PC Gamer's guide to gaming on a Mac

Mac App Store - RPGs

Mac gaming on OS X

There may be far fewer games coded for OS X than Windows, but the situation is a lot better than it once was. Since the Mac is now more popular than ever, there’s a fairly captive audience for developers who port their games. That said, you’re still likely to find there’s no Mac version of your favourite PC game.

The main difference between OS X and Windows is DirectX, which is a proprietary Microsoft API, a firm favourite for Windows developers, and not supported on the Mac. Macs have OpenGL, but the implementation in OS X is fairly inefficient compared to Windows. Comparing Cinebench 15 scores on OS X and Windows, you’ll see a fairly substantial difference in frame rate on identical hardware.

Apple has recently launched its own highly efficient graphics API called Metal for iOS devices, and the close link between OS X and iOS suggests Metal could be ported to OS X, but your typical DirectX game will likely never make that jump.

The Mac App Store may seem like the first place to look games, and the choice really isn’t spectacular. Although there are some modern games—Tropico 5 and Farming Simulator 2015—Sim City 4, Black and White 2 and Doom 3 make the top list, and are all over ten years old. Their popularity among Mac users goes some way to illustrate how few options there are.

Your best bet for Mac gaming is probably Steam, and if you already have a good collection of Steam games for Windows, you might find there’s a Mac version in your library waiting to be downloaded. After installing Steam, if you click on a game in your library it will say whether it will work in OS X. Look for the Windows, Mac and Linux symbols on the game’s page.

There are plenty of Mac games in Steam you won’t find on the App Store, and in many cases, they’re cheaper, too. Steam has its own Mac section, and the forums really are a good place to look for tips and troubleshooting on Mac game issues.

Valve strongly supports Linux and OS X, so games like Dota 2, Left For Dead and Portal are all on the Mac.

Steam OS X

EA’s Origin is never more than a few steps behind Steam, and it too has its own native OS X client. As you’d expect, most games are cross-buy between Mac and PC, as with Steam. And likewise, the number of Mac games pales in comparison to the Windows titles. The Sims is well-represented, and there are a few third-party games, too, such as Planetary Annihilation and Empire Total War, but you’ll find that prices are often higher than on Steam for these games.

Blizzard is another developer that supports the Mac, with OS X versions of every one of its modern games. World Of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Diablo 3 can all be played on the Mac, and can be installed easily via the Battle.net application.

Some genres are better represented than others. There aren’t many first person shooters on the Mac, but MMORPGs are in reasonable supply. Guild Wars 2, EVE Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic and so on all have Mac clients. Retro game store GOG has a few Mac games too, clearly labelled with an Apple icon underneath the title. If you like older games, you’ll probably find a few on here that are worth playing.

The indie games offered in Humble Bundles, and in the Humble Store, are usually compatible with OS X. If you own a MacBook Air or Mac Mini, these are games you’ll typically be able to run.

Page 1: Introduction to Mac gaming
Page 2: Mac hardware and buying advice
Page 3: Mac gaming on OS X
Page 4: Running Windows games on a Mac
Page 5: Keyboards, mice, and gamepads on Mac