MIA: Games that need to come to the Mac but are nowhere to be found

MIA: Games that need to come to the Mac but are nowhere to be found

There are a lot of great games to download for Mac, whether you use Steam, the Mac App Store, or the myriad other services that cater to Mac users. Still, there are some games whose absences are keenly felt. Here's a roundup of games that are still missing in action on the Mac platform. Some of these aren't just individual games, either - they're entire game series that, years after their introduction, remain missing in action on the Mac platform.

Far Cry

Crytek's Far Cry debuted in 2004, and it's spawned an entire cottage industry of sequels and spinoffs up to last year's Far Cry 3 and its standalone expansion: Blood Dragon. The core engine technology behind the first person shooter series, CryEngine, has been used to power a number of games that work on Windows and console platforms. But neither Far Cry nor any of its associated games have ever once been seen (natively) on the Mac platform.

Crytek has been enormously successful at what it does, so one can't exactly fault them for neglecting the Mac platform, but it still stings when you have to reboot into Windows to play the games.

Mass Effect

BioWare's Mass Effect series has won plaudits from game reviewers and players for years. The action RPG series has incorporated a far-ranging story line that flings players into the future, when humanity has populated space. The game series focuses on Commander Shephard - a character the player creates (either as male or female) and whose decisions affect the outcome of the game. Ultimately, Shephard must save the galaxy from a race of beings called Reapers.

Mass Effect has appeared on Windows and all the major consoles, and even spawned a few spinoffs for iOS. But the Mac has, sadly, been left out of the mix. Now that the original trilogy has been put to bed, BioWare is set to roll out a Mass Effect 4 that will break away from the trilogy's story line. Hopefully they'll revisit their platform choices and offer the new ME4 for the Mac too.

Arma

Unless you're really into military FPS's or zombies, you may have never heard of Czech developer Bohemia Interactive's Arma series, but my goodness, does it have its fans. It's an open world sandbox, a tactical first-person and third-person shooter that puts you in the role of soldiers fighting to control a fictional island location that changes from game to game. There are single player campaigns in each Arma game, but the secret to the games' successes lie in their extensive multiplayer capabilities, paired with terrific graphics and long-distance rendering that provide a very complete sense of space without relying on fog or other occlusion tricks.

Arma II, which came out in 2009, has engendered a huge number of fans because of a mod called DayZ, which turns Arma II into a survival horror game featuring hordes of zombies. It's become so successful that Dean Hall, the mod's creator, and Bohemia Interactive are working on a fully standalone version of DayZ.

Arma III is coming out soon and it looks astonishing. Still no sign of a Mac version, though. Rats.

Battlefield

There was a time when Battlefield games were available for the Mac - Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2142, for example, were both Mac releases from Aspyr Media, back in the day. But ever since EA and its development studio DICE switched to DICE's Frostbite engine for Battlefield titles, the games haven't been available for the Mac.

The good news is that that may change. Earlier this year, DICE was seen to advertise for an OS X developer to work on their Frostbite engine. Whether that means the back-catalog of Frostbite-based games will come to the Mac or just new games they're making, it remains to be seen. But it's certainly a step in the right direction. Oh, Frostbite is also used to make Mass Effect. So an OS X native version of Frostbite might help there, too.

Gears of War

Epic Games' third-person shooter series Gears of War is published by Microsoft Studios, so it's little wonder that you can't get it for OS X, but that really stinks, because it's really awesome. The game that started in 2006 has spawned three sequels, most recently with Gears of War: Judgment. The game takes place in the future, on an Earth-like alien planet populated by sentient creatures called the Locust Horde, who have ravage the human population. You must save the humans from annihilation as a soldier of the Coalition of Ordered Government (COG).

Outside of the fact that Microsoft uses Gears as a showcase for Windows and Xbox 360 gaming, there's no legitimate reason why it shouldn't be on the Mac. After all, Epic Games is the developer, and their Unreal engine has worked on the Mac for many years. But, well, Microsoft. Bah.

Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter

The Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter recently went live after a couple months of open beta testing. It's free to play, too! Based in the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter, this is a completely unique standalone game not related to BioWare's legendary Neverwinter Nights RPG. You take the role of a character based on one of five classic D&D classes, going on quests in and around the city of Neverwinter, now in chaos after the disappearance of the last Lord of Neverwinter.

MMOs have proven their ability to sell well on the Macintosh - just ask Blizzard, which keeps its Mac version of World of Warcraft in lockstep with its PC counterpart. Alas, Cryptic Studios didn't get the message, so Mac users are left out in the cold.

Defiance

SyFy and Trion World's ambitious science fiction MMO is an interesting attempt to blend a multiplayer action game with a TV show. While the setting of the TV show is in the ruins of old St. Louis, Defiance the game takes place in San Francisco, which has been transformed into an unrecognizable alien landscape following the arrival of the alien collective called the Votans, and their attempt to terraform Earth into something more palatable.

You are enlisted to become an Ark Hunter, a scavenger of sorts who plunders Arkfalls - massive pieces of alien ships whose ruined hulks occasionally fall to Earth after falling out of orbit. They contain valuable technology sought by Humans and Votans alike. I'm a big fan of the TV show, so I'd love to see this one come to my gaming platform of choice.

Titanfall

At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 - the annual giant gathering of video game companies in Los Angeles - few titles had as much buzz as Respawn Entertainment's forthcoming Titanfall. It's a multiplayer game in which you fight on foot or pilot giant robots. Coming in 2014, it's going to be published by EA, for Microsoft's new Xbox One console, Xbox 360 and, predictably, Windows.

But Titanfall's technical underpinnings - the core engine technology - is Valve's Source engine, which works quite well on the Mac. So it's a shame that EA is hamstringing the game by making it run only on Microsoft's console hardware and operating system. EA's been better and better about supporting OS X in recent years; hopefully they can be convinced to do it or to license it to a Mac publisher, because it looks awesome.

FIFA 14

FIFA 14 is the latest and greatest version of EA's long running soccer/football game. It's in development for Windows and just about every console and handheld gaming system known to man including iOS. But OS X is totally off their radar for this one.

Sports games on the Mac are rarer than hen's teeth. It's a shame, too, because I know plenty of Mac gamers who would kill to get their hands on a proper soccer/footie action game, but apparently it's still not enough to coax EA into gracing our platform with a decent game.

So what's Apple to do?

Apple has dedicated staff whose job it is to support game developers and publishers who want to make products for OS X, but that doesn't convince developers and publishers that they should support OS X. That's an entirely different problem.

For many big-budget publishers whose marketing budgets on new releases can run, quite literally, tens of millions of dollars, the prospect of reaching an incrementally larger audience by plowing development and marketing money into a Mac version doesn't seem particularly smart.

There are a few exceptions to that, like Activision Blizzard's exceptional parity with StarCraft, World of WarCraft and Diablo III, but most major publishers look at Mac revenue as little more than a rounding error on their balance sheets.

That's what has kept companies like Aspyr Media, Feral Interactive, and others in business - they assume the risk of developing and publishing Mac versions of games, and in return they're able to scratch out a living by selling those versions to Mac users. But there's long been an inequity there that many Mac gamers find hard to swallow - they end up paying more and waiting longer for Mac versions of games. The needle is moving, though, thanks to advances like Valve's Steam download service and "Steam Play," which puts Mac, PC and even, occasionally, Linux users on equal footing.

I'll be looking at this quandary - and some possible solutions - in another gaming editorial soon. In the interim, I want to hear from you! Do you wish any of these games would come to the Mac? Are there other titles I've left off the list that I should have included? Or is gaming on the Mac a complete waste of the time? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

MIA: Games that need to come to the Mac but are nowhere to be found

24 Comments

I have a few points I would like to add...

I think it might have been better to focus on some games that "promised" Mac versions, but have yet to delivery (i.e. Torchlight 2).

Also, Mass Effect Trilogy might be a bad example. Mass Effect 1 was published by Microsoft with 2 & 3 being published by EA. I'm sure EA had to work out some special deal to get the Trilogy made in the first place and put on the PS3. We don't know the details, but I wouldn't be surprised if it would take a few more hoops to get it ok'd for the Mac.

I would really like to see an article that goes deeper into the challenges and reasons why a lot of games aren't made for Macs. Some Mac gamers are under the incorrect impression that it's mainly a numbers game and many PC gamers are under the incorrect impression that Mac hardware isn't powerful enough to "game".

"I would really like to see an article that goes deeper into the challenges and reasons why a lot of games aren't made for Macs."

Thanks for the feedback! That's what I'm working on now.

Skyrim/Elder Scrolls Online. I did boot camp just to try out Neverwinter, which was great until launch. But I hate boot camping just to be able to play with friends. It was an expense I would have loved to avoid, especially with my rMBP's smaller HD.

I agree about Boot Camping. That's why I do it so infrequently. And as good as virtualization is, it's simply not up to the task compared to running Windows natively. But, Windows. Ecch.

Absolutely. I was pleasantly surprised when they announced the Elder Scrolls MMO as Mac compatible.

I thought DirectX was one of the reasons gaming wasn't as prevalent on the Mac in years past. Today with the Unity gaming engine and more indie companies funding via Kickstarter, I think we'll be seeing a bigger surge of titles for the Mac. The popularity of iOS will help bring titles to the Mac as well.

Still a much better gaming landscape for us now than it was 8-10 years ago. For someone who isn't a hardcore gamer anymore, what exists out there now is more than enough to keep me happy.

Interesting article. You pretty much included all the biggest games missing on the Mac. I would also add Skyrim and Crysis games to the mix as they are both monuments to modern gaming...
I do agree with one of the commenters above, I was expecting an article about the games that were promised on the Mac but never came (like Planetside 2 or SWOTOR). We often contact developers to understand why the games they promised are nowhere to be found... Most of the times, no answers at all...

I agree. A lot of games aren't made for the Mac, hence one of the reasons there is a PC on my desk. Gears of War would rock on the Mac. Battlefield, too.

Elder scrolls online will be available for OSX (as well as windows, xbox one and ps4), you can sign up for the beta currently (https://www.elderscrollsonline.com/en/beta)

as for gears of war, with the exception of gears of war 1 they have always been, and always will be XBOX only titles, regardless of what engine they are based on (same with all the Halo games after halo 2), its what draws some gamers specifically to the xbox 360 and not a PS3

ARMA (specifically ARMA2/dayz) i dont think will ever come to OSX, they run like a pig on even the highest spec'd machines, trying to run it on a single videocard or on a laptop (even in a MBP the highest tier videocard still isn't as powerful as its desktop equivalent) would yield a terribly slow experience, and with the 2013 mac pro refresh going for workstation graphics cards (w9000 based firepro) and not a 79xx series gaming card the gaming performance will not be there as the cards apple chose aren't designed for gaming

another game that is currently in development is planetary annihilation (expensive to get into the alpha because its based from the kickstarter price tiers)[available on steam/ from ubernet], but it is/will be available on PC,linux and mac

i hope that dev's start putting more effort into developing for OSX, its the same hardware as PC/linux machines for the most part.

more players is never a bad thing

Arma II scales quite well on machines that don't have multiple SLI-linked gaming cards. A few other Mobile Nations guys and I have been playing it on our MacBook Pros (through Boot Camp) and it looks and plays quite nicely. I've also tried it on a five-year-old Mac Pro equipped with an Nvidia 8800GT card, and it works fine.

Sorry, i should have been a little more specific, playing ARMA2 on max everything, max AA, max AF, and max view distance (also triple display high rez @5760x1080) -> PC gamers often/almost always strive to achieve max settings in every game we play

*edit* there is a large difference between "good enough" graphics @30 FPS and "max" graphics settings @60FPS

*edit 2* sorry for all the edits, but view distance plays a huge role in how enjoyable multi-player games can be, for example, you have a decent system, running at 1080p, with a view distance of 1km, lets say someone has a slightly better machine and has their view distance set to 1.5km and they play as a sniper/sharpshooter, they could pick you off from 1.5km away, 500m before you even see them, not a great experience if you keep getting sniped from just out of sight, especially in dayz as a death is finite and all the things you have found/accumulated get stolen by the person that killed you

actually just got home and looked on steam, there are some darn good games steam has for Mac.

boarderlands 2
x-com enemy unknown
max payne 3
Gratuitous tank battles (GTB)
the witcher 1/2
lots of the older COD and Half-life games, usually dirt cheap or even free (like tf2)
stealth bastard deluxe - (seriously, this one is awesome fun)
civ 5
portal 1/2

and then a whole ton of indie games

im really impressed how quickly the mac section has filled, i remember when they first launched steam for mac, there was like HL1+2 and team fortress, and that was it.

happy to see that slowly but surely my mac cousins will get to enjoy great games on there computers as well

I can't wait to read your article on Mac development.

One area where the Mac has really taken off in recent years is the area of indie games. For me a Mac will never be a primary gaming platform there are simply too many tradeoffs, but as I can't stand the idea of having a whole windows machine just for games my primary games box is a PS3.

But I actually own somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 Mac games. Mostly stuff from smaller groups like Bastion, Braid, etc. from the Humble Bundle or Steam sales on things like The Walking Dead. And these are often very very inexpensive.

I would think a company like EA or Activision would have an easier time making a Mac version than the guys who made FTL but something has changed there where indie games come out on Mac all the time.

Can you even properly game on the 21 inch iMac, though? I seems the only iMac with high end video cards are the 27inch iMac, and those things are HUGE. I can't really fir that in my room, so I'm kinda neat stuck with the 21 inch I think. But those only have, at the most, a GT 650 card.

i forgot about the higher end iMac's, those would make good gaming machines, especially if you could Overclock the videocard (one day i hope), maybe a bios volt mod would do the trick

Yeah, but the 27 inch iMac are really pricy. And like I said, can everyone for a 27 inch monitor in their room? Is the gt650 on the 21 inch good for games? If I get a iMac, I want it to be good for at least 3 or 4 years.

pretty much the top teir 27" imac would have the best shot at gaming (i thought they all had the desktop version of the cards not the mobile versions in my previous post), a lot of it has to do with the amount of Vram on the Geforce 650m/640m, at 512mb of vram and a 128 bit memory bus you could very easily max it out, for example, crysis 3 @1920x1080 medium graphics setting (running with directx 11, *note* neither ps3 or xbox360 have the ability to run tessellation or other high end directx 11 features) usually takes about 1280mb of vram and on higher settings to upwards of 2048mb when anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are enabled.

heres some spec's on the top tier 27" iMac's video card
http://www.geforce.com/hardware/notebook-gpus/geforce-gtx-680mx/specific...

pretty big difference between it and the GT650M in the 21" iMac
http://www.geforce.com/hardware/notebook-gpus/geforce-gt-650m/specificat...

Crysis 3 is a hog on vram. in fact all games based on cry engine 3 love lots of vram [at least when running with directx 11 graphics] (farcry 3, mech warrior online, crysis 3)

games like skyrim however would do very well if they could be ported to a mac, that game is very much CPU dependent and doesnt often max out vram (as low as ~350mb to ~1024mb) at decent resolutions (unless extra high rez texture packs are applied)

lets hope that the next iMac refresh bring beefier video cards to the 21" model

Honestly, I don't even need to have the computer be bleeding edge. I just want the computer to be able to handle most games or stuff well. I have no clue if the gt 650m 512mb can accomplish that or if I'm just better off building a PC? But I don't just want the desktop for gaming, but I wanted to do my actual computing on a Mac.

short answer, yes, it would play most of today's current gen games "well enough" to "very well" depending on which game you are playing, however with the xbox one and ps4 having much more advanced hardware then there predecessors i wouldnt be surprised if developers really start cranking up the graphics and in turn the "minimum" system requirements for most next-gen titles would become much higher.

gaming on a Mac isnt something that is apple's top priority, for your everyday work and light gaming any of them would be perfectly fine, i just wouldnt expect most them to be able to play games very well (next gen/dx11) 3 or 4 years down the road.

but then again in 3 or 4 years you'd likely be ready for an upgrade, pc gamers usually upgrade hardware on avg between 1-3 years, some even upgrade as soon as new parts launch, personally i am more of a every 2 years do a fairly major overhaul (GPU/CPU upgrade)

I fully plan on buying a PS4, and honestly do my gaming on console (though by default because I never had a gaming rig) but I'd think I would still prefer to game on console. Really, the only games I would probably use the computer for would be valve and blizzard games. Or if I boot camp windows I might try playing the elders rolls games on it. These aren't really graphics heavy games.