What to Play on M1 Mac?

Thanks to the new M1 chip architecture, Macs are now able to get some serious performance upgrades across the board while maintaining high efficiency and performance-per-watt. They have redefined the way we look at computer memory and how it is used.

This is good news for everyone, especially for the gaming community as both gamers and game developers would be leveraging the 8-core GPUs on a chip under the SoC system to come up with native Big Sur games.

But until these developers come up with new native titles, let’s see what games players can currently play on their new M1-powered Macs.

Are M1 chips are Ideal for Gaming?

Macs have never been synonymous with gaming. In fact, a gamer would never even consider a Mac for gaming purposes. It was for the high-browed individuals and creators that wanted to get ‘work’ done. Gamers have always been comfortable with Windows-based computers.

Apple Metal has been quite a powerful framework to allow hardware-accelerated graphics but Apple has never been too big on ensuring it has all the necessary features for games. There was no reason to do so as their best-selling Macs had Intel chips with integrated graphics which were, to put it mildly, paltry at best. But the status quo has taken quite a beating since the M1. The graphics capabilities of systems that are being replaced with the M1 chips have grown by bounds due to the change.

Nvidia’s Geforce 1050 Ti and AMD Radeon RX 560 have both been beaten badly by the M1’s GPU capabilities. It won’t be a surprise if the next few iterations can beat some mid-level cards like the GeForce 1650 and the Raden 5500M. However, to catch up to some high-end cards like the Radeon 5700 XT, Apple has a long way to go. Nevertheless, users won’t have to get an external GPU to play heavier titles, not on the new M1 chip-enabled Macs.

M1 Compatible Games

Of course, trying out all the games by yourself is going to be donkey work. A more practical way out is to bank upon the research done by other people, like Thomas Schranz who, along with numerous Youtube, Reddit, and Twitter users have tested and compiled all the games on Applesilicongames, doing the gaming community a great service.

If you want to find out which games you can play on the M1, visit the website and head to the ‘Games’ section. All those games are playable on the Mac, be they optimized for ARM or running through Rosetta or Crossover.

As time goes by, we’ll know how the different graphics settings will work out and which games will require you to slow them down and which ones can you play to the max settings. Why is this? Because GPU architectures differ based on what they’re optimized for. So, they may find it easy to run some games and get the wind knocked out of them running the others.

For instance, with the M1 increasing the resolution doesn’t seem to slow down the game too much, but tinkering with some other settings can have more of an impact on performance.

M1 users are invited to test out some of the games that are not mentioned in the list and add to it. Go with medium graphics settings and try out multiple resolutions. Do the same with higher settings, with anti-aliasing off if the performance starts to degrade.

Here are some popular titles that currently work well with M1 Macs

  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Bioshock and Bioshock 2 Remastered
  • Borderlands 2 and 3
  • COD Black Ops III
  • Civilization V, VI and Beyond Earth
  • Counter Strike GO
  • Dark Souls Remastered
  • Dead Trigger 2
  • Deus Ex Mankind Divided
  • Dirt 4
  • Fortnite
  • GTA SA & VC
  • League of Legends
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Metro Exodus
  • Rocket League
  • Serious Sam 3
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Sim City 4: Deluxe Edition
  • Team Fortress 2
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim & Online
  • The Witcher: Enhanced Edition & The Witcher III (only Steam through Crossover)
  • World of Warcraft

Windows Games

Mac users who are also gaming enthusiasts had almost given up on the Mac ever coming up with anything close enough to what Windows offers. If they wanted to try out a game on their Macs, they could always use Boot Camp.

No more Boot Camp

But there’s no more Boot Camp starting with the M1. This means that many titles cannot be played on the Mac as before. But there’s a way around it, fortunately with Crossovers and architecture translations.

Rosetta 2

The Rosetta 2 is just one such translation device that translates the x86 codes into ARM codes. Although some heavy games like the Witcher 3 are working fine, some other games such as Diablo 2 do not.

Of course, Microsoft does wish that Apple doesn’t prevent Windows 10 ARM version from being run on the new Macs. However, it won’t really help the gamers much as Windows game developers won’t be too keen on redesigning the games for the M1.

iPhone and iPad games FTW!

Until all the games get streamlined, users have to pick out their titles from amongst four different possibilities – M1 native games, iPhone and iPad games, Crossover games, and  Rosetta 2. This can lead to some confusion, at least for the time being.

Stadia for Mac m1

Instead, Mac users could play their favorite games on Google Stadia — or any other game streaming service — which is getting more and more accessible with its introduction in countries around the globe. There’s no need for any special hardware. If you have a good enough internet connection, you can just purchase the game and get started. The best part is, it can be played across devices so that’s a big plus.

Steam for Mac M1

For the time being, even Steam games have to be played through Rosetta 2. Currently, Valve has been tight-lipped on when they’ll be releasing games that are compatible with the M1 and the Big Sur. So, until more news comes out on that, we’ll have to stick with Rosetta 2.

What the Future Holds?

M1 is only the first generation of Apple’s Mac chips, so it’s safe to say that if the worst of the series is so promising, we can only guess as to what the power of the later versions will be. With smaller chips, it is possible that Apple can even fit in twice as many GPU processors as it already has in the M1, and gamers will be waiting with anticipation and excitement for the release of the later M series chips.

Game developers will be encouraged to port the games to Big Sur thanks to the MoltenVKProject which looks to bridge the gap between Metal and Vulkan. Where only a couple of years ago, the lack of compatibility made it harder for game developers to do so, but now, with 100% compatibility, there’s no limit to what games can be ported.

The Apple Silicon is changing the industry in revolutionary ways, and gamers will be looking forward to getting the Mac gaming experience soon enough now that things are being streamlined.