Horizon Zero Dawn.
Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment
We’ve come a long way since the days of arcades. Nowadays, whether you’re galloping through a CGI fantasy land or a reliving the old-school games of your youth, you can bring your favorite games home in minutes. From retro classics like Burger Time to blockbuster adventures like Cyberpunk 2077, you don’t even always need to purchase a console or PC to enjoy some of your favorite titles. You can simply stream them, which means instead of waiting for lengthy installs or purchasing pricey equipment, you can start gaming in minutes.
The best game-streaming services can provide high-powered performance for a nominal monthly fee, meaning all you have to do is pony up a screen to play on and you’re off to the races. Furthermore, these providers are accessible through mobile platforms, which means they’re much more versatile than a typical gaming PC. While cloud gaming was criticized in its infancy for latency and poor video quality, those issues have (mostly) been alleviated as the technology has advanced. Now, anyone with a decent internet connection can enjoy the latest Steam, PlayStation, or Xbox games and have an experience that’s not too far off from the one they’d get using real hardware.
Unfortunately, there’s no one best game-streaming provider. Each of them has its own peculiarities and limitations, from which titles can be played to what devices they can be used with. However, we’ve decrypted this info and placed it in an easy-to-understand format below so you can make the choice that’s best for you.
Amazon’s Luna streaming service is unique in that it takes an à la carte approach to game streaming. Instead of offering a single price for everything, Luna splits its titles into channels. The base Luna+ channel offers a smattering of current and classic games for $5.99 a month, or if retro games are more your speed, you can pay $4.99 a month for a selection of vintage titles from studios like Capcom, Konami, SNK, and others. (Yes, even Super Burger Time.) However, the biggest attraction here is that you can stream Ubisoft+ games for $17.99 a month. A Luna controller is available for $69.99 that connects via Wi-Fi, which Amazon claims significantly lowers latency.
monthly cost: $4.99–$17.99, depending on the channel. Amazon Prime subscribers get a handful of rotating titles for free, but otherwise have to pony up like everyone else for access to each channel.
Free Trial? Per channel
Supported Platforms: Android, iOS, Fire TV, Fire tablets, Mac, and PC
Library: Selection varies per channel
Nvidia’s GeForce Now service allows you to access your Steam library across multiple devices using Nvidia’s servers. The service boasts the best performance of any on the list with up to 1440p@120fps available on PC or Mac and 4K@60fps with HDR on an Nvidia Shield. However, this performance comes at a price. The Priority tier gives you 1080p@60fps for $9.99 a month, but you’ll have to pay $19.99 for the RTX 3080 tier to get the performance above. You can also play for one hour at a time for free, but this quickly gets frustrating and is more of a free trial than anything.
monthly cost: Free for one-hour blocks; $9.99 for unlimited 1080@60fps; $19.99 for 1440p@120fps (PC/Mac) or 4K@60fps (Nvidia Shield only)
Free Trial? Can play at 1080p in one-hour blocks indefinitely
Supported platforms: Android, iOS (via Safari), browsers (Chrome, Edge, Safari), Mac OS, Windows
Library: Any Steam games whose publishers haven’t blocked access (no Activision Blizzard or Bethesda)
Google Stadia made waves when it was first announced, and it delivers for the most part. The service is one of the most reliable on the list and offers up to 4K with HDR and 5.1 surround sound on select devices. You can even get free games and exclusive discounts if you sign up for Stadia Pro. (A few recent freebies: Darksiders Genesis, Saints Row IVand Hitman: The Complete First Season.) However, many of the titles available must be purchased outright. The selection is also somewhat limited compared to the competition. Additionally, given Google’s proclivity for shutting down services, not many people are comfortable dropping $60, and I don’t blame them.
monthly cost: $9.99 for Stadia Pro; most games purchased separately
Free trial? One month
Supported platforms: Android, Chromebook, iOS (Safari), Mac (Chrome), and PC (Chrome)
Library: Monthly free games with Stadia Pro, 200-plus for purchase
Parsec doesn’t offer cloud computing capabilities, per se (at least by default). Instead, you can use it to stream using your own hardware. So, if you already have a gaming PC but want to be able to access and play it anywhere, Parsec can facilitate that. The basic version of the program is free to use, but the paid version allows for multi-monitor streaming, 4:4:4 color mode, and drawing-tablet support. There’s also a work version available that includes management tools, but that’s focused on productivity and media presentations.
monthly cost: Free
Free Trial? N/A
Supported Platforms: Android, Chrome (browser), Linux, Mac, and Windows
Library: Anything installed on the host device
PlayStation Now was around for almost a decade and is one of the most mature services on offer. Sony chose to recently revamp its classic PlayStation Plus subscription offering in June and will soon fold in its PlayStation Now streaming service (and current subscriptions) to two of its three new tiered subscription options.
While there are no streaming options attached to the cheapest option, PlayStation Plus Essential, for $9.99, there are two additional tiers in the form of PlayStation Plus Extra ($14.99) and PlayStation Plus Premium ($17.99). PlayStation Plus Extra combines what used to be PlayStation Now with PlayStation Plus service. Users can access a catalog of up to 400 PS4 and PS5 games, in addition to third-party titles.
PlayStation Plus Premium grants all the benefits of the previous two tiers and adds 340 more games for subscribers, including PlayStation, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games. PS3 titles are streamable, while the classic titles are downloadable and streamable to PS4, PS5, and PC platforms. There will also be time-limited game trials in the coming months.
Currently, Now retains its previous selection of first-party titles, like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Ratchet and Clank. The current list of third-party games is much spottier, however. We also noticed latency was an issue from time to time. Still, these tiers offer excellent value in terms of variety, especially if you’re looking to go back and revisit the PlayStation game library.
monthly cost: $14.99 (Extra) and $17.99 (Premium)
Free Trial? None
Supported platforms: PC, PS4, PS5
Library: Over 800 PlayStation, PS2, PSP, PS3, and PS4 titles
Shadow is the underdog on the list. After filing for bankruptcy in 2021, its parent company, Blade, was acquired by OVHcloud and is back to offering service. The price is somewhat steep at $30 a month. However, you get remote access to a whole Windows 10 PC, which can be used for gaming, productivity, or any other task you desire. Of course, this will be a service that mostly appeals to those with extensive PC-game libraries, as no titles are provided as part of the subscription.
monthly cost: $30
Free trial? None
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, and Windows
Library: None (can run Steam or any other Windows-compatible storefront)
Xbox Cloud Gaming is the best game-streaming service currently available that offers a built-in library of games to choose from. Most of the titles available through Xbox Game Pass are available to stream on Android, iOS, and PCs. However, strangely enough, you can’t stream games to an Xbox console, which would be handy. Awesomely, Xbox Cloud Gaming is included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, so subscribers don’t have to pay anything extra for it. In addition, any title you stream is fully integrated into Xbox’s back end, too, so you get cloud saving and achievements just like if you were playing on a PC or a console.
monthly cost: $14.99 for Xbox Game Pass
Free trial? No free trial, but frequently offers $1 a month deals
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, and PC
Library: Most Xbox Game Pass titles
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