How to play Windows games on Linux via Steam

The process is very simple and consists of activating Steam Play.

In recent years, GNU/Linux has taken giant steps when it comes to running video games via Steam. First they started to arrive ports of some triple A games to, later and thanks to Valve, be able to install native Windows games. Valve didn’t really discover gunpowder, but put together several tools created by the community and hence Steam Play was born. But this is not all, it also actively participates in order to improve compatibility. Without going any further, Steam Deck comes from the factory with SteamOS 3.0, an operating system based on GNU/Linux, and more specifically on Arch Linux.

If by now you haven’t installed a GNU/Linux distro on your computer, I remind you that you don’t need to remove Windows. Both operating systems can coexist without any problem. You just have to install Ubuntu, Manjaro, Linux Mint or other distro by creating a partition on the hard drive or SSD. This is very easy. In the steps prior to the installation, it usually gives the option to do it automatically.

What is Proton?

Under Steam Play, Proton is a set of tools, like DXVK and Wine, that allow you to run Windows (Steam) games on GNU/Linux. Something very important that is worth clarifying would be the following. At no time are we talking about emulation. Rather it is a compatibility layer which, in short, translates certain Windows APIs so that GNU/Linux understands them and can make them work. For example, translate DirectX to Vulkan.

How to play Windows games on GNU/Linux via Steam

Once you have installed the Steam client for GNU/Linux you just have to activate Steam Play following these steps:

  • At the top left of the Steam client you have to click on Steam and then on Parameters.
  • Next, from the window that opens, go to the menu on the left, click on Steam Play, and then select Activate Steam Play for all other titles.
Steam Play GNU/Linux

By activating Steam Play you can play games created for Windows

Once this is done, it may ask you to download a package and then restart the client. Now, if you access your library you will be able to see and download those games that are not native to GNU/Linux, but that you have purchased or claimed.

What games run on Proton

Activating Steam Play to play Windows video games on GNU/Linux does not mean that you will be able to play any title. Some may not run or may run with many crashes. It may also be that the performance is not the best. However, in many cases they usually work quite well, approaching or exceeding the performance they would have in Windows running on your computer’s hardware.

To know the level of compatibility that the games running under Steam Play have I recommend you take a look at ProtoDB. On this website you only have to search for the game you want to run on GNU/Linux to see how it works. There are several levels of compatibility: native, platinum, gold, silver, bronze, and broken. If the game is non-native, then platinum-rated is its thing. This means that it works perfectly.

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