Running Steam on a Raspberry Pi provides an inexpensive way to access Steam’s library of games. With some tweaking, many 2D and less demanding 3D games can run smoothly. This guide covers all the steps needed to install Steam on Raspberry Pi OS, optimize performance, and troubleshoot any issues.
What You Will Need
- Raspberry Pi 4 (2GB RAM minimum recommended)
- MicroSD card with Raspberry Pi OS
- Monitor with HDMI input
- USB keyboard and mouse
- USB storage device like hard drive or flash drive
- USB power supply
- HDMI cable
- Internet connection via Ethernet or WiFi
Installing Steam on Raspberry Pi
Follow these steps to get Steam running on your Raspberry Pi:
Update Raspberry Pi OS
Ensure your Raspberry Pi OS is fully updated by opening Terminal and running:
sudo apt update && sudo apt full-upgrade
Install Required Packages
Certain packages are required for Steam to function properly:
sudo apt install libgl1-mesa-dri libgl1-mesa-glx:armhf libpulse0:armhf
Enable GL Driver
The GL graphics driver needs to be enabled:
Select “Advanced Options” > “GL Driver” > “GL (Full KMS)”
A reboot is required for changes to take effect:
Once your Pi has rebooted, install Steam with this command:
sudo apt install steam-devices
Enter your password when prompted.
First Time Steam Setup
The first time you launch Steam, you’ll need to go through some initialization steps:
- Wait for Steam to update automatically
- Sign in to your Steam account
- Enter Steam Guard code if prompted
- Accept Steam Subscriber Agreement
Steam will then restart to complete configuration. After this, you’ll be able to browse and install games from your Steam library.
Optimizing Graphics and Performance
To maximize performance so games run smoothly, some tweaking is required.
Set GPU Memory
By default, most of your Raspberry Pi’s GPU memory will be allocated to video tasks. Temporarily lower this to free up more for gaming performance:
Select “Advanced Options” > “Memory Split” and enter a value like 16
This allocates only 16MB to video tasks so there’s more memory available for gaming.
Enable Experimental Pi Options
Enable these experimental options specifically for improving Steam gaming on Pi:
echo enable_unsupported_gpu=1 | sudo tee -a /boot/config.txt
echo dtoverlay=vc4-fkms-v3d | sudo tee -a /boot/config.txt
A reboot is required for this to take effect:
Overclocking your Pi’s CPU and GPU boosts gaming performance. It is safe if adequate cooling is provided through heatsinks and fans.
In raspi-config, under “Performance Options” you can set:
- GPU frequency to 500 MHz
- CPU frequency to 2000 MHz
- Overvoltage to 6
Save changes after adjusting those overclock settings then reboot.
Monitor CPU temperature using:
If exceeding 80°C, reduce overclock.
Disable Desktop GUI
Steam performance improves without the desktop GUI running. To disable it:
Select “Boot Options” > “Desktop / CLI” > “Console Autologin”
This prevents the desktop GUI from loading on boot so Steam runs in console mode. Reboot Pi to apply.
Installing Steam Games
With Steam set up, you can start installing games from your Steam library. Focus on 2D indie games or less graphically-intensive 3D titles for the best experience.
Common recommendations of Steam games that run well on Pi include:
- Stardew Valley
- Portal 1 & 2
- Half Life 1 & 2
Install games through Steam’s normal process. Just purchase or download them then let them install.
Improving Game Compatibility
If certain Steam games won’t launch or crash unexpectedly, try these troubleshooting steps:
Install Steam Linux Runtime
Certain titles rely on this collection of Steam dependencies.
sudo apt install steam-runtime
Disable Linux Runtime
For some games this runtime causes issues. Blacklist it instead:
echo “#!/bin/bash” | sudo tee /usr/bin/steam-runtime-check-requirements > /dev/null
chmod +x /usr/bin/steam-runtime-check-requirements
Verify File Permissions
If games encounter permissions errors, fix with this:
sudo chown -R pi:pi ~/Steam/
Update Graphics Drivers
Check for newer drivers with sudo apt update and install any available updates related to the GPU, graphics, and Mesa packages.
Verify Game Is Linux Compatible
Check Proton DB and other resources to ensure the game works on Linux. If not, try running it on a Windows or Mac system instead.
Following these best practices for installation, optimization, and troubleshooting will provide the best experience running Steam games on your Raspberry Pi.
- A Raspberry Pi 4 with at least 2GB of RAM can run Steam with performance optimizations
- Stick to playing 2D, indie games, and less demanding 3D titles for a smooth experience
- Overclocking the CPU and GPU boosts gaming performance if there is adequate cooling
- Disabling the desktop GUI maximizes available resources for Steam and games
- Check forums and resources to resolve any game compatibility issues
Running Steam provides access to a library of great games on your DIY Raspberry Pi console!
While the Raspberry Pi’s limited hardware cannot match a dedicated gaming rig, it is still capable of providing a fun gaming experience with Steam if expectations are properly set. Focus on playing older 2D titles or less graphically-intensive 3D games and make sure to optimize the operating system and apply various performance tweaks. Problems may still arise depending on the game, but using online resources and troubleshooting steps can typically resolve them. Setting up Steam on a Raspberry Pi makes for an enjoyable and affordable gaming system that also serves as a great entry point to Linux and DIY computing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can every Steam game run on Raspberry Pi?
A: No, many modern and graphically-intensive 3D games require too much processing power to play on Pi hardware. Focus on older and 2D games instead.
Q: Does Steam Link work on Raspberry Pi?
A: Yes, a Raspberry Pi can be used as a client to stream games from a gaming PC using Steam Link.
Q: Can I use a Raspberry Pi as a portable Steam machine?
A: Yes, a Pi can serve as a small, portable Steam console if you add controllers and a battery pack alongside a display.
Q: How can I get the best gaming performance from my Raspberry Pi?
A: Use active cooling solutions, enable experimental options, increase GPU memory, overclock the SoC appropriately, and disable unnecessary system processes.
Q: What model Raspberry Pi do I need?
A: At minimum, a Raspberry Pi 4 with 2GB of RAM is recommended. More RAM and a Pi 4 compute module provides better performance.
Q: Should I install Steam through apt or directly from Steam?
A: On Raspberry Pi, use sudo apt install steam-devices rather than downloading Steam directly from the website.
Q: Can I play AAA games like Elden Ring on a Raspberry Pi?
A: No, AAA games require powerful gaming hardware that cannot be matched by a Raspberry Pi board.
Q: How do I free up more GPU memory for gaming on my Raspberry Pi?
A: Lower the memory split parameter in raspi-config to limit video memory and leave more available for games.
Q: Why does my Raspberry Pi get very hot when gaming? How can I prevent overheating?
A: Gaming utilizes the SoC heavily. Heatsinks and fans are recommended to provide sufficient active cooling, otherwise thermal throttling impacts performance.
Q: Can I emulate older consoles like Gamecube and PlayStation 2 games on Raspberry Pi with Steam?
A: Not directly through Steam, but many consoles can be emulated well on Raspberry Pi using RetroPie or other emulators directly.
Q: Do all controllers work with Steam on Raspberry Pi?
A: Most wired USB controllers work automatically. Specialty wireless controllers may require additional configuration at the Linux level.
Q: How well can my Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB of RAM run modern indie games on Steam?
A: Modern less-intensive indie games like Stardew Valley, Cuphead, and Dead Cells should run well with some performance optimization.
Q: Can I build a DIY Steam box with my Raspberry Pi to play in the living room?
A: Definitely! Just add your desired peripherals to turn your Pi into a capable living room gaming machine.
Q: If I have a Steam library on my gaming PC or laptop, can I access and install those games directly onto my Pi?
A: Yes, just log into Steam using the same account credentials to sync and access your unified Steam game library.
Q: How do I troubleshoot and get support for specific Steam games not launching or running poorly on my Raspberry Pi?
A: Consult Proton DB and r/Steam Play on Reddit which provide game compatibility info and fixes tailored for Linux.
Q: Can I utilize Steam Workshop mods for games running on my Pi?
A: Steam Workshop is supported, but mods may have compatibility issues. Manually install mods tailored for Linux instead.
Q: Is it worth getting the official Steam Link hardware to stream Steam games to my Raspberry Pi?
A: Not really since the Steam Link application provides the same functionality to any Linux devices including the Pi.
Q: Does running Steam use up a lot of bandwidth from my data plan?
A: Large game downloads will utilize bandwidth, but general usage and multiplayer gaming is quite minimal after installation.
Q: Will storing my Steam library on an external SSD connected to the Pi improve gaming performance?
A: Yes, running Steam and games on an SSD instead of the SD card reduces IO bottlenecks and load times.