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The joys of gaming on Linux

“Software is like sex: it’s better when it’s free.” – Linus Torvalds

Linux affects everything we do in our lives. From the websites we visit to the operating system in our smartphones, it is highly likely that Linux powers them.

One of the core tenets of Linux is that it is free (free as in “freedom”, not free as in “free beer”). You can modify and do whatever you like with the operating system, the code is open source and available to all, your privacy is respected and most of the time, the cost to actually using Linux is free (donations however are always appreciated).

Linux (or more specifically GNU/Linux, but the topic is complicated and for simplicity sake “Linux” will be used to refer to the operating system in this article) was developed by Linus Torvalds and version 1.0 of the Linux kernel (the core of the operating system (similar to the C:/windows folder) was released in 1994. It has been developed by Torvalds ever since and at the time of this article, kernel 5.7 has been released.

Years ago, Linux used to only have a handful of ports like Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament or open source games such as 0 A.D and SuperTuxKart.

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The original boxed version of Quake 3 Arena for Linux.

However gaming on Linux has exploded in recent years with the digital distribution service Steam introducing Steam OS and Proton, which overnight allowed Linux to play thousands of Windows games at native speeds (as of writing, the number of games according to protondb is at 11,115). This is due to projects like WINE and DXVK (incorporated into Proton) which have massively improved compatibility with Windows games.

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The Linux version of Steam has the Steam Play tab on the left-hand side

Graphical drivers for Linux have also become on par with their Windows counterparts in recent years thanks to the tireless work of AMD with their open source driver and Nvidia’s proprietary offerings.

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Bioshock Remastered using Proton on Linux.

Open source implementations like Mesa (which packages various graphics APIs (the piece of software that allows software to easily talk with multiple pieces of hardware)) work together with the graphics drivers to push graphics to new levels on Linux.

With the push from Valve as well as support from game engines like Unity and Unreal, more and more developers are making Linux native versions of their games.

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Half Life 2 running natively on Linux.

Not only that, game managers including Lutris allow the user to easily run non-Steam games and emulators with ease.

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The Lutris game manager.

Speaking of emualtors, it is possible to emulate hundreds of systems at native speeds on Linux with emulators such as Dolphin, Mednafen, Reicast, RetroArch and so much more.

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Mario Kart: Double Dash!! running on the Dolphin emulator on Linux.

So gaming on Linux is very healthy at the moment and is getting better. I highly recommend you try Linux, especially if you wanted to switch away from Windows to a more secure and privacy-focused operating system. I personally have been running Linux as my daily driver for 6 years and I can do everything I did on Windows.

Grab yourself a 4GB+ USB flash drive, download a Linux distribution you are interested in (for beginners, I would recommend Linux Mint) and I hope you too can start your journey using Linux.

2 Comments

  1. Very interesting article, Howard. Something I bet a majority of PC game players is not aware of.

  2. Howard Van Der Wal

    Thank you for your comment Michiel, it makes me very happy to hear that!

    The main purpose of the article was to try and sway people to give Linux a shot. If even one person who reads the article decides to test drive Linux, I would be so delighted! It really is a beautiful operating system, runs amazingly well and it is great if you are a privacy-focused person.

    Thank you very much to Leon and Jay for editing and publishing the article. It always makes me overjoyed to see my (amateur) work here and I hope everyone enjoys reading it.

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