The amount of false dawns for the rise of Linux gaming is beyond measure, but now in 2020 it looks like we finally have breakthroughs on several fronts that we can rely on. Valve has made extensive efforts to make playing Windows games on Linux as seamless as possible, streaming is on the rise, and tried-and-trusted old methods are more stable and reliable than ever.
Here we’re going to show the best ways you can play native Windows games on Linux, along with some basic pointers on how to use them.
1. Steam Play/Proton
Valve may have barked up the wrong tree when it thought that its so-called Steam Machines would democratize gaming for Linux users, but it seems to have finally hit the target with Steam Play. Using a wine fork called Proton – which is built into the Steam beta client – you can play a huge number of whitelisted (and many non-whitelisted) Windows games on Linux.
It essentially uses Wine, DXVK and other established tools behind the scenes so that you can install Windows games on Linux through Steam. Many games have been officially whitelisted and optimised to work with Steam Play, but thousands more games – including the latest ones – are unofficially supported and likely to work too.
To play Windows games that haven’t been whitelisted, select “Enable Steam Play for all other titles” in the Steam Play settings.
Check out our full guide on how to use Steam Play to play Windows games on Linux.
2. Stadia/Shadow/Other Cloud Gaming Services
Much ado was made about the fact that Google was entering the game-streaming subscription space with Stadia, but the reality is that such services have existed for quite a while now. They’ve been doing a good job of it too, with Shadow PC streaming on a high-powered ungated Windows 10 PC for a monthly fee of $35.
It may not seem cheap, but you’re not restricted in where you buy your games, unlike Google Stadia where you need to buy games through the service. On the other hand, Stadia can run through your browser and Chromecast, whereas Shadow is restricted to mobile and PCs.
Then there’s Parsec, which is a little cheaper than Shadow for lighter users, and lets you decide how powerful you want your PC to be. It also has great community options, such as letting you play local multiplayer games online.
Moving away from the big companies now, Lutris is an open-source gaming platform that lets you import your games from GOG, Origin, Steam, Retroarch, you-name-it, into one convenient dashboard, then run them even if they’re Windows games.
Lutris is capable of running hundreds of Windows games via DXVK and Wine, much like Steam Play. The difference here is that Lutris isn’t limited to Steam games and lets you choose which versions of Wine or other runners to use on a game-by-game basis, letting you make the tweaks you want to really optimize performance.
You can even combine Lutris with Proton with a bit of tinkering, using Steam Play’s powerful wrapper from within the Lutris dashboard, where you can also run all your non-Steam games.
The above three methods are your best bets to play Windows games on Linux in 2020. There are a few other possibilities available to you, such as Crossover, or by using a virtual machine with GPU passthrough, but they’re not as efficient as our picks. Linux gaming is getting extremely close to overcoming those ages-old barriers to hardcore PC gaming, and the above options are only going to get more refined with time.