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gaming on linuxWhile desktop Linux may be a tempting platform, there’s one thing stopping a lot of people from making the plunge: PC gaming. Like it or not, Windows is the de facto platform for PC gaming. You can’t count on Linux supporting your favorite games, but you may be surprised: some Windows games work on Linux using the Wine compatability layer.

While gaming on Linux has been one of desktop Linux’s main weak spots, this appears to be changing. With Valve working on bringing the popular Steam gaming service to Linux and strongly criticizing Windows 8, we can expect a brighter future for gaming on Linux.

Native Linux Gaming

Most games are written for Windows. If you insert a Starcraft 2 disc into your Linux computer, it won’t work — it needs Windows. Game developers have to go out of their way to support Linux.

Unfortunately, few do. One organization that deserves props for supporting gaming on Linux is the famous Humble Indie Bundle The Humble Indie Games Bundle: Pay What You Want! The Humble Indie Games Bundle: Pay What You Want! Read More , which insists that all games included as part of a  bundle include Linux versions. If you’ve bought a few Humble Bundles, you likely have quite a few games that run on Linux already. If you haven’t purchased any bundles, you can still buy many of the games individually — the Ubuntu Software Center 5 Great Tips For The Ubuntu Software Center [Linux] 5 Great Tips For The Ubuntu Software Center [Linux] Read More offers these some of games for sale. If you have purchased the bundles, you can even activate your games in the Ubuntu Software Center to easily download and install them. Some of the bundled games include Bastion, Limbo, World of Goo, Braid, Psychonauts, Machinarium, Trine, Super Meat Boy, and more.

Web browser-based games also work fine on Linux. Angry Birds Play the Angry Birds Game in Your Browser Right Now, For Free Play the Angry Birds Game in Your Browser Right Now, For Free Are you too productive working on your computer? Good news! Angry Birds is now available on every computer, so you'll never actually work again. Or, at least, never be able to. That's right, the infamously... Read More , Cut the Rope, and all the other cool games from the Chrome Web Store 10 Really Cool Games From The Google Chrome Store [MUO Gaming] 10 Really Cool Games From The Google Chrome Store [MUO Gaming] The Chrome Web Store contains thousands of games - we've dug through them for you and unearthed some gems. Whether you're looking for casual fun, Zen puzzles, rich 3D graphics, arcade-style multiplayer action or interesting... Read More run on Linux, just as they do on Windows and Mac. All the Flash games on websites like Kongregate MUO Games - The Best Websites to Play Flash Games MUO Games - The Best Websites to Play Flash Games Read More  work on Linux, too.

gaming on linux

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This being Linux, there are also quite a few open-source, free games you can install from the Ubuntu Software Center (or your Linux distribution‘s software repositories). You shouldn’t expect to find any games that can stand toe-to-toe with the latest and greatest commercial Windows games, but there are quite a few fun games to play. Check out Nexuiz MUO Games : Top 5 Free Cross-Platform FPS Games MUO Games : Top 5 Free Cross-Platform FPS Games Read More (now known as “Classic Nexuiz”) or the Nexuiz-fork Xonotic if you’re looking for an old-school multiplayer FPS game. If you’re looking for something a bit slower and more tactical, try Battle for Wesnoth Live Out Adventure and Conquest in the Battle for Wesnoth [Cross Platform] Live Out Adventure and Conquest in the Battle for Wesnoth [Cross Platform] Read More , a turn-based fantasy strategy game. We’ve also covered some great casual games for Linux 5 Casual Linux Games You Probably Don't Know About 5 Casual Linux Games You Probably Don't Know About Read More and websites you can use to discover Linux games Top 4 Websites To Discover Free Linux Games Top 4 Websites To Discover Free Linux Games We (as in Linux users) have all wished that some of those popular games we see in commercials would be readily available for Linux. Finding good, native games for Linux can be a bit tricky.... Read More .

linux gaming

Many console emulators 10+ Emulators To Play Old-School 16- And 32-bit Consoles On Your PC (1987-1993) 10+ Emulators To Play Old-School 16- And 32-bit Consoles On Your PC (1987-1993) Read More also work on Linux, so you can play console games that you own and have turned into ROMs. You can use DOSBox How To Get Old DOS Computer Games To Run On Windows 7 How To Get Old DOS Computer Games To Run On Windows 7 Read More to play your old DOS games on Linux, too.

AAA Games & Steam on Linux

Popular, mainstream AAA games have become even less common on Linux than they were in the past. ID released Doom 3, Quake 4, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars on Linux, but ID isn’t planning on releasing Rage and their future games on Linux. Epic Games released the original Unreal Tournament and Unreal Tournament 2004 on Linux, but games such as Gears of War never made it to Linux. While Epic promised Unreal Tournament 3 would include Linux support, they spent years promising support “soon” until finally announcing, years after launch, that UT3 would never support Linux.

This appears to be changing. With the release of Windows 8 and its integrated app store, and the possibility that Microsoft will one day close the Windows platform and prevent third-party software stores like Valve’s Steam from operating on Windows, Valve is porting Steam How To Migrate Steam To a New Hard Drive How To Migrate Steam To a New Hard Drive Unlike most Windows applications, Steam can be easily moved between hard drives without redownloading or reinstalling anything. If you want to put Steam on a new hard drive – say, if you’ve bought a new... Read More and many of their popular games to Linux. When Steam for Linux is released, games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2 A Selection Of The Best Free-To-Play Steam Games A Selection Of The Best Free-To-Play Steam Games Content delivery service Steam is a real money-spinner for Valve, prompting publishers like EA to shy away from it in pursuit of their own system. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of free gems... Read More will be playable on Linux. If you own games that work on Linux, you’ll be able to easily install them. Valve may one day use Linux as the base to create their own console, a “Steam box.” This would result in many more games supporting Linux.

linux gaming

Another sign of the times is Electronic Arts launching games on Linux. EA added two games, Command & Conquer Tiberium Alliances and Lord of Ultima, to the Ubuntu Software Center. Unfortunately, these games are little more than bookmarks to web-based games that you play in your browser. However, EA is noticing Linux gamers exist and this may lead to native games in the future.

Graphics Drivers

One important consideration when gaming on Linux is your graphics hardware. Most Linux distributions will use open-source graphics drivers by default. However, AMD (formerly ATI) and NVIDIA also provide closed-source graphics drivers for Linux.

These proprietary graphics drivers will generally provide much better 3D performance than the open-source ones. Historically speaking, NVIDIA’s 3D drivers have been much more stable and better-performing than AMD’s on Linux. To squeeze all the 3D performance you can out of Linux, an NVIDIA graphics card is the way to go.

Onboard Intel graphics also works on Linux, and Intel even helps develop the open-source drivers themselves. However, just like on Windows, Intel graphics isn’t anywhere near as powerful as an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card, although Intel graphics are definitely improving What You Need To Know About Intel’s Ivy Bridge [MakeUseOf Explains] What You Need To Know About Intel’s Ivy Bridge [MakeUseOf Explains] Intel has just released its new updated processor, code-named Ivy Bridge, for both desktops and laptops. You’ll find these new products listed as the 3000 series and you can buy at least some of them... Read More .

Playing Windows Games

The majority of the games you want to play are probably not available natively for Linux. However, you may still be able to play them using Wine Run Windows Applications on Linux (or Mac) with WINE Run Windows Applications on Linux (or Mac) with WINE Read More . Wine is an open-source compatibility layer for Linux that attempts to implement the Windows APIs on Linux. In other words, it allows you to run Windows applications on Linux. However, it doesn’t work perfectly, so you can’t expect every game to work properly with it.

To easily install your favorite Windows games (and other supported Windows software), use PlayOnLinux PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux Read More . PlayOnLinux is an easy-to-use interface for automatically downloading, installing, and tweaking supported Windows games so that they’ll run properly in Wine. If a game is supported by PlayOnLinux and you have good enough graphics hardware, installing and playing it should be fairly easy.

gaming on linux

To see if your favorite games and other Windows applications work on Linux, search the Wine AppDB. You’ll generally find that older, popular games work well — for example, World of Warcraft 4 Reasons Why Mists Of Pandaria Makes WOW Worth Going Back To [MUO Gaming] 4 Reasons Why Mists Of Pandaria Makes WOW Worth Going Back To [MUO Gaming] The latest World of Warcraft expansion has been on the market for a couple weeks, and I have been able to spend far too many hours playing it. I started playing WOW again a few... Read More is very well supported. A newer game like Guild Wars 2 may work, but it has quite a few outstanding bugs and will require a lot of tweaking, according to the AppDB. If you want to play the latest games as soon as they come out, gaming on Linux is probably not for you — yet, at least. This is why many gamers dual-boot Linux and Windows How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS's On Your Computer It's like having two computers in one - start your system up and choose between Windows and Linux. It's called dual-booting, and it gives you access to two of the best operating systems on the... Read More , booting their computers into Windows to play games.

If you’re new to the OS, have you checked out the MUO guide to Linux? What has your experience with gaming on Linux been like? Do your favorite games work in Wine on Linux? Do you know any awesome Linux games you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment and join the discussion!

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