Is it OK to play games on MacBook Pro?

Gaming has historically been dominated by Windows PCs, but MacBooks have become increasingly capable gaming machines over the years. In fact, according to a 2021 survey by Laptop Mag, over 60% of MacBook owners reported using their laptop for gaming to some degree.

With powerful processors, fast SSDs, Thunderbolt ports and long battery lives, MacBooks can provide a surprisingly great gaming experience both at home and on the go. While Macs don’t offer the same level of customizability or variety of games as Windows, there are still hundreds of titles to choose from.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of gaming on a MacBook Pro, from the best games and apps to optimizing performance and hardware. We’ll also look at whether intensive gaming impacts a MacBook’s long-term reliability. If you own Apple’s leading laptop, keep reading to unleash its full gaming potential.

MacBook Pros Are Capable Gaming Machines

Thanks to their powerful hardware, MacBook Pros are fully capable of running most modern games smoothly. The latest models feature either M1 Pro or M1 Max Apple silicon chips, which provide significant improvements in CPU and GPU performance over previous generations [1].

The 14-inch and 16-inch 2021 MacBook Pros can be configured with up to a 10-core CPU and either a 16-core or 32-core GPU [1]. With up to 64GB of unified memory, these specs rival many high-end Windows gaming laptops. Reviews show the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips provide excellent frame rates on demanding games, even when running at native resolution on the stunning Liquid Retina XDR displays [2].

For storage, MacBook Pros support fast SSDs up to 8TB, providing ample room for even large game installs. Between the powerful processors, discrete-class graphics, high memory, and super-fast solid state storage, MacBook Pros have all the hardware needed to deliver great gaming experiences.

Top Game Genres for MacBooks

MacBooks are capable of running a wide variety of game genres smoothly and at high settings thanks to their powerful hardware. Some of the most popular and recommended game genres for MacBooks include:

Indie Games – Indie game developers often optimize their games to run on a variety of hardware, making them a great match for MacBooks. Popular indie hits like Cuphead, Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, and Celeste run seamlessly on MacBooks.

Strategy Games – Turn-based and real-time strategy games like Civilization VI, XCOM 2, Total War: Warhammer II, and Age of Empires II are highly popular on MacBooks, taking advantage of their fast processors and ample RAM. Complex strategy games run smoothly even on the entry-level MacBook Air models.

Role-Playing Games (RPGs) – RPGs like Divinity: Original Sin 2, Pillars of Eternity, Baldur’s Gate 3, and Torment: Tides of Numenera provide deep storytelling and strategic combat perfect for MacBook’s powerful CPUs and graphics. Their pausable real-time and turn-based combat systems work well with the MacBook’s controls.

Best Game Stores and Launchers

There are several great options for purchasing and downloading games onto a MacBook Pro:

The MacGameStore is a long-running store dedicated specifically to Mac games. They have a large catalog of games to browse and regularly run sales and deals.

The Mac App Store also has a dedicated Mac games section. While selection is more limited than specialized stores, prices are competitive and integration with Apple services is seamless.

For Windows games, Steam and the Epic Games Store both offer large catalogs and run frequent sales. Both have limited native Mac support but games can often be run through compatibility tools like CrossOver.

GOG is also popular for its curated selection of DRM-free classic and indie titles. They test games for compatibility with modern systems like macOS.

Using dedicated Mac game stores or the App Store ensures the best compatibility. For accessing larger Windows game libraries, Steam, Epic, and GOG are all solid options as well.

Optimizing Game Performance

Getting the best gaming performance out of your MacBook Pro requires some optimization. Here are some tips:

Start by closing any unnecessary background apps and processes to free up RAM and CPU for your game (source). Apps like web browsers, productivity software, and messaging can eat up resources even when idle. Force quit non-essential apps before launching a game.

Also make sure your Mac’s operating system and apps are updated to the latest versions. Updates often contain performance improvements and bug fixes (source). Keeping software updated ensures you have the most optimized experience.

Use a cooling pad or stand to help prevent your MacBook from thermal throttling during longer gaming sessions. The improved airflow and cooling can sustain higher performance.

Adjust in-game graphics settings to prioritize framerate over quality if needed. Lower resolutions and details can significantly boost fps. Tweak settings until an optimal balance of visuals and performance is reached.

Lastly, consider freeing up drive space or upgrading to an SSD if using an older hard disk drive model. An SSD provides much faster load times and data transfer speeds.

Top Game Recommendations

MacBooks can run a wide variety of popular games across many genres. According to Macworld (1), some of the top games available for Mac include:

  • Total War: Warhammer III – This top strategy game just launched on Mac and offers epic real-time battles.
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI – The classic turn-based strategy franchise is a must-play.
  • Tomb Raider – Play through the iconic action-adventure series on Mac.
  • Borderlands 2 – This looter shooter RPG has tons of content and multiplayer.
  • Stardew Valley – One of the most popular indie farming/life sims.

For hardcore RPG fans, games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Divinity: Original Sin 2 are excellent choices (2). And classic Blizzard titles like World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Starcraft II all run well on MacBooks.

There are lots of options across genres like strategy, RPG, action, simulation, and more. Focus on native Mac games or titles verified to run well via Steam or other launchers.

Using External Hardware

Adding external gaming-focused hardware like mice, keyboards, and controllers can greatly improve the gaming experience on a MacBook Pro. High-quality gaming mice like the Logitech MX Master provide extra buttons and customizable sensitivity settings for faster, more precise aim in FPS and action games. Mechanical gaming keyboards like the Razer Huntsman Elite have customizable RGB backlighting and macro keys for binding commands and quickly activating abilities in MMOs and MOBAs.

For certain game genres, controllers can be preferable to mouse and keyboard. Apple’s Sony DualShock 4 and Xbox Wireless Controller connect seamlessly to MacBooks via Bluetooth and are ideal for platformers, fighting games, sports games, and racing games where analog sticks and shoulder buttons excel.

With the right accessories tailored to your favorite game genres, MacBook Pros can provide a responsive, customizable gaming experience comparable to a dedicated setup.

Is Gaming Bad for a MacBook?

Some people worry that gaming can cause overheating issues and lead to potential hardware damage on MacBooks. However, modern MacBook Pros are designed to handle processor-intensive tasks like gaming without issues.

It’s normal for the fans to spin faster and the laptop to get warmer when gaming. This is actually a good sign that the cooling system is working to prevent overheating. The CPU and GPU will throttle performance if needed to maintain safe temperatures [1].

There should not be any permanent damage from gaming on a MacBook as long as you’re not blocking the air vents. Some simple tips to prevent overheating include using a cooling pad, avoiding soft surfaces like beds that can block airflow, and cleaning out vents regularly [2].

Heavy gaming will lead to more wear on the components over time compared to light usage. However, modern hardware is designed to withstand years of use. Just be reasonable with gaming durations and take breaks periodically to extend the laptop’s lifespan.

Maximizing Battery Life

Gaming can be taxing on a MacBook’s battery, especially graphics-intensive games. To help preserve battery health while gaming, there are some settings and tips you can use:

Enable Optimized Battery Charging in System Preferences. This will limit charging to 80% to reduce wear on the battery.

Lower the screen brightness as much as comfortable to reduce energy use.

Set the Power Mode to Low Power which reduces performance but saves battery life.

Avoid charging to 100% if you’ll be gaming on battery power soon. Charge to 80-90% instead.

Take breaks every 30-60 minutes to give the MacBook a chance to cool down and battery to rest.

Use an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor so the MacBook doesn’t have to power the built-in display.

Close any unnecessary apps and browser tabs to reduce energy use.

Play less demanding older games if trying to maximize battery runtime.

Keep the MacBook on a hard, flat surface for optimum cooling and performance.


To summarize, MacBook Pros are highly capable for gaming thanks to their powerful hardware like fast processors and graphics cards. With proper optimization of settings and accessories, MacBooks can be excellent laptops for playing graphically intense games as well as casual titles across genres.

The key to a great gaming experience on a MacBook Pro is to follow game optimizations like closing other programs, choosing lower resolution and graphic settings, using a cooling pad, and keeping it plugged in. It’s also wise to steer clear of the most demanding AAA games and opt for well-optimized Mac versions.

By sticking to optimized titles from reliable stores like Steam and GOG, using game launchers like PlayOnMac, and adding peripherals like gaming mouses as needed, you can enjoy countless immersive gaming worlds on a Mac. Just be mindful of battery life if gaming unplugged, and avoid playing for too many consecutive hours which can overwork the hardware.

With the right set up and approach, MacBook Pros offer a versatile and satisfying portable gaming machine for casual and dedicated gamers alike.