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Macs have come a long way when it comes to gaming but there are still some major games that aren’t released for Mac.

Here we show you the best ways to play Windows only games on a Mac including on the latest Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs.

Macs have never been associated with gaming although that is slowly changing and major titles such as Alien Isolation, Diablo III and Resident Evil VII have been released for Mac.

However, there are still many major AAA game titles that never get released for macOS so here we show you all the best ways to play them on a Mac.

How To Play Windows Games On Mac

The best way to play Windows games on a Mac computer is usually by installing Windows on a Mac.

However, there are many ways to do this and the best option for you will depend on the game you want to play.

In the majority of cases, installing a virtual machine like Parallels is by far the easiest way to play Windows games on a Mac including both Intel and Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs such as the latest M2 MacBook Pros, M2 Mac Mini and Mac Studio.

Parallels allows you to run Windows and macOS side-by-side so that you can simply switch to Windows in a click and play Windows only games in it.

Parallels offers a 14 day free trial so you can try playing Windows games for free on your Mac with it first before deciding whether to purchase it.

However, there are some games that won’t either don’t work or won’t work in virtual environments 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 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.

In these cases, the only way to play Windows only games on a Mac that require a lot of graphic accelerations is to either:

  • Install Windows using Boot Camp which is a free utility in macOS which allow you to boot your Mac in either macOS or Windows (but not at the same time like Parallels can). However, Boot Camp only works on Intel Macs. You can’t install Windows on an M1 or M2 Mac using Boot Camp as Boot Camp is not available for Apple Silicon Macs.
  • Use a Cloud gaming service such as NVIDIA GeForce Now to stream the game to your Mac. However, these all require a monthly or annual subscription to use and not all games are available in them.
  • If you have an Xbox, you can play the Xbox version of the game on a Mac by using OneCast to stream the game from your Xbox Series S/X to your Mac. This is the only way to play Hogwarts Legacy on a Mac for example due to the Denuvo anti cheat software which won’t work with any methods of running Windows on a Mac.

Can I Play Windows Games On M1 & M2 Macs?

You can play Windows only games on Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs but the options available are a bit more limited than on Intel Macs.

All of the methods of playing PC games on a Mac reviewed here work on Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs apart from Boot Camp.

Apple removed Boot Camp from M1 and M2 chip Macs so it’s not an option for those that bought their Mac from around late November 2020 onwards.

The other thing to be aware of with Apple Silicon Macs is that although you can install Windows on them, they can only run Windows ARM.

This is a slightly different version of Windows that not all games are compatible with so it’s important to check whether they game you want to play runs on Windows ARM if you have an Apple Silicon Mac.

Can I Play Windows Games On Mac Through Steam?

If the game you want to play is available for Mac on Steam, then as long as your Mac meets the minimum system requirements to play the game you can play.

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

steam games for mac

Many big titles are available for Mac on Steam including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Call of Duty Black Ops III and Civilization VI.

The same is true for other gaming platforms such as Battle.net, Epic Game Store and Good old Games (GoG).

Note however that some games on these platforms (including Steam) may only work on Intel Macs and not Apple Silicon M1/M2 chip Macs.

Most games however, will work on both Intel and M1/M2 Macs thanks to Rosetta in macOS which translates Intel only games to work on Apple Silicon ARM M1 and M2 chips.

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With this in mind, here are the best ways to play Windows games on a Mac in order of ranking.

1. Virtual Machine (Best For Beginners)

best way to play windows games mac - 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 two best virtual machines for Mac users are Parallels and VMware Fusion.

There’s also VirtualBox which is free and open source but much harder to setup and use.

Although VMware has improved a lot, we still think Parallels is the best way to play Windows PC games on a Mac in 2022 for its ease of installation, speed, and the way it conveniently allows you to switch between macOS and Windows instantly.

Parallels is also the best way to run Windows on M1 & M2 Macs and the only solution that officially works with the latest version of macOS Ventura.

Apple’s latest generation of Silicon Macs use a different ARM M1 chip and Parallels was the first VM to officially support Windows on Apple silicon M1 & M2 Macs.

At the moment, the only major rival to Parallels is VMware Fusion which took a lot longer to officially support M1 or M2 Macs although VMware 13 is now fully compatible with Apple Silicon.

Crucially for gamers, Parallels also supports DirectX and Metal which is required for many games.

You can even install Windows on a Mac for free with Parallels by using the 14 day free trial of Parallels as you only need to purchase a Windows 10/11 activation key nowadays if you want to customize it.

Or if you already have Windows 10 or 11 installed on a PC, you can use the same 25 figure activation key during the Windows installation process in Parallels to get another fully activated copy for free on your Mac.

Virtual Machines are a convenient way to play Windows games on a Mac because they allow you to use macOS as normal but switch to a Windows games at any time when you want to play it.

You have full access to the rest of your Mac app and games while enjoying the convenience of having the Windows available too.

Parallels has got this off to a tee nowadays with Coherence Mode blurring the line between macOS and Windows so that you can use both with almost no separation between the two.

So for example, if you install a Windows game in Parallels, you can launch it from your macOS Dock just as if it were installed on your Mac.

The only disadvantage of virtual machines like Parallels for gaming is that they don’t work with games that use anti-cheat protection such as Vanguard and Hogwarts Legacy.

This is because anti-cheat software will not run in a virtual machine.

Virtual machines also don’t work well for games such as Valheim that require a lot of graphic acceleration to prevent lag and dropped frames.

You can try Parallels for Mac for free here to test it first.

Parallels costs $99.99 for a Home License or $119.99 for a Pro License suitable for developers, testers and power users.

There’s also Parallels Business Edition for $149.99 which is designed for system admins and IT Teams that need to deploy Windows on large numbers of Macs across corporate networks.

For a limited time you can also get 50% off Parallels with an educational discount for students and teachers.

If you want to learn more, check out our full Parallels Desktop review.

Pros:

  • Very easy to install Windows
  • Runs Windows and macOS simultaneously
  • Excellent for gaming
  • Fast startup and shutdown time
  • Optimized for macOS Ventura, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur and Windows 10 & 11
  • Now supports DirectX and Metal
  • Officially supports running Windows on M1 & M2 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
  • Can’t accelerate graphics card for gaming as well as Boot Camp
  • Some games that use anti-cheat protection won’t work in virtual machines

2. Apple Boot Camp (Intel Macs Only)

boot camp installer mac

The most popular alternative to installing Windows with a virtual machine to play games is by using Apple Boot Camp.

Using Boot Camp to run Windows and install Windows only games is especially popular with gamers because Boot Camp leverages more power from your graphics card as it doesn’t have to run a virtual machine like Parallels does.

This makes playing games like 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 is a free tool in macOS 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.

Because Boot Camp only allows your Mac to boot in either Windows or macOS (rather than running both at the same time as with a virtual environment) your Mac can devote all of its resources to the high demands of games.

The other big advantage of Boot Camp is that it’s free in macOS – 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 M1 & M2 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.

Boot CampParallels
Install Windows 10 & 11
Play Windows Games
Run Windows and macOS without restarting
Works on M1 Macs
Run Windows and macOS apps at the same time
Share files and folders between macOS and Windows
Transfer all data from PC to your Mac
Copy and paste images between macOS and Windows

Free Trial

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

You can also find full instructions on how to install Windows 11 on Mac for free with Boot Camp here.

If you don’t want to use Boot Camp, there is also a way to install Windows without Boot Camp onto an external hard drive although this only works on Intel Macs.

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 Vanguard ant-cheat software

Cons:

  • Only allows you to boot in either macOS or Windows
  • Requires dedicating some of your Mac hard drive space to running Windows
  • Some Windows games still won’t work with Boot Camp installations
  • Boot Camp is not available for the latest Apple Silicon M1 & M2 Macs

3. Cloud Gaming Platforms

best way play pc games mac - cloud gaming

An easy alternative to using a virtual machine or Boot Camp to play PC only games on a Mac is to use a Cloud gaming platform.

Cloud gaming platforms are a bit like using Netflix on a Mac but for games instead of movies or TV shows.

Many games developers now release games on their own cloud gaming platforms instead of the Mac App Store.

This is mainly due to revenue –  they get to keep all of the revenue from the game instead of having to share 30% of it with Apple on the App Store.

This famously came to a head in Epic vs Apple over the release of Fortnite when Epic decided to withdraw it from the Mac App Store due to a conflict with Apple over in-app purchases.

Cloud gaming platforms host the games on a Windows PC and then stream the games to your Mac.

This means that all the heavy lifting is done in the Cloud meaning you can play high end Windows only games even on older Macs.

This is why cloud gaming platforms are often the best solution for Apple Silicon M1 and M2 chip Macs because it allows them to play all Windows games, not just those that are compatible with Windows ARM as is the case with virtual machines.

It also has the advantage of allowing you to save and continue playing the game on another platform later such as Windows or on gaming console.

Online gaming platforms require a fast internet connection in order to work effectively but as long as your connection can stream Netflix in HD it should be fast enough to play Windows only games on your Mac via cloud gaming services.

One of the most well known gaming platforms is NVIDIA’S GeForce Now For Mac which allows Mac users to play Windows only games in the Cloud such as Fortnite.

GeForce Now also allows you to connect to gaming platforms like Steam and the Epic Games Store so that you can continue your progress in GeForce Now on your Mac.

However not all games are available on GeForce Now because unsurprisingly, developers prefer to release games on the platforms they either own or have exclusive release agreements with.

There are other major cloud gaming platforms that also work on Mac, the biggest ones being Shadow, Amazon Luna, Microsoft Xbox Cloud.

There’s also the Boosteroid gaming platform although we can’t recommend it quite yet as many users complain of lag due to overloaded servers as the service is still developing.

Other lesser known services with smaller gaming catalogs include Blacknut, Vortex and Paperspace.

Some of these like Shadow allow you to connect to the Steam, EA Origin and Epic Games Store.

Many of them such as Google Stadia also work in a browser so even if a Mac desktop app isn’t available for them, you can still use them in Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Note however that Playstation Plus does not work on a Mac.

The disadvantage of Cloud gaming services is that they all require a subscription.

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

You can however try a one hour session of GeForce Now for free and try as many sessions as you like.

You can also read more in our full GeForce Now For Mac review.

Pros:

  • Cloud gaming works on both Intel and Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs
  • No setup process other than installing the desktop gaming client
  • Doesn’t require installing Windows on a Mac
  • Works on even older Macs
  • Allows you to pick-up and continue gaming on other platforms

Cons:

  • Cloud gaming services require a subscription
  • Some games are only available on one platform

4. Crossover

Crossover is a compatibility layer which “translates” Windows only games to work on a Mac.

Crossover is based on the open source project Wine but in a far easier to use interface. It’s much easier to setup and use but it’s not free and starts at $39.95 per year.

Also, since it’s based on Wine, it can only run Windows programs that are Wine compatible which restricts the number of games and apps that work with it on a Mac.

Apart from Parallels though, Crossover is currently the only way to play some Windows games on M1 & M2 Macs.

Crossover mainly uses what’s called Rosetta 2 in macOS to “translate” Intel chip only games and software to work with Apple Silicon chips.

You can watch Team Fortress 2 being played on an M1 Mac using Crossover below and as you can see, the performance is pretty good.

It 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 $39.95 per year for the basic Crossover One plan (only available in the USA) which does not include support.

Crossover Pro is $59.95 per year and includes one year of support and there’s also Crossover Life for $499.95 which gives you lifetime upgrades and support.

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

 

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require installing Windows
  • Doesn’t require rebooting your Mac to play Windows games
  • Works with some games and software on M1 & M2 Macs

Cons:

  • Annual subscription
  • Limited amount of Windows games and apps it can run
  • Slow to update when new versions of macOS are released
  • Doesn’t work with many games and apps on M1/M2 Macs

5. PlayOnMac

windows games on mac - playonmac

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

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

Cons:

  • Very few games work with it nowadays
  • Doesn’t work on Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs

6. Use An Unofficial Port

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.

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

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Allows you to play retro games

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work with new games
  • Doesn’t work on Apple Silicon Macs
  • Requires some technical knowledge

7. Use An Emulator

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

Alternative Ways To Play PC Games On Mac

These are the best ways to play Windows games on a Mac.

There are other ways you can play Windows games on a Mac such as by using Wine.

Wine is a compatibility layer and there are various branches of it such as Wineskin and Winebottler.

However, we strongly do not recommend using an Wine distributions to try and play Windows games on a Mac 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 Windows games 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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