I tried playing Xbox games on my Galaxy Z Fold 5 — here's what happened

Galaxy Z Fold 5 playing TMNT on Game Pass
(Image credit: Future)

I recently had to go over to a family friend to sit their dogs for a weekend and due to certain luggage restrictions couldn’t bring my Xbox Series X with me. However, having a Microsoft account meant I could download the Game Pass app on my phone and play on that. 

I have tried the Game Pass app on my iPhone Pro 14 Max in the past, and it was a lackluster experience. The screen was too small and the controls always felt off. However, I recently got my hands on a Galaxy Z Fold 5, which has a much larger screen. So, I thought I would test it out over the weekend without a controller, to see if it was viable.

Why no controller you ask? Simple really: I never bought one. I never thought I would play games on my phones that much, or at least, no games more taxing than what you can find on the Apple Arcade. In all honesty, I assumed that the Xbox app would be pretty terrible if not a nightmare to use, so the thought never crossed my mind. 

So, I downloaded that app and got going over the weekend, and I was surprised by what I found. 

Game Pass touchscreen compatible games

(Image credit: Future)

 How easy is it to get the games? 

One of the main questions is how many games can you play with a touchscreen, and sadly it isn't all of them. However, there's an entire section dedicated to games that work with touch. By my count, there are around 248 games on this list, including relatively new titles like the Persona 3 Reload and even Gears of War 5

Setting them up on the phone is relatively easy; you click one and it launches after a brief animation. However, the mobile version of Game Pass is slightly different in that it streams the game rather than downloads it to the device. This means that, depending on the Wi-Fi, you might end up with stuttering and long load times. 

However, the GamePass app is linked to your console's version, which means that any game you were playing and any progress you made were synced. For instance, when I tried Persona 3 Reload I could access my New Game + info, which was great so long as I never think about how depressing the ending is, in a good way mind

This sync means that it is easy to pick up and play a game right where you left it off on the console, which is a feature I would hope to see in any potential Xbox handheld.

 How does it control?

Controlling the games is pretty varied. Some only have minimal inputs while others have symbols denoting what they do in the game. However, most games are pretty easy to understand and I never felt like I had no idea what to press. For instance, when I played Octopath Traveler it was pretty easy to get a grasp of the controls and the inputs were accurately and promptly registered by the phone. 

Gears of War 5 was a little trickier, if only because it used more buttons than Octopath did. It was fine while I was in cover, which is a staple of the series, but it got more complicated if my character had to move. The problem was that the touch screen didn't afford me the fluidity that I have come to expect from controllers and the button placements are a bit strange. You would expect it to mirror the controller, but it really doesn't, in fact, it seems random at times. 

There’s also the issue of the phone registering movements and trying to shift my viewpoint to match. It didn’t work as well as just using the analog controls and it meant I had to sit dead still to use it, which isn’t really ideal. I want a handheld that lets me move around and change positions, not one that tracks what I'm doing. 

 Does the touchscreen interrupt gameplay? 

Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs iPhone 14 Pro Max apps test games

(Image credit: Future)

This is the real question, and it's a bit of a complicated one to answer. You see, the issue still remains that your hands are on the screen and are taking up space. However, the size of the screen does help to mitigate this to a certain extent. While I was still aware that my fingers were covering the screen, I could still see enough that it was less of an issue.

The bigger issue for me is that touchscreen inputs lack a certain feeling that I require. While I could still aim down the sights and hit the shoot button like I do on a console, it just didn’t feel the same as when you do it with a controller. This lack of feedback makes it feel like you're not really playing a console game. However, It was still perfectly functional and that is far more than I expected.

Galaxy Z Fold 5

(Image credit: Future)

Can you play Game Pass on a phone with no controller?

Z Fold 5 playing Gears Of War 5 next to a console

(Image credit: Future)

It’s quite difficult to recommend using a phone to play Xbox games usually, but I can honestly say that playing on a foldable is perfectly doable, even entertaining. There are limits, obviously, but it was engaging enough that I never felt put off and it was much better than trying to play on my iPhone.

However, with all that said, I think there's a clear benefit to investing in a controller if you want this to be a staple gaming option. The simple fact that you have to “get used” to using the touchscreen will put people off, and the lack of feedback is enough that it feels like a very different experience. 

So, if you want to play on your phone check out our best mobile phone controllers for an idea of where to start, and I will see all of you online when Gears of War E-day comes out. I just might not play it on my phone, though.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.