Forget Super Smash Bros Ultimate; the best gaming related revelations this week concern the epic GNOME Games app.

The next version of this handy arcade front will let you navigate the GUI using your gamepad, browse and play MSX and Nintendo Virtual Boy games, and load your ROM library faster than a Sonic game can scream ‘SEAAAGAAA!’.

GNOME Games is like a music player, but for managing and playing games

But before we dive in to learn more lets recap of what GNOME Games is (an app) and what it isn’t (a meta-package of games like chess and minesweeper).

What is the GNOME Games app?

GNOME Games is a lot like a desktop music player, but instead of managing and playing music files it lets you manage and play your collection of retro games — all on the Linux desktop, without needing to connect ancient consoles or wrestle with wires.

Just like a music player you can browse your games by title, see (and fetch) box art, view metadata and more.

But don’t mistake it; although the app is popular with retro gaming enthusiasts it’s not exclusively made for old-school titles.

Games is able to list, rank and even launch games installed from PPAs, from your Steam library, or other modern sources (not sure about Snap app games like, mind).

But because the the app doubles up as a GUI front-end for libretro cores, it can also run (almost) any retro game out there from ROM files, original system discs, or direct from original console carts using a device like Retrode.

Better, Faster, Stronger, Harder

Recent GNOME Games releases have (largely) focused on extending the app’s core feature set, such as letting you configure controllers and keyboards, and adding support for more systems.

GNOME Games 3.30 tasks a different tack. Instead, it focuses on interactivity and performance.

gnome games
Your personal arcade

For instance, you can now navigate the app using the d-pad and buttons on your gamepad.

Adrien Plazas, the app’s chief developer, demoes this support to great effect in a video, using his GPD Win game console (think GPD Pocket crossed with a Gameboy). You can watch Adrien’s video on Betamax (the website, not the format).

Work has also been done on the to leverage faster start-up times, faster scrolling, and faster search — all of which should help reduce the time you spend waiting and increase the time you spend gaming!

Finally, there is, as always, support for more systems, with Nintendo Virtual Boy games named-checked in the roadmap.

The Flatpak version will also ship with cores to play Master System, Game Gear, Virtual Boy and Nintendo DS games (including touchscreen emulation with mouse pointer) — and those are in addition to the systems it already supports, like the NES, Gameboy Advance, and WonderSwan.

Key changes in GNOME Games 3.30 a glance:

  • Support for navigating the app using a gamepad  
  • Browse your games by ‘Developer’ or ‘Platforms’
  • Faster start-up times
  • Now supports the ‘Shortcuts’ window
  • Better handling of Neo Geo Pocket Color games
  • Faster scrolling and search
  • Small thumbnails for small windows
  • Nintendo DS support

The GNOME Games 3.30 release should arrive next month as part of GNOME 3.30. The app is on course to ship in the archives of Ubuntu 18.10, due in October, though (as mentioned below) this doesn’t offer as good as an experience as the Flatpak version…

Install GNOME Games App on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

If you’re running Ubuntu 18.04 LTS or later (or Linux Mint 19+) you can install the GNOME Games app (v3.28) directly from the repos:

sudo apt install gnome-games-app

Or hit this button to install using the Ubuntu Software store:

GNOME Games App on Ubuntu Software

Keep in mind that you will also need to install libretro cores separately (most are an apt install away) to play games. For the very latest version of some cores you may wish to use the official libretro Stable PPA. You’ll also need to install the tracker search indexing tool and point it to your games folder.

Alternatively, just use the Flatpak version (on Flathub) as it comes with almost everything it needs.

GNOME Games on Flathub

Apps Dev gnome games GPD nintendo retro gaming