2006-06-10 2017 Linux Fun: Linux for gaming? You've got to be joking, right?

Linux for gaming? You’ve got to be joking, right?


The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Ok, you’re right Linux is better than Windows. A lot better. I understand all your reasons – better stability, security, no problems with viruses and adware, better programs, but……..”


“Um……I play games. So, I need a Windows PC to play them? I mean, Linux hasn’t got any games at all, right?”


Maybe half-wrong, then, If you want to play the latest off-the-shelf game, then you’re probably going to be out of luck, though companies like TransGaming make it “unlikely” rather than “impossible” – your mileage may way.

What you do get with Linux though is a world-class system for playing classic games; it’s a paradise where literally any game from a few years back can be played, and enjoyed. This is the heady world of emulation where your Linux computer can pretend to be a Gameboy Advance, a Playstation, a SNES or even a complete upright arcade console, all for your pleasure and entertainment.

Count up all the games released for those systems, and many more, and you’ll soon see that the number of games Linux plays runs in to the tens, if not hundreds of thousands; everything from the original Space Invaders to Resident Evil and beyond.

That’s a lot of gaming pleasure from a little fluffy penguin.

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the best emulators around (ie, the ones I use), and a few pointers where to find those all important roms. Of course, you’re only supposed to use the roms if you’ve got the original cartridge, but you knew that already, didn’t you?


Ah, those Japanese with their bright colours, squashed sprites and dodgy translations. Like a bad wine, the games have improved with age and those hits from last century now have a charm and fiendish addiction that passed me by first time around. ZSNES is far and away the best SNES emulator around, and I found ines (downloadable from Zophar) to handle every NES game I threw at it. If you love mario then the NES is the place to be, and a lot of Gameboy games first saw light on this system. For SNES and NES roms, Freeroms has a good selection including the classic version of Cannon Fodder and the awesomely good RPG Chrono Trigger. That game alone is worth the installation of zsnes.


DOS?! Yes, DOS. There’s a lot of great DOS games out there, and thankfully most of them have found their way from the back of cupboards onto Abandonia, the home of DOS abandonware games everywhere. DOSemu is very effective at running these classics, so if you fancy the Zaonce-Isinore run in Elite or a session tearing your hair out in Betrayal at Krondor, then this is the place to go. Most impressively, Abandonia tries to put up a “new” game every single day, so there’s always something new to provide eye candy and sweaty palms. Ooh err!

C-64 and Spectrum

There’s something bizarrely therapeutic about running a Commodore 64 in a window alongside a Speccy in the other, these mortal enemies tamed at last. I do sometimes try to hit the Specrum window with the C-64 one though, just so it know’s who’s boss. You know how it is. VICE is the C-64 emu par excellence. It’s fast, clean and takes pretty much no memory at all. If you want, it’ll even make you wait twenty minutes for the game to start, just like the good old days. Ah, the memories.

Spectemu is the Spectrum emulator, and like VICE, it’s small and perfectly formed (unlike the Spectrum itself. Ha!). It runs Sabre Wulf just fine too, which is pretty much the only Speccy game you’ll ever need. Not that I’m biased or anything.

For roms, c64.com is the place to be. If anyone has a similar source of Spectrum roms, I’d like to know it.


Want a console in your living room? Then get MAME, the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator. It’ll do everything from a Vectrex to that Street Fighter console you leaned on and tried to look cool as a kid. The best place to get started with MAME is over at MAMEWorld, which also wins an award for being the most disorganised, chaotic site ever! That aside, Google is a great source for roms. No surprises there, then.

Gameboy and Gameboy Advance

These make for perfect games to fire up and leave running in the background, just going back for one more try at the final level in Advance Wars II while waiting for a recompile to finish. Visualboy Advance is the emulator to use as it’s graphics and sound handling is great. It’ll also freeze the action when you shift to another window, which is just perfect. It’s also a great way to play Sims 2 :)

Romwize, there’s only one place to be, and that’s GBA Rom News. If it’s not there, it doesn’t exist. Simple as that.


So far, we’ve looked at emulators that make games look and act just like their console or 8-bit originals. Here we end with one which makes then run better. ePSXe is an amazing engine which emulates the PSX. If your computer has a decent 3D graphics card (mine’s NVidia) and follow these instructions, the games look and play better than they do on the PSX itself. That’s nothing to be sniffed at.

When it comes to ROMS however, you’re on your own. So long as there’s edonkey and Pirate Bay though, I’m sure you’ll find some. The good news is that ePSXe will play original games if they’re dropped in your CD caddy too, so that little pile of games gathering dust on the bookcase can get a new, fresher, lease of life.

Of course, all of these systems can also be emulated under Windows too, but then you’re just providing one more excuse to stick with that sub-par poor quality Operating System, and that’ll never do.

Now get out there and game!

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