Before Valve ported their popular Steam gaming platform to Linux, gaming on the operating system seemed like a hopeless pursuit. Most Linux gaming came in the form of a handful of open source games or messy Wine configurations to get Windows games to work, albeit at a huge performance hit. Now, the picture is much different, thanks in large part to Steam.
These games mark the best the platform currently has to offer natively for Linux. Keep an eye out, though, because that's all changing again with Steam's new Steam Play feature that allows you to play Windows games on Linux the same as you would a native game, changing the picture drastically again.
If you aren't familiar with Counter Strike, you probably don't know much about gaming. The latest iteration of Valve's popular first person shooter, CS:GO is an extremely popular game in the genre and a huge player in the eSports scene. CS:GO is an absolute must for any fan of military style shooters or just competitive gaming.
Rocket League is based around a strange concept, cars playing soccer(football, sorry), but it's a genuinely fun game that's exploded in popularity. The game literally reaches new heights, allowing cars with rocket boosters to fly through the air and play the ball. Rocket League is another huge eSports title that has a large online playerbase and fanbase.
In a lot of ways, Ark takes the Minecraft formula and cranks it to eleven. You're character is stranded on an island with dinosaurs, crazy tech, and other players, and you need to survive. You need to make the most of your surroundings and cooperate with other players to get that done. Oh, and you can ride a dinosaur, so there's that.
The Civilization games have been a staple of PC gaming for a long time, and why wouldn't they be. They're one of the major driving forces behind the real time strategy genre and the civilization simulation one. Both Civilization V and VI are available for Linux, and the ports for both are great. If you like history, or modding the crap out of history to include Game of Thrones characters, Civ should be right up your alley.
XCom 2 is a different beast. It's a strange and wonderful blend of a third person shooter and a strategy game into something that's super fun and addictive. The game's story pits your small elite team with futuristic weapons against hordes of alien invaders as you struggle to save the world. The game is fast paced, engaging, and offers enough challenge to keep you coming back. On top of all that, the visuals are pretty great too.
Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead 4 is a zombie themed horror first person shooter that allows you to experience the zombie apocalypse, complete with multiple types of grotesque monstrosities featuring uniquely awful abilities and overwhelmingly bad odds for you and your small group. The Left 4 Dead games have long held a high place in the pantheon of zombie games, and for good reason. They're insanely and addictively fun.
Speaking of the apocalypse, is Mad Max more your speed than zombies? Look no further than Borderlands (or maybe the actual Mad Max game that's also on this list). Borderlands is a fast paced RPG shooter that lets you customize just about everything to the max. It has online cooperative play, about a million stories and things for you to play through, and a really awesome and dynamic world.
Bioshock Infinite is an action FPS in the style of the other Bioshock games, with upgradable weapons and gear, but set in a steampunk flying city in the year 1912. Bioshock Infinite features a compelling story that has you first on a rescue mission, and later uncovering the secrets of the city in the clouds that you've been calling home. Bioshock Infinite is a fantastic all around game that should be in any Linux gamer's library.
Metro 2033/Last Light
The Metro series really stepped into the main stream in terms of popularity several years ago, but they're still going strong today. Metro 2033 and the follow up, Metro Last Light are unique shooters that take you on a journey through a world ravaged by nuclear war. Both in the metro tunnels turned shelter and the wasteland above, you'll struggle against human antagonists and horrific mutants in an attempt to survive.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a stealth action game with a first person perspective and weapon upgrades in a similar style to Bioshock. This is something different, though, with an emphasis on the stealth elements more than openly exploring the world. The world is great, though, and the near future setting plays a major role in driving the game's engaging narrative.
Shadow of Mordor
Have you ever wanted to be a ranger like Aragorn and hack you way through Sauron's worst? Well, that's what Shadow of Mordor lets you do, but even better. This action game takes things to the next level as you play as a human ranger, possessed by a wraith who you must work with as you fight your way through Mordor to defeat your common enemy, Sauron. Your new wraith buddy gives you some awesome abilities, like mind controlling orcs to join your side. With that, Shadow of Mordor brings a strategy twist to a genre that can otherwise feels stale.
Dirt Rally is a somewhat of a different racing game. Instead of racing on a paved track, Dirt puts you on the... dirt. Rally races take place on all sorts of different terrain and courses, adding a new dimension to the game. You get to experience races in varied situations, making the whole experience more fun than just turning left. On the simulation side of things, Dirt Rally is surprisingly realistic and aims to replicate the feeling of being the driver, right down to the sound of the engine.
Mad Max puts you in the shoes of the man himself in this third person action game set in the iconic film world. Fight for supplies to build up your car for war as you search for a way out of this life of chaos and towards a more peaceful reality. Of course, things don't go smoothly, and you have to survive through a sizable series of missions on your journey. Since the game has an open world, you can always sink a decent amount of time into just exploring, which is always great in a world as unique as this one.
Total War: Warhammer
Total War: Warhammer is something every fantasy fan has wanted in a real time strategy game since the inception of the RTS genre. The game features gigantic sweeping fantasy battles in the much loved Warhammer universe. Control gigantic armies as they clash in detailed and well animated combat. The environments feature an exceptional amount of detail for the genre, and Total War: Warhammer brings loads of unique units that will be instantly familiar to Warhammer fans.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is easily one of the best installments in the series, and one of the top action games in recent history. Play through Lara Croft's origin while surrounded by visually stunning landscapes and a living world. Between the original game content and the subsequent expansions, there shouldn't be any shortage of things to do and explore here.
Linux gaming has come a long way, and it continues to soar to heights though impossible only a few years ago. More games keep coming, and top names are finally seeing ports to Linux. With Valve's help, Linux is quickly becoming a real contender for gamers, and that's a huge deal both for the Linux community and the gaming industry as a whole.
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