Best Value: Vortex
Vortex is built for anyone, using one of the simplest and easiest platforms. With a rather inexpensive pricing plan, almost anyone can enjoy some of the most popular titles without breaking the bank. From newbies to competitors, this is a platform worth looking into.
Best Selection: Shadow
For those who do not like limits, the Shadow platform is perfect for you. It’s basically your own cloud computing setup, meaning a virtual machine you can run from your own device. You can pretty much install whatever you want, including all your games, so no limits.
How We Picked
Cloud gaming is taking the gaming community by storm! No, they are not replacing huge gaming rigs just yet, and local gaming will always be here, but they are making those who are budget-minded excited!
Cloud gaming takes all the heavy work out of the equation, making it possible for ANYONE to get started without plunking down their firstborn’s college fund. As such, picking the right one can be hard.
Today, we are going to show you the six best cloud gaming services available right now. So, are you ready to see them?
- Plans: Start at $9.99/month
- Best For: Beginners
- Free Trial: No
An affordable and high-end cloud gaming service, Vortex prides itself on offering consistent quality and performance while being relatively inexpensive. Whether you want to play a competitive game like Fortnite, or you want to rage and struggle with Cuphead, Vortex has you covered.
Between its hardware and design, you have access to a top of the line gaming computer right at your fingertips (without all the costs). You can access it from nearly any device easily and play whatever games you want to play (as long as it is on their platform).
Thanks to the massive selection of popular titles, there is a good chance you will find something to play. Vortex constantly updates their gaming library so that you will have the best gaming experience every time you log in.
Vortex uses an Intel Xeon Processor and multiple high-end NVIDIA GPUs. The entire machine is built to offer fluid, 60 FPS gaming to everyone. Plus, Vortex has an exceptionally fast response time. You will experience real-time movements and reactions, playing as if the game was running on your own PC.
Vortex has more than 100 games in their library at the time of this list. They regularly add new games to keep content fresh and relevant. Most of the titles they have right now are titles you will recognize. Some of those titles include Risk of Rain 2, Monster Hunter: World, League of Legends, GTA V, Fortnite, and CS:GO. They have tons of single and multiplayer games, all from major developers and all hugely popular.
Vortex updates all of their games regularly. You will not have to wait for updates to come through to play your games with Vortex.
Vortex is available on Windows, Mac, and Android devices. You can use their website to play or download the gaming interface. Plus, they have servers in nine different regions making their service available to nearly everyone
What We Like
When using Vortex, you will get access to a smart, adaptive bitrate. The video quality adjusts automatically and keeps your gaming stream moving without any major/noticeable lag. It adjusts to your connection to keep you gaming at all times (even in congestion); there are no drops or stutters.
Vortex is, hands down, one of the best options for gamers. They have popular titles that you want to play, an exceptionally powerful gaming machine, and the quality and connection that keeps you playing even in congestion. At $9.99 a month and 50 hours of playtime per month, it is a deal that is hard to beat.
- Low Monthly Price
- High-Quality Graphics Cards
- Simple Interface Makes It Easy For Anyone To Get Started Fast
- Plans: Start at $24.95/month (annually)
- Best For: Mobile Gamers
- Free Trial: No
One of the most powerful cloud gaming services on the market, Shadow is a must for anyone who wants to play their games on the go from any device. It is like having your own virtual computer without the actual computer. Play on any device from a PC, laptop, or mobile device with ease, while getting performance like a $5,000+ gaming rig.
With a GTX 1080, 12 GB RAM, and GB internet designed for superior gaming, you will experience gaming the way it was meant to be experienced. The server itself is built to perform and receives updates regularly to stay ahead of the most demanding of games. The streaming can even support 4K resolutions! They do recommend a minimum 15Mbps internet connection to enjoy their service properly. One thing to note, tests have shown that a stable 4G connection is sufficient too, making mobile play more than possible.
Shadow is available on Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Android, and iOS devices; you can play on nearly anything. Want to play your favorite games, but they are not compatible with your operating system? Not a problem with the Shadow platform. If you have access to a Windows machine, then you can use to download anything from their platform while enjoying the performance of a high-end rig without the costs.
What We Like
Other services limit your available options based on games they have downloaded on their servers. You can only play the list of games they currently offer, which can be limiting.
Not with Shadow, though. Shadow gives you the chance to play any of the games you want. You download the client and then, on the client, download the services you want. Steam, Battle.Net, Origin, Epic – whatever it is you use. You can go from Overwatch to Cuphead to Sims 4. You must own the games to play them, of course, but you can play all of them. You are only limited by the space available on Shadow.
If you want a high-end gaming system with unlimited gaming options, this is your best bet. With two payment plans (monthly or annually), you can get started quickly. The best part, you can use it on almost any device, so long as the video can stream smoothly, and you have a solid internet connection.
- 4K Video Streaming
- Unlimited Gaming Access
- One Of The Best Systems For Mobile Gaming
#3 Google Stadia
- Plans: One/Pre-Order $129
- Best For: Content Creators
- Free Trial: No
Google Stadia made big news recently with its latest announcement. While it is not out right now, with a release date slated for November 2019, there is plenty we already know about it. From the performance, to the game selection, to the extras it comes with, it is looking like a great option for those who want to try out cloud gaming.
Being from Google, you should have high expectations of Stadia – and that is something they plan to live up to. Google Stadia uses a custom CPU and GPU with 16 GB of RAM. It can handle nearly everything without stuttering, including new games like Cyberpunk 2077. Google promises that the Stadia platform will hit 8k resolution and 120fps for one of the best gaming experiences ever.
The list of available games through the Stadia platform is small right now. It includes highly popular titles like the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 as well as Stadia-exclusive Get Packed.
To play them, you will need Chromecast and the Stadia controller, at least for now. Google sells the Chromecast Ultra, controller, and a three-month subscription currently. Right now, that is the only way to get into it; they do promise a free option coming in 2020, though.
What We Like
Google Stadia offers easy connectivity to YouTube, which they plan to expand upon after release. What really sells this feature is the ability to stream to YouTube directly from the service. You can stream content to your channel, and you can get friends and viewers involved easily. It makes engagement for creators a cinch and it creates a better experience for viewers.
Again, Google Stadia is not out yet, but it does have an interesting future. It is a great option for content creators on YouTube and may change that landscape slightly. It may not offer as much as some other services, at least for now, but it is promising.
- Backed By Google
- Supports 4K Resolutions
- Includes 5.1 Surround Sound + HDR Support
#4 PlayStation Now
- Plans: Starting at $19.99 per month
- Best For: PlayStation Gamers
- Free Trial: Yes; 7-Day Free Trial
Sony brings their games to you, from anywhere you want, with the PlayStation Now. With it, you can stream ALL of your favorite PS2, PS3, and PS4 games from your PS4 or PC. You can switch between devices easily and start playing any of the hundreds of games they have available, all for one monthly price. This is perfect for anyone who loves PlayStation games.
PS4 or PC
Play games from PlayStation Now on your PS4 or PC. The games they offer are available to play on both, the only difference being that you cannot download the games to your PC. You can stream from either and both perform the same. If you want to play your favorites from over the years or current games you love, you can use the PlayStation Now platform to do it.
Switch Between Devices Seamlessly
Thanks to cloud saves, you can switch between PS4 and PC without any issues. You can go from one device to the next any time you want and get the same gaming experience; there is no reason to lose your place or time when using the PlayStation Now platform.
What We Like
Using the PlayStation Now app, you can easily access more than 800+ games from any device. You can jump in and play your favorite titles right now, without any issues. Plus, they add new titles every month!
If you love your PlayStation games, this is a definite buy. It gives you hundreds of titles you want to play, including exclusives that you can play on the PS4 and the PC for one low price.
- Access To 800+ Games From The PlayStation Library
- Offers A Free Trial To Test The Service Out
- Can Save Your Progress And Switch Devices As Much As You Want/Need
#5 GeForce Now
- Plans: In Beta Phase
- Best For: Competitive Gamers
- Free Trial: No
A popular cloud gaming service GeForce Now continues to offer incredible experiences and power. You get to play all of your favorite games, even if you have an old laptop. As long as you have a good internet connection, you will be able to enjoy any game on their platform. With hundreds of supported titles, support across multiple devices, and exceptional performance, GeForce intends to be a force to be reckoned with.
Performance And Power
The GeForce Now platform uses an incredibly powerful machine with the ability to handle any game with ease. Every game streams in high quality, with some games optimized for the best possible performance. GeForce Now has gone through and optimized a handful of games. When playing these optimized games, you get performance and quality beyond anything you can imagine.
The Games You Want
Over 400 titles are available through GeForce Now. You can play any of them at any time. As long as you own the games, you can download them instantly over this service. Instant downloads mean no wait times!
What We Like
By enabling Ultra Streaming Mode, you can go from 60 FPS to 120 FPS. You can get insane quality and performance out of their/your games; every game performs and looks better. This helps to reduce your latency and improve your overall performance with most any internet connection.
Overall Good Choice
Available on Windows, Mac, and the SHIELD TV, you can play games comfortably from around your home and without needing a super high-end computer. Games perform exceptionally well, and you have a good selection here. It is a good choice overall, and the free beta means you can, potentially, give it a try for yourself.
- Still In BETA Phase
- 400+ Games To Choose From
- Ultra-Streaming Mode Up To 120FPS!
#6 Microsoft xCloud
- Plans: Starting at $15 Per Month
- Best For: Microsoft Gamers
- Free Trial: No
No one knows a whole lot about Microsoft xCloud, except what it is – Microsoft’s response to cloud gaming. It is their version of services like PlayStation Now or Google Stadia, offering games from their own services for players to use. The focus, of course, is on Microsoft games and offering consistent quality across all devices. It allows you to play your favorite Microsoft games no matter what, even if you do not have the hardware for it.
What We Know
Microsoft wants to bring console-quality to the masses. Whether you play on your home computer or on your console or on a mobile device, everyone deserves some standard of playing quality. Everyone deserves to have access to the games they want to play and the ability to play them. Microsoft xCloud offers that, with overall good quality, potentially hitting 4K. Not a lot of information about the quality is available currently, but Microsoft confirms that console-quality and 4K should happen.
You can play the games that are available on the Microsoft servers. If they have the games listed, they are available to play. Again, it is similar to services like PlayStation Now and Google Stadia. You have access to all of the games available on their servers, at any time.
What We Like
The availability of games is already somewhat covered, but there is so much more to remember. Thousands of games are available through Microsoft consoles and PC. They have a massive library and transitioning games to the cloud service is not going to be difficult. This means that, potentially, the library here could be huge. You get a lot for the money you pay!
If you enjoy playing Microsoft games, this is a great service. Not a lot of information is available about it currently, but there is the beta and new information is coming soon about it.
- Access To Microsoft Games
- Support For 4K Resolutions
- Works On Any Device
Buying Guide For Cloud Gaming Services
No matter what, pricing dictates how we feel about any service. As such, some plans are as cheap as $9.99 whereas some are as high as $34.95 per month. Each platform offers a unique set of games, but price dictates whether the selection is worth it, especially if they only host one game you really like.
We just mentioned it, but game availability matters. If you play a lot of PlayStation games, then the Microsoft xCloud platform might not be the best option for you. Shadow has one of the best platforms for games from different developers.
How many different devices can you use? Almost all of the services on our list can be used on laptops, desktops, and even mobile devices. If you cannot use it on-the-go, what is the use?
And finally, the service has to perform well, even when you do not have a strong computer and a relatively stable internet connection. All of these services are built to adjust according to your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cloud Gaming Services
Q: What is a cloud gaming service?
A: Cloud gaming services are a lot like Netflix or Spotify, but for games. When you use a cloud gaming service provider, you are essentially streaming games like you would music or movies using their platform. Their servers run the game and you stream the video to your computer. Now, you do not have to have a BIG computer to handle all the heavy work (i.e. processing). As such, you can do more with a lot less. Basically, your computer requirements become minimal, with your internet connection mattering more than the hardware you are using.
Q: Who can use a cloud gaming service?
A: Anyone with access to a computer, an internet provider, and one of these subscription services can use a cloud gaming service provider. However, the availability of cloud gaming services can vary from country to country and some are only available in certain areas/regions. In fact, some games can be region-locked, so make sure you can access the games you want to play. Taking the time to research the specifics of each cloud gaming service provider is a must, especially if you are outside of the United States. If you needed, you could use a proxy/VPN provider to bypass some of these restrictions.
Q: Will the gaming ports be any good?
A: Most cloud gaming service providers have fairly solid gaming ports. Some of the stronger gaming services like Vortex and Shadow have near-flawless porting. As such, they do not suffer from graphical glitching, random bugs, or other issues that affect your ability to play the game properly (and competitively).
Even so, most gaming platforms still have good porting, making their selection worth the price. Some games do not port well, so look into the specific games/platform to make sure that what you want to play will work just fine. If you do encounter an issue/bug while playing, you should submit a support ticket to the cloud gaming service provider you are using.
Q: How good is cloud gaming video quality?
A: If you have a high-quality, high-bandwidth internet connection, you should not run into any video issues. However, some of the cloud gaming services like Stadia can reach 4K video quality rates. As such, they may create some bandwidth issues if you are not using a high-speed/high-bandwidth connection.
The servers that host these games are well-built, high-end systems that are extremely expensive and designed to handle the most resource-intensive games without sacrificing performance. Even running games like Witcher 3 at the max settings will still run perfectly on their servers!
The biggest concern is video compression. No matter what platform you use (i.e. YouTube, Netflix, Stadia), they are dealing with video compression on some level. Depending on your internet connection, you may be “forced” into a specific video quality rate (sometimes as low as 480p). For this reason, cloud gaming services request that you use a high-quality, high-bandwidth connection before signing up with them. Slower internet connections will affect your video quality and overall gaming experience.
Q: What are the computer requirements to use a cloud gaming service?
A: Using a cloud gaming service provider, you basically remove the need for having a high-powered gaming PC. In fact, you can play games using your phone and/or tablet, even streaming titles like Overwatch and Titanfall (that would not be possible on just your phone/tablet).
Basically, cloud gaming services remove the need for a high-powered computer because they handle all of the hard work. Essentially, you are playing on their computer systems while watching a stream of the video on your side. Since gaming PCs can easily break into the $5,000+ range, it makes a lot of sense to sidestep that by using a cloud gaming service provider like Vortex, Shadow, or Stadia.
Q: Is there a lag with cloud gaming services?
A: Yes, there is a small amount of lag with any cloud gaming service. For the most part, this will not affect your gameplay for most of the gaming titles.
However, a high ping rate (on your side) will create issues with certain gaming titles, especially titles that require a high level of activity (i.e. FPS). When playing a game like Overwatch, you could easily die before the “lag” caught up with your computer/internet connection; this can be very frustrating for highly-competitive individuals.
Q: Are there enough games for gamers to enjoy using cloud gaming services?
A: So, this depends on the individual and their gaming needs/desires. Most gamers have a core of games that they prefer to play, not willing to deviate from this core set. Most of the popular gaming titles like GTA V or Fortnite will be available on most any cloud gaming service platform. However, some less popular titles might only be available on some of the providers (if at all).
Almost all of the cloud gaming service providers on our list offer hundreds of games to choose from. Of course, these are all considered popular and in high demand. Smaller titles and indie games generally will not be available on any of these services (supply/demand). Whether the variety is enough depends totally on what you want to play.
If you like playing a lot of new and/or popular games, then this is a great opportunity to save some cash while enjoying some of the most desired games without spending a ton. So, yes there are enough games for games to play – the question is, do you play something that is available on their platform or not.
Q: What type of games are available through a cloud gaming service?
A: Again, cloud gaming services focus on popular titles like Fortnite, Rust, Rocket League, Half-Life 2, Overwatch, Stardew Valley, and more. Cloud gaming service providers like Vortex and Shadow will give you a list of their supported titles. You can browse through all of their games to see if they offer the games that you want to play.
The reason that cloud gaming service providers focus on popular titles is that it is easier to work with major developers and distributors and because it is easier to draw an audience (how they make their money) when using highly sought-after game titles.
If you like to play new releases and popular games, then a cloud gaming service subscription makes a ton of sense. Again, you can only play the games that the service provider has access to – which can be frustrating if they do not release it on their platform. Under no circumstance will you be able to play a game that is not listed on their platform using their service.
Q: How do you play games on a cloud gaming service?
A: Once you have an account with a cloud gaming service, you immediately gain access to their gaming library. From there, you would select the game that you want to play. After a few moments, a loading dialog would appear and then you would gain access to the game as though it were stored on your computer locally.
You will need to make sure that your device has a screen, an internet connection, and a mouse/keyboard device of some type. Once connected, it is a matter of learning the controls and mastering them. In fact, you could even use a phone or tablet to play your game, giving you access to games while on-the-go (something not available most of the time).
Q: Do you have to own the games or are they free?
A: Even though you are a subscriber, most of the games on the cloud gaming service platform will require a one-time fee and/or subscription to play. There are some games that do not require this, but they generally are not as popular. If a game requires a subscription, the platform will let you know and explain what you need to do in order to gain access to the game.
For instance, if you purchase Cyberpunk 2077 on its release, but you do not have a computer that will meet the gaming requirements, you could use Vortex or Shadow to play it instead. Again, they play the game on their server and you stream the video; it is still your gaming subscription that is being used. All that is different is you do not own the computer that is playing the game; you own everything else.
Q: Do you need a good internet connection?
A: Absolutely! You will need a stable, reliable, and consistent internet connection with a low ping-rate and a low jitter-rate. Cloud gaming services rely solely on your internet connection more than anything else. While you do not need high-end gaming equipment, you do need a fast, dependable internet connection.
Spotty and/or poor internet connections will result in higher ping-rates and jitter-rates; this can cause the gameplay to be unenjoyable and/or impossible. Without a good internet connection, you might not even be able to log into the remote server (the cloud gaming platform) to play the games.
Again, cloud gaming service providers are just like Netflix, YouTube, and/or Spotify. When your internet connection slows down or stops working, these services stutter and/or stop working. If they do not stop, they can begin buffering or reducing frame rates and/or video quality, affecting your level of enjoyment.
Q: How do these services handle upgrades and updates?
A: Cloud gaming services are constantly dealing with hardware upgrades in order to maintain their speed and equipment. Doing this ensures you have a pleasant gaming experience, no matter what game you decide to play. As such, you can expect an enjoyable experience, even during their upgrades/updates.
Updates depend more on the game itself. Of course, they try to keep all of the games on their system updated, but some developers do take their time when it comes to updates (especially for porting). Even so, most games will be updated rather quickly depending on the gaming provider.
Q: Will cloud gaming services replace local gaming?
A: Cloud gaming services are certainly on the rise; there is no denying that. Plus, they are making gaming accessible and portable while increasing your options and opportunities for numerous gaming titles.
However, they are never going to replace local gaming. Due to the nature of gaming and cloud services, with everything belonging to the cloud, a lot of gamers are going to stick with the services they currently have.
Many are going to use cloud services while still keeping a personal gaming computer or console. As cloud gaming services offer greater portability, it is a perfect gaming companion. It will not replace anything, but it will likely grow alongside gaming and give gamers the chance to play their favorite titles wherever they go.
As you can see, there are several great options when it comes to cloud gaming. These are the best ones that we could find. Some are ultra-new whereas some have been around for a little bit. Depending on your needs, we are sure that the cloud gaming service you need is listed above.
So, did you find a cloud gaming service that piqued your interest? Let us know!