Today we’re going to review the five best alternatives to Google Stadia. While compiling this list, we made our best effort to keep the choices unique so that you’ll find the best gaming service that works best for you. But first, you should know a few important things that make your final decision easy.
Over the last several years, the advances made in the gaming industry have been extraordinary, offering the ability to stream games on nearly any device you own. While the concept of streaming games is nothing new, the strategies different companies employ to simplify this process can vary drastically, offering their own set of pros and cons. One of the younger and more popular choices, Google Stadia, has had its fair share of ups and downs in the market. Stadia offers both – a free tier and a $10/month tier. While the free version allows you standard access for games you purchase at 1080p while their Pro edition offers 4k resolution, 5.1 surround sound, exclusive discounts, and the occasional free game.
Unfortunately, Stadia has a long history of issues. While it’s great when working at full capacity, it’s massive bandwidth requirements (up to 15GB an hour!) cause it to bog down your machine and gives you problems PC’s & Consoles don’t usually face.
Top 5 Google Stadia Alternatives for Streaming Video Games up to 4K Resolution:
1. GeForce Now
The first choice on our list of Stadia Alternatives is NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, a service that just came out of beta recently and focuses primarily on streaming. While other services on this list offer game libraries access, NVIDIA’s sole focus is allowing you to play games on non-gaming devices that you already own, such as:
- macOS Devices
- PC Devices
- Android Devices
- NVIDIA Shield TV
Of course, the device’s quality will impact your ability to stream games from GeForce Now, which applies to every service on this list.
GeForce Now offers two plans; a Free Tier and a Founder’s Membership for $4.99/month. The free plan will allow you to play up to 1080p60 resolution streaming in one-hour sessions. However, the Founder’s edition allows for up to six hours of gaming with RTX Ray Tracing enabled.
To get the most out of GeForce Now, you’ll need robust internet bandwidth and speed. For 720p60 resolution streaming, you’ll need a minimum of 15mbps connection, while 1080p60 requires 25mbps. I recommend using either a wired connection or 5G Wi-Fi.
This Google Stadia alternative is best suited for those who already have a collection of games they want to stream using other devices.
2. Steam Link
Steam Link, released in 2018, is the best alternative to Google Stadia. This game streaming service is all about bringing your Steam library to any of your devices, including TVs, streaming you’re your hosting desktop.
Unlike the other options on this list of Google Stadia alternatives, Steam Link is not a cloud-based service and uses your components and games with the functionality to “cast” them to other devices.
With the way it’s set up, you’ll need to first enable Steam’s streaming feature on the hosting desktop. From here, you would connect a Bluetooth controller and then launch the app from your desired device. Both the hosting desktop and gaming devices need to be on the same network for this to work.
Just like with GeForce, you’ll want to use either a wired connection or 5G Wi-Fi on your hosting device. Fortunately, latency is hardly an issue due to their low-bandwidth requirements within the same network, so the gaming experience should be smooth.
Unlike Cloud streaming, your desktop specs play a massive role as your hosting device is still running the game. It means a strong CPU & GPU is essential if you want the best gaming experience.
In terms of pricing, Steam Link is entirely free. The games you play come off of your library, and the performance specs, as we just mentioned, come off your hosting device.
Another popular Google Stadia alternative is Vortex that follows a familiar pattern by offering a streaming-only service, with its biggest edge being the affordable price. This single-plan service comes in at $9.99/month and is pretty bare on features. However, they say there will be a VIP plan soon with a wider selection of features.
The current plan supports gaming on Windows, macOS, and Android machines as well as any platform running Google Chrome (or other Chromium-based browsers, though do that at your own risk!), similar to Google Stadia.
Vortex offers a cool interface editing mode allowing you to remap on-screen controls. Their drag-and-drop system will allow you to mix and match different buttons, though Vortex provides a default layout for each game.
I have an issue with Vortex that they don’t utilize DRM platforms like Steam, and so you’re limited to what they offer in their library. These games still require a purchase, and if you have a license from Steam (or any other DRM), you will be able to use that to avoid double purchases.
This cloud gaming system also utilizes an NVIDIA GPU unit and is supported by 15 data centers across nine regions. It offers you the best experience possible, no matter where you’re located.
Vortex doesn’t have the same performance level as others on this list; however, it requires extreme internet speeds. They claim 10mb/s minimum, but we would recommend no less than 25mb/s.
I had mixed results depending on my platform but found the browser version to be the most stable. The resolution is a bit flat, staying around 720p, and I struggled with latency issues on my controls.
Overall, Vortex is not the best choice, but at $9.99/month, it’s great for entry-level cloud streaming, especially if you don’t have a powerful gaming console/PC.
4. Microsoft xCloud
Microsoft xCloud is another early-stage cloud gaming service like Google Stadia that allows you to play Triple-A titles on your phones or PC. Powered by Microsoft’s global data centers, xCloud leverages servers built with Xbox One components to give you the ultimate gaming experience on the device of your choice.
The device requirements to use their service are Android 6.0 or greater, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 to connect the Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One Wireless Controller. As with the other services on this list, a strong internet connection is a must.
Fortunately, I was able to try xCloud on both a tablet and galaxy phone and found it to be enjoyable. I never once experienced latency issues with my controller, and the performance of my game was similar to playing on any other console.
The internet download speed requirements appear to beat out other competitors, with games running smoothly at 10mb/s, well below what others require.
Currently, this service is bundled with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate plan for $15/month. It means you’ll have access to their game pass library of games to play. When I compare it with Stadia, I’m pretty happy to pay $15 to bundle these two services.
5. PlayStation Now
PlayStation Now is one of the more stable options on this list of Google Stadia alternatives, and that’s largely in part due to the device restrictions. While cloud gaming services on this list allow you to play on (almost) every device, PlayStation Now is exclusive to PS4 (and presumably PS5) & PC.
However, PlayStation Now is a little older but works incredibly well, though performance will depend on your specifications if using a PC.
While it used to cost roughly $20/month for their service, PS Now comes in at $10/month with discounted options if you buy in bulk. It was the first streaming service I ever used, as I previously played on the PS4. While the price was less than preferable, I was always happy with their offered library.
Now in 2021, the price has gone down, and the quality has gone up. The regular rotation of Triple-A titles with the familiar old gems is sure to keep any gamer entertained for a long time.
If you’re happy with your gaming device and are only looking for a library streaming service, PlayStation Now may be right for you.
Aside from the 5 Google Stadia alternatives we’ve mentioned on this list, we want to give a special mention to Amazon Luna, an upcoming streaming service powered by AWS (Amazon Web Services) and NVIDIA GPU.
Luna will offer a different type of membership in the form of “Channels” rather than tiers. These channels will presumably allow publishers to manage their streaming content, as the first preview we’ve seen shows a “Ubisoft” channel for an unknown price. I’m expecting this to be popular with different game publishers.
Amazon also owns Twitch. It means we’ll get to pull out our favorite gaming microphone and broadcast our gameplay with extreme ease between Luna & Twitch.
We don’t have many details on this service yet, but with Amazon’s history in the streaming space, we’re very excited to see what the future holds for Luna.
Can These Cloud Gaming Services Remove the Need for a Gaming Machine?
It was the very first question that I think about when discussing cloud gaming. Services like Google Stadia market themselves as replacements for those $2500+ gaming rigs you see on YouTube, but the reality is, that’s a long time away from happening if it ever will.
Right off the bat, I can tell you that there are limits on these services that are less than preferable. One of the biggest motivators for me to switch from console to PC was the control I would have; I would define my limits by custom tuning my machine.
There’s also something special about building your PC that I can’t see these services being able to replace.
Can You Stream Games while Recording a Video Stream?
One of the more popular questions we’ve heard around these services, a lot of people want to stream their gameplay on services like Twitch without lag. It is doable and even encouraged by some companies like Google (with YouTube Gaming and Stadia) and the upcoming Amazon Luna with Twitch.
To maximize your streaming quality, you’ll want to use a quality microphone that doesn’t lag behind your video. Some of the best USB microphones are built with zero-latency monitoring for seamless streaming experiences. The evolution of these microphones has a massive impact on the gaming community, with some mics offering mixing software specifically for streaming.
While the right microphone can offer zero-latency, finding the best microphone for your computer, tablet, or handheld device can make a massive difference in your communication and streaming quality by giving your voice studio sound for an affordable price.
In terms of bandwidth and latency impacts, it will require more from your ISP if doing a live stream, especially if sharing the same device, but overall, it’s very doable and practical.
As you can tell, there’s no shortage of options for video game streaming. For some, this may be intimidating, as the features can vary drastically based on which service you choose. Fortunately, many of Google Stadia alternatives offer free tiers or trials, allowing you to find the best fit & confirm your equipment is in good shape to play.
Google Stadia has come a long way since its initial launch, which was nothing short of disastrous. Whenever it’s working at full capacity, we’ve found it to be advantageous. However, with the Google Stadia alternatives, on the market, it’s still worth experimenting with because they all have their host of pros and cons.
For all we know, when Amazon Luna launches, they might outperform all their competitors, but for now, you have your choices, and it’s up to you to decide which Google Stadia alternative is best for you.
Do you have any thoughts about the services on the Google Stadia alternatives list? Did you find one that you love? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your feedback!