How To Play Android Games on Your PC
There is a lot of debate regarding the efficacy of mobile gaming. And for good reason. First, it isn’t always easy to play a game on such a small screen. Second, you may not always have your phone with you. It is for these reasons that a lot of people prefer to play games on their PC.
Unfortunately, not all Android games are available on PC. But you aren’t completely out of luck. In this article, we’ll show you how to play your favorite Android games on your computer.
Can My Computer Run Android Games?
To run Android games on your computer, we’ll be using the tried and true emulation tactics on your PC, which means we’ll need to ensure your PC is powerful enough to run the software necessary for emulating Android software and games.
Emulators were once a popular feature many users took advantage of to run two operating systems on one device. Today, they aren’t as widely used thanks to cross-platform functionality. However, they’re the perfect solution to play your favorite Android games on your PC in situations such as this.
Before we dive in, it’s important to know that you’ll need a setup that can handle the native OS (Windows) along with the emulated Android OS. That said, basic apps like Candy Crush Saga or Clash of Clans shouldn’t have too many difficulties running on general hardware. Basically, here’s what you’ll need to use Android emulation software:
- At least Windows 7
- Intel Core i5-680 processor or higher
- Intel 5200HD Integrated Graphics or higher (dedicated graphics are ideal!)
- Built-in SSD, though a traditional HDD will also work, with 40GB or more of free space
- Broadband internet
- Your computer’s power plan set to “High Performance.”
These specs aren’t complicated to meet, so if you have a fairly modern computer, you shouldn’t have any difficulty running Android games on your computer. There are some emulators for MacOS as well, but those aren’t quite as reliable as the software made for Windows. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focused primarily on Windows PCs, which is where gaming is typically a focus of the platform.
What Software Should I Use?
There are several Android emulators on the market today for Windows, including the Android emulator created by Google to help developers create and publish their apps. For this article, we’ll be using the tried and trusted BlueStacks Emulator. But, if you have another you prefer to use, go for it!
The most important aspect of BlueStacks (and one of the reasons we often use it) is the inclusion of the Play Store. Unlike basic Android emulators, the inclusion of both the Play Store and Google Play Games means you can install any Android game you’ve downloaded and purchased on your Google account through the BlueStacks software, all without limitations. If you’ve purchased a wide library of games on Android but never found time to play them, BlueStacks is the best way to get them onto your PC for some more serious gaming. It’s seriously impressive software.
As mentioned briefly above, you can find other emulators across most platforms, including Andy, a close competitor to BlueStacks. Andy runs on Windows and Mac and is perfect for games and productivity apps alike. The interface isn’t quite up to par with what you’ll find on BlueStacks, but if you don’t want to deal with some of the social aspects of BlueStacks, it may be worth switching.
MEmu is another solid option, especially for anyone looking to run software made only for Android 5.0 or above. Droid4X is an older emulator that has gone without updates for quite some time, but it may be worth looking into if you aren’t into the other options on this list. Finally, KoPlayer is a gaming-focused emulator for Windows that allows you to map your keyboard to specific controls, similar to the mapping options in BlueStacks. Any of these options are solid for gaming and will provide you with a pretty decent experience on your desktop or laptop PC, though we still think that BlueStacks is the one you should focus on.
Installing and Setting Up BlueStacks
The installation and setup of BlueStacks may take a few minutes. If you’re new to these steps, it may seem tedious. But really, it isn’t so bad. Just follow the steps we’ve outlined below to play Android games on your PC.
How to Install BlueStacks on Your PC
To start using BlueStacks, you’ll need to download the installer from their website here.
Installing BlueStacks is just like downloading any third-party software on your PC. It may take a few minutes for the installation to complete. Here’s how to download the BlueStacks Emulator:
- From the BlueStacks website, tap ‘Install Now.’
- At the bottom of your browser, in the lower left-hand corner, you will see the download file. Click that, then click ‘Yes’ when Windows asks if you’d like to allow the program to make changes to your computer. Note: The download file should say ‘BlueStacks.’
- After you’ve followed the installation prompts, BlueStacks should automatically open. If the program doesn’t open, you can type ‘BlueStacks’ into the search bar at the bottom of your PC and open it.
How to Set Up BlueStacks
Once you have the installer saved onto your computer, open the file from your Downloads folder on your PC and follow through with the standard installation instructions. When the app is installed on your computer, you’ll be prompted to run it for the first time; select yes and complete the installation.
Once installed, you’ll move through the setup process. Follow these steps:
- Open BlueStacks on your PC.
- Click on the Google Play icon in the upper right-hand corner. Note: It may take a few seconds for this icon to appear.
- Sign in to the Google Play Store. This will help you to access the games already on your Android device quickly.
- Sign in using the same email and password you use on your Android device and complete any security steps the Emulator asks for. Then, click ‘Allow’ to backup any game progress or app information.
- Now, the screen will look just like the Google Play Store on your Android device. Click to type the name of the game you want to play in the search bar. Or, scroll through the list of games and click on one that interests you.
- Click ‘Install’ once you’ve chosen your game. It may take several minutes to complete the installation of the game. Just be patient; your system is technically running two operating systems.
- Upon installation, the game will appear on the BlueStacks interface.
The app will take a few minutes to configure on your device. The length of installation and preparation times will depend on your hard drive speed; if you happen to have an SSD or a hybrid drive, you’ll likely find that the installation time is much faster than if you have a basic disk-based hard drive.
Now that we’ve set everything up, it’s time to play!
How to Play Android Games on PC
Playing an Android game on your PC isn’t as straightforward as opening the game from the desktop and playing. Your game and all of its progress is housed in the BlueStacks Emulator. This means there are just a few extra steps to playing.
- Open BlueStacks from your desktop or locate it by typing ‘BlueStacks’ into your PC’s search bar.
- Wait for BlueStacks to load and the game will appear on the BlueStacks interface.
- Double-click it to open the game. Note: It may be a good idea to keep an eye on your GPU the first time you run the software.
- Now, you can play your Android game on your PC.
Most of the games that you download will have a keyboard conversion of some sort for your controls. That’s another benefit of the BlueStacks Emulator over some of the other options available.
Using Third-Party Emulators
If you choose to use another Emulator, the install process will be the same as we’ve described above. But, the interface and controls may be much different. Fortunately, there is no lack of options if you do a quick Google search for Android to PC Emulators.
Also, it’s a good idea to research the software before you install it. Remember the step above where you allow the new program to make changes to your computer? This can open your system to viruses and malware if you aren’t careful.
Restore Your Apps
To install from your pre-established library of Android apps, you’ll need to click “My Apps and Games” at the top of the list. Enter the list, then click on “Library” at the top of this page to navigate away from the sparse “Updates” page. Your Library page shows every single individual app or game you’ve ever installed or purchased on your device, and you can install each of them by clicking on the Install button next to each app.
Whether you purchased a specific app five years ago on Android, or you just bought an app a couple of weeks ago, it’ll appear in your library. You can also search for the app to reinstall it from the store automatically, and you can use the Play Store browser on Chrome or other similar browsers to push the installation directly to your device.
If you’re looking to purchase or install new apps, it’s done the same way as any other Android device. Search for the app using the search icon in the upper-right hand corner of your display, and select the app from the list of search results. Then simply hit the Install button for free apps, or the Purchase button for paid apps, to install the application to your device. If you’re buying an app, keep in mind that there’s always the possibility of incompatibility between your app and BlueStacks. Google Play has a refund option for most paid apps that you can use if your app doesn’t properly launch.
Installing Apps Outside of Google Play
BlueStacks has full access to the Play Store, which is one reason it’s our top pick for use on your PC. That doesn’t mean you have to be locked to the Play Store, though. Instead, you have two other options for installing apps outside of Google Play, and both work just as well as using the Google-approved app store supplied with BlueStacks.
The first method uses the BlueStacks-centric app store provided within the app itself, which you can access by selecting the “App Center” tab on the top of the app. App Center has basically every option you could ever want in a Google Play Store replacement. That said, we should also note that many, if not most of these games are downloads from Google Play, so you’ll still need a Play Store account to download them. Clicking on the app will simply load the Play Store interface to install it.
It’s a bit smoother and faster than the emulated Play Store and is easier to browse with a mouse and keyboard. There are separate, game-focused top charts, including lists of the most popular, top grossing, and trending games based on the use cases of BlueStacks players. Rolling over any app will tell you where the application is installed from, be it Google Play or another outside source.
You can search for apps using App Center, though it won’t load every single possible game in the store. Searching for “Final Fantasy” will bring up four distinct results, but to view the rest of the apps, you’ll need to click the “Visit Google Play” icon, which will load a pop-up display with your results. It’s not the perfect way to browse for apps, but App Center is a solid way to discover what other BlueStacks users are playing in their spare time.
The other option for installing apps outside of the Play Store built into BlueStacks is using straightforward APKs, available on the web from sources like APKMirror. APKMirror hosts free application packages, or APKs, available to be downloaded by anyone to install on Android. BlueStacks has the capabilities of installing apps from these packages, and you’ll find the option right on your own home display within My Apps.
At the bottom of the page, tap on the “Install APK” option to open a File Explorer window for your computer. Select the APK from your Downloads folder or wherever else you save your content, then click enter. You’ll see the app begin to install on your own home screen, and you can use the app like any other. In our tests, installing from an APK over installing from the Play Store didn’t change the user experience in any meaningful way.
What Else Can BlueStacks Do?
BlueStacks isn’t just limited to playing Android games. Effectively, BlueStacks can load basically any Android app digitally on your computer without too much of an issue since it’s just running an emulator. Obviously, not everything works perfectly, but overall, if you’re looking to use an Android app on your computer, BlueStacks should be able to do it without much of an issue.
That said, in basically everything we tested, it was a great way to keep apps you may want in a desktop experience right on your laptop or desktop PC. For example, we installed Weather Timeline on our device and had no issues using one of our favorite weather apps right on our desktop PC without an issue. Being able to use some of the best mobile experiences without pulling out our phones while working is incredible, and even though BlueStack is aimed at gamers, it’s great that the app works just as well for all your favorite apps.
Do I Have to Pay for BlueStacks?
The short answer is no; you don’t. BlueStacks is basically free for most users, so long as you’re willing to put up with ads. We didn’t run into any major issues using the app during testing, and everything seemed to install and run without limits, issues, or anything else stopping us from running the app. If you click the profile icon in the very top-right corner of BlueStacks, you’ll load your account information, which provides you with the option to upgrade to a premium account. For your upgrade, you get access to three fairly simple changes:
- No ads: The app icons we mentioned earlier will occasionally add themselves back to your My Apps screen within BlueStacks if you don’t pay to upgrade your account to premium status, no matter how many times you uninstall them. However, they’re fairly easy to ignore, and there aren’t that many other ads within the app.
- Background personalization: If you want to edit the background on your BlueStacks home screen, you’ll need to upgrade your account. However, the default wallpaper is probably acceptable for most occasional uses of BlueStacks, and if it doesn’t bother you, there’s no reason to upgrade.
- Premium support: The app doesn’t quite make it completely clear what makes their support channel so premium, but if you’re worried about not receiving prompt responses from the BlueStacks team, you’ll want to upgrade to the premium account status in order to guarantee speedy answers to any questions you may have.
If you do decide to switch to the premium version of BlueStacks, you’re looking at paying $3.33 per month annually (for a total of $40 per year upfront) or $4 when paid monthly, for an annual total of $48. This is really a personal decision, but we’ll be upfront and honest: BlueStacks’ free version worked fine with us, without limitations or issues. While we wouldn’t be opposed to paying for the service if newer features were added, like installing software updates into BlueStacks to runner newer apps, as of right now, BlueStacks works great as a free application.