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Linux gaming

Linux gaming refers to playing and developing video games for the Linux operating system, involving a Linux kernel–based operating system, often used for all computing tasks like surfing the web, office applications, desktop publishing, but also for gaming.

Linux gaming started largely as an extension of the already present Unix gaming scene, with both systems sharing many similar titles. These games were either mostly original or clones of arcade games and text adventures. A notable example of this was the so-called "BSD Games", a collection of interactive fiction titles. The free software and open source methodologies which spawned the development of the operating system in general also spawned the creation of various early free games. Popular early titles included NetHack, Netrek, XBill, XEvil, xbattle, Xconq and XPilot. As the operating system itself grew and expanded, the amount of free and open source games also increased in scale and complexity.

The beginning of Linux as a gaming platform for commercial video games is widely credited to have begun in 1994 when Dave D. Taylor ported the game Doom to Linux, as well as many other systems, during his spare. From there he would also help found the development studio Crack dot Com, which released the video game Abuse, with the game's Linux port even being published by Linux vendor Red Software, the original developers of Doom, also continued to release their products for Linux. Their game Quake was ported to Linux in 1996, once again by Dave D. Taylor working in his free time. Later id products continued to be ported by David Kirsch and Timothee Besset respectively, a practice that continued until the studio's acquisition by Zenimax Media in 2009. In 1995 DUX Software contracted Don Hopkins to port SimCity to Linux. Other early commercial Linux games included Hopkins FBI, an adventure game released in 1998 by MP Entertainment, and Inner Worlds in 1996, which was released for and mostly developed on Linux. In 1998, two programmers from Origin ported Ultima Online to Linux. A website called The Linux Game Tome began to catalog games created for or ported to Linux in 1995.

Library License in Language bindings Back-ends Description
Icon Name Official 3rd-party Linux Windows OS X Other
SDL SDL zlib License C C C#, Pascal, Python EGL, Xlib, GLX? GDI, Direct3D Quartz, Core OpenGL? PSP-stuff a low-level cross-platform abstraction layer
Game Development with SDL 2.0 on YouTube
SFML SFML zlib License C++ C, D, Python, Ruby, OCaml, .Net, Go Yes Yes Yes
ClanLib zlib License C++ Python, Lua, Ruby Yes Yes N/A N/A
GLFW zlib License C N/A Ada, C#, Common Lisp, D, Go, Haskell, Java, Python, Rebol, Red, Ruby, Rust Yes Yes Yes GLFW is a small C library that lets you create and manage windows with OpenGL contexts, enumerate monitors and video modes as well as handle inputs such as keyboard, mouse, joystick, clipboard and time.
Allegro Allegro zlib License C Yes Yes Yes Android, iOS
Libpolo GPL-3.0 C Yes Yes Yes
Grapple LGPL-2.1+ C Yes Yes Yes Grapple is designed to be a simple network layer, allowing the addition of multiplayer features to a game (or other application) for as little as a dozen lines of code. However it is also fully featured, so if you want more from your networking, you can have it.
RakNet 3-clause BSD C++ C++, C# N/A Yes Yes Yes PlayStation 3, iOS, ... game network engine for multi-player
OpenPlay APSL C Yes Yes Yes N/A networking library authored by Apple Inc.
Nvidia GameWorks Proprietary unknown WIP Yes N/A N/A As the result of their cooperation with Valve, Nvidia announced a Linux port of GameWorks. As of June 2014, PhysX, and OptiX have been available for Linux for some time.
Pygame Pygame LGPL-2.1 Python Yes Yes Yes build over SDL
wxWidgets wxWidgets LGPL-like C++ Yes Yes Yes

  • A Tale in the Desert III (2003, eGenesis) – A trading and crafting game, set in ancient Egypt, pay-to-play.
  • Auteria (2007) – A fantasy 3D free-to-play MMORPG.
  • Crossfire (1992) – A medieval fantasy 2D game.
  • Diaspora (1999, Altitude Productions) – 2D Space trading MMORPG. (Project Diaspora version has a Linux client.)
  • Dofus (2005, Ankama Games) – A 2D fantasy MMORPG.
  • Eternal Lands (2003, Radu Privantu) – A 3D fantasy free-to-play MMORPG.
  • PlaneShift – A free 3D fantasy game.
  • Regnum Online – A 3D fantasy game, free-to-play with premium content.
  • RuneScapeJava fantasy 3rd person MMORPG.
  • Salem – An isometric, 3D fantasy game with a focus on crafting and permadeath.
  • Shroud of the Avatar – An isometric, 3D fantasy game and the spiritual successor to the Ultima Online.
  • Spiral KnightsJava fantasy 3rd person game.
  • The Mana World – 2D medieval fantasy MMORPG, free to play and open source (GPL'd) – first released in 2005.
  • The Saga of Ryzom – has a Linux client and source code available.
  • Tibia – A 2D Medieval fantasy MMORPG game. Free-to-play with premium content. One of the oldest MMORPG, created January 1997. With Official Linux client.
  • Ultima Online has an unofficial Linux client.
  • Vendetta Online – A 3D spacecraft MMOFPS with growing RPG elements, pay to play. Maintains both Linux/32 and Linux/64 clients.
  • WorldForge – A game engine. There are Linux clients available.
  • Wurm Online – A Java-based MMORPG.
  • Wyvern – A 2D fantasy MMORPG that runs on Java.
  • Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates – A puzzle game which runs on Java.
  • Many Virtual Worlds – (such as Second Life) also have Linux clients.


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