“Free” and “Linux” go hand in hand beautifully, like chips and a milkshake, and even though Linux isn’t widely seen as a gaming platform, there is a veritable wealth of free games you can get for it if you look in the right places. That’s in large part thanks to unpaid, open-source developers, who collaborate to bring classics (and new games) all together in Linux.
So in tribute to those tireless devs, we’ve gathered the best free games you can play on Linux right now. Enjoy!
1. Dead Horizon
If you haven’t got the time to dig into anything particularly lengthy but your fingers are twitching for some gaming, then Dead Horizon is a great little blast from the past, recalling the legendary Wild Gunman for the NES.
It’s a game of fast draws and precision, as you follow a neatly written, intriguing story, and face off against increasingly challenging villains in wild western saloons and scrublands. You fire with your mouse, holding the cursor at the bottom of your screen until it’s time to draw. It’s short, simple yet actually quite suspenseful.
If you decide that you really like it, you can support the developer by getting their reasonably priced content pack too.
2. Team Fortress 2
Everyone thought Valve was crazy to turn Team Fortress from a Half-life style realistic(ish) online shooter to a bold and bouncy online shooter in 2007. But it worked, and incredibly well too.
The bread-and-butter of Team Fortress 2 are classic team-based modes like Capture the Flag, Control Points, and the excellent Payload, where one team needs to escort a cart across a level (sound familiar Overwatch fans?). You pick one of several distinct classes, specialising in either offence, defence or support, and dive on into one of its many meticulously designed, vibrant maps.
It’s one of the best, most influential online shooters of all time, and it’s completely free these days unless you fancy splashing out on skins and other sillies.
3. Dota 2
Another Valve stalwart, Dota 2 is a free-to-play MOBA phenomenon, rubbing shoulders with League of Legends as the most popular game of its kind. Fun fact: the original Dota is in fact a mod for the RTS classic Warcraft III.
So what makes Dota 2 special? It’s actually a little deeper than League of Legends in some ways (though I’m sure LoL fans will disagree). You can pick from one of over 100 heroes to take into battle, fighting alongside your team and your army of minions to push those lanes and destroy the other team’s base. Units range from healing support types to charging, head-down attackers. Whatever your play style, there will be one in there to suit you.
Dota 2 has a few interesting features as well, such as the option to eat up your own minions in exchange for gold and numerous ways of kitting out and upgrading your character. Be warned: Dota 2 isn’t for the faint-hearted.
4. Brutal Doom
A painstakingly elaborate project for one of the most loved PC games of all time, Brutal Doom is a beefed-up version of ZDoom, the open-source port of Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom and Master Levels. It features extra animations and gore and weapons, as well as redesigned maps, modernized controls and UIs. It’s vicious and immensely satisfying and arguably the best way to play Doom in this day and age.
Those who are nostalgic for N64 should check out Brutal Doom 64, which remasters and bloodies the open-source port of the N64 version. (Alternatively, there’s also Doom 64: Retribution which focuses on visual improvements while not redesigning much of the original game.)
5. OpenRA (Red Alert, Tiberian Dawn, Dune 2000)
Command & Conquer set the bar for real-time strategy games, and there are some who argue that it’s never quite been topped. OpenRA is an updated, up-resed and polished version of not just Red Alert but also Tiberian Dawn and Dune 2000, faithfully recreating these classic games with the interface and usability perks that we’d expect from a game made today. All the games are completely free and are without question the best way to play these classics. And yes, of course you can play LAN games with your pals.
6. 0 A.D.
Despite still being in an Alpha stage after nearly ten years, 0 A.D. is one of the most impressive free games out there. Players take control of one of twelve ancient civilizations and are tasked with its survival and proliferation. In order to do this, you must engage in combat with other civilizations while managing your economy. Featuring a single-player campaign as well as multiplayer, 0 A.D. is perfect for those who are going through Age of Empires II withdrawals.
7. Super TuxKart
It may have started as a Mario Kart clone, but Super TuxKart has come into its own over the years. This kart racer has a slew of game modes, offering lots of racing replayability. In addition to colorful graphics and well-designed tracks to race on, one of the best things about Super TuxKart is its collection of characters. Mascots from various open-source projects appear in the game. Keep your eyes peeled for the GNU wildebeest, the SUSE gecko and the Mozilla Thunderbird.
8. The Dark Mod
Don’t let the name fool you – this isn’t just a mod of an existing game. Instead it is a standalone game born from an attempt to remake the game “Thief” in the Doom 3 engine. In The Dark Mod players control an agile thief who must use a variety of tools and equipment to avoid various threats. The software is bundled with a level editor which allows users to create their own missions. There are currently over one-hundred fan-made missions with various objectives. The Dark Mod has received significant attention from gamers and the press, even being crowned the “#2 best free PC game” by PC Gamer in 2016.
In this delightfully destructive game, players control hedgehogs who use anything and everything to kill, maim and obliterate each other. The turn-based action takes place on various destructive environments and features a dizzying amount of weapons. The collateral damage of the weapons can alter the landscape, restricting the movement of the hedgehogs. Luckily, the hedgehogs have various tools like ropes and parachutes at their disposal to help them navigate the land and get a clear shot at the enemy. If this sounds to you a lot like another turn-based war game featuring seemingly harmless animals, you wouldn’t be wrong. Hedgewars is heavily influenced by the long-running “Worms” series.
Voxelands is a sandbox construction game in the same vein as Minecraft. It places players in a fully-destructible 3D world where they can build pretty much anything they want. Voxelands also boasts role-playing elements, requiring players to defend their structures from the elements and enemies. The game features a large number of tools and over 500 different types of blocks to aid in their construction. Whereas some players can experience some performance issues with heavyweights like Minecraft, Voxelands is feather-light. The game’s website claims that Voxelands can run on a Pentium 1 processor and be played online with a 14.4 KB connection!
Xonotic is a fast-paced multiplayer game built on a heavily-modified version of the Quake engine. Xonotic features multiple game modes including staples like capture-the-flag and deathmatch and features a number of futuristic weapons. Gameplay emphasis is on speed and mastering level layout, making Xonotic similar to games like Unreal Tournament and Quake.
12. The Battle for Wesnoth
Fancy fighting elves, trolls, orcs and dragons? The Battle for Wesnoth indulges all your Tolkien-esque impulses in a turn-based strategy game. Players fight for dominance in a high fantasy realm populated with colorful retro sprites. In addition to factoring in the strengths and weaknesses of units, players must also account for weather and types of terrain during their quest, all of which can have an effect on the outcome of a battle. The stable version of the game includes sixteen campaigns; however, there are many unofficial campaigns in the form of user-made add-ons.
A remake of 1995’s Transport Tycoon Deluxe, OpenTTD tasks players with managing a major metropolitan transit system. The goal of the game is to build a transportation network utilizing a variety of vehicles such as trains, boats, planes and trucks. In addition, players earn money for successful deliveries. The money can then be used to build a more efficient infrastructure. OpenTTD supports multiplayer games of up to 255 people split between fifteen different transport companies, all in direct competition with one another. The game also supports a large and active user-base, resulting in a wide variety of mods being available.
14. Secret Maryo Chronicles
It’s no “secret” as to what classic game Secret Maryo Chronicles gets its inspiration from. Rest assured, this isn’t simply a half-baked rip-off. Secret Maryo Chronicles has been championed by many as a solid platform loaded with challenging puzzles. If you’ve been dying to take a trip down memory lane via a big green pipe, look no further.
It’s a plot that we’ve all heard before: Aliens are invading, and it’s up to you to annihilate them all. With impressive visuals, AstroMenace is an arcade-style shooter that really tests a player’s hand-eye coordination. Players will have to navigate the frontier of space while repelling hordes of enemy spaceships. Enemy units boast unique attacks and serious firepower, requiring players to be on their toes at all times. Weapon and ship upgrades become available throughout the game, and trust us when we say that you’ll need them to succeed in your mission.
What are your favorite free games to play on Linux? Let us know in the comments!
This article was first published in March 2017 and was updated in June 2018.