Smartphone gaming doesn’t come close to reaching the levels of the PC or console. Things are always improving though, especially as hand-held devices get more and more powerful. But even with the best devices, there are still quite a few games that I’d love to play on a bigger screen, with a keyboard and mouse or a controller. Basically, I want to play Android games on PC. Luckily, there are ways to do it.
The best way to run an Android game on your PC is to use an emulator. While the options are somewhat limited, one in particular stands out — BlueStacks 3. Let’s jump in and take a look at how to use it to play Android games on PC.
Note: The system I use comes with a 6th Gen. Intel Core i5 processor, Intel HD graphics, 8 GB of RAM, a 14-inch Full HD display, with VT-x (more below) enabled, and running Windows 10. Performance may vary based on your system configuration.
Installing BlueStacks is a very simple process. All you have to do is download the program from the BlueStacks website and run the file. The installer file is quite large and the engine setup may take awhile.
Once the initial installation process is done, opening the program doesn’t take more than a few seconds. when it opens, you will be asked to sign in using a Google account like any Android smartphone or tablet.
During the installation process, you may come across error messages like “Hardware acceleration is not available on your system” or “This host supports Intel VT-x, but it is disabled.” Enabling hardware acceleration features help virtualization apps run smoother and much faster — apps like Bluestacks are basically running an entire OS on top of your current system. You can find out how to enable virtualization on your PC here.
The BlueStacks App Center features a robust collection of games divided into several categories or “Collections”— like strategy, casual, action, card games, and RPGs. You can browse through the top charts of the trending, most popular, and highest grossing games available, as well as scroll through a long list of recommended games. A search box lets you find specific games.
If you are more comfortable looking for apps and games on the Google Play Store, you can do that as well. Go to the My Apps tab and open the System Apps folder. Launch the Play Store and you will be able to download and install games, or any app for that matter, the way you would on your smartphone or tablet.
Performance and features
To test gaming performance, I played Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 5, and Riptide GP: Renegade. These are all relatively high-performance games, and it was great to see that BlueStacks handled all of them with ease. There was the occasional dropped frame with Asphalt 8 and MC5, but the performance was especially impressive with Riptide GP. It was a lot of fun using a keyboard to control the games, too.
While there was no negative impact on performance, my laptop got uncomfortably warm after keeping BlueStacks running for about an hour, and the battery drain was quite significant. Of course, that’s how it goes on smartphones when playing graphic-intensive games for a long time, too, but I wasn’t used to it happening on my PC.
BlueStacks offers quite a few features and customization options to further enhance your gaming experience. In the Settings section, you can set the resolution anywhere from 720p to Quad HD and set the dpi to high or low. And button mapping lets you set up the keyboard the way you like it.
You can also run multiple instances of BlueStacks to let you use different Google accounts or use various apps simultaneously. You are even able to switch to a completely full-screen mode when playing a game, a surprisingly rare feature in other emulators I tested. More advanced settings also include being able to choose how many CPU cores and how much RAM is being allocated for BlueStacks to run.
There aren’t many Android emulation options available for the PC, especially with a focus on gaming, and after testing a few I found BlueStacks to be the best choice if you want to play Android games on PC. It ticks all the right boxes and is the most well-rounded emulator out there. There is definitely a learning curve, but its beginner’s guide and help center make it much easier to figure things out. If being able to play Android games on PC is what you’re looking for, BlueStacks is one of the best ways to go.
If you are looking for more options, don’t forget to check out our roundup of the 15 best Android emulators for the PC!