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A Mac gaming renaissance is upon us

I don’t often get to say this, but this has been a great year for Mac gaming. And I don’t just mean there have been a few positives here and there — I’d go as far as saying it’s been a transformative 12 months for games on Apple’s platform.

Of course, things aren’t perfect, and there’s a lot I’d like Apple to change to make the Mac a real home for gamers. But looking back over the past decade or so, I can’t think of a better time to play games on the Mac than right now.

Hot hardware

A person plays Firmament on an M3 iMac using a game controller.
Apple

How did we get here? A large part of it comes down to hardware. Apple has been on a roll ever since it ditched Intel processors and shifted over to its own Apple silicon, but most of the gains here have been with pure CPU power. That all changed with the introduction of the M3 series of chips this fall.

Here, the main gain was found in the GPU. When we tested the M3 Max chip in the 14-inch MacBook Pro, we found that it outperformed every RTX 4070 laptop GPU we’d seen, even beating the all-out-gamer Razer Blade 14. Results like that feel almost unbelievable, yet they’re very real.

Apple has done an amazing job here, considering how awful Mac gaming performance used to be. It’s not just about stuffing in extra cores either — the latest MacBook Pros now come loaded with hardware-accelerated ray tracing, mesh shading, and more. Whatever witchcraft Apple has been performing in its top-secret Mac labs, it’s working.

The AAA breakthrough

Astrion holds his chin in Baldur's Gate 3.
Larian Studios

All that raw hardware power would be for naught if there weren’t any good Mac games to play. But again, 2023 has come up trumps in that regard.

As usual, there were a ton of superb indie (or “indie-like”) games to come out on the Mac in 2023, from Dave the Diver to Stray. Macs have always been strong here, and there have been rich pickings indeed over the past year. But I know indie games are unlikely to provide the kind of shift Mac gaming needs to really go mainstream.

What was different this year was the addition of a heap of genuine AAA titles, with Lies of P and the full release of Baldur’s Gate 3 swelling the ranks of the best Mac games (Resident Evil 4 is just around the corner, too). Big-budget prestige games on the Mac aren’t something I’m used to, but in 2023, it happened with a bang.

It wasn’t all perfect — with the update to Counter-Strike 2, CS: GO is no longer on the Mac, while other AAA franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty are still notably absent. But we’re no longer fighting for leftovers in Apple Arcade, which alone fills me with hope.

Just the beginning

Lies of P being played on an iMac.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

As happy as I am with how Mac gaming developed in 2023 (I can’t stop thinking about Baldur’s Gate 3, even when I’m not playing it), I know we shouldn’t view this as anything more than a great starting point. Apple can’t rest on its laurels here — it needs to see this year as a jumping-off point from which Mac gaming can go on to better things.

I’m optimistic that’ll happen, and it’s not just wishful thinking. We know Apple is taking a more proactive stance to get developers on board, with Tim Millet, the company’s VP of Platform Architecture, hinting that Apple is working with developers to get their games onto the Mac.

Beyond that, the company has brought out the game porting toolkit in an effort to radically simplify the process of bringing Windows games across to Apple’s computers. It’s not in great shape right now, but it’s a start.

All that work needs to continue. Apple has the hardware in place to make a real push into gaming come 2024. Adding big-name games that will attract players is the final piece of the puzzle. Given how well 2023 went in that regard, there are reasons to be hopeful.

Apple has long said it is serious about gaming. In 2023, it finally proved it. Now, it feels like we might be finally turning an important corner, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

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