The Best Looking Open-Source Game?

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 11 April 2012 at 03:57 PM EDT. 64 Comments
What do you think is the best looking open-source / Linux game?

Here's a collection of screenshots to help you decide the best looking open-source game for Linux. The screenshots are a collection of open-source games, albeit far from being an exhaustive of all available OpenGL-powered open-source / free Linux games. The point is to spark a vibrant discussion within the forums to pay tribute to the open-source (or even closed-source) Linux games with the most impressive visuals.

These screenshots on this page were all taken from a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 "Kepler" with the proprietary NVIDIA Linux graphics driver. With that said, this article is also a call for requests concerning any GeForce GTX 680 Linux testing you may be interested -- post away in the forums. However, the caveat is that you must be quick with any Linux test requests for this current high-end NVIDIA Kepler GPU.

Since launching the GeForce GTX 680 last month, NVIDIA's Linux team has been waiting on their PR department for "more samples" to send over a GTX 680 for Linux benchmarking, but now their PR department just seems to be playing games; hey, do you have a PCI Express power supply? What platform are you going to test on? Thankfully NVIDIA's Linux graphics driver engineering manager decided we've waited long enough and was kind enough to bypass their PR department. Hardy Doelfel sent overnight a MSI GeForce GTX 680 he personally purchased for use and is letting Phoronix borrow it for some quick Linux tests.

As shared on Twitter this morning.

So there's finally some formal Linux benchmarks on the GeForce GTX 680 coming out for the public, but I'll only have this Kepler graphics card for a few days. If there's any Linux users or developers interested in any special test results, Linux dumps, or other information on the GTX 680 post right away in the forums. My proper NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Linux review will be out later this week or early next week with the usual thrashing of Unigine Linux tests, OpenCL benchmarks (just this morning new OpenCL test profiles were submitted to, thermal results, power consumption, and the other usual metrics from the Phoronix Test Suite comparing the GTX 680 to other AMD/NVIDIA hardware under Ubuntu 12.04.

The games used for these reference screenshots below were simply the free/open-source games with Phoronix Test Suite / test profiles, since it's simply a matter of running SCREENSHOT_INTERVAL=4 phoronix-test-suite benchmark gaming (or similar command) to collect all these screenshots in a fully automated manner, while also pulling in some quick performance metrics (though they're not too interesting aside from the few non-CPU-bound tests, the proper GTX 680 Linux review will have the more interesting OpenGL/OpenCL benchmarks). For now you can also find other GeForce GTX 680 Linux OpenGL results from the community on the Phoronix-owned collaborative test infrastructure. In the forums you're also welcome to share screenshots of the many open-source games not listed in this article.

While OpenArena has been popular with open-source gamers for years, sadly its visuals aren't too great. OpenArena is based upon the ioquake3 engine, which has lots of potential with extensive modifications, but also limiting many open-source games is the community-created artwork often leaves a lot to be desired.

ETXReaL was just talked about yesterday, but it's the original Enemy Territory game assets paired with a much-improved version of the open-source id Tech 3 engine. ETXReaL drops in an OpenGL 3.2 renderer and many other features for this game that weren't found in engines a decade ago when Enemy Territory made its popular debut.

Nexuiz offered great graphics for the time in which the game was popular back in 2009 and prior, before its demise, but now Xonotic is doing an extremely good job continuing the legacy of Nexuiz and furthering the work on the DarkPlaces engine.

For being a community-backed open-source game without the support of any major game studio, Xonotic is doing great. Xonotic is easily one of the most visually-impressive open-source games available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. Xonotic builds upon the open-source DarkPlaces engine.

Warsow is another game that's good for open-source gaming standards. Warsow is powered by the Qfusion engine.

Urban Terror is a largely run-of-the-mill ioquake3 game.

Padman also isn't a visually impressive game for being in 2012. (Sadly, there's nothing exciting yet out of iodoom3 and the upstream engine advancement efforts for this open-source id Tech 4 engine seem to have stalled.)

Reaction is based upon the ioquake3 engine, but at least has some minor visual refinements compared to the previous two titles in their tested states.

While VDrift isn't yet-another-first-person-shooter, this drift racing game isn't too demanding by modern graphics standards. VDrift GLSL shaders also has issues currently with Mesa/Gallium3D drivers.

While Unigine Heaven isn't open-source and it by itself isn't a game but just a tech demo for the gaming-focused Unigine Engine, it currently holds the title of the most demanding OpenGL Linux binary. If you want to play a game with great (closed-source) graphics on Linux, there is Unigine OilRush as one alternative. Unigine Heaven will likely continue being the most demanding OpenGL Linux test until Valve releases their first Source Engine games for Linux or when Unigine Valley makes its debut. I talked with the CEO of Unigine Corp this morning and he expects to have a build of Valley ready in about one month (though Unigine Engine licensees as of today have development access available; Unigine Corp is also working on some other "big projects" at the moment), so it may be close for who ships first.

Stay tuned for the extensive NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Linux review in the coming days, but in the meantime the quality of graphics (or there the lack of) for open-source games can be discussed at length within the forums.
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About The Author
Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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