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This app lets you play PC games on your Android phone

This is the easiest way to locally play PC games on your phone, but there are several limitations.
By

Published onAugust 4, 2023

Winlator app with Far Cry 2 and controller edit
TL;DR
  • A new app called Winlator allows you to play some PC games on your Android phone.
  • We tested a variety of games, but few are playable in our experience.
  • You should wait for the upcoming Cassia app, which promises an improved experience.

We’ve seen several projects to get Windows and/or Windows games running on Android phones. But between performance issues, general incompatibility, and a steep learning curve, there are plenty of hurdles in the way.

Now, an app called Winlator has recently launched, promising to take some of the legwork out of trying Windows games on Android.

It’s worth noting that Winlator is effectively a collection of existing apps and tools wrapped up in a user-friendly interface. These tools include Box (which lets you run x86 programs on Arm devices) and Wine (which lets you run Windows apps on Linux). Come to think of it, BoxWine would’ve been a great name. Anyway, the installation process and UI represent a major improvement over similar solutions like Box4Droid, which require the use of terminal commands.

Setting up Winlator is pretty easy, as you install the app and then copy a supplied file to a specific directory on your phone. From here, you start the app and set up a container (choosing the display resolution, drivers, etc). The app also defaults to accessing your Downloads folder, so you can place all your (legally acquired) games in a folder here.

Is it worth using, though?

I’ve tried about nine or 10 PC games, with varying levels of success. Many of these games required resolution adjustments and/or driver tweaks to run — if they even ran at all. Most titles wouldn’t run at all or would crash before entering gameplay, although I’m sure tweaks could help in a few cases.

As for the games that actually ran, Deus Ex ran with mostly smooth performance, Hitman 2 offered a variable but playable frame rate, and Undertale was mostly playable but dipped into slideshow territory ever so often. I was also able to start the intro of Far Cry 2 (albeit with a frame rate in the teens) before the game crashed a few minutes in. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time also booted up but with severe graphical glitches during gameplay. Some users have also reported success running titles like Trackmania Nations Forever and Gothic.

Winlator is easy to setup and use, but performance and compatibility isn't great.

Nevertheless, it’s clear you shouldn’t get your hopes up if you want to play demanding PC games released in the last decade or so. So don’t even think about installing Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3, or Control via this app.

Complicating matters is the fact that, much like other Android utilities in this regard (e.g. Box4Droid), Winlator doesn’t seem to play nicely with the latest Snapdragon chipsets (e.g. Snapdragon chips with Adreno 7xx GPUs). So you might want to dig out your older flagship phone instead if you’ve got one.

Are there other solutions?

This won’t be the last time we hear of an app to play PC games on Android, though. Two of the developers behind the since-shuttered Skyline emulator are working on the free Cassia app. This will allow users to play Windows games (DirectX8 and higher) on their smartphones, while also promising to address current challenges. So it’s worth waiting for this app to launch in the yet-to-be-determined future if you want a more polished experience or if you’re simply not comfortable installing some unknown app off Github.

It’s also worth noting that some older PC games also received official Android ports or releases on consoles like the PS2 and GameCube. So you can either buy these titles officially or run them via emulators on Android.

Finally, it must be said that Steam Link is available for in-home PC game streaming, while GeForce Now offers full-fledged game streaming too. So these options are worth exploring too.