There are pros and cons to Stadia if we look at it objectively. It runs extremely well on Chromecast, in a browser, and on supported phones. The controller is wonderful and the service allows for all sorts of 3rd party controllers as well. The interface is simple and easy to navigate and the whole package feels well thought out and put together. As for the cons, Stadia has few games and fewer players, there’s still no free version, and only a handful of phones are supported at this time.
While I don’t love playing Stadia on my phone at this point (there’s not been a game show up yet that I’d love to play on my smallest screen), I know a day will come when it becomes a solid option on the run. The benefit mobile games have over Stadia at this point, however, is the built-in, on-screen controls. Look at PUBG Mobile, for example, as they have built up worldwide tournaments and competitive play that only allows for the on-screen controls. With a few triggers latched on to your device, on-screen controls are actually quite good in many games.
If none of that phases you, you can head to the Git for this project, grab the code, launch Stadia in Chrome on any phone, and then run this code snippet to get a fully-functioning on-screen controller. I loaded up quite a few games with it and I was honestly stunned how well it all works. For fast-paced games it is less than ideal since you need to aim, move and shoot all at the same time and the on-screen buttons don’t lend themselves to that very well. For platformers, racing, or puzzle games, however, this would work just fine.
I’ll put a link to the Git which lays out everything you need to know, but if that feels too intimidating to do, I’d suggest you skip this for the time being. I don’t really want to be responsible for peddling code that may or may not do things you’d rather not do. Instead, if that all looks like too much, I’d suggest firing up a tablet or Chromebook with a touchscreen, installing the extension, and seeing how this all works in that way. While Chrome extensions aren’t always the safest bet either, at least there’s a bit of regulation on that front.
On other thing to know is that the two analog sticks for the controller input are simply mapped to each side of the screen and they mimic the way sticks work on a controller. Which is to say it feels decidedly different that using touch controls on mobile games. When/if you give this all a try, just remember that and it’ll make navigating around a whole lot easier.
Finally, probably the most shocking part of this whole experiment was how well Stadia runs in the Android Chrome browser. It was honestly perfect. So good, in fact, that I immediately tried the Stadia controller, mouse and keyboard to see if I could simply use regular controls for the web version of Stadia. Literally any Android phone is capable of running this, but none of the input methods worked. The mouse cursor wouldn’t lock into the browser tab and though Android detected both controllers I tested, Stadia on the web wouldn’t recognize them. A few tweaks to Chrome for Android, however, and we could easily see Stadia become widely available in a very small amount of time without need for an app at all. For now, though, it’s TouchStadia or nothing.