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| 29. November 2021

Gaming on Apple’s M1 MacBooks | Standout Titles and Genres

Gaming on Apple’s M1, in theory, sounds so darn alluring! These are, after all, incredibly powerful SoCs and they pack surprisingly potent GPUs as well! On paper, it’s a match made in heaven! In actuality, though, it is anything but precisely for reasons which we’ve covered in the past.

Still, just because it’s sub-optimal doesn’t mean it cannot be done or that it isn’t worth the effort. Quite the contrary! You’ll just have to roll up your sleeves (depending on the title) and tinker with the settings. There are certain limitations (many of them, in fact), but gaming on Apple’s M1 is more than possible, contrary to what you might read online.

Heck, it’s downright great in certain scenarios! Now, granted, they are few in number, but they do exist. For this piece, we’ll focus on a bunch of games that run like a dream on Apple’s latest and greatest ARM chipsets, along with certain options that have become available since the last time we’ve covered this topic.

Disco Elysium — Native and Thoroughly Superb

ZA/UM’s breakout RPG from 2019 is undoubtedly one of the best and most jaw-dropping games in history. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, but is nonetheless worth your undivided time and attention. And, better yet, it’s been ported for M1 which means it runs like a dream with everything maxed out on even the base MacBook Air (7-core GPU). Disco Elysium is a game unlike any other, and its many awards attest to the fact.

Everything about this title deserves praise: the art direction, the voice acting, the story, the atmosphere, etc. And the writing? Out of this world. We’re talking about an absolute masterclass here, a game that has captured our attention and delivered in every way, shape, and form.

Note: To get the M1 version, you’ll have to buy it either through Steam or through Apple’s App Store.

Cuphead

A run and gun action game with a heavy emphasis on boss battles — what’s not to like? Cuphead has become a classic from the very moment it was released and it’s easy to understand why. Traditional hand-drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and an original jazz/swing soundtrack to round out the experience. Sublime, really.

To say that Studio MDHR knocked it out of the park would truly be an understatement; and, fortunately, the game runs without a hitch on macOS! There’s no M1 port at the time of this writing, but that is by no means a problem: the Rosetta 2 emulation layer is more than capable of running it without any noticeable performance penalty!

So, get yourself an Xbox One controller, pair it via Bluetooth, and start gaming to your heart’s content!

Hades

Speaking of critically acclaimed titles that have blown our minds, Hades stands proud in the indie pantheon amongst the all-time greats. As such, it probably needs no introduction. Supergiant Games, the small studio behind Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, has arguably created the best and most jaw-dropping roguelike ever. And, odds are, it’s going to retain such a prestigious title for years if not decades to come.

Simply put: games like this Hades come once in a blue moon. And, fortunately, it’s been ported for macOS which means it’ll run beautifully on Apple’s M1 (through Rosetta 2). It’s not a particular demanding game hardware-wise, but the fact that you can still play it on such a novel (bleeding edge) architecture is great news for anyone looking to game on a Mac!

Path of Exile

This phenomenal action RPG/hack-and-slash has grown out of Diablo’s shadow quite a long time ago and it has a huge, dedicated playerbase as well (hardly a surprise). It looks great, is very well optimized, and has more depth than you could ever imagine! And, well, it’s free-to-play, too! What more could you ask for?

Better yet, it’s recently been patched to work on Apple’s M1 (Rosetta 2), which means you can enjoy its splendors with a very minimal performance penalty. You can achieve a fairly steady 60 FPS with most things maxed out, so an enjoyable gaming experience is basically guaranteed.

A native M1 port is currently in the works, so things will get even better in just a few months’ time!

And, on the off chance you’re not partial to Path of Exile, you can always fire up Diablo III and enjoy one of the greatest dungeon crawlers of all time! You can actually play it at native resolution with maxed out settings with only the most infrequent drop below the 60 FPS mark. Something for everyone, as they say!

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

The fact that Blizzard had a native M1 port of WoW: Shadowlands ready on day one took everyone by surprise; the fact that the game ran so incredibly well on Apple’s novel architecture was, in a way, equally as remarkable.

Now sure, WoW is by no means the most graphically demanding game out there, but once things start happening on screen, it can get quite taxing on your hardware. Fortunately, Apple’s M1 is more than up to the task! Shadowlands looks and plays great on this oh-so-phenomenal chipset, and the same goes for World of Warcraft: Classic which has also been ported to run natively without the need for any emulation layer.

All in all, if you’re a fan of this legendary MMORPG (like the millions of gamers across the globe), Apple’s M1 will more than meet your needs!

League of Legends & DOTA 2

This one might seem like a cop out entry, but hear us out: being able to play some of the world’s most popular titles on M1 is a big deal, even though these games aren’t particularly demanding hardware-wise. Heck, you could play LoL on a rock if you tinker with the right settings long enough — it’s that well optimized. DOTA is a bit more graphically taxing on your hardware but can nonetheless run fairly well on low-spec machines.

The fact that you can play both through Rosetta 2 without incurring a big performance penalty is stellar news for MOBA aficionados!

Indie Titles Galore

Basically any indie title that was ever ported to macOS can be played with ease: Inside, Kentucky Route Zero, Dead Cells, Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight, Undertale and many others run like a dream on Apple’s M1. The base 8-core GPU configuration is more powerful than NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 Ti, so we’re talking about a very capable graphics card here. The fact that it has to run most titles through Rosetta is definitely a complication but far from a deal-breaker.

If the game you’re interested has been ported to macOS, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to play it and have a satisfactory experience. This includes titles like Hearthstone, Magic the Gathering Arena, Civilization VI, Borderlands 2, Batman: Arkham City, and many others.

For a more thorough list, make sure to check to following link.

Other Novel Methods

This is where things get a lot more interesting. If you’re tech savvy and are really passionate about gaming on Apple’s M1, then Parallels 17 and CrossOver 21 might be worth checking out! The former will allow you to install an ARM version of Windows 11 and then game that way (through a virtual machine), whereas the latter is basically a Windows compatibility layer for macOS based on Wine. Both have their pros and cons and both work great with some games and downright awful with others.

Obviously, this is neither a spectacular nor a user-friendly way to game on a Mac, but at least it’s an option and is getting more and more viable as time goes on. In fact, it’s downright incredible that we’ve come so far in just a little over a year since the release of Apple’s M1. Huge strides have been made, and developers are now finally starting to realize the potential of this novel architecture. If you’re a casual gamer whose favorite titles are supported, then the M1 will definitely suffice.

But, as always, make sure to do a bit of research before pulling out your wallet. These beautiful machines don’t come cheap!