“You can’t game on a Mac.”
Those are words I’m sure you’ve heard many times over the years from smug gaming-PC owning friends. And to an extent, for a long time that was in some ways true.
Developers have long favoured the open nature of Windows-based PCs as a gaming platform, as much due to its sheer size and install base as well as its powerful, flexible gaming-oriented devices and components. Macs were for creatives and “posers”, PCs were where the real fun was.
Yes, the odd PC game would get a Mac-native port, and there’s always been browser based titles to enjoy. But AAA computer games? They’ve often been tantalisingly out of reach.
However, the times they are a changing over at Apple’s Cupertino HQ. Computer gaming is increasingly big business, and Apple wants its slice of the pie. 2023 in particular saw Apple realign its Mac hardware and macOS software to better cater for its homegrown gaming community.
On the hardware side, its recent 3-nanometer M3 chip releases really step up the gaming capabilities of Apple’s own silicon, with the M3 Max variant, for instance, now offering a crazy 40-core GPU, with performance comparable to an Nvidia RTX 3070 in synthetic benchmarks.
With it comes hardware accelerated ray-tracing, a first for MacBook, and mesh shading — the sort of features that were once the reserve of high-end gaming PCs exclusively. Then macOS layers on top of that the new Game Mode introduced in the Sonoma update, prioritising gaming performance and lowering input latency, plus the Game Porting TooIkit — more on that later. It makes an iMac M3 almost console-like in being a one-stop gaming solution – gorgeous built in screen and all.
As a result, the big-name game developers are starting to take note, and are bringing their wares to Mac. From Capcom’s horrors to Hideo Kojima’s weirdness, big-budget AAA titles are increasingly making their way to Apple devices
And that’s before talking about Apple Arcade and game streaming. Your MacBook can finally be your one-device-to-do-it-all machine. It’s a good time to be a Mac gamer — here’s just a taste of what you’ve got to look forward to in 2024.
Mac games to play in 2024
Hideo Kojima’s end-of-the-world… postman simulator (?) is coming to Mac in its Director’s Cut format, with all its weirdness intact. Oil demons, babies in backpacks, the works.
One of the strangest, but most compelling, games of recent times, it’ll be a wonderful graphical showcase for Mac, with eye-popping motion capture performances from Hollywood stars Norman Reedus, Lea Seydoux and Mads Mikkelsen.
Kojima has a long term commitment to Apple’s platform, too. At WWDC 2023, he called Death Stranding “just the beginning” of the partnership. “We are actively working to bring our future titles to Apple platforms,” the game design legend said at the event. Expect to see Death Stranding 2 make its way to the platform too, in other words.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
One of 2023’s biggest hits, Resident Evil 4 Remake thoroughly overhauls the visuals of one of the greatest horror-action games of all time.
Updating a true modern classic, the team at Capcom threw every visual trick in the book at Resident Evil 4 Remake to heighten tension and jump scares. High resolution textures, high frame rates and modern lighting effects bring the game to life in a way that just wasn't possible on original Nintendo Gamecube hardware back in 2005 — but you'd be surprised at how well the original's gameplay holds up, with just a few quality of life changes made in that department.
The game will also launch with Apple's Universal Purchase Program feature present: buy it on Mac, and you'll get the iPhone and iPad version for free, too.
World of Warcraft: The War Within / Midnight / The Last Titan expansions
It was one of the first developers to get behind Apple’s own silicon too, creating a native port of its world-beating MMO. That Mac-lovin’ continues with the next three (three!) World of Warcraft expansions, kicking off in 2024, announced at BlizzCon in November 2023 — The World Within, Midnight, and The Last Titan.
"Deep beneath the surface, an ancient Nerubian civilization is rising to power, aided by Xal'atath, the harbinger of the Void first introduced in the Legion expansion," reads a Blizzard press release.
"Players will need to enlist the aid of the Earthen, a new allied race available to both Horde and Alliance players, as they make their way deeper and discover an entirely new world that has existed for centuries and whose denizens are preparing for conflicts that loom on the horizon."
Expect a new, raised level cap, new areas, the most ambitious storyline in Warcraft history, and cool new features including account-wide progression for characters you have.
A post-apocalypse cyberpunk mystery… with cats! What’s not to love?
Stray is a wonderful mix of platformer, puzzler and stealth title, set in a beautiful neon-drenched world that will show off not just the ray-tracing capabilities of a MacBook, but the peak brightness and contrast of their displays too.
Already a hit on PlayStation and PC, you’re the titular stray cat, exploring a world left in ruin, but still filled with hope as a curious race of robot helpers take up residence among the destruction.
System Shock Remake
One of the most influential games of all-time, without sci-fi thriller System Shock you probably wouldn’t have got series like Dishonored, Prey, and definitely not the BioShock franchise. With one of the great villains in all of gaming, the evil AI SHODAN, it laid the groundwork for many immersive sims to come.
This remake, long in development and including work from the original design team, was a labor of love that was incredibly well received upon its initial release on PC this summer. All new visuals, an overhauled UI, improved controls and more make this the definitive version of an all-time first person great.
The future of Mac gaming
It hasn’t always been easy to bring existing Windows games to Mac, but Apple’s worked hard in 2023 to change that.
At WWDC it introduced the Game Porting Toolkit, a tool to convert Windows-based titles to Mac with incredible ease. It combines the Wine compatibility layer with Apple's own D3DMetal, letting it bring DirectX 11 and 12 titles to Mac.
It’s not a beginner-friendly process, but very doable, meaning that Mac gamers have already played around to bring the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and Hogwarts Legacy to Mac with surprisingly good results.
But where it’s most exciting is in the hands of the developers themselves — Game Porting Toolkit lets them get the baseline-level game up and running in literally minutes, and from there they can explore the ease with which they could introduce a full native port, and optimize the experience while taking some of the grunt work out of the equation.
From iPhone to Mac with Universal Purchase program
Increasingly, your iPhone (or iPad!) gaming purchases are going to help bolster your Mac gaming library, thanks to the Universal Purchase program.
This feature works a bit like Xbox’s ‘Play Anywhere’ initiative, and will make select games available across Apple’s range of devices with a single purchase. So when Resident Evil 4 Remake launches, for instance, if you grab it on your iPhone, it’ll also be available to download from the Mac App Store, ready to play free of charge.
If a game is available on non-Apple platforms as well, it may well swing your choice in Apple’s favour. We’re hoping the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage iPhone port takes advantage of this when it releases.
What about Apple Arcade?
Apple’s own gaming subscription service continues to go from strength to strength. Its applications are designed to be universal across Apple’s devices, meaning they work as well on Mac as they do on iPad, iPhone and Apple TV devices, letting you pick up your progress across devices.
And while the Apple Arcade catalogue still leans towards the casual market — expect lots of bubble-poppers, match-three titles and head-scratching word games — there are increasing numbers of high-end, full-fledged adventures to take on.
Whether you’re tearing up the court with NBA 2K24 basketball, leading your squad to cup glory in Football Manager 2024 or outwitting Blofeld in James Bond-starring Cypher 007, there’s something for everyone. Keep an eye out for the mega-addictive Animal-Crossing-alike Disney Dreamlight Valley, headed to the Arcade subscription before the end of the year.
What about game streaming?
If there’s nothing above that interests you… well that really doesn’t matter any more. Thanks to services like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass, you can play almost any PC game on a Mac via game streaming anyway.
Provided you’ve got a decent internet connection and a subscription to one of the aforementioned services, you’re able to stream games to your Mac desktop, hook up a controller and play games as if they’re installed locally on your machine.
Early game streaming efforts suffered from poor visual quality and high input latency, but game streaming now feels seamless and almost identical to a local-gaming session, with very few hoops to jump through. With streaming services working across devices, you can start on a Mac and pick up a cloud save on your iPhone or tablet and carry on gaming. It’s not just a viable alternative – in some instances it’s preferable.
You can’t game on a Mac? It’s time to call bull on that old adage. Combine all the above, and your Mac is finally a do-everything machine — gaming included.
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Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.