Mac Research
Mac How To

How to play Windows games on Mac

Windows games on mac through GeForce Now

Why are most windows games not available to play on mac?

Macs and MacBooks are great – they are reliable, secure, durable, and they rarely experience any serious errors or other issues that can’t be fixed with a simple restart or a quick update. They are perfect productivity machines that can help with one’s work, studies, or personal projects, optimized to be very efficient with the way they use their resources (RAM, CPU, battery energy for MacBooks, etc.)

Gaming, however, is a totally different type of activity – one that requires tons of RAM, a powerful CPU, a dedicated and power-hungry GPU, and big enough fans that are able to keep the entire thing cool enough during heated gaming sessions. In other words, efficiency and gaming don’t always go hand in hand, which is the reason most games are not natively supported on Macs.

Can you play PC games on mac?

Does any of what’s been said thus far mean you can’t play PC games on mac? In our opinion – not by a long shot. With the release of the M1 chip and Mac models that are significantly more powerful compared to their Intel predecessors, so much that PC gaming on a Mac seems like a legitimate option now.

However, here comes the actual main obstacle that stands in the way of Mac users who wish to play PC games on their Macs – most Windows games lack native support for macOS. Some games, usually highly popular ones, such as League of Legends, CS: GO, and DotA 2, have official macOS versions, but those are few and far between. If you want to play a given gaming title on your Mac, chances are the game won’t be natively supported. Most of the time, the simple reason for this is that there aren’t enough Mac gamers to justify supporting a macOS version for a given game. The other possible reason is that developer studios are put-off by Apple’s 30% commission margins for all mac apps.

So, do all we’ve thus far said about Mac gaming mean that you should give up on trying to play PC games on Mac? Certainly not. While Mac gaming is undoubtedly a niche subject, it’s one that’s certainly not gone and forgotten, and you may actually be surprised to find out how many different ways there are to get a certain game running on a Mac.

How to play PC games on Mac

The next part of the article will introduce you to all methods of how to play PC games on mac we’ve been able to find, explaining their pros and cons. Remember, however, that there are still some games that are natively supported for macOS. You should always check if the game you wish to play on your Mac has a macOS version.

  1. Steam is the only vendor that lists native versions for mac. Before you commit to anything, check the steam page of the game you want to play on your mac. If it’s supported, you just need to purchase and install it. This entire article is dedicated to solutions for games that are not supported. However, even if it’s natively supported, check out the system requirements for the game in order to ensure a satisfactory performance.
  2. Check the game’s Wikipedia page (yes, seriously). Not only is this another way to determine if a game has a Mac version, but if there is an upcoming announced version it’ll probably be listed in there as well.
  3. If you think you’ll be using Cloud gaming solutions, carefully check which games are supported by platform. For example, sometimes, a platform supports streaming from Steam, but not Epic games, so you shouldn’t purchase the game on Epic if you want to use it. You can check this in the platform’s respective section. We’ll put a link to a list of supported games if there’s one available.
  4. If on the other hand you think you’ll be using Windows emulators to run the game on your Mac, you better open and read the guides we’ll link to, to determine whether you believe you can properly set it all up because these methods require tech-savviness.

How to play Steam games on Mac?

As the preeminent gaming platform in the world, Steam offers many benefits to make users choose it over other competitors like Epic Games. A case in point is Steam’s Proton layer for Linux which makes hundreds of titles available for the OS. But that’s Linux and this is macOS. There are no plans to develop a similar layer for Mac and nearly 99% of titles on Steam are unavailable for Apple products. So what can you do to play Steam games on mac? You have a total of 2 choices. You either use Windows Emulation (look in the sections below) or you go for Cloud gaming. Most Steam games are available for cloud gaming and the vendor is by far the most commonly used by cloud services.

If the game you want isn’t supported for Mac, we recommend you take a look at the suggested workaround methods for gaming on a Mac. We’ve separated them into three main categories: Cloud gaming, Windows emulation, and Others.

Cloud gaming platforms

Cloud gaming platforms have been around for a while now, but they really only took off in the last few years. There’s a big number of such services and all of them, more or less, operate the same way. We won’t get into any technical details, but the gist of it is this: rather than downloading and running a given game directly from your Mac, cloud technology is used to establish a link between the Mac and a powerful gaming Windows PC rig that has the game you want to play already installed on it. The game starts on that gaming PC and, through its connection to your Mac, the gameplay gets streamed onto your screen. At the same time, you can control the game that’s running on the Windows PC from your Mac. To you, it would seem as if the game is running on your Mac, while in reality, you are only seeing what’s happening on that remote gaming server.

What Internet speed do you need? Around 10 Mbps to play in HD and around 40 Mbps to play in 4k if the selected platform supports 4k. This is an average typical usage, each platform has its own quirks and is not bound to these numbers. But you can expect roughly that as a requirement.

Advantages:

  1. Think of this as Netflix for games. Your hardware doesn’t matter at all, besides your display (pretty colors mean a prettier game). This leads to prolonged battery life if that matters to you, no overheating and complete quietness. The game won’t be installed on the Mac, so it won’t take space either.
  2. You only need an account, which takes about 15 minutes to set up.
  3. There is no device limitation. You can play on anything in your house that has a screen if it’s supported by the platform. Not every platform supports iOS devices, but all support basically everything else.
  4. Many cloud platforms use high-level rigs which allow for better performance and graphical fidelity than would ever otherwise be possible with Windows emulators.
  5. On some platforms, you can even play in your browser.

Disadvantages:

  1. You need a good internet connection and even then it’s better if you are close to a server.
  2. Latency (slower mouse and key inputs) is almost unavoidable. It can mitigated to a point it doesn’t bother you but this also depends on your connection, and the latency probably won’t be completely gone.
  3. Even at the best of times there will probably be occasional hitches. They register as jerky lag for a second. How often? We don’t know, that’s up to your internet.
  4. You need to purchase a monthly subscription for the cloud platform aside from owning the game from a supported vendor.

Despite its cons, we believe that cloud gaming should be a good option for most Mac users who are only interested in casual gaming, have decent Internet, and don’t mind paying a monthly fee to stay subscribed to the service they’ve picked. As for the different cloud gaming options, here is a list of the ones we consider to be best suited for gaming on Mac:

Boosteroid

Boosteroid is a very easy-to-use cloud gaming service with a large library of games that includes a lot of major AAA titles. There are a lot of highly popular games that you’d have difficulty finding on another cloud gaming service, yet they can easily be played through Boosteroid. Also, the service’s monthly fee isn’t too high at  €7.49 if you subscribe for an entire year. Last, but not least, Boosteroid lets you play its games directly through your browser, making it super easy to set up and use. Note, however, that playing through your browser may sometimes affect performance. Still, with a decent Internet connection, this shouldn’t be a problem. Check out our detailed guide on how to use Boosteroid right here.
You can find a list of the available games on the platform here.

GeForce Now

GeForce Now is one of the most popular cloud gaming services and one of the few that offer a free plan. With the free plan, you need to wait in a queue before you can start playing and your gaming sessions are limited to one hour, so you will have to exit the session and wait in a queue again to start a new one. GeForce Now comes with a native macOS app, through which the games are played, which helps with performance. GeForce Now also offers RTX support with its premium tier plan. Also, this service has a huge gaming library, larger than that of most other similar services. Overall, this is a solid option for Mac gaming. You can go to this page to see our guide on using GeForce Now on Mac.
You can find a list of the supported games here.
Here are our detailed instructions on how to use GeForce Now on Mac.

Shadow Gaming

Shadow Gaming is an advanced cloud gaming service that basically lets you rent a powerful remote gaming PC rig that you can use to run any game that has a Windows version. Additionally, Shadow Gaming offers stellar performance for a cloud gaming service, with as little lag as possible. The downsides of this service are its higher price tag – it costs $29.99 a month to use Shadow Gaming – and that it may be difficult to connect to its servers if you are outside the US. 
Shadow Gaming doesn’t have a gaming library, it lends you the hardware. You may install whatever you want on it.

Blacknut

Blacknut is on the other side of the spectrum compared to Shadow Gaming. Its games’ library is rather small, at only 500 hundred games at the moment, but its monthly fee is almost half that of Shadow Gaming – $15.99. Blacknut is marketed as a family-oriented service that offers parental controls, and a single subscription can support several profiles. It is an okay service for casual gaming, but for more avid gamers, some of the other mentioned services may be a better choice.
You can find the service’s selection of games here.

Vortex

Vortex is another affordable cloud gaming service, with its cheapest plan, Basic, being priced at $10 a month. However, this only gives you access to 76 game titles at the moment of writing and limits your monthly gaming time to 50 hours. With the Pro and Ultimate plans, you get access to all 153 games that the service offers (still not all that impressive), and you get a lot more monthly gaming hours. Performance-wise, Vortex has a minimal lag, but the tradeoff here is that you cannot play games in full HD. All in all, we consider this to be an entry-level cloud gaming service best suited for casual gaming.

Note: At the time of writing this article, Vortex isn’t accepting new subscriptions to its service.

Paperspace

Paperspace is an interesting offer – for starters, its billing plan is rather unique, as you are charged for each hour of game-time rather than for a fixed sum at the start of the month. There are three pricing options: $0.45/hour, $0.78/hour, and $1.10/hour. The difference between the three plans is the hardware you get access to while gaming. The tier 1 plan gives you a machine with 8 GB VRAM, the second one-ups that to 16 GB, and the tier 3 plan goes all the way up to 24 GB (which is overkill in our opinion). Another very cool thing about Paperspace is that you can play any Windows game that you already own, so you aren’t limited by what games are in the service’s library. In addition, with a decent enough Internet, you can play your games with 4K resolution, which is rarely seen in other cloud gaming services. The downsides here are that there is no free trial option and no refunds for dissatisfied users. Despite that, Paperspace seems to be one of the most versatile gaming services out there, suited equally well for both casual and serious gamers.
Paperspace doesn’t have a gaming library, it lends you the hardware. You may install whatever you want on it.

Amazon Luna

Amazon Luna is one of the newer cloud gaming services, and it is still in early access, so how well it would eventually turn out is yet to be seen. For now, the service looks promising – its monthly subscription fee is only $5.99, making it the cheapest option we’ve listed thus far, and it supports full HD and 60 FPS gaming. Its current games’ library isn’t all that impressive, with fewer than a hundred titles available in it, but you get some of them for free with your subscription. Amazon Luna also offers support for many different devices, including Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, and more. As we said, it’s too early to say how good the finished product would be, but it’s definitely another Mac gaming option worth considering.
Amazon Luna is currently in early access. You can request to access it, but there isn’t a list of supported games.

Should you use cloud gaming?

As you can see, there are a lot of cloud gaming options that can be used to play games on your Mac, so, unless you are trying to play some very niche indie game, chances are that you will find a cloud gaming service that offers it in its library. Of course, factors such as what other games are available in that service, how much it costs to be subscribed to it, how good its performance is, and if your Internet is up to the task, are all things you should consider. With all that said, however, this method of playing games on Mac is certainly the most straightforward and easy to utilize, as well as the one that would work on the largest number of Mac computers since it is not dependent on whether your Mac has powerful hardware or whether it has an Intel or an M1 processor.

Windows emulation

Advantages:

  1. The exact opposite of cloud gaming. You get a locally installed copy of the game, which means you are not bound by your internet connection, but rather your hardware’s capabilities. If you’ve got a mac with an M1 chip you may be more comfortable with this choice because of tis increased power.
  2. How old is the game you want to play? This can be an advantage. If the game is older or not as demanding in general, you may find out a native experience is better if you fiddle with a few settings in the game.

Disadvantages:

  1. Emulators are the wild west of gaming. You may experience smooth gameplay or a rocky lagfest from game to game. There’s really not telling until you try.
  2. If you use an emulator you’d have to install and switch to Windows every time. This will take up a lot of space on your hard drive.
  3. To play this way you have to basically run 2 operating systems at the same time. This leads to degraded performance in general.
  4. You need to take the time to tweak Windows to take up less resources.

Emulating Windows is the other type of method for playing Windows games on Mac. Here, the idea is that you get Windows installed onto your Mac or you create a Windows virtual machine within your macOS, and then download, install, and start the desired games within Windows. Both of those methods are significantly more complex than using cloud gaming services and though they do have some advantages, most users would probably prefer to stick to cloud gaming.

Since the two methods of emulating Windows on a Mac are quite different among themselves, we will talk about each of them separately, rather than making generalized statements for both.

Installing Windows in a separate partition with Boot Camp Assistant

This is likely the most famous and well-known way of playing Windows games on Mac. It is also the most outdated one. Boot Camp Assistant is a helpful app that comes preinstalled on Intel-based Macs (and not on M1 Macs). The app lets you relatively easily install Windows 10 on an Intel Mac after you download a Windows 10 ISO file from Microsoft. During the Windows 10 installation, your Mac drive will be partitioned into two partitions – one for macOS and one for Windows. The main advantage here is that you will be able to use your Mac as a Windows 10 computer and will be able to download, install, and play any Windows 10 game, so long as your Mac meets the game’s system requirements. Another advantage here is that installing Windows 10 on your Mac is technically free. After a month of using Windows without a license, you will start getting promoted to activate the OS by purchasing a product key, but other than that, you’d still be able to use your Mac with Windows indefinitely.

There are, however, downsides as well – firstly, Windows 10 requires quite a lot of hard-disk space, so if you are short on that, this may not be the best option, Secondly, Apple’s drivers for Windows 10 are outdated, meaning that you will likely get poor performance if you try to play newer games on medium or high settings, regardless of how powerful your Mac is.

While this may be an unoptimized and quite outdated method of playing games on Mac that’s only available for Intel-based Mac models, it is free to try and should theoretically let you play pretty much any Windows game, albeit, with less than optimal performance (depending on the specific game).

Here is how to install Windows 10 using Boot Camp Assistant.

Creating a Windows 10/11 virtual machine in macOS with Parallels

To put it simply, a virtual machine is like any other app on your Mac. You can launch it within macOS, minimize it, go into Full-Screen mode, or exit Full-Screen Mode. However, when you start the VM, its interface, behavior, functionality, and features would be that of Windows. In other words, when you are using a Windows VM, the Windows OS will be running within and parallel with your macOS.

There are different tools that can allow you to create a virtual machine (VM) for Windows on your Mac, but if you want to specifically use the VM for gaming, then your best option would be to use Parallels. This is a paid virtualization tool (offers a free 14-day trial) that offers gaming optimization for its VMs and works equally well on Intel Macs and M1 Macs. It is relatively quick and easy to create a VM with Parallels, and the storage space that it will take on your Mac would be a lot smaller compared to the space Windows 10 would take on your Mac if you use Boot Camp Assistant to install it. An additional advantage of Parallels is that the tool gets frequent updates that improve its features, adjust it to the latest macOS versions, and give it better optimization for gaming on Mac. Using Parallels to play games on Mac is an up-to-date method and one that more and more Mac owners are starting to use.

However, there is one significant disadvantage related to Parallels and using virtual machines for gaming in general, and that is the need for the VM to share your Mac’s resources with macOS. Since two operating systems are running at the same time on the machine, they both require a set amount of RAM and CPU to function. This means that you won’t be able to use all of your Mac’s hardware resources for gaming in the Windows VM because, at any given time while you are using the virtual machine, some of Mac’s RAM and CPU cores need to be left for your macOS. For the newer and more powerful Mac models, this shouldn’t be an issue, and you should still get more than enough system resources allocated to the VM to get decent gaming performance. However, for older Macs that aren’t very powerful, you may be better off using cloud gaming. One other thing we should note about playing games through Parallels is that there are certain modern gaming titles that cannot be run in their VMs at the moment of writing this post. For example, Diablo II Resurrected seems to not be playable through Parallels because Parallels VMs don’t currently support DirectX 17. However, as we said, the Program gets frequently updated and this problem will likely change in the future.

Here is a detailed guide on how to install Windows 10/11 using Parallels.

Other options

In addition to cloud gaming and Windows emulation, you can also use a program called Crossover to play certain Windows games unsupported for macOS on your Mac. Crossover is somewhat akin to Windows virtual machines, but rather than giving you the entire Windows experience, it only allows you to run certain Windows apps through its compatibility layer. Gaming performance in Crossover varies from game to game, and there aren’t that many games available in it. Still, major titles like GTA V are available in it, so you can check it out if you like. Crossover has a free trial version, but its full variant costs $49.95, so it’s not a free program.

A solution similar to Crossover is a compatibility layer called Wine. It works in a similar way, providing your Mac with an environment that allows you to run Windows software, including some Windows games. Note, however, that Wine can be a bit tricky to set up – most regular users would probably have a hard time playing any Windows game through Wine, as some tech-savviness is required to operate this tool. The upside here is that, unlike Crossover, Wine is a free tool, so if you know how to use it, you won’t need to pay anything for it. Last but not least, remember that the number of games that you can run through Wine is rather limited, and not all games that can be played through Wine would work equally well.

Exit mobile version