How to Play Windows-only Games on Linux with Steam Play

The new experimental feature of Steam allows you to play Windows-only games on Linux. Here’s how to use this feature in Steam right now.

What is Steam Play?

Game distribution platform Steam has implemented a fork of WINE, it’s called – “Steam Play”. With Steam Play, Linux users can play games that are available on Windows only. It was in beta phase for a while but you can now directly try it out without opting in for Steam beta updates.

Play Windows-only games in Linux with Steam Play

Play Windows-only games on Linux

You need to install Steam first. Steam is available for all major Linux distributions. I have written in detail about installing Steam on Ubuntu and you may refer to that article if you don’t have Steam installed yet.

Once you have Steam installed and you have logged into your Steam account, it’s time to see how to enable Windows games in Steam Linux client.

Step 1: Go to Account Settings

Run Steam client. On the top left, click on Steam and then on Settings.

Enable steam play beta on Linux

Step 3: Enable Steam Play beta

Now, you’ll see an option Steam Play in the left side panel. Click on it and check the boxes:

  • Enable Steam Play for supported titles (You can play the whitelisted Windows-only games)
  • Enable Steam Play for all titles (You can try to play all Windows-only games)
Steam Play New

You can also opt to change the version of the compatibility layer (Proton) if you need it. Once, you are done selecting the options, hit “OK” and proceed to restart steam in order for the changes to take effect.

Here’s how it will work:

For example, I have Age of Empires in my Steam library which is not available on Linux normally. But after I enabled Steam Play beta for all Windows titles, it now gives me the option for installing Age of Empires on Linux.

Install Windows-only games on Linux using Steam
Windows-only games can now be installed on Linux

Things to know about Steam Play feature

There are a few things you should know and keep in mind about using Windows-only games on Linux with Steam Play:

How Do You Identify Games That Work On Steam Play?

Protondb Screenshot

I’m sure that you don’t have a lot of free time to download games one by one and test it with Steam Play.

In that case, you can visit ProtonDB to check reports/stats contributed by gamers who test the games.

You can use that as a reference to decide whether you should download/purchase a certain game.

I hope this tutorial helped you in running Windows-only games on Linux. Which game(s) are you looking forward to play on Linux?

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  • What if you have an old windows game on cd? Is it possible to get the game from cd onto Linux and have Steamplay recognize and run it?

      • Thanks for the quick reply. A followup question: for old games that were purchased many years ago (before Steam ever existed), that are now available on Steam, is there a way to tell Steam that i already own it? Basically, i don’t want to re-buy a game on Steam that i already own (if i can help it). Thanks!

        • I understand your feeling but Steam is a digital distributor. You can only play what you purchase from them.

          You may still try and use WINE to run some of your games but I cannot say how well will it go.

    • it depends a bit… if you can run an installer, or figure out how to configure wine to see the cd as a cd, then you can do the same kindof thing with proton (the variation of wine that steam play uses). proton is better supported than wine because it has a company backing it… if you have an installer file to run, then you select it from a linux folder as a non steam game to add to library, manually set steam play to use proton, run it from the new steam runner for it, and when you finish the installer you edit the steam runner profile again and set it to whatever you would run on windows to run it. for example, you’d run discord installer exe from /home/user/downloads in the steam runner with proton manually turned on, and then you’d edit the executable path to C:Program Files (x86)DiscordDiscord.exe

  • hi there, thanks for this useful article!
    i followed the instructions and tried to play windows only games with ubuntu 20.4.3.
    after activating Steam Play i succeeded in installing them, but when i push the play button nothing actually open. looks like the game is running for few secs then it close, but i cant see any pop-up or game window..
    i’m sure this is happening to other people too, so i ‘m confident there is a way to fix this.
    (just for reference i installed and tried to run Scythe and Terraformig Mars, labelled as platinum and gold on protonDB)
    tnx in advance!!

        • I had this problem too, but i think It’s because steam mostly supports 32 bits systems of Linux, i can play the game after installing it by searching in the archives the various versions of that game.
          (I apologize if my English isn’t that good)