Stadia is a free service. You need only purchase the games you want to play.
Stadia additionally offers a Pro subscription for $10 a month. A Pro subscription grants you access to select included games. Once claimed, these games remain yours forever, as long as you are subscribed to Pro. Feel free to unsubscribe and resubscribe later. Your claimed games will be waiting for you. A Pro subscription on Stadia works the same way as PlayStation+ and Xbox Games with Gold.
You can play Stadia with a controller you already own, such as a DualShock 4 or Xbox controller. Or, if you’re playing on a computer, you can simply use a mouse and keyboard. You can also buy a Stadia controller, which you’ll need to be able to play on your TV with a Chromecast Ultra. Google sells the controller both individually and as part of the Premiere Edition package, in which it’s bundled with a Chromecast Ultra and three months of Pro.
The Stadia controller is. . .alright. The face buttons feel cheap and the d-pad is borderline bad. But the controller has a nice heft and the triggers are wonderful. The primary reason to use a Stadia controller, though, is that, when playing on a TV or computer, it connects to the Stadia servers directly via Wi-Fi. Ostensibly, this shrinks the input latency and offers a smoother gameplay experience. Google is planning on adding Wi-Fi support for phones soon.
Stadia can be played on Android devices, though it’s available as an experimental feature for most phones. The phones that are officially supported include the Pixel line, the OnePlus line, and the Samsung S line, among others. Stadia also offers touch-screen controls, which I’ve found are smooth and effective.
If you’re playing Stadia without a Pro subscription, your games will run in 1080p and in stereo sound. With a Pro subscription, Stadia will play in 4K and in 5.1 surround sound, if you have such a setup. Notably, a Pro subscription is not necessary for online multiplayer. Once you’ve purchased or claimed a game on Stadia, online multiplayer is free.
Concerning performance, my experience has been a mixed bag. Sometimes, it runs perfectly. Other times, the image is blurry and marred by visual artefacts. However, I will say that the service has been majorly improved since launch, when Stadia wouldn’t run for me at all. Ultimately, of all the cloud gaming services I’ve tried, Stadia is the least consistent.
Because Stadia games run in the cloud, you can switch between devices in a moment. You can be playing on your computer then switch to playing on your phone simply by launching the app. It’s a cool feature of cloud gaming and one I wanted to draw attention to.
The Stadia library is always growing. They added five games this month and have announced that over 120 titles will be added this year. Stadia offers a good variety of indie titles and big-budget titles, though fairly few exclusives so far. The beauty of Stadia’s model, though, is that you don’t need to commit beyond a single game, if that’s all you want. There’s no console to buy since your phone or any old laptop will do.
Stadia is currently offering one month of Pro free, allowing you to try out as many of the included games as you’d like. We’d recommend giving it a shot for yourself to see if it works for you.