Linux Gaming: Getting to know Lutris, the ultimate Linux game launcher

If you’ve spent some time gaming on Linux, you’ve probably run into some frustration installing and managing all your different games. Sure, Steam is great, but what if you’ve bought some games of other storefronts, like GOG? And what about your hundred plus gig collection of ROMs (don’t worry, we won’t snitch on you)? And how about games from Windows-only storefronts, like the Epic Games Store, Battle.net, or Origin?

Enter Lutris, a one-stop launcher and library manager for all your games, regardless of where you’ve bought them from. Unlike Windows, there’s no need to go and download extra emulation software – everything is already baked into Lutris. It’s also incredibly easy to configure run-time options to tweak settings needed to get specific titles running on Linux, use specific graphical settings, or even boost performance. Excited? Let’s get into it.

How Does It Work?

First, you’ll need to install Lutris. The exact process depends on your distro. Luckily, Lutris was kind enough to write a handy installation guide here - https://lutris.net/downloads. Just find your distro and follow the instructions.

Download instructions for various distros

Next, if you’ve got Steam games, you’ll want to install Steam, too. While there are ways to play Steam games without Steam running, it just makes purchasing and running games that much easier.

Once you have Lutris installed, open it up. If you don’t have any games already installed, you’ll see something like this:

A blank library

Now it’s time to add some games! But before we do that, I like to connect my GOG account with Lutris, so I can download and install my purchased GOG games without having to download them from GOG.com.

To do that, Click the cross icon in the top left corner. This will bring down a menu to either Add or Import a game. Click Import. You’ll see something like this:

Importing and connecting your GOG library

In the top right corner, you’ll see the button to log in to GOG (it’s the one that looks like a circle with an arrow pointing out of it in my screenshot). Click it, enter your email and password, and you’ll be able to download and install games you’ve purchased on GOG.com directly from Lutris. You can also click the “sync all games on startup” option, which will, obviously, sync your library when Lutris starts. You can also click on the different icons for listed on the left, and make sure “sync all games on startup” is enabled for each runner.

Now, to install some games. Click the search icon (the magnifying glass). Just search the game you’re looking for and you’ll see all the stores you can purchase and install the game from. Select your preferred option, and Lutris will install the game, as well as the runner (what Lutris calls the software needed to run the game), if needed. Note that Lutris doesn’t have anything to do with purchasing the title. For example, if you’re buying from Steam, Lutris will load up Steam, and you enter your payment info through Valve.

For GOG, you’ll have to buy the game off their site, then provide Lutris the path to the installer (unless you connected your account – then Lutris will just download the installer for you). For ROMs, you’re going to have to provide them with file you obtained on your own – obviously to prevent Lutris from getting into a legal gray area. It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t need to install your games through Lutris to have it manage your library. If you’ve already installed games, or just simple prefer to install them manually, don’t worry – Lutris will automatically merge your library, and your games will be listed when you restart Lutris.

Configuration

What I love the most about Lutris is just how many different game platforms it supports. Lutris has runners for all your favorite systems from PS2, PS3, Gamecube, Wii, Dreamcast, Atari 2600, SNES, N64, Sega Master System, DOS, and a whole lot more. What’s cool is Lutris only downloads the runners that you need, saving you disk space.

A list of some of the many Lutris launchers

Each runner can be customized. For example, you can set Lutris to launch SNES games in full screen, use a specific sound driver, disable desktop effects, reset the gamma on exit, run custom scripts before and after each game runs, and a whole lot more. Not only can you customize options for each launcher, but you can customize each game, too. If I want Chrono Trigger to launch full screen, but not Secret of the Mana, no problem.

Options for the SNES9x launcher

There’s way too many options that go beyond the scope of this guide, so consult the documentation. If you’re not sure about something, you’re probably best leaving things set at the default. If you start tweaking without fully knowing what you’re doing, it’s easy to break things and make it so your games can’t run.

One option I do want to touch on is Gamemode. Designed by Feral Interactive, Gamemode is a really neat third-party piece of software that automatically tunes your system to get better in-game performance by scaling your CPU frequency up and adjusting the priority of the game’s process, among other things. By selecting the Gamemode option, Lutris will run Gamemode automatically when you start playing a game and turn it off when you’re done. There’s nothing else you need to do. And people say Linux isn’t user friendly!

Support Lutris

I love Lutris because it makes gaming on Linux easier. It provides new users a clean and convenient interface to get their games up and running while still allowing power users to go nuts and configure settings to their hearts’ content. Like Lutris? Go throw them a few bucks on their Patreon, https://www.patreon.com/lutris.They have some cool plans for the future, like cloud save support, better Humble Bundle and Itch.io integration, a full screen, controller-driven UI (probably similar to Steam’s Big Picture mode), and other stuff, too.