Gaming on Linux has improved a lot over the years. No longer do you need a Windows PC to play the latest and greatest titles. In fact, many AAA titles work better on Linux compared to Windows.
To make your work easier, we have put together a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about Linux games.
We’ve put together a condensed read that covers where to find native Linux games, how to run Windows games on Linux, how to optimize your Linux PC for gaming, and if you’re building a new Linux gaming system, which distribution you should get. Overall, this will become your one-stop guide to all things Linux Gaming.
Finding Games to Play On Linux
First, we will discuss the games that are natively compatible with Linux and how to find them.
Next, we will show you how to play Windows games on your Linux PC.
Finally, we are going to highlight some emulators that will allow you to play games from other platforms (PlayStation and Nintendo consoles).
Linux Native Games
By “games that run natively on Linux” we mean titles that are officially compatible with Linux and do not require further tinkering, such as installing a compatibility layer or using emulators.
As with Windows, all you have to do is download and install these games on your Linux PC and they will be available to play.
Steam is one of the largest and most popular digital distribution platforms for video games. Despite its proprietary nature, Steam has contributed immensely to the open-source community and has also made countless Windows games available on Linux.
Now, to find native games for Linux, open your Steam app, go to Store, and on the righthand side, you will find filtering options. Scroll down, and you should see a “Narrow by OS” section under which the option – SteamOS + Linux. This will filter out all Steam games that are natively Linux compatible.
GOG is similar to Steam and allows you to search and discover hundreds of games. The main difference between GOG and Steam is that GOG only deals with DRM-free titles while Steam has a built-in DRM machine. In addition, GOG is purely web-based, unlike Steam, which has a website and a desktop app.
To find native Linux games on GOG now, go to their website, click the Store button, then Filters, and under the “System” section, you’ll find the Linux option. Check it out and all natively supported Linux games will appear here.
Linux Based Game Stores
- Humble Bundle Store – Here you can find Linux video games, often at discounted prices in bundles.
- Portable Linux Games – They mostly have 32bit-only games.
- Itch.io – indie video games.
- GameJolt – Another indie video game store
- Fanatical – Discover native Linux games. However, you will need to redeem the games on Steam to access them.
Windows Games on Linux
As you can see, there are many places where you can find games that run natively on Linux. However, there are some titles that are still available on Windows that have not yet made their way to Linux. This is all the more true for the new AAA titles that have priority as a Windows version.
Wine, short for Wine Is Not an Emulator, is an open-source compatibility layer that helps you run programs designed for Microsoft Windows on Linux and other Unix-based operating systems. As the name suggests, Wine does not emulate Windows or use Windows virtualization.
Instead, it’s a compatibility layer for the Windows runtime that translates Windows system calls into POSIX-compliant system calls. It will also rebuild the Windows directory structure and provide an alternate implementation of the Windows system libraries.
Basically, it implements enough of the Windows architecture required to run Windows applications and programs without the need for Windows.
Here is a database of all Windows applications and games that you can run with Wine on Linux.
Proton and Steam Play
Steam Play gives you access to Proton, a branch of Wine that contains many additional libraries and packages to make Windows games more compatible and perform better on Linux.
If Steam Play is enabled, while browsing your Steam library you will find that some games can now be installed even though they are not listed as compatible with Linux. This means that the game will run under the Proton compatibility layer if you want to play it on Linux.
Not only that, Steam Play even allows you to play Windows games from other stores. Very cool! However,
Proton does not support running all Windows games on Linux. Also, for whatever reason, Steam doesn’t offer an easy way to filter or remove Proton-ready games.
This is where ProtonDB comes in. It is a community website that has a list of all the Protonready games that you can run on Linux using Steam Play. The beauty of ProtonDB is that it shows you how well each game is doing, what the hardware requirements are, and even a few tweaks to get the best performance.
Therefore, it is always recommended to check ProtonDB first to see a game’s compatibility rating before installing it, as this information is not directly available on the Steam store.
Next, we have Lutris, an open-source game manager for Linux that lets you effortlessly install and play all kinds of Windows games designed to run on Wine or other compatibility levels, as well as emulators. It supports a wide variety of sources, including Origin, Uplay, Epic Games Launcher, and many more.
Here is the official list of all Lutris-powered games you would like to see.
The tool is designed to provide a smooth gaming experience. All you have to do is find the game you want and hit the one-click install button and the rest is done. The game, along with the necessary files and settings, will download/install automatically without any work on your part.
We’ve just covered all the sources and tools you’ll need to run almost any Windows game on your Linux PC. But what about consoles? There are tons of great console games that you might want to play.
Old-school titles from PlayStation, Nintendo, and even Sega consoles bring back a lot of memories, don’t they?
So … Linux can also run these games?
Well of course, but you will need emulators to run these console games on your PC.
Here are some emulators you can try out.
- Citra – Nintendo 3DS Emulator
- DeSmuME – Nintendo DS Emulator
- RetroArch – Emulator for NES, SNES, GameCube, Atari, Sega, and many more
- PCSX2 – A PlayStation 2 Emulator
- Genesis Plus GX – Powerful Multi-System Emulator for Sega 8/16bit Consoles
- Atari800 – Emulator for Various Atari Consoles
- Dolphin (Not to be confused with the File Manager) – GameCube and Wii Emulator
- mGBA – Game Boy Advanced (GBA) Emulator
- Snes9x – SNES Emulator
- Reicast – Sega Dreamcast Emulator
Note: While it is legal to use emulators, it is not allowed to use emulators to play pirated games. The legal way to use emulators is to buy the game and then run it with the emulator. This allows you to play the game on your Linux PC instead of the console it was designed for.
Setting up your Linux For Gaming
By now, you should have a thorough understanding of where to find native and non-native Linux games, as well as the tools necessary to run them on your Linux system.
Now is the time to focus on setting up and preparing your Linux PC to make sure all the games and tools run smoothly and smoothly. And to help you, here is a step-by-step guide (in order of importance) on how to set up your Ubuntu/pop OS PC for gaming.
1. Updating Video Drivers
The first thing to do is install the latest video drivers on your Linux system for optimal performance. To do this, run the following commands:
First, enable 32-bit libraries with this command:
sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
For AMD drivers:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kisak/kisak-mesa -y sudo apt update sudo apt install libgl1-mesa-dri:i386 mesa-vulkan-drivers mesa-vulkan-drivers:i386 -y
For NVIDIA Users
sudo ubuntu-drivers autoinstall
2. Enabling ACO (AMD Only)
ACO, short for AMD COmpiler, is a shader compiler that changes compilation from standard LLVM to ACO, making performance exceptionally faster. In fact, certain native Windows games that are ACO compliant work better on Linux than on Windows; that’s the strong point of ACO.
To enable ACO, you must first ensure that you have the latest AMD graphics drivers. Once you’ve done that, edit the / etc / environment file and add the following line to the file:
GameMode, developed by game publisher Feral Interactive, is a combination of various libraries and daemons that allow games to request a series of temporary optimizations to improve games.
Basically, all cores are unlocked and no process is guaranteed to shut down for maximum performance.
You can create and install GameMode using the commands below and then follow the instructions linked above.
git clone https://github.com/FeralInteractive/gamemode.git cd gamemode git checkout 1.5.1 # omit to build the master branch ./bootstrap.sh
Turn on GameMode in Steam
Go to the Launch options on a Game you would like to play using GameMode. Then type in: gamemoderun %command%
Setting up WINE, Steam, and Lutris
We have already mentioned Wine and Lutris. We are going to see how to install all the Wine and Lutris dependencies so that our system is ready from the beginning.
Now that you are on a Debian or Ubuntu-based system, enter the following commands in the terminal to install all the required dependencies, including Lutris:
wget -nc https://dl.winehq.org/wine-builds/winehq.key sudo apt-key add winehq.key sudo add-apt-repository 'deb https://dl.winehq.org/wine-builds/ubuntu/ focal main' -y sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lutris-team/lutris -y sudo apt update sudo apt-get install libgnutls30:i386 libldap-2.4-2:i386 libgpg-error0:i386 libxml2:i386 libasound2-plugins:i386 libsdl2-2.0-0:i386 libfreetype6:i386 libdbus-1-3:i386 libsqlite3-0:i386 -y sudo apt-get install --install-recommends winehq-staging -y sudo apt-get install steam lutris -y
That brings us to the end of our definitive guide to Linux gaming. We really hope you found it helpful and helped you have a better Linux gaming experience.
Linux Vs Windows & macOS
As you can see, we’ve covered all the information starting with where to find Linux native games, how to play non-native Linux games, and how to optimize your Linux PC for games.
Do let us know how it goes, and feel free to add your questions in the comments! Happy gaming to you!