It feels like every year for the past 15 years has been called “the Year of the Linux Desktop” — and inevitably, it never actually turns out that way. Every year, the proclamation is made. Every year, disappointment.
But slow progress is still progress, and Linux is definitely progressing. At one point, serious gaming on Linux was near impossible. Nowadays, there are hundreds of solid games that you can download for Linux, and 2016 has probably been the greatest year for Linux gaming with all the ports and releases that have come out.
“The Year” hasn’t arrived yet, but maybe it will sometime soon. Until then, you can enjoy these popular games by playing them natively within your Linux OS — no emulation or virtualization required!
1. Rocket League (2015)
Soccer with cars. It sounds silly, but it’s surprisingly fun! So fun, in fact, that we named Rocket League as one of the many Xbox One games that you absolutely must play this year. It was also released on PC and PS4, but only became ported to Linux in September 2016.
How popular is Rocket League? Well, it consistently sits in the Top 20 list of most concurrent online players of all the games on Steam. As of this writing, it has a 24-hour peak of 45,000 players and just under 11,000 players even during off-peak hours. This game isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
2. Mad Max (2015)
The Mad Max franchise experienced a significant revival with the Fury Road film release in 2015. A few months later, Mad Max was released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, allowing players to explore the post-apocalyptic world in an open, non-linear manner.
Highly recommended for fans of open world RPGs. It was simultaneously ported to Mac in case you’re interested in that, too. Either way, it’s nice to see that big titles like this one are still coming to Linux.
3. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the sequel to the wildly popular Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and it’s very much worth playing. I know the game itself was released in 2016, but the Linux port didn’t come until November so it felt right to include it in this list.
The key selling point of the Deus Ex franchise is that it’s a first person shooter that emphasizes other ways to “win” than by simply slaughtering all of your enemies, and the fact that you can pursue multiple endings depending on how you play.
Thinking of playing? Get started with our beginner tips for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game isn’t easy, so if you ever get stuck, don’t feel bad about seeking out help.
4. Tomb Raider (2013)
This reboot of a 1990s classic franchise turned out surprisingly well, garnering positive reviews across the board from the most prominent game reviewers around. We even put it at the top of the list for best video game reboots in recent history.
In short, Tomb Raider is an action-adventure game that blends exploration, survival, and combat. It has a compelling narrative, lots of fun mechanics, and numerous side quests that flesh out the world and give you more to do. It was ported to Linux in May 2016.
5. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (2009)
Dawn of War paved the way for squad-based real-time-strategy games, and Dawn of War II capitalized on that by improving on all the shortcomings of the first title. Note that it doesn’t have any base-building elements, which makes it a breath of fresh air — but traditional RTS fans may find it a bit unfamiliar.
It even has some RPG elements in the wargear system, which are items that you can equip onto your characters. The one common criticism against Dawn of War II is that the single player campaigns lack variety across missions. But if you can find friends to play with, it’s an absolute blast.
6. Saint’s Row 2 and 3 (2008/2011)
Saint’s Row is an action-adventure franchise similar to Grand Theft Auto but more comedic and over-the-top. There are four titles in the series, and they’ve all received generally positive reviews, so this is as consistent a gaming experience as it gets.
Saint’s Row 2 and Saint’s Row: The Third were both ported to Linux in April 2016, and you should play them as soon as you can if you love open-world games. If anything, they’ll prepare you for Saint’s Row IV, which is also available on Linux!
7. Darkest Dungeon (2016)
Nowadays, roguelike (and “roguelite”) games are a dime a dozen and it can be hard to find one that really stands out from the rest — so it’s pleasantly surprising when a game like Darkest Dungeon hits the scene and challenges the idea of what a game should be.
Not only is it aesthetically unique and beautiful, not only is it both fun and interesting, but it also says something profound about the nature of morality in game design — something that most morality-based games have been unable to express for decades. Definitely worth a try now that it’s playable on Linux (since May 2016).
8. Undertale (2015)
Undertale is one of those games that’s so uniquely strange and whimsical that it goes viral simply because people feel compelled to share that weirdness with their friends. Plus, the aesthetic and tonal throwback to Earthbound effectively tugs at the nostalgia strings for those who’ve played it.
I wouldn’t call it a great game, but it’s definitely a fun game. Ported to Linux in July 2016, Undertale is one worth checking out. Any indie game that can sell over a million copies has to be doing something right… right?
9. La-Mulana (2012)
La-Mulana is the oldest game on this list, having first been released back in 2005 (Japan only) and then remade in 2012 (worldwide). It was finally ported to Linux in May 2016, and the question is: why is this game still attracting attention over 10 years later?
Well, it’s a platformer, and platformers are all the rage these days. The graphical style is reminiscent of the 80s (but in a particular way that’s more nuanced than just “pixel art”), and the game is just fun in that there are multiple ways to reach the end.
If you like Metroid or Castlevania games, then you’ll feel right at home with La-Mulana.
Which Games Do You Play on Linux?
In addition to all of these games — which were, again, only the ones that were ported to Linux this year — you can find hundreds of other great games to play using Steam on Linux, including XCOM 2, SOMA, and The Talos Principle.
And don’t forget these MMORPGs that run natively on Linux. A lot of the criticisms against Linux as a home desktop still hold true, but the inability to play good games is a myth that’s long been debunked.
Do you game a lot on Linux? Or do you prefer to dual-boot or virtualize Windows on the side? Which games do you want to see ported to Linux? Share with us in the comments below!