Entertainment Linux

5 of the Best Ways to Play Retro Games on Linux

Christian Cawley 07-06-2018

Retro gaming is growing increasingly popular, but are you using the right platform for it? Well, if you’re not using Linux, then the answer is a resounding “No!”


Whether you’re looking for ways to enjoy classic MS-DOS PC games or relive wonderful 8-bit games from your childhood, Linux is the ultimate choice. Here’s why.

1. Play SEGA Classics on Linux With Steam

In recent years, Linux gaming has broken away from a handful of open source clones of popular proprietary titles and embraced Steam’s digital delivery platform. As if to cash in on the retro revival, one-time gaming giant SEGA has released SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Classics across PS4, Xbox One, Windows, and Linux.

This means you can load your favorite games from a selection of 53 top SEGA titles, including Virtua Fighter, the Golden Axe series, Space Harrier II, Altered Beast, and others. Sonic the Hedgehog naturally puts in an appearance, along with its popular sequel Sonic 2, plus Sonic 3D Blast.

But this isn’t all about retro gaming. Thanks to Steam, many of the gaming features you expect from modern gaming are included. For instance, each game that was originally multiplayer now has online two-player support. You’ll also find leaderboards, challenge modes, multi-region ROM support, the ability to save your game anywhere, and even VR support. This is expected to be the ability to play wearing a VR headset, as opposed to creating a VR environment in Virtua Fighter.

Additionally, graphic enhancement filters will ensure old game look great on HD televisions, while screen borders help 4:3 ratio games look at home on 16:9 widescreen displays. Several joypads are supported, including the Steam controller.


Play Now: SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Classics on Steam

2. Windows Virtual Machines and MS-DOS Emulation

Windows gaming has overshadowed Linux gaming since forever. Developers and publishers simply didn’t want to produce games for a niche operating system—and when they did, it was almost always for Macs. Fortunately, this has changed, but a few years ago, the only options you had to enjoy the games you played on Windows was emulation or a virtual machine.

For emulation, DOSBox remains the go-to solution to enjoy MS-DOS games of the past (and there remain many to enjoy). When it comes to virtualization, however, your best bet is to use VirtualBox to install a virtual version of Windows How to Set Up a Windows Virtual Machine in Linux Many home users prefer to run a dual-boot setup when both Windows and Linux are needed, but if you'd rather run Windows inside Linux, here's how to set that up. Read More (98, XP, Vista or 7) to enjoy later classic titles.

Of course there are other ways to play Windows and DOS games on Linux 7 Ways to Play Old Windows & DOS Games on Linux Gaming on Linux is on the rise, but if you don't want to turn your PC into a game server then the answer is with old games, retro classics from the Windows platform. Read More , with one of the more popular options using Wine/PlayOnLinux to play Windows games How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine Is there any way to get Windows software working on Linux? One answer is to use Wine, but while it can be very useful, it probably should only be your last resort. Here's why. Read More .


3. Retro Gaming Suites

playing retro games on linux

You may be familiar with retro gaming on the Raspberry Pi, which invariably uses a Debian-based distro and emulation solutions like RetroPie, Lakka, or RecalBox. However, none of these retro emulation suites are exclusive to the ARM-based Raspberry Pi.

In short, you can also install them on 32-bit or 64-bit Linux PCs!

As complete disk images, however, these suites cannot be installed on your Linux computer unless you’re creating a virtual PC, or dual booting. Basically, they’re intended to be installed as retro gaming-centric operating systems, without the various things that makes your standard Linux distribution recognizable as a desktop. Just remember when downloading retro game ROMs, you need to own the original, physical media, or else you’re breaking copyright law.


You’ll find that running these emulation suites on a Linux PC opens up a whole new world of retro gaming. You won’t be limited by hardware, either; all retro platforms, even PS1 and Nintendo 64, will be available!

4. Access the Internet Archive via Kodi

how to play retro games on linux

Not interested in installing emulation software or virtual machines? Fortunately, the Internet Archive has you covered. In the interests of digital posterity, a vast number of classic games have been archived online at archive.org. These games (in a library of 218,000+ titles) span from the 1970s to the early 21st Century, across a multitude of platforms.

To play these titles, head to archive.org/details/software and start browsing. For instance, you can play in your favorite Linux browser: select Internet Arcade and choose the title you want to play.


Meanwhile, it’s also possible to download games to your computer. But one of the best options is to try the games in Kodi. Our guide to playing retro games from the Internet Archive in Kodi How to Play the Internet Archive's Retro Games on Kodi Do you want to play retro games on your TV without buying new hardware? Then you're in luck as Kodi can now access the Internet Archive's massive collection of retro games. Read More will explain what you need to do.

5. Other Digital Download Options

playing retro games on linux

While the SEGA Classics package is gaining a lot of attention on Steam, it isn’t the only retro gaming option. Dozens of classic games have been revived on Steam, either as HD remakes (either by the original developers, or under license) or as clones.

Among the best options, you’ll find:

These are on Steam alone, and really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re not already using Steam on Linux How to Install Steam and Start Gaming on Linux Installing Steam on Linux computers is straightforward, and the result is usually the same seamless gaming experience you had on Windows. Read More , it’s easy to install. Alternatively, you can install the Ubuntu-based SteamOS instead Gaming on Linux is Here: Install SteamOS Beta Today If you've become interested in gaming on Linux, using SteamOS as your Linux distribution of choice is a good idea. This guide covers every step and possible question you may have during installation. Read More .

If you’re interested in classic MS-DOS games, you’ll find a massive selection available for Linux via GOG. Unfortunately, there isn’t a version of the GOG Galaxy client for Linux (which offers a Steam-like experience), but this shouldn’t stop you buying and downloading the games. GOG’s titles have DOSBox built in, along with software patches to aid controller compatibility.

How to Play Retro Games on Linux: It’s Your Choice

The options for retro gaming on Linux are considerable. On the whole, however, they boil down into five general methods:

  • Sega Classics
  • Windows virtual machines and MS-DOS emulation
  • Dedicated retro gaming suites
  • The Internet Archive’s online repository of retro games
  • Revived and cloned classics on Steam

No doubt the options will increase as time passes. Despite the billions pumped into modern videogame studios, retro gaming continues to attract more and more attention. Linux gaming is expanding in all areas 5 Best Linux Operating Systems for Gaming Linux isn't ideal for gaming, but it's absolutely possible! Here are five Linux distributions made specifically for gaming. Read More , and is the natural platform to play and enjoy games from all eras!

Related topics: Linux Gaming, Retro Gaming.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Linux Lover
    August 3, 2019 at 4:21 am

    SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Classic exhibits many broken features (3d room wonkiness; lack of fullscreen for example) for many people including myself on Linux so I wouldn't currently advise purchasing the Linux version (switch version appears to be the best from what I've read anectdotally online). It is not on par with the windows version (even though the 3d is somewhat buggy there, but not as much). I reached out to Sega for help once & they got back with me eventually a few weeks later to say they had an update. The problems persisted so I e-mailed them again about it. Never received any further response or acknowledgement. I think it's safe to say they will not be updating this one any further. This can be simply corroborated by visiting the steam link here: https://steamcommunity.com/app/34270/discussions/0/1694922526917963639/

  2. Tired of Mediocrity
    June 8, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Do you even know retro gaming?? Doesn't seem like it.
    Good grief!! It's a sad state of affairs if this what you can come up with.
    Linux is a powerhouse when it comes to retro gaming from things like HATARI, to FSUAE, to ATTRACT MODE, to RETROARCH, to LUTRIS, DOSBOX, DOLPHIN, etc etc etc and all of them FREE!!!!