I have provided a non-exhaustive list of helpful links for anyone that wants to play open source games. I made this list for fun, and everything I have listed is available free of charge.
I have not included links to abandonware or ROM sites, because they are legally ambiguous and upset rights holders. It would certainly be unfortunate if you somehow found them all by yourself.
You should only use these open source emulators with software programs and video games that you already own, or have owned at some point.
- Basilisk II emulates classic 68k Apple Macintosh computers
- BeebEm emulates the Acorn BBC Micro and similar systems
- Dolphin emulates the Nintendo Game Cube and Wii games consoles
- DOSBox emulates an x86 IBM Personal Computer for MS-DOS games
- Fuse emulates the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and similar systems
- MAME emulates multiple arcade cabinets built over a number of decades
- PCem emulates a wide range of ’80s and ’90s PC hardware & clones
- PCSX2 emulates the Sony PlayStation 2 games console
- SheepShaver emulates classic PowerPC Apple Macintosh computers
- VisualBoyAdvance emulates the Nintendo Game Boy Advance games console
- Wine is an emulation layer that can run Windows applications on Linux and macOS
- Xemu emulates the original XBOX games console
You can purchase DRM-free copies of old PC games, from online stores like GOG, that have already been patched for modern systems. You can also still download freeware and shareware games from non-profit hobbyist websites, such as DOSGames.com.
If you have an old computer running Windows 98/ME, you can run more modern Windows 2000/XP applications on it by using an open source emulation layer called KernelEx.
Game Engine Replacements
In the absence of modern ports for classic games, enthusiasts have worked together to create their own. You usually need game files from the original installation media, but some engines provide a mechanism to install royalty-free assets.
- Commander Genius is a modern game engine for the Commander Keen series
- CorsixTH is a modern game engine for Theme Hospital
- Daggerfall Unity is a modern game engine for The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
- dheum3 is a source port for the original version of Doom 3
- Exult is a modern game engine for Ultima VII
- ezQuake is a modern QuakeWorld online multiplayer client
- GZDoom is a source port for Doom and Doom II
- Micropolis is a relicensed and modified version of the original SimCity
- There is also a modern browser-based clone called MicropolisJS
- OpenClonk is the relicensed and modified final entry in the Clonk series
- OpenMW is a modern game engine for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- OpenRA is a modern game engine for Command & Conquer: Red Alert with royalty-free assets
- OpenRCT2 is a modern game engine for Rollercoaster Tycoon 2
- OpenTESArena is a modern game engine for The Elder Scrolls: Arena
- OpenTTD is a modern game engine for Transport Tycoon Deluxe with royalty-free assets
- OpenXCOM is a modern game engine for UFO: Enemy Unknown (also known as XCOM: UFO Defence in North America)
- OpenTyrian is a relicensed and modified version of Tyrian with optional freeware assets
- Remnants of the Precursors is a modern remake for Master of Orion
- ScummVM is a modern game engine for many ’80s and ’90s text adventure games
- The Ur-Quan Masters is a relicensed and modified version of Star Control II
- VCMI is a modern game engine for Heroes of Might and Magic III
- Yamagi Quake II is a source port for Quake II
If you no longer have the physical install media for some of these titles, or you cannot find an equivalent for a suitable price on eBay, then you can often re-buy modern digital versions on GOG or Steam. You may also want to consider using emulation software instead for some old games.
Many classic games have inspired enthusiasts to clone or remix them, and even pursue their own ideas for creating new games in the same genre. The fruits of their labour can often be just as fun to play as the original titles, and often have a thriving online community supporting them as well.
- 0 A.D. was inspired by Age of Empires
- Beyond All Reason was inspired by Total Annihilation
- Bomberclone was inspired by Bomberman
- Endless Sky was inspired by the Escape Velocity series
- Flightgear was intended as an alternative to Microsoft Flight Simulator
- FreeCiv was inspired by the first three Sid Meier’s Civilization games
- FreeCol was inspired by Sid Meier’s Colonization
- FreeOrion was inspired by the Master of Orion series
- Frets on Fire was inspired by Guitar Hero
- Hedgewars was inspired by Worms
- Lincity-NG was inspired by SimCity 3000
- Minetest was inspired by Minecraft
- Oolite was inspired by Frontier: Elite II
- Pioneer was also inspired by Frontier: Elite II
- Pingus was inspired by Lemmings
- Unciv was inspired by Sid Meier’s Civilization V
- Unknown Horizons was inspired by the Anno series
- Widelands was inspired by The Settlers II
If you enjoy these games, remember to reach out to the developers so that you can thank them for their hard work and give generously on their donation pages.
These Linux games do not fit any of the other categories on this page, but they are too good to leave out in my opinion.
- Battle for Wesnoth is a turn-based fantasy-themed strategy game
- Extreme Tux Racer is a time trial game where you slide a penguin down a hill
- Frozen Bubble is a puzzle game with a thumping soundtrack
- MegaGlest is a unique 3D RTS game with both historical & fantasy factions
- SuperTuxKart is a multiplayer kart racing game with FLOSS mascots
- Xonotic is a modern fast-paced multiplayer arena FPS game
I hope to expand this list over time, as I continue to explore native Linux gaming more myself.