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  1. Introduction to Gaming on Linux 
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
    This was originally posted on the now retired Casually Crackers site. This is a guide to help new Linux users get started with Linux gaming.


    Before I switched my personal PC to Linux at the arse end of 2018 I was full of fear and trepidation and I had a lot of questions when it came to games. Will I be able to play my favourite games on Linux? How difficult will it be to set them up? Will they run as well on Linux as they did on Windows?

    18 months later I have some partial answers to some of those questions.

    Will I be able to play my favourite games on Linux?

    I can't answer that question without playing every computer game ever released, but what I can say is I have yet to encounter a Windows, DOS, or other game, that I couldn't play on Linux. There are even emulators available for console and arcade games.

    How difficult will it be to set games up on Linux?

    Again, I can't provide an answer to that question without attempting to setup every computer game that has ever been released but I can answer the question based on my experience. Based on over 20 years experience with Windows and maybe a decade's worth of experience with Linux in various incarnations it isn't all that much more difficult, in terms of the time required, to get games running on Linux than it is on Windows.

    But there is a difference, and I will get to that when I answer the next question.

    Will games run as well on Linux as they do on Windows?

    The answer to this question may shock you. I know it shocked me. So far every game I've gotten running on Linux has actually run better on Linux than it did on Windows, with a few minor, or not so minor exceptions. For one MMO I played there was a third party app developed with .NET that I was unable to get working, and another game that I play the heck out of there is a minor issue related to video playback that I have been unable to resolve to my satisfaction.

    But I have two monitors, and I have been able to get every game so far working so that I can run the game full screen on one monitor and while that game is running, interact with the second monitor, to chat, check email, etc. That was extremely difficult to setup on Windows, and it involved purchasing a somewhat unreliable third party app that was complicated to configure. It hasn't always been easy to figure out on Linux, but typically once I've got it figured out, it's easy and it works reliably and consistently.

    The biggest difference between Linux and Windows when it comes to gaming is the reliability and performance of the base system. The base system on Linux is rock solid stable, once you get it setup properly, and just doesn't crash. Occasionally I have had components become unstable, such as my keyboard or the desktop environment. I have written two simple scripts that just contain a command or two, and placed shortcuts to them on my taskbar. Those scripts simply restart those components and I am able to continue, in seconds, without rebooting my system.

    Typically when I get a game working on my Linux system, I don't need to worry about it anymore. I can leave it for months and pick up right where I left off with the only issues being my own memory of how to play the game. With Windows it seemed like any time I stopped playing a game, when I came back to it I would have to massage it, or reinstall it, to get it working again.

    There is one other difference I have noticed on my system. With Windows there was a very clear limit as to what I could run concurrently. With Linux it seems like I can have a lot more "stuff" running at the same time without running into performance issues. Linux seems to handle multi-tasking much better than Windows does. I think that a big part of that with my system is that the chipset and system drivers are, well, vastly superior on Linux—it goes well beyond simply being more stable.


    All right, you've convinced me. I'm going to give Linux a go. I've heard the word "distro" thrown around, what does that mean and does it apply to me?

    First things first. A "distro" is a version, a "flavour", or a Linux "ecosystem", and there are many. Not only are there many, but Linux heads get into e-fist fights over them and which one is better and why is it better.

    However, in my opinion, if you are new to Linux, and you are the kind of adult who has responsibilities and not a ton of free time, there is only one really good answer, and that is "Ubuntu".

    Why Ubuntu?

    Mostly because it is the most popular distro available. It has been around for a long time, the organization that develops and maintains Ubuntu is stable and active, it is developed to be user and newbie friendly, and typically when anyone develops software for Linux, the first distro they will create a package for is Ubuntu.


    This is where I am going to throw you a bit of a curve. Ubuntu, along with many other distros, is based on Debian. Debian is the grand daddy of them all, and it is the distro I use. So the instructions I am going to provide are going to be for Debian. However, they should also apply to Ubuntu, and just about any other distro based on Debian. If you aren't running a distro based on Debian, what I am saying will still apply, but at least some of the specific commands will be different.

    I am going to assume you've installed a distro and you have some basic competency with it. If you don't, Google is your friend. There are many guides out there, and a ton of information, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. What I have to offer is the basic steps you will want to take to get Windows games working on Linux, along with some suggestions that will hopefully make everything easier.

    Step 1: Enable Multiarch

    The first thing you will need to do is enable multiarch. Linux is pretty specific about the "stuff" you install and these days the default is all 64 bit. The problem is that most of the Windows games, especially the older games, are 32 bit. So you will need to enable and install support for 32 bit applications.

    You will need to open a console and run the following command:

    sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
    On Ubuntu you will need to use the following command:

    sudo add-apt-repository multiverse
    Once you've done that update your package lists:

    sudo apt update
    Step 2: Install wine

    Now run this command to install wine:

    sudo apt install wine wine32 wine64 libwine libwine:i386 fonts-wine
    Step 3: Install winetricks

    Now run this command to install winetricks:

    sudo apt install winetricks

    Now for something a little different than what you will read on most pages on the web. When it comes to gaming on Linux I would strongly advise you to install Steam, even if you don't plan on using Steam. You can probably install it, along with the recommended packages, and then uninstall just Steam if you aren't interested in running games through it.

    A few years ago Valve, the developers of Steam, revolutionized the world of Linux gaming by making the decision to fully support Linux. Whether you like or dislike Steam, or even Valve, if you are a gamer and you run Linux, you owe a debt of gratitude to Valve for pushing the world of Linux gaming forward in a way that no other corporation or entity has done except for the original developers of wine.

    One of the most challenging issues that a new Linux user will face is trying to figure out which packages to install. One thing that Steam does very well is make sure you have all the packages, including drivers, you need to game on Linux. When you install Steam just about everything you need to game on Linux will get installed along with it. It makes the job of trying to figure out what to install much easier.

    I would suggest you do this from the console and pay attention to the recommended packages and install those as well, just for Steam. Another thing that threw me off when I switched to Linux is that I have AMD hardware, so I assumed that I didn't need any of the drivers and packages with the names "nvidia" or "intel" in them. That is not the case. The brand names in package names in Linux distros don't necessarily mean that you don't need those packages if your box doesn't contain that brand of hardware.

    Linux isn't Windows. If you install the wrong driver on Windows, you can blow up your computer. On Linux if you install a package you don't need the worst that will happen is that it won't ever get used. If you are being advised to install a package when you install Steam, there is a very good chance you need that package, even if the name doesn't match your brand of hardware.

    An example of this is on Debian where the 64 bit kernel packages for pc's are all named "linux-image-x.x.x-x-amd64". Those packages are used for systems that contain either AMD or Intel processors.

    If you are on Debian you will also need to ensure that you have enabled the "non-free" package repositories. The contents of your "/etc/sources.list" file should look something like this:

    deb http://deb.debian.org/debian/ bullseye main contrib non-free
    deb-src http://deb.debian.org/debian/ bullseye main contrib non-free
    deb http://deb.debian.org/debian/ bullseye-updates main contrib non-free
    deb-src http://deb.debian.org/debian/ bullseye-updates main contrib non-free

    You will need to configure that for your version and there is a lot of information on that on the web. Don't forget to run "sudo apt update" if you make any changes to your sources.list file.

    Now run this command:

    sudo apt install steam
    Pay attention to the recommended packages for Steam and install those as well.

    If you plan on actually using Steam you will need to create a Steam account. If you plan on playing Steam games I would strongly suggest that the first time you run Steam on your Linux box you point your Steam library to a sensible, easy to find location, such as a "Games" directory in your home directory. If you do this it will make dealing with mods and such for your games much easier.


    At this point you could just choose to buy all your games on Steam, and run them through that. That is a pretty good, low investment required, option. I think you can even add games that you haven't purchased on Steam and run them through Steam. It's about as close to plug and play as you will get on Linux.

    However, if you really want to unlock the power of Linux gaming, I would suggest one more step. This will allow you to do a lot more, in terms of gaming on Linux, and actually far more than just gaming. This will allow you to run all kinds of Windows applications, fairly painlessly, on a Linux box.

    This will provide the possibility of running all kinds of games and applications on Linux, from Amiga to Nintendo to arcade to DOS games and applications. I'm not going to go into all the details, I'll just provide a link to the information. What you want to do is install Lutris. If I had a preference I would purchase all my games at gog.com and run them through Lutris.

    You can find Lutris and the installation instructions at the following link:


    Just a final word of advice. I would suggest if you are running Debian bullseye (stable), that you use the Ubuntu ppa as your source, not the Debian buster repository. If you do use the Ubuntu ppa, you should set your Ubuntu version to "focal". The contents of the "lutris-team-ubuntu-xxx-xxx.list" file in your "/etc/apt/sources.list.d" folder should look something like this:

    deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/lutris-team/lutris/ubuntu focal main
    Note: Proton on Steam is pretty good for running Windows versions of games, but sometimes you have to try different Proton versions before you find one that works. The Windows version of Half-Life stopped working for me on Steam recently until I forced it to use an earlier version of Proton, in this case Proton 4.11.
    Last edited by Drek; 23rd October 2021 at 02:05 PM.

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