DIY Gaming

Amazing Games You Can Play on the Raspberry Pi without Emulation

Christian Cawley 02-08-2013

I’m a little obsessed by my Raspberry Pi, and have spent hours of the past 12 months finding new ways of using it. So much so, in fact, that I’m about to take receipt of a second device.


However, I’m also obsessed by a particular game: Civilization by Sid Meier. This one game (and its various sequels/updates) has eaten up more time in my life than nights out, and it never fails to enthuse.

You can probably see where I’m going with this, but I’ll spell it out just in case. A few nights ago I decided that rather than play Civilization V on my PC, I would look for a version that I could play on my Raspberry Pi?

Thus began a quest to find not only a version of Civilization that might run (perhaps using an MS-DOS emulator), but pretty much any game that would run natively on the Raspberry Pi.

Forget About Emulation

Running game emulators on the Raspberry Pi has become pretty popular of late, with standalone utilities and even dedicated Raspbian builds available (such as RetroPie Retro Gaming on Raspberry Pi: Understanding ROMs, RetroPie, Recalbox, and More The Raspberry Pi is ideal for playing classic video games. Here's how to get started with retro gaming on your Raspberry Pi. Read More ) to help you turn your little computer into a universal retro gaming center.

The vast majority of games created up to the mid-to-late 1990s can be successfully emulated on the Raspberry Pi, enabling you to enjoy some arcade classics, home computing legends and MS-DOS greats – games you remember fondly, or never had the chance to play properly.


But if you think that connecting up a PSX controller and enjoying some top titles from 15 years ago is the limit of the Raspberry Pi’s gaming capabilities, you have another thing coming.

Finding Games for the Raspberry Pi

While you might think that it is a big ask to find games for the little Raspberry Pi with its modest 700 MHz ARM processor, 256 MB (or 512 MB in more recent versions) RAM and Broadcom VideoCore IV graphics – but you would be wrong. In fact, there is a good selection of games available from the Raspberry Pi store (see 3 Ways To Install Software On Raspberry Pi 5 Ways To Install Software On Raspberry Pi To do anything with a Raspberry Pi, you'll need to know how to install an operating system, and software to run on it. If you're new to Linux, this can be daunting. Read More for more on installing apps from the store), some of which are particularly notable.

These more interesting games are a mix of original creations, tributes/clones and ports, and each is worth installing.

Let’s take a look at the top choices:


FreeCiv [No Longer Available]

The original game is something of a legend, but when I started my search for a way of playing Civilization on the Raspberry Pi, I soon realised that I would have to find out if FreeCiv had been ported to run on the little computer.

Amazing Games You Can Play on the Raspberry Pi without Emulation freeciv

Although available for Linux computers since its first release in 1996, FreeCiv is also available for Windows and Mac OS X. Most importantly, however, it has been ported to the Raspberry Pi, where the Civilization II-style UI and map design evokes (in this gamer at least) deep nostalgia for world domination…

OpenTTD [No Longer Available]

Another legendary simulator that has found its way onto the Raspberry Pi thanks to cloning and porting is OpenTTD. Based on the old Microprose game Transport Tycoon Deluxe, OpenTTD is a very good copy of the original that also includes some new features.


Amazing Games You Can Play on the Raspberry Pi without Emulation ttd alt

The aim of the game is simple – make money! This is done by transporting passengers and freight around a map by road, rail, water and air, and meeting the requirements of the various settlements on the map.

While this might sound dry to start with, the compulsion to make cash as a transport mogul is often too much to fight!

Minecraft: Pi Edition

Perhaps the king of Raspberry Pi gaming, however, is Minecraft, the hugely popular world-building simulation that has proven so addictive for players over the past few years.


Amazing Games You Can Play on the Raspberry Pi without Emulation Minecraft

The porting of Minecraft: Pocket Edition to the Raspberry Pi came as a surprise to many, as did the fact that unlike other platforms, Minecraft is free for Pi users! Better still, Minecraft: Pi Edition enables you to access the code of the in-game world and manipulate objects directly.

To use Minecraft on your Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to be running the Raspbian operating system Optimize The Power Of Your Raspberry Pi With Raspbian As befits a man with too much tech on his hands, I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi recently, configuring the device so that it works to its fullest potential. It continues to run as... Read More . Full installation instructions for Minecraft are available via the link above.

The Little Crane That Could [No Longer Available]

Perhaps the first game available on the Pi Store (it was certainly the only one I could find when the store launched), The Little Crane That Could is a surprisingly fun construction crane game/simulator.

Amazing Games You Can Play on the Raspberry Pi without Emulation littlecrane

You can drive around, build houses, load cargo trains and generally have fun building, loading, and moving with this game, which is also available on Android and iOS. If you like building but find Minecraft a bit too in-depth, this might be the answer…

Programming Impressive Basic Games

Although emulation is a popular way to game on the Raspberry Pi, with the right planning, skills and patience you should be able to create your own using the pre-installed tool called Scratch.

Remember that the Raspberry Pi was created primarily as a device to help young people and students develop their programming skills and end the practice of stealing computer IT talent from countries like India and Pakistan Raspberry Pi's Father Speaks: Eben Upton On The Future of Technology And More Enthusiasm radiates from Eben Upton. He's the driving force behind the Raspberry Pi, that small computer that has been revolutionising hobbyist computing since its launch in 2012. Tall, and dressed casually, the founder of the... Read More .

So although there is a great list of games here ,and the option to go back to some classic gaming experiences, the Raspberry Pi also offers you the chance to start developing your own games. If you’ve ever had any aspirations and ambitions in this area, now is the time to start!

Conclusion: A Small Computer with Huge Gaming Possibilities!

However you use your Raspberry Pi, you cannot have failed to notice its considerable flexibility. That it runs games like Minecraft, the Quake 3 clone Open Arena and FreeCiv is a good indication that there is much more to come.

But from where? Can other games be ported to the Raspberry Pi? Could original games created by young programmers find their way onto the Pi Store? Or will gaming on the Raspberry Pi be a case of installing emulators?

Let us know what you think, and tell us in the comments if you have tried any of these Raspberry Pi games.

Image Credit: MinecraftOpenTTD

Explore more about: Raspberry Pi, Retro Gaming, Simulation Games, Strategy Games.

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  1. James
    March 17, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Railroad Tycoon 2. Thousands of hours wasted in sheer fun.

  2. Anonymous
    August 10, 2015 at 9:51 pm