Can You Play Games on Macbook Air?

If you’re new to gaming and would like to know: “Can you play games on Macbook Air?” Don’t be embarrassed. It’s a pretty common question, but many get disappointed quickly once they learn of the answer. 

Simply put, the Macbook Air is not a laptop gamers would consider for serious gaming. The market of Macbook Air are entrepreneurs, business owners, and other similar groups who need a powerful laptop for day-to-day operations, regular accounting, meetings, or even travelling.

The main reason why Macbook Air isn’t fit for gaming boils down to the hardware – to play more resource-intensive games you should learn about what makes a good gaming laptop. However, there are several ways to go around this. In fact, I know of 5 ways you can still play games on the Macbook Air.

5 Ways to Play Games on Macbook Air

In the past, PC gaming used to refer to Windows exclusively. Now, Mac gaming has become more and more possible thanks to game developers thinking about those on the other side of the fence. Plus awesome techniques to go around the weaknesses of Macbook Air. 

  1. Choose Mac-only versions (Native Mac Games)

The easiest way to play games on Macbook Air is to choose versions designed to play on Apple. Check Steam and you’ll see that the top 10 games posted there already have a Mac-only version that would run on your system.

Even Minecraft, which is one of the most popular games of all time, already has a Mac version available. 

  1. Use Bootcamp to run Windows-based games

If you find a Windows-only PC game that doesn’t have a Mac version, don’t quit just yet. You can install Windows on your Macbook Air through Boot Camp. Interestingly, this method will run those Windows games as if it were really running on a Windows hardware.

You don’t need any special skills to make this work either. Once you’ve installed Windows, you can play whatever Windows-supported games you want. Just reboot into Windows whenever you feel like playing. 

3. Stick with Steam

Macbook Air is notorious for having slower graphics, which often make it impossible to run PC games that are quite demanding on hard drive and graphics. If you own both a Windows PC and Mac, but want to use your Macbook Air for gaming, you can stream the game via Steam’s in-home streaming feature, then use your Mac to do the actual playing.

With this method, your Windows PC shoulders the hard work, while keeping your Mac at optimal power. Unfortunately, you can’t use this method if your Windows PC is not sharing the same local network as your Mac. 

4. Try Wine

According to its website, “Wine (originally an acronym for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”) is a compatibility layer capable of running Windows applications on several POSIX-compliant operating systems, such as Linux, macOS, & BSD.”

Simply put, Wine allows you to integrate Windows applications and games into your Mac desktop while taking care of the memory and performance demands.

Wine is open-sourced, which means it works with the support of a community and not by big companies like Microsoft. As such, expect some flaws and errors if you use this method. Some games may not even work, or become buggy while being played. 

5. GeForce Now for Mac

NVIDIA’s cloud-based game streaming service is available for free to all users ready to start gaming on their Macbook Air. (Note that this could change once this service moves out of its beta phase).

The best thing about NVIDIA’s streaming service is that the games literally play through the internet, so the laptop doesn’t use much resources when you play them remotely. 

6. Virtual Machines

You can also play games on your Macbook Air using a virtual machine. The advantage of this method is that you wouldn’t need two computers or two operating systems running simultaneously. In general, you’ll be able to play at speeds by which the games were intended to be played.

The problem with this method is that it isn’t free to use virtual machines. The convenience of playing games “virtually” has a cost.

The two most popular hypervisors (the hardware/software/firmware that runs these virtual machines) are Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion, both of which come at a steep price ranging from $59.99 to $159.99. 

Which Method of Playing Games on Mac is Best?

If you lived about 10 years earlier, you’d be thrilled by the many options available now for Mac-based gamers. In the past, there simply weren’t any methods available. Your only solution was to buy a Windows PC for all your gaming needs, then go back to Mac for graphics, editing, and other day-to-day tasks for school or office. 

Note that not all the methods listed above are ideal. For example, virtual machines are pretty expensive if you’re only going to play occasionally. The Steam method requires both a Mac and a Windows PC, which may help with your game’s performance, but add up to your electricity cost over time. 

The method I recommend is to stick with Mac versions of the games. Here are some titles you should check out: 

  • World of Warcraft (MMPORG)
  • Pillars of Eternity 2 (RPG)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (adventure)
  • DiRT Rally (racing)
  • Civilization 6 (strategy game)
  • SOMA (horror)

And if you don’t have money to buy or stream any of these games yet, then I’d recommend trying Fortnite: Battle Royale. It’s free and definitely worth your time.   

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