Gaming on macOS has never been a huge selling point. And considering how small the Mac market is in comparison to the PC market, few developers have provided native support for macOS. But macOS has more power as a gaming platform than its reputation would suggest. There are five major ways you can game on your Mac.
1. GeForce Now Cloud Gaming
GeForce Now is the newest offering on the list, and it’s incredibly cool. It uses high-end video streaming and virtualization tools to let users play games on Nvidia’s hardware. This hardware, camped in data centers around the country, processes your input and sends back high-end graphics. This means your computer only needs to be capable of rendering YouTube videos to support high-end gaming on brand-new titles.
You might think you’d experience a ton of lag, but that’s far from the case. The only downside is that very slight input lag can make precision aiming in competitive shooters slightly more challenging.
But you get to play games like Overwatch and PUBG on a Mac. Better yet, the service is currently in a free open beta. You provide the games, and Nvidia provides the hardware. Learn more and install GeForce Now from Nvidia’s website.
If you want to pay the newest games, GeForce Now is your best option. But if you have fond memories of older-generation console games, you can use emulators to play a ton of games for free. While you do technically need to pirate the games, it’s often considered a moral grey area by users that have purchased the game previously.
Emulators are available for just about every console up to the Playstation 3, but not every emulator works with macOS. Emulation requires such tremendous CPU power, and emulators must be written for the base OS’s code.
The process of using an emulator tends to vary for each platform, but the basic concept is the same for all. Run the emulator to create a virtualized environment that matches the console’s specs, then load the games from a separate file. Keep in mind that even with a newer system, you might not get awesome frame rates for newer games.
Wineskin is a tool for making macOS ports of Windows software. It’s primarily used for games, but it can be used for non-gaming software, too. It works by creating “wrappers” that run concurrently with Windows programs, spoofing the operating environment the program is expecting. When you use Wineskin Winery to create a wrapper for each application you want to run, each game will have its own .app file in your Applications directory.
Wineskin is a free software project, and it’s regularly updated, but it doesn’t necessarily work for every game. As the Wineskin manual says, “It’s not always easy, and the same methods might not work for different programs.” It does tend to work best with older, less complicated games that use well-known software libraries. Right now, the platform only officially works on older versions of macOS, making support sketchy.
There’s a surprising number of games that are natively available for the Mac or ported to the platform. You can install Steam on any Mac, or take a look at their Mac games directory online. The depth might surprise you! Natively-supported games tend to lean towards strategy games and Valve’s own games, but there’s a wide variety of games available.
5. Boot Camp
Finally, you can always install Windows on your Mac with Boot Camp. It’s the most expensive option and one of the most complicated to set up. But once you get it running, it’s basically trouble-free.
Of course, You might find your a rig a little underpowered for the newest games at the highest quality settings: Macs are optimized for high-end gaming. However, you won’t have to worry about compatibility, emulation or support by a third party.
The most reliable tool for gaming on a Mac is Boot Camp, but it’s also resource- and time-intensive. GeForce Now is an amazing secondary option for Mac gamers who don’t want to split their hard drive in half for Windows. Retro gamers can emulate most classic games, and Steam offers native Mac support for a variety of games. Wineskin is something of a last resort but can often get older games and those no longer supported running on macOS. If you really want a Mac that can run games like the best Windows machines, build a high-end Hackintosh and dual-boot Windows.