Game streaming services are all the rage at the moment, providing gamers with a way to instantly stream a library of games from PCs, Macs and mobile devices via the internet. But while the idea of streaming games to your phone sounds appealing, there’s more to it than that; not all game streaming services are created equal, and the offering can vary wildly between the various services.
But that’s where we at Tech Advisor come in; we’ve been using the various game streaming services available in 2020, and here’s where we showcase our favourites, along with buying advice to help you make the right choice for your gaming needs.
Game streaming service buying advice
Before we get into our selection of the best game streaming services available right now, let’s first discuss what you should consider before subscribing.
Types of streaming service
As it stands, there are two types of streaming service available right now: one type provides a range of games for you to stream, like PlayStation Now, while the other provides the tech to stream games that you already own, like GeForce Now and Shadow.
You need to consider what you want out of your streaming service. If you’ve already got a large collection of PC games, but your computer just isn’t up to scratch anymore, a service that provides a way to play existing games like Shadow or GeForce Now would be ideal. But if you’re new to the world of gaming, a service that provides a large library of on-demand games (like PS Now) would be better.
With any kind of streaming service, internet connectivity is key, but it’s more crucial when streaming games than when streaming movies on Netflix. This is due to how game streaming works; the games are rendered remotely at datacentres and streamed to your PC, with your input sent back to the servers in real-time.
If you’ve got a sub-par internet connection, chances are you’ll experience severe input lag that makes games virtually unplayable. The minimum requirements vary between streaming services, so do your research and run a speed test on your home network to see which is best for your needs.
For those with slow internet speeds, why not consider a game subscription service instead? It may take longer to access the games initially, but it’s certainly better than dealing with streaming issues.
While this may seem fairly obvious, it’s always worth mentioning; make sure your platform of choice is supported by the streaming service you subscribe to. Most offer PC support as standard, but depending on the service, you might also be able to stream your favourite games on Macs, tablets, smartphones and even TVs.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re a PS4 player, you’re limited to PlayStation Now, the only game streaming service available on Sony’s console. If you were looking for an Xbox-compatible streaming service, you’re out of luck – for now, at least – as there’s no Microsoft equivalent currently available.
Best game streaming services of 2020
Nvidia GeForce Now
Nvidia’s GeForce Now is arguably the best-value game streaming service on the market right now because it’s completely free to use – while it’s in beta testing, anyway. But unlike PlayStation Now, which provides a library of games to play, Nvidia’s game streaming service provides the capabilities to stream games that you already own on the likes of Steam, UPlay and other PC-based stores.
A library of just over 200 games are pre-installed on Nvidia’s servers and available for instant streaming not only on PC, but Mac and Nvidia’s Shield TV too. The games are rendered remotely using Nvidia’s own GeForce GPUs for the best possible quality and, for those with a fast-enough internet connection, there’s an Ultra Streaming Mode that increases framerate from 60 to 120fps.
For more information, take a look at our Nvidia GeForce Now explainer.
While many game streaming services are relatively new, Sony’s PlayStation Now service launched way back in 2014, and aside from boasting a library of over 600 PlayStation titles to play, it’s the only way to play PlayStation games on a PC. Yes, that’s right, PlayStation Now is available not only on PS4 but PC too, allowing you to stream your favourite PS4, PS3 and PS2 games on practically any Windows-based PC or laptop (with a 5mbps internet connection or faster).
The library consists of over 250 PS4 titles, along with over 350 classic PS2 and PS3 titles like Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands and The Last of Us. While streaming is primarily how the service works, you can also download games onto your PS4 to play offline, access higher resolutions (up to 4K on PS4 Pro) and experience 5.1 surround sound.
Is PS Now worth it? We think so.
Shadow differs from other streaming services in our roundup because it doesn’t just provide access to a select library of games. Instead, Shadow provides the entire Windows 10 experience, allowing you to install any game or launcher that you want, and tweak your settings as you would if you were playing a game on your PC.
Shadow’s infrastructure is impressive too; it runs on professional graphics cards that deliver the same performance as Nvidia’s GTX 1080, along with 12GB of RAM, and incredible 1Gb/s download speeds that allows you to download huge games in a matter of minutes. If your internet connection is up to scratch, you can stream games up to 144Hz in 1080p, or 60Hz at 4K, with no noticeable lag. There are also apps available for not only PC and Mac, but iOS, Android and even Ubuntu.
It’s admittedly pricey at £26.50 per month, but with what’s on offer, we think it’s worth it – it’s certainly cheaper than buying a gaming PC with similar specs! Check out our review of the Shadow Ghost, the optional hardware component of the service, to find out more about the service.
While most other entrants in our chart are PC or console-based game streaming services, Hatch aims to look after the mobile gamers. The game streaming service offers a range of 100+ highly-rated mobile games, including Leo's Fortune, Monument Valley, Crashlands and Hitman GO, available to stream instantly. As well as playing games whenever you fancy, you can also join casual eSports tournaments and go up against friends and other mobile gamers around the world to compete for real prizes.
The streaming service works surprisingly well too, with little-to-no difference in terms of graphics or gameplay, and brings the high-end mobile gaming experience to those without a high-end smartphone.
The only limitation right now is that the game streaming service has been built with 5G in mind, so you'll need a decent internet connection to stream the library of games on offer. We've tried it on 4G with middling results, so unless you're an early adopter of 5G, chances are you'll only be using it when connected to Wi-Fi - until the wider 5G rollout, anyway.
Interested? Take a look at it on Google Play right now.
While it’s not available just yet, Google Stadia looks to be one of the most exciting game streaming services when it launches later this year. It’s tied in very heavily with YouTube, and dedicated buttons will let you go from watching a game trailer to playing the game in just over five seconds.
There’s incredibly powerful tech powering the experience, allowing you to stream at up to [email protected] on any PC or Mac running Chrome, as well as being able to play via your tablet, smartphone and Chromecast-enabled TV. Google has also confirmed that in addition to the premium service, the company will launch a free version of Stadia (capped at 1080p) at some point in 2020.
Check out the latest Google Stadia news for more details about the upcoming service.