Introduction

In general, gaming on Linux used to be limited to the few FOSS games available for the operating system, which is no longer the case, and it has seen steady growth over the past few years. With major companies like Valve providing Steam for Linux, Proton; the development of DXVK, the continuous work put into Wine by its developers, and Indie game developers creating games with Linux support out-of-the-box, the amount of fun for Linux continues to expand.

This post will be pt. 1, and it will only deal with obtaining games. For pt. 2, there will be performance benchmarks on Nitrux and perhaps a comparison with other distributions, including those purposely built for gaming.

Difficulty: ★☆☆☆☆


Native

Native games refer to games that were created with Linux support out-of-the-box. These are games that do not require any form of emulation or middleware to run. It’s worth noting that not all games that are native for Linux are FOSS (free as in freedom, open-source software) or free (as in gratis).

With that said, you may ask, well then, how can I obtain these games?.

  • The first source is AppImageHub.com, which offers games (among other applications) packaged as AppImage. As a matter of fact, you can download content from AppImageHub.com using Nitrux already via appimage-cli-tool.
    • Open a terminal and type ‘app –help’ for information about how to use it.
      • Not to be confused with ‘apt,’ which is the package manager for Debian packages.

AppImageHub.com offers users a vast catalog of AppImage applications.

 

appimage-cli-tool is available in Nitrux by typing app in a terminal.

  • Likewise, PortableLinuxGames offers game packages as AppImage. PortableLinuxGames packs and distributes great Linux games as portable, self-contained packages that will (or should) run on any Linux system out there. It uses the AppImage package format and some script magic.
    • We thoroughly recommend downloading the files from PortableLinuxGames to ~/Applications for easier organization.

PortableLinuxGames packs and distributes great Linux games as portable, self-contained packages (AppImage).

  • A third source to obtain games is itch.io. itch.io is an open marketplace for independent digital creators focusing on independent video games. It’s a platform that enables anyone to sell the content they’ve created.

    • The itch.io client doesn’t make use of the AppImage format. However, its games are stored in the user’s home folder instead of the root directory like a Debian packaged would.
      • We include a shortcut to install the itch.io client for Linux in the application menu; we do not include it by default.

itch.io native client for Linux.

  • Another source is Discover, KDE Plasma graphical software center. Discover helps you find and install applications, games, and tools. You can search or browse by category, and look at screenshots and read reviews to help you pick the perfect app.
    • By default, Discover will only display games packaged as Debian packages available from the enabled repositories. Nonetheless, you can go to Preferences and click ‘Add Flathub’ to browse the Flathub repository for more content.

      • To install Debian packages, the user must use ‘sudo.’ Contrary to this, to obtain games using the itch.io client or ‘appimage-cli-tool‘ or downloading the files from PortableLinuxGames or using Flathub, the user does not require to use ‘sudo.’

Discover helps you find and install applications, games, and tools.

  • However, by far, the most popular source for games on Linux currently is Steam. Steam is a top-rated digital game store that offers Linux games (including free-of-cost games).
    • Steam has both ported and native Linux games and offers Steam Play for selected Windows games to be playable in Linux.
      • Steam can be installed from Flathub using either Discover or the terminal.

Steam offers games with Linux support out-of-the-box in their catalog.

  • To complement this list, there’s also GOG.com. GOG.com is another platform similar to Steam. Like Steam, you can browse and find hundreds of native Linux games on GOG.com, purchase the games and install them. One main difference between the two is that GOG.com offers only DRM free games. 
    • It’s worth noting that GOG.com does not have a Linux client, even though they offer games that can run on Linux.
      • In this case, we’d recommend using software like Lutris or GameHub, import your GOG library and manage it from there.

GOG.com is a game distribution platform similar to Steam that offers DRM-free games that run on Linux.

Non-native (Wine/DXVK and console emulators)

Now let’s move on to games that don’t support Linux out-of-the-box, like games developed for Windows and games developed for other consoles altogether but can be used on Linux by using emulators, translation/compatibility abstraction layers.

Wine/DXVK

In Nitrux, we have included Wine since various releases; specifically, the Wine binary we use is an AppImage. We’ve talked about using this AppImage in a previous post, but we didn’t mention DXVK.

The AppImage of Wine that we include already supports DXVK.

Using Wine in Nitrux

DXVK is a set of replacement DLL files that translate from DirectX to Vulkan for those that don’t know. The AppImage includes overrides built-in for DirectX 10, DirectX 11, and DirectX 12. However, these are no added by default, but it’s effortless to add them. Open the Wine configuration window, go to the tab ‘Libraries,’ and select ‘New override for library,’ then search for the version of DirectX, and finally click the button ‘Add’ and ‘Apply.’

You now have a game running DXVK with Wine.

 

Wine configuration window.

Emulators

Emulation is a software compatibility layer that emulates hardware components of game consoles, instruction sets, and related APIs. Emulation software can emulate CPUs, GPUs, audio hardware, and many other physical components in actual game consoles.

The following list won’t be listing every emulator available, but a shortlist of those more popular emulators available as AppImages either officially or by third-parties.

  • Duckstation. DuckStation is a simulator/emulator of the Sony PlayStation(TM) console, focusing on playability, speed, and long-term maintainability.
  • PCSX2. PCSX2 is a Playstation 2 ’emulator,’ a free program that tries to replicate the Playstation 2 console to enable you to play PS2 games on your PC.
  • RPCS3. The world’s first free and open-source PlayStation 3 emulator/debugger, written in C++ for Windows and Linux.
  • PPSSPP. A PSP emulator.
    • PPSSPP is available from AppImageHub.com; use the command ‘app’ to download it.
  • Dolphin. Dolphin is an emulator for two recent Nintendo video game consoles: the GameCube and the Wii.
    • Dolphin is available from AppImageHub.com; use the command ‘app’ to download it.
  • DeSmuME. DeSmuME is a Nintendo DS emulator.
    • DeSmuME is available from AppImageHub.com; use the command ‘app’ to download it.
  • RetroArch. RetroArch is an emulation frontend that hooks into game-specific emulation cores to play games. It supports over a hundred emulation cores. A list of these cores is available here.

Stay tuned for Pt. 2, where we will take a look at gaming performance.

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Kevin Colyer
Kevin Colyer
4 months ago

This is a really broad and uptodate summary! I am amazed how far gaming on Linux has come. My son recently introduced me to Gwent, which is Windows only but runs perfectly on Linux via Steam. He still beats me though.

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