At WWDC 2022, Apple claimed everything is coming together for Mac gaming. Apple’s Senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi said the company’s in-house silicon “changed everything” by giving Macs the power to “run the most demanding games, with ease.” He then claimed the Mac’s popularity provides an opportunity for developers—before the event tried to seduce gamers with reveals of upcoming AAA titles.
But what is the reality of Mac gaming, and can Apple’s latest consumer laptop—the M2 MacBook Air—cut it as a device for people who want to play the very best titles? The answer is: It’s complicated.
In this article, we dig into casual gaming (where Apple fares well), before tackling the thornier territory of AAA titles. Our test unit was an Apple-supplied M2 MacBook Air (8-GB RAM/512-GB SSD/10-core GPU, so not quite the entry-level model). We made regular use of external controllers, including a Sony DualShock and a GameSir T4 Mini, which connected without hassle.
Some gamers dismiss Apple Arcade, but it has a solid selection of titles, including mobile classics optimized for all Apple kit. The games veer toward simpler fare, but remain compelling on desktop. You’d have to be grumpy to not enjoy interactive cartoon Sneaky Sasquatch and gorgeous platformer Oddmar.
There are deeper experiences, too, such as racer Gear.Club Stradale and adventure Beyond a Steel Sky. These push the hardware more than other Apple Arcade titles, but not to a degree that would concern any M2 Mac.
Apple silicon Macs also run iPhone and iPad games—if a developer provides express permission for Mac users to do so. Many don’t. If you’ve bought platform game GRIS on iPhone, you’ll need to buy the Mac version to play it on your Air.
The user experience is mixed with touchscreen games that haven’t been optimized for Mac as fully universal apps. Multitouch input doesn’t come across well. Gamepad support is haphazard. The experience can be solid, but you have to find the right games. Puzzlers Baba Is You and Dungeons of Dreadrock work well on the keyboard, for example, and Asphalt 9’s breakneck racing is great with a DualShock.
Just as digital replaced discs and cartridges, streaming now threatens to eclipse digital game purchases. On a MacBook Air, streaming solves key problems. Because servers do the heavy lifting and the Mac only interprets input, computer specs and architecture are irrelevant. And that brings more games to the platform.