The Raspberry Pi isn’t just for DIY projects. You can use it as a desktop computer or send it into space. It can be configured as an inspiring digital picture frame, or even a smart mirror.
But did you know that the credit card-sized computer will also run games? We’re not talking about emulation here; actual games can be installed on the Raspberry Pi.
Install Games on Your Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is incredibly useful and versatile. It will even run retro games in emulators for many classic platforms. But if you don’t want to mess around with emulators, retro gaming on Raspberry Pi is still possible.
The developers of the following games have all released them for community use. Some are the originals, others are clones, but you can run them all on a Raspberry Pi. We recommend a Raspberry Pi 3 or later, although some may run on a Pi 2.
You can install 1993’s Doom on your Raspberry Pi. Above you can see it running on a Raspberry Pi 2 mounted on an official Raspberry Pi 7-inch Touchscreen Display.
Doom is one of many games with publicly available source code for fans to reuse. The source code has been ported to Linux and ARM devices since being released in 1997.
You can enjoy single-player games and Deathmatch, just like the old days. However, this may differ depending on which version of Doom you install. Several are available for the Raspberry Pi. Get started with our guide to installing Doom on the Raspberry Pi.
2. Duke Nukem 3D
“It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum… and I’m all outta bubble gum!”
So declared the eponymous hero of the slightly adult-oriented Duke Nukem 3D back in 1996. A release of the source for the game in the late 1990s allowed the game to run on non-Windows platforms. This included AmigaOS as well as Linux.
Although you could play Duke Nukem 3D in an emulator, this isn’t necessary. Just grab the EDUKE_32 software (released as a semi-official branch of the game in 2000) and follow the full steps for installation.
3. Beneath a Steel Sky
Set in a futuristic Australian dystopian future (like Mad Max but with cities), Beneath a Steel Sky is a point-and-click adventure. While rare these days, back in the 1990s this was a popular approach to the story-focused adventure game.
Beneath a Steel Sky was collaboration between video game designer Charles Cecil and British comic book legend Dave Gibbon. The game’s serious tone (save Union City, and ultimately overcome the ecological disaster) is mixed with some off-the-cuff humor.
Installing Beneath a Steel Sky on the Raspberry Pi is straightforward. However, it is advisable to run the game from the desktop, rather than the command line. A bug in some versions make it impossible to restart your computer otherwise.
Beneath a Steel Sky runs on modern computers thanks to the ScummVM. You can install it on your Pi with:
sudo apt install beneath-a-steel-sky
Note that this will also include the ScummVM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion Virtual Machine) game engine. Happily, other ScummVM titles will run on the Raspberry Pi too, such as Flight of the Amazon Queen. Find them at ScummVM’s website.
4. Wolfenstein 3D
In the days before Doom, id Software released Wolfenstein 3D, a Nazi/World War II-themed castle-based shooter. You may have played one of its sequels, Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Following its 1992 release, the game’s source code was released in 1995. Eventually, a port was developed, Wolf4SDL, which you can now install on the Raspberry Pi. As with some of the other games in this list, Wolfenstein 3D will run under the RetroPie games emulator. But why would you bother with the additional resource overhead of an emulator when you can just install it directly?
As with any software that needs compiling, Wolfenstein 3D will take a while to prepare on your Raspberry Pi. Once done, however, you’ll be ready to start blasting Nazis and uncover their terrible secrets in the maze-like castle.
5. Quake III
The third installment of the Quake series is the most exciting and it runs on your Raspberry Pi!
Using the ioquake3 source code, this runs better on a Raspberry Pi 3 than on the previous model. However, it should even run on the Raspberry Pi Zero, although it can be slow to install, so remain patient.
As with its previous games, id Software released the source code for Quake III Arena in 2005. Not only has this led to the ioquake3 port, but also to various standalone games. Will these work on the Raspberry Pi? Well, OpenArena certainly will.
Let the fragging commence! Use the video guide above and the creator’s forum post to build and install Quake III on your Raspberry Pi.
6. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
One of the greatest Star Wars games of all time was Jedi Outcast, in which you guide lapsed Jedi Kyle Katarn through a series of missions. Originally released in 2002, the source code was briefly released in 2013. During this time, an open source fork, OpenJK, launched and was ported to Linux and macOS.
Getting the game running on the Raspberry Pi is reasonably straightforward, and within a few minutes you’ll be engaged in force-pushing, saber-throwing, space-based dueling action.
As if that wasn’t enough, you can also play the sequel, Jedi Academy, on the Pi!
I’m a huge fan of the original Turrican, first released back in 1990 on the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers. While both machines can be emulated on the Raspberry Pi, you can try the freeware clone Hurrican.
Featuring beautiful new graphics, Hurrican is the most successful fan-produced clone of the game, coming second in the 2008 Indie Game Showcase. Source code for Hurrican was released in 2012, leading to ports to other platforms. You can find instructions and a download link at MisApuntesDe.
It’s Star Fox! On the Raspberry Pi! One of the most awesome space adventure games of all time can be installed on the Pi… well, a clone of it, at least.
Developed by first-year students at Imperial College, London, this faithful recreation even features filled 3D polygon graphics like the original 1993 SNES game. For the technical among you, PiFox is written in 5,900 lines of assembly language, and you’ll find the data available to download at GitHub. You’ll also find instructions for wiring a Super Nintendo controller to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO.
One other Raspberry Pi-compatible game to consider should look at is Overlord. A game inspired by classic space shooters, it was originally released on the Acorn Archimedes back in the 1990s. To run Overlord on a Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to RISC OS instead of Raspbian.
Head to this Raspberry Pi Forum thread for more information about buying and installing Overlord.
Download: Overlord for RISC OS
While it looks different to the latest Civilization game, FreeCiv is an open-source clone compatible with the Raspberry Pi.
Simply use this command to install it:
sudo apt install freeciv-client-sdl
First released in 1996, FreeCiv is available on every desktop operating system you can think of. The game experience is the closest you’ll get to Civilization II without playing the original. While the original is considered iconic, FreeCiv has developed some strong variations from the source material over the years.
FreeCiv even has multiplayer support. Imagine that: multiplayer Civ-style action on a Raspberry Pi!
Originally designed by the legendary Will Wright, SimCity first came along in 1989. As such, there was no Linux version. Thanks to the SimHacker team, however, the game has been cloned for Linux, including ARM devices like the Raspberry Pi.
As you’ll see, Micropolis is largely indistinguishable from the very first SimCity, and certainly as playable.
You should find Micropolis in the default packages. Install it with:
sudo apt install micropolis
These Raspberry Pi Games Are Just the Beginning
These 11 Raspberry Pi games (and their various spin-offs and sequels) are just the tip of the iceberg. More importantly, they should prove that gaming on the Raspberry Pi is more than just a bit of retro action. You can truly game on a Raspberry Pi without the addition of emulators.
That’s just the beginning. Did you know you can play full PC games on a Raspberry Pi? Check our guide to streaming PC games to a Raspberry Pi for details.