Mobile gaming is quite colossal compared to other platforms, mainly because smartphones are available to everyone. However, PC has a massive library of quality AAA titles, which you probably already play on your high-end desktop.
There are several ways you can play your PC games on your phone or tablet with either on-screen controls or a controller. All you need is a compatible device and a computer capable of handling graphics-intensive games and high-bitrate stream encoding at the same time.
In case you have one, then you can follow this guide to play PC games on Android and iOS devices. We will talk about multiple apps that let you do just that.
- 1 Play PC games on Android and iOS using Steam Link
- 2 Play PC games on Android and iOS using Moonlight (for NVIDIA GPU users)
- 3 Play PC games on Android and iOS using AMD Link
- 4 Wrapping up
Play PC games on Android and iOS using Steam Link
The Steam Link is the easiest of the bunch in terms of the setup process. It also works with a vast list of hardware, and the stream quality looks good enough on a mobile device. The latency is also relatively low, but that mostly depends on your network reliability.
Although Valve used to sell a dedicated game-streaming box named Steam Link, it didn’t offer additional benefits over streaming games directly on smartphones, tablets, or smart TVs. It was later discontinued and replaced by the Steam Link app on Android. The iOS version made its debut after a whole year of drama between Apple and Valve.
Setting up Steam Link
The first thing you have to do is install the Steam Link app on your Android (Play Store) or iOS (App Store) device. Android TV or Apple TV owners can also get the Steam Link from their respective app storefronts. Also, it’s best if you connect a controller to your device for the ideal experience. You can use either a wired (over OTG on phones) or Bluetooth controller (DualShock 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, or any MFi gamepad). Else, you should take a look at the Gamevice or the Razer Kishi controller for a Nintendo Switch-like experience.
Once Steam Link is installed on your device, launch it and tap Get Started. Then, go through the controller pairing process and wait for the app to scan for your PC (with Steam installed) on the same network. Make sure to connect your devices to the same home network over either Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
Select your PC from the scan results. You will be given a 4-digit code that you need to enter in the Steam dialog box on your desktop. Once you do that, the Steam Link app will start testing the network to check whether your home network connection is capable of delivering decent stream quality.
Finally, tap the Start Playing option in the Steam Link app. You should see the desktop stream soon your device, with the Steam desktop app opened in Big Picture Mode. From there, you can select a game from your library and start playing.
Configuring Steam Link
In case you are not satisfied with the stream quality, tap the gear icon on the top-right corner of the Steam Link app, then select Streaming from the options. From the following Streaming Settings menu, you can adjust the Video and Audio quality to your preference, as well as enable HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding) for better stream performance on supported hardware.
Furthermore, you can limit the Bandwidth Usage and Stream Resolution, and toggle on/off the Microphone for voice communication.
Achieving the best experience on Steam Link
If you plan to use Steam Link on your phone or tablet, we recommend connecting to a 5 GHz Wi-Fi channel as it offers a significant bump in bandwidth compared to a regular 2.4 GHz channel. However, you will have to have decent Wi-Fi coverage for a continuous 5 GHz signal transmission. In case you are on your smart TV, it’s best to connect it over the Ethernet interface for the best quality possible.
Play PC games on Android and iOS using Moonlight (for NVIDIA GPU users)
Moonlight is an open-source NVIDIA GameStream client compatible with a wide variety of devices, including Android, iOS, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromebook, PS Vita, Raspberry Pi, Windows, Linux, Mac, etc. Although NVIDIA GameStream works exclusively with NVIDIA SHIELD, the developers behind Moonlight has made it possible to take advantage of the GameStream feature on just about any capable device.
Since the stream is encoded by NVIDIA’s industry-leading NVENC encoder, the system performance loss is minimal. You can expect to get reasonable frame rates even when streaming games with an entry-level graphics card. However, the usage of GameStream and NVENC encoding means that you can’t use a Radeon graphics card with Moonlight, as the features are exclusive to NVIDIA cards only (GeForce GTX 600+ or RTX 20+ series).
With Moonlight, you can stream your favorite games on your Android or iOS device in up to 4K at 120 FPS, assuming that you have the hardware required to encode and decode the stream. You can plug in any of your wired / wireless controllers or keyboard and mouse, and Moonlight will automatically set it up. Due to the efficiency of NVENC, you can expect a 5-10 ms of total (network and decoding) stream latency over your local connection. Furthermore, you can enable HDR game-streaming on Moonlight, assuming that you have a 1000-series Pascal GPU (or above) and an HDR-compatible display.
Setting up Moonlight Game Streaming
It’s super easy to set up Moonlight Game Streaming on your devices. The first thing you have to do is install the GeForce Experience app on your PC if you don’t have it installed already (usually bundled with the drivers). Once you install it, launch the Geforce Experience app and follow the steps below.
- First, click the gear icon on the top-right corner of the window to go to the Settings menu.
- Select SHIELD from the left sidebar, then toggle the slider on for the GAMESTREAM option.
In case you don’t see the SHIELD tab in the Settings menu, install the latest driver for your GPU from NVIDIA’s website or reinstall GeForce Experience. Also, Quadro graphics card owners will have to install the Quadro Experience app on their PC.
Once you successfully enable the GameStream feature on your PC, proceed to install the Moonlight Game Streaming client on your Android / Android TV (Play Store) or iOS / iPadOS / tvOS (App Store) device from their respective app stores.
After that, launch the Moonlight client on your device and tap your PC. A dialog box from the GeForce Experience app should show up on the bottom-right corner of the screen. Enter the PIN shown on the Moonlight app and click the Connect option.
Upon successful pairing, you should see a list of games installed on your PC. Tap on any of them to launch the game and start the stream. In just a few seconds, you can play your favorite PC game on your mobile device using Moonlight.
Moonlight offers a wide variety of configuration options for both Android and iOS users. You can adjust the video resolution, frame rate, as well as the video bitrate as per your preferences.
If your phone has a high refresh rate display, scroll down to the Advanced Settings and tap the box next to the “Unlock all possible frame rates” option. You can set the framerate to either 90 FPS or 120 FPS. However, streaming games at those framerates may cause higher latency, lags, and stutters on devices with incapable hardware.
Moonlight has a bunch of Input Settings options. You can enable on-screen controls, force Xbox 360 / One USB driver, toggle controller vibration, mouse emulation, etc.
Also, make sure to enable the “Optimize game settings” option in case your system can’t keep up delivering respectable framerates and encoding a high-quality stream at the same time. You can also force H.265 on compatible hardware for better stream quality and performance.
Moonlight recommends users to connect the client devices over an 802.11n (or better) 5 GHz Wi-Fi connection. The host PC should also be connected to the network router over a wired connection, preferably Ethernet.
In case you encounter network lag while streaming games using Moonlight, lower the video bitrate or frame rate, then try again. The latency issues might also be an issue related to your controller, especially if you are using a DualShock 4 over Bluetooth.
Play PC games on Android and iOS using AMD Link
Radeon graphics card owners can use the AMD Link app to play their favorite PC games on Android (Play Store) and iOS / iPadOS / tvOS (App Store) devices. You can enable the AMD Link feature from the Radeon Software panel and pair your mobile device to your PC with a PIN, similar to Steam Link and Moonlight.
The AMD Link also offers additional features related to gaming and streaming. You can also monitor your system performance directly from the app. However, AMD Link isn’t the most sophisticated game-streaming solution in the bunch, even if it offers plenty of tweakable quality settings.
In this guide, we have discussed several apps that let you play PC games on Android and iOS devices. In case any of the apps fail to deliver the best experience to you, definitely check out Parsec or Rainway and give them a try. The following apps specialize in game-streaming as well. You can also ask for help on their official Discord servers.
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