Can PC games be played on Android?

Here's how to stream your PC games on Android using Steam Link

If you're a PC gamer who craves the possibility of playing on the go, Steam Link might be the answer you've been looking for. With this one on your Android phone, you can stream games from your PC to your phone.

What is Steam Link?

In short, Steam Link is a way to stream games from your Steam library to another device. The original Steam Link is a physical set-top box that you plug into your TV and use to stream games from your gaming PC to your TV. The Steam Link app is a new Android app that allows you to stream games from your PC to your Android device (phone, tablet or Android TV).

Note: Steam Link was also developed for iOS, but Apple rejected the app. It is currently unknown whether Steam will resubmit the app in the future. So right now it's only Android.

When you stream a game, it is still running on your PC and using your PC's more powerful hardware. The display and control signals are transmitted to your Android device via your local network. This part is important. Your phone (or tablet or Android TV) must be on the same local network for Steam Link to work. You cannot stream games over the internet. Steam recommends using a 5 GHz WiFi connection if you want to stream wirelessly. If you're streaming to an Android TV, a wired connection is even better.

Of course, Steam isn't the first company to offer this, something like this: NVIDIA has been doing this with its GameStream software for a while, although this is of course limited to NVIDIA cards and SHIELD devices and only serves a small niche of gamers.

There's also Moonlight Game Streaming, which is essentially NVIDIA GameStream for all other Android devices, rather than just NVIDIA's SHIELD branded products.

Steam Link opens up game streaming for most Steam users as it doesn't require a specific GPU or Android device. If you're already using Steam and have an Android device, then you can assume it will work for you.

Note: A compatible game controller is recommended to use Steam Link. You can use touch controls, but a controller is a much better option.

Is the Steam Link app worth the effort? In our opinion, playing Steam games on your mobile device is pretty cool, but you can only play on the same local network as your PC. That begs the obvious question: why not just play on your PC?

Maybe you have some games that you really want to sit back and play with friends on your tablet. Or maybe you have an Android TV and want the big screen experience. Regardless of your reason, the app is free. Try them out.

How to set up and use Steam Link

First things first, you need to install the app on your phone or tablet. So do this now.

Next, you need to set up streaming on your PC. Launch the Steam client, then click Steam> Settings.

From the Settings menu, choose In-Home Streaming.

If you are using an NVIDIA graphics card, click the Advanced Host Options button and enable the Use NVFBC Capture on NVIDIA GPU option. That should improve streaming performance.

Click OK to exit the Advanced menu, and then click OK again in the main Settings window.

Now go ahead and launch Steam Link on your device. If you haven't yet paired a controller with your Android device, you need to do so now. You can optionally use the touch controls on your phone or tablet, but the experience isn't that great. You'll have a much better time with an actual controller, and the app is compatible with many popular Bluetooth controllers - including the Steam controller.

Steam Link will immediately search for computers on the network that are running Steam. When the PC or PCs are found, simply tap the PC you want to connect to.

Your Android device will provide a PIN. The Steam client on your PC asks you for this PIN. Enter it now.

The app then does a quick network test and gives you the result - if your network is not fast enough, it will alert you that the experience may not be good. It will also notify you if you are running Steam Link on an untested device and warn you of potential performance issues.

Either way, you can still connect to test it - even if Steam Link hasn't been tested on your device or your network doesn't qualify. Tap the Start Playing button to try.

You get a quick controller guide that shows you how to control Steam Link, but it's pretty intuitive. Tap "Next" to continue.

If you have any problems with the remote connection, you will be notified here. For example, during the test I had to update Steam's audio driver before Steam Link could work.

Once connected, Steam's Big Picture mode will be activated and you can play as if you were sitting in front of your PC.

How well does the Steam Link app work?

During my limited testing, Steam Link responded adequately and most of the games were very playable. Even though the app claimed my network speed was not good enough, I was able to play well.

The more details the game needs to stream, the clearer it becomes, and the more power your network gets, the higher the power games need. Even so, even bigger games run pretty well. There will also be some latency in the controller's response as your commands have to be transmitted over your network and back. It's hard to notice in casual games, but don't expect the same reaction from your Sagittarius that you get when you're at your PC.

We think the Steam Link app is pretty cool technology. It works just fine for a lot of games, but is probably best for saving time on your phone or playing casual games with friends in your living room - especially if you're streaming on Android TV. For bigger, more intense games, you just wish you were at your PC.