The Best Mac games of 2016
2016 was a great year for Mac gaming.
Every year Mac gaming gets better and 2016 was no exception. First of all, there’s the sheer quantity of new games released (did you know there are over 3,000 games for Mac on Steam alone?).
But who cares about a bunch of unknown games? What is really impressive is the quality of the best games released for Mac this year.
2016’s best Mac games are impressive, and the 20 games featured here are the cream of the crop; they are the highlights of the year and include indies, AAA games and every major genre out there. Looking for more good games for Mac? Check out the 100 top Mac games you can play today.
I might as well start with Firewatch, the best indie I’ve played in a long time.
Firewatch is a first-person adventure game set in a beautiful forest. You play as Henry, a new ranger looking for some peace and quiet in the woods. And at first it works, as your only contact is through a walkie-talkie with Delilah, your boss.
Both Henry and Delilah are great, interesting characters. Their dialogues are a blast, and they feel like real people—something we don’t see often in video games. But the real highlight here is the story. As you can expect, strange things start to happen, and the whole thing goes south. Firewatch tells a story you do not want to miss.
Plus, the game looks great. Developer Campo Santo killed it. More than once, I just had to stop and look at the beautiful landscapes. That said, good graphics mean you will need a decent Mac to run it:
Next up is XCOM 2, the strategy game that many consider to be the best Mac game of 2016.
XCOM 2 picks up right where XCOM: Enemy Unknown left off. Humans lost, aliens won, hope is lost. Except that humanity has one last chance—YOU. You’ll have to rebuild the Resistance and destroy those aliens once and for all.
Just as in previous XCOM games, XCOM 2 is based on two important things: Turn-based tactical combat missions and resource management back at HQ
Both are lots of fun and complement each other. Combat missions are particularly challenging (and rewarding). You’ll have to use your strengths and the environment to your advantage if you want a shot. Plus, as your soldiers can permanently die, every fight becomes more stressful.
XCOM 2’s Mac version was handled by Feral Interactive, and as always, they’ve delivered a smooth experience. However, just like on Windows, XCOM 2 will need a rather powerful machine to run:
Civilization 6 is the latest entry in the famous 4X strategy series and is the first major release since 2010.
Civ 6 isn’t a drastic change from Civ 5, but that’s not a bad thing. Civilization 6 hits the right chords, just as Civ 5 did, and has quickly become my go-to strategy game on Mac. It also creates that same “one last turn” feeling that keeps you from going to bed at a decent time.
Plus, Civ 6 brings some key changes, like bigger cities. In fact, cities play a bigger role than they have before. They now include districts and special buildings that you will have to place strategically. This means the surroundings matter (for example, a religious district near mountains get a bonus) and every city will demand careful planning.
Firaxis also delivered a brand new research system and environments that have an impact on battles. Civ 6 also has improved graphics and in spite of a great port from Aspyr,will still require a decent Mac to properly run:
This indie sensation was the most anticipated Mac game this year, no doubt.
Rocket League is a physics-based soccer game where flying cars take on each other in a huge arena. Needless to say, these matches are intense. Really intense. You have to learn to use your rockets to boost yourself in the air and hopefully score amazing goals (or saves). Team play is important, but learning to use your car’s physics is critical. This game is about timing and patience and takes hours to master. But the feeling when you score a goal is priceless.
Pro tip: Precision is key and a controller is highly recommended.
Rocket League features split-screen and online matches and thrives when playing with friends. And as FIFA isn’t coming anytime soon, Rocket League could scratch that itch. I’ve yelled after scoring a last-minute goal, just like I used to with FiFA.
Rocket League has a nice-looking futuristic style, but Psyonix delivered a great port that doesn’t require a particularly powerful Mac to run:
Mad Max is the latest port from Feral Interactive and probably the best-looking macOS game right now.
Mad Max is an action-adventure game based on the Mad Max films and comes from the creators of the Just Cause series. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and features combat, car combat, exploration, and tons of upgrades. Review scores aren’t that great, but this is a genre where the Mac desperately needs more games.
Mad Max reminds me a lot of Shadow of Mordor, another action game that I loved. Both take place in open-worlds, both feature fun combat and both look amazing on Mac.
Speaking of graphics, this is a very demanding game that will require a powerful Mac to run it. But it’s hard to blame Feral when said game looks so good:
Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game that takes place in Hong Kong.
As an undercover cop, you’ll have to take down the Triad, one of the world’s most dangerous mobs. As you try to infiltrate it, you’ll take part in crimes, shootings, fist fights, and car chases. Hong Kong will be at your disposal, and you’ll be able to explore it by foot, car, or boat.
This may sound a lot like Grand Theft Auto, and that’s because it plays a lot like Grand Theft Auto. But that’s a good thing. Open-world games are rare on Mac, and as Rockstar isn’t porting GTA 5 anytime soon, Sleeping Dogs is the next best thing.
Plus, this is the Definitive Edition, and it features better graphics, audio, and gameplay. By the way, this is a great-looking game, especially with all the settings maxed out. Feral Interactive knows how Mac ports are supposed to work. That said, you’ll still need a recent Mac to run it:
Stardew Valley is the country-life RPG that keeps destroying sales records on Steam.
This pixelated farming simulator is a tribute to the old Harvest Moon games and follows a boy who inherits a farm. But compared to Harvest Moon, it’s a much more detailed and complex game. And thanks to Chucklefish, the team behind Starbound, it’s finally available on Mac. This is an open-ended game that gives you control over everything: the design of your farm, the kinds of animals and crops to raise, etc. It also introduces more interesting NPCs and interactions. This sounded very strange to me at first. How could I like an old-looking game about a farmer? Well, this game has soul and depth. Stardew Valley is addictive and fun.
Plus, as the game uses retro-looking graphics, you can easily play it on most Macs, including older models:
Dawn of War 2
Developed by Relic Entertainment, Dawn of War games are some of the most famous strategy games ever created. When it was first released, Dawn of War became an instant classic because of the great graphics and the way it combined real-time strategy with role-playing elements. The game’s animations (like a huge robot crushing an orc) were ground-breaking at the time and paved the way for modern strategy games such as Company of Heroes.
Dawn of War 2 takes everything that made the first entry great but with a lot more polishing and even better graphics. This game is a lot like Company of Heroes 2, except you get to fight as space marines, orcs or futuristic aliens. This game focuses on powerful units, and instead of encouraging you to build large armies (like StarCraft 2 does), it will encourage you to upgrade your hero and most experienced units.
Plus, the game features a solid campaign set in the lore of Warhammer 40,000 and a highly popular multiplayer where you can either plunge into skirmish mode or team up with others in The Last Stand, a cooperative survival mode. To play it, you’ll need:
Are you into dark and punishing RPGs? If so, Darkest Dungeon will be perfect for you.
As the heir of a rich family that accidentally opened a dark portal, it’s up to you to close it. Luckily, you can recruit, train, and lead a band of heroes to tag along. And you will need all the help you can get, as your descent will be full of horrors, famine, and disease.
Darkest Dungeon is a punishing game. People will die. It enjoys reminding us that heroes have to suffer too, just like Game of Thrones does every season.
Darkest Dungeon also features an original art style. The 2D-graphics make it feel like a dark comic book. The atmosphere is tense and perfectly matches the story. Plus, the 2D-graphics make the game easy to run—so much so that even an older Mac can get the job done:
Who knew? It’s still possible to create an original first-person shooter. Superhot is unlike anything you’ve ever played. But can it be considered one of the best first-person shooters on Mac?
In Superhot, time only moves when you move. This adds a layer of strategy that you don’t have in most FPS games. You will often be surrounded, and pausing time will be your best weapon. Once you learn how to use it, you will be able to dodge bullets, aim for headshots, and pretty much kick ass.
Superhot doesn’t really have a story, but it does throw tough scenarios your way. There’s a lot of trial and error involved here, so prepare to die. That said, once you master a scenario and watch the replay, you’ll feel like Neo from The Matrix.
Did I mention how much I love the game’s art style? Your enemies are made of glass, and watching them explode is priceless. Plus, the lack of detailed textures gives this game low system requirements. You should be able to play it on most modern Macs:
Legion is the latest expansion for the world’s most successful MMORPG and it is what fans have been waiting for years.
World of Warcraft has been losing millions of subscribers, but Blizzard worked hard on Legion, hoping to turn the tide. For starters, Legion brings new areas, raises the level cap to 110, and introduces a new demon hunter. The game also introduced 10 new dungeons and two new raids.
All standard ingredients of a decent expansion. However, Blizzard had more plans to make you want to resubscribe. Legion introduced new features, such as PVP-only abilities, artefacts, and more. Blizzard finally delivered what WoW veterans have been requesting for years.
Legion also introduced a Metal version, making World of Warcraft the first game to officially support Metal, and becoming about 60% faster than the old OpenGL version. To play it, you’ll need:
Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter is one of those games that took me by surprise.
I thought it was yet another indie RPG. Top-down view. Retro graphics. Same old, same old. But it’s so much more than that. Hyper Light Drifter is an homage to the games I grew up with. Some consider it a combination of The Legend of Zelda and Diablo, and I couldn’t agree more. The game doesn’t reinvent the wheel; everything just clicks together. The combat is fun, the sound effects are intense, and the art style looks great. It all creates an atmosphere that is hard to describe.
Speaking of graphics, the retro style they went for looks great and makes this a lightweight game. This means you can play it on your MacBook without having to worry about overheating:
The Banner Saga 2
This is the sequel to the fan-favorite viking RPG. The first Banner Saga was a huge Kickstarter success (raising over $750,000), and this sequel is even better.
The Banner Saga 2 picks up right after the first game. As leader of a caravan, your job is to get it to safety. But that won’t be easy. Along the way, you’ll face hairy situations and have some tough calls to make.
Should you sacrifice lives for the greater good? Should you steal? And every so often, you will have to fight. But that’s ok, as The Banner Saga 2 features deep and satisfying turn-based combat.
Another highlight is the graphics. Everything is beautifully drawn, and the game often feels like a moving painting. This is a great-looking game that also happens to have low system requirements:
Stellaris comes from the team behind Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4. Needless to say, they know how to create a grand strategy game.
Stellaris is their take on space strategy and is set in the year 2200. After choosing your species, you’ll head out to explore the universe, gather resources, research technologies, and create alliances—all in real-time. This makes Stellaris a fluid experience, but you can still pause the action if you need more time to think.
Paradox’s games are known for being hard to get into. I wouldn’t say Stellaris is easy, but the UI and the way it presents information make it much easier than some others.
Stellaris is all about giving you the information you need to manage your empire. The graphics do come second, but at least it has low system requirements:
Stellaris Mac requirements: 2.5Ghz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 6750, NVIDIA GeForce 320 or higher with 1 GB VRAM.
Tyranny is the latest RPG from the masterminds behind Pillars of Eternity.
Tyranny takes place in a world where the bad guys won. This premise is so different from what everybody is doing and I find it fascinating. And Tyranny goes the whole way. You get to control one of the evil leaders. You fought the war, survived, and helped evil win. Now it’s time to travel the land to restore order. What’s impressive is that people will recognize you and fear you.
Besides this fascinating setting, Tyranny is an extremely solid RPG. You get tons of customization options, exciting background stories, and thousands of things to do. If you enjoy games that require time but reward you with a great adventure, Tyranny is for you.
Plus, the game runs on a modified version of the engine that was used to create Pillars of Eternity. This means Tyranny is an RPG that both looks great and reminds you of the old-school RPGs you used to love:
Day of the Tentacle
Day of the Tentacle is Double Fine’s second attempt to revive a beloved cult classic.
First released in 1993, Day of the Tentacle tells the story of the fight against an evil tentacle who wants to conquer the world. Weird stuff indeed, but keep in mind that this is a fun adventure game full of puzzles and time travel.
This remaster includes all the original hand-drawn graphics at high resolutions and remastered audio. Plus, you can switch back and forth between the original version and the new one (in case you’re feeling nostalgic). And if you really want to geek out, the game also includes a commentary track with the game’s original creators.
As an added bonus, you can usually find it for less than $10 (and if you’re looking for completely free games, check this guide).
Day of the Tentacle looks great now, and as you can expect from a remaster, it can be played on most Macs:
Enter the Gungeon
Pixelated dungeon crawlers aren’t that original anymore. Competition is fierce, yet Enter The Gungeon easily stands out.
This top-down shooter follows four adventurers in search of a legendary gun. It feels a lot like a combination of The Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne, both great dungeon crawlers.
Except Enter The Gungeon is particularly hard. Even the monsters in the first room can kill you if you get overwhelmed. And don’t get me started on the bosses. But more importantly, this is a fun game with lots of little details that make it very cool. You can dodge roll, kick barrels at enemies, and flip tables to shield yourself from incoming bullets.
As with most dungeon crawlers, Enter The Gungeon is a lightweight game. An older MacBook can run it without breaking a sweat:
Hearts of Iron 4
Paradox knows how to create a grand strategy game, period, and Hearts of Iron 4 is another fine example.
Hearts of Iron 4 is the most detailed and complex WW2 strategy game ever made. You not only have to command your army, you also have to keep an eye on your industry, resources, and research. This game is no joke. You can zoom in so deep that you can micro-manage an attack in Siberia, or you can zoom out far enough to see the whole continent’s supply routes. Intimidated yet? But worry not, because once you get the hang of it, Hearts of Iron 4 becomes extremely satisfying.
Plus, the game features cross-platform multiplayer and can be enjoyed with your Windows PC friends.
As with most grand strategy games, you won’t need a particularly powerful Mac to run it:
American Truck Simulator
American Truck Simulator is the sequel to the game I couldn’t believe was successful. I mean, who would want to play a game about driving a truck?
Turns out, there’s much more than meets the eye. First of all, this game is both a truck-driving simulator and a business management simulator. When you first start, you’ll get to work as a freelancer and deliver goods to win money and XP. But once you have enough money, you can buy your own truck and start running your own business.
In any case, the actual driving simulation is actually quite good. The handling is precise, the scenery beautiful, and the attention to detail impressive. All this works together to create a relaxing and almost hypnotic driving experience.
American Truck Simulator is a good-looking game too (although that means you will need a modern Mac to run it smoothly):
Life is Strange
Life is Strange is one of the most interesting adventure games out there.
The game follows the story of a photography senior called Max Caufield. Although she looks like your average teenager, she can actually rewind time and affect the past, present, and future. Cool power, right? Throughout the game, she will use it to try to save her friend and figure out what’s happening in her hometown.
If you’re looking for combat and action sequences, move along; you won’t find that here. You will, however, find a great story full of choices and consequences.
For a story-driven game, Life is Strange looks quite good. And at the same time, you can run it on low-specs machines, including my aging MacBook Air. Feral Interactive delivers another smooth port here:
With so many great games released this year, it’s becoming harder to complain when it comes to computer games for Mac. In any case, there is definitely something for everyone here. With brand-new first-person shooters, roguelikes, RPGs, and even simulations, all the most popular genres are covered.
Did I miss another exciting Mac game planned for 2016? Let me know in the comments section. If it isn’t already here, I will make sure it makes it.