Chromebooks are amazing little devices for several reasons; they’re designed especially for light office work, and their usually much more budget-friendly than traditional laptops and other electronic devices. They are great for everyday routine browsing, storing data online, and other web-based tasks.
However, what about after a long night at work or a long week with the kids when you just want some relaxation time? What about if you want to blow off some steam? Is gaming on your Chromebook an option?
Can You Play Games on a Chromebook?
You can play games on a Chromebook but you’ll be limited to mobile-games, browser games, or game streaming through the local area network. The good news is you can stream the latest triple-a games to your Chromebook for free.
Chrome OS is an operating system meaning the architecture of the device is focused on giving users a good web-browsing experience.
Innovations with Chrome Browser have made it possible for productivity tasks to become reliable, as well as media playback and light photo editing. Anything more, that requires more powerful hardware, such as playing triple-a games, won’t be possible. They’re mainly made for students.
On another note, to play games on a Chromebook you’re not only limited by the hardware and app compatibility issues, but also an internet connection.
While some games from Google Play can be run offline, it’s impossible to stream games from your PC without a solid router. It might be possible through direct Wifi or a configuration of ad-hoc peer-to-peer Wifi networks, or a Hotspot, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Having said that, there are a couple of ways to bring games to your Chromebook, some of which we’ll discuss in this article.
To be fair, most Chromebooks do support Google Play (there are models that don’t yet, which we’ll mention later on) and if you have Google Play support, then you can download almost any mobile-game. There are also mobile-game streaming apps that will perform decently on a Chromebook.
But, keep in mind that you need to lower your expectations on what is possible. You aren’t going to be running Windows PC games or Steam on your Chromebook. Your Chromebook can run Flash and HTML5 rather well, but if you are trying to run Java you will find it impossible.
If you can’t access Google Play, what you can do is try updating the Chrome OS or enabling Developer Mode and checking “Allow Mobile Apps” in the Google Play settings.
If neither of those options is available, then you’ll be limited to a web extension, at least until your model gets a software update.
Let’s take a look at your gaming options with a Chromebook:
Luckily, you’ll find there are several fun games that you can take advantage of on the web. Chromebooks have risen in popularity and the Web Store now has several developers that are releasing titles that you can play on your Chromebook.
Most browser-games will run just fine, especially in the Google Chrome browser. The downside is you need an internet connection.
How to Stream Games to Chromebooks:
In-house game streaming can be done from a PC (or even an Xbox!) to your Chromebook over Wi-Fi.
There are certain apps that support remote game streaming with a Chromebook, but most require Google Play support.
Note: These are the same steps for streaming to any mobile device that is compatible with Google Play. I used these same steps to play games with Samsung Dex on my Android phone.
If your Chromebook does support Google Play, then this section will explain how to stream games to your Chromebook from a PC or other gaming device.
Bear in mind, there are a few things that you’ll need for a solid experience:
- A Host Computer
- A Decent Router (5GHZ is recommended)
- A Chromebook
- Either a PS4 or Xbox Controller
Chromebook is Compatible with Google Play Store:
Here are the best game-streaming apps for Chromebooks:
Steam Link (Steam Required on Host)
Steam Link is an app that you can download on any mobile device, including Chromebooks, IOS, and Android.
It’s compatible with Steam, the most popular gaming platform for PC gamers. To run stream games on a Chromebook with Steam Link, make sure your host PC has Steam open.
Next, on your Chromebook, head to Google Play, install Steam Link, and open it. The app should automatically locate the other PC on the network.
A pairing code will be sent to your PC, enter that code on your Chromebook, and the link should be made with no problems. The app should automatically select a bandwidth rate based on an automatic speed test.
Note: Steam Link also works on mobile phones and it’s one option for playing games with Samsung Dex too.
Moonlight Game Streaming (GeForce Experience Required on Host)
Before you try this, make sure game-streaming is enabled in Geforce Experience. Open the app, click the gear icon in the top right, find the SHIELD tab, and toggle “Gamestream”. It’s usually on by default, but worth checking out.
It looks like this:
Moonlight Game Streaming is another app that works great on Google Play compatible Chromebooks. The downside is that it only works on computers that have a Geforce graphics card and Geforce Experience.
The plus side is you can manually change a lot of settings to tailor your gaming experience. I prefer Moonlight Game Streaming over Steam Link because it’s more customizable.
For instance, you can manually configure the bitrate, which is responsible for the image quality and response time. Setting it too high will result in nice graphics but poor response time, and setting it low will do the opposite; finding the sweet spot can take a few tests (for me it’s around 10mbs).
Stadia is a new cloud-based gaming solution by Google. The idea is to make triple-a games accessible from anywhere, with any device.
While it’s not officially launched yet, and only available in a few countries, it’s worth checking out. It seems like you need to pay a monthly fee to use it, though.
Chromebook is NOT Compatible with Google Play:
Now, if your Chromebook does not support Google Play (and, of course, as is my luck, my Chromebook is still marked as “Planned”) you won’t be able to use the above apps.
The only solution, at the moment, is to use Moonlight Game Streaming web extension for Google Chrome. The good news is it works pretty well, considering it’s a web extension.
You can stream games on your Chromebook by installing the Moonlight Game Streaming web extension and launching it with the Chrome app launcher on your device.
Bear in mind, you do need a host PC that has Geforce Experience installed, hence only computers with Geforce graphics cards will work with this option (the same as with the Moonlight Game Streaming app).
I played around with this extension quite a bit because my potato Chromebook still doesn’t have Google Play support.
I can verify it does work on a potato C201PA Chromebook, and performance wasn’t too bad, but it’s not something I would recommend for precision-based games (such as any first-person competitive shooter). Once you find the network configuration sweet spot, it works relatively well.
Here’s a picture of me playing Witcher 3 with a wired PS4 controller through Moonlight Game Streaming web extension:
Can I Pair a Controller to Chromebook?
You can pair a controller to a Chromebook, but I recommend using a wired connection because the Bluetooth can be spotty, for reasons I outlined in a previous article.
I can confirm that you can stream games to a Chromebook using a wired-connected controller. At the moment, Chrome OS supports PS4 and XBOX controllers are the most popular controllers. They are subtle, easy, and comfortable to use.
To connect a Bluetooth controller with your Chromebook, open the Settings app on your device, and click on Bluetooth settings. Once the Bluetooth page has been opened, your device will begin to search for available devices.
Hold down the share and Playstation logo buttons until the light starts flashing from the lightbar. Then, select Playstation from the list of available devices and wait for them to pair together. Once your Playstation and device are paired together, you can launch your game. Repeat the same process for an Xbox controller.
Personally, as I mentioned earlier, I recommend using a wired connection. I was able to use a wired PS4 controller with the Moonlight Game Stream web extension on my potato Chromebook, and it worked out quite well.
Note: If your controller is not responsive, but the light is on, tap the middle button (either the PS4 logo or Xbox) and that should open the Steam configuration menu. You can use the trackpad here too. Find controller support, and select “Force” and relaunch the game. In my case, that got my controller working with The Witcher 3.
Can You Play Minecraft on a Chromebook?
No. You cannot play Minecraft on a Chromebook because that game requires significant graphics processing power, and it’s not compatible with Chrome OS at the moment. You might be able to run the Minecraft Classic in the browser, it worked on my laptop with 60+ frames a second.
But that’s the classic version, and you can’t do much in it besides build with a few blocks. If you’re looking to play Minecraft on a laptop, I suggest looking for a laptop that has a decent dedicated graphics card.
So you can play games on a Chromebook, but it requires a bit of fiddling around. Remember, Chromebooks aren’t designed for games, at least not yet anyway, so you’ll be limited to the above game-streaming solutions.
If you’re just looking to have access to simple titles and play casual games that run smoothly with Chromebook, then yes you can play games on a Chromebook. Thanks for taking the time to read this article!