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How to install Steam and start gaming on almost any Linux distro - now it's a Snap

There are two ways to install the Steam application on any Ubuntu- or Debian-based distribution. One method is incredibly easy - and the other is even easier.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

Steam brings the world of gaming to Linux with great simplicity and choice.

Ivan Pantic/Getty Images

According to Gaming Today, US gaming industry revenue reached $17.67 billion in Q1 2024. On top of bringing in huge sums of money, the gaming industry helps to inspire innovation on the desktop

Over the years, Linux has had little to offer gamers. Sure, there were a few cutesy games (such as one of my favorites, Frozen Bubble) but not many more. Then came Wine, which allowed users to play a decent number of Windows games on Linux.

Also: The best Linux distros for beginners

Nowadays, there's Steam.

Steam brings the world of gaming to Linux with great simplicity and choice. All you have to do is sign up, install the Steam app, and start purchasing games or playing free games. You'll find tens of thousands of games to choose from, including new and popular titles such as Manor Lords, Songs of Conquest, Hellblade II, Hades II, Mech Engineers, A Tower Full of Cats, Survival: Fountain of Youth, The Witcher 3 REDkit, and Rasant.

Fortunately, installing Steam on Debian and Ubuntu-based distributions is incredibly simple. Let me show you how.

How to install Steam

What you'll need: The only things you'll need for this are a running instance of a Debian- or Ubuntu-based Linux distribution and a user with sudo privileges. Once you get beyond the installation, you'll also need a Steam account to purchase and download games. There are two different ways to install Steam. I'll show you both.

1. Open a terminal window

The first thing to do is log in to your Linux desktop and open a terminal window. 

2. Add the Multiverse repository

Next, add the Multiverse repository, which offers non-free software titles. 

Also: Game console showdown: PS5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and more

To do this, issue the command:

sudo add-apt-repository multiverse

You'll be prompted for your sudo password. Once you've successfully authenticated, you'll be prompted to hit Enter on your keyboard.

3. Update Apt

Once the Multiverse repository has been added, update apt (the Advanced Packaging Tool for installing software) with the command:

sudo apt-get update -y

4. Install Steam

With apt updated, you can now install Steam with the command:

sudo apt-get install steam -y

How to install Steam with Snap

There's an even easier way to install Steam. Just run the following command:

sudo snap install steam

Running Steam

After the installation completes, open Steam from your desktop menu. On its first run, Steam will download and apply a full update, so let that complete first.

Also: 5 quick tweaks make your GNOME desktop so much easier to use

Once it does, the Steam account sign-in window will open, where you can either log in with your account credentials or create a new account.

The Steam login window.

You can either log in with your credentials or with the QR code.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

After logging in, you can start playing all the games you want, right on the Linux operating system.

Steam running on Ubuntu Budgie.

Steam is ready to help you dive into the world of gaming on Linux.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Whoever said Linux would never be a viable gaming environment back in the day couldn't have predicted that Steam would arrive to herald a new dawn for the open-source operating system.

Also: The best budget gaming laptops: Expert tested

Give Steam a try and see if it doesn't open a world of fun for you on Linux. 

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