Gaming On Linux: All You Need To Know

Can I play games on Linux?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by users who are thinking about switching to Linux. After all, gaming on Linux is often termed as a distant possibility. At least, by some hardcore gamers using another platform to play games.

In fact, some people even wonder if they can listen to music or watch movies on Linux. Considering that, the question about playing games on Linux seem genuine.

In this article, I am going to answer most of the Linux gaming questions that a beginner may have. Some of the potential questions that I’m going to address here are:

  • Is it possible to play games on Linux?
  • What are the Linux games available?
  • Where can you download Linux games?
  • How do you get more information about gaming on Linux?

But before I do that, let me make a confession. I am not a PC gamer or rather I should say, I am not a desktop Linux gamer. I prefer to play games on my PS4 and I haven’t dived into the PC games available or even mobile games (no candy crush request sent to anyone in my friend list). This is the reason you only see a few articles in the Linux games section of It’s FOSS.

So why am I covering this topic then?

Because I have been asked questions about playing games on Linux several times and I wanted to come up with a Linux gaming guide that could answer all those questions. And remember, it’s not just gaming on Ubuntu I am talking about here. I am talking about Linux in general.

Linux gaming guide

Can you play games on Linux?

Yes and no!

Yes, you can play games on Linux and no, you cannot play ‘all the games’ in Linux.

Confused? Don’t be. What I meant here is that you can get plenty of popular games on Linux such as Counter Strike, Shadow Of Mordor , etc.

However, you should not expect a native Linux support for the latest and greatest games – which are typically available for Windows.

The reason, in my opinion, is that Linux has less than 2% of desktop market share and the numbers are demotivating enough for most game developers to avoid working on the Linux version of their games.

Not just limited to the userbase, but not all games work perfectly on Linux. But, there are workarounds (ways) to play a huge list of games and I’ll be mentioning how to do that.

If I have to categorize, I’ll divide the games on Linux into four categories:

  1. Native Linux Games (games officially available for Linux)
  2. Windows games in Linux (Windows games played in Linux with Wine or other software)
  3. Browser Games (games that you can play online using your web browse)
  4. Terminal Games (games you can play in the Linux terminal)

Let’s start with the most important one, native Linux games, first.

1. Where to find native Linux games?

Native Linux games refer to those games which are officially supported on Linux. You just have to download it and hit it to play it without any potential troubleshooting.

Of course, there are a lot of games that support Linux officially – but where do you find them?

Hence, I am going to list some of the resources which you can utilize to download Linux games.

Steam

Install-Steam-Ubuntu-11

Steam is a very popular digital video game store which offers incredible deals on games for Linux (including free games as well). So, it is an obvious source of PC games.

You can explore it to find tons of games ranging from AAA titles to Indie games.

Usually, you can easily find Steam listed in your app center or package manager. But, if you have no clue how to install and use it, refer to my guide below on installing and using Steam on Ubuntu Linux to get an idea.

GOG.com

Gog Screenshot

GOG.com is yet another platform similar to Steam. Like Steam, you can browse and find hundreds of native Linux games on GOG.com, purchase the games and install them. If the games support several platforms, you can download and use them across various operating systems. Your purchased games are available for you all the time in your account. You can download them anytime you wish.

One main difference between the two is that GOG.com offers only DRM free games. Also, GOG.com is entirely web-based. Unlike Steam, you don’t get a native desktop client on Linux for GOG.com.

Portable Linux Games

Portable Linux Games

Portable Linux Games is a website that offers a good collection of Linux games for 32-bit systems. You can’t run the games on a purely 64-bit system by default – however, you can try following a troubleshooting guide to make it happen.

The downloaded files have all the dependencies (at times Wine and Perl installation) and these are also platform-independent. All you need to do is to download the files and double click to install them.

It’s a great source for gamers who aren’t into the games made by big studios but just want to have a good time playing some games on Linux.

Itch.io

Itch Io Linux

Looking for native Linux Indie games? if that’s the case, Itch.io is a fantastic source to find interesting games.

You can find a lot of Indie games for free and can also opt to choose a paid game.

Interestingly, you do not need to create an account to download free games. You can simply head to its page and download the file meant for Linux.

Software Repositories

You can also look into the software repositories of your own Linux distribution. There will always be some games on it.

If you are using Ubuntu, the Software Center itself has an entire section for games. The same is true for other Linux distributions such as Linux Mint etc.

2. How to play Windows games in Linux?

Wine-Linux

There’s a bunch of native Linux games out there. However, most of the popular games available aren’t available on Linux directly. In other words, the latest and greatest games do not support Linux (for the most) and are available for Windows only.

In that case, do we have a workaround to play those games on Linux? Yes, we do!

With the help of tools like Wine, Phoenicis (formerly known as PlayOnLinux), Lutris, CrossOver, and GameHub, you can play a number of popular Windows games on Linux.

Steam Play

Steam Play New

If you’re fond of using Steam as your only source of games on Linux, you can easily try the Windows-only games using Steam Play.

Steam utilizes a compatibility layer to directly run a Windows-specific game on Linux. We do have a detailed guide on using Steam Play on Linux – I’d recommend you to explore that to get started with it.

Wine

Wine is a compatibility layer that is capable of running Windows applications in systems like Linux, BSD and OS X. With the help of Wine, you can install and use a number of Windows applications in Linux.

Installing Wine in Ubuntu or any other Linux is easy as it is available in most Linux distributions’ repository. There is a huge database of applications and games supported by Wine that you can browse.

CrossOver

CrossOver is an improved version of Wine that brings professional and technical support to Wine. But unlike Wine, CrossOver is not free. You’ll have to purchase the yearly license for it.

The good thing about CrossOver is that every purchase contributes to Wine developers and that in fact boosts the development of Wine to support more Windows games and applications. If you can afford about $10 a year, you should buy CrossOver for the support they provide.

GameHub

Gamehub Linux

We already have a separate article on how to use GameHub on Linux.

But, to give you a heads up, GameHub lets you manage and play games from multiple sources that include Steam, GOG, and Humble Bundle.

Lutris Gaming

Lutris Gaming

Lutris is something similar to GameHub but supports a wide range of sources that include Origin, Uplay, Epic Games Launcher, and several others.

It makes it easy for you to play Windows-only games on Linux. And, it is a quite popular tool used by many users. You can also check the official list of games it potentially supports before trying it out.

Phoenicis PlayOnLinux

Phoenicis Playonlinux

PlayOnLinux too is based on Wine but implemented differently. It has a different interface and slightly easier to use than Wine. Like Wine, PlayOnLinux too is free to use.

It may not be the best choice among the others mentioned but you can browse the applications and games supported by PlayOnLinux on its database to decide for yourself.

3. Browser Games

Chrome-Web-Store

Needless to say that there are tons of browser-based games that are available to play in any operating system, be it Windows or Linux or Mac OS X. Most of the addictive mobile games, such as GoodGame Empire, also have their web browser counterparts.

Apart from that, thanks to Google Chrome Web Store, you can play some more games in Linux. These Chrome games are installed like a standalone app and they can be accessed from the application menu of your Linux OS. Some of these Chrome games are playable offline as well.

4. Terminal Games

Play Snake game in Linux terminal with nSnake

The added advantage of using Linux is that you can use the command line terminal to play games as well.

I know that it’s not the best way to play games but at times, it’s fun to play games like Snake or 2048 in the terminal.

To help you out, we have two separate lists of top command-line games and best ASCII games which are pretty easy to install.

How to stay updated about Linux games?

Now that you know where to find the games and how to use them on Linux, the next question is – how to stay updated about new games on Linux?

Of course, we will try to cover major game releases for Linux – however, we at It’s FOSS aren’t completely focused on gaming (as of yet).

And for that, I advise you to follow these blogs that provide you with the latest happenings of the Linux gaming world:

  • Gaming on Linux: I won’t be wrong if I call it the best Linux gaming news portal. You get all the latest rumblings and news about Linux games. Frequently updated, Gaming on Linux has dedicated fan following which makes it a nice community of Linux game lovers.
  • Free Gamer: A blog focusing on free and open source games.
  • Linux Game News: A blog that updates on various Linux games.

In fact, here are more websites Linux gamers should follow.

Wrapping Up

I think that’s pretty much what you need to know to get started with gaming on Linux. There are plenty of free Linux games that you can try at the moment.

There’s also a very useful migration guide by the subreddit r/linux_gaming that can help you kickstart your gaming journey on Linux.

It’s time for you to add your inputs. Do you play games on your Linux desktop? What are your favorites? What blogs do you follow to stay updated on the latest Linux games? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • This article is severely lacking in the performance department. If I get games to run on Linux, how much of a performance hit am I gonna get jumping through hoops to get it going? DirectX is that even an option?

  • Let me make a correction, the largest gaming OS is Linux, as it is the platform for all consoles and mobile devices. MS Windows only dominates the PC gaming market. Most games however are developed for the console and mobile device markets. It graphics and memory intensive games which are designed for PC and in some cases only a specific PC setup.

    Playing games through Steam is the most common approach to PC gaming, and their system is set atop linux. Have a look at the new Steam Deck which comes out this year 2022. Its the perfect way to get into gaming, without the issues relative to setting up and maintaining a High end Windows PC ($2500-$3500us) and more.

    With that Windows setup, you will need to rock two setups, one AMD and the other Intel, or you will not be able to play all PC games…

    Yes PC gaming is a far better experience than console, mobile gaming, however, that experience, comes at a price… trust me i’m rocking 3 PC setups for gaming. Plus the fact video cards today are stupid expensive…if…you can find them at all…

    • With that Windows setup, you will need to rock two setups, one AMD and the other Intel, or you will not be able to play all PC games…

      Can you clarify on this?

  • hi I need some help I’m a Windows user for a long time but recently I have looked around to get
    better performance for playing a game? as now I’m fand that the windows 10 the System resource
    is slowing down my games but if I going to a window that has no support like windows 8.1 and fand
    Linux to be the best operating system to go for?

    • Linux is a better option then windows 8.1 in most cases yes. but if it’s just that w10 is slow you might want to just reformat and reinstall. If you’re intrested in Linux then try it, but don’t just jump in head first, it’s not so fun. it’s better to play with linux in a VM first and get used to it before switching. Linux does things very differently.