With the recent releases and updates to multiple cloud gaming platforms, two of the top dogs in the space are Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now. The former offers a console-esque take on cloud gaming, while the latter is a basically a gaming PC in the cloud. We’ll determine which is the better option in this Google Stadia vs GeForce Now comparison.
If you’re looking to play games in the cloud, both are competent services, though there are a plenty of differences between the two. We’re going to compare them in game support, platform support, performance, ease of use, pricing, features and coverage to determine which is the better option.
Even so, you should take a look at our Google Stadia review and GeForce Now review. We’ll compare the two directly in this guide, but those reviews provide more context about how the services perform against the rest of the market.
Setting Up a Fight: Google Stadia vs GeForce Now
Over the next seven rounds, we’re going to compare Google Stadia and GeForce Now point for point, seeing where each service excels and where they fall behind. Each round is worth a point, and we’ll deal them out to our competitors as we go along. At the end, we’ll tally the results and declare a winner.
Although our comparison will determine the better of the two, there’s a lot more to cloud gaming than a simple point system. Because of that, we recommend that you read through some rounds to get an idea of the cloud gaming service that will work better for you.
There are plenty of differences between our competitors and, unfortunately, it’s not always as cut and dried as saying one is conclusively better than the other. With that out of the way, let’s start at the top, looking at the games GeForce Now and Google Stadia support.
1. Game Library
GeForce Now has been the center of some controversy lately with its game library, with some developers, including Bethesda, 2K Games and Blizzard, pulling support for the service. Although GeForce Now is not as expansive as Shadow in terms of game support (read our Shadow review for more on that, and see how Shadow compares to Google Stadia, too), it is leagues ahead of Stadia.
At the time of writing, Stadia supports 35 games total. It feels more like a console launch instead of a cloud gaming service, with major third-party developers releasing a handful of their biggest titles on the service.
Although small in size, Stadia’s library is very high quality, with games like Borderlands 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Final Fantasy XV gracing its roster.
GeForce Now supports far more games — in the multiple hundreds, in fact — though they’re not as high of quality as Stadia’s offerings. There are a lot of smaller titles supported, including Darksiders Genesis, The Witness and The Surge 2. Although all excellent games, they don’t hit as hard as Google Stadia’s lineup.
Despite GeForce Now missing major AAA titles like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy, the selection is far greater. More importantly, however, GeForce Now integrates with existing DRM platforms like Steam. No matter if you’re using GeForce Now or not, you can still download and play the games you already own on the Epic Games Store, Steam, Origin, Uplay and more.
Stadia is more akin to a console. You’ll need to buy games specifically for Stadia, and those titles aren’t compatible with any other platform. The difference, however, is that consoles have proven themselves as worthy digital distribution platforms. Stadia, in its infancy, could still go bust, leaving your digital licenses to rot.
Furthermore, there are a lot of issues surrounding the licensing of games in specific countries. If you’re traveling abroad, you may not be able to play your games unless you’re using a virtual private network, which — as you can read in our best VPN for gaming guide — isn’t ideal. Because of that, we’re giving this round’s win to GeForce Now.
Google Stadia is fairly inexpensive as a service, running only $10 per month for its Pro plan, with a restricted free plan coming soon. GeForce Now has a similar setup, allowing players to pay a $5 premium for faster access to games and longer play sessions, as well as a free tier that limits play time to an hour.
GeForce Now is the cheaper option, but there’s a little more to this round. At the time of writing, the $5 subscription for GeForce Now’s Founders service is only good for 12 months. After a year, the price of your subscription will increase to whatever Nvidia’s charging at the time. Thankfully, users on the Founders plan get 90 days to try the service without spending a dime.
Stadia isn’t actually available as a subscription alone, quite yet. If you want to get in on the action, you’ll need to buy the $130 Stadia bundle, which includes a Chromecast Ultra, a Stadia controller and three months of Stadia Pro. After the first three months, you’ll need to pay the $10 per month subscription.
Things get interesting when comparing the two in game pricing, though. Unlike PlayStation Now, you’ll need to buy the games you want to play with Nvidia GeForce Now and Google Stadia (read our PlayStation Now review).
Google offers a range of free titles to Stadia Pro subscribers, as well as exclusive discounts. Otherwise, you’ll be paying the full price of $59.99 for most games, no matter if it’s the 2013 Tomb Raider — which can be found for less than $10 elsewhere — or Red Dead Redemption 2.
GeForce Now doesn’t offer any free games, though you’re able to take advantage of sales from marketplaces like Steam and the Humble Store. PC games are given notoriously deep price cuts, which often allows you to pick up AAA titles for $20 or less. With Stadia, that’s not possible, or at least we haven’t seen it yet.
You’re looking at a few hundred dollars to buy into Stadia, plus another $10 per month if you want all the bells and whistles. GeForce Now, on the other hand, works for free with your existing Steam library. If you want to pay, the subscription is cheaper, too, while adding features like real-time ray tracing.
Features-wise, Google Stadia isn’t as robust as it was touted to be when announced, but there’s still a lot the service has to offer. Keeping in the line with the console-in-the-cloud mantra seen with other aspects of the service, Stadia is stacked with social features like voice chat and friend lists, as well as achievements.
Still, there are a number of important features missing, most notably 4K HDR on PC and family sharing, both of which were promised prior to launch. Even so, Google has been hard at work building Stadia out. The service now supports a variety of Android phones, instead of just the Pixel, and controller support has gotten better.
It’s still not great, though. You can use a Switch Pro Controller, Xbox One controller, DualShock 4 and more with the service. That said, how you connect that controller will depend on the device you’re using. Some controllers support Bluetooth and USB connectivity, while others are limited to a hardwired connection.
GeForce Now is much more forgiving in that regard. If you can connect it to your phone or computer, it’ll probably work with GeForce Now. Furthermore, because GeForce Now mainly integrates with Steam, you have all of the features of Value’s popular DRM platform. That includes friends, achievements, trading cards and, above all else, Steam sales.
Google Stadia’s system is, admittedly, more fluid, as it was built from the ground up specifically for cloud gaming. Nvidia’s approach isn’t as refined in some regards — Steam Big Picture isn’t a perfect platform — but it still offers more variety than Stadia, pushing it ahead this round.
Performance is a doozy. Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now are at the top of the cloud gaming space, making services like Vortex look like nothing more than a gimmick (read our Vortex review for more on that). Although both offer excellent performance, there are a number of differences when it comes to visuals.
Google Stadia supports 1080p streaming on its free tier, with 4K and HDR support on Stadia Pro. Testing Destiny 2, Tomb Raider and Samurai Shodown across the Chromecast Ultra, desktop and Android, we were hitting 4K at around 30 frames per second. However, more demanding titles like Metro Exodus struggled, plagued by input lag and stuttering.
Nvidia GeForce Now doesn’t reach the graphical fidelity of Google Stadia, with a locked resolution of 1080p. The tradeoff is worth it, though. During our testing, we hit more than 100fps on Cuphead, Doom 2016 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Furthermore, GeForce Now had little to no input lag.
Furthermore, GeForce Now supports real-time ray tracing while Stadia does not. Although it’s still a young technology for gaming, it’s becoming increasingly important. GeForce Now may have a lower resolution than Google Stadia, but when ray tracing and frame rate are brought into the mix, games feel like they run better on Nvidia’s offering.
The fact that GeForce Now doesn’t support 4K is disappointing, especially since games ran wonderfully at that resolution while the service was in beta. Google Stadia may provide more pixels, but it comes at the cost of input lag and frame rate. GeForce Now, on the other hand, feels much closer to a local experience.
5. Platform Support
One of the promises of Google Stadia is that it’d be available on virtually every device. Although that wasn’t true at launch, it is now. You can stream games as long as you have a machine that can run Google Chrome, a Chromecast Ultra or an Android device with Android 10.0 or later.
Support for a browser-based version of Stadia is huge. Virtually every device can run Google Chrome in some capacity, allowing you to play massive, beautiful games like Final Fantasy XV no matter if you’re on a Chromebook or a 4K display. Still, there are some issues with Stadia’s platform support, namely iOS support, which it lacks.
GeForce Now is similar, supporting streaming in Windows, macOS, Android and Nvidia Shield. It’s handled through a local application, though, leaving the flexibility of browser streaming in the dust.
Furthermore, the Nvidia Shield is more expensive than a Chromecast, meaning you’ll need to pay a higher price if you want to play on your TV (we also have a guide to the best VPN for Nvidia Shield).
For the most part, the two are evenly matched in terms of platform support, being available on major desktop OSes, Android and TV through first-party hardware. Still, Stadia covers more devices, pushing it in the lead this round.
6. Ease of Use
Google Stadia has a pretty involved setup process. After ordering a bundle, you’ll need to wait for it to show up in the mail. In the box, you’ll find power cables, your Chromecast and your Stadia controller. Once you have everything hooked up to power, you handle setup through your phone, entering your invite code and pairing your controller.
Stadia’s setup process is involved, but it’s not difficult. Given the new hardware, everything goes smoothly. Furthermore, the time spent is worth it, as Stadia has one of the most accessible cloud gaming interfaces we’ve seen. You can easily see the games you own, browse the store, view your achievements and more. In many ways, it functions like an Xbox One or PS4.
The magic comes when you claim your first game, though. Destiny 2, the premiere free Stadia Pro game, is nearly 100GB on PC and consoles, forcing users to wait hours to jump in on the action. With Stadia, all you need to do is claim the title. After that, you’re ready to play, and you get in the action within a matter of seconds.
GeForce Now has that same magic, though it doesn’t feel as satisfying, given the service’s clunky local application. It looks good enough, showing you some recommended games, the titles you’ve added to your library and new additions to the lineup.
However, there isn’t a dedicated library page. You’ll need to use a scrolling segment on the main page to look through your games five at a time.
It’s a shame, really, as the GeForce Now application is pretty thorough otherwise. When launching a game, you can view details about it, and the search is snappy. The fact that you can’t browse supported games or quickly view most of your library at a glance puts a damper on the experience, though.
With those two additions, we’d gladly hand the point to GeForce Now. However, in its current form, the application feels clunky, no matter if you’re on Windows, macOS or Android. Stadia feels much more refined, despite being younger than GeForce Now. Because of that, we’re giving Google the point this round.
Harnessing the power of Google’s astronomically massive cloud, Stadia is already available in a ton of countries, putting services like Project xCloud to shame (read our Project xCloud review). The list of supported countries currently includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the U.S.
In testing, we hit a strange issue with Stadia, though. We used a virtual credit card registered in a country Stadia doesn’t support, but we shipped the package to a U.S. address.
The card was charged and the package shipped, though we never received an invite code to actually sign up for the service, which is essential to play. Thankfully, the issue was resolved after a quick chat with support.
GeForce Now is much more limited in its scope, covering the U.S. and most European countries. On the server status page, there are also some partner servers in Japan and Russia, though these regions aren’t officially supported yet. The big omission, compared to Stadia, is Canada. Otherwise, the two services are evenly matched.
Honestly, this round could go either way, with both services supporting around the same number of countries. Still, we’re giving the win to Stadia, not only because it can harness the power of Google’s network, but also because it’s available in Canada.
8. Final Thoughts
With four wins out of our seven rounds, GeForce Now is the winner of this matchup. Stadia was very close, though. The service has grown a lot since its launch, adding new games and implementing some of the originally promised features. It still has some growing to do, though, at least based on our testing.
Winner: GeForce Now
GeForce Now feels more refined in terms of performance, though its PC application could use some pointers from the designers at Google. Even so, it’s better in terms of game support, performance and pricing, making it the victor here.
Do you agree that GeForce Now is better? Or are you a fan of Stadia? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.