Linux Games: OpenArena

Jack Wallen
Oct 1, 2009
Updated • Feb 13, 2018

Are you a fan of Arena (and Arena-like games)? Do you long to play these games on your Linux box? Are you one of those that proclaims that Linux can not and will not have games? If any of these apply then I am happy to show you OpenArena.

Yes, this game is based on Arena which, I understand, is an ancient game (with respect to the aging properties of computer software), but that does not preclude the game from being fun. And if you like the first person shooter, with GL graphics, OpenArena is for you. But don't think OpenArena is just for Linux. You can run this game on Linux, Windows (32 bit only), and OS X.

Before we get into this you should know the hardware requirements of this game. For it you will need: a minimum equivalent 3DFX Voodoo2 8MB. No ATI Rage cards. You will also need a minimum of a PII 233MHz processor, with at least 96MB of RAM. If you meet those requirements, prepare to install and blow away your opponents.


Installation of OpenArena is actually quite simple. You will be shocked to know the steps are as follows:

  1. Open up your Add/Remove Software tool.
  2. Search for "openarena" (no quotes).
  3. Select OpenArena for installation.
  4. Click Apply.
  5. Sit back and watch the progress bar.

I will warn you, the files to be downloaded are quite large, so the sitting back portion of the installation will take quite some time.

Once installed, you will find OpenArena in your Games sub-menu of the Applications menu in GNOME.

Tricks for running the game

Figure 1
Figure 1

It's not really necessary to get into the mechanics and play of the game. Most people know how to play a first person shooter. There are some things you will want to know when playing this game in Linux.

If you're like me, you don't generally play games in full-screen mode. By default OpenArena runs in full screen. To get OpenArena in windowed mode (see Figure 1) you need to hit the the <Alt>Enter key combination once the game has loaded. After you have switched to windowed mode, you will have to manually switch back to full screen, otherwise the game will always run in windowed mode.

Figure 2
Figure 2

When you are running in windowed mode you will notice you can't get your cursor out of the game window. The only way to manage this is to get the OpenArena console window to drop down. To get this hit the Shift<Esc> combination which will lower the console onto your screen (see Figure 2).

Connect to server

If you want to play some multi-player action all you have to do is, from the main window, click the Multiplayer option and then click the Specify button. From this new window you will enter the address of the server you want to join. For a list of servers take a look at the server listing on the OpenArena site.

Final thoughts

It's not WoW but at least you can get your first person shooter thrills without having to run a game through Wine or a virtual machine. OpenArena is a fun game that, for many, will be nothing more than nostalgia. No matter the reason, you should give this game a go.

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  1. LukeRazor said on October 3, 2009 at 2:50 am

    OpenArena is a fine effort but right now you can get a better game in your browser, works fine for me on Ubuntu 9.04/Firefox

  2. gokudomatic said on October 2, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    old, old… quake 3 was way more recent than half life and counter-strike.

  3. Robert said on October 2, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Quake 3 Arena. So old that it now resides in the foggiest of memory banks, and its Quake legacy is forgotten.

    Wow. That just makes me feel old…I remember when it first came out (with Unreal Tournament, the first version, as the competitor) in 1999, in all of its glory. Everyone was talking about its revolutionary curved surfaces and high polygon count!

  4. Rick Smith said on October 2, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    It’s basically Quake 3 Arena. Same code. Q3 maps and models will work but there might be some missing textures. I play a lot and let OA run in spectator mode on a new install for burn in. You might have trouble getting 3d working with older Radeon cards, since ATI no longer supports them.


  5. lautig said on October 2, 2009 at 4:14 am

    es increible como los de linux hacemos tanto con tan poco

  6. gokudomatic said on October 1, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    dang! I thought for a second that you were talking about The Elders Scroll : Arena
    This would have been fun to have an mmorpg like that running in linux. Or even simply running.
    So, it’s a lan fps game like Cube? that’s always nice. But I won’t give this game a go because of my strong dislike for multiplayer in fps games.

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