Gaming on Linux has long been the holy grail for making open source operating systems mainstream competitors to Windows.
Linux can do everything Windows can, except to host the latest games. In an effort to solve this problem and make gaming on Linux a viable proposition, a gaming client comes along, Lutris. But what does Lutris do to run games on Linux and should you give it a try?
What is lutris
Lutris is a video game client for Linux desktops and provides access to all the video games you own on the PC. Aside from the current generation of console video games, you should be able to play anything with it.
It's a single interface that integrates with game stores and platforms. You can enjoy over 13,000 games from retro systems, GOG, Steam and more from the comfort of a Linux PC.
How does Lutris work?
Lutris is basically a launcher for Linux games that integrates into so-called "runners".
This means that you can start the games from a single user interface, which then prompts the appropriate runners to help run the title. The runners include:
Wine TkG (an optimized build of Wine)
Wine Steam (to run Windows games from the Steam library)
These and other runners (many of which are intended for retro gaming) make it possible to run a huge library of games through Lutris on Linux.
What you need to play games on Linux with Lutris
Depending on the type of game you want to play, you need to consider your computer hardware. A modern, up-to-date system should be able to play the latest games; older computers are limited to playing games.
In short, if you want to play the latest titles with Lutris, you need the latest hardware. Rely on older PCs and laptops to play retro titles.
Install Lutris on Ubuntu-based systems as follows:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa: lutris-team / lutris
sudo apt update
sudo apt install lutris
Instructions for almost any Linux operating system you can name can be found on the Lutris website, where it can also be installed from source. Note, however, that there is no Snap or Flatpak installation option.
Here's how to use Lutris to play your favorite games on Linux
Using Lutris is straightforward.
All you have to do is link your accounts (Steam, GOG, etc) and then use Lutris as a launcher. There can be some complications with this process, however, and this is where Lutris' advanced settings come in.
However, in most cases, Lutris should successfully launch the game you are trying to play if the correct runners are installed and linked to the game you are trying to run. Some adjustments may be required, but generally the process works fine.
Installing Steam Games on Linux with Lutris
To install Steam games using Lutris, you first need to make sure Wine and the Steam Runner are installed. Then set the Steam ID of the game you want to play. This can be found in three ways:
Visit the game's store page and check the url – the last number in the address is the application id in the format https://store.steampowered.com/app/APPID.
Search the Steam database for the game, a third-party tool that provides a variety of information about Steam products.
In Steam, right click on the game in question and select Properties> Updates. You will find the App ID listed at the bottom of the screen.
With the App ID noted down, go to the Lutris window and click +> Add a new game. Enter the here Surname of the game in Game information and selected Wine as a runner. By doing Game settings Tab, enter Steam's Application ID and click Save on computer.
Finally, select the game in Lutris and click begin. A few moments later (and a "wait or quit" message) the game should be running.
For titles that do not run natively on Linux, you can rely on the Wine Steam runner (see below) or stream from a Windows PC with Steam. Any game you've installed in Wine outside of Lutris can be added to the library and started.
Installing GOG Games on Linux with Lutris
If you prefer titles purchased from GOG, you can install them by first linking your GOG account to Lutris. So we installed The Settlers: Rise of an Empire – Gold Edition on Linux with Lutris.
Choose GOG in the Sources section and browse the list of games.
Select the game and click To install
Confirm the installation of GOG
Confirm the destination file path
click Keep going when prompted (e.g. to install the game manual)
click Keep going when prompted to download the game
When the game is downloaded, proceed with the installation wizard
click begin when the installation is complete
Note that games installed this way can take some time, so be patient here.
Install a game straight from the Lutris library
You can also install retro games through Lutris from the online library. These may require runners, but these can be installed automatically as part of the game's download and installation.
Choose Lutris in the source menu
Use the seek Box at the top of the screen to find the game you want
Select the game and click To install
click To install again to confirm the installation target
When prompted, click To install a third time
After the installation, click begin to play the game
That simplicity makes Lutris a great option for retro gaming fans.
Install a Windows game on Linux using Lutris
Finally, you can run Windows games on Linux and start using Lutris. There are several ways to do this, but the easiest one is to rely on the Wine Steam Runner, a custom version of Steam that runs under Wine.
All you have to do is navigate to the game and install it.
We noticed that the game (we tested the strategy title Dorfromantik) did not start from Lutris, but started from Steam without any problems.
Other ways to play PC games on Linux
Lutris isn't the only way to play PC games on a Linux computer. If the computer meets the hardware requirements, you can also use:
Steam / SteamOS: Valve's digital delivery service runs on Linux, both as an app and as an Ubuntu-based operating system (SteamOS).
Retro gaming platforms: Almost all retro gaming systems are available for Linux and open up a world of emulated classic games.
SparkyLinux: This Debian-based operating system has integrated Steam, Wine and PlayOnLinux to make starting games easier
Ubuntu GamePack: This should start over 85,000 games and is based on Ubuntu 20.04.
While Steam / SteamOS is a strong option, it relies on developers to release Linux versions of the games in question. Ultimately, you need a solution that makes it easier for you to find, install, and then launch your own games – Lutris has the edge here.
Support Lutris for Linux gaming
Lutris is a great way to play the latest PC games on Linux. As with many such systems, it's not perfect – there will always be a processing overhead, especially with new games – but Lutris successfully brings together a whole range of Windows gaming platforms and makes them playable on Linux. Add in retro gaming and you have a huge collection of titles to choose from.
Lutris is a non-profit project that you can support on Patreon, PayPal or LiberaPay.
Or, you can rely entirely on Steam or SteamOS for your Linux game.
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About the author
(1525 articles published)
Deputy Editor for Security, Linux, DIY, Programming and Tech Explained and a really useful podcast producer with extensive experience in desktop and software support.
As a contributor to Linux Format Magazine, Christian is a Raspberry Pi tinkerer, Lego lover and retro gaming fan.
By Christian Cawley
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