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Mobile games have nothing to do with PC – it’s hard to beat the massive library of games available on desktop. However, at the end of a long day, it’s hard to sit down at a desk when the sofa is so inviting. With the right app, you can play PC games on your TV. But what about the mobile device? This is where applications such as Steam Link, Moonlight and AMD Link come to the rescue.
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With all these options available, you are spoiled for choice. Steam Link works well and is platform independent, while Moonlight has some extra settings, especially when it comes to controls. (It doesn’t support rumble like Steam Link does, though.) AMD Link, meanwhile, has some good quality settings, but it’s a little trickier in my experience.
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These apps allow you to play using on-screen touch controls, but as any mobile gamer can tell you, touch controls are rarely perfect. You will have a much better experience if you play with a dedicated gamepad. Any Bluetoothgamer controller should work just fine. Pair it with your iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth settings like any other wireless accessory.
Otherwise, you can use an Apple-certified controller designed for iPhoneMFi (opens in a new window) for your iPhone or iPad. Android users can use a wired controller, such as an old-fashioned Xbox 360, by plugging it into a USB OTG cable (either Micro USB (opens in a new window) or USB-C (opens in a new window)) and connecting to the device.
Personally, I highly recommend a Gamevice controller (opens in a new window). It plugs directly into your device and turns it into a Nintendo Switch-like game console. Check the Gamevice website for a controller compatible with your device. Razer Kishi is also developed in partnership with Gamevice.
The Steam Link app (opens in a new window) is remarkably easy to set up on iOS (opens in a new window) and Android (opens in a new window), as long as your mobile device is on the same network as your PC. When you run it for the first time, it will scan your network for PCs running Steam and present a list of them.
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Click on your computer and you will get a 4-digit PIN on your phone. Type this PIN into the popup that appears in Steam on your computer to start the connection. It will test the network to make sure it’s fast enough, then send you to the home page.
From there, click Start to start broadcasting in Big Picture mode from your computer. Your phone will then mirror everything that appears in Steam on your PC. Now just choose a game from your library and start playing. You can even invite friends for a multiplayer game via the Remote Play Together feature.
If you want to go to Settings, you can do so from the Steam Link homepage. I recommend going to the Streaming section, where you can change the video quality to Fast if the network is a bit choppy, or Good if you have the bandwidth for better graphics, and also change some advanced settings.
If you click the More button at the bottom, you’ll get other settings, such as the screen that will appear when you launch Steam, the resolution you want to play at, and more.
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Pay close attention to the pop-ups Steam gives you about commands — many controllers in iOS, for example, tend not to have clickable sticks, so you’ll have to press Menu + X and Menu + Y. It’s a little weird, but it’s Working.
Moonlight (Opens in new window) is an open source app for iOS (Opens in new window), Android (Opens in new window), Chrome (Opens in new window) Nvidia reverse engineered GameStream (Opens in new window) . new window), allowing you to stream games to almost any device (instead of just the officially supported Nvidia Shield). An Nvidia card is required on the computer.
If you decide to use Moonlight, make sure that you have the latest version of Nvidia GeForce Experience installed on your computer. Open the GeForce Experience window, click the Settings button and the Shield tab. Switch the GameStream switch to the on position.
Then hop on your phone or tablet and download Moonlight. When the application starts, it should display a list of GameStream compatible computers on the network. Click the one you want, or click Add host and enter your computer’s IP address if it doesn’t appear automatically.
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Moonlight will provide you with a PIN, which you will need to enter in the pop-up that appears on your computer. Click Connect to see the list of games on your device that are ready to stream. If you click one, it should start playing right on your device, with full gamepad support if you have a compatible device connected or paired.
If you don’t see the game you want, open GeForce Experience on your computer, go back to Settings > Shield and click the Add button to manually add a game to GeForce Experience, it should appear in Moonlight when you restart. You can also customize the name and image by clicking Edit in GeForce Experience if you want it to look nice.
Normally that’s all it takes to get it up and running, but if you want the best possible experience, you’ll probably want to tweak a few settings. Moonlight has a lot more settings on Android than iOS, but most users should at least tweak their resolution and frame rate goals: 1080p at 60Hz is ideal for best graphics and smooth playback, but if your streaming is choppy it drops at 720p Or 30 Hz might help.
I also recommend adjusting the controls to the screen you see. Not all gamepads will have L3 and R3 buttons, so setting the onscreen controls to “Auto” (iOS) or “Show L3 and R3 only” (on Android) will only give you touch buttons for those functions.
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If you are experiencing other issues while streaming, there may be a solution, such as turning off the firewall or changing some other Android settings. See the Moonlight setup guide (opens in a new window) and troubleshooting page (opens in a new window) for more. The setup page also contains instructions for streaming online, though your mileage may vary depending on your internet speed. Network streaming will definitely produce the best results.
If you have a Radeon graphics card, you can turn to AMD Link (opens in a new window). Essentially, Radeon Settings is used to connect an iOS device (opens in a new window) or Android device (opens in a new window) to your Radeon-based computer via a QR code. From there, you can tweak performance and quality settings, up to a maximum of 1080p and 60fps.
This service is much more versatile than Steam Link or Moonlight, as it can turn your mobile device into a secondary screen for easy monitoring and capture posts. You can also stream more than just Steam games, connect with other players for co-op games, and even work with other computers.
I recommend starting with Steam Link. In my testing, it was a pleasant experience for most games, though a few had quirks (like a black screen). If you are experiencing issues or missing features, try Moonlight or AMD Link. Graphics and streaming were comparable in my tests, but it will depend greatly on your hardware and network quality.
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It’s also worth noting that streaming technology is still fairly new and won’t be perfect. Even if your network is relatively fast, streaming performance may be spotty or completely unusable. You might also get a popup sound here and there, and your graphics will be a little blurry than if you were playing on PC.
Remember that network reliability is just as important as the speed factor, and having a wired connection to your computer can often make a huge difference. You can get better results by limiting network traffic, so tell your roommate to stop watching Netflix while you’re trying to stream games.
It may take a little work to get things working, but it’s hard to beat playing Tomb Raider from anywhere in the house.
If you don’t need to stream Steam games or PC games in general, there are alternatives available. If you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you also get access to Xbox Cloud Gaming functionality, which lets you stream Xbox games directly to your mobile device.
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Remote Play features, which allow you to connect your mobile device directly to a game console, are also available for Xbox and PlayStation. Similar to the above solutions, you will then be able to play Xbox and PlayStation games on your phone using the touchscreen controls.
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Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech geek who has been building computers for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get greasy on the mechanical keyboard. One of the best things that smartphones have to offer
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