probably all too aware, most Windows PC and console games lack macOS support, which is currently the biggest obstacle to gaming on Mac. 

Unlike other popular Mac gaming workarounds like Bootcamp for Mac or a Parallels virtual machine, a cloud gaming service solves this by not requiring you to have the game installed locally. The services themselves are fully compatible with macOS and can even be used directly through the browser. 

In other words, it doesn’t matter if a game has or doesn’t have Mac support. You’ll still be able to play it through Mac cloud gaming as long as it’s available on the platform you’ve chosen to use.

The next big benefit of using a game streaming service is that you won’t need to concern yourself with the game’s system requirements

Many games, especially newer ones, tend to be very resource-hungry. If you are on an older Mac, even if a particular game has a native version, you may still not be able to play it locally due to it being too demanding. Again, this won’t be a problem with a cloud gaming service, since the game won’t actually be running on your machine. The system requirements for using a cloud platform are very low, so even weaker systems should have no problem supporting them.

Challenges and Limitations

The main limitation of any given cloud gaming service is related to the user’s connection to the platform’s servers. Your connection needs to be stable, or else the streaming quality will be bad, resulting in choppy gameplay and bad image quality.

Your connection strength is mainly determined by how good your Internet is. For this reason, the Internet must have low ping and must meet the speed requirements of the particular cloud service (more on that in a bit). 

Another important factor is how close you are to the cloud server you are connected to, though a decently fast Internet will generally compensate even if the server is far away.

Here, it must be said that cloud gaming is still not at the level of native/local gaming. Even with the best Internet and close proximity to a cloud server, there’s still going to be a bit more lag compared to playing a game locally. In most cases and for most users, this isn’t a problem, but for those looking to play games competitively, cloud gaming isn’t ideal.

The only other notable limitation is the library of the particular cloud service. Different game streaming platforms support different games, so the games you want to play may not be available on all services.

How to Choose the Best Cloud Gaming Service for You and Your Mac

Right off the bat, we should say that it doesn’t really matter what Mac you are using if you are thinking about trying a cloud gaming service. As mentioned, these platforms are really undemanding, so even if you are on a 2016 MacBook with 8 GB RAM, it will still be fine. 

The most important factors that you should consider when deciding what service to subscribe to are different and we’ve listed them below:

  • Games Library: This is probably the most important factor because you can only stream games that are available in the respective service’s library. Different platforms have different game libraries, and some are more expansive than others. However, if you are interested in a particular game (or games), you should look for the cloud platforms that support it instead of looking for the ones with the most extensive libraries.
  • Subscription Plans: There’s a big variety in the pricing, billing periods, and subscription models across the different cloud gaming platforms. Some let you stream only games you already know, while others give you “free” access to some titles while your subscription is active. Therefore, be sure to carefully consider the different subscription plans available for each platform.
  • Connectivity and Streaming Quality: Your gameplay experience with a given cloud gaming service will be entirely determined by the streaming quality. Generally, most modern streaming services have decent quality, but there’s some variance, so this is still an important thing to consider.
  • Server Locations: One of the main factors that will determine your streaming quality is the distance to the nearest servers of the platform you’ve chosen to use. Generally, the further away the servers are from your region, the worse the quality will be. So, be sure to research the number and locations of servers for the cloud platforms you are considering.

Last but not least, remember to check the Internet requirements of the different cloud services. This is very important because the strength of your Internet relative to the service’s requirements will play the main role in determining your streaming quality. 

For most cloud platforms, the Internet speed requirement is quite low – around 15-20 Mbps – but some can go up to 25 Mbps or even higher. And if your Internet isn’t great, such small differences in the speed requirement can lead to notably different results in practice.

What are the System Requirements and Compatibility of Different Cloud Gaming Services

A big plus of nearly all cloud gaming platforms is their versatile compatibility and low system requirements. Pretty much all cloud services will work on systems with as little as 4 gigs of Virtual Memory (RAM) and will take little to no space on your hard-drive. 

You can use a cloud platform on any type of Mac. Whether you are on an older and less potent Intel-based MacBook, a high-end M2 iMac, or an efficient M1 MacBook Air, your experience should be virtually the same as long as you are using the same cloud service and Internet connection.

The only type of system requirement that you need to consider here is the macOS version that you are currently using. Most cloud services have quite lenient requirements regarding your macOS, and you can get away with using older versions, but not too old. Therefore, be sure to check this particular requirement and compare it against your current macOS before committing to a service.

How To Set Up Cloud Gaming on Your Mac

The next cool thing about the cloud streaming method of playing games on Mac is the minimal setup that you need to perform

Most of the time, you’ll just need to register (or sign-up with Google or Apple ID) and provide your payment details to create an account and begin your subscription. After that, you can start the game you want directly in your browser, by searching for the desired game on the cloud service’s site.

Most cloud platforms also have dedicated macOS clients, which typically provide better streaming quality. Installing these is just as easy – you simply download their .DMG file, open it, and move the client to your Applications folder. After that, streaming a particular game is a simple matter of logging into the app, searching for the game, and clicking Play.

Popular Cloud Gaming Platforms for Mac Users

There are quite a few valid cloud gaming platforms for Mac users today, most of which we’ve covered on our website. You can find information about them on their dedicated pages, but here we want to quickly cover the services we most commonly use and recommend to other Mac users.

So, here are the top choices:

  • Boosteroid: Boosteroid used to be a relatively unknown cloud gaming platform but today it has earned its place among the top gamers. Boosteroid Mac users have access to an extensive and regularly updated game library. The platform’s catalog features hundreds of games, including many highly-popular AAA games that aren’t available on other services.
  • GeForce Now: This is the biggest and most popular cloud gaming platform. It features the largest library and has the biggest number of servers among all game streaming platforms. GeForce Now Mac users are also granted a lot of customization as well as a variety of subscription plans. Additionally, this is the only platform with a free cloud gaming plan.
  • Xbox Cloud Gaming: To access the Xbox Cloud Gaming (also known as Microsoft Cloud Gaming) platform you need to subscribe to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate plan. A single subscription gives access to both the Xbox Cloud Gaming Mac experience and to hundreds of gaming titles playable through the cloud (which you don’t need to own separately). Just note that to play games with XCloud, you’ll need to install a Keyboard and Mouse extension from the Chrome Web Store if you don’t have a controller for your Mac.
  • Amazon Luna: Amazon Luna features several subscription plans that give access to the cloud platform and different game libraries. You can play the titles in those libraries without owning each game individually. However, Amazon Luna generally has the smallest selection of games of the four services mentioned thus far.

Lastly, we want to briefly mention Shadow PC (also known as Shadow Cloud Gaming), which is a bit different type of platform compared to the other mentioned services. It gives you access to an entire remote PC, where you can download and play any game you own, so this service isn’t limited by a predefined game library. However, this service is significantly more expensive compared to the other cloud services.

Tips for Optimizing Your Cloud Gaming Experience on Mac

There aren’t that many optimizations you can make to improve your cloud gaming experience. This is actually a good thing because it means these platforms generally work well right out of the box (provided your Internet is good enough). 

Still, we’ll give you a couple of ideas and tips on how you may get the best experience possible:

  • Reduce the bandwidth usage: Make sure you aren’t downloading or streaming anything from your Mac while playing through a cloud gaming service. Also, if you are connected to a home Wi-Fi, stop any downloading or streaming processes on other devices linked to the same network.
  • Connect to a 5G channel: 5G wireless offers significantly better streaming performance and is thus recommended for cloud gaming.
  • Stay close to the router: If you are on a MacBook, move it as close to the Wi-Fi router as you can for the best possible connection.
  • Use Ethernet: The best possible type of Internet to use for cloud gaming is Ethernet (cable Internet) so if possible, plug the Ethernet cable into your while streaming games.

Lastly, a tip for users of the Nvidia GeForce Now platform: If you are using the Nvidia cloud gaming solution, be sure to check its Streaming Quality settings. There, you can make all kinds of changes to the image quality and bandwidth usage to compensate for bad Internet or a limited mobile data plan.

The Future of Cloud Gaming on Mac

Considering the rapid development and improvement of most cloud gaming platforms during the last couple of years, as well as their significant rise in popularity, we think that the future of cloud gaming, as a whole, is bright. 

This type of service provides a unique opportunity to people who don’t have access to powerful gaming rigs to still enjoy the latest AAA titles without being concerned about system requirements or system compatibility. And especially for Mac users, cloud gaming solves nearly all obstacles associated with gaming on a MacBook or a desktop Mac.

Because of these reasons, we believe that, in the coming years, cloud gaming will only get bigger and more popular, as the number of games available for streaming goes up.

Community and Support Resources

If you want to learn more about cloud gaming in general or about a particular cloud service, check out the following links. 

We’ve linked both internal and external articles and other support resources that will help you explore and familiarize yourself with the various cloud gaming solutions.

As we add more relevant content to our site, we’ll expand this list of helpful links to provide you with all the cloud gaming information and insights you may need.

Frequently Asked Questions