Google Stadia review: a console experience without the console
At a glance
Easy access to the entire platform
Support for 4K displays that actually work
Some pretty high game discounts for Stadia Pro members
The “free” games with Stadia Pro were a bit bland
Game library is a bit behind the mainstream
Google Stadia offers a wide variety of titles to choose from and the user-friendly interface makes for an enjoyable gaming experience in the cloud. Overall, this is one of the best cloud gaming platforms available, especially if you opt for the Pro plan.
Best Prices Today: Google Stadia
In recent years, the cloud gaming market has taken on a number of new names and none have been more hyped than Google Stadia. It launched in late 2019 and encountered a few stumbling blocks along the way, but its pivot to focus on hosting third-party games has allowed it to thrive. Stadia is now a mainstay in the cloud streaming industry and has a lot to offer. We tested both the free and Pro versions of the service. Let’s see how it all stands.
Google Stadia: the plans
Google Stadia comes in two forms: Free and Pro. Free entry allows you to play a select number of free games such as: Lot 2, or games purchased for Stadia at resolutions up to 1080p at 60 frames per second, including all online multiplayer games. That’s it, you can fully play games you buy without having to buy expensive hardware – as long as your internet connection can handle it, at least 10 Mbps.
Stadia Pro supports streaming games at resolutions up to 4K, 60 fps, with support for HDR and 5.1 surround with connections of 35 Mbps or more. In addition, Stadia Pro offers a handful of free games that you can claim in your library to play as long as your Pro subscription is active. However, most games are not free nor included in Stadia Pro, but must be purchased. However, some games do have discounts for Pro members.
Google Stadia: Game Library
Essentially, you can imagine Google Stadia as its own console or popular PC game store. It has a pretty wide selection of games that you can buy and play on the service, and those games can’t be played on any other service. It’s a lot like buying a game for Playstation 5, so you can’t play it through the Epic Games Store or on Nintendo Switch.
At the time of writing, there are just over 270 games available on Stadia. That said, the Stadia game library is a bit ubiquitous in terms of the types of games and their release schedules. It feels like Stadia is always trying to catch up to the mainstream market, but that means both new and old games always become available for purchase on the platform.
In our testing with Stadia Pro, the games that can be claimed with the subscription aren’t exactly the most popular out there, but there have been plenty of good ones, including Life is Strange Remastered† Terrariumsand Manage Ultimate Edition† If you’re looking for the higher performance that Stadia Pro offers over its free service, the Pro games are a nice slow trickle of bonuses.
Google Stadia: UX/interfaces
The first thing we should mention is that Google makes it quite difficult to find and understand what Stadia actually has to offer on its own website and media. It took an inconvenient amount of time to even see that the Stadia service is free to play, as almost all of the promotional materials and site information are trying to push users toward Stadia Pro.
Once logged in, however, the Stadia experience is very simple and straightforward. You can access your Stadia account and the Stadia interface through a browser or the Stadia app on other devices. Google Chrome will be the obvious preference for this on PC. Within the service, you will be presented with a home screen with offers and games that you can buy, claim or play, depending on the nature of your account. To do that, simply click on the large visual boxes for these games to purchase and/or launch them directly from the browser.
Managing your account, including signing out of Stadia Pro if needed, is also quite easy. The options are below your account icon in the top right corner of the Stadia browser view, and most of the options are below the Stadia Settings selection, from subscription to controller options to game sharing in Google Family accounts.
Speaking of controllers, you don’t need the Stadia controller to play games with Stadia. We were able to play with an Xbox One controller connected to the PC without any problems. For the games that support it, you can also play Stadia games with mouse and keyboard.
We did see a few quirks. When you start a game, it launches in a full screen view that locks your cursor on that monitor if you have multiple screens. However, not all games have a Exit or Exit to desktop option in their menus. This is what happened to Terrariums, and there was no indication of how to exit full screen to go back to the Stadia interface or anything. For these cases, all you need to do is press F11 on your keyboard to toggle the default browser to full screen or hold the Escape key and you’ll be presented with a Stadia menu to go back to or exit the game , but there was nowhere in the Stadia boot process to explain that to us.
There were a few times where a gaming experience would just freeze and crash altogether, and there’s no message or information detailing what happened. It’s just as frustrating as those times when a game just crashes to the desktop on a PC without any error message.
Google Stadia: Game Achievements
For our testing, our internet connection speed results were about 447 Mbps down and 22.6 Mbps up, which certainly meets the recommended requirements for Stadia services. With that in mind, the in-game experience for the Stadia games we tried out was fantastic. When testing games like Bloodstained Ritual of the Night, Manage Ultimate Editionand Cities: Skylines, everything felt and looked great, especially with Stadia Pro. Performance is almost always exceptional, with the exception of game crashes for our playtimes and testing.
We weren’t really able to dig into the graphics options of the games as they seem to have preset restrictions that fit all systems running things on Google’s end. Regardless, it was all smooth, responsive, and had no significant performance drops, lag spikes, or stream artifacts, even on a 4K display.
Google Stadia: the bottom line
Google Stadia can deliver the console gaming experience without expensive hardware, and can look even better with its Pro subscription. You still need to buy most of your games, but if you want to use it as your primary gaming service, that’s not a bad way to go.