Which MacBook is best for gaming

MacBook: Because it's there to play!

Apple's entry into the gaming market has been oracle and prophesied for years. What many do not know: Apple sold an independent game console back in 1995, in the time without Steve Jobs. The "Apple Pippin" could not hold its own against Sony, Nintendo and Sega at the time and is therefore considered a flop. So it remains questionable whether the company will ever bring its own game console onto the market again. Reason enough, therefore, to make a replacement for the PlayStation and Xbox out of the MacBooks. With a few tricks and twists, this is not a problem.

The hardware

First of all, it is important to find out which MacBook and what performance is already on your desk. The most recent MacBook series, that is, without name suffixes such as “Air” or “Pro”, is unfortunately less suitable for the project. The device increasingly relies on mobile use, which is why it is extremely light and poorly equipped. The Retina display does tempt you to play high-resolution games, but the comparatively weak CPU in particular quickly reaches its limits.

Instead, the MacBook Air is better suited for gamers. Apple does not install any spectacular chips and graphics cards here either, but it is sufficient for some older games on a par with consoles such as the PlayStation 2.

To find out what hardware is in your MacBook Air, click the Apple icon in the top left corner of the Mac menu. Under "About this Mac" you can get an insight into the generation, the processor and the graphics card. The rule of thumb here is: the newer, the better. The generations from 2013 onwards in particular offer a good basis for conjuring up a console out of the MacBook Air. However, Apple installs the best hardware in the MacBook Pro, the flagship of the MacBook series. The devices are specially tailored to intensive computing power in the professional sector and are therefore the best basis for gamers.

In addition to the right hardware, you also need the right input method. The trackpad and keyboard are poorly suited for a leisurely gamble on the couch. To do this, you need a controller as an external input source. The PlayStation controllers from Sony are particularly suitable for this project. You can easily connect the pads to the MacBook using Bluetooth.

Many games automatically support input via the controller. For the rest, use the “Joystick Mapper”, a small piece of software from the App Store. The application configures the controller according to your requirements. The price is fair at 4.99 euros.

The best way to complete the console experience is to connect your Mac to your TV. This can also be done wirelessly using AirPlay and Apple TV, but it is not a recommendation. The amounts of data are too large to reliably manage without cables.

The MacBook Pro has its own HDMI output. This allows you to connect the device directly to the television like a game console. With the MacBook Air, on the other hand, you need an adapter to turn the Thunderbolt port into an HDMI output. These adapters are available from the Apple Store.

The software

After you have provided your MacBook with the necessary hardware, it is important to look for the right software. The first point of contact is Apple's own Mac App Store. You can now find a variety of games and suitable apps here. In addition to little games for a quick pastime, you will also find big blockbusters for an extensive evening in front of the television. The App Store not only provides you with games and offers, but also delivers the appropriate updates. It is therefore a clear recommendation as a starting point for your first shopping trip. In addition to the right distribution platform for games, Apple also provides the necessary network for gamers with the Game Center. Here you can compare your high scores with friends or competitors. Game Center also accepts friend requests and game invitations.

Apple's Mac App Store is not the only way to get new game feed. Platforms such as gog.com or "GameAgent" also offer a large and inexpensive selection for Mac gamers. The "Humble Bundle" is particularly exciting. At www.humblebundle.com you will always find bundles of several games that you can buy and download. The highlight: You determine the price yourself. According to the motto “Pay what you want”, you determine the purchase price for the game package. The more you spend, the more games you get. Especially fans of independent developers and exotic game concepts will be happy here.

The best platform to turn your MacBook into a game console, however, is Steam. The "iTunes for Games" fulfills all the mentioned tasks of the App Store, Game Center and more. Here you can also buy games and network.

Steam scores particularly well with its aggressive discount campaigns. The “Steam Sales” take place particularly strongly in summer and sometimes drastically reduce new games. That pleases the gamer wallet. In addition to the games and the built-in social network, Steam scores particularly with its clever functions.

With the "Big Picture Mode" you can use the software like a game console. In this full-screen mode, you can start your games from the comfort of your couch using the controller. Steam is particularly keen to create a customer- and gamer-friendly atmosphere. For example, the platform also offers add-ons and mods for download.

With “Steam Greenlight” the community can have a say in the development of new titles. The platform also offers achievements, i.e. successes and rankings, for the titles on offer. Similar to the Game Center, you can network with your friends and encourage direct duels.

In the store there are also buying advice from well-known personalities for those who are undecided. There, YouTube stars, game critics and developers list recommendations according to their own tastes. You can also search these “Steam Curators” specifically for Mac games.

The games

Any game console is only as good as its best games. This also applies to the Mac as a gaming platform. Even today, games support is sometimes difficult. Some console hits such as Halo or Uncharted are exclusively tied to the Sony and Microsoft platforms. This is why you cannot completely replace your consoles. Many new releases from the Windows PC world make their leap to the Mac, but often only with a considerable delay. So if you always want to play the latest titles on the day of publication, you can still use the consoles from Sony and Microsoft. In contrast to the console manufacturers, Apple itself does not act as a developer or publisher of games. At the WWDC, Apple's developer conference, Epic recently presented the action game "Fortnite" at the Apple keynote. However, the title has also been announced for the Windows PC. Exclusive game titles are therefore few and far between on the Mac. Traditionally, the Mac is simply not a gaming platform. However, that has slowly changed over the past few years.

The Mac therefore scores less with exclusive titles than with a large selection of well-known games. Especially gamers on a tight budget will be happy with the Mac. The mentioned special offers on Steam or the Humble Bundle offer a lot of play for little money. In addition, there have been tons of classics on Mac over the past few years that you've probably missed or forgotten.

Games such as Assassin's Creed 2, the GTA3 trilogy or the Bioshock series belong on every hard drive. Indie pearls like Bastion, Braid and FEZ as well. The best place to go for games are the separate sections of the respective platforms.

There is a separate category in the App Store that presents you with charts for free and compulsory titles as well as recommendations and new releases. With other platforms, however, you have to look carefully. Steam also sells titles for Windows and Linix PCs. You should therefore navigate to the store's own Mac section. Here you can be sure that the offers will also work on the Mac.

You should also be careful with the Humble Bundle. Here the store shows you the platform for each game on offer. Therefore, pay attention to the corresponding Apple logos when purchasing.

Conclusion

The Mac has improved its relevance as a gaming platform in recent years. Many new announcements from the WWDC developer conference are also of interest to gamers. Apple promises improved tools for developers and thus better games. With the right hardware, the right accessories and game platforms such as Steam, the Mac App Store and the Game Center, you can transform your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro into a mobile game console that shines both on the go and under the TV. As long as no standalone Apple game console or an improved Apple TV are announced, this is the best way for Mac gamers to enjoy their favorite games on the big screen TV.

Tips from the editors

Games

These 3 games shouldn't be missing on any Mac:

01 Bioshock

The Bioshock series combines action and history like no other first-person shooter. The third part is a flying cloud city. The design of the game world in particular sets standards.

02 FEZ

At first glance, FEZ is an inconspicuous jump'n'run game in the style of Super Mario. The highlight: At the push of a button, you rotate the entire game world by one dimension. Badass puzzle classic.

03 GTA 3

The modern classic. The GTA series is now one of the most important and successful game series of all time. The triumphant advance of action-packed open-world games began with the third part.

Twitch: TV for gamers

So-called "Let's Plays" are enjoying increasing popularity and have already made one or the other player into a YouTube star. At the forefront is Erik Range alias "Gronkh", who has over three million subscribers on YouTube. In contrast to YouTube, the Twitch.tv platform offers the possibility of live streaming and thus also gives rather small channels such as www.twitch.tv/roughnerds a stage. The console manufacturers have also recognized the trend and integrated Twitch into their systems. The player can also use the camera to fade in as a picture-in-picture. The channel www.twitch.tv/rocketbeanstv goes one step further and has been running the first 24-hour broadcaster with a number of shows for several months.

Controller

For the full console experience, you need a controller in addition to your MacBook. The PlayStation controllers from Sony work wirelessly on the Mac thanks to the Bluetooth connection. This works with both the joypads for the PS3 and PS4. Many games also offer their own controller operation. For games without this support there is the “Joystick Mapper” in the Mac App Store. You can use the app to customize keyboard inputs on the controller. This allows you to control each game the way you want. The application costs 4.99 euros.

Games for OS X: The five best sources

01 Steam

The developer of the famous Half-Life series Valve operates Steam, the largest platform for video games with over 125 million users. Steam has also supported OS X since 2010. Not only can games be purchased, they are automatically kept up to date. Players can network via the platform and chat with each other while playing. Steam often offers games at a heavily discounted price.

Web: www.steampowered.com

02 Origin

The game developer Electronic Arts is known for realistic sports games, but also offers a shooter franchise with Battlefield. Unfortunately, very few EA games run on the Mac. The in-house store “Origin” therefore only lists 87 results, some of which are also part of the real-life simulation “The Sims”. Friends of this genre should nevertheless take a look so as not to miss any offers.

Web: www.origin.com

03 Mac App Store

Of course, Apple's App Store also has its own section for games. Like other apps, these can be conveniently purchased with the Apple ID and then end up on the Mac. Updates and patches can be downloaded automatically via the software update. Networking with other gamers is done via the Game Center, just like on iOS. Unfortunately, not all developers offer purchase through the Mac Apps Store yet.

Web: www.apple.com

04 Gamesrocket

Gamesrocket GmbH, founded in 2010, is Germany's largest independent provider of download keys. Since only digital license keys are sold, the offer also includes content from Steam, Origin and Xbox. Since Gamesrocket also offers games at considerably lower prices, it is definitely worth comparing the individual stores. There are also partially discounted prepaid cards and in-game currencies.

Web: www.gamesrocket.de

05 GOG

The GOG platform was launched in 2008 under the name “Good Old Games”. The initial aim was to offer well-known older games that can no longer be physically bought as downloads. In the meantime, more recent titles are also in the program. GOG also offers a number of games at discounts. In addition, the purchase of a game often includes additional content such as soundtracks, background images or manuals. GOG has also supported OS X for three years.

Web: www.gog.com