It isn’t just for DIY projects. You can use it as a desktop computer, or send it into space. It’ll run as an inspiring digital picture frame, and put your old style, non-network printer onto your home network.
In short, the Raspberry Pi is incredibly useful and versatile.
It will even run retro games in emulators for many classic platforms. But what if you don’t want to mess around with emulators, like for making an NES or SNES Mini? Retro gaming on the Raspberry Pi without an emulator… could it be possible?
Yeah, of course it could — and it is!
The developers of the following six games have all released them for community use, and you can run them on the Raspberry Pi. We recommend a Raspberry Pi 3, although they should run on a Pi 2 without too much trouble.
You can install 1993’s Doom on your Raspberry Pi. Here’s a clip of it in action, running on a Raspberry Pi 2 mounted on an official Raspberry Pi 7-inch Touchscreen Display with an Xbox 360 USB controller:
Doom is one of many games with publicly-available source code for fans to reuse. This happened back in 1997, and over the years it has been ported to Linux and ARM devices.
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. Our guide to installing Doom on the Raspberry Pi will help you get started.
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. I wonder if he’s a fan of raspberry gum? A release of the source for the game in the late 1990s allowed the game to run on a variety of non-Windows platforms, such as AmigaOS and Linux.
Although you could play Duke Nukem 3D in an emulator, this isn’t necessary. All you need is the EDUKE_32 software, initially released as a semi-official branch of the game in 2000. This has since been ported, and the full steps for installation are straightforward.
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. You don’t see many games like this these days, but back in the 1990s this was a popular approach to the story-focused adventure game.
A collaboration between video game designer Charles Cecil and British comic book legend Dave Gibbon, the serious tone of the game is mixed with some off-the-cuff humor. The aim is to save Union City, and ultimately overcome the ecological disaster that overshadows events in the game.
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-get 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 (which you can also persuade to run on the Pi) or Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Following its 1992 release, the game’s source code was released in 1995. Eventually, a port was developed, Wolf4SDL, and you can now install it 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 impressive and exciting — and it actually runs on your Raspberry Pi! Take a look at this:
Using the ioquake3 source code — a port of Quake III Arena — you’ll probably find that this runs better on a Raspberry Pi 3 than on the previous model, but it should even run on the Raspberry Pi Zero! However, it can take a while 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!
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!
Cloned Games on the Raspberry Pi
If you’re willing to accept clones of classic games (where the material has been recoded from scratch in tribute), then four more great titles are also available.
Some honesty: I’m the biggest fan of the original Turrican, first released back in 1990 on the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers (both of which you can emulate on Linux devices). Hurrican is an independent freeware clone of this game, updated with beautiful new graphics, and it will run nicely on the Raspberry Pi.
Several fan-led projects have popped up to pay homage to Turrican over the years, but Hurrican seems to have been the most successful, 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 game you should look at is Overlord, a game inspired by classic titles originally released on the Acorn Archimedes back in the 1990s. Although you can run Overlord on a Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to eschew Raspbian temporarily in favor of RISC OS to run it. Head to this Raspberry Pi Forum thread for more information, or go straight to the game page, where you can buy it for under $10.
You can also see it in action here:
Simply use this command to install it:
sudo apt-get install freeciv-client-sdl
First released in 1996 and 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 pretty iconic, FreeCiv has developed some strong variations from the source material over the years.
Happily, FreeCiv has multiplayer support. Imagine that: multiplayer Civ-style action on a Raspberry Pi!
Raspberry Pi: “It IS Like a Proper Computer, Isn’t It?”
You can do so much with a Raspberry Pi. While playing around with the instructions for one or two of these games, it was pointed out to me that the Raspberry Pi is more than just a credit-card-sized programming tool. The term “proper computer” was used… more than once.
It was at this point that I realized that many people still don’t really get this device. And that can only mean one thing: it’s still full of surprises. Because the Raspberry Pi isn’t “like a proper computer” — it is a proper computer!
If you’re interested in games for your PC too, check out these ways to play retro games on your computer legally.