Ark: Survival Evolved Mac Review: Can you run it?

by | Mar 1, 2018 | Shooter

If you ask Mac gamers to name one survival game, you’ll probably hear Ark: Survival Evolved… a lot. That’s because in Ark, if you survive long enough, you get to tame, control and even ride dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. And while its focus is on multiplayer, it also includes a single-player offline mode.

In Ark, you survive and thrive by collecting resources, crafting items, taming animals including the aforementioned dinosaurs, forming or joining tribes and fighting off the other humans on the island. If you’re good enough, you can advance to upgrading your dinosaurs with lasers. Really.

But this is a persistent world, where (bad) things keep happening even when you’re away from the game. You’ve been warned.

And it’s not just hard to survive in Ark, it’s also known for being hard on your computer, so our tests this week are focusing on our more powerful Macs. Does your Mac have what it takes? As always, we’re here to help you figure that out.

And as we always do, we will be testing the game on several different Macs, with a focus on higher-end models. Also, note that in multiplayer you’ll need a good internet connection to keep from dealing with literally deadly lag.

First things first, is the game any good?

After being on Steam Early Access for two years, Ark: Survival Evolved was finally released in August of 2017.

While a popular game as far as having a large user base (obviously important for a multiplayer game), Ark: Survival Evolved received mixed reviews.

Players like the depth of the game and its open world, but excessive grinding and a hostile environment for new players on public servers take away some of the fun.

The game has a 70/100 Metascore, which is ok, and 68% positive reviews on Steam from almost 150,000 users.

A closer look at the reviews reveals the mixed feelings players have about the game. TJ Hafer’s detailed review at IGN concluded:

ARK: Survival Evolved has some great moments of battle with prehistoric beasts, but just as many of AI bugs and grind.

Ian Birnbaum at PC Gamer largely agreed:

Feeling real fear in a game—fear of failure, fear of loss—can be really fun. Escaping that fear can be dramatic, and the tragedy of almost getting away can be unforgettable. But when so much of Ark is grinding drudgery, the consequences of its unforgiving style are hard to enjoy.

My Take: Ark: Survival Evolved is a survival game with some real strengths and some significant weaknesses. If you’re willing to put in the time, and die and lose your work over and over again, you can rise to a level where things get really fun.

But if you’re not willing to put up with the grind and the established user base, it may be too frustrating of a game for you.

ARK Survival Evolved Mac

Into first-person shooters? These are our favorites:

Game★ Best OverallBest for MacBookBest Value
GenreCo-opCompetitiveBattle Royale
Release date201220122017




Our rating★★★★★
Full Review
Full review
Requirements✅ Not Demanding✅ Not Demanding⚠️ Fairly Demanding
Check Price

Humble Bundle


Official Site

Ark: Survival Evolved Mac requirements

These are Ark: Survival Evolved’s Mac system requirements (minimum):

OS 10.9
Processor Intel 2.0 GHz Processor
Memory OpenGL 3 compatible
Video Card 1GB or better
Hard Drive 20GB of Hard Drive space

Checking system requirements is particularly important for extremely demanding games such as this one. Unless you have a high-end Mac, you’d be wise to pay extra attention to the game’s requirements…

The Test: Can you run Ark: Survival Evolved on Mac?

So you’ve decided you’re willing, but is your Mac up to the challenge?

To evaluate how well Ark: Survival Evolved runs, we’ll test it on these models:

  • iMac (5K, 27-inch, Mid-2017): 3.8 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon Pro 580 (8GB)
  • iMac (5K, 27-inch, Late 2014): 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Touch/Mid-2017): 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon Pro 560 (4 GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016): 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013): 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)

Be aware that Intel Integrated Graphics cards are not officially supported, but more on that below.

Why these machines? Our purpose is to help you understand how well this game runs on different setups. And hopefully, one of these setups will be similar enough to yours to give you a clear idea of what to expect. We usually have  a more varied selection of hardware but as this is a highly demanding game, we will focus on high-end models this time:

  • High-end Macs (the 2017 iMac, 2017 MacBook Pro, and 2014 iMac)
  • Recent entry-level Macs (the 2016 MacBook Pro)
  • Older Macs (the 2013 MacBook Pro)

These are the settings we used to test Ark: Survival Evolved using our in-house FPS counter Count It for a fixed duration of 5 minutes:

  • 1280×800 or equivalent resolution
  • Graphics Quality: Medium
  • Single player, local game (i.e. internet connection is no longer a factor)

Why these settings? Remember, we are testing vastly different machines. Some high-end, some not. 1280×800 and Medium settings won’t impress anyone, but they are acceptable and should meet the requirements of the average gamer.

Ark Survival Evolved settings

The Results: MacBook owners, stay away from this one…

We knew going in that the hardware requirements for Ark: Survival Evolved were challenging on the Mac side, and our results confirm that.

Recent Macs with dedicated graphics cards had no trouble with the game at our default setting, but everything else struggled at best.

Ark Survival Evolved results

As a reminder, this is how we describe the different levels of performance:

Below 20 FPS Unplayable Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.
20-30 FPS Borderline Can be Ok in slow paced games. Still, not optimal.
30-45 FPS Playable Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).
45-60 FPS Smooth Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.
60+ FPS Very Smooth For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.

Can my Mac run Ark: Survival Evolved?

There’s no question that a high-end Mac can play this game at our default settings. Frame rates of 49 FPS (2014 iMac) and 81 (2017 iMac) put our iMacs in the Smooth and Very Smooth range respectively, while our 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro (using the dedicated graphics card) hit a barely Playable 30 FPS.

While these are OK results for a game known to be demanding and poorly optimized for the Mac (more on that below), we still would have hoped a brand new iMac could have blown the FPS out of water on medium settings. And a brand new MacBook Pro barely hitting playable on medium settings is disappointing, to say the least.

This is what can be expected when turning the settings to high:

Model Medium Settings High Settings
2014 iMac 49.1 FPS Smooth 40.5 FPS Playable

Takeaway: If you have a high-end Mac, you can expect to play this game at our default settings with no problem, and you can probably bump things up a bit and still have a silky smooth experience. But playing the game at maximum settings may be outside the reach of anything but a tricked out iMac Pro.

Can you play Ark: Survival Evolved on a MacBook Pro?

Things get tricky here, as they often do with more demanding games. Our 2016 MacBook Pro was nearly Borderline at 19 FPS with our default settings. With settings turned to the minimum it was firmly in the Borderline range at 27 FPS. While this is not ideal it indicates that the game should be playable on newer machines with integrated graphics.

Model Low Settings Medium Settings
2016 13-inch MBP 27.4 FPS Borderline 19 FPS Unplayable

Ultimately it’s a decision for you whether you want to spend your time and money on a game you’ll have to play at very low graphics settings.

Takeaway: If you have a recent Mac with an integrated chipset you may find the game playable. We hit high Borderline on a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro with all the settings at their minimum. Whether that’s an acceptable tradeoff is up to you. How much do you want to ride those dinosaurs?

But what if you have an older Mac?

As you’d expect, the news gets worse. Our 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro stayed firmly in the Unplayable range, maxing out at 15.5 FPS with all the settings on minimum. If you have an older Mac with a dedicated graphics card, however, there’s a good chance you’ll be in better shape.

The difference between our 2014 iMac and 2013 MacBook Pro indicates that it’s the graphics card that’s doing much of the heavy lifting here, and a look at Ark’s system requirements (see below) indicates that even older machines with a dedicated card might well be fine.

Takeaway: Our older Macs with integrated graphics were unable to even approach the Playable range with our default settings and lowering those settings to the minimum didn’t move the needle enough to put this game close to Playable range. Sorry, you’re out of luck with this one.

Bottom line: Ark: Survival Evolved is demanding on hardware and does not seem to be well optimized for Macs. You’ll need a computer with a dedicated graphics card to get the most out of this game. A newer (last 2-3 years) Mac with integrated graphics should be able to make Ark playable but at low graphics settings.

Perhaps Rust, the other big MacOS survival shooter, will be better optimized. We shall see in an upcoming Performance review…

Note: While Metal support was said to be coming to Ark, the last mention of that was in December of 2016; repeated requests for updates have gone unanswered.

Download Ark: Survival Evolved for Mac

Survival Evolved is available for download from all the major digital stores including Steam and Humble Bundle.

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission (this is how we pay the bills). This commission comes at no additional cost to you

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  1. arglborps

    Ark’s requirements are a joke. With a Mac matching the minimum requirements, the game is simply not playable. What were they thinking?

    • Ric Molina

      Exactly what I thought when I first read them. I will dig a little deeper because they are simply wrong. That could be very misleading for gamers.

      • Arudanel

        This is old school requirements at their finest, I remember the days when “Minimum” meant that, like you need to drink every 3 days to survive kind of minimum. Totally sickening and deceptive practice, and I’m not thrilled to see it returning. Realistically, Minimum should, be law, mean you can play the game on lowest settings with 60fps, so it is smooth and doesn’t stutter. Anything less might be minimum to load, but it’s not enough to play.

  2. Faolán

    Does anyone have experience on MacOS Mojave? I actually don’t know why I am running the latest beta. The issue I encountered is that the game just freezes after a few seconds. And I am running the 2017 iMac 27″ with 16GB of RAM and a RX570. An equivalent Windows machine is able to play the game for sure. Why is it freezing?

  3. Renting

    The problem is that recent Mac hardware is woefully weak and poor for gaming.
    I’m running a 2010 Mac Pro, with 32 GB RAM, HyperX Predator PCIe SSDs and a MacVidCards NVIDIA GTX980.
    That 8 year old machine runs circles around any more recent Mac as far as gaming performance goes, except the iMac Pro.
    I do run ARK at 1080p at High/Ultra settings, although the fps is all over the place, it’s usually around 30, lower settings don’t seem to make much of a difference.

    I have been very disappointed with the Apple hardware since 2013, as far as power and performance goes.
    It might be small and nice to look at, but I need my computers to work.
    I use CUDA for my job and games in my free time. Apple is a joke for both with their current offerings.
    And any game tested in 2018 should be tested in 1920×1080 at least. 1280×800 is soo last decade.

    Gaming on Mac is possible, but only because of NVIDIA and MacVidCards and old Mac Pro’s that can actually be upgraded.

    • geronimo

      hi, how can u run it ? also got 2010 macpro

  4. edward

    Yo quiero que me digan un modelo de Imac que arranque el juego fluidamente, o de cualquiera pc, pero que sean laptos por favor

  5. Marie-ann

    I couldn’t even load any map with my Imac High sierra, Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017. So that’s that. In fact, when the game open, it can immediatly crash.

    • Kristian Mock

      I’ve installed windows 10 onto my iMac late 2015 with 8gb ram 4gb Radeon r9 m395x just to see if I can game with it. (More ram coming soon)

      Works ok with the windows 10 version of Ark. at 1080p but had to lower the quality so it was silky smooth. But it was not terrible at high quality.

      Not that I wanted to put windows on my Mac. But in the name of gaming. It was worth a shot.

  6. Pauline

    Ark works somewhat on my Macbook Pro (15-in 2019). Crashed when opening initially, but once it ran it was fine. I run it on lowest resolution settings just incase. I’m able to play single player, but am experiencing issues with servers (no servers popping up, and ‘Network failure” message when connecting thru steam/browser). Reset my network settings, unplugged router, verified the game in steam, and even re-installed the game. So far nothing has worked. Frustrating but at least the game was on sale for $12 and it runs somewhat ok despite steam’s warning of macOS Catalina not supporting 32-bit games. Same warning for Terraria but it works completely fine. Disappointed but not shocked.

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