Linux may not be establishing itself as the gamer’s platform of choice any time soon – the lack of success with Valve’s Steam Machines seems a poignant reminder of that – but that doesn’t mean that the platform isn’t steadily growing with its fair share of great games.
From indie hits to glorious RPGs, 2018 has already been a solid year for Linux games. Here we’ve listed our five favourites so far.
1. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
One of the titles that best represents the cRPG revival of recent years makes your typical Bethesda RPG look like a facile action-adventure. The latest entry in the majestic Pillars of Eternity series has a more buccaneering slant as you sail with a crew around islands filled with adventures and peril.
Adding naval combat to the mix, Deadfire continues with the rich storytelling and excellent writing of its predecessor while building on those beautiful graphics and hand-painted backgrounds of the original game.
This is a deep and unquestionably hardcore RPG that may cause some to bounce off it, but those who take to it will be absorbed in its world for months.
2. Slay the Spire
Still in early access, but already one of the best games of the year, Slay the Spire is a deck-building card game that’s embellished by a vibrant visual style and rogue-like mechanics that’ll leave you coming back for more after each infuriating (but probably deserved) death.
With endless card combinations and a different layout each time you play, Slay the Spire feels like the realisation of all the best systems that have been rocking the indie scene in recent years – card games and a permadeath adventure rolled into one.
And we repeat that it’s still in early access, so it’s only going to get better!
As close as we get on this list to a “blockbuster” game, Battletech is an intergalactic wargame (based on a tabletop game) where you load up a team of Mechs and guide them through a campaign of rich, turn-based battles.
The action takes place across a range of terrain – from frigid wastelands to golden sun-soaked climes – as you load your squad of four with hulking hot weaponry, taking on rival squads. If this sounds a little “MechWarrior” to you, then you’re thinking along the right track, albeit this one’s more focused on the tactics than outright action.
Alongside a campaign that sees you navigate your way through a cosmic conflict, the multiplayer mode is also likely to consume untold hours of your life.
4. Dead Cells
This one deserves highlighting as the combat-platformer of the year. With its rogue-lite structure, Dead Cells throws you into a dark (yet gorgeously coloured) world where you slash and dodge your way through procedurally-generated levels. It’s a bit like a 2D Dark Souls, if Dark Souls were saturated in vibrant neon colours.
Dead Cells can be merciless, but its precise and responsive controls ensure that you only ever have yourself to blame for failure, and its upgrades system that carries over between runs ensures that you always have some sense of progress.
Dead Cells is a zenith of pixel-game graphics, animations and mechanics, a timely reminder of just how much can be achieved without the excesses of 3D graphics.
A little less known than some of the above, this is still a lovely game that could be seen as a less foreboding, more cutesy alternative to Dead Cells. It casts you as Robin, a girl who’s cast out as a fugitive after finding herself at the wrong end of the twisted politics of an alien world.
It’s a good plot, even though your role in it is mainly blasting your way through the non-linear levels. Robin acquires all kinds of imaginative upgrades, the most crucial of which is her wrench, which you use to do everything from deflecting projectiles to solving the clever little environmental puzzles.
Iconoclasts is a joyful, vibrant platformer, borrowing from greats like Megaman for its combat and Metroid for its exploration. You can do a lot worse than take inspiration from those two classics.
That’s it for our picks of the best Linux games to have come out in 2018. Have you dug up any gaming gems that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!