Always late to the party, I’ve recently got into Cities: Skylines about seven years after it was fashionable. The city builder was never designed to run on the new Mac silicon and so performance can be sketchy. Here’s how to get Cities: Skylines running smoothly on a Mac with an Apple M1 or M2 processor.
Cities: Skylines on Mac – graphics problems
Cities: Skylines didn’t run at all well when I first fired it up on my MacBook Pro (2021 version with M1 Pro processor). I use an external display with my Mac, but when I played the game full screen on the monitor, weird glitches occured. The strangest glitch was an obvious misalignment of the mouse cursor. When you went to click on an item in a game menu, for example, you had to click above the item. It made the game unplayable.
A quick Google revealed many other Mac players had experienced similar problems and all sorts of solutions were suggested (I’ll reveal the one that worked for me below).
The problems seem to stem from the fact that Cities: Skylines isn’t coded to run natively on Apple’s M1 or M2 processors. Instead, it’s being translated from the old x86 code, and now that Paradox Interactive has announced Cities: Skylines 2, I can’t imagine the developers are going to waste any time properly porting the old game.
So, if you want to get Cities: Skylines running smoothly on your Mac, here’s how I got it to behave.
How to improve Cities: Skylines performance on a Mac
The only way I’ve found to avoid the graphical glitches in Cities: Skylines is to play the game in windowed mode, not full screen. This isn’t ideal, as you obviously want to use as much screen space as possible in a game like this, but it vastly improves performance and sorts out that issue of menu items being misaligned.
To play in windowed mode, go to the Cities: Skylines main menu and select Options. Then under Graphics select Windowed from the Display Mode drop-down menu (you may have to click above it to get the dropdown to work!).
Choose a resolution that is slightly less than your screen’s native resolution, then click Apply.
This alone made the game run far more smoothly on my MacBook Pro – whether I’m using the external display or the MacBook’s own screen.
Other things to note:
- Cities: Skylines is very memory intensive, especially when you’re loading bigger cities with a population in excess of 100,000. If you’re trying to run the game on one of the lesser-specced Macs with only 8GB of RAM, you might struggle.
- Certain mods can further drag down performance. I really like the Traffic Manager President Edition for taking complete control of traffic lights and road lanes, for example, but that can hammer the performance of the game, especially on low-end hardware.
Playing Cities: Skylines on a Mac with GeForce Now
If you can’t get Cities: Skylines to run smoothly on your Mac, another option is to play the game via Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service.
Cities: Skylines is compatible with the service and you can also download and install any of the many DLC packs in GeForce Now. Click here for our guide on how to install DLC for GeForce Now games.
The only big problem with playing Cities: Skyline on GeForce Now is it doesn’t support mods, such as Traffic Manager. There are a few workarounds that let you install mods, but these are all clunky and require you to perform a series of steps every time you load the game, which I frankly can’t be bothered to do.
How to play Cities: Skylines Remastered on a Mac
Another cloud gaming option for Mac players is Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming, as City: Skylines Remastered was recently released on the service. (Note: there’s a City: Skylines Xbox One Edition too which has weaker graphics, so don’t get the two confused). However, unlike the GeForce Now version, Remastered is designed for consoles, which means you’ll need to adapt to using a console controller, not mouse and keyboard. Mods aren’t compatible with Remastered, either, although there is a vast range of DLC on offer.
Note that you’ll need the Ultimate tier of Xbox Game Pass to unlock streaming.