Borderlands 2 Mac Review: Can you run it?

by | May 6, 2019 | Shooter

New first-person shooters (FPS) are released every year, yet somehow, Borderlands 2 remains one of the best. The fact that it’s even more popular than the newer (and technically improved) Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a testament to the game’s quality.

Combining first-person shooter gameplay with deep RPG elements, the Borderlands series is unlike any other you can play on MacOS. Many have tried to copy the formula, but they all fail to strike that same balance of intense gameplay and fun. No wonder it’s still one of the best FPS games for Mac.

Did I mention how great Borderlands 2 looks? The game uses hand-drawn textures to create a unique, beautiful art style. Huge environments, leveling up, and co-op multiplayer round things out, creating an excellent package.

This all sounds like fun, but will your Mac be able to handle it? There’s only one way to find out. We will test this game on as many Mac models as possible and see how well it runs.

Borderlands 2 Mac art V5
89 Metascore
It might be a few years old now but Borderlands 2 remains our favorite FPS on Mac. Plus, it runs great on MacBooks!

Buy on Humble Bundle

First things first, is the game any good?

Is Borderlands 2 really better than it’s sequel? According to fans and reviewers, it certainly is.

It’s easy to understand why both reviewers and gamers love this game. Borderlands 2 features tight and precise gameplay combined with seriously addictive RPG elements. The game’s loot system is expertly balanced, with new guns dropping often enough to keep you excited, but always wanting more.

Plus, this is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and oozes with charm and personality.

With an 89/100 Metascore and a whopping 96% overwhelmingly positive reviews from 80,000 users on Steam, Borderlands 2 did much better than it’s successor:

Borderlands 2 Mac Metacritic V2

IGN did a good job summarizing the many things that make this a great game:

Overall this is an excellent shooter no one even remotely curious should overlook. Prepare to level. Prepare to loot. Prepare to get lost in the hilarious, bizarre and wonderful world of Pandora.

Trusted Reviews also gets why this game is special:

No other shooter has the same mix of frantic, fast-firing action and deep, loot-based role-playing game elements, and there’s definitely nothing out there as mind-blowingly crazy.

Fortnite may be all crazy right now, but you still can’t go wrong with Borderlands 2, unless your Mac can’t handle it of course…

Mac games Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 Mac requirements

It’s better to be safe than sorry and always make sure your machine meets the minimum system requirements. Otherwise, the developer won’t be able to help you if you run into problems.

These are Borderlands 2 minimum system requirements:

  • OS: 10.8.5
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Video Memory: 256MB Video RAM
  • Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 2600 / NVidia Geforce 8800/ Intel HD 3000
  • Hard Drive: 13GB of Hard Drive space

The game doesn’t support the following graphics:

  • ATI RADEON HD 2400
  • NVIDIA 8600m
  • NVIDIA 9400m, 9600m
  • Intel Integrated GMA 950
  • Intel Integrated x3100

Also, note that Borderlands 2 supports both the Xbox 360 wired gamepad and the PlayStation 3 Dualshock 3 Wireless Controller.

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
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Official Site

The Test: Can you run Borderlands 2 on Mac?

System requirements aren’t that high, but we’ve seen games with modest system requirements that can still be demanding.

To figure out how demanding the game really is, we tested it on the following machines:

  • iMac (5K, 27-inch, Late 2014): 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016): 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
  • Mac Mini (Late 2014): 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2013): 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012): 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 400 (0.5GB)

Why these machines? When testing games, we aim for two things. As many machines as possible and machines that are as different from each other as possible. Hopefully, one of these setups will be similar to yours and give you a clear idea of what performance to expect. These are the setups we will be covering:

  • High-end Macs (the 2014 iMac)
  • Recent entry-level Macs (the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro)
  • Older Macs (the 2012 and 2013 MacBook Pros and a 2014 Mac Mini)

These are the settings we used to test the game:

  • 1280×800 or equivalent resolution
  • Game Detail, Texture and View Distance: Medium
  • V-Sync: Off
  • Anisotropic Filtering: 2x

With the help of Count It, our FPS counter, we tested the game for 5 minutes in an outdoors environment with enough enemies to shoot at:

Why these settings? Outdoor environments are generally more demanding than closed ones. Plus, having a decent quantity of enemies on-screen ensured the game was realistically pushing our test machines.

Also, remember we are testing vastly different machines, some high-end, some not. While our default settings may seem low, they are acceptable and should meet the requirements of the average gamer.

The Results: A surprisingly easy to run game, even for MacBooks!

Clearly, Aspyr, the team in charge of this port, knows what it’s doing…

Going into this review, we knew a 6-year old game wouldn’t be too demanding. The results not only confirmed this, they were even better than expected:

Borderlands 2 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.

We usually aim for 30 FPS, because 30 FPS is enough to guarantee a smooth and fluid experience.

Can my Mac run Borderlands 2?

Clearly, if you have a high-end Mac, be it a 27-inch iMac or a 15-inch MacBook Pro, you’re going to have a blast playing this game at the highest settings.

Our test 27-inch iMac did a whopping 102 FPS, providing a Very Smooth experience.

Such good results meant we could push graphics a little higher. While keeping the same resolution, we bumped the settings all the way to the Max. The iMac didn’t break a sweat and did a Very Smooth 90.1 FPS. That was surprising because the results weren’t only good, they were very close to our previous result using Medium settings.

While doing more tests, going from the lowest to the highest settings (always using the 1280×800 resolution), we noticed performance didn’t change much:

Model Lowest Settings Medium Settings Ultra High Settings
2014 27-inch iMac  110.7 FPS Very Smooth  101.9 FPS Very Smooth  90.1 FPS Very Smooth

This can be explained by the fact the graphics don’t change too much themselves. Notice how small the differences between Medium and Max settings are:

This probably explains why scores are so similar.

Takeaway: If you have a high-end Mac, you can play this game at the highest settings and expect a fluid experience.

Can you play Borderlands 2 on a MacBook Pro?

With such good scores on our high-end model, we expected good results on here too.

Entry-level machines are defined by their use of integrated graphics cards. Integrated cards are great for lowering power consumption, but not so much for smooth gaming. Still, the Intel Iris Graphics 540 from our 2016 MBP did great.

The game ran at 59.6 FPS, inches away from the Very Smooth range.

Takeaway: Recent integrated graphics will do just fine in this game. Just like with the high-end models, you can expect to play the game at maximum settings and 1280×800 resolution and have a silky smooth experience.

But what if you have an older Mac?

Most of us have older machines, which means this is the most important part of the review for the most people. And I’m glad to report Borderlands 2 still runs great on older Macs, including 5-year-old MacBook Pros.

All three of our models resulted in Playable performance. The 2014 Mac Mini did 41.5 FPS, the 2013 MBP did 32.6 FPS and the 2012 MBP did 31.6 FPS.

Testing and comparing different settings resulted in the same conclusion as before.

Model Lowest Settings Medium Settings
2013 13-inch MBP 32.6 FPS Playable 31.6 FPS Playable

The difference in performance is very small because the actual difference in graphics is small:

We were surprised to see that the 2012 MBP was as fast as the 2013 MBP. They might be only one year apart, but the 2013 model has the same graphics as the Mac Mini, an Intel Iris 5100, which should be much faster than the Intel HD Graphics 4000 from the 2012 MBP.

The 2013 MBP should have scored better and be closer to the Mac Mini’s 41.5 FPS. The only explanation I have is that the older 2012 MBP has more RAM than the 2013 MBP (8GB instead of 4GB) and that Borderlands 2 uses a lot of RAM…

Bottom line: Borderlands 2 is an accessible game and should properly run on any Mac from 2012 onwards. This puts it in the extreme opposite of games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Both great Mac shooters with high system requirements.

PS: These are our favorite accessories for playing/testing games on Mac!

Game★ Best MouseBest ControllerBest eGPU
Why we love it?The G502 is Logitech's most accurate gaming mouse yet. Plus, it has a plethora of buttons and a killer design.The official PS4 controller just works on Mac. It's wireless, it's precise, it has an excellent grip and it's durable.The Razer Core X turns your MacBook or Mac Mini into a killer gaming machine by adding external graphics support.
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PriceFrom $56From $39.99From $299.99
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Download Borderlands 2 for Mac

Borderlands 2 is available for download from all the major digital stores including Steam and Humble Bundle:

Borderlands 2 Mac art V5
89 Metascore
It might be a few years old now but Borderlands 2 remains our favorite FPS on Mac. Plus, it runs great on MacBooks!

Buy on 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. Wonder warthog

    I play it frequently with my son. Me MBPro late 2016. He MBpro mid 2010. I run it at 1080p, he runs it at the full resolution of the internal display 1680 X 1050 with some settings lowered for better performance. For some reason he doesn’t get proper shadows, but apart from that it runs quite smooth on his machine.
    The developers really did a fine job porting this game.

    • Wonder warthog

      On a sidenote, I just started playing the pre-sequel, but I like Borderlands 2 better. The dialogues have more pizzazz age the player characters are way more fun in B2.

    • Ric Molina

      You can play it and enjoy it on a 2010 MBP? That’s impressive, a testament that the game runs even better than expected. Well done Aspyr…


    That FPS estimate calculator is a great idea! However, it should be stated more clearly which value from the Unigine Heaven benchmark should be entered.

    Intuitively, one would probably just enter the Unigine Heaven score, which leads to ridiculous numbers though, so I assume the average FPS in Unigine Heaven should be entered instead, is that correct?

    • Ric Molina

      You’re totally right. Thanks a lot for the comment, I would have never noticed that otherwise. I will correct this ASAP (on all reviews…. *sight*)

  3. Mark

    It’s 32-bit. Major drawback since it means I’ll only be able to run it a few more months before Catalina comes around.

  4. Mark

    Correction: Borderlands 1.8.5 on Steam is now 64-bit. Although it is not cross playable with the Windows version at this time.
    The 1.8.4 version on the Mac App Store is 32-bit. Hopefully, this will be updated soon.

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