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best way play windows games mac - cover

Best Ways To Play Windows Games On a Mac of 2024 (inc. Free, Steam and Apple Silicon)

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Macs have come a long way when it comes to gaming but there are still many major AAA titles that aren’t released for them.

Fear not though as we tested and reviewed the best ways to play PC only games on a Mac in 2024 including on the latest Apple Silicon M-chip Macs and for PC only Steam games.

Although Macs have always been well behind PCs for gaming titles, things are slowly changing and nowadays big releases such as Alien Isolation, Diablo III, and Resident Evil VII are available for Mac.

There are still many major AAA games that have never been released for macOS including hotly anticipated releases such as Starfield and Counter Strike 2.

In our research and testing we found Crossover as the best method to run Windows only games on a Mac in 2024 thanks to its wide support for Windows games, stability and ease of use.

1. Crossover

crossover windows games mac

Crossover has rapidly risen to become our preferred and most effective to play Windows only games on a Mac on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs.

Crossover is a compatibility layer which “translates” Windows games to work in macOS which means you don’t actually have to install Windows itself on your Mac.

The technology behind it is based on the free open source project “Wine” but Crossover is far more powerful in a much easier to use interface.

It’s important to be aware that Crossover doesn’t actually host games for you though.

You’ll still need to own or purchase the Windows game you want to play on a platform such as on Steam, Ubisoft+, Epic and Battle.net.

What Crossover does is allow you to install the Windows clients of these platforms so you can play the PC version of games on a Mac.

It’s also currently the only feasible way to play games that use DirectX 12 on Apple Silicon Macs.

That’s because Crossover 23 now supports DirectX 12.

This has opened the door to a lot of Windows/console only games to Mac users such as Diablo 4 and Hogwarts Legacy which require DirectX 12.

Crossover also recently announced an additional update to support Counter Strike 2 on a Mac as the developer Valve decided not to launch a Mac version of the incredibly popular FPS game.

The latest 23.7 update in November 2023 has also added improved support for MoltenVK meaning games like Diablo IV, Dark Souls III and Fallout 4 work much smoother on a Mac too.

Crossover doesn’t work with all games though and we recommend checking the list of Crossover supported apps and games before buying it.

Pricing for Crossover starts at $74 for Crossover+ but there is also a Crossover Life for $494 which gives you lifetime upgrades and support..

You can try a 14 day free trial of Crossover to test it first.

You can also check out our full Crossover review for more.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require installing Windows on a Mac to play PC only games
  • Doesn’t require rebooting your Mac
  • Works with most games and software on Apple Silicon Macs
  • Crossover 23 supports DirectX 12 games
  • Allows you to play Windows only Steam games on a Mac

Cons:

  • Annual subscription
  • Limited amount of games and apps it can run
  • Doesn’t work with all games and apps
  • Doesn’t work with games protected by anti-cheat software

2. Xbox Cloudplay starfield on mac xbox cloud gaming

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate provides access to Xbox Cloud which allows you to play not just Xbox games but also PC only games on a Mac such as the incredibly popular Starfield.

Xbox Cloud allows you to play any Xbox game and many PC games simply in a browser on a Mac, even if you don’t own an Xbox.

However, you will need an Xbox controller to use it as Xbox Cloud connects to it via Bluetooth on your Mac.

Pricing for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is $16.99 per month although you can currently get it for $1 for the first month .

Note that the Ultimate plan is the only one that supports Cloud gaming on a Mac so its important you choose that plan over the PC one.

xbox game pass pricingPros:

 

  • Works on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs
  • All games included in the price
  • Works in any browser on a Mac
  • Works with games that require DirectX 12
  • Works with games protected with anti-cheat software

Cons:

  • Requires a subscription
  • Requires an Xbox controller
  • Queues for Xbox Cloud gaming slots

3. GeForce Now For Mac

best way play pc games mac - cloud gaming

NVIDIA’S GeForce Now For Mac service allows Mac users to play Windows only games in the Cloud.

Unlike Xbox Cloud, GeForce Now doesn’t actually provide the games for you.

It simply connects to game platforms such as Steam and Epic and then allows you to play games that are only available for Windows on them in the Cloud.

GeForce Now requires you to connect to gaming platforms like Steam and the Epic Games Store so that you can play Steam games that are PC only.

For example, connecting GeForce Now to Steam allows you to play Counter Strike 2 on a Mac for free as it allows one hour of gaming for free.

Microsoft has also announced that it will bring some of its PC Game Pass games to GeForce Now For Mac although you’ll need both a PC Game Pass and GeForce Now subscription to play them.

However not all game publishers allow you to link their games to GeForce Now so it won’t work for all games.

You can also try a one hour session of GeForce Now for free and try as many sessions as you like but beyond that you’ll need a subscription.

Subscriptions for GeForce Now start at $9.99 per month for unlimited gaming on a Priority plan or $19.99 per month for an RTX 3080 plan with faster servers and 4K resolution.

You can read our full GeForce Now for Mac review for more.

Pros:

  • Allows you to play Windows only games in Steam, Epic etc
  • One hour of gaming per session free
  • Works on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs
  • Works with games that require DirectX 12
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Allows you to play high end games even on older Macs
  • Works with games protected with anti-cheat software

Cons:

  • Does not include the games in the price
  • Not all game developers support linking to GeForce Now
  • Requires a subscription

4. Whisky (Free)

 

Whisky is an emulation layer that uses much of the same technology as Crossover to make Windows games work on a Mac for free.

Like Crossover, Whisky uses the Apple Game Porting Kit (see below) to run DirectX 12 on a Mac the difference being Whisky is free whereas Crossover requires a subscription.

Whisky For Mac simply provides a more user friendly way for anyone to harness the power of Apple Game Porting Toolkit to run Windows only games on a Mac, including those that use DirectX 12.

Whisky isn’t as good as Crossover and doesn’t work with as many games but it’s easy to setup and use and works surprisingly well.

Whisky supports both DirectX 12 and playing Windows only Steam games on a Mac and major titles such as Diablo 4, Rocket League, Cyberpunk, Half Life, GTA 5 and more.

Whisky does not work for playing all games on a Mac. There are many game publisher clients such as Ubisoft+ and EA that don’t work in Whisky.

Whisky also doesn’t work with many games that use anti-cheat software such as Easy Anti Cheat in World of Tanks and PUBG: Battlegrounds.

Note that Whisky does not work on Intel Macs. It only works on Apple Silicon Macs running macOS Sonoma – it does not work with Ventura.

For more, check out our guide on how to use Whisky on a Mac.

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Supports DirectX 12
  • Works for PC only Steam games

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work with all games
  • Not as stable or supports as many games as other methods
  • Only works on Apple Silicon Macs running Sonoma

5. Apple Game Porting Toolkit (Free)

apple game porting toolkit

At the June 2023 WWDC, Apple announced the release of macOS Sonoma along with a new Game Mode and new Game Porting Toolkit.

The new Apple Game Porting ToolKit allows developers to more easily test whether Windows only games will port to Mac well or not.

Crucially, the Game Porting Toolkit also supports DirectX 12 making it the only option outside of using Crossover or Boot Camp on Intel Macs to play games on a Mac that require DirectX 12.

Like Crossover, it uses the same Wine translation layer to translate Windows API calls to Metal API including for keyboards, gamepads and other game peripherals on a Mac.

Although the Game Porting Toolkit is designed to test the development of games, it can be used by anyone with a little bit of developer know-how to play games and has already been used to play Diablo 4, Hogwarts Legacy and Cyberpunk 2077 on a Mac.

However, you need to be a member of the Apple Developer Program in order to use it and you’ll also need to know how to set it up.

If you’re a member of the Apple Developer Program you can download the Game Porting Kit here.

You can also read more about the Apple Game Porting Kit here.

Pros:

  • Supports DirectX 12
  • Can be used by any developer signed up to the Apple Developer Program
  • Free to use

Cons:

  • Requires developer knowledge to use
  • Designed mainly for testing games
  • May still result in lag and low latency

6. Virtual Machine

parallels

A virtual machine (also known as a virtual environment or virtualization software) allows you to run Windows “virtually” within macOS.

This means you can run macOS and Windows at the same time and switch between them whenever you want which is incredibly convenient.

By far the best virtual machine for Mac is Parallels which automatically downloads and installs Windows on a Mac and is easy enough for anyone to use.

The closest rival to Parallels is VMware Fusion which now also offers automatic installing and downloading of Windows 11 on a Mac.

Although VMware has improved a lot, we still think Parallels is the best virtual machine to play Windows PC games on a Mac in 2024 for its ease of installation, speed, and the way it conveniently allows you to switch between macOS and Windows instantly.

There’s also VirtualBox which is free and open source but even harder to setup and use than commercial products. VirtualBox also cannot install Windows on Apple Silicon chip Macs yet either.

Parallels is also the best way to run Windows on Apple Silicon Macs and the first virtual solution that supported Apple Silicon Macs.

Parallels is the only way to run Windows on a Mac that is officially endorsed by Microsoft.

Both Parallels and VMware support DirectX 11 (not DirectX 12 though) and Metal which is required for many games.

Virtual machines can also be used to play 32 bit games on a Mac since the latest versions of macOS have dropped support for 32-bit apps and games.

However, there are some games that won’t either don’t work or won’t work in virtual environments like Parallels for technical reasons.

This is usually because:

  • The game uses anti-cheat protection software such as Vanguard or Denuvo which won’t work in virtual environment. Examples of this include Genshin Impact, Valorant, Hogwarts Legacy and Elden Ring.
  • The game requires DirectX 12 to run such as Diablo 4 as virtual machines cannot run DirectX 12. However, virtual environments including Parallels can run DirectX 11 as used in games such as Diablo Immortal.
  • The game is very demanding on the graphics card and processor and won’t run well in a virtual environment. A good example of this is the game Valheim as the graphics do not render well in a virtual machine due to the amount of graphics acceleration that’s required in by the game.

You can read more about the best virtual machines for Mac for more.

Pros:

  • Very easy to install Windows
  • Runs Windows 11 and macOS simultaneously
  • Excellent for gaming
  • Fast startup and shutdown time
  • Optimized for macOS Sonoma and Windows 11
  • Now supports DirectX 11 and Metal
  • Officially supports running Windows on M-chip Macs
  • Can be deployed across lots of Macs by IT teams

Cons:

  • Updates aren’t free
  • Requires a separate license for each Mac you want to install it on
  • Subscription pricing model
  • Games that use anti-cheat protection won’t work in virtual machines
  • Apple Silicon Macs can only run Windows ARM
  • Doesn’t work for games that require DirectX 12

7. Apple Boot Camp (Free – Intel Macs Only)

boot camp installer mac

At one time, Boot Camp was the only way to install PC games on Macs but Apple’s decision to drop it from Apple Silicon Macs and competing methods make it an increasingly obsolete way of doing so.

Boot Camp is a free tool in macOS on Intel Macs only which allows you to install Windows on a partition on your Mac hard drive so you can choose whether to dual boot your Mac in either Windows or macOS.

The advantage of this is that it dedicates all of your Mac’s resources to a game which may require a lot of RAM or graphics acceleration processing power.

Using Boot Camp to play Windows only games has been especially popular over the years with gamers because Boot Camp leverages more power from your graphics card as it doesn’t have to run a virtual machine in the background.

This makes playing games such as Valheim on a Mac much smoother and less choppy as there are far fewer dropped frames.

It also means that you can install games by Riot like Elden Ring on Mac which don’t work in Parallels due to the Riot Vanguard anti-cheat protection software.

Boot Camp also supports games that require DirectX 12 in Windows on a Mac such as Diablo 4.

The other big advantage of Boot Camp is that it’s free in macOS on Intel Macs – just search for “Boot Camp” using Spotlight on your Mac and you’ll see it.

The disadvantage of installing Windows with Boot Camp is that you’re restricted to using either Windows or macOS at one time – you can’t switch between the two instantly like with virtualization software.

The other big disadvantage of Boot Camp is that it does not work with the latest Apple Silicon Macs introduced from late 2020 onwards.

This is because Apple removed Boot Camp from Apple Silicon Macs.

So if you’ve bought a new Mac since around November 2020 onwards, Boot Camp is definitely not an option if you want to run Windows only games on a Mac.

For those with Intel Macs (mainly those Macs bought built and bought before November 2020), you can find full instructions on how to use Boot Camp to install Windows 10 on Mac for free and install Windows 11 on Mac for free.

Pros:

  • Free in macOS on Intel Macs
  • Easy to setup
  • Dedicates all of your Mac’s hardware and resources to running Windows
  • Better for gaming as it leverages more power from the graphics card
  • Works for games protected by anti-cheat software
  • Works for games that require DirectX 12

Cons:

  • Only allows you to boot in either macOS or Windows
  • Requires dedicating some of your Mac hard drive space to running Windows
  • Some games still won’t work with Boot Camp installations
  • Doesn’t work with Apple Silicon Macs

8. Cloud Computer Services

cloud computer gaming mac

Cloud computer services differ from Cloud gaming services such as Xbox Cloud or GeForce Now as they only provide a cloud gaming PC that you can connect to remotely from your Mac.

Cloud computer services don’t actually provide the game itself. You have to setup and install the game remotely on the cloud gaming PC and then you can play it by connecting remotely from your Mac.

The two biggest cloud computer gaming services out there are Shadow and airGPU.

Both provide a cloud gaming PC which you can use to install whatever you want on it.

This is more complicated to use than a cloud gaming service such as GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud but it does allow you to install and play any Windows game.

It also allows you to install mods and gives you complete freedom in a way that cloud gaming services do not.

Shadow also allows you to connect to the Steam, EA Origin and Epic Games Store.

The main disadvantage of cloud computer services is that they cost a lot more than cloud gaming services and they require you to already own PC version of the game.

airGPU subscriptions for example start at $0.75 per hour for a cloud gaming PC with a Nvidia Tesla 4 graphics card which soon adds-up if you’re playing a game for long periods.

This doesn’t include storage space either so you’ll have to add an extra $3.50 per 50GB of SSD storage space.

For a game such as Diablo 4, you need at least 80GB of storage space and at least another 50+GB to install Windows so this takes it close to $1.50 an hour to use airGPU to play a game like Diablo 4 on a Mac.

You can read more about how to play games on airGPU here.

Alternatively, a Shadow subscription starts at $39.99 per month for a cloud gaming PC with an Nvidia GTX 1080s graphics card with unlimited game play time and 250GB SSD drive space which may work out cheaper than paying hourly with airGPU.

The maximum frame rate you can get playing games on cloud computer services such as these is around 60 frames per second but this is definitely playable on a Mac.

The data transfer speeds for both airGPU and Shadow are extremely fast though with speeds of up to 100GB per second possible.

You’ll also need to use a remote desktop app to connect to your Mac to a cloud gaming PC on either airGPU or Shadow.

We recommend using Parsec for this as it’s designed specifically for the needs of gaming remotely.

You can download the Parsec Mac desktop app for free without having to subscribe to a Parsec hosting plan although you can also pay for cloud game hosting with Parsec too.

Playing any game on a Mac using a cloud computer service will also depend on the speed of both your internet connection and the latency of the servers.

If both are slow then you may find the game laggy and unplayable at times.

Pros:

  • Allows you to install any Windows game in the Cloud
  • Allows you to install mods
  • Works for games protected by anti-cheat software
  • Works for games that require DirectX 12

Cons:

  • Subscriptions are expensive
  • You need to buy the game first
  • Requires you to manually setup everything yourself
  • Maximum frame rates of 60fps

9. PlayOnMac (Free)

windows games on mac - playonmac

Similar to Crossover, PlayOnMac is a compatibility layer that translates PC games to work on a Mac.

Like Crossover, PlayOnMac is also based on the open source Wine project and “wraps” Windows-based games to work on macOS.

PlayOnMac suffers from many of the issues that Crossover does mainly a lack of games and lack of support for Apple Silicon M1/M2/M3 Macs.

Some of the most popular games available on PlayOnMac include oldies such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Trackmania Nation Forever.

The big appeal of PlayOnMac is that it’s free to use. But it’s so limited in the games that work with it that it’s really not a good solution for new games or high end gaming.

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Doesn’t require installing Windows
  • Doesn’t require rebooting your Mac

Cons:

  • Very few games work with it nowadays
  • Doesn’t work on Apple Silicon Macs
  • Doesn’t work with games that require DirectX 12
  • Doesn’t work with games protected by anti-cheat software

10. Unofficial Ports (Free)

play pc games on mac - porting kit

An unofficial port is a version of a game that has been adapted to work on a Mac, usually by gamers or the open source developer community.

Usually these are very old games such as Doom, Alien versus Predator and The Settlers which are no longer commercially available or were never even made for Macs in the first place.

They also often include ports of games that were released on computers such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST back in the day.

Generally we don’t recommend using an unofficial port because they can be very unstable and may not work properly.

Usually the developers have released the source code to the public so there are no commercial violations of unofficial ports although be aware this may not be the case for all games.

Sites where you can find unofficial ports include DevilutionX and Mac Source Ports.

Alternatively, you can also try using Porting Kit which does the porting for you and is also free to use.

Porting Kit is based on Wineskin which is an adaptation of Wine although and it also works on both Intel Macs and Apple Silicon Macs.

Porting Kit is updated with more recent games such as Among Us.

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Allows you to play retro games
  • Works on Apple Silicon Macs

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work with new games
  • Requires some technical knowledge

11. Emulators (Free)

retro games on mac - openemu

Many retro console and Windows games can be played on a Mac thanks to emulators.

Most emulators only allow you to play old video console games on your Mac such as retro Nintendo, Atari and Sega games on a Mac.

One of the best gaming emulators for Mac is OpenEmu which allows you to play hundreds of old retro games for free on your Mac.

However, like most emulators you’ll need to search online for the ROM file for the game to load into the emulator. Note that you must own the ROM of the game you want to play using any emulator including OpenEmu.

To play really old Windows DOS games on a Mac you can use DOSBox which allows you to run EXE files on a Mac.

DOSBox requires a little bit of DOS programming knowledge though and will take some time to understand for beginners to DOS.

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Allows you to play retro games

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work with new games
  • Requires the ROM for the game you want to play
  • Doesn’t work on Apple Silicon Macs
  • Requires some technical knowledge
  • Limited mainly to old console games

Comparison Table

Product Pricing (USD/GBP) Game Library Streaming Performance Hardware Requirements Ease of Use
Crossover $74+/£60+/y Limited compatibility Variable Low Easy
Xbox Cloud $16.99/£12.99/m Xbox Game Pass Depends on Internet Xbox console or app Easy
GeForce Now Free / $9.99/£9.99+ Limited compatibility Depends on Internet Low Easy
Whisky Free Varies Variable Low Easy
Apple Game Porting Kit Free Dependent on game support N/A Varies Moderate
Virtual Machines Subscription/Free depending on VM Wide range of games Variable High Moderate
Apple Boot Camp Free (Intel Macs only) Limited to Windows N/A Windows hardware Moderate
Cloud Computing Services (airGPu, Shadow)
Pay-as-you-go Wide range of games Depends on Internet Internet Connection Easy
PlayOnMac Free Limited compatibility Variable Low Moderate
Unofficial Ports Free Dependent on game support N/A Low Varies
Emulators Free Wide range of games Variable Varies Easy

Do These Methods Work on Apple Silicon Macs?

All of the methods reviewed here work on Apple Silicon M-chip Macs apart from Boot Camp, PlayonMac and Emulators.

Apple removed Boot Camp from Apple Silicon Macs so it’s not an option for those that bought their Mac from around late November 2020 onwards.

Meanwhile PlayonMac and Emulators are very dated ways of playing PC only games on Mac nowadays so Apple Silicon Mac owners really aren’t missing much.

Can You Play PC Steam Games On Mac?

You can play Windows only Steam games on a Mac using either Crossover or GeForce Now. You simply need to link your Steam account to either of these platforms which is very straightforward.

We found the best option to play PC only Steam games on a Mac is using Crossover as it works with more Steam games than GeForce Now.

Crossover will install the Windows version of Steam on your Mac so that you can then play PC only Steam games with it in macOS.

crossover steam enable dxvk

You can also link GeForce Now to Steam but not all game publishers allow this so it won’t work for all games.

You can also use a virtual machine to install Windows on a Mac and then run the Windows version of Steam. However, virtual machines do not support DirectX 12 which is used by many games or any anti-cheat software they use so we don’t recommend VMs such as Parallels for playing Steam only games on a Mac.

Of course, if the game you want to play is available for Mac on the Steam you can play it directly on Steam in macOS as long as your Mac meets the minimum system requirements to play the game you want.

You can easily filter games in the Steam store by “macOS” to see which support Macs. Those that have the Apple logo next to them are Mac compatible.

steam games for mac

Other Alternatives Available

Apart from the methods covered here, there are other DIY ways to make Windows games work on Macs but they are far trickier to setup, unreliable and unstable in our experience.

One way is by using Wine which is a compatibility layer with various branches of it such as Wineskin and Winebottler.

However, we strongly do not recommend using Wine for gaming as it is very technical to setup and notoriously unreliable, especially when there are new updates to macOS which inevitably break it.

You could also theoretically stream a Windows game from any PC owned by yourself or someone else to a Mac by using remote desktop software to connect it to your Mac remotely.

However this is mainly only suitable for accessing a Mac or Windows computer remotely for trouble shooting or file sharing and not for gaming.


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