The dream of being able to play console quality games on your smartphone is now a reality, if you’re willing to jump through a few hoops to be able to get there.
Android phones are now able to play Xbox games (and soon Xbox Series X games) on their smartphones thanks to the company’s xCloud technology that allows you to stream titles available on Xbox Games Pass directly to your phone.
This new feature launched in the second half of 2020, and it now allows you to play some of the best new games. You won’t be using your phone’s computing power though, and instead you’ll just be streaming it directly to your device’s screen from Microsoft's own servers.
You won’t need an Xbox console to be able to make the most of these features either, and this means you can get access to titles such as Sea of Thieves, Halo 5 or Forza Horizon 4 without buying an Xbox console or a PC.
How can you make it happen? We’ve tried out the service ourselves on a variety of phones and tablets, and this guide is here to talk you through the process as well as what you'll need.
What you’ll need to get started.
This is the number one thing as you’re going to need some specialist equipment and subscriptions to be able to get going using Cloud Gaming on your phone.
First off, what phone do you have? If you have a relatively recent Android phone, you’ll be able to use this service by downloading the Xbox Games Pass app directly from the Google Play Store (opens in new tab).
Note the name of the app as there are a few different Microsoft and Xbox apps in the store, but you’ll specifically need the Xbox Games Pass one to move any further.
How do you know if your Android phone or tablet is compatible? If it features Android 6 Marshmallow (that’s some remarkably old software now ) as well as Bluetooth 4.0 technology or above you’ll be able to use this.
Apple implemented rules on its App Store that meant Microsoft would have to individually submit games for classification. Microsoft didn’t like that, so it hasn’t included the Cloud Gaming service on the Apple App Store yet.
A new feature is coming to the iPhone Xbox app in the near future that will allow you to stream Xbox games directly from your console at home to your iOS phone, but this is a different service compared to xCloud streaming functionality.
If you can download that app from Google Play Store, you’ll be able to play titles. And don’t worry about the computing power of your device here. Everything is handled by Microsoft’s own servers, and instead you’ll just be watching a stream of the game you’re playing.
Next up, you’ll need a subscription to Xbox Games Pass Ultimate. Microsoft includes xCloud streaming functionality as a part of Xbox Games Pass Ultimate – that’s the top tier of service – and it means you have access to the catalog of games as well as Xbox Live Gold for multiplayer services.
Xbox Games Pass Ultimate costs $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 a month, or you can purchase it for longer-lasting subscriptions as well.
You’ll also need a controller to connect to your smartphone to be able to play the games, and this is where you’re most likely need to buy yourself some new technology to be able to play. The list of compatible controllers is long, so check out Microsoft’s official list of controllers (opens in new tab).
The company obviously recommends one of its own controllers for the service, but other alternatives such as Sony's DualShock 4 seemed to work well in our testing of the service.
There’s also the dedicated Razer Kishi controller that we’ve separately reviewed, and we found this to work fantastically with the service so you may want to consider that if you're playing on a phone.
The last thing you'll need is a solid internet connection. Microsoft recommends using Wi-Fi and preferably the 5GHz arm of that connection. We found it to work on a 2.4GHz, but performance improved immeasurably on a 5GHz connection.
If you’re insistent on using mobile data, you may find this tough but a 5G connection should be able to handle it with ease. The company recommends 10Mpbs download speeds to be able to play properly, and that can be tough to find in some locations.
How to set it up
Now, it’s time to play some games. Connect your controller to your device as you’ve planned to do, and make sure you have the Xbox Games Pass app downloaded to your device with all your sign in details ready to go.
Once you’ve booted the app up, you’ll be greeted with all the titles that you have access to play. Games you’ve played recently will appear as a “Jump back in” section, and you’ll be able to find all the games in a section below as well.
Click on a tile you want to try, and if it’s compatible with your device you’ll be able to hit the “Play” button with the service then loading up the title. That may take a while to boot up, but you should be playing your game in a few minutes at the longest.
What can you play?
Most Xbox Games Pass titles are available on the Android Cloud Gaming beta, but you’ll find there are a couple of exceptions to that rule.
The lineup is likely to change, but you can find the full titles you can play on the Microsoft website directly and look for the ones that say they work on both console and Android.
- What can you play right now? Check out Microsoft's full Xbox Games Pass list (opens in new tab)
And does it actually work?
This feature is still in beta at the time of writing, and you may find you get different experiences when trying out cloud gaming.
In our testing on an okay fiber internet connection, we found the service to often work well without any major connection issues. If you’re on a weaker internet service, you’ll likely find the service to be more stuttery, and at times unplayable.
If you've got a solid internet connection though you'll find you'll be able to play most games without any issues at all.
- Want next-gen gaming? Check out our Xbox Series X review