I’ve been a console gamer my whole life, ever since my cousin gave us his hand-me-down Super Nintendo. I spent hours playing Super Mario Kart, stubbornly learning that controller until it was second nature to drift through obstacles (though I never outgrew turning my body along with the joystick, as though that could help me turn sharper). I grew up on Nintendo and Xbox consoles, a love that carried into adulthood. And I was happy playing only on consoles.
It was frustrating enough to vacillate between an Xbox controller and Nintendo Switch, where the A and B buttons were swapped; I couldn’t imagine switching to a keyboard and mouse. There was no need to change—or so I thought. For better or worse, there are some games that are PC only, and being able to play them would require purchasing an expensive rig, something my monthly budget won’t allow.
So when the opportunity came up to try NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW RTX 3080 subscription for one week—no consoles allowed!—I took it.
For those who don’t know, or who missed Fandom’s earlier coverage, cloud gaming services like NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW offer players access to premium software—without needing to purchase expensive gaming hardware. Instead, subscribers can log into NVIDIA GeForce NOW and stream gameplay directly to their devices.
Every cloud gaming service is structured a little differently, but I decided to try GeForce NOW’s RTX 3080 tier. This was particularly compelling thanks to its newest feature: gameplay at up to 4K 60FPS for Mac and PC users, or 1440p at up to 120 FPS on supported devices. It even lets you play with RTX ON for supported games.
When creating an account (which is an incredibly intuitive process), all players have to do is link their preexisting Steam, Epic Store, and Ubisoft profiles to NVIDIA’s platform. That way, any games already owned will automatically be playable on GeForce NOW. Likewise, any new games purchased from NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s growing library of titles will be shared with those other platforms, preventing the need to buy games multiple times.
To be quite honest, I was equal parts nervous and excited going into my week of cloud gaming. While intellectually I know how cloud gaming works, it still seemed too good to be true; there was no way my years-old laptop would be able to deliver a high-quality gaming experience. But the chance to play some PC-only titles I’d always wanted to try (not to mention up my game) was too good to pass up.
In order to make the most of this experience, I decided to try a different game each day during my NVIDIA GeForce NOW RTX 3080 trial. I’d keep notes on how each day went, almost like a gaming diary, and at the end of the week I would decide if keeping the subscription was worth it. Now there was only one question left to answer: which game should I start with?
In the early days of the pandemic, my friends and I were obsessed with Fortnite. It was fun, it kept us sane, and we got really good at winning together as a squad—for people who only played on consoles. However, if we encountered PC players, it was almost hopeless. They could build faster than we could keep up with and had incredible aim, not to mention they wouldn’t have to worry as much about a controller shorting out or lag due to a spotty wifi connection. It wasn’t frustrating so much as a fact of the game: PC will almost always beat console. Given those experiences, I was interested to see if the PC gaming experience actually enhanced my ability to play, so it was the first thing I tried using NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s service.
My first few matches back in Fortnite showed that I’d have to take some time and adjust to playing on PC instead of console. For one thing, I hadn’t logged in for nearly a year, so my muscle memory was a little rusty—and what was there was attuned to a controller, not keypad. I’d go to equip a shotgun and find myself with a fishing pole in hand. Eventually, I learned the rhythm of the game again, and got comfortable using hotkeys and not using aim assist. The more I played, the longer I lasted in the game; eventually, I was hitting top five every time. Being able to use my mouse to shoot my opponents was way more accurate than anything I could do on my controller; more than once, I was sure a shot would miss, only to strike true.
Then there’s building—while I did enjoy Fortnite’s no-build mode, and will probably stick with that in the future, I wanted to see what was possible using the RTX 3080 membership. I adjusted the hotkeys to be F, G, and Q. Once again, there was some adjustment as I built muscle memory, but building in Fortnite on PC is much more intuitive than doing so on console. For the first time, I felt like I was able to experience Fortnite as it was meant to be played. I’m far from a true competitive player, and certainly nowhere near the pros, but feeling like I was equipped to take gameplay more seriously was a good one. NVIDIA GeForce NOW had impressed me.
Feeling confident after the previous day’s ability to learn hotkeys quickly, I decided to step up my game and try my favorite MOBA, DOTA 2. I’ve been a fan of DOTA since a friend introduced me to The International in 2014, but playing was never an option—my Mac laptop froze so many times during matches that teammates reported me as a saboteur, eventually leading to a brief suspension. (It probably didn’t help that I skipped the tutorials and practice bot matches, so even when I wasn’t frozen, I was a less-than-helpful asset to the team. But I digress.) Now I knew what my laptop could handle with the NVIDIA GeForce NOW RTX 3080, and it was time to push the competitive limits.
Even with a high-powered gaming rig, DOTA is brutal. Dragon Knight’s ultimate is not messing around. However, I was able to play the game—no freezing screen. When I went to fire Windranger’s arrows, the response to my click was immediate. There was no lag causing my shots to spiral into thin air because the enemy had already moved. This also meant being able to more effectively avoid opponent attacks and take more strategic positions on the map since I was able to see in real-time where the enemy minions and Heroes were. Though the learning curve was steep, one again cloud gaming made me feel like I had a fighting chance to learn.
One good thing about the NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s RTX 3080 subscription tier is its play session length: eight hours. NVIDIA’s free subscription tier has a one hour play session length, which could be a problem for games like DOTA, where a match can run anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour. That makes the RTX 3080 tier a solid investment for anyone looking to play competitively.
As much as I enjoyed being able to play Fortnite and DOTA 2 with a competitive edge, it was time to try an RPG. Initially, my plan was to play a game I was already intensely familiar with, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, so I could compare experiences between console and PC. Then I realized I’d be wasting a major opportunity—the chance to play a PC-only game. I scrolled through NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s library until I found Valheim, the massively popular indie survival RPG currently in Beta on Steam. If I’m being honest, this is the first time I got really excited about using the subscription; when Valheim got really popular in early 2021, I had major FOMO and found myself wishing, for the first time, that I had a gaming PC. I could tell from hours watching Valheim on Twitch that it was a game I would love, and NVIDIA GeForce NOW gave me a long-awaited chance to test it out.
Valheim did not disappoint. I was so absorbed in the game, collecting materials, building my longhouse, and fighting enemies, that I almost forgot to think critically about the experience playing on an RTX 3080 GPU in the cloud. Since this was my first time playing Valheim, I honestly couldn’t tell you how using NVIDIA GeForce NOW compared to a differently-powered gaming rig. All I can say is there was no lag, it looked beautiful with crystal clear artwork, and, perhaps most important to me, I had the hardware needed to actually play.
On the fourth day, right in the middle of my experiment, I started to get some lag. To be honest, I’d been expecting it to happen sooner. NVIDIA recommends 5GHz wifi connection and mine is 2.4GHz. This tested my faith in cloud gaming more than any of the learning curves from prior days; even if poor wifi prevented me from playing online games like Fortnite on my Xbox, I could still opt into a singleplayer title like Stardew Valley or Life is Strange: True Colors. Without wifi for cloud gaming, there was nothing to do. Fortunately, NVIDIA knows how important a solid connection is for its product, and was able to provide some really helpful tips to improve gameplay experience. I moved closer to the router, turned off Netflix, and boom. Back in business.
Confession time: this is also the day when I broke my goal to play a different game every day. I had waited so long to play Valheim, and NVIDIA GeForce NOW had finally given me the chance. I had to dive back into that world.
As much as I wanted to keep playing Valheim, at this point I thought it was time to pay a little attention to indie games. I’d heard Tunic was a mix of The Legend of Zelda and Elden Ring (plus its publisher, Finji, is based out of my hometown!), so I decided to give that a shot. It was a great decision—not only was the game phenomenal, but seeing the colorful scenery in 4k resolution was gorgeous. Though Tunic is available on other platforms, I’m glad I was able to play it on the equivalent of a powerful PC. The fact that the game, which only released on March 16, was available in NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s library also speaks to the cloud gaming service’s commitment to supporting its community by adding new releases, especially a highly anticipated indie game like Tunic.
To that point, every Thursday, NVIDIA GeForce NOW adds a number of new games to its library, so on Day Six, I figured I would check one of them out. Unfortunately, none of the games that launched that particular Thursday appealed to me, but a quick search showed that Dune: Spice Wars was a very recent addition to NVIDIA GeForce NOW’s service. I bought it, picked the Fremen class, and started trading Spice. That’s another nice perk to cloud gaming: there’s no need to download new games. You can immediately start playing. Same thing goes for updates—since the server you’re playing from is always on, it automatically installs any updates or patches, even if you’re not logged on. You also don’t need to use any storage space on your hardware; NVIDIA stores it all for you in their cloud.
As for my experience playing Dune: Spice Wars, the buffs from playing on an RTX 3080 server were quite similar to playing DOTA. Past experiences playing strategy games were fraught with lags and blurry images; my laptop simply couldn’t handle running those titles. However, with NVIDIA GeForce NOW, the gameplay was crisp and smooth.
On the last day of my trial, it was time to end with a classic: Stardew Valley. I already had four robust files on my Xbox, but those files couldn’t be carried over to NVIDIA GeForce NOW. Fortunately, I had a copy of the indie giant on my Steam account that had never been played. As a challenge for my fifth file, I decided to choose the monster farm and pursue Haley. Once again, retraining my muscle memory on a keyboard proved a little difficult, but not for long—fortunately, many of the hotkeys aligned with Valheim.
Compared to playing on a console, there wasn’t much difference playing on NVIDIA GeForce NOW — except for the visuals. 4K resolution with 120fps made me notice details about the artwork and characters I’d never seen before. (Did you know Maru’s nurse’s outfit even has a little Red Cross on the hat? Wild.) It made me fall in love with the game all over again.
After a week of using NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW RTX 3080 subscription, I thought I would be eager to return to my Xbox, but I wasn’t. I really liked having access to some games I’d only ever seen played, or had trouble playing on my laptop. While I still love my consoles, after experiencing the benefits of cloud gaming firsthand, I’m definitely keeping my RTX 3080 subscription — though I may have to invest in 5GHz wifi. Having access to NVIDIA GeForce NOW will help me try new games, stay up to date with the industry, and have fun playing on a high powered rig.