Top Linux games your money can buy



Updated: June 7, 2010

Who said Linux games have to cost nothing? Well, quite a few people, actually. But just as you pay, or at least, are expected to pay for Windows games, there's no reason why you should not do the same thing in Linux. Creating high-quality games takes lots of work and effort. While many of us believe programmers are photosynthetic and live on PC screen emissions, the truth is they also need to earn money and provide for their families. If a game bears a price tag, then it's no reason to skip it, just because your operating system is free.

Payware games do not necessarily have to be better than free titles. In fact, there's no clear relation between price and quality. For any number of half-finished, amateur-looking free games, there's the equal number of overpriced garbage titles. Similarly, you can find exceptionally well made freeware games, just as some of the best Linux games require than you pay for them.

Today, I'm going to talk about the latter. Whether developed by gaming legends like id Software or by fresh new gaming startups, this article lists the more eligible games for your Linux machine, in return for a small monetary fee. Oh, I did mention several payware Linux games across the span of my nine compilations, so far, now here's a concentrated effort of some of the finer games you can pay for. You will a list of currently selling games, some older and maybe slightly outdated content, which you may want to consider nevertheless, a few Windows games that will run with a help of Wine and Cedega, as well as payware games mention in other reviews.

Teaser

New games I never reviewed before

New candidates, never seen before. Let's see what goodies we have here.

World of Goo

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World of Goo is a beautiful, compelling, challenging, all-family puzzle game with a strong focus on physics. Using the word physics can frighten people, so you should know there are no nerdy equations waiting for you. The puzzles all focus on little blobs of goo, which you need to lead to an exit pipe by constructing structures like bridges and towers, fighting gravity and terrain. The physics is all about having fun in a world constrained by physical forces, just like our own. Solving the puzzles requires some ingenuity, as well as basic 3D spatial intuition. The puzzles become increasingly difficult as you progress through the game chapters, with the Z axis and vectors added.

Goo 1

Goo 2

The game is very simple in its premise, which is what makes it so great. You do not have to invest hours digesting the game interface or learning to rules. You start having fun instantly, and tons of fun at that. Add some light music and quirky cut scenes, and you're in for a big treat. A free demo is available for download, for all platforms. The demo also comes bundled with Sabayon Linux distribution. The game price is USD20.

The Penumbra Series

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This game is unsuitable for children!

If you were old enough to play the 7th Guest, the 11th Hour and original Alone in the Dark puzzle-oriented, horror games in the heyday of DOS, then you will surely remember the chilling, blood-curdling sensations, the revulsion and genuine fear. The Penumbra Trilogy offers a similar experience. There are three individual titles you can play, each one a complete, stand-alone game, with a background storyline from the former releases carrying over into the sequels.

The first episode, Overture tells the tale a thirty-year-old physicist (that used to be me!) Philip, who comes to Greenland after receiving a letter from his supposedly dead father. On Greenland, Philip discovers an underground mine and he stumbles in, beginning a quest of terror and panic in a cold, dark, suffocating, and not-so-earthly world hiding beneath the layers of ancient Greenland ice. In the second game, Black Plague, Philip has to find a cure to an infection that has turned the personnel of an underground research facility of a secret organization discovering ancient knowledge into zombies. In the third episode, Requiem, Philip has to find a way out of a tomb.

Penumbra 1

All episode focus on elaborate 3D puzzles, played in the first person view. To advance through the game, you have to figure out ways to operate machinery, devices and doors and overcome obstacles. On top of that, there are some typical First Person Shooter fighting elements, as well as task completion. Each episode places a different focus on these elements.

Penumbra 2

Penumbra 3

The gameplay is wrapped in a disturbing mantle of morbid, truly frightening scenes. Even if you do not play the game in full darkness, it still leaves an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach. Of course, this is the whole idea, and the game builds the atmosphere all too well. For horror connoisseurs, this in an ideal setting. I have to admit I don't have the guts to see the game through to the end. The demos are terrible enough.Speaking of demos, you can download the first and second episode and trial the game.

Install

The game box says 12+ rating, but I can't possibly imagine anyone less than 18 having a go at this game. You can buy the entire set for USD20. The fourth game is scheduled for release in the summer, with the preorder at only USD16. Oh, and keep away from children! You can read more about this game in the Linux magazine review, by Susan Linton.

Unreal Tournament 3 (UT3)

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Unreal Tournament 3 is the latest in the series of Unreal Tournament games, offering the latest and greatest of the Unreal engine technology to the gamers worldwide. It follows the same rules, a fast, brutal pace, lots of firepower and action, with focus on online, multiplayer game.

UT3 2

I have to admit getting this game to run on Linux was not easy. There is no official Linux version, so I had to try the demo using Wine. The installation would not work without the .NET framework, so this was the first thing I had to solve. Luckily, there's winetricks that facilitates this; we'll have a review soon. Then, the game would not run, and I had to grab the official patch for 64-bit machines. Lastly, I struggled with some of the configurations and registry hacks before I could get it to run properly. Was it worth it? Well, it was. UT3 is a nice game, with lots of visual bling bling. The idea remains essentially the same as in the predecessors, like UT2004 (see further below), so if you liked the previous releases, you will like this one, too.

UT3 3

UT3 4

You have the usual arsenal of goodies at your disposal, including a variety of weapons and vehicles, which makes UT3 a little more like Battlefield 2142 than the classic First Person Shooter. This same concept is also seen in other more recent Quake releases, like Quake 4 and Quake Wars.

The demo allows you to play several Quick Action singleplayer missions, including 1:1 Duel, Vehicle CTF, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch. The full game costs USD12 on Amazon, so it's quite a reasonable price. Nevertheless, I think you should start with the demo and see how it works for you, including the installation and the troubleshooting of porting problems, before you commit your wallet.

Menu

Somewhat old but still holding

Would anyone have dared tell Jack Pallance he was too old for acting when he played in City Slickers? Exactly. Some games may be a little old and outdated, but they are still worthy the space on the hard disk. Again, an entirely personal perception from a guy who plays DOS games, so feel free to explore the available demos and decide if you want them, or if you prefer hunting the more recent sequels and newer, better looking games. Anyhow, let's take a look at a few older titles, which can still be played occasionally.

Quake 4

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Quake 4 is the fourth game in the Quake series. It is older than Enemy Territory Quake Wars (ETQW), an awesome, beautiful game that I've just recently reviewed, so you should expect a little less fancy graphics. In fact, the Quake 4 singleplayer campaign sets a storyline for the ETQW.

If you can bear with the game age, then there's a decent title for you to explore. The game costs money and the Windows and Linux demos are different. The Windows demo also includes a singleplayer campaign demo, with two levels. The Linux demo is limited to just the multiplayer part, again with a difference in the maps between the Windows and Linux version. Luckily, you can try both, as the Windows demo installs smoothly with Wine.

Quake 4 1

I've tried both and spent some time enjoying the singleplayer shooting against the bots. The game has very decent graphics, although not as sophisticated as the sequel or Prey. However, Quake 4 compensates the minor visual lackluster with a rich, well-paced storyline. The human bots are more than just background decoration. They are very active and quite smart and will support you in combat.

The game is also a little frightening. The Stroggs will come at you from any angle, suddenly, unexpected. What with the shakes and tremors, background explosions, communication noise, sudden hisses of steam from broken pipes, flickering neon light, and the general chaos and din of combat in a wrecked, host zone, the atmosphere is very tense and jumpy. All in all, a plenty of fun.

Quake 4 2

Quake 4 3

The game no longer sells at the official website, but you can buy it on Amazon for bargain price. Still, you should only buy if you're looking for the singleplayer campaign. If you want to play online, Quake 4 has very few servers available. The multiplayer element is very similar to OpenArena, which runs on an older Quake III engine, but the visual differences are not that big. Then, you also have the free Urban Terror, with a teeming online community and a ton of great servers. Don't forget Nexuiz and AlienArena, either, or the very recent and highly successful Quake Live, which runs inside your browser. You can still play the multiplayer demo on LAN, with two maps available in each Windows and Linux versions. Anyhow, if you want to try the game, make sure you test both demos.

Multiplayer

Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2004)

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After reading about UT3, you may think UT2004 is old school. Well, not necessarily. It does not have all the merits of the latest release, but it does have the advantage of a native Linux port, a much simplifier installation and lesser system requirements while still being a great classic FPS fun.

UT2004 offers quick, brutal fun, with vehicles, gun turrets and massive firepower all over the place. It has some similarities to other games created using the same technologies, like various Quake ports, but the main focus is on annihilating the other side.

Flying

Anti-air

An important aspect of the game is commanding the vehicles and using them to good advantage to cover territory quickly and lay down suppressive fire in support of friendly units. Or mow down enemy infantry with switchblade like scissors.

Scissors

The, you also have hovercraft like thingies you can ride like Flash Gordon and missiles you can use again Mechwarrior-style robot turrets. Similar to Savage, you can create forward stations called PowerNodes, which act as spawn points for your team, so there's a bit of strategy involved after all.

Power Nodes

UT2004 demo lets you play online. I did just that, visiting several servers. I did not notice any big restrictions or limitations because of the version I was running. UT2004 is an older game, so you may struggle finding the demos or the full game, especially the Linux version. Luckily, you can install the Windows version via Wine with quite reasonable results. Not perfect, but good enough to play. Best of all, the game remains a popular item and still sells on Amazon with original cellophane wrapping, at just over USD9, a very decent price by all means.

Not strictly Linux

Do Wine or Cedega count? Because if they do, then we might also mention Spore.

Spore

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Spore is a game where you play an evolution god (a funny term, don't you think), starting with single cell organisms and advancing all the way up to Warp engines and intergalactic travel. The complete game is not available for testing, but if you install Cedega in Linux, you get a chance to download and try Spore Creature Creator.

Install

Spore has a very strong social emphasis, and this is exactly where Spore Creature Creators comes into play. Apart from the sheer fun of creating bizarre, unearthly things that look like a crossbred between a motorbike and an armadillo, you play an important social part. You can upload your creations to Sporepedia, record movies and interact with other players. Lastly, you can unleash your creature into the world, where it has to fend for itself against similarly mutant spawnlings.

Spore 1

How you design your monster will totally affect its ability to survive in the world. The only thing you must have is a mouth, so your thing can feed. But morning-star elbows like those I designed, the Afrika Corps camouflage or the duck feet are entirely optional.

Later, you will have the chance to dance, croon, mate, and hunt, the usual repertoire in a life of a Darwinian creature, but this is the privilege of users with the full game version. The Creature Creator is a beautiful teaser designed to lure you in. The game is not cheap, though. It's 40 dollars for Spore and another 10 for the Creature Creator, so make sure you really like biological freakozoids before you buy.

Spore 2

Other decent payware games for Linux

Well, let's not forget the games already reviewed. It's a good opportunity to refresh your memory:

Vendetta Online

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Vendetta is a space MMORPG. It's about piloting spaceships in a vast universe. You do this with hundreds and thousands of other people online, building your own career path as you choose. You can focus on fighting other people or being a peaceful trader. You can ally with other players and form military and political factions. As you accomplish goals, you will earn money, allowing you to buy better ships, better weapons and more of the trading goods.

Vendetta 1

The Vendetta universe is vast and complex, creating a real world you can immerse into and enjoy. Each player can have up to six different characters, allowing him to enjoy different career paths. Furthermore, there are three playable nations to choose from, alongside a number of non-playable factions that spice up the story.

You start with some simple training and maneuvering and after that, you enter the endless, cruel world of economic struggle, political intrigue and conflict. The game is beautifully done and executed well. It feel real and it's quite addictive.

Vendetta 2

Vendetta Online allows you to play 8 hours, after which you will need to subscribe on a monthly basis, with the rates starting at USD10 and bulk discount down to USD6.67/month for larger blocks of time. You can read a longer review in my sixth gaming collection.

Prey

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I reviewed this game not that long ago. Prey is a Doom-style First Person Shooter focused on a disgruntled Cherokee named Tommy who just happens to be in the wrong place at wrong time. While defending the honor of his girlfriend Jen against drunken patrons in a bar, Tommy, his stereotypical grandpa and Jen are abducted by an organic alien ship. While conveyed through the ship's interior, Tommy somehow wriggles free and begins a journey and saving his love and grandpa from becoming bio-degradable ingredients of an extra-terrestrial lunch.

Prey 1

The game has stunning graphics and the same terrifying, nerve-wrecking elements like Doom 3, with the right play of lighting, squeaky noises in dark corners, lots of slime, and ugly-looking monsters. The atmosphere is just right and you experience genuine fear while playing.

Prey 2

The game is offered for USD19 on Amazon. I think it's a very good deal, if you have the stomach to see the game through. Myself, I have never finished Doom 3, finding it a little too stressful for my gentle soul. Prey offers the similar dosage of primal terror and disgust. Very recommended for fans of solid, rough horror shooter games.

Enemy Territory Quake Wars (ETQW)

homepage (link to ActiVision, ETQW redirects there)

Enemy Territory Quake Wars (ETQW) is a superb-looking FPS, following the long, respectable family of Quake titles. The game builds on Quake 4, which we've seen earlier, and incorporates some elements of Wolfenstein - Enemy Territory. Namely, you fight either as a Strogg or Human (GDF) in a futuristic warzone, with several different classes of combat units available. The focus is on asymmetric warfare, taking advantage of unique capabilities of each unit.

ETQW 1

On top of these, you get spectacular graphics, lots of vehicles and chaos, everything you need to have hour after hour of beautiful, overwhelming fun. The demo version allows you to play a single map, with the goal of either constructing a bridge and defending or destroying it. Along the way, you also learn the basics of the gameplay, including the very important objectives, how to operate vehicles, how to erect defensive structures, as well as using the individual classes.

ETQW 2

The game sells on Amazon for just USD7, so this is a must. For more mouth-watering screenshots and a complete review, you may want to read my piece from several weeks ago. Of all FPS titles mentioned, this one probably is the finest offering.

A Tale in The Desert (ATITD)

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ATITD is an online roleplaying game focused on crafting, trading and social challenges, taking place in ancient Egypt. There's no combat in the game, and the emphasis is on your cultural and social impact rather than bludgeoning curious monsters to death.

ATITD will mainly appeal to patient gamers who love historical and social exploration. Most of the time is spent on a cultural journey, collecting materials and item for later use, learning how to use tools, gaining new skills, walking about, meeting people, trading, and slowly gaining status in the Egyptian world. The game times quite a bit of time and dedication and follows a unique pace and style, different from the classic Dungeon & Dragons slash and stab technique of most MMORPG.

ATTID

The game can be played for 24 hours free, after which you will need to subscribe on a monthly basis. The monthly rate stands at not so cheap USD14. For a bit more, see my eighth compilation.

Eschalon (Book I)

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Eschalon is a classic, Dungeons & Dragons meets Diablo kind of game, which warmly reminds me of the sweet, innocent days of late DOS era. The game has a very simple premise - you need to discover who you are. And you do that by exploring a dangerous, magical world of Eschalon.

The game begins with you waking up into blissless amnesia. You don't remember who you are or where you are. And so your perilous journey begins. The emphasis of the game is in strategy. The game play is tile-build, turn-based, and the result of absolutely every action is rolled, calculated or statistically determined. Strategy is paramount to success; careful skill management, equipment selection and magic usage will win your fights, not rapid button clicking.

Eschalon

All in all, Eschalon seems like a very decent product. It has a rich storyline, good attention to detail and it plays well. If you've played the older games of this kind, you will appreciate Eschalon for its retro-modern feel.The game costs USD20. The upcoming release, Eschalon: Book II will cost USD25. You can try your luck in the demo.

A few more words about the game in my eighth compilation.

Defcon

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Dr. Strangelove meets digital computing. Defcon is a multiplayer online strategy, where you sole goal is to lose the least in an all-out global thermonuclear war. At the start of a nuclear winter following a worldly exchange of nukes, survivors are counted. The side with least deaths is the winner. Linear and kind of WWI when it comes to math. Sounds like a lot of fun, and it is.

You begin by preparing for a mega-war, placing your ICBM silos, early-warning radars, airbases, and nuclear fleets on the map. And when the timer hits zero and the klaxon sounds, you're in for a neutron-powered Armageddon. Your goal is to lose less. Fun, addictive and well executed.

DEFCON 2

See my ninth compilation for more details.

The game price is GBP15 (USD22.5).

Hacker Evolution: Untold

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Did you watch Matrix? Did you like it? Did you think Trinity was cool when she typed root in the power station? Well, Hacker Evolution: Untold (HEU) may just be the game for you.

In the game, you're a young startup fellow framed for a crime in a world deteriorating into a cyber chaos. Your goal is to unravel the plot that has incriminated you, as well as save the major economies from collapsing. Kind of James Bond, only enacted in a comfy, ergonomic chair. You are a hacker and you will use your leet skills to break into other computers, decrypt messages and log, use all kinds of techniques to mask your trail. Quite lovely, except the accuracy of the actual hacking is a bit off. Other than that, the game is an interesting, challenging digital puzzle adventure.

HEU

I have written a slightly longer review in Linux gaming mega thread part 9.

The game is priced at USD25. There's a free expansion pack for existing customers.

Machinarium

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Machinarium is a puzzle point-and-click adventure game, focusing around a robot called Josef, who wakes up broken in a heap of parts in a scrapyard outside the city walls. And this where the quest begins. Josef first has to reassemble himself, then get back into city and find his girlfriend. A love story, really.

Machinarium

You can play the demo or buy the full game for USD20.

I have not done any proper review of this game, but you can find a great one over at tuxmachines.org.

Strictly not Linux

This category covers all the games never meant to run on Linux. There are many such games, but not all are worth the effort of trying to install using Wine. In fact, I could not think of that many candidates for the section below, except a single game that really surpassed all my expectations, a not so long ago reviewed Live for Speed.

Live for Speed

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LFS features the most advanced, most realistic physics engine I've encountered in any racing simulator. Even though I'm fairly skilled with words, I have trouble expressing the magnitude of quality this game brings. You have everything, a proper 3.4-turn steering, understeer on front-wheel vehicles, the torque twist when shifting aggressively, the squeal of tires, tire flexing, the locking of wheels when braking too hard, the absolutely perfect motion physics matched to individual cars, it's all there.

Driving in LFS is rather easy. Driving properly is not. If you want to master LFS, you will have to spend hours practicing and many days mastering the control of your car. Not without a reason you begin your training with a modest 1.3-liter 115HP Peugeot 106 GTI rather than a 500HP monstrosity you normally see in arcade racing games. You may think that such a small car would be boring. On the contrary! Squeezing the juice from its tiny engine is what makes so much fun. Besides, it behaves more like the average European car you might be driving, so you can really relate to the experience.

LFS 1

LFS 2

Well, there's teaser. Read the full review for more, including several video demonstrations recorded in-game, showing the frightening yet stunning realism of the simulation. The full game costs GBP24. The game installs perfectly on Linux using Wine. The only thing that many not work is the car shadow detail. Other than that, you enjoy the same beautiful, exciting experience like on Windows. This is a must.

Conclusion

Well, there you go. This compilations list some of the better games your money can buy. A few are a bit old, but that should not keep you from trying them, especially since you can find them at bargain prices and run them on older hardware without any problems. All in all, I find all of these games worthy of the price tag they carry.

I will soon prepare a Best of ... article on payware games and narrow down the choices to only five titles. Ah, do not merely expect a shortened rerun of this piece, since I'm going to include a game or two you have not seen yet. Therefore, you should definitely come back for the sequel. Moreover, like I mentioned in my eighth compilation, we will also have an article on the best five freeware games, too.

To keep the long story short, we will have more reviews coming soon, other payware games, more freeware threads, compilations and individual articles. I'm on the roll and I'm having lots of fun. I just hope that you share my passion for gaming and find my Linux articles useful and informative.

Cheers.

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