How to Install Windows Games on Linux

How to Install Windows Games on LinuxWhile there are indeed a fairly reasonable number of video game options for the Linux desktop, none of them are really the mainstream games many of us have come to know and love. This translates into many people either dual-booting their computers or perhaps instead, opting to green-light one of the various solutions that run Wine.

Using Wine is generally a last choice since it’s trying to run Windows libraries on a Linux operating system. Wine makes this possible in many instances, but can also lead to a very buggy experience. The real issue comes down to how the game is coded because games are typically optimized to run with the operating system having native access to computer hardware, not via an emulation mode like Wine.

That being said, there are (at least) a few options out there if you’d like to install Windows games on Linux. Here are a couple that I’ve found deserving of a second look.

WineHQ is purely a community effort to document what games and Windows apps work under Wine, along with documenting whether bothering with the game or app is even worth it. WineHQ is not the recommended place to start for the casual user since many of the configurations are challenging.

CrossOver Games is brought you by the good folks who also support CrossOver Office. Their games dept is the best equipped to get you running with today’s modern Windows games. Using the cutting edge release of Wine at all times, they add their own goodies to the mix for maximum compatibility with Windows games.

Which is the best approach?

While I mention WineHQ, using CrossOver Games is going to yield the highest rate of success. CrossOver Games’ database of compatible games is up to date, the code is fluid, and I see more focus on the casual user than I do with WineHQ. For advanced users, going at it alone with Wine via the WineHQ database is another approach. Again, WineHQ is not always as well supported, but it’s certainly a free option, nonetheless.

CC licensed Flickr photo by Jonathas Rodrigues

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  • Shane Knysh

    There is no more Crossover games or Crossover office, the latest release rolled both into a single product named Crossover.

  • Jeepfanatic

    I was hoping for a little more out of this article. No mention of the fact that a number of games (especially from id) have native Linux binaries or the fact that Valve is coming out with a Linux version of Steam. Was even expecting some kind of mention of DOSBox for old DOS games.

  • sid3windr

    Wine also isn’t an emulator as such, so I guess… most of this article is incorrect, outdated or incomplete :O

  • Mr. Anderson

    Why not mention the PlayOnLinux (, which is very much about running windows games on Linux and of course based wine ?

    • Christopher Martin

       I agree, PlayOnLinux is worth a mention.  It comes with a list of games tested to work with it and it will automatically select and install the version of Wine with which they’ll work.  IMHO, it’s  abetter option than just using whichever version of Wine that’s in your distro’s repositories and hoping for the best.

      • Shannon Black

        i might be wrong but PlayOnLinux is like a free version of CrossOver games except designed for the community to create the .pol scripts for loading the games. CrossOver games is a payed for solution that is based on PlayOnLinux but is improved to the point that they only use the latest Wine version and they handtest each game to work and provide professional support to make the installation as easy as possible. Am i wrong?

        • Aleksandar Nikolić

          Using the latest version of Wine isn’t always the best solution due to the possibility of regression. Some games have been reported to run much better in older Wine versions (1.3.23) than on newer ones.

          As far as CrossOver is concerned, from my experience their support is no better than PlayOnLinux. In my opinion, only thing they did better is automatically set your Windows files to open directly through CrossOver instead of the Wine default program loader, though this can also be set manually for PlayOnLinux. Biggest difference between the two that I can see is that one is free and the other costs – the rest is trivial as both rely solely on the Wine developers and what the users report as working or not.

  • Not

    A. Just play Linux games. There more of theses than anyone as time to play. I mean direct 3D games, with a newer Nvidia GPU.

    B. Dual boot Windows/linux. If you want Windows games, why wouldn’t you ALSO want free, Linux games?

    C. Use playonlinux, to segment your Windows program installs, on GNU/Liinux. Game, or not! Linux distros(sets), like the super easy Mint (12 with Mate) make it point, and click, done. Always check the WineHQ success rate before trying a given Windows app, and using playonlinux. Playonlinux does come with a list of games, to choose, in its program. You often have to have, or go get a copy of the (closed) game you wish to install.

    D. One can visualize one OS, in another, but WINE (and thus Playonlinux) doesn’t require more RAM (than most people have), nor more HD, OS space.

    • Me

      Balders Gate, Orange Box, Diablo, WoW, Skyrim, LA Noire, Shogun, Heavy Rain, Dragon Age, Crysis, Black & White, etc… sorry, but the best & most creative games run best on the most popular gaming OS (sigh).  Fortunately most at least work marginally under Wine.  But, there is hope… once Linux moves to Wayland… then, perhaps gaming franchises will realize that they can get their games to run bestand to market faster with Linux.

      • Shannon Black

        wayland has very little to do with it .. the problem comes in the amount of effort driver (NVidia and ATi) put into the linux versions. They do a great job, but usually a better job on OS’s that have a larger gaming audience .. It is a well known benchmarking fact that Linux with the exclusion of the state of graphic drivers is much faster than Windows due to the windows runtime libraries not being as fast. gcc runtime slaughters msc runtime libraries, meaning that your AI, Physics, and anything that runs on the CPU runs faster on linux, also Linux uses alot less RAM thus meaning the following. Gaming on Linux at its current state (given that NVidia and ATi are equal in quality on both OS’s) would require less CPU and RAM requirements, will load up faster and calculate everything in 14% less CPU cycles (according to the last benchmark i read .. really wish i benchmarked it for reference) .. With this being said, if Valve and EA bring games across like the current hype suggests they are, Nvidia and ATi will improve their drivers and therefore we will more games on linux. And if the game developers optomize it to the same extent as windows games, you should even have better performance on Linux. In conclusion, Windows is not the best gaming OS, but rather the best OS to market your games on

    • Me

      Balders Gate, Orange Box, Diablo, WoW, Skyrim, LA Noire, Shogun, Heavy Rain, Dragon Age, Crysis, Black & White, etc… sorry, but the best & most creative games run best on the most popular gaming OS (sigh).  Fortunately most at least work marginally under Wine.  But, there is hope… once Linux moves to Wayland… then, perhaps gaming franchises will realize that they can get their games to run bestand to market faster with Linux.

  • Nobody of Import

     WINE’s really a misnomer. 

    WINE when used as libwine, it’s not an emulator.  When WINE is used with wineserver and the binary loader, it IS an emulator.  Not.  Native.  OS. API.

    • Shannon Black

      not sure about wineserver? but binary wine is not an emulator .. what it does is it implements the entire win32 API .. then when it comes to loading dynamic link libraries it runs that code as if it were running without wine, except wine has implemented the LoadDynamicLibrary windows function as its own function in RAM / CPU address space thus allowing it to load its API instead of expecting them to use the windows system32 folder .. they could ship the entire system32 folder and all drivers that come with windows and you would have a flawless experience and it still would not be an emulation because the dynamic link libraries are not running through wine but rather on the processor themselves .. however the reason they have to implement there own version of the drivers and windows binaries is because they would seriously infringe on microsofts copyrights .. by downloading and installing the various windows components like DirectX and so forth, you as a user accept that the usage of such components comes under the restriction that you own and have paid for the usage of such components in the form of owning an original Windows OS installation disc with an OS version that supports that component .. (in other words to be able to run DX11 on Linux you need to own windows 7 or higher)

      for a more easier definition look at the winehq faq under 1.3 .. wine is a “compatibility-layer” .. 

  • Shannon Black

    you are correct :)

  • Marcus Harman

    Playonlinux is quite a good front end to wine – as is vinyard
    I use both.


    PlayOnLinux is good also