Top 7 major cloud gaming platforms explained

Cloud gaming, also referred to as game streaming or cloud streaming, is a gaming concept where players remotely connect to a virtual PC via a cloud gaming application or web browser to play games. It is comparable to streaming movies on Netflix but for gaming. Unlike traditional gaming on a local device such as a PS5, Xbox Series X, or laptop, cloud gaming eliminates the need for hardware, cables, game installations, downloads, and firmware updates.

Currently, there is no standardized subscription model for cloud gaming, which is why we have compiled a list of popular cloud gaming platforms that detail their cost, features, and game availability. So, whether you prefer to buy games individually or want access to a vast library of games, there is a cloud gaming platform available that can meet your needs.

What do I need for cloud gaming?

To ensure optimal performance when playing games through cloud gaming, we suggest utilizing a wired (Ethernet) connection with a download speed of at least 50Mbps. While a wireless connection such as 5.0GHz, 4G LTE, or 5G can also work, a wired connection is preferable to ensure a stable connection.

Many cloud gaming platforms state that a minimum of 15-25Mbps is sufficient, depending on the resolution settings. However, if there are multiple users on the same internet connection, more total bandwidth may be required to maintain a consistent connection. Aside from an internet connection, you will need a device capable of streaming video, such as a Chromebook or tablet, and a few peripherals, such as a mouse or game controller. We do not recommend using touch controls on mobile devices as their implementation can be unreliable.

There are also specific hardware requirements that your device must meet to handle video streaming, such as a fast enough processor, graphics card, and sufficient memory. It is recommended to check the hardware requirements of the specific cloud gaming service to determine if your device can support cloud gaming.

In summary, cloud gaming is a convenient way to eliminate technical difficulties and save money on hardware. You don’t need bulky game consoles or worry about purchasing a used GPU that might not last. Additionally, most cloud gaming platforms can be installed on new Samsung TVs like the S95B OLED via firmware update through Samsung’s Gaming Hub.

Nvidia GeForce Now

cloud gaming
Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

GeForce Now is a top-rated cloud gaming service due to its expansive library of compatible games and broad platform compatibility. Unlike many other cloud gaming services, GeForce Now does not operate as a virtual storefront. Instead, users purchase games separately through Steam, Epic, GOG, or Ubisoft Connect and then sync them with their GeForce Now account. This approach allows users to maintain access to their games even if they decide to stop using the service.

Nvidia offers three different levels of service, namely Free, Priority, and RTX 3080. The Free tier provides access to a “basic rig” or remote PC without ray-tracing capabilities. Users on this tier get limited to one hour of playtime and may have to queue up to access servers after being kicked out. Upgrading to the Priority tier costs $10 per month ($50 for six months). It includes access to a ray-tracing-compatible PC, priority access to servers, no queue waiting, and a six-hour session length with no interruptions. In addition, this tier guarantees at least 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution. For $20 per month ($100 for six months), users can access the RTX 3080 tier.

This level grants access to dedicated servers equipped with some of the best Nvidia graphics cards, which translates to better ray-traced graphics and higher frame rates. Users on this tier enjoy an eight-hour session length with no interruptions and can achieve up to 120fps at 4K resolution, depending on the game and device used. This level currently supports 120fps at 4K on Nvidia Shield, Samsung Gaming Hub, Windows, macOS, and Android mobile devices with a 120Hz refresh rate.

If you’re new to cloud gaming or GeForce Now, it’s best to start with the Free tier to test your internet connection’s capabilities. In our previous tests, users who live in metropolitan areas near Nvidia servers and have ample internet bandwidth can play Cyberpunk 2077 with the highest graphics settings on a 4K TV without worrying about input lag. Additionally, GeForce Now is the only cloud gaming service that provides ray-tracing capabilities.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

cloud gaming
Credit: 343 Industries / Screenshot from “Halo: The Master Chief Collection.”

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is one of the best cloud gaming services available today. To access cloud gaming, you must subscribe to the top-tier plan for $15 per month, which includes exclusive discounts on Xbox and PC games, as well as free games, provided you maintain an active subscription. Microsoft currently offers the first three months of the service for just $1, making it an excellent opportunity to give Xbox cloud gaming a try.

Xbox cloud gaming is accessible on a wide range of devices, platforms, and internet browsers, including the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One. This platform offers access to big-name games from developers such as Bethesda that are not available on GeForce Now, even though they can be purchased on Steam. However, some games, like the Fable series, are only available for direct download to your Xbox console, and you’ll lose access to them if you cancel your subscription.

One significant difference between Xbox cloud gaming and GeForce Now is that not all cloud games can be purchased separately for local PC play. In addition, Xbox cloud gaming offers 1080p at 60fps across all devices, which is a step behind other cloud gaming platforms. Still, if you’re using an Xbox console, you can upscale the resolution to 4K, leading to decreased input latency, as we observed during our testing.

PlayStation Plus Premium

cloud gaming
Credit: Konami / Artwork for “Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.”

Sony’s answer to Xbox Game Pass is PlayStation Plus, which offers both PS Plus and PS Now (cloud gaming) services. Previously, these services were separate subscriptions, but Sony has recently combined them into one program to make it less cumbersome for users. To get access to cloud gaming, you’ll need to subscribe to the top-tier Premium plan, which costs $18 per month, $50 for three months, or $120 for a year. This plan offers the same perks as the lower tiers but also lets you play PlayStation games on your Windows PC. However, PlayStation Plus is quite limited compared to Xbox Game Pass.

Currently, it does not support Android, iOS, iPadOS, or macOS, and you cannot play games on a PC from your internet browser. Instead, you need to download a standalone app to your Windows PC to play PS games in the cloud. While standalone cloud gaming apps tend to be more stable than programs that run from your browser, it would be nice to have the same options as GeForce Now and Xbox. (Hopefully, this is something PlayStation changes soon.)

With the PlayStation Plus Ultimate subscription, you can access hundreds of classic games from the PS, PS2, PS3, PS4, and PSP console generations, as well as free demos of modern games so you can try them before you buy. However, like Xbox, PS Plus only supports 1080p at 60fps, so you’ll need to upscale to 4K from your supported PS console if you’re using your TV to play the game.

Google Stadia

cloud gaming
Credit: Google

On 9/29/22, Google made an announcement that it would be shutting down Stadia completely by January 18, 2023. Google Stadia offers a distinctive approach to cloud gaming, with a smaller selection of games compared to other major platforms. However, it differs from Xbox and PlayStation services in that you don’t require a subscription to use Stadia. Instead, it is both a virtual store and an optional subscription service that costs $10 per month. Stadia also works on a wide range of devices, including the Chrome browser, the Stadia app, and Chromecast, making it accessible to everyone.

The process of setting up a free account is slightly complicated. You can sign up for the free 30-day Pro trial and then cancel your subscription before it expires. If you purchase individual games, they will remain in your library, but any games that you claim as part of the Pro subscription will be inaccessible until you renew your subscription for $10. Stadia also offers a 30-minute free trial to check if it works in your area.

However, a Pro subscription doesn’t provide unfettered access to all games. You still need to buy them separately, but Stadia has a decent selection of major games, such as Cyberpunk 2077, Control, and Red Dead Redemption 2.

Like GeForce Now, Stadia offers exclusive benefits to Pro subscribers, including 4K streaming on supported devices, HDR, and 5.1 Surround Sound. However, keep in mind that Stadia upscales the resolution to enhance gaming performance, and you won’t get native 4K like with GeForce Now.

Stadia supports several controllers from Xbox, PS5, Razer Kishi, and Backbone, but the Stadia Controller provides the best wireless experience. Although it uses Bluetooth during the setup process, it connects via Wi-Fi during your gaming session, reducing input latency and improving overall gaming performance in the cloud.

Amazon Luna

cloud gaming
Credit: Amazon

Amazon has recently made its cloud gaming service, Luna, accessible to all Amazon Prime subscribers for free. Luna is compatible with the same devices as Xbox Cloud gaming and GeForce Now, including Fire TV sticks and Fire tablets. The Luna controller connects via Wi-Fi, like the Stadia controller, and we recommend using it if you’re not gaming on a PC to minimize input lag. However, the free games are restricted to the Prime Gaming channel only. Luna doesn’t sell games separately or have subscription tiers but offers different channels that you can subscribe to and access all the games on that channel.

Amazon offers Luna+, Ubisoft+, Retro, Jackbox, and Family channels that you can subscribe to or unsubscribe from at any point. Luna+ costs $10 per month, Ubisoft+ $18 per month, Retro $5 per month, Jackbox $5 a month, and Family $6 per month, or a total of $44 per month if you subscribe to all the channels at the same time. This makes Luna the most expensive cloud gaming service on the list. Unfortunately, Luna’s streaming resolution is limited to 1080p, making it less valuable than other platforms.

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cloud gaming
Credit: Utomik

If you are searching for a cloud gaming platform that is focused on indie games, Utomik is a decent option. It is preinstalled on the Samsung Gaming Hub, and a TV app is also available for manual download. Additionally, versions for Android mobile and tablets are coming soon.

For a single user, the subscription costs $9 per month, while a multi-user household subscription, which can accommodate up to four people, costs $14 per month. In addition, Utomik offers a generous 14-day free trial, so you can try the service before committing to a monthly subscription. According to a review of Blue Fire via Utomik on a Samsung TV at the June 2022 Summer Game Fest, the service worked great.

Utomik supports streaming resolutions up to 1080p on TV and PC only, while it maxes out at 720p on mobile devices. Unfortunately, however, only 99 games out of its 1,350-game catalog are available to play in the cloud. Still, the base subscription gives you access to the remaining games so you can play them locally on your PC.

Unfortunately, Utomik cloud gaming is not yet widely available, and it is only accessible in the US, UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.


cloud gaming
Credit: Shadow

Shadow is a comprehensive PC ecosystem that offers more than just cloud gaming. For a monthly fee starting at $30, users can access a full Windows operating system, which enables them to do much more than simply play games on a virtual PC. This makes it an excellent alternative for those who require immediate access to a high-end computer but don’t have the funds to purchase one outright.

The platform is compatible with a wide range of devices, including Windows, macOS, Ubuntu (Linux), Android, and Apple phones, tablets, and TVs, as well as the Oculus Quest 1 and 2. In addition, users can install any software on Shadow that they can run on their home Windows PC.

The base rig comes with limited storage of only 256GB, but Shadow provides the option to purchase more storage in 256GB increments for an additional $3 per month. So, for example, if you need a rig with 1TB of storage, you would pay a total of $42 per month.

Starting in the summer of 2022, Shadow will offer an optional hardware upgrade for an additional $15 per month, which will allow users to play games with ray tracing enabled. This is also the recommended option for cloud gaming in 4K.

While Shadow is not ideal for those who only want to play games in the cloud, it is an excellent choice for those who require a virtual machine for resource-intensive tasks, such as gaming and creative work.


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