Macs are not known as gaming machines. High-end games would traditionally make the leap from Windows late (or not at all), held back by lacklustre graphical performance on Macs and a much smaller gaming audience.
That all changes with Apple’s M1 chip. The new processor architecture massively ramps up performance, making the days of sluggish frame rates a thing of the past for Mac gamers.
As well as that, Apple has built in its Rosetta 2 software to its new Macs, which translates apps and games to run perfectly on the new architecture. Below we have gathered the best games you can run on your M1 Mac, whether that is natively or using Rosetta 2.
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1. Borderlands 3
The long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Borderlands 2, this game takes Borderlands’ winning formula of guns, loot, and comedy, then turns everything up to eleven. With a cast of wacky characters (some new and many returning), an expansive storyline spanning multiple planets and locales, deeply customisable player builds and levelling, and a huge variety of randomised weapons and loot, Borderlands 3 provides a feast of entertaining gameplay and hours of excellent content. Its DLCs and extra content are good fun, too.
Make sure you get the Epic Games Store version rather than the Steam edition, as there have been reports of the latter failing to run properly on M1 Macs. Get the Epic version, though, and you will be able to dive headfirst into some of the most enjoyable, hilarious gameplay you have experienced on your Mac.
2. Cities: Skylines
If you have ever looked around a city – with its dense traffic jams, overflowing litter, and gloomy districts – and thought you could do a much better job at planning a metropolis, you are in luck. Cities: Skylines, the hit city builder game, is available on Apple’s latest M1 Macs, allowing you to take control, construct the perfect city, and show those town planners a thing or two along the way.
There is no easy road to your dream city, though. You must take charge of all the nitty-gritty aspects of achieving success, including taxation, public transport, maintenance services, and more. Can you help your town grow and improve its healthcare, employment levels and pollution management? Every choice you make has an impact – often an unexpected one – which can throw a spanner in the works of your carefully balanced settlement. But that is all part of the fun!
3. Civilization VI
Where Cities: Skylines tackles the minutiae of city building, Civilization VI takes a much grander approach. Who needs to work out the most effective traffic system on a tight budget when you can be dealing with world leaders and turning your nation into a global superpower? If that sounds more up your street, Civilization VI is the game for you.
The beauty of Civilization VI is the breadth of options at your disposal for achieving success. Should you take over the world by military force or spread your ideas through diplomacy? Is technological superiority the key to victory or is it better to export your ethos until it becomes the prevailing world culture? Or perhaps a mix of all four? The choice is yours, ensuring no two games play out quite the same.
4. Desperados III
The Desperados series made its name with its patient, tactical gameplay, where hanging back and surveying your options was always a much better choice than charging headfirst into a gunfight where you were outgunned and outmanned. Desperados III continues that legacy superbly, presenting a series of fiendishly tricky levels that require careful planning if they are not to go awry.
The results are deeply rewarding. Planning your moves to a tee is one thing, but seeing them pulled off to perfection is another, and is always deeply satisfying. Many levels can be completed in multiple different ways, giving you the freedom to experiment with your methods – something encouraged by the frequent quick save reminders. Your last idea was a dud? Just reload and try again. You learn from your mistakes, emerging a more patient, meticulous player, one much better off for the experience.
5. Divinity: Original Sin 2
One of the best RPG games ever made is available on your shiny new M1 Mac thanks to Rosetta 2, and it runs great. Divinity: Original Sin 2 sees you take control of a party of misfits and fugitives, escape your imprisonment and persecution, and attempt to become a god. Only one of your group will ascend to godhood, though – so make sure it is you!
With a branching story, deep tactical combat, and a gorgeously crafted, expansive game world, Divinity: Original Sin 2 offers over 100 hours of fantastic gameplay. Its vast array of quests, from silly side missions to immersive, challenging battles with formidable opponents, keeps you on your toes from start to finish, while its extensive lore and storytelling provides a superb backdrop to the action.
6. Football Manager 2021
As any fan will tell you, following a sports team is never easy. For every moment of joy and delight, you get thrown into the depths of despair and frustration, convinced you could do a better job of herding cats than your team’s manager could of getting results out of their players. Well, now you can prove it on the pitch with Football Manager 2021.
The game lets you take charge of almost any professional football club across 52 nations. With tens of thousands of players to buy, develop, and shape how you see fit, there is unrivalled depth and an enormous level of customisation available to you. It does not matter if you want to emulate Barcelona’s fabled tiki-taka system or play it long to a big man up front, you are in control of your team’s success.
Sometimes it is easy to pinpoint pivotal moments in the games industry, where one launch can alter the way people look at – and play – popular games. The release of Fortnite in 2017 was one such moment. Not only did it kickstart the nascent battle royale genre and gain millions upon millions of players, but it made this type of game available to a completely different demographic with its memes, dance moves, and cartoonish graphics.
If you want to enjoy its fun, fast-paced last-man-standing gameplay on your M1 Mac, you have got nothing to worry about. Apple Silicon Macs run Epic’s game superbly, without the heavy-handed compromises required of previous-generation Apple computers. And with no up-front cost, there is no reason not to give it a try on your Mac.
Some games are more than just a way to pass the time or get a few quick kicks. Some games are experiences, offerings that are like nothing you have ever played before, that make you think deeply about yourself and the world you live in. Inside is one of those games – it is likely one of the best you will ever play.
You take control of a small, helpless child, a boy hunted by faceless soldiers who round up people and drive them away in trucks in the middle of the night. As you progress through the bleak, grey-clad world, you slowly work your way inside a huge facility housing bizarre, twisted human experiments. With its superb, surging audio design, ingenious puzzles, dark storyline, and shocking conclusion, Inside is a game for the ages.
9. Stardew Valley
Crafted by a lone developer in his spare time over the course of four years, Stardew Valley is the archetypal labour of love in the games industry. With its slow, relaxed gameplay and focus on exploration, community spirit, and countryside farming, it is the game for people who do not think they like games.
The idea of Stardew Valley is that you inherit your grandfather’s farm in a faraway land, escaping a life of city drudgery to bring the farm back to life and restore it to glory. You start off small, planting crops and meeting the townspeople, then start to participate in village life, make friends, and explore the surrounding world.
There is no stress, no frantic button bashing, just days spent among idyllic pastures or exploring mines and mountain lakes. It is the ideal way to forget your woes and relax after a long day.
10. World of Warcraft
Apple’s M1 Macs have not been out long, but Blizzard Entertainment moved quickly to get World of Warcraft ready. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game is one of the few titles that runs natively on the M1 chip without the need for Rosetta 2 or third-party software. That means it can perform fantastically well, even on Macs like the MacBook Air that come without a built-in fan.
First released way back in 2004, World of Warcraft has continued to receive developer attention and copious expansion packs (it boasted eight major expansions at the time of writing), making it phenomenally long-lived. With so much content and a player base millions strong, it is still thriving all these years later. That makes now the perfect time to dive into its deep multiplayer world with your new Mac.