Yes, you can play Windows games on an M1 Mac using Parallels Desktop

Age of Empires, Overwatch and many other games play well. 

On an M1 Mac, operating systems in Parallels® Desktop virtual machines must be ARM-based operating systems, and this has led to many misconceptions. I have seen people make the following statements: 

Only ARM apps can run in an ARM operating system.” 

“Some Microsoft apps may run in an ARM OS, but no others will.” 

Both these statements are false

Even more false statements abound about Windows games. So, in this blog post I will set the record straight about games, and I will show you several Windows games running on an M1 MacBook Pro in a Windows 11 VM in Parallels Desktop 17. 

I won’t keep you waiting any longer: this short video shows four different Windows games running on an M1 Mac

I purposely made sure you could see the Mac desktop in the video, and included the launch of Parallels Desktop 17, the launch of Windows 11, and the launch of each game to emphasize the environment in which each game was running. To keep the video short, I only included enough game play so that you could see that the game was working fine. (Full disclosure: I also only included a small amount of game play so that you couldn’t see my poor game skills in some of the games!

Here are all the configuration details of the setup I used to make this video: 

Mac Windows Games M1 Mac
Parallels Desktop Windows Games M1 Mac
VM operating system 
Windows Games M1 Mac

Game versions Age of Empires II Definitive Edition,  version: 101.101.51737.0 7126076 

Overwatch version: 

Kingdom Run Frontiers version: kr2-desktop-5.4.07 

Ori and the Blind Forest Definitive Edition version: 5.3.29582331 

Here are some of the questions you might be asking: 

Do all games run in a Windows 11 VM? No, for many of the same reasons that all games don’t run on the Windows PC you bought last year: 

Will the game I want to play run in a Parallels Desktop VM? Unfortunately, there is no easy way to predict this with complete accuracy, but here is a loose guide you can follow: 

Does the game require DirectX 12? If so, then the game probably won’t run in a VM. 

Does the game require one of a few specific video cards? If so, then the game probably won’t run in a VM. 

Was the game released in the last few months? If so, the game may not run in a VM nor on the Windows PC you bought last year. 

Otherwise, it is likely that the game will run in a VM.  

Can I get a refund if the game I want to play doesn’t run or doesn’t play well in Parallels Desktop? Even better than a refund, you can test the game without any payment to either Parallels or Microsoft. There is a 14-day free, full-featured trial of Parallels Desktop 17. If you are using an M1 Mac, no payment is required to use the Insider Preview of Windows 10 on ARM or Windows 11 on ARM during this 14-day trial. (If you are using an Intel Mac, you already know that at first launch Parallels Desktop will offer to download Windows 10 for you.) If the game you want runs and plays well, then you can purchase both Parallels Desktop and Windows. 

I hope this sets the record straight about playing Windows games on an M1 Mac in Parallels Desktop. Please let us know in the Forums about your game play experience in Parallels Desktop – whether it is positive or negative, and on either an Intel Mac or an M1 Mac.