Far often, we are left asking ourselves what the future of gaming might be.
Now, it’s not like there haven’t been attempts before at revolutionizing one of the highest-earning sources of entertainment in the history of mankind; with stature, revolution is a paltry formality.
Initially, we moved from 2D images to 3D, followed by the concept of virtual reality allowing further immersion into a non-existent space.
But that was all about the nature of video games, and what they might be moving forward, but what about the final product that we enjoy?
It has long been established that gaming is a resource-intensive task that needs a lot of processing and graphical power to fully realize and deliver the experience that it promises.
Sony recently launched the greatest gaming product they have ever made in their claims, and today, even getting a console will cost you north of $500, all things considered. And we’re not even going to talk about the enthusiast PC market.
Enter cloud gaming, the proposed solution to all of these problems. Simple, easy, and substantially less power-hungry, cloud gaming only requires the infrastructure that you have on hand to provide a service equal to your PS5s and RTX PCs.
The Netflix equivalent of gaming.
But how does it all work, is it worth your time and money? And what is the best service out there?
Let’s talk about it.
Here are the best cloud gaming services out there.
Best Cloud Gaming Services Right Now
1. Amazon Luna
- Economic plans
- 4K capability
- Wide library of games
- No ability to record gameplay
- Average controller
Starting with one of the biggest multinationals in the world, the now tech giant Amazon hopes to usher in a new era of gaming and entertainment consumption with their Luna game streaming service.
Launched in September 2020 with an initial price of $5.99 a month, Amazon wants to sell the idea of their signature convenience further unto you; without requiring long download times, the most expensive processing units, and for the paltry amount a month that we mentioned, the Luna simply requires you to connect their proprietary controller and simply start playing.
As far as prudence goes, this is a good offering, since most video game developers are moving towards an era of games as a service, Amazon can capitalize on their credibility and brand value to deliver on the promises of next-gen gaming without the big bucks.
What’s even better is that with their tie-up with Ubisoft, for $14.99 a month you get almost the entirety of the French giant’s massive library for a playing session right on your mobile device.
And that is where they divide their plans. The regular one offers streaming on up to two devices, 1080p 60fps performance on the latest titles such as GRID and Control with 4K upcoming, and the ability to play on your PC, Mac, Fire TV, or mobile device.
The controller costs you $50 and that is a fair amount, in line with most peripheral providers.
For the additional $10 you get all of the above and Ubisoft’s library access for unlimited hours.
One of the most affordable plans out there, Luna currently provides you with a list of over 100 games, displaying a wide variety of AAA and indie titles spanning multiple different genres from multiple different publishers.
Now, while the gameplay and the overall experience are generally smooth across all games that we tested, it has to be said that Wi-Fi congestion and the lack of a 5Ghz connection might cause performance to dip due to latency.
So, to truly take advantage of Luna’s capabilities, you need to make sure you have the above.
Lastly, same goes for input delay, Luna promises only 17 to 30 milliseconds of latency, but we recommend getting that 5Ghz modem.
Luna does have its own shortcomings, devoid of the classic dilemma of cloud gaming.
First of all, while the overall performance might be good, you might see considerable dips throughout your session if your screen is congested and has a lot going on, especially on a mobile device.
Second, the Luna does not, for now, offer you the ability to record the games that you play.
On most platforms, the ability to record clips is fast becoming a major selling point, and that is where the Luna misses out.
Third, the controller. It is rugged, and looks like it will last a while, but the button layout and the buttons themselves feel a little sluggish and not as snappy as some other offerings we’ve been used to.
It also feels smaller in size and if you have larger-sized mitts, you might want to consider other options.
Know more about Amazon Luna
2. PlayStation Now
- Great prices
- Stellar library of games
- PS4 level performance
- Minimal interface
- No social interaction
- Limited accessibility and availability
Not one to be left behind when it comes to innovation in the technological space, Sony has made its own efforts towards providing a cloud-based gaming service for users on their platform.
Now, since Sony has been in the business for long, they boast a first-party library that is a lot bigger in size and is already larger than most third-party libraries on its own.
So, in the content department, Sony definitely is providing strong competition for your time and money.
Along with that, the plans are strong here as well, with the separations being in three tiers, going from as little as $9.99 for a month all the way up to $60 for a year, with your monthly equivalent being $5.
This is incredibly competitive pricing and honestly very surprising coming from Sony.
The DualShock 5 controller, the one we all know and love, is still one of the best controllers ever made.
The material remains as soft as possible while still having the build quality of a tank and getting all of the distinct features that a DualShock is supposed to come with.
Economical features apart, there is not much else to say here other than the fact that you will have access to one of the biggest and best video game libraries on the planet, with diverse genres and quality across the board.
Again, the general performance is decent here and equals that of a PS4, but it largely depends on your connection.
If you want the 1080p 60fps output, you have to splurge on a 5Ghz modem, like we mentioned earlier.
There aren’t really many cons here, apart from the fact that the interface is pretty bare-bones.
You can’t really interact with friends, and there is always going to be the question of regional availability.
The service is not available in a lot of countries, and this is bound to improve as Sony sees the profit in the mode.
Get PlayStation Now now!
3. Microsoft xCloud
- Excellent pricing; market leading
- Multi-platform capabilities
- Entire Xbox library, at your disposal
- Limited availability
- No new games as of now
Of course, wherever Sony goes, Xbox is bound to compete for your money and attention.
And being latecomers to the scene, Microsoft has practically knocked it out of the park when it comes to gaming as a service mode of entertainment, with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
It is not only that you get access to Microsoft’s first-party and the generally huge third-party libraries that is their selling point, but there is a message that the American giant wants to send with their recent acquisition of Bethesda; they want to provide you with a mind-bending selection of games for a fair amount.
And they keep their promise. Not only does Sony’s and most other libraries at this level pale in comparison to the Xbox one, but the prices are some of the best that we’ve ever seen in the market.
Initially, Xbox has a deal where your purchase of Game Pass initially has you pay only a single dollar for the initial three months that you will be using it, with full cloud gaming support.
That kind of pricing helps the newcomer get adjusted to the ecosystem and absolutely blows all competition out of the water.
On top of that, the Xbox ecosystem goes perfectly well with a PC (no surprises there) and is perfectly capable of syncing up with an Android or iOS device if you feel the need to take your gaming session on to your phone.
They call this their xCloud service, and we are really excited with the open beta on the floor.
And on the surface level, it doesn’t really look like Microsoft has any cons here. The interface is simple and smooth, the selection of games only lacks platform exclusives from the blue side, and the pricing is the best out of all services.
Depending on your connection, you can get some serious gaming done, and portably too.
The only thing that we are still being asked to wait for is widespread regional availability, and that is sure to come with new announcements from Microsoft coming soon.
Still in the beta phase, find out more!
4. NVIDIA GeForce Now
- Available for free/ stable pricing
- RTX support
- Only available for PC for now
- Abysmal marketing
Quite unsurprisingly, the GPU manufacturer with over half of the graphics card market has a game streaming of their own.
Really, the amount of developers using NVIDIA tech to help them get those photorealistic visuals is staggering if looked at carefully, and this is a step that the gargantuan company was bound to take.
Starting things off, GeForce Now is much like NVIDIA’s other offerings like ShadowPlay and GeForce Experience; simple, straightforward, and clearly defined programs aiming to provide clearly defined experiences.
At the same time, it is important to notice that it isn’t sufficiently pushed by the makers themselves. And whatever the reason might be, that is very poor marketing of an actually decent service.
Let’s break it down.
However, how GeForce Now works is not conventional to game streaming services at all. It taps into the existing library of games that it can verify that you own, and then proceeds to provide cloud access to them for you to play on your mobile device.
Of course, this comes with the caveat of limited availability and a hugely reduced library of games in comparison to some of the bigger and better players out there. Esoteric approaches only work if there is enough acceptance.
As for the pricing, GeForce Now is practically free….for about an hour a day.
But this is good, as you get to access your own library for free for an entire hour for you to decide whether or not you want to pay the $5 for their premium streaming plan, which includes cloud-based RTX support, anywhere you want it.
However, GeForce Now is different in more ways than one. It currently is only available on PC and serves as a sort of ‘external hardware’ for PCs that aren’t up to the mark in internal performance.
Despite providing a niche service in a mainstream market, NVIDIA seems to have found its footing and is on course to adding more games as they go on.
Given enough time, GeForce Now could be a force to reckon with. For now, we would direct you towards other services.
Know more about it here!
5. Google Stadia
- Consistently expanding library
- Console presentation
- 4K support
- Functional but sub-par controller
- Limited availability
- Relatively more expensive to enter the ecosystem
When Google announced a cloud gaming service, the way in which they did seemed a lot like a throwaway experiment that they were conducting to see where the entire thing goes, and what the industry is going.
To nobody’s surprise, a lot of people have now adopted Stadia as their go-to portable gaming solution, and for good reason, too.
Having taken the market by storm since release, Stadia has established itself as one of the major upcoming platforms in gaming and is very much here to stay.
With clearly established goals and purpose in mind, Stadia is excellent for those either on a budget, not looking to spend upwards of $500 on a gaming device, or for the casual gamers who just want to experience the full thing on the go anywhere they need.
For plans, Stadia has their normal version and Stadia Pro. For normal users, after the purchase of the game itself, Stadia is completely free.
Google promises no downloads and installs, and a very streamlined, feature-rich experience. But for $10 a month, you get 4K support, and access to free games every month.
As far as starting approaches go, this is a safe bet by Google that just so happened to find a definitive audience, who they can now target.
We have high hopes for Stadia and what it brings to the market is certainly in demand, a demand which will only continue to rise.
The only thing of concern is the hardware that Google provides. The controller is quite unimpressive, and while functional, well-built and decent enough to look at, it brings nothing to the table that we haven’t seen before. Similarly, the performance of Stadia will inherently depend on the performance of your internet connection, so you’ll probably want to have a word or two with your service provider to enjoy the full experience.
With an ever-expanding library and economical pricing, we would honestly recommend Stadia as a great option, even above some of the ones on our list.
Try Google Stadia here
- Best mobile streaming experience
- Some free premium games
- Competitively priced
- No free trial
- Game licenses needed for most games
- Difficult to use on PC/Browser
So far most of our options have come from previously established companies, Microsoft, Sony Google, etc.
There are some smaller companies trying to muscle their way into the competition. Vortex Gaming is one of these underdogs.
Each cloud gaming service tends to have a unique selling point. A corner of the niche they are trying to cover.
This is especially true for the smaller companies trying to gain market share. In hands-on testing, it becomes clear that Vortex is aiming for ease of use, especially among mobile gamers.
This approach makes sense. Consumers tend to be risk-averse and are easily intimidated by new technology. So is Vortex successful in making its service easy to use?
The mobile app is a dream. You can easily assign buttons on the fly and access any menus you need. The desktop and browser versions are a different story however.
It can be difficult to remap buttons and sometimes doing so can conflict with the system you’re playing on.
The most egregious example would be the use of Esc to break mouse sync. This is a huge problem when many games use Esc to pause the game.
Of course a game streaming service is only as good as the games you can play. With Vortex this largely depends on which subscription you choose.
The basic plan currently has a list of 76 games you can play. Much like Geforce Now you’ll require your own license to be able to play most of these games. Most of those not requiring a license is free to play online games.
The Pro and Ultra plans offer 154 games. With these plans you get a few “premium” games with their licenses thrown in but most big games will still require your own license.
Vortex is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive option on this list. There is no free trial. Instead the basic plan costs $10 and comes with “HD quality”, 50 hours a month playtime and the above-mentioned games.
Pro is just under $20 a month and ups playtime to 80 hours a month and 154 games. Finally, Ultra comes in at $30 and features 140 hours and 154 games.
It’s difficult to recommend Vortex Gaming unless your only use case is on a mobile device. Its PC and browser applications can feel downright broken and there are a lot of compatibility issues with some games.
Also, with something as unreliable as cloud gaming, the fact there is no free trial and basically, no refunds make Vortex a difficult sell.
Besides the excellent mobile app Vortex doesn’t really offer anything other services don’t already provide at more competitive prices.
- Great value yearly subscription
- Very low spec requirements
- Good and growing selection of games
- Still in beta
- Limited regional availability
Boosteroid is also new to the competition. So new in fact they are still in beta. They are a European-based company looking to take on the big firms from the USA and Asia.
Whilst not currently technically available in the USA (the servers are all based in Europe) this is set to change in the “near future”.
Since server performance issues like lag are largely tied to distance from servers we would suggest our American readers wait until Boosteroid expands into the States.
Boosteroid boasts that its special encryption and technology compression means you only need a stable 15mbps connection speed to play games. This is quite a bit lower than some of the competition.
Annoyingly Boosteroid is pretty obtuse. You need to sign up before you can see what tariffs they have available or even what games are playable.
There is no free option and there are only two price plans. €10 per month for “Start” or €50 for “Ultimate” yearly. The only difference here is the price. Ultimate has no other benefits.
The nice thing about Boosteroid, especially compared to Vortex, is once you’ve paid there are no limits to how long you can play.
If you like you can stream games 24/7. However much like other services most games require you to already own a license. Boosteroid doesn’t offer any included “premium” games besides some free to play options.
Once you’ve signed up you’ll be able to view the available games. Boosteroid doesn’t advertise how many games are available but there are a lot.
More are added monthly and you can even request games that aren’t featured yet.
Boosteroid has so far focused on streaming through web browsers but is now beginning to pursue app-based streaming as well. Both options work well and are easy to use.
However, the apps are still in beta so you might have the occasional technical difficulty.
All in all the most appealing thing about Boosteroid is the price. €50 a year makes it one of the cheapest options on this list. Much like Vortex they are focused on ease of use and the mobile market.
However everything seems to be perpetually in beta and availability is limited. Because of this, we would warn against the year subscription until services are a little more stable. Boosteroid is definitely one to watch in the coming months.
Can’t wait to give Boosteroid a test run? Try it out here.
Now, as far as accessibility and portability is concerned, cloud gaming definitely does look like the future, and companies are certainly on their way to providing a brilliant service no matter what platform you decide to consume your entertainment from.
The burgeoning game streaming industry can be considered to have gained a full head of steam, and with more and more games requiring the latest 3080s and over half a hard drive of space to install, the competition that allows you to forego all of these restrictions is always going to have a place in the market.
Economically speaking, we can confidently say that there are much worse ways to spend your casual gaming hours.