Macs aren’t great gaming computers because they put more emphasis on optimizing software than on building powerful hardware. The majority of Macs lack the processing power necessary to run modern games, and the macOS gaming library pales in comparison to Windows.
In addition, high-end Macs with enough power for gaming are a poor investment because they typically come equipped with hardware designed for use in a workstation environment.
Apple has built a reputation over the years for both their high prices and their innovative designs, builds, software optimization, and customer service.
Despite these benefits, Apple’s Mac computers are rarely featured in the gaming spotlight.
The explanations for this are elementary, and we’ll go over them here.
Types Of Mac Devices
Both portable and stationary Macs are available. Apple currently offers three MacBook models: the MacBook Air, a laptop aimed at the more casual user; and two MacBook Pro variants, a 13-inch and a 16-inch model.
The iMac and iMac Pro are two examples of “all-in-one” desktop solutions. The standard desktop configurations include the compact but powerful Mac mini and the new Mac Pro. Macs by Apple range in price from, well, expensive to, well, extremely expensive. Why aren’t they good for gaming if many of them have great hardware?
The Hardware And The Software
Since their inception, Apple computers have been known for their sleek and stylish designs (as mentioned above). That they are prioritizing appearance over utility is something that has been pointed out. Despite this, even the least powerful Macs perform admirably because of how well the OS is optimized. Yet, Mac compatibility isn’t exactly a priority when developing games.
GPUs in cheaper, weaker Macs are typically Intel Iris Plus graphics solutions. Radeon Pro graphics processing units (GPUs) are included in the more powerful models aimed at professionals, but these are not ideal for gaming.
It’s not that every single one of those GPUs has awful performance. When compared to the price, they simply don’t provide good enough gaming performance.
In terms of gaming performance, the Radeon Pro 5500M found in the $2,800 16-inch MacBook Pro is inferior to the $150 MSRP GTX 1650 Super. For the same reason, iMac Pro and Mac Pro configurations with Vega graphics are overpriced for the gaming performance they provide.
However, a high-end gaming PC can be assembled for much less than the cost of a Mac Pro or an iMac Pro. The PC would not only be cheaper, but it would also provide superior gaming performance.
There aren’t as many games available for macOS as there are for Windows, so it might seem odd to buy a Mac specifically for gaming.
For these and other reasons, it’s clear that, despite their many positive qualities, Macs aren’t a good option for gaming.
What should you look for when choosing a Mac for gaming?
One of the most taxing activities on a computer is playing games. Although most AAA titles previously required a high-end desktop PC, modern gaming laptops are more than up to the task.
However, if you’re stuck on macOS for whatever reason, here are the bare minimum system requirements for playing games on a Mac.
Simple two-dimensional games may be playable on a slower processor, but anything even slightly more demanding will require a more robust system. We advise using at least a 2.0GHz Intel Core i5 processor, though an i7 or higher is preferable.
No matter which M1 Mac you choose, its processor will be more than capable of running any game you throw at it. However, as we’ll discuss, there are still some games that may not work with your Mac because of compatibility issues.
The majority of modern games necessitate a high-end graphics card to run smoothly. Even the fastest processor is useless in a 3D graphics-intensive game if you don’t have a robust graphics processing unit (GPU).
The graphics processing unit (GPU) in Intel Core i5 and i7 processors shares memory with the CPU. Getting a Mac with a dedicated graphics card and its own RAM is recommended for a better gaming experience.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro or the 27-inch iMac, depending on your budget, is your best bet for this, as they can be configured with a Radeon Pro GPU and 8 to 16GB of RAM.
An M1 Mac can have either a 7-core GPU, like the one found in the entry-level MacBook Air and iMac, or an 8-core GPU, like the ones found in every other M1 Mac. The 8-core is our top pick because it performs admirably even without its own RAM and is still a great value.
The bare minimum for a gaming PC or Mac these days is 8GB of RAM. Most games will function without a hitch with that much RAM. Thankfully, Apple now equips all of their Macs with at least 8GB of RAM as standard.
Instead, 16 GB of RAM is the bare minimum for smooth operation. If you’re going to buy a Mac, you should get the correct amount of RAM at the outset, as RAM cannot be upgraded after the fact.
A high-resolution, pixel-dense screen is ideal for gaming. The current generation of Mac computers all sport brilliant Retina displays with support for over a billion colors.
Included in the current lineup of Macs is the mighty 27-inch iMac with a 5K Retina display. When comparing screen sizes and resolutions, this is the top pick. There is no better monitor than the 24-inch iMac’s 4.5K Retina screen if you’re shopping for an M1 Mac.
Most of Apple’s own peripherals are wireless, so you won’t have to worry about not having enough ports to connect things like the Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard.
Make sure your computer has at least two available USB ports if you plan on using high-end gaming peripherals from companies like CORSAIR.
Most MacBooks only have two USB-C ports, and you may need one of them for the power adapter, so if you plan on using a lot of different wired peripherals, you may want to consider purchasing a USB hub.
There is rarely the concept of a “low budget” gaming computer. The need for a large display with a high resolution, as well as a powerful graphics processing unit and central processing unit, can significantly drive up the cost.
The base model M1 MacBook Air starts at $999. The base model of Apple’s 21.5-inch iMac costs $1,099, but if you’re serious about your desktop gaming, you should definitely spring for a higher-end model with a more powerful graphics processing unit.
The best gaming Mac we’ve seen is the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $2,399.
Which Mac should I choose for gaming?
Now that you know what to look for in a gaming Mac, let’s dive into the different Mac models so you can pick the best one. The extreme power and limited compatibility of the M1 chip makes this choice difficult, as we said at the outset. To that end, let’s examine that first.
The M1 MacBook Pro and the M1 iMac
Currently, there are four M1 Macs available from Apple:
- Macbook Air, 13.3 inches (M1, 2020)
- MacBook Pro, 13-Inch, M1 (2020)
- 2020 Mac mini (M1)
- New iMac (M1, 2020), 24 inches
The 24-inch iMac is the best choice if a desktop is what you need. The Mac mini is the way to go if you already have a monitor and keyboard and mouse, while the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro are the best options if you’re in the market for a portable computer.
The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are the two most similar choices. However, the MacBook Pro is superior to the Air because it comes standard with an 8-core GPU rather than the Air’s 7-core GPU, and because of its superior thermal management.
In addition to the Touch Bar, improved speakers and microphones, longer battery life, and a slightly brighter display are all advantages of the MacBook Pro. In all other respects, nothing has changed.
The gaming performance of any M1 Mac will be excellent and should be consistent across models. Unfortunately, the M1’s incompatible game selection is much smaller than that of traditional Intel chips due to its unique architecture.
If you’re looking for a complete and up-to-date catalog of games compatible with your M1 Mac, the Apple Gaming Wiki is the place to go. This table makes it easy to see which games can be played natively on your Mac, which Intel games can be played using Apple’s Rosetta translation, which Windows games can be played using CrossOver and Parallels, and which games can’t be played on your Mac at all.
The M1 chip doesn’t work with Boot Camp, so if you want to run Windows on your Mac for a better gaming experience, you’ll need to resort to using a third-party app like Parallels or CrossOver.
We suggest the MacBook Pro or the iMac out of all the M1 Mac models.
|technical specifications for the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)|
Combined 8-core Central Processing Unit and 16-core Neural Engine on Apple’s M1 chip.
This M1 chip has an integrated graphics processing unit with 8 cores.
13-inch Retina screen with a resolution of 2560×1600
At the Very Minimum, 8GB
Potential Memory Size, Up to 16GB
2 terabytes of storage space
Two USB Type-C / Thunderbolt 3 connections
|Information about the 24-inch iMac (M1, 2021)|
Apple’s M1 processor has an 8-core central processing unit and a 16-core neural engine.
The M1 chip incorporates a 7-core graphics processing unit.
M1 chip includes an 8-core graphics processor that can be configured.
Resolution of 4480 by 2520 pixels on a 24-inch Retina display
8GB as a bare minimum
Possible Settings: 16GB
256 GB is the bare minimum
Adaptable to: 2TB
Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports are the bare minimum
Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, two USB 3 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and a Gigabit Ethernet port can all be configured.
16-inch MacBook Pro
The 2019 MacBook Pro with a 16-inch display is the best option for gamers. The standard configuration includes a 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor running at 2.6 GHz across its six cores; an 8-core i9 running at 2.3 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz is available as an upgrade.
It has a dedicated graphics processor in the form of a Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB GDDR6 RAM, which can be upgraded to a Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB RAM for even more processing power.
Plus, you can have as much as 1 terabyte (TB) of solid-state drive (SSD) space and 16 GB of RAM.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro, which succeeded the 15-inch model, features a much thinner display. The screen’s resolution is 3072×1920 at 226 PPI, and its brightness is 500 nits thanks to P3 and True Tone technologies.
Finally, the laptop has a Touch Bar, Touch ID, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports on the sides. This whole package weighs in at just 2 kilograms, and it will set you back a minimum of $2,399.
|Information about the 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch model’s specs|
Intel Core i7, 6 cores, 2.60 GHz
The Intel Core i9 8 core, 2.4 GHz processor is an option.
Starting out with a 4GB GDDR6-equipped AMD Radeon Pro 5300M
AMD Radeon Pro 5600M 8GB HBM2 memory, configurable.
a 3072×1920 IPS screen at 16 inches
Standard: 16 GB
It’s up to you to set the 64GB limit.
The 512 GB Starter Pack
Counting four of them would be a Thunderbolt 3
27-inch iMac (5K Retina)
The 27-inch iMac is an all-in-one computer that packs a lot of power into a very small package. More than a billion colors are represented on the 5K Retina display’s 5120 x 2880 pixels, thanks to the P3 wide color gamut. Any gamer will be pleased with the level of realism conveyed on screen.
The GPU in the base model is a Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and the CPU is a 6-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 running at 3.1GHz. Selecting the more pricey option will allow you to upgrade the CPU to an 8-core i7 and the GPU to a Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8GB of GDDR6 memory.
If you go with the latter, you’ll have a gaming desktop with one of the world’s finest screens and the processing power to match. Together with the 512 GB SSD and up to 128 GB of RAM (far more than you’ll ever need), you’ll be good to go.
For connections, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 3 ports and four USB ports. Therefore, a USB hub might not be necessary if your gadgets are compatible.
Prices begin at $1,799 for the base model and rise to $2,299 for the enhanced processor and GPU.
|Features of the 27-inch iMac|
Standard: 6-core, 3.1 GHz CPU: Intel Core i5
The Intel Core i9 10 core, 3.6 GHz, can be configured.
Radeon Pro 5300, 4GB GDDR6 memory, entry-level
Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory, as configurable
Super-high-definition 5K Retina display at 27 inches (5,120 x 2,880)
8GB as a bare minimum
Capable of 128GB Configuration
In the bare minimum, 256GB
Setable Capacity: 8 Terabytes
Each Thunderbolt 3
There are four USB Type-A
Fast Ethernet, or Gigabit Ethernet
Plug for SDXC cards
21.5-inch iMac (4K Retina)
The 21.5-inch iMac, which has since been discontinued, is a powerful, ultra-thin desktop computer. More than a billion colors are communicated by the 4K 40962034 P3 Retina display, making for a vivid and lifelike image. Any gamer can be content with the screen’s presentation of accuracy and detail.
The entry-level model hasn’t been updated since 2017 and, to be honest, doesn’t even meet the bare minimum requirements for gaming, so we’re not even going to consider it here. A 3.6GHz quad-core 8th-generation Core i3 and a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz are found in the more expensive models, respectively. RAM speeds range from 8GB at 2666MHz DDR4 up to 32GB. In comparison to the $1,499 model’s 1TB fusion drive, the $1,299 iMac’s hard drive is 1TB.
You can upgrade the GPU from a 2GB GDDR5 Radeon Pro 555X to a 4GB GDDR5 Radeon Pro 560X. Four USB Type-C ports and two Thunderbolt 3 ports can be found on this PC. Each unit comes standard with a Magic Keyboard and a Magic Mouse 2.
|Features of the 21.5″ iMac|
Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, 2.3 GHz, minimum
Intel Core i7-6700K Processor (Up to 3.2 GHz)
Intel Iris Plus 640 is the bare minimum.
Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4 GB of HBM2 memory, as configured
Beginning level: a 21.5-inch, 1920×1080 screen
With its customizable 21.5-inch Retina 4K display, which supports a resolution of 4096×2304,
Eight gigabytes (GB) as a bare minimum
Modifiable to: 32GB
256 GB is the bare minimum
Adjustable to: 1 Terabyte
There are two Thunderbolt 3
There are four USB Type-A
To the Gigabit Network
Slot for SD/microSD/miniSD/microSDHC cards
15-inch MacBook Pro
The 15-inch MacBook Pro, which has since been discontinued, is a great choice if you’re willing to save some money and don’t mind buying a used Mac.
The standard 6-core Core i7 processor in the base model runs at 2.2 GHz and can be upgraded to a 2.9 GHz Core i9 that can reach up to 4.8 GHz in Turbo mode. Because of this upgrade, it is now capable of performing at a much higher level, making it competitive with specialized gaming laptops and allowing it to tackle more difficult problems.
The 15.4-inch, LED-backlit, IPS Retina display’s 2880×1800 resolution and 220 pixels per inch (PPI) were made for photorealistic images. Furthermore, an Intel UHD 630 with 1.5GB shared memory was installed alongside the graphics card Radeon Pro 560X’s 4GB of GDDR5 memory, providing the computer with ample room for graphics processing.
For those just getting into video games, this is the way to go.
|Specifications for the 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro|
Starter: Intel Core i7 quad-core processor at 2.2 GHz
Intel Core i7, quad-core, 2.8 GHz, configurable
Pristine: Intel Iris Pro
AMD Radeon R9 M370X, 2GB GDDR5 memory, user-configurable
15-inch, 2880×1800 IPS Retina display
Up to 1TB of storage space
It takes two Thunderbolt 2
Input for SD/microSD/miniSD/microSDHC cards
Minimum system requirements for the most popular games
In order to play smoothly, games have varying system requirements. You won’t be able to play if your Mac’s specifications don’t meet those requirements; the game won’t launch or will cause the processor to overheat. Furthermore, you may discover that while the game loads, your Mac is too slow to actually play it.
Let’s take a look at what operating system we need to run today’s most played games.
The goal of the popular multiplayer game is to remain alive in a world overrun by zombies and other hostile creatures. Your mission is to survive as long as possible while venturing into the unknown and amassing a supply of necessary items.
|Component||The bare minimum your computer needs to run||Specifications for a suitable computer system|
|CPU||the Intel Core i3 processor at 3.3 GHz||Core i5 @ 3.5 GHz|
|GPU||Intel High Definition 4000||R9 28.0 from AMD
GPU that supports DX11 or equivalent
|OS||Mojave, a new operating system for Mac computers,||New Operating System, Version 10|
Call of Duty: Warzone
To experience the enmity of the New Cold War, play this futuristic war game. Here, cybersoldiers and robots engage in battle together across three game modes: traditional, cooperative, online multiplayer, and zombie.
Boot Camp, which enables Windows to run natively on Intel-based Macs, makes it possible to play this game. There is no way to play it on a Macintosh computer with the M1 chip.
|Component||System Requirements Barebones Minimum||Minimum and recommended specifications for your computer|
|CPU||Core i3 or FX-6300 from AMD||AMD Ryzen 5 1600X or Intel Core i5|
|GPU||Any graphics card with a core clock speed of 670 MHz or 1650 MHz from NVIDIA or 7950 MHz or higher from AMD||ATI Radeon R9 390/RX 580 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970/ 1660|
|DX||Visual Basic 6 DirectX 11 DirectX 10 DirectX 11 DirectX 8||Microsoft’s DirectX 12|
|OS||Operating System, Microsoft Windows 7 64-Bit||Operating System: Macintosh Computer with BootCamp
Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit
|Storage||Free space of 175 GB||175 GB available space|
|Link in the system||Broadband||Broadband|
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Based on the fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, this is the third installment in the legendary game series chronicling the exploits of Geralt of Rivia.
It’s your job to unravel a web of crime, magic, and castle intrigue in this game. You’ll be captivated by the game’s plethora of settings and picturesque battles. Your choices can lead to one of more than two dozen different endings.
With Boot Camp, you can play this and other Windows-only games on your Mac. CrossOver allows it to run on an M1 Mac, but the experience is far from ideal.
|Component||Required minimal hardware and software||System Requirements as Suggested|
|CPU||processor speed of 3.3 GHz on an Intel Core i5||CPU Speed: Intel Core i7, 3.4 GHz|
|GPU||A graphics card with the performance of an Nvidia GTX 660 or an AMD Radeon HD 7870||Either an NVIDIA GTX 770 or an AMD Radeon R9 290|
|OS||OS X and Linux (64-Bit)||Using BootCamp on a Mac
32-bit Windows 7/8.1 64-bit
Operating System: BootCamp-Enabled Mac
|Storage||40 GB available space||40 GB of available space|
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
This is the newest iteration of an old favorite: a cooperative multiplayer game in which players take on the roles of terrorists and counter-terrorists. In this game, your objective is to win a set of maps by establishing your dominance over all other players.
It operates smoothly on Macs with Intel processors or with the help of Apple’s Rosetta translator on M1 Macs.
|Component||System Requirements Barebones Minimum||Suggested hardware and software configurations|
|CPU||Core i2 Duo E6600 or Phenom X3 8750 from Intel or AMD||Computer Chip Set: Intel Core i5|
|GPU||DirectX 9 compatible ATI Radeon HD 2400
including Pixel Shader 3.0 support
|Display adapter capable of displaying resolutions of at least ATI Radeon HD 2400|
|Storage||15 GB of available storage||We have 15GB available.|
|OS||The El Capitan Operating System for Macintosh||Apple’s New El Capitan Operating System|
|DirectX||Update to 9.0c||Release 9.0c|
Macs you should avoid buying if you’re a gamer
Some of the Macs on the market right now may be fantastic for everyday tasks, but they’re not ideal for gaming. The graphics card is usually the culprit.
You can get by with an older model just fine if you stick to casual games like Roblox. On the other hand, if you prefer more graphically intensive games like Fortnite or other 3D action games, integrated graphics cards will not be able to handle these games.
Laptops with an integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) like an Intel HD graphics or an Intel Iris are probably not going to cut it for your gaming needs.
If you’re a gamer looking at Apple’s online store right now, you should stay away from these Macs:
- Macbook Air, 13-inch, Intel-based (2017 or 2020)
- 2016 or 2020 MacBook Pro with Intel-based 13-inch display.
- 21.5″ iMac without Retina display
- A Mac mini with an Intel processor
How do you optimize your Mac for gaming?
When it comes to using a Mac’s processing power, gaming ranks near the top. The best Mac for gaming isn’t always the answer. For optimal performance of games like Minecraft and Fortnite, a Mac optimizer app may be required.
First, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough room on your hard drive to store the games you’ll eventually want to play. MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup feature makes this easy by scanning your entire computer for junk files and removing them in order to make more room.
Then, to ensure your games are running as smoothly as possible, you should use the Memory Cleaner.
Finally, you should run an antivirus scan on your Mac to detect and eliminate any malicious software that may be clogging up your system, slowing it down, or stealing your data for illicit purposes like crypto-mining.
Is Apple good for gamers?
Whether or not Apple is good for gamers comes down to personal preference. To be more specific, how many options are available on Apple devices?
Although many major publishers have released games for Mac in recent years, there is still a dearth of options for players. One reason Apple computers are not very popular among gamers is the relatively small library of games that can be played on them. If you’re using an M1 Mac, your library is even more limited.
Apple’s poor upgradability is another reason why we can’t endorse it for gamers. The ability to upgrade devices to keep up with rapidly changing technology is extremely important in the gaming community, but this is impossible on a Mac.
Is Mac or Windows better for gaming?
No exceptions, always windows.
For a long time, Windows was the primary platform for which game developers focused their efforts. Since Apple switched to Intel chips, a flood of new games have been made available for macOS. Now, however, things are only going to get worse as Apple switches to M1 processors.
Previously, Boot Camp allowed Mac users to enjoy a large selection of Windows-only titles. Although this is still an option for Intel-based Mac users, the M1 chip’s incompatibility with Boot Camp severely limits the M1’s applicability.
How do I choose a MacBook for gaming?
When deciding on a MacBook for gaming, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of taking a chance on future M1 compatibility, which would bring the best performance we’ve ever seen on a Mac, versus going with the tried-and-true Intel option.
Since it has an 8-core graphics processing unit and a few other minor upgrades over the Air, the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro is your best bet if you’re going for an M1.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the best option for those who prefer to play it safe. Particularly if upgraded with an i9 Intel processor and a Radeon Pro 5600M GPU with 8GB of HBM2 memory.
How do I choose an iMac for gaming?
If you plan on using your iMac for gaming, I recommend getting the most powerful processor and graphics card you can afford. It’s true that this general rule applies to all Apple computers, but the 4K Retina display requires even more processing power to truly shine.
A 21.5-inch iMac with a 3.0 GHz 6-core 8th-generation Core i5 is a decent choice for gaming. However, if you have an extra $700 lying around, the 27-inch iMac is the way to go. It has a 10th-generation Core i9 processor running at 5.0 GHz and a larger, more immersive 5K display.
Again, the M1’s lack of gaming options at the moment means that the 24-inch M1 iMac is the better option if you’re willing to take a chance on it in the future.
Can gaming damage my MacBook Pro?
No game will ever break your MacBook. However, this may appear to be the case because the increased processing demands of your game may cause your Mac’s cooling fans to work harder than usual. The computer’s performance may decrease, but it will recover once it cools down, and no permanent damage will have resulted.
The MacBook Pro has numerous built-in sensors that record data about the machine in its entirety. In the event that the temperature sensors detect that it is about to reach an unsafe level, it will shut off automatically. A cooling mat or laptop stand can help keep your Mac cool if you use it frequently at peak performance.
Do games slow down your Mac?
Some games may perform slowly or inefficiently on your Mac, depending on the system requirements of the game you’re playing and the capabilities of your Mac. When you are done playing, however, your laptop will resume its regular operations.
Verify that there is sufficient free space on your Mac’s internal drive to rule out any potential slowdown causes. If you are low, expect delays and kernel panics.
To sum up, we cannot recommend Macs for gaming. Their design precludes this use. You can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, to paraphrase a famous quote by Albert Einstein. Macs excel in their intended fields, but gaming is not one of them.
To play today’s games, most of them have inadequate hardware, and the few that do are prohibitively expensive if that’s all you need them for. Not only is macOS lagging behind Windows in terms of software, but it also has a dearth of games.