▶️ Playing your Steam games on Linux

Recently, there have been lots of people trying to move over to Linux. This is partly due to Microsoft’s new Windows 11 system requirements being quite harsh, and also due to the fact that Linux has been improving massively as a desktop experience.

One of the biggest pros to Linux, is the fact that it is completely free and open-source. This means you don’t have to worry about any licensing, and that if you wanted to you could modify any part of the system, as much or as little as you wanted to.

However, one of the biggest drawbacks of a Linux desktop has been the difficulty of playing Windows-only games. You could spin up a VM, but that requires a Windows license and has performance overheads. You could use a tool like Wine, but by itself it isn’t very good at running those modern games. This has meant that people have struggled for a long time with using Linux for playing games. But that’s about to change.

Valve, the company behind Steam, has developed an open-source package that extends Wine called Proton. This makes running Windows games significantly easier.

But that’s not all. Steam has added an option to the native Linux client to enable a new feature called Steam Play. This has Proton and some other useful packages bundled with it, meaning that all you have to do is turn it on, wait for it to install a few things and then boom - you can play Windows games on Linux.

But does it work? I’ve found that it works very well most of the time, luckily though there is a community-maintained website for tracking how well games work on Proton. Check out ProtonDB to see how well your games would run. You can even import your library into ProtonDB to view all your game’s compatibility from one place. Pretty neat.

🤷‍♂️ How do I set it up?

You’ll be glad to know that setting up Steam Play is a really easy experience. It probably won’t take you any more than about 30 seconds.

First things first, you need to have Steam installed. If you don’t already have it installed, and you’re using a Debian based distro (I would recommend Ubuntu), then you can type this command to install Steam:

sudo apt install steam

Once Steam is installed, you just have to login and then you’ll be ready to continue.

At the top of your screen, you should be able to find Steam > Settings. Open up the settings window.

In this window, you should be able to navigate to the Steam Play tab. Once you’re here, you can tick both boxes, and then set the “Run other titles with:” option to the latest Proton version (try to stay away from experimental unless you want to try an unstable build).

And that’s it! You’ll probably have to wait for some downloads, but then you’ll be able to download and play your Windows games like normal. You might notice Steam processing Vulkan shaders, or something similar on the first launch of some games. This is normal and doesn’t happen every time, but it might take a while depending on the game.

It should also be noted that all of this technology is moving on rapidly, so performance and compatibility should only get better.

And you’ll also be pleased to know that you can use Steam Play with non-Steam games, so if you want to run that .exe then you could use Steam Play to do that. You’re also able to tweak settings and use different tools to run your games, but if your games work fine with Steam Play, then it’s definitely going to be easier to stick with that.

Tip: In Settings > Shader Pre-Caching you can toggle Allow background processing of Vulkan shaders to on. This means that games will start faster because shader processing will happen in the background, rather than when you want to play the game.