I frequently run and play Android games when sitting at my workstation, sometimes for fun and sometimes because I forgot to juice my phone overnight. There are some Android games that I love to keep open to the side of my screen and check on them during a boring Zoom meeting. Now, you probably have a question your mind right now and that question is: How Can I Play Android Games on a Mac?
Your Answer Upfront:
You can play Android games on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs by using Android emulators. Bluestacks and Nox are great choices for playing on an Intel Mac while Google’s own Android Emulator is required to be able to play APK games on Apple Silicon Macs which can be installed either independently from, or together with Android Studio.
In this article will go over different ways in which you can play various Android games on your Mac. Note that this guide applies to both Intel Macs and the new Apple Silicon Macs but Bluestacks and Nox are only usable on Intel Macs right now (Bluestacks can’t be installed on Apple Silicon and Nox doesn’t load). However, we do have a solution for M1 Mac owners.
At the end of the article we’ll list various places where you can get Android games and we go over the legality of using an Android emulator on your Mac.
NOTE: This post is image heavy! We’ve used a ton of images to guide you through various setup processes.
Different ways in which you can play Android Games on a Mac
There are a handful of ways through which you can install and run Android games and applications on your Mac. One of them is via the user of an emulator.
Two that are frequently used by players are Bluestacks and Nox. In 99% of the cases there’s no difference between the two emulators but, if you are running an older Intel Mac, Bluestacks might be the better choice here, since it uses less resources (CPU and RAM). For most people, outside of the two emulators looking differently, there’s virtually no difference between their behavior.
Play Android Games on a Mac using Emulators – BlueStacks [Intel only]
The first emulator we’re going to look at today is BlueStacks. It’s a great Android emulator that I frequently use not only to play games, but to test my own games and releases for Android. It’s pretty solid and I’ve been using it on my iMac Pro since MacOS Catalina. It’s been stable over the years and I have spent many hours staring at it.
How To Install Bluestacks on a Mac
First step is to ensure your Mac is running at least MacOS 10.12 (Sierra). If you have MacOS Sierra or newer you can start by going to BlueStacks’s official website and downloading the latest version for MacOS. Make sure you click on the green Download button and not on the Blue “Play on Cloud” button (though don’t worry, we’re covering the Play on Cloud option later in this post).
After the download is completed go to the downloads folder and double click on the .dmg file whose name starts with BlueStacks_Installer and you should be greeted by a window that looks like this:
Double click the BlueStacks icon to start the install process. Your Mac will start by Verifying the “Bluestacks Installer” process which can take a few minutes. MacOS does this in order to ensure that the file isn’t malware. After it’s done, you’ll see a warning window from apple, that informs you the app was downloaded from the internet.
This is fine, it’s a standard warning for any kind of app installer that doesn’t come through the Mac App Store.
Feel free to click the “Open” button without any worries.
At this point, if you’re running an Apple Silicon Mac you’ll see the following pop-up letting you know that the app doesn’t run on your hardware. Intel mac users, you have the upper hand here as this won’t appear for you and you can continue with the install process.
If you’re running an Intel Mac then you will be greeted by a Window with the text BlueStacks 4 in the middle of the screen. Click the big blue button titled Install Now and, when prompted log in with your system account and click Install Helper.
Bring up Spotlight (Command + Space) and go to the Security and Privacy entry where you’ll have to click the Lock icon and then press the Allow button in order for the install to continue.
On MacOS Big Sur or Monterey you’ll get a prompt asking you to restart your Mac. Press the restart button and wait for MacOS to restart.
This is needed in order for Bluestacks to install and load the system extension for the Operating System. If the Mac doesn’t restart, go back to Security&Privacy and, instead of the previous allow button, you’ll have an option to restart your Mac.
Once the Mac has restarted, simply launch BlueStacks from the application folder.
Congrats! BlueStacks has now been install on your Mac and you can start playing Android games with it.
Play Android Games on a Mac using Emulators – Nox [Intel only]
The second emulator available in our list is Nox. It’s a sturdy emulator that supports a lot of tinkering and configuration. It’s 2nd on this list but not 2nd in my heart. Please keep in mind that Nox WILL install on an M1 Mac, however, you won’t be able to finish the last step allowing it to start.
How To Install Nox Android Emulator on a Mac
To download Nox App Player you need to head on to the official Nox website and click the Download button. After the download is completed go to your Downloads folder and double click the dmg file whose name starts with NoxInstaller_. You should be greeted by a window that looks like this:
Double click the NoxAppPlayerInstall icon to begin the installation process. MacOS will begin the file verification process to ensure that the app is safe. When it’s done, it will display a window informing you that the “App was downloaded from the internet. Are you sure you want to open it?”.
Do not worry, it’s a standard window that appears when you’re trying to install an app that’s not from the Mac App Store. Click open to continue through the Install process. The following window will appear.
Click install for the Application to actually start copying it’s files onto your Mac. When it’s done, in place of the “Install” button you’ll see a “Start” button. Press Start once that happens.
The Nox player will start up and begin to load it’s files. At this stage, you’ll be requested to give administrator rights to Nox in order for it to perform changes. Nox requires administrator rights in order to access kernel level APIs like location access and security features. Log in with your normal account and password for your Mac.
Here comes the tricky part of the install process. You’ll need to give Nox permissions, multiple that is. Normally, the Nox Player guides you through the entire process using a pop-up telling you what to do, but I don’t believe it’s in-depth enough for some users so feel free to follow my guide. This is the window you’ll see.
- Press CMD + Space on your keyboard to bring up Spotlight Search.
- Type in the search area: System Preferences and hit enter. It will open up your System Preferences menu. Click on the gray house icon with the text Security&Privacy underneath it. It’s usually on the middle right side of the window.
- Once Security&Privacy is loaded click on the Lock icon in the lower left side of it. It will prompt you to log with your Mac credentials in order to be able to do any permission modifications.
- If the Allow button appears, click it.
- If it doesn’t, ohboy. You’ll have to disable System Integrity Protection and then enable it again. The steps to do so are as follows.
- Restart your computer in Recovery mode.
- Launch Terminal from the Utilities menu.
- Run the command
- Restart your computer.
6. Run NoxAppPlayerAgain and you’ll return to step 1 in the guide (Press CMD + Space etc).
Nox should now be loading properly.
Remember to re-enable System Integrity Protection if you left it disabled! Steps are as follows:
- Restart your computer in Recovery mode.
- Launch Terminal from the Utilities menu.
- Run the command
- Restart your computer.
Congrats! Nox has now been install on your Mac and you can start playing Android games with it.
Play Android Games on a Mac using Emulators – Google Android Emulator [Apple Silicon]
Method 1 – Installing the Preview for Google Android Emulator from Dec 2020
Note: This is the fastest way to get an Android Emulator working but if you want better compatibility, check Method 2 – installing Android Studio.
In order to be able to use an Android Emulator on an M1 Mac you’ll have to use Google Android Emulator. Normally, you’ll have to install Android Studio, which is what developers (like me) regularly use to compile and make Android games. The full installation and setup for the Google Android Emulator is outside of the scope of this article, but – we can get you quickly setup using a Preview Release from Google over at github in 5 easy steps:
- Step 1: Click here to go to Google’s Github Release page for the Android Emulator
- Step 2: Click on the arrow next to the Assets label. Click on android-emulator-m1-preview.dmg to download it.
- Step 3: Go to your Downloads folder, double click on android-emulator-m1-preview.dmg and drag Android Emulator to the Application’s folder shortcut.
- Step 4: Press Command + Space to open spotlight search and type Android Emulator. If you get a warning that the app cannot be verified, use Command + Space again and type in System Preferences and go to Security&Privacy. Press close (not Move to bin).
- Step 5: In Security&Privacy click Open Anyway and then Open! Congrats, the emulator is now starting up!
Up next, we need to use the terminal to install ADB, a set of tools allowing us to connect to the emulator in order to install APK files (chrome doesn’t work on this Preview Version). For this we’re going to install Homebrew (a package manager that installs things we need) and then ADB with it.
- Open up a terminal and type the following to install homebrew. Follow the message prompts it gives you.
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"
- Next up, we can install ADB via homebrew by typing it:
brew install android-platform-tools
- Once this is done, we can verify that ADB is installed by running:
Now, download your favourite APK and put it in the downloads folder. With the terminal open type in
cd Downloads adb install your_apk_file.apk
And there we go! You now have the APK running in the Google Android Emulator.
Please note that I recommend going through the entire setup process with Android Studio as that install contains an up-to-date Android Emulator (the preview you downloaded is from December 2020). But for the purposes of this article, the preview is enough to prove that your Apple Silicon Macbook can run it.
Method 2 – Using Android Studio and SDK Tools – Medium Complexity – RECOMMENDED
The final way and the best method to get Android apps to run on your M1 Mac is by using Android Studio from google. This is an entire set of tools for making, building and running android apps.
You can download Android Studio and SDK Tools from Google’s official site, here. The download is pretty hefty, at around 1 GB in size + additional files that it will download once the installation is finished. As with the previous methods, when the download is finished, go to downloads and double click on the .dmg file.
Drag and Drop Android Studio into the Application shortcut and then bring up spotlight (Command + Space) and type Android Studio.
Let Android Studio install its updates and breeze through the rest of the install process by pressing next. Select your favorite theme (Dark, White or whatever) and wait for all the downloads to finish.
After this entire installer finishes downloading the needed files, Android Studio is going to setup a Google Pixel 2 emulator for you to use. On the main Android Studio Window click the More Actions blue text (it looks like a link in a website) and select AVD Manager.
In the AVD manager you should see your device to be emulated, in my case (at this time of writing) Pixel 2 is setup. Click the Play button under the actions to finally start your emulator!
And just to prove that the emulator is working, I’ve grabbed a 20 MB APK of a really bad trivia game on Tokyo Ghoul (the anime). Success!
And there we go – you are finally ready to play Android games on your non-intel, Apple Silicon powered MacBook!
Play Android Games on a Mac using your Browser
If Google’s Android Emulator isn’t your cup of tea or if you want to use BlueStacks but don’t want to install it, there’s another option available to you: Using BlueStacks in the cloud. There are some caveats though:
- There’s only a small selection of games available
- You cannot load/sideload your own APKs
- You don’t have access to a browser to download APKs from the web
Playing the selection of available games via Bluestacks Cloud is pretty easy. Just head on over to BlueStacks Cloud, select the game you want to play and click Play on Cloud.
A new tab will open up asking you to log in with Google, Discord or Facebook. Go through the login process with the service you’re using and wait for the game to load. Here’s a screenshot of me running Dragon Storm Fantasy Online in Safari on my M1 Macbook Pro!
How to download Android Games on your Mac
If your emulator doesn’t come with the Play Stored installed or you want to download APK’s from some other stores/sources there are the three stores we recommend.
- Itch.io is an amazing place to get free and premium Android Games (usually without ads or IAPs)! Yours truly even has a couple of Android games available there (though I’m not going to link to them. Happy hunting 🙂 ). Itch.io is an alternative storefront for experimental indie games and game creation tools but can feature a lot more content, like Music and Books. A great place to discover new gaming delights.
- Amazon App Store for android is an alternative to Google Play. Features a bit more curation than Google Play but also has less content. Sometimes they offer discounts that are not available on Google Play and even feature content that’s yet to be released on Google Play.
- Samsung Galaxy Store is Samsung’s answer to Google Play. It comes pre-installed on most Samsung devices but has a really small selection of titles. However, they are known to be tested on Samsung devices so if you own such a phone or tablet – you have just a tiny bit more of a guarantee that the game will perform decently on your device.
Is it Legal and Safe To Download Android APK’s?
We wrote an extensive article on how safe it is to download APK files online and we would recommend you to read it before attempting to trust any shady websites. The article I’m talking about is this one, aptly named “Is It Safe And Legal To Download APKs online?“.
But if you are in a hurry or you don’t want to click another link on this website (😭) here’s the answer to the question:
Downloading APKs online from untrusted sources runs the risk of opening the door to malware on your device. Not all APKs downloaded from sites like APK Pure are harmful but the risk is there and In 2021 APK Pure was found to have contained malware in both the online website and the Android app by Kaspersky.
Note that in the article we go much more in depth with the reasoning.
How Can I Play iOS Games on my M1 Mac?
We’re glad you asked! We actually have an entire article explaining How To play iPhone and iPad games on your Apple Silicon Mac and Macbook’s! It’s much much easier than playing Android games on an Apple Silicon Mac!
Where To Next?
Congrats, you’ve made it to the end of the article! We write extensively about mobile games and we have a handful of them to recommend. Check out this article where we recommend games that you can play with your kids, aptly titled “Best Smartphone Games You Can Play With Your Kids”. We also have a lot of reviews up for quite a few games, like this one about Metal Slug Attack.
If you want to stay up to date with our articles, make sure to give us a follow on twitter or subscribe to our mailing list (we promise to not spam you and only send emails when we have something truly unique and worthwhile). Or, leave a comment below telling us what premium or free smartphones games you enjoy!