What to Look for in a Cloud Gaming Service in 2022
While game streaming doesn’t require as much data as you might think, with faster internet connections and the widespread adoption of 5G mobile networks, cloud gaming has quickly become a popular way to access today’s most popular games.
Streaming Netflix is one thing, but both streaming a game and streaming your gamepad input require speeds that simply didn’t exist a few years ago. But today, most households can easily (and successfully) play through the cloud.
Cloud gaming may be the future, but there are many factors to consider before signing up for one or more of these services. First, you need to ensure that you have a reliable connection where you plan to play. Whether it’s a high-speed internet connection at home or an unlimited 5G plan for your phone, you’ll need a strong network to succeed with any of the services listed below.
Once you’ve determined that your network is up to the task, you’ll need to figure out what games you’re interested in playing. Want access to a catalog that grows every month for a fixed price? Or would you rather have remote access to an entire computer that lets you play everything you currently own? Cloud gaming is more diverse than ever – whether you’re looking to replace a gaming PC or play Xbox games on your smartphone, there’s an option with your name.
Pricing is always a factor for monthly services, and cloud gaming runs the gamut from completely free to ridiculously expensive. Determining whether a service is worth the price depends on how much content it provides and how often you use it. Some of our favorite platforms are a bit pricey, but they bring a lot of functionality for the right user.
There is a lot of competition in the market as cloud computing has finally come into its own. Google Stadia, for example, saw a slowdown in releases in the summer of 2022, and while there are still a few big releases on the horizon, it’s unclear what the future holds for the platform. Other services can easily follow suit, so it’s important to be flexible about which services you sign up for.
It also serves as a reminder to check how often new titles are released for any service you’re interested in. A platform with multiple updates in the last few months is a clear red flag.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down the options, we’ve listed five of the best cloud gaming services below. These are supported by a wide range of devices and come with different monthly price tags. Regardless of your budget or needs, one of these five should fit the bill.
- ✓ Impressive catalog of games
- ✓ Wide range of supported devices
- ✓ Constant updates from Microsoft
- ✗ Can only play selected games in the Game Pass catalog
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate has long been regarded as one of the best deals in gaming. For just $15 a month, you’ll get access to a catalog of downloadable games for console and PC, along with cloud streaming support for PC, console, and mobile devices through a feature known as Xbox Cloud Gaming.
If you’re playing on a PC or mobile device, you’ll be able to use a standard controller or mouse and keyboard to control movement. If you have a mobile device, you’ll also have access to touch controls on select titles. Mouse and keyboard controls will also be added to Xbox Cloud Gaming in the future
Microsoft is fully on board with mobile cloud gaming, going so far as to create a line of official Otterbox hardware to help gamers get on the road.
Best of all, the Game Pass catalog continues to grow every month. with titles like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 if you can play via the cloud, you’ll get instant access to some of the most popular games within your subscription.
The biggest downside is that you can only stream select games from the Game Pass Ultimate catalog. There’s no option to buy Xbox Cloud Gaming alone—it’s only offered as part of the $15-a-month Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
This is a minor complaint, as almost everyone is bound to find value packs on the popular platform.
- ✓ Play the games you already own
- ✓ Free membership option
- ✓ Regular updates
- ✗ Expensive for the highest membership level
NVIDIA’s version of cloud gaming is completely different from the competition. Instead of giving you a catalog of games, you’re free to play (most) of the games you already own through GeForce NOW.
This makes it a great choice for established gamers with an overkill hard drive. Steam, Epic Games Store, Ubisoft Connect and more are supported, although not every game in their catalog is compatible with GeForce NOW. The company is committed to growing its library of supported software with new content announced weekly. It also offers a convenient way to search its list for specific games.
One of the best parts about GeForce NOW is that it has a free membership tier. You’re limited to one-hour sessions, but it’s a great way to test the waters before opting for a paid membership.
The most expensive tier is called the RTX 3080, which costs $20 per month and gives you remote access to the RTX 3080 with eight hours of sessions, 4K resolution and 120fps. The mid-level tier (called Priority) costs $10 per month and offers RTX support, six-hour sessions, and up to 1080p and 60fps.
The price is the biggest downside to the GeForce NOW, a top-end clock that’s well above the others on this list. You also don’t get any games for free like many other services out there. But the ability to buy games from the storefront of your choice makes GeForce NOW a great choice for those looking for a true alternative to a gaming PC.
Best Cloud Gaming Service for Classic Titles: PlayStation Plus
- ✓ Huge catalog of classic games
- ✓ Multiple subscription levels
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ Streaming is limited to PS4, PS5 and PC
PlayStation Plus has undergone a massive overhaul in the spring of 2022. The platform merged with PS Now, allowing subscribers to play both online multiplayer games and access a huge list of titles via the cloud.
Unfortunately, the only way to access cloud streaming is to choose the Premium level, which costs $18 per month. However, you’ll be able to stream a variety of classic games from PlayStation history.
Sony’s cloud streaming service is currently only available on PS4, PS5 and PC, although Sony may bring the service to mobile devices in the future. A massive rework was released recently, and the company may want to iron out any kinks before rolling it out to a new audience. But for now, if you’re looking for cloud gaming for its mobile capabilities, look elsewhere.
Despite a few limitations, there’s a lot to love about the cloud gaming platform. Availability varies by region, but players can access iconic titles as well Devil May Cry 4, Fallout: New Vegas, God of war hd, Famous 2, Ninja Gaiden 3, and more. So, if you don’t mind working with a few limitations, PlayStation Plus Premium can be a great option for your streaming needs.
Best Cloud Gaming Service for Power Users: Shadow
- ✓ Allows remote access to the entire computer
- ✓ Play the games you already own
- ✓ Works on mobile and PC
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ Not specific to the game
Shadow has gone through several iterations over the years, but it’s still one of the most unique cloud gaming services on the market. In fact, it is not limited to gaming. A shadow subscription gives you remote access to an entire computer, allowing you to play games, surf the web, or navigate an Excel spreadsheet at will.
This versatility comes at a price. A basic subscription costs $30 per month, and the Power pack (which adds 4K support and hardware-accelerated ray tracing) adds $15 per month. However, it gives you access to a real PC no matter where you are or what screen you’re looking at.
Despite being expensive, Shadow is a great choice for some players. Anyone who doesn’t want to worry about maintaining a gaming rig or drop $1000+ on a pre-built system will love the power the Shadow has to offer.
Using it as a proper PC means you can hook up a cheap laptop to a big monitor and play games as if you were running the latest hardware. It also means you can multitask – use it as a powerful tool for work during the day and play in the evening. And the ability to register on your smartphone makes it even more attractive.
Best Cloud Gaming Service for Prime Members: Amazon Luna
- ✓ It can be played on different devices
- ✓ Several subscription plans
- ✓ Prime members get a free rotation of monthly games
- ✗ The directory is divided into multiple packages
- ✗ Uncertain future
Although it won’t be available to the public until 2021, Amazon Luna already has a lot to offer. Amazon Prime members don’t just get a free rotation of games (eg Far Cry 4, Lumines: Remasteredand Exit), but there’s an affordable Luna+ package that costs just $10 a month and gives you access to some of today’s biggest games. Saints Row: The Third Remastered, Devil May Cry 5, Dirt 5and Yakuza 0.
If none of these games appeal to you, there are other bundles available. Whether you’re looking for family games, retro classics, or some of Ubisoft’s latest titles, there’s probably a package to suit your needs. Luna has a strong roster, but its games are spread across different packages. That means you’ll need more than one package to check out everything it has to offer.
Despite its packaging limitations, Amazon Luna is still a surprisingly good service. You can access the platform on PC, Mac, Fire TV, Fire tablets, Chromebook, iOS and Android. There’s also a dedicated Luna controller that helps reduce input lag, although it works well with Xbox and PlayStation controllers, as well as a mouse and keyboard.
The biggest sticking point with Luna is longevity. As a relatively new service, no one knows what to make of it. But Amazon Prime members should at least give it a try. If it checks all the right boxes, picking up a premium package can be a solid move.