It’s so common to hear Macs suck for gaming. “There’re no games to play!”they say all the time! But the real problem isn’t trolls saying this. What bothers me is that most people (and even some Mac users) believe Mac gaming is non-existent too! Well, this guide is meant to clear things up. Macs are perfectly capable gaming machines, if you know how to use them. You will be surprised with all the ways you can use your Mac to play pretty much every PC-games out there.

In this guide, we will cover all the methods available to play games on your Mac, from the easiest, better known methods, to the more “obscure”, yet highly efficient ones. I will cover:

  1. Playing native Mac games on your Mac
  2. Playing PC games with Bootcamp
  3. Playing PC games using virtualization software
  4. Playing PC games using a wrapper (Wine)

Let’s get down to it!


1. Playing native Mac games on your Mac

Mac games native

It can’t get easier than this… Plug and play!

This one is quite obvious, but I did say I would cover all methods! The easiest way to play a game on your Mac is with native Mac games.

Simply put, this means the game was created and coded to work on Mac OS X, out of the box. No tweaking required. You just need to:

  1. Get the game
  2. Install it
  3. Play!

Native Mac games can be either coded during the game’s development or afterwards.
To give you an example, Blizzard will work on both a PC and a Mac version of their games from the get go. This is why they always release PC and Mac versions of their games at the same time.

In most cases though, games are ported to the Mac afterwards. They are usually released on the PC first and then the game is translated to work on the Mac. This is either done by the game’s developer (like ArenaNet did with Guild Wars 2), or by Third-party companies which specialise on  porting games to the Mac. The main two Mac porting companies are Feral Interactive and Aspyr.


Are there really many Mac games?

In spite of popular belief, there’s a ton of great games available for the Mac! You have hundreds available today, including heavy-hitters such as StarCraft 2, Civilization V, Call of Duty games, Borderlands 2 and more. Every year, more and more games come to the Mac. Still not convinced? Just check Mac Gamer HQ’s older posts and see all the game announcements happening all the time!


Where to get them?

Some people still think you can only find Mac games in obscure stores. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You can buy hundreds of Mac games from the comfort of your home thanks to the many internet stores out there.

Don’t know what to get next? Check our Top 100 Mac Games resource page for the best Mac Games available.

Here are the most popular stores offering Mac games:

Steam: Steam not only offers thousands of PC-games for digital download, they also offer but hundreds of Mac games too! Some of these games are even Steam-enabled, meaning you buy them once but get both PC and Mac versions. Some Steam-play enabled games also include cross-platform multiplayer between Mac and PC!

Mac App Store: Apple’s Mac App Store is also a great place to find hundreds of Mac games. Mac App Store’s games also include Game Center support, giving you leaderboards, achievements and more.

Mac Game Store: This one is a Mac-exclusive digital game store. I really like the presentation and information they have for every single game they offer. Good store. Last but not least, is different from the rest. They offer both PC and Mac games too but they focus on older games. If you like old-school games such as System Shock or the original SimCity, this is the place to shop!


  • Easiest solution: works out of the box
  • Performance is usually optimized
  • You support Mac gaming


  • Some games can be more expensive on Mac (compared to PC)
  • Smaller selection compared to PCs
  • Several high-profile games don’t make it to the Mac


2. Playing PC games with Bootcamp

Mac Games BootCampBut even if more and more games are released on the Mac, some high-profile PC-games just won’t make it to the Mac. Ever. What if you want to play Crysis 3 or Dishonored?

Do not worry, all is not lost. The Mac offers many, many methods to play pretty much every PC-game available today. Let’s talk about the easiest one: BootCamp.

What is BootCamp?

Boot Camp is a free utility that allows you to install and run the Windows Operating system.  Once Windows is installed on your Mac’s hard drive, you can restart your machine and use either either Mac OS X or Windows. It may force you to restart your Mac every time you want to play a Windows game, but BootCamp lets you run Windows natively. This is why many Mac gamers chose this method: there’s no virtualization or emulation involved. You Mac runs Windows using all it’s power, just like any other PC. The bottom line, BootCamp will give you the best performance possible, which is why it is the best way to play high-performance games.

How to install it?

BootCamp is very straightforward. You just need to open the BootCamp application in your Utilities folder and follow the assistant:

BootCamp install

You can check Apple’s support page for FAQs and guides on how to install and use BootCamp.


  • BootCamp gives you access to all PC-games out there
  • Straight-forward method (if you are familiar to Windows)
  • You get the best performance possible


  • Unpractical (you need to restart your Mac just to play a game)
  • Only works on Intel-Macs
  • Requires a Windows license
  • Requires lots of hard-drive space (for the Windows installation and its games)


3. Playing PC games using Virtualization software

Mac games using ParallelsFor those who find BootCamp tedious and just don’t want to have to reboot in order play a game, Virtualization software can be a good option. You have two main virtualization solutions in the market: Parallels and VMware Fusion.

As most tests and benchmarks found Parallels to offer better performance for games, we will focus on Parallels only.


Using Parallels

Parallels allows you to install Windows on your Mac too (or even use your BootCamp installation if you have it) but it offers something BootCamp can’t: You can have both Mac OS X and Windows running at the same time! With Virtualization, you can run two (or more!) operating systems at the same time. As a gamer, you can be using OS X  for all your everyday activities, but also have Windows 7 running at the same time for occasional gaming. Overall, you have most of the benefits of Boot Camp but without the need to restart your Mac. Is it a perfect solution? No, it also has some drawbacks, including a performance decrease (your Mac needs to run two operating systems at the same time!)

Mac games using Parallels

Rocking Mountain Lion and Windows 7 simultaneously!


  • Parallels gives you access to all PC-games out there too
  • Straight-forward method (if you are familiar to Windows)
  • Practical: You don’t need to reboot to use Windows
  • Allows you to use Mac and Windows apps at the same time


  • Requires a Parallels license (costs $110.97!)
  • Requires a Windows license
  • Requires lots of hard-drive space (for the Windows installation and its games)
  • Hurts graphics-performance significantly (modern games will suffer a lot)


4. Playing PC games using a Wrapper

Wine logo

For those who still want to play PC games but do not want to have to deal with Windows (and pay for it!), one last method exists: using a Wrapper . In this guide, we will focus on Wine.

What is Wine?

According to Cult of Mac’s tutorial:

Wine actually runs as more of a translator between the instructions in the PC program and the Mac operating system. It basically fools Windows into thinking they are running in a Windows environment, without actually emulating that environment (and taking the same performance hit) like Parallels does. Wine has the benefit of a large, open-source community for support as well, which means it will continue to get better and improve compatibility for a lot of games along the way.

For a complete guide on how tu use Wine, check out Cult of Mac’s great tutorial here.


  • Wine gives you access to most PC-games
  • Doesn’t require a Windows license (or any other paying software)
  • Doesn’t require you to use Windows at all
  • Practical: You don’t need to reboot to play PC-games


  • The most complex method of all
  • Requires a lot of tweaking
  • Not all PC-games will work
  • Performance will not be as high as with BootCamp


Your turn

Hopefully, after these almost 7000 words, you are a believer. There are many ways to play games on your Mac. When you know this, your Mac truly becomes a more than capable gaming machine.

However, when it comes to gaming, the “it just works” isn’t accurate. You have to read on, investigate and decide what is the best solution for you.

I cannot tell you which one is the best, because it depends on you: How often you want to play PC-games? Does it bother you a lot to have to reboot? Are you willing to pay for Windows licenses or third-party software?

For me, BootCamp with Parallels work wonders. I only use BootCamp when I know I will play a high-performance game for a couple of hours. The rest of the time I use Parallels (which I configured to use the same partition as BootCamp) to install games, tweak them or play light games without having to leave my precious Mac OS X. 🙂

Now I’m going to ask you 2 things:

  1. Tell me in the comments what method do you use
  2. Share this guide with all your friends who think Macs can’t play games 😉