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How to Play PC Games on Mac: 10 Best Methods

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Last updated: October 5, 2023

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TL;DR

To play PC games on Intel-based Macs, Boot Camp is the primary method, allowing you to install Windows with macOS. For M1 Macs, Parallels Desktop offers a seamless experience, enabling you to run Windows games directly on macOS without rebooting.

Other alternatives include cloud gaming services, emulators, streaming, virtual machines, and unofficial ports. If you’re running macOS Sonoma, you can use Apple’s Game Porting Toolkit to play games that use DirectX 12.

Key Points

  • Apple’s M1 and M2 chips have enhanced the gaming experience on Mac, with developers increasingly optimizing games for Apple Silicon.
  • Before attempting to play a Windows game on Mac, always check if there’s a native Mac version available.
  • While some methods are beginner-friendly, others might require a deeper understanding of gaming platforms.
  • Always be cautious with unofficial ports, as they might have bugs or legal issues.

Ever felt the gaming world was unfair to Mac users? While I felt the same for a long time, things in the gaming world have improved now. Your Mac can run PC games, too, and I’m here to spill the beans.

Dive into my guide on the best ways to play PC games on Mac, where I share savvy tricks and tips to run Windows games on your Mac. Whether you’re a casual gamer or a hardcore enthusiast, you’ll find this guide really helpful for your journey of PC gaming on Mac.

Do Windows Games Run on a Mac?

Do Windows Games Run on a Mac

Yes, you can run Windows games on a Mac. For Intel-based Macs, Boot Camp is your go-to, allowing you to install Windows alongside macOS. For M1 Macs, Parallels Desktop is a seamless solution, letting you run Windows games directly on macOS without rebooting.

Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop are just the start for running Windows games on Mac. Alternatives like cloud gaming services, emulators, and streaming are also on the table.

Are Apple Silicon (M1, M2) Macs Good for Gaming?

Are Apple Silicon M1 M2 Macs Good for Gaming

Yes, Apple’s M1 and M2 chips deliver remarkable performance and efficiency, making gaming on Mac smoother than ever. With developers increasingly optimizing games for Apple Silicon and solutions like Parallels Desktop available, these Macs are becoming a solid choice for gaming enthusiasts.

While they might not replace dedicated gaming PCs or consoles, they can certainly run a wide array of games smoothly. Apple Silicon Macs may not have been the traditional choice for gamers, but with these advancements, they are steadily gaining ground in the gaming community.

Now, let’s dive into how you can play PC games on Mac.

Check For the Mac Version of the Game

Before diving into methods to play Windows games on Mac, always look for the Mac version of the game first. You may find that several games, like Prince of Persia (2008), Call of Duty Black Ops III, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, are compatible with both Windows and Mac.

To verify a game’s availability on Mac, use desktop apps like:

  • Steam
  • Epic Game Store
  • Good Old Games (GoG)
  • Battle.net

When searching for a game on any storefront, apply a filter to show titles available for Mac. Simply sort the games in your Library by the operating system, look for the Apple logo, or check the categories section to confirm macOS version availability.

If you use macOS Catalina or later, 32-bit Mac games will not work on your Mac.

10 Best Ways to Play PC Games on Mac

If you haven’t found a native Mac version of your favorite game, you can use other methods to play it. Below, I’ve shared 10 solid methods you can use to play PC games on Mac.

Some of these methods are beginner-friendly, while others require a little know-how of gaming platforms. So, pick a method based on your comfort level.

1. GeForce NOW

geforce now homepage

Want to play the latest PC games on your Mac but have weaker hardware? Try GeForce NOW, a cloud-based streaming service by NVIDIA. Since it runs games remotely, all you need is good internet speed. It’s a well-refined gaming platform that lets you play fast-paced games like Fortnite smoothly.

GeForce NOW boasts a wide range of games from Steam, Battle.net, and Uplay, ready for you to jump in quickly. It’s free but limited to 1-hour sessions and waiting time. If you want to avoid that, get the Priority Membership at $10.

Here’s how to use GeForce NOW to play PC games on Mac:

  1. Visit NVIDIA’s Website and create a free account or log in with Google or Facebook.
  2. Click Download in the top toolbar and find the macOS version of GeForce NOW.
click download in the top toolbar of geforce now homepage
  1. Click the Download button and install GeForce Now for Mac OS.
download geforce now for macos
  1. Log in to your account.
  2. Browse and select from the games library.

You’ll need to log in to Steam or another service for paid games.

  1. Start playing.

2. WineBottler

winebottler homepage

Looking for another cool way to play Windows Steam games on your Mac? Give Wine a try! It’s not an emulator but a compatibility layer that lets you run lots of Microsoft apps. WineBottler is its main hub, where you can easily download popular Windows apps – and it’s totally free!

Here’s how you can use WineBottler to play PC games on Mac:

  1. Go to WineBottler and download the app. Choose a stable version, not necessarily the latest.
download a stable version of winebottler from its homepage
  1. To install it, drag Wine and WineBottler to the Applications folder.
  2. Open WineBottler, find the Games tab, locate Steam, and hit Install.
  3. Log in to Steam.
  4. Find games in the Store. Browse, download what you want to play, and enjoy

Just remember, WineBottler can only run Wine-compatible games, so your options might be a bit limited.

3. CrossOver

crossover homepage

CrossOver is a handy app that takes care of the nitty-gritty for you, translating Windows commands into Mac ones. It’s designed to work with any Windows app, not just games, and has a team working on optimizing apps for smooth running on Mac.

However, it has some limitations – it doesn’t support DirectX 12 yet and costs $74 after a 14-day free trial.

Here’s how to use CrossOver to play PC games on Mac:

  1. Go to the CrossOver website and start with the free trial by clicking the Free Trial button.
click free trial on crossover website
  1. Choose your OS, and enter your name and email. Then, click the Download Trial Now button.
click download trial now on crossover website
  1. Double-click the CrossOver app in your Downloads folder.
double click the crossover app in downloads
  1. Click Move to Applications Folder on the pop-up to move it to your Applications folder.
click move to applications folder
  1. When the app starts, select Try Now.
click try now on the crossover trial pop up
  1. Once in CrossOver, you can install some games directly, but it’s best to install a game launcher like Steam.
  2. Select Steam and click Install. Follow the prompts to install any additional components needed.
  3. Once Steam is installed, install your games as you would on a Windows PC.
  4. CrossOver creates a bottle for apps like Steam, where your games are stored. In this bottle, you can manage your games and configure settings, like controllers.

4. Boot Camp (Intel Macs Only)

boot camp assistant

Apple’s Boot Camp is a favorite for many when installing Windows on a Mac without a virtual machine. This lets you boot up Windows 10 or macOS to use all your computer’s power just for gaming. But remember, you can’t flip back to Mac while you’re in Windows like you can with a virtual machine.

This method only works on Intel-based Macs.

Follow these steps to set up Boot Camp:

  1. Go to the Microsoft website and download the Windows 10 disk image (ISO) by clicking the 64-bit Download button.
click 64 bit download button to download windows 10 disk image
  1. Open Boot Camp Assistant using Spotlight.
  2. Boot Camp will find the Windows 10 ISO and guide you through installing it.
  3. Choose your Windows partition size wisely – some games need a lot of space, and you can’t change the size later. When ready, hit Install.
  4. To set up Windows 10, pick your language, hit Next, select I don’t have a product key, and choose the Windows 10 Home edition.
  5. Your Mac will restart in Windows once it’s all set up.
  6. You should see Boot Camp on your desktop – open it to install important drivers. If it doesn’t pop up, find it under This PC > OSXRESERVED.
  7. You’re all set to play most 32 and 64-bit Windows games.

To use Boot Camp, your Mac needs an Intel processor and at least 64 GB of storage (128 GB is better). For the newest games, a MacBook Pro or iMac with a separate graphics card (4GB and up) is ideal.

5. Streaming

play games on mac via streaming

Game streaming is a simple way to access lots of games. If you have good internet, you can use services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to play games on different devices, including your Mac, for a monthly fee.

The good thing is you don’t need a powerful computer to play big games. The streaming service plays the game for you and sends the video and audio to your device. This might cause some delay, but most services work fine if your internet is fast.

Game Pass Ultimate includes Xbox Cloud Gaming, so you can play games online on devices you already have. You can’t buy games or play your own, but you can play many games in the Game Pass library, including exclusives like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 at $14.99 a month for the Ultimate tier.

Valve’s Steam Link app is available for macOS if you have a gaming PC and want to use a Mac. This lets you play games from a PC on your Mac (or mobile device) over your home network, often better than streaming from a faraway server.

6. Cloud Computer Services

Cloud Computer Services are like having a powerful computer located somewhere else, but you can use it from your Mac. This means you can still play heavy PC games even if your Mac isn’t super powerful.

Two popular services are Shadow and Parsec.

a. Shadow

Shadow lets you rent a powerful Windows 10 PC stored in a data center. You connect to it over the internet, and it feels like you’re using a high-end Windows computer right from your Mac. It’s good for playing any PC game and even for other tasks like video editing.

Here’s how to use Shadow:

  1. Visit the Shadow website and create an account.
  2. Pick a subscription plan that suits your needs.
  3. Download and install the Shadow app on your Mac.
  4. Open the app, log in, and start playing your favorite PC games.

b. Parsec

Parsec is another service that lets you rent a gaming PC in the cloud. It’s known for having less lag and being great for playing games with fast action. With Parsec, you can also invite friends to play multiplayer games with you, even if they don’t have the game.

Here’s how to use Parsec:

  1. Go to the Parsec website and sign up.
  2. Choose a cloud computer based on your gaming needs.
  3. Install the Parsec app on your Mac, log in, and connect to your cloud computer.
  4. Once connected, you can download games and start playing.

Both services require a stable and fast internet connection. The smoother your internet, the better your gaming experience will be. And remember, while these services give you access to a Windows computer, you still need to buy or own the games you want to play.

7. Using a Virtual Machine

Using virtual machines might not be the top choice to play Windows games on a Mac, as they consume more computer power. But the good thing is you can flip between two operating systems whenever you like without restarting your Mac.

Tip: You can quickly switch between macOS and Windows using the Command ⌘ + Tab shortcut.

Parallels and VMWare Fusion are notable virtual machines, both available for free use. I’ll use Parallels for this guide as it’s user-friendly, fast, and compatible with the newest M1 Macs, and I’ve tested it before. While Parallels isn’t free, they offer a two-week testing trial.

Here’s how to get Parallels set up:

  1. Visit Parallels and create a new account.
parallels homepage
  1. Download the software and go to the Parallels Desktop for Mac Technical Preview page from your Dashboard.
  2. Scroll down to the Install and Activate section to get the latest version of Parallels. You’ll also find an activation key there that you’ll need later on.
  3. Next, it’s time to download Windows. If you have a Mac with an M1 processor, pick the ARM version. This is a must for creating virtual machines.
  4. Don’t forget to register as a Windows Insider—it’s necessary and free!
  5. Once you have everything downloaded, head back to the Installation Assistant and click Continue to set up your virtual machine.
  6. Parallels should find Windows 10 on its own. Just click Create when it does.
  7. Copy the activation key from the webpage and paste it in to get Parallels configuring Windows 10.
  8. Click Activate, and in a little bit, it’ll be ready to use.
  9. Lastly, open Microsoft Edge to find and install Steam. If you aren’t signed up yet, go ahead and create an account.

8. Using Emulators

Using emulators is another way to play PC games on Mac. Emulators work by mimicking the behavior of a Windows system, allowing you to run games and apps as if you were using a Windows computer.

Here’s a simple explanation of how to use an emulator:

  1. Choose an emulator. There are various emulators available, such as OpenEmu, Wine, and PlayOnMac. Pick the one that best suits your needs and is compatible with your Mac.
  2. Once you’ve chosen your emulator, visit its official website to download and install the software. Follow the instructions provided on the website to complete the installation process.
  3. After installing, open the emulator and configure the settings according to your preferences and system requirements. This might include adjusting the resolution, controls, and other settings to optimize game performance.
  4. Now, you can start installing Windows games on your Mac.
  5. With the emulator running, download the game installation files or insert the game disc, and follow the on-screen instructions to install the game.
  6. Once the game is installed, you can start playing. Open the game through the emulator, and enjoy playing Windows games on your Mac.

Remember, while emulators can be a handy solution, they may not provide a perfect gaming experience. Some games might not run as smoothly as on Windows, and you might encounter compatibility issues.

9. Game Porting Toolkit

To play games that use DirectX 12, you can use Apple’s Game Porting Toolkit. This tool is similar to CrossOver but is meant more for developers. So, be ready for some bugs and setup challenges.

Before you begin, ensure you have macOS Sonoma installed.

Here’s how to set up the Game Porting Toolkit:

  1. Go to the Apple Developer website and download the Command Line Tools for Xcode 15 and the Game Porting Toolkit.
  2. Install the Command Line Tools and open the Game Porting Toolkit file.
  3. You don’t need anything from the Toolkit now. Keep it open and start the Terminal.
  4. Type in the following commands, pressing Enter after each.

For M1 or M2 Macs:

softwareupdate --install-rosetta
  1. Next, type:
arch -x86_64 zsh to start an x86 shell
  1. Now, you need to install Homebrew. To do that, type the following command and press Enter:
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh"

If Homebrew is already there, you’re set.

  1. To check Homebrew path, type which brew and check if it points to usr/local/bin/brew.
  2. Type the following and press Enter:
brew tap apple/apple http://github.com/apple/homebrew-apple
  1. To install the Toolkit, type the following and press Enter:
brew -v install apple/apple/game-porting-toolkit

Wait for it to complete.

  1. Next, set up a virtual drive with Wine. To do that, type the following and press Enter:
WINEPREFIX=~/my-game-prefix brew -prefix game-porting-toolkit/bin/wine64 winecfg
  1. This will open a Wine configuration menu where you can select Windows 10.
  2. Copy the Toolkit to the drive by typing the following and pressing Enter:
ditto /Volumes/Game\ Porting\ Toolkit-1.0.2/lib/ brew --prefix game-porting-toolkit/lib/
  1. Next, you’re all set to launch your game. I’ll use Steam as an example, but remember, this method works for any Windows application.
  2. If you’re installing Steam, download the Windows installation files and save them in your Downloads folder.
  3. In Terminal, type the following and press Enter:
gameportingtoolkit ~/my-game-prefix ~/Downloads/SteamSetup.exe
  1. A Windows installation will pop up. Follow the steps and to launch Steam, type the following and press Enter:
gameportingtoolkit ~/my-game-prefix 'C\Program Files (x86)/Steam/steam.exe

Replace the path for other apps.

10. Unofficial Ports

Using unofficial ports is another method to play PC games on Mac. Unofficial ports are versions of the game that fans or independent developers have modified to work on different operating systems, such as macOS.

You might know the well-known game, Diablo, which you can play on a 64-bit Mac using DevilutionX. Another excellent website is Mac Source Ports. This site gathers unofficial ports for games whose source code has been publicly released, known as source ports.

For this to work, you’ll need to buy the original game. Once you convert it using the methods provided, you’ll get a game that works perfectly on macOS.

Keep in mind that since these ports are not official releases, they might have bugs or performance issues. Always use caution and ensure the port is safe and legal to use.

Play PC Games on Your Mac Without Any Hiccups

From using Boot Camp and Virtual Machines to exploring the possibilities of game streaming services and emulators, each method offers a unique approach to playing PC games on Mac.

Here are a few more tips to enhance your gaming on Mac:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How can I play Windows games on my Mac without Boot Camp?

    You can play Windows games on your Mac without Boot Camp by using game streaming services, virtual machines like Parallels, emulators, or through unofficial ports and cloud computer services. Each method offers a unique approach to bridging the Mac and Windows gaming divide.

  2. What is the best software to run Windows games on a Mac?

    The best software to run Windows games on a Mac depends on user preference and needs, but Boot Camp is a popular choice for Intel-based Macs for its direct approach. Alternatives for M1 Macs include Parallels, VMWare Fusion for virtual machines, and services like NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW for game streaming.

  3. Can you run PC games on Mac with an M1 silicon chip?

    Yes, you can run PC games on a Mac with an M1 silicon chip. Options include using Virtual Machines or emulators and using services like Parallels for compatibility. Game streaming services and unofficial ports also provide ways to effectively play PC games on M1 Macs.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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