How to Play Windows Games on Mac 2022.
Macs have a reputation for being inadequate when it comes to gaming. Nobody buys a Mac for gaming. They just play on the Mac because that’s what they have.
The truth is that Mac games have evolved by leaps and bounds, but Windows still accounts for the lion’s share of PC games. The good news is that you can play many Windows games on your Mac, and they will work well if you have the hardware to do so. We’ll go over all the most practical options Mac gamers have to play Windows games.
Intel vs. Apple Silicon Macs
You may know that Apple has switched to its processors and GPUs. Called “Apple Silicon,” modern Mac computers now use the same hardware as the iPhone and iPad. You’ll find Apple Silicon in popular computers such as the M1 MacBook Air, M1 Mac Mini, and M1 MacBook Pro.
There are many benefits to this, but if you want to play Windows games on your Mac, some of the features we discuss below are not available to you. Or at least it takes an extra step to work.
Check For a Mac Version
Before doing anything too complicated, make sure there is no native Mac version of the game you want to play. It’s easy to assume that the game is only for Windows, but you might be surprised at how many games have native Mac versions.
For example, Borderlands 3 (a 2019 title) has a great native Mac version. When you buy it, you usually get both versions of the game, so you may already have the Mac for Windows versions you purchased.
Using their desktop clients, you can easily check if you have the Mac version of the game in your Steam, Epic Game Store, Battle.net, or Good Old Games (GoG) libraries. Just filter the games in your library by operating system.
In each storefront, you can also filter games to only show games with a Mac version. Please note that if you are using macOS Catalina or later, 32-bit Mac games will no longer work.
Look For Unofficial Ports
While the official developer of a game may not provide an official Mac version, sometimes you can find fan-made ports that make playable versions of this game on Mac.
For example, you can play the classic game Diablo with DevilutionX and it will run on any modern Mac as long as it’s a 64-bit application. Another great place to look is Mac Source Ports. This website collects source ports, unofficial ports made for games whose source code has been released to the public.
You will still need to buy the original game and then convert it following the instructions provided, but you will end up with a game that works great on macOS.
Run Windows With Boot Camp
The most efficient way to play Windows games on a Mac is to install Windows on it and effectively turn it into a Windows PC. You can do this with the official macOS Boot Camp feature, which allows you to dual boot between a macOS and Windows installation.
When Boot Camp is set up properly and all the correct drivers are installed, Windows programs and games will work just like they do on a Windows computer. So you can play Windows Steam games and games that require OpenGL, which Apple no longer supports.
Unfortunately, Boot Camp doesn’t work with Apple Silicon Macs, and most Intel-based Macs have weak integrated GPUs, so you won’t be playing anything particularly new or challenging. If you have an Intel Mac with a powerful discrete GPU, you’re having a good time!
The Boot Camp process is quite complex and deserves a complete guide. Luckily, we have a detailed Boot Camp guide to help you play on Mac.
The main disadvantage of Boot Camp is that you have to restart your computer every time you want to play. If this sounds too long, the next option may be more attractive.
Run a Virtual Machine
A virtual machine is a special type of software that tricks operating systems into thinking they are running on a real computer. This is a simulated computer and with this software you can run operating systems such as Linux or Windows on macOS.
There are several virtual machine options for Mac users, but VMWare Fusion and VirtualBox are probably the best known options. Using a virtual machine can be a convenient and effective solution for relatively simple Windows games or older games. However, advanced GPU features that require native drivers may not work properly through the virtual machine, resulting in crashes or unreproducible performance.
Virtual machines are mostly good for accessing productivity software or certain packages that don’t have a native Mac version. So when it comes to gaming, your mileage may vary.
Virtual machines on Apple Silicon
If you’re using an Apple Silicon Mac, you can still run Windows virtual machines. However, you are limited to running the ARM version of Windows because it matches the CPU architecture of an Apple Silicon computer.
Windows for ARM runs standard Windows applications using a translation layer similar to Rosetta 2 to run Intel Mac applications on non-Intel Apple Silicon. However, it is nowhere near as efficient or productive.
If you try to run such a Windows game, you will go through several levels of emulation and virtualization. It’s a recipe for completely unplayable performance, and at the time of writing, we can’t recommend it.
Use Cloud Streaming
You can play Windows games on your Mac without actually playing themon your Mac! How? The answer is cloud gaming. The actual computer running the game is somewhere in the data center, audio and video are streamed to your computer and your commands are sent back.
If you have the right internet connection and live close enough to the data center for good latency, this can be a great experience. Although we strongly recommend using Ethernet rather than Wi-Fi if possible.
The best part about cloud streaming is that you don’t have to limit your games to your Mac. You can start and continue playing on your mobile phone or even on some TV boxes like Google Chromecast or Android TV.
Notable game streaming services include Google Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now, Microsoft Xbox Xcloud, and PlayStation Now. What’s more, many of these services can also run on iOS devices, so you can play on Apple devices other than your Mac.
Use Crossover Mac, PlayOnMac, Parallels Desktop, or WINE
While a traditional virtual machine can run many Windows games on a Mac, the best overall solution may well be a compatibility layer or a hybrid system that also uses virtualization. The main benefit here (besides performance) is that you don’t have to restart your Mac or switch back and forth between a fresh system and a virtual machine. Games should just work like any other Mac application to the user’s eyes.
Mac Crossover ($49.95)
Crossover is a commercial implementation of the WINE project, which we’ll talk about later. Crossover translates the “language” of Windows applications to what macOS understands and vice versa. This approach is efficient in practice and fast enough to run many games in a playable state.
How about Apple Silicon? Despite the larger performance hit, Windows applications can run through Crossover through a triple layer of emulation and virtualization. Why use Crossover and not just use the free and open source WINE? The answer is that Crossover has a dedicated team of developers who implement tweaks and fixes for the most popular games. So you can play games with the best possible performance under the circumstances.
Crossover is quite pricey, but it costs less than a Windows license, and there’s a free trial to make sure your favorite games work before you pay anything.
PlayOnMac is a free compatibility and emulation layer application for Mac OS X based on the WINE project, just like CrossOver. The application wraps each Windows application in a compatibility layer and automatically makes adjustments for each application thanks to an online settings database. PlayOnMac may not have the widest compatibility compared to commercial solutions, but it’s free, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
Parallels Desktop (from $79.99)
Like CrossOver, Parallels Desktop uses virtualization technology and a version of Windows ARM to run on Apple Silicon computers. Parallels developers have optimized a lot. If you only want to play games, Parallels has a special “Games Only” mode that provides the best performance when using OpenGL or DirectX. It’s as easy as installing a game client like Steam for Windows with Parallels and running your games.
Using an Apple Silicon Mac, they recommend one with 16 GB of RAM as it significantly impacts performance in some games.
WINE (free and open source)
WINE (Wine Is Not An Emulator) is the granddaddy of compatibility with Unix-like operating systems such as macOS, Linux, and BSD. As noted above, WINE is at the heart of commercial solutions such as Crossover and PlayOnMac, but you won’t have paid support here. All of this is community driven.
It’s not bad. Of course, you may even find that the Wine community is a welcoming place with plenty of tutorials and helpful users on the forums. Wine has been working with Apple Silicon Mac since version 6.1, but you are limited to 64-bit Windows executables (.exe).
Future Option: Apple Silicon Linux With Proton
Like macOS, Linux has had a pretty bad reputation as a gaming platform for most of its existence, but that’s been changing rapidly lately. There are plenty of games that now work great thanks to Proton’s compatibility layer, and there are official gaming PCs like Steam Deck that only use Proton.
While not ready yet, the developers are working on a native Linux version for Apple Silicon. The Proton developers are also working on the necessary tweaks to make Proton work with the Linux version of Apple Silicon. While it will most likely never be as good as native DirectX games running on a Windows gaming PC, that future could be very close!
How to Play Windows Games on Mac 2022
How to Play Windows Games on Mac 2022