Macs have not always been known for gaming but they’ve come a long way in recent years so here we’ve looked at the best Mac for gaming in 2023.
10 years ago not many people would have recommended Macs for gaming.
But as the processing and graphics power of Macs has increased, more and more developers have embraced Macs for gaming.
The Steam gaming platform now runs on Macs and the list of compatible games is constantly growing.
The latest generation of Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs with M series Pro, Max and Ultra are the fastest ever with graphics capabilities that can more than handle the most demanding AAA games.
Although Apple Silicon Macs don’t feature discrete graphics cards like most PCs do (that’s graphics cards that are separate from the processor) the M series chips are more than capable of handling gaming.
And although there are still many big titles not released for Mac, there now many ways of playing PC only games on Mac that perform surprisingly well.
And don’t forget that Game Center has been improved on the latest version of macOS Ventura so that you can game seamlessly between your iPhone, iPad and Mac although there aren’t any major games releases on it.
You May Also Like:
- The Best Macs For Students
- Best Ways To Play PC Only Games On Mac
- The Best Virtual Machines For Mac
- How To Play Windows Only Steam Games On a Mac in GeForce Now
- Is The M1 & M2 Mac Good For Gaming?
- Playing PC Only Games On Mac
- Which Mac Is Better For Gaming?
- External Displays For Gaming On Mac
- External Hard Drives For Gaming On Mac
- Connecting Controllers To A Mac For Gaming
- Are The MacBook Pro & MacBook Air Good For Gaming?
- Best Mac For Gaming
- 1. 2023 M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch
- 2. M2 Mac Mini
- 3. M2 Mac Studio
- Best Macs For Gaming Compared
Is The M1 & M2 Mac Good For Gaming?
The main problem for Mac users is that there still aren’t many developers making games for the latest generation of Apple Silicon ARM chip Macs such as the M2 MacBook Pro, M2 Mac Mini and M2 Mac Studio.
Most games are built for the Intel x86 chip which powered the previous generation of Macs. It used to be much easier for developers to create a Mac version of an Intel driven game on PC.
However, the Apple Silicon chips have a completely different ARM architecture which means rewriting the game for ARM chips.
Understandably, many developers simply don’t have the resources or financial incentive to do this considering the relatively small Mac user base compared to PCs.
Some developers have created native Apple Silicon versions of their games to work on M1 & M2 Macs such as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, Gameloft’s Asphalt 9 and Microsoft’s Minecraft but these are notable exceptions to the rule.
macOS does include a free tool called Rosetta which translates Intel only games and software to work on ARM chips but it adds another layer of translation to gaming and often results in lag or glitching during gameplay.
Examples of games that work on a M1 & M2 Macs via Rosetta include Diablo III, Borderlands and Final Fantasy XIV.
You can search which games work natively on ARM and which work via Rosetta on a Mac here.
There have been other changes made by Apple that have also made it harder to develop games for Macs.
For example, Apple introduced Metal for 3D graphics on Macs which is an Apple specific API for harnessing the power of graphic cards for 3D.
This has added another layer of complexity for developers wanting to create games for Macs.
In addition, from macOS Catalina onwards, Mac stopped supporting 32 bit games and software meaning 32 bit games won’t work on Macs anymore without unreliable workarounds.
In the wake of these changes, Steam even dropped it’s Mac VR gaming platform as developers increasingly turned their back on macOS.
Finally, there’s the lack of eGPU support in M1/M2 Macs.
An External Graphics Processing Unit (eGPU) is sometimes used by gamers with Intel Macs to play demanding AAA titles that won’t normally work with a Mac’s internal graphics card.
However, Apple Silicon Macs do not support eGPUs and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.
Playing PC Only Games On Mac
The lack of Mac compatible games on the market mean that many Mac users resort to running Windows on their Mac to play Mac games.
There are various ways of playing PC only games on a Mac although these have been reduced with the introduction of Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs.
Traditionally, the most effective way to play PC games on a Mac has been to run Windows on a Mac using Boot Camp.
The advantage of Boot Camp is that it devotes all of your Mac’s resources to running Windows and any games that you want to run on it compared to other less efficient methods all of which require some kind of virtualization or translation layer.
However, Boot Camp is no longer an option for Apple Silicon M Series Macs.
Apple has removed Boot Camp from Apple Silicon Macs thus removing one of the most popular and free ways of playing Windows games on a Mac.
The other most popular way of running Windows on a Mac is to use a virtual machine such as Parallels.
Whereas Boot Camp only gives you the option of booting in either macOS or Windows, virtual machines run Windows within macOS so you can use Windows and macOS at the same time.
The disadvantage of this is that it takes a lot more processing power to run Windows this way and as a result games often don’t work on a Mac as well as in Boot Camp.
Unlike Boot Camp, virtual environments also do not support anti-cheat software such as Vanguard that is used to protect games from cheating.
The other problem for Apple Silicon Macs users is that M1 and M2 Macs can only run the ARM version of Windows in a virtual machine.
The ARM version of Windows is different to the x86 Intel version of Windows that most people use and there are very few games that work in Windows ARM.
Although Windows ARM can translate games to work on it using what’s called x86 emulation, it adds a further level of processing which again leads to games performing poorly or not at all on a Mac.
Finally, an increasingly popular way of playing Windows only games on a Mac is via cloud gaming platforms such as NVIDIA’s GeForce Now For Mac and Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud.
All you need to play a game on a Cloud gaming platform is a fast internet connection because the game isn’t actually installed on your Mac.
Using the Cloud gaming service GeForce Now is the best way to play Fortnite on a Mac for example.
The disadvantage of Cloud gaming services is that not all games are available on them. They also require a monthly or annual subscription to play which is usually in the region of $10 per month.
There are also apps that allow you to stream console games to a Mac. For example, you can use OneCast to play Xbox games on a Mac which is currently the only way to play Hogwarts Legacy on a Mac for example.
Which Mac Is Better For Gaming?
The simple truth is the more powerful the Mac, the better it is for gaming. Gaming demands a lot of your processor (CPU) and graphics card (GPU).
There’s no such thing as an Apple gaming laptop or computer but there are some Macs which can handle gaming better than others.
In terms of processor (CPU), the more cores it has the better as it means it can handle more tasks at once.
The Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip is the most powerful Apple Silicon Mac on the market with up to 24 cores.
The more portable M2 MacBook Pro with M2 Pro and M2 Max chip has up to 12 cores.
In terms of graphics card (GPU), the Mac Studio is again the most powerful with up to 76 cores in the Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip compared to up to 19 cores in Macs with the M2 Pro chip and up to 38 cores in the M2 Max chip.
Finally the more RAM the better. This is always true when it comes to gaming but especially if you’re planning to run a virtual machine on a Mac.
Apple has renamed RAM to “Unified Memory” in the latest Apple Silicon Macs as the memory is physically unified with the hard drive.
You can’t add more RAM (or indeed anything else) to an Apple Silicon Mac after purchasing it so you need to add as much as you can afford on checkout.
The Mac Studio M2 Ultra can support up to 192GB of RAM, the M2 MacBook Pro with M2 Max up to 96GB of RAM and up to 64GB of RAM in the MacBook Pro and Mac Mini with M2 Pro chips.
Note that you can no longer buy Intel Macs from new from Apple although you can buy then refurbished.
If you buy a refurbished Intel Mac for gaming, then you’ll need to go for one with at least an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 running at 2.0Ghz plus.
However, we wouldn’t recommend getting an Intel Mac anymore as the future of Mac is clearly Apple Silicon based.
External Displays For Gaming On Mac
Finally you may want to consider getting an external monitor for gaming on a Mac.
The Mac Studio and Mac Mini don’t come with a display so you’ll already need to buy one but you’ll also want a bigger screen than the MacBook Pro can offer too.
The best display for most Macs is the amazing Apple Studio Display which offers stunning 5K Liquid Retina resolution.
However, there are cheaper alternatives available although the best external monitor for you will depend on which display you have:
External Hard Drives For Gaming On Mac
Another factor to consider is hard drive space. Although you can max out some Macs with 8TB of hard drive space on purchasing, it’s extremely expensive.
We recommend adding at least a 1TB internal SSD drive to your Mac on purchase because the smaller hard drives have actually been found to be slower in testing.
These offer fare value in terms of TB per dollar and can easily be connected to a Mac and carried around.
Connecting Controllers To A Mac For Gaming
You can connect a PlayStation or Xbox controller to a Mac for gaming via Bluetooth.
Note that this does not currently work on Apple Silicon Macs using Parallels although this is expected to be fixed soon.
For more check out our guide on how to use an Xbox or PlayStation controller with a Mac.
Are The MacBook Pro & MacBook Air Good For Gaming?
The latest M2 MacBook Pro is certainly powerful enough for gaming, especially if you max it out with as many CPU cores, GPU cores and hard drive space as possible.
The M2 MacBook Pro has fans inside to cool it down which is essential when you’re gaming on a Mac.
The best MacBook Pro configuration for gaming would undoubtedly be a maxed out M2 MacBook Pro with M2 Max chip, 12GB of RAM and an 8TB hard drive.
The MacBook Air however is not good for gaming. Partly this is because even the MacBook Air is a lot less powerful than a MacBook Pro but also because it has no fans for cooling and intensive gaming could rapidly overheat the MacBook Air.
Best Mac For Gaming
With all this in mind, here then are the best Macs for gaming of 2023.
If money is no object, then the 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro is the most powerful MacBook for gaming in 2023.
Hot off the press and released in January 2023, the 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro is the best MacBook on the market and can handle even the most demanding of games.
With a generous 16 inch screen which is comfortable enough for lengthy periods of gaming although even better with an external monitor, the M2 MacBook Pro is an incredibly powerful machine.
The Liquid Retina XDR display offers stunning 3456 x 2234 pixel quality with ProMotion technology which supports adaptive refresh rates of up to 120Hz.
This ability to support high refresh rates is very important for fast moving gaming to look smooth and play at the highest frame rates.
The best MacBook Pro configuration for gaming would be to customize the RAM with up to 96GB of unified memory, add an even more powerful M2 Pro or M2 Max chip and to top it off, max it out with a whopping 8TB of SSD hard drive space.
However this would set you back several thousand dollars but even a configuration half of this would still be powerful enough for gaming on a Mac.
The only Apple Silicon Mac which out performs the M2 MacBook Pro with M2 Max chip is the M2 Mac Studio if you maxed it out with the top of the range M2 Ultra chip.
The bigger 16 inch model is definitely more suitable for gaming compared to the cheaper 14 or 13 inch versions unless you plan on connecting an external display.
The M2 MacBook Pro can also work off the battery for an amazing 22 hours in optimum conditions although the demands of gaming mean you will see considerably less than this.
If money is no object and you’re looking for the best MacBook for gaming in 2023, then the 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro is your answer.
You can read our full M2 MacBook Pro review for more.
- The most powerful MacBook on the market for gaming
- 16 inch screen for gaming
- High resolution and refresh rate Liquid Retina XDR display
- Up to 22 hours battery life in optimum conditions
- Up to 8TB of hard drive space
- Up to 96GB of unified memory
- Supports multiple external displays with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips
- The heaviest MacBook to carry around
If you don’t want a Mac laptop for gaming, then the M2 Mac Mini is easily the best budget Mac for gaming on the market.
Released in January 2023, the M2 Mac Mini starts at just $599 which is actually $100 cheaper than the original M1 Mac Mini released in 2020 although we wouldn’t recommend the cheapest model for gaming as it only comes with a 256GB hard drive.
You can only customize the M2 Mac Mini with up to 32GB of unified memory RAM but you can add storage of up to 8TB.
Remember that since the M2 Mac Mini has no monitor, keyboard or mouse, you’ll have to buy them separately although you can use pretty much any monitor, keyboard or mouse with it.
For gaming, your main concern will be the display quality and you can check out our guide to the best external monitors for the Mac Mini for more on the best displays for gaming on it.
Although it’s more expensive than the basic M2 chip, we strongly recommend going for the more powerful M2 Mac Mini with M2 Pro chip as it also supports up to three external displays – two via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI 2.1.
The basic M2 Mac Mini supports two external displays but only one via Thunderbolt, the other via HDMI. The HDMI port in both models of Mac Mini is also useful if you want to connect your Mac Mini to a TV too for gaming.
If you’re looking for the cheapest Mac for gaming, the M2 Mac Mini offers great value for money but lacks the convenience of the screen in a MacBook which can be used on the move.
You can read our full M2 Mac Mini review for more on this incredibly powerful budget Mac.
- Incredible value for gaming
- Can support up to 3 displays simultaneously with M2 Pro chip
- Up to 8TB of storage
- Easily portable
- Upgraded HDMI 2.1 port
- Cheaper than the M1 Mac Mini
- Requires keyboard, monitor and mouse separately
- Not as portable as a MacBook
- Can only be customized with up to 32GB of RAM for gaming
The M2 Mac Studio is Apple’s most powerful desktop Apple Silicon Mac and is our pick for the most powerful Mac for gaming due to a mix of incredible power and connectivity.
The Mac Studio is a bit like the Mac Mini on steroids and is mainly aimed at creative professionals although it also makes an awesome gaming machine.
Apple now only stocks the M2 Mac Studio from new although you may be able to buy a refurbished M1 Mac Studio from Apple.
The Mac Studio is the only Mac available with the unbelievably fast M2 Ultra chip with 24-core or 76-core performance.
Even the base model new Mac Studio without the M2 Max or M2 Ultra chip is pretty powerful with a 12-core CPU and up to a 38-core GPU.
The Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip has a 24-core CPU and up to 76-core GPU which Apple claims offer up to 20% and 30% performance improvements respectively compared to the M1 Ultra.
The M2 Max Mac Studio can be fitted with up to 96GB of unified memory and the M2 Ultra Mac Studio a whopping 192GB of unified memory and 800GB/s memory bandwidth which dwarfs the processing power of both the M2 Mac Mini and M2 MacBook Pro.
That’s more than powerful enough for gaming and way beyond many PC gaming setups.
The M2 Mac Studio is also packed with ports for connectivity including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10GB ethernet port, two USB-A ports, HDMI 2.1 and a Pro audio jack for plugging in headphone for in-game chats.
Pricing for the Mac Studio starts at $1,999 (£1,999) for the M2 Max with the M2 Ultra starting at $3,999 (£3,999).
If you bought a top of the range Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip, 8TB of SSD it would cost $7,999 (£6,100) so it doesn’t come cheap but you wouldn’t need to upgrade for years to come.
You might also be interested in our look at the best monitors for the Mac Studio too.
Check-out our full Mac Studio M2 review to see what we thought of this unbelievably powerful compact Mac.
- The most powerful Apple Silicon Mac for gaming with M2 Ultra chip
- Up to 76-core processing power
- Up to 8TB internal SSD
- Up to 800GB/s memory bandwidth
- Supports up to 5 external monitors
- Incredibly high quality images when paired with Apple Studio Display
- Not upgradable after purchase
- Requires monitor, keyboard and mouse
Best Macs For Gaming Compared
Here’s a comparison table of the best Macs for gaming compared to make it easier to see how they compare side-by-side.