Those Linux users among you will know that Linux gaming, despite being patchy and sparse for quite some time, has seen a significant upsurge in interest over the last year or so. Not from the mainstream gaming giants of course, but from independent developers. Most big players in the industry have stayed well away from Linux for quite some time now, due to the immense workload involved in supporting such a varied hardware pool, and the fact that Linux users simply don’t pay for games; but is this really the case?
Well, no actually. Wolfire’s Humble Indie Bundles have proved a consecutive eight times now that the penguin-hugging terminal enthusiasts actually pay considerably more per head than their Windows and Mac cousins, with The Humble Indie Bundle #4 showing that the average Linux user forked out approximately 25% and 50% more than the average Mac and Windows user respectively. This and the release of alternative digital distribution platform Desura has made developers and publishers more aware than ever of the fact that Linux is actually much more than just a niche market, and that its users are actually worth investing in.
Here are just some of the great titles that have made a second home on our friendly Linux shores, along with some that are due to do so in the near future.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent / Survival Horror / Frictional Games
Proving once again that assuming the role of a defenceless protagonist always makes for a scarier experience, Frictional Games are a force to be reckoned with when considering their latest title – as if such things even needed proving. As with their previous Penumbra franchise, the Swedish game developer honor their fan’s choice to scare themselves silly on whichever operating system they please, and deliver a truly nightmarish game on all three. Buy it, play it, have nightmares for weeks.
Shank / Action Platformer / Klei Entertainment
Incredibly dynamic and tragically underrated, this furious platformer made its violent Linux debut only last December. Featuring as intense a combat system as I’ve ever experienced in a video game, the title is bloody, fast-paced, and very challenging. Fans of the classic “Nintendo-hard” platformers of the 90s will love this game for its difficulty and simplicity, while fans of more recent platformers will revel in the mixed-weapon combat and variance in level design. Klei are promising a sequel with even more gorgeous art in the near future, but there’s still plenty of time to cut your teeth.
Zombie Grinder / Isometric Shooter /Twin Drills
Everyone loves a good zombie shooter, Linux users included. However, with its slick presentation, arcade inspired gameplay and charming visuals, Zombie Grinder stands out beautifully from the current myriad of uninventive, uninspired rubbish that seems to have such a firm grasp on the zombie genre. From playing the already available Windows build, and speaking briefly to the developers about the game, I can’t help but feel they are on to something really rather special.
Darwinia / Real-Time Strategy / Introversion Software
Nothing short of absolute genius takes the typically somewhat overcomplicated mechanics of the modern RTS game and condenses them down into a format that can be enjoyed by just about anyone, without simplifying them so far that the element of skill is tarnished. The only title I’ve come across to do a better job of this is Ace Team’s Rock of Ages, and that’s saying something. You can also check out its sequel Multiwinia if you want to enjoy the experience with friends, although I personally find this first title much purer in terms of gameplay.
Super Meat Boy / Arcade Platformer / Team Meat
Every bit as brilliant as the PC and Mac versions and with full gamepad support, this looks and plays like an absolute dream. Probably the best handling and most challenging platformer in history. I can’t think of a single reason not to buy this game and play the crap out of it.
Minecraft / Sandbox / Mojang
Overrated and underdeveloped? Yes, but still well worth picking up a copy of. For long journeys and rainy afternoons, few things can compare to the sheer satisfaction of building an immense medieval castle and running around with your friends in it. This is a good title, if perhaps they add a bit more direction to the game in the form of a sensible and coherent objective of some sort, rather than the current “Sheep now eat grass” development direction, it could be great, but for now it’s good.
Survivors of Ragnarok / Strategy Sandbox / French Rice Games
Most desktop gamers will, at some point, have had the misfortune of being ranted at by a friend about the game Dwarf Fortress, and having been genuinely taken in by the premise, install it, only to discover that the visuals are quite so spartan, and the gameplay quite so enthusiast-oriented that only a tiny minority of players in the world can really appreciate it at all. French Rice Games plan to put an end to that, by taking the original Dwarf Fortress formula and improving upon it in every way. SOR aims to be a spiritual successor that is more accessible, more diverse, more fun, and far prettier than the game that inspired it, whilst staying true to the aims of the original. Very, very cool indeed.
Warsow / First-Person Shooter / Warsow Team
Having played every free FPS I can find for Linux extensively, I’ve got something of a soft spot for Warsow. Classic game mechanics and movement (including bunny-hopping) closely inspired by the likes of Quake 3 Arena and the original Unreal Tournament combined with beautiful cel-shaded graphics to create something strikingly original and very fun to play. There are a good number of active servers at pretty much any time you’d care to play, with players at a wide range of skill levels. A hugely configurable modified idTech 2 engine also means it runs like a dream on most Linux machines, even my little brother’s netbook. This is one of the friendliest online FPS’ available today, in terms of dipping in and out without finding yourself a bottom feeder, although with a core group of godlike players, it has a great deal to offer hardcore players as well.
Overgrowth / Action Adventure / Wolfire Games
Spiritual successor to the popular rabbit-filled Kung Fu simulator Lugaru, Overgrowth has been in open development for around two and a half years, with the developers frequently releasing video updates on new features and assets. Windows and Mac users can already try out an alpha build by pre-ordering the game, but developers have promised a Linux version in the very near future.
Tiny and Big / Puzzle Adventure / Black Pants Game Studio
Featuring a brilliant soundtrack, wonderful hand-drawn art, and fantastically clever game mechanics, Tiny and Big is one of the most interesting new IPs to surface in 2011. Add to that episodic releases and some of the most dynamic real-time physics ever seen in an indie game, this is well worth keeping an eye on. You can even try out the demo right now.