With Apple’s new Mac Mini M2 models hitting the market, many people are wondering about its gaming performance.
Most people are quick to remind you that Macs, even the newer models, are not gaming machines. However, the Mac Mini M2’s gaming benchmarks will surprise you!
Is The Mac Mini M2 Good for Gaming?
The Mac Mini M2 is not a gaming machine but many games are playable using Rosetta 2 or third-party emulators.
Bear in mind, almost all of Apple’s product lines are being updated to the M2 chips. For example, there’s the M2 MacBook Air and M2 MacBook Pro.
If you’re primarily planning to play games, you shouldn’t buy the Mac Mini M2. While the performance is good, it’s not good enough for most modern games.
M2 CPU Benchmarks
The M2 chip’s performance across most of these products is pretty similar. However, the base M2 chips on the Mac Mini tend to be a little bit faster than MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
The reason for that could be that the Mac Mini is less compact and has an active cooling system. Either way, it’s a marginal difference.
To give you an idea, according to Geekbench, the base Mac Mini M2 has a Single Core score of 1931 vs the base M2 MacBook Pro’s 1901.
For multi-core, the M2 Mac Mini gets 8799 and the MacBook Pro is 8737.
So for games, you will likely get a few more frames on the Mac Mini than on other Mac products that use the same processor.
Mac Mini Editions: M2 and M2 Pro
There are two versions of the new Mac Mini M2, one uses the base M2 chip and the other uses an upgraded version called the M2 Pro.
Here’s a quick comparison of the hardware specifications:
|10-Core (Configurable to 12-Core)
|16-Core (Configurable to 19-Core)
|256 GB SSD
|512 GB SSD
|Thunderbolt 4 Ports
You can also buy add-ons to improve various components on these models. For example, you can upgrade memory and storage. The M2 Pro model also allows you to unlock extra cores on the CPU and GPU too.
One important difference is the M2 Pro can support up to three 6K 60 Hz external displays at the same time. The base M2 model only supports two 6K 60Hz displays.
The base model is configurable too, although you can’t unlock more CPU or GPU cores. For the average user, the base M2 chip provides more than enough power for most tasks.
But if you need more power for rendering videos, the M2 Pro is the way to go. It can be overwhelming figuring out which add-ons are worth it.
In my opinion, you should stick to the base M2 model and buy the 16 GB of RAM add-on. That’s pretty much all you need.
Gaming on M2 Mac Mini:
The process to get games running on the M2 Mac Mini is the same as the M1 – you need emulators for non-native games. Games that are designed for ARM will run much better.
Getting accurate benchmarks can be a little tricky. The performance also varies depending on the emulator. For instance, some games run better on Crossover while others run better on Parallels.
Also, MacOS has a built-in compatibility layer called Rosetta 2 which automatically emulates games. But not all games are compatible with it.
Overall, it can be pretty frustrating trying to game on an M2 Mac Mini.
Assuming you can get a game to launch, here’s the type of performance you can expect from the Mac Mini M2 base model.
Steam Games on Mac Mini M2
The Steam application is available for MacOS but not every game in the library is compatible with MacOS. While you can download any game from your library, there’s no guarantee it will launch.
There are quite a few games on Steam that run flawlessly on Mac and more are being added to the list.
Rosetta 2, Apple’s compatibility layer, will attempt to run Steam games that are not natively supported. Lots of Steam games run great with Rosetta 2.
When you launch a game from your Steam library, Rosetta 2 will launch in the background, and if it’s compatible, the game will open without any issues.
To find a list of support games (and the methods needed to make them playable) visit Apple Gaming Wiki.
The list hasn’t been updated for the M2 chips but as long as the game runs on M1 it should work on M2.
What happens if a Steam game isn’t playable? Well, if Rosetta 2 can’t open the Steam game, then you’ll need to resort to third-party emulators. Crossover and Parallels are the two most popular.
And some games will refuse to run on those emulators too. It really depends on the game.
What About Games with Anti-Cheats?
Unfortunately, online games that use kernel-level anti-cheat software will not work on Macs.
For example, Call of Duty, Apex Legends, and Valorant, don’t work because their anti-cheat software is not compatible with Mac.
In some cases, you can use Parallels to launch these games, but multiplayer does not work.
One multiplayer game that does run on the Mac Mini right out of the box is CS GO.
What About ARM Games?
There are quite a few games that were built on the ARM architecture and most of them run quite well on the Mac Mini M2.
One notable mention would be World of Warcraft, which was one of the first games to receive day 1 support for the new chips.
Mac Mini M2 Gaming Benchmarks
- League of Legends (Max, 1080P, 100+ FPS)
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Medium, 1080P, average 30 FPS)
- CS GO (Highest, 1080P, average 100 FPS)
- Metro Exodus (Highest, 1080P, average 50 FPS)
- Resident Evil: The Village (Max Settings, MetalFX, 1080P, average 60 FPS)
- GTA V (Max, 1080P, average 60 FPS)
One thing to keep in mind about Mac Mini M2 game benchmarks is the Mac Mini does not have an internal display.
What that means is the Mac Mini will set the game resolution to the resolution of the external monitor.
So if you have a 4K monitor connected to the Mac Mini, games will attempt to run in 4K and you’ll likely get abysmal performance.
In other words, keep an eye on the render resolution. I recommend setting it to 1080P for the best performance.
Mac Mini M1 vs Mac Mini M2
When it comes to game benchmarks, the base M2 Mac Mini is about 30% faster than the base M1 Mac Mini.
The boost in performance is due to the fact the Mac Mini M2 has a 10-core GPU while the M1 only has an 8-Core GPU.
On some games, you can see a 2x improvement on the M2 Mac Mini.
To give you an idea, Metro Exodus gets between 20 – 30 FPS on the M1 Mac Mini while the M2 Mac Mini can get around 50 FPS.
While many games do run on MacOS, they can quickly eat up all of your system’s memory. For that reason, I recommend increasing your Mac Mini’s memory size to at least 16 GB.
Another reason you need more memory is emulators, Parallels, in particular, requires a significant amount of memory.
So you will likely run into issues trying to run non-native games with the base 8 GB Mac Mini, even though the processor technically can handle the workload.
If you want to play upcoming triple-A games, I don’t recommend buying the Mac Mini M2. It can run older games at a reasonable framerate, but it will struggle with new ones.
Mac Minis are best used for office work or light video editing.