Native Linux Games That Go Beyond Casual Gaming

Jacob Gustafson
4 min readOct 12, 2017

Though Steam can now be used on Linux with a very good nVidia graphics card, there are many games out there that are free as in freedom, most of which are also free of charge. This list focuses primarily on games in linux repositories (arch and AUR in this case), which mostly includes the games that are “free as in freedom,” but also game stores (which may have some free of charge games), and a few games that require a paid account (tell me if there are any I didn’t mark with a ‘$’).

My list excludes games that match the criteria but are:

  • games that require a disc or downloaded commercial data (such as ScummVM or trine)
  • games that are run-of-the-mill shooters just with different levels and graphics
  • games with primitive gameplay or graphics
  • single-screen games

My initial reason for looking up linux games this time was that not all games were listed under the “Games” category on Antergos, which neither includes ufoai nor any AUR games (actually, some of the gaming platforms and stores aren’t even listed under the games keyword in the AUR website). I had to search for “game” in Add/Remove Software in Antergos but I’m still not sure if I saw all that is available. As for AUR, I found out that on the AUR website you can sort programs by popularity and started there. For games that weren’t listed there due to lack of a “games” keyword in AUR I had to work from memory. Overall, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are good games on linux, and remind linux insiders what constitutes a good game.

Selected “Beyond Casual” games from AUR [with vote count]

  • [624] $ minecraft (requires a once in a lifetime fee)
  • [267] enemy-territory (“Wolfenstien: Enemy Territory” free multi-player only Wolfenstein)
  • [225] desura (a game store)
  • [86] maniadrive (stunt racing game with primitive graphics but focus on physics)
  • [81] adom (“Ancient Domains of Mystery” — a classic pc-style top-down RPG with focus on quests and plot, that has made its way to Steam)
  • [56] itch (client for games, which includes highly-developed games such as Deceiver)
  • [55] fofix (a rhythm-based game which is a highly-improved version of Frets on Fire)
  • [51] $ braid-hib (humble bundle version of Braid, a popular indie platformer game with time manipulation)
  • [50] Eternal Lands (eternallands eternallands-sound eternallands-music — MMORPG)
  • [47] lgogdownloader ( games store [for classic console and computer games] using the API)
  • [40] $ supermeatboy (popular indie 2D platformer with high difficulty)
  • [36] solarus (Zelda-like game engine with full games made by users)
  • [34] zsdx (a popular Zelda fangame for solarus)
  • [30] zsxd (a popular parody Zelda fangame for solarus)
  • [29] $ bastion-hib (humble bundle version of Braid, a popular indie action RPG game)
  • [27] runescape-launcher (popular top-view 3D MMORPG)
  • [25] voxatron (voxel-based top view action game with destructable environment)
  • [20] lugaru (third-person brawler with humanoid rabbits)
  • [11] zelda-roth (Zelda: Return of the Hylian — a fan-made Zelda game)
  • [4] quake3-rally (“Quake 3 Rally” — vehicular combat game based on the Quake 3 engine)
  • [3] solarus-quest-editor graphical tool to create and modify quests for solarus
  • [1] stuntrally (3D racing game with track editor and focus on physics and graphics)
  • [0] tomatoes (“I Have No Tomatoes”): a bomber clone with particles, starring various colors of tomatoes

$=may require a paid account

Selected “Beyond Casual” games from mainstream linux repositories (package names are from arch, as found on Antergos Add/Remove Software):

  • 0ad (“0 A.D.” — real-time strategy game)
  • minetest (better for online play than offline unless you add mods — automatically downloads mods from the server you join — however modpacks called “subgames” or the voxelands [26 on AUR] fork can make for a complete single-player experience)
  • renpy (“Ren’Py” — visual novel engine allowing you to view or create stories that include words, images, and sounds)
  • speed-dreams (“Speed Dreams” — fork of torcs with animated drivers and other graphical improvements and expanded content)
  • Supertuxkart (racing game with tasks, unlockables, and cartoonish GNU distro mascots)
  • ufoai (“UFO: Alien Invasion” large and detailed turn-based strategy game with single player and multi player modes — I have contributed a techtree proposal and a small number of models and textures)
  • warsow (“Warsow” — cartoonish first-person arena shooter)
  • xonotic (first-person arena shooter)

Other game lists which include free games:

Lists of games that may require a payment:

On GNU+Linux systems, there are many games, but few have depth. I have drawn attention to the games with depth, so that outsiders will know these games exist, and so that insiders will be reminded of what constitutes depth. I have not placed emphasis on the GNU GPL license which is free as in freedom (rather I have focused on free as in gratis), and which I consider to protect the rights of users and developers the best, but I hope this article will lead to better GPL licensed games. I understand that outsiders may want Windows so they can play particular games, but this list is for people who do not have stakes in particular games. Personally, I prefer consoles if I want to play AAA games since they play well without tweaking and additional hardware. Despite persistent looking from time to time over many years, I am not aware of the existence of any other games that meet all of the criteria in the first section. I have excluded some popular native linux games intentionally because I believe they don’t. The pool of native linux games is vast, but many of the games are shallow. I hope that if you are a developer you will consider the importance of not just GPL but also gameplay, and as a user you will want to try these games and spread the word.