You’ve been able to run Android apps and games on a Chromebook for years. But most of those apps and games were designed for smartphones and tablets, which means that some of them don’t work all that well on laptops… particularly models that lack touchscreens.

Now Google is adding a feature to Chrome OS that makes it easier to play touch-only games on a Chromebook by using a keyboard and mouse or trackpad.

While there are a number of Android games that accept keyboard or joystick input, there are many titles that only support touch controls. So Google has created a games overlay feature for Chrome OS. An early Alpha is rolling out with Chrome OS 105 with support for a limited selection of games.

In a nutshell, here’s how the games overlay works:

  • You’ll need a Chromebook or Chromebox with a keyboard and pointing device (like a mouse or touchpad).
  • When playing a selected title, an overlay will appear on the screen showing which buttons you can press to simulate touch events. For example, you can use the W, A, S, and D keys like a virtual D-pad style joystick. The space bar or other keys can be used as action buttons.
  • Keyboard input can be used to simulate tap or touch-and-drag functions.
  • Users can also customize key assignments or choose when to show or hide the games overlay or disable the game controls entirely for a specific game.

Google notes that for now the games overlay is designed only for use during active game play. You’ll need to use a mouse to navigate menus and in-game dialogues. And touchscreen-only Android apps that aren’t games aren’t supported at all.

Here are the games that are supported at launch:

Joystick GamesSingle Button GamesMulti-button GamesSwipe Games
ArcheroGeometry Dash LiteHill Climb Racing2048 (Androbaby)
AXES.ioStack Ball – Crash PlatformsNinja Arashi 22048 Original
Heroics Epic Legend of ArcheroFire Balls 3DNinja Arashi2048 (Solebon LLC)
Wizard Legend: Fighting MasterStack SmashNinja warrior: legend of adventure games2048 Number puzzle game
Pixel Blade R – RevolutionDrop Stack Ball – Fall Helix Blast Crash 3DPower Hover2048 (S2Apps)
Zombero: Archero Hero ShooterHelix SmashGrimvalor
Archer Hunter – Offline Action Adventure GameStack Crush Ball
Mr. AutofireCrush Stack Ball Blast
Stack Fall
Helix Stack Jump: Smash Ball
Tap Titans 2


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One reply on “Google makes it easier to play Android games on Chromebooks without touchscreens”

  1. I’m not the type to bet on something like this, but if I was, I would bet that this overlay would NOT get backported to Android itself. Certainly not AOSP as that would ultimately mean giving it to the WSA for free.

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