Gaming on the Raspberry Pi is surprisingly multi-faceted, with a number of classic titles able to be run natively on the little British computer.
But what if you wanted something more impressive, yet game-related, from the device?
Well, how about setting it up as a game server? Just imagine, hosting LAN parties wherever you are, thanks to the pocket-sized Raspberry Pi! All you need to do is ensure you have an Ethernet cable handy, and a power cable, and connect the device to the nearest router you can find.
If you are particularly desperate to start gaming, you could even rely on a portable power solution! Once running, you and your friends would then be able to connect to your Raspberry Pi’s hosted game, and the fun begins!
Here are 10 games that you can host on your Pi and play using another Pi, a standard desktop, or even a web browser.
You may be familiar with Quake, the awesome multiplayer deathmatch game from id Software released in 1996. QuakeWorld is the internet multiplayer version (as opposed to NetQuake, the LAN-based multiplayer release). The source code was released under the GPL license in 1999, and is available to install on your Raspberry Pi. QuakeWorld supports local network (LAN) multiplayer action, and is not intended for use on a public server.
While compatible with a Model B Raspberry Pi, the best results can be enjoyed with a Raspberry Pi 2 or later. QuakeWorld is based on Debian (not much of a surprise, as this is the basis for the Raspberry Pi’s default OS, Raspbian), and uses less than 32 MB of RAM!
QuakeWorld supports up to 16 players, but the optimum experience can be enjoyed with 6-8 players. For the best results, ensure the Pi is connected to your router via Ethernet, rather than wireless.
For more online shooting action, take a look at AssaultCube. This free online multiplayer FPS game plays out in realistic environments, and its efficient bandwidth usage makes it ideal for the Raspberry Pi. With its low latency, AssaultCube can even be run over a 56Kbps connection!
If you don’t have anyone to play against, AssaultCube also has a single player “bot” mode. You’ll find several multiplayer modes, meanwhile, such as Deathmatch, Survivor, Pistol Frenzy, Last Swiss Standing, Capture the Flag, Hunt the Flag, Keep the Flag, One-Shot One-Kill. Each of these has a team version, too. Many maps are included in the game, and an in-game map editor is also available.
Head to the assault.cubers.net website for full details of the game. You can download the code from GitHub, and compile the game server on your Pi in just a few minutes.
The results will be enjoyed on a Raspberry Pi 3, but a Raspberry Pi 2 should also work. You’ll also need to use the full Raspbian install, which is best installed via NOOBS. Use Raspbian Jessie or later, as the Minecraft server requires Java to run.
Note that the best results from this Minecraft server will be enjoyed on your home network, rather than on the public internet. Updates can’t be installed, which makes it a bit of a risk for public online play. However, within your home network, accessed via the Minecraft games installed on a Windows PC, Android or iOS device, you’ll have a Minecraft world ready to be built and rebuilt at your convenience!
We’ll be honest: setting this up isn’t simple. The process has changed repeatedly over the years, so use the link above as your starting point.
If you’re looking for a more challenging project, then make sure you checkout our tutorial on interfacing Minecraft with electronics on the Raspberry Pi.
Installation is as simple as:
sudo apt-get install -y freeciv-server freeciv-client-gtk
You can then start the server with:
The game server will then be available to connect to from any other device running the FreeCiv game client. Given how long games of Civilization can take, having a server to keep the game running on makes perfect sense!
Check the Server Manual at the FreeCiv wiki for configuration details.
We’ve already seen how you can install Doom on the Pi without emulation — but what about multiplayer action?
Thanks to the Quake On LAN team (also behind QuakeWorld for the Pi), Doom On LAN is now an option. This uses the Zandronum port as a game client, which supports up to an immense 64 players. Several gameplay modes are available, and there’s support for a large number of mods.
There’s also the addition of jumping, as well as key bindings and even free looking! As ever, the game will work best with a direct Ethernet connection to your router. Now all you have to do is find 63 other people to play with.
A fascinating, ship-based game about trade and pirates, Windward is a rarity in this list as it is one of two titles that aren’t open source. You’ll find it available from Steam for just under $10, and the game plays in both singleplayer and multiplayer modes.
Setting up is a little time-intensive, and requires you to install Mono (the open-source implementation of Microsoft .NET) on your Pi.
Once the Windward server is installed (this will require copying some data from the game folder on your PC), you’ll find it in the Lobby screen of the game client. Time to set sail!
This 2D adventure sandbox was first released on Windows in 2011, but has since been ported to Linux and OS X. If you own Terraria, then you’ll be able to host a game on your Raspberry Pi.
Using a Raspberry Pi 2 or later, you can setup the Terraria server on Raspbian, again installing Mono as a prerequisite. Next, you’ll use TShock, the Terraria game server, which is available from GitHub. Once up and running, anyone on your network who wants to play will find the Terraria server in their version of the game. Although connecting to the server from a local network is best, Terraria can also be played over the internet.
A multiplayer arcade adventure game, Crossfire is reminiscent of Gauntlet and rogue-like games. With 3,000 maps, an elaborate magic system, and 150 monster types, Crossfire‘s world can be completed individually or as a team.
Client and server software is available for Crossfire, and these can be downloaded from the website. Once the server is set up on your Raspberry Pi, a connection from any of the other client platforms can be established.
Beware, Crossfire is massive, engaging… and fun! There’s a lot to learn, like a traditional dungeon game, and you’ll need to check the website for help with the magic system.
9. The Battle for Wesnoth
A massive open-source turn-based strategy game with a fantasy theme, The Battle for Wesnoth has been around since 2003. You’ll find versions for Linux, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems (up to and including macOS), iOS, Android, and even BeOS and AmigaOS on the website. Oh, and it can be played in the browser, too!
LAN and internet multiplayer options are available, and the game features 46 multiplayer maps. Like many games in this list, The Battle for Wesnoth has its own built-in game server, so all you need to do is install the game on your Pi, set it to host a game, and invite other players to join in.
Also, look out for a load of player-made content, such as campaigns, new factions, and original multiplayer maps.
We’ll finish with this great favorite of the desktop strategist: OpenTTD, an open source version of the 1995 game Transport Tycoon Deluxe. Expanded beyond the limits of the original, OpenTTD can be configured as a dedicated game server on the Raspberry Pi.
The reason is the same as with FreeCiv: you’re probably going to be playing on a particular map for a while. Installation and setup is straightforward here. Begin with the standard OpenTTD installation:
sudo apt-get install openttd
Once this is done, you can run the server with:
Game clients on Windows, Linux, macOS, other Pis and mobile devices should then be able to connect to the game server. This can be done by device name or IP address. Note that you can also use the launch option:
This will run OpenTTD in the background, with output sent to the openttd.log file. Tips for server setup can be found in the OpenTTD wiki.
The Raspberry Pi: Also a Game Server!
It’s amazing, but the low-power Raspberry Pi — considerably less powerful than your desktop PC — can host online gaming sessions! While modern games (and those that require an Intel CPU) are not available, the fact that ten games can be run in this way is reason enough to investigate further.
If you’re after something a bit more versatile (at the expense of running game servers), then make sure you check out Recalbox for some Raspberry Pi retro gaming action!
With so many options to choose from, your Raspberry Pi should be busy running game servers for months to come. Which one did you choose? Which do you enjoy the most? And did we miss any games you think should be included?