The Best Twitch Streaming Software

Live streaming has seen an exponential growth in viewership over the past few years. The close community and interactivity that live streams offer have attracted streamers and watchers alike, and with the tools available today it has never been easier to start streaming on Twitch. 

The four best Twitch streaming software I will be discussing are OBS, Streamlabs OBS, Gamecaster, and Shadowplay. Each of these has their own advantages and none is distinctly better than any other. The goal when finding a program to use for live streaming is mainly to find the one that most closely aligns to your goals and vision of what your stream should be. 

What factors do I need to consider when picking a streaming software?

Before choosing a program and sticking with it, it’s important to decide what you actually need. 

  • Will you be using multiple inputs, like a facecam and gameplay? 
  • Will you want a stream overlay? 
  • Are you looking for a program that offers a little of every feature for the flexibility to do just about anything?
  • Are you going to choose Twitch or Mixer to stream on?

Each of these programs is great in their own right, but choosing the right one boils down to what most suits your needs.

OBS – Open Broadcaster Software 

Open Broadcaster Software, usually referred to as OBS, is the choice for many streamers – especially those who are just starting out. The major reason for its popularity is that it can stream directly to most major platforms and it’s fairly lightweight, so users don’t have to worry too much about if their computer will be able to handle the processing load.  

The OBS community is large and there are lots of guides available for a person new to the streaming scene, but that isn’t to say that OBS can’t be a good choice for those who take streaming more seriously. OBS has a large developer base and plugins are frequently released by the community to tailor the streaming experience to your needs. This is the advantage of choosing  an open source program like OBS. 

However, there is also no dedicated support line for OBS. If you have any issues while using OBS, it’s pretty much up to you to figure it out. Thankfully, with such a large and dedicated community, it’s not too difficult to find guides and forums where people are able to help solve problems. 

Overall, OBS is super flexible and offers the ability for you to do pretty much whatever you want as a streamer, but you should familiarize yourself with the community and available support resources before diving in.

Streamlabs OBS

Streamlabs OBS is another great option if you’re looking into streaming, and offers an interesting history. Streamlabs began as a streaming tool separate from OBS, but due to popular demand for full integration Streamlabs created Streamlabs OBS. 

Essentially Streamlabs OBS is a more user friendly version of OBS. The user interface is cleaner and easier to understand, and a lot of plugins developed by the OBS community were added on to the standard version. Streamlabs’s version of OBS even has a discord server to act as a support system in case you run into any issues. 

The developers seemingly took all of the criticism that could be made with the original OBS and tried to fix it. That’s not to say that Streamlabs’s version is definitely better. Streamlabs OBS is targeted toward people wanting to stream strictly video games, so if you want to stream other things then the original OBS may be a better fit. 

Another benefit of the original OBS over Streamlabs OBS is that the developer community is larger. You’ll be able to find more plugins to have a more customized experience with the original OBS, but if you just want something that’s easy to set up and ready to go quickly, Streamlabs OBS may be your best bet.

XSplit Gamecaster

Another great option for streamers is XSplit Gamecaster. Gamecaster has an easy to use and understand interface and recently added preset configurations for streams, which previously weren’t available. Before,  if you were going to use Gamecaster you would have to do thorough research about bitrates or follow a guide on setting it up, but that is not an issue anymore though.  

Just like the previous additions to this list, plugins are available and they’re neatly combined into the plugin store. With other streaming softwares on the market,  you may have to scour websites and subreddits to find links to needed plugins, but Gamecaster’s are neatly organized. 

Unfortunately, Gamecaster’s free version watermarks any streams that are 720p or higher or 30+ frames per second. However, this doesn’t diminish the other features that Gamecaster has. Recently they’ve introduced VCam, which lets streamers cut the background out of their facecams without needing a green screen. 

Gamecaster is a great platform for a beginning streamer, but it may be better suited for people who are a little more knowledgeable and know exactly what they want from streaming software. 

Nvidia Shadowplay

Nvidia Shadowplay is definitely the most unique entry of the 4. It’s a program available only to computers with GeForce graphic cards. Shadowplay is unique from the other softwares because it uses the power of the GPU to do the heavy lifting, whereas other streaming programs are resource intensive on the CPU. A lot of the time, being more GPU reliant can result in the streamer’s computer handling the stream and game at the same time better than it otherwise would.

There are some drawbacks to Shadowplay though. The first, and probably most significant, issue for most people is that Shadowplay is pretty limited in its features. You can only input data to the stream from one source, which is the game. This means that Shadowplay doesn’t allow for the use of overlays or facecams. You stream will solely be the game and your voice. 

Shadowplay is easy to use and quick to set up, so if you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to get streaming Shadowplay may be for you. Shadowplay is also very useful for standard screen capture videos. 

The only measurable issue with Shadowplay is that sometimes it can wash out smaller details in the stream, but this likely won’t be an issue for people who just want a quick and reliable program that won’t bog down their computer.