Are you wondering why some old games refuse to open on the new Macs? Since 2019, Macs no longer support 32-bit applications, which is what most older games use. Modern Apple Silicon Macs only support 64-bit applications, using Apple’s Metal API.
Does that mean you can’t play any old games on your Mac? Should you give up on your old games forever? Let’s find out.
When you try to launch a 32-bit game on Steam from a Mac, an error will appear saying the game needs to be updated to a 64-bit version. While lots of game developers are updating their 32-bit titles, there are many that are no longer supported.
Some games, such as The Sims, have separate 64-bit updates which are natively compatible with Mac. I recommend researching the game you want to play to see if there is a 64-bit version available.
However, there are still lots of popular 32-bit games based on old game engines that are not yet fully compatible with Macs. One example would be CS: GO.
Luckily for you, there are a couple of options to play 32-bit games on a Mac.
How to Play 32-Bit Games on Mac:
The easiest way to play 32-bit games on a Mac is to use an app such as CrossOver or Parallels. CrossOver use Wine to translate Windows applications into Mac commands. Parallels will create a virtual Windows machine on your Mac.
CrossOver and Parallels can run 32-bit applications and games, but you’ll have to test to see which one offers the best performance. Luckily both apps offer free trials which should give you enough time to compare them.
Remember, the performance will not only depend on the app but also on your Mac’s hardware. Generally, these applications can run games very well on the latest M1 Macs, but the older Intel Macs might struggle with them.
From my experience, CrossOver tends to support more games and the frame rate is usually better than on Parallels, but it depends on the game.
You can visit the Apple Gaming Wiki for a list of compatible games and emulators.
How to Run 32-Bit Games on Mac with CrossOver:
- Download the CrossOver trial and drag it into your applications folder
- Launch CrossOver, start the trial
- Click on Install a Windows Application
- Search for Steam and install it (dependencies included)
- Open CrossOver, Install DirectX for Modern Games
- Select Steam Bottle for DirectX installation
- Open Steam, Download a 32-Bit game and launch it
- Test the game to see if performance is playable
- Consider enabling DXVK backend for D3D11 on the Steam CrossOver bottle.
How to Run 32-Bit Games on Mac with Parallels Desktop:
- Download the Parallels Desktop free trial and install it
- Register as a Windows Insider and download Windows 10 Insider Preview (about 10 GBs)
- Open the Parallels Desktop app and select Install Windows from DVD or Image File
- Select the Windows Insider Preview file and continue
- In the “Use Windows for…” option, choose Games Only
- Walkthrough the customization settings
- Click continue to install Windows 10 (it will take a while)
- Sign-in with your Parallels Account to access the Windows virtual machine
- Use Windows as you would normally, consider checking for Windows updates
- Install the Windows version of Steam
- Download and install a 32-bit game and launch it.
- Now you can play 32-bit games on your Mac
CrossOver vs Parallels:
CrossOver is cheaper and easier to set up than Parallels, but it’s not compatible with every Windows program, including 32-bit games. CrossOver offers a 14-day free trial, and the full app costs $59.95 USD for a year or $499.95 for a lifetime license.
CrossOver requires fewer resources (RAM, CPU, etc), and those resources can be used for better performance in games. Generally, CrossOver is compatible with most 32-bit games and programs. For a full list, visit the official CrossOver compatibility section.
The way Parallels works is quite different from CrossOver. Parallels Desktop creates a virtual machine inside the Mac OS that you can install Windows (or another operating system) on. It costs $99 USD/year for Standard Edition and there is a 14-day free trial.
Here’s the thing:
Generally Parallels Desktop is compatible with more Windows programs and games than CrossOver, and it also has a better UI and supports more features. It’s also good for productivity because you can install any Windows program.
It also has a dedicated virtual machine configuration mode for games only. The downside is it’s a bit more expensive than CrossOve, requires more system resources, and takes longer to install.
Don’t worry, it sounds complicated but the setup will walk you through all the required steps, and it will even automatically download and install Windows for you.
The Standard Edition limits the virtual machine’s resources to 8 GB of virtual RAM and 4 CPU cores. If you need more resources, upgrade to either Pro or Business Edition.
Parallels Desktop is mainly designed for software developers who need to test their applications on multiple operating systems at once.
While the focus is on applications, Parallels Desktop can also run Windows games, and most 32-bit games are supported. Once again, the performance in games will vary depending on a number of factors, so it’s best to take it for a test run.
Another benefit to Parallels Desktop that’s worth mentioning is you have more control over configuration options, such as game mods, and whatnot. CrossOver does not support game mods.
So if you want to run Skyrim with mods on a Mac, Parallels Desktop is your best option.
What About Boot Camp?
Boot Camp is Apple’s official multi-boot option that allows you to run Windows and Mac OS at the same time. The problem is Boot Camp only works on Intels Macs, the new M1 Macs don’t support it.
Another downside is you have to reboot the Mac to switch operating systems, which can be bothersome. Generally CrossOver and Parallels Desktop are the better options, but if you have an Intel Mac you can try Boot Camp too.
Does Rosetta 2 support 32-bit Intel apps?
The answer is no.
For those who don’t know, Rosetta 2 is a utility that allows Apple computers to run programs that were designed for Intel processors, even if the computer itself uses a different processor architecture. This can be useful for businesses or other users who have important 32-bit applications that they need to use, but don’t want to switch to an Intel-based computer.
The Bottom Line:
Both of these emulators are consistently receiving updates to improve gaming performance. You shouldn’t expect 60+ FPS on high settings with all of your favourite games, but most old-school games, especially less demanding titles, will run smoothly with no issues.
So that’s how you can play 32-bit games on your new Mac. You can even connect a controller to your Mac via Bluetooth and game on it like you would a Windows PC. Pretty cool.