raspberry pi steam link

How To Play Steam Games on Raspberry Pi (Full guide)

On a PC, Steam is like the ultimate place to get access to all the games. I mean all of them (best, newest, weirdest, …). And now it’s possible to play them on your TV, with a cheap Raspberry Pi computer, here’s how.

The Steam Link is a product from Steam that replicates a computer screen on a gaming device (Steam Machine). As it’s available for Raspberry Pi OS, it can be used to play the latest games on a Raspberry Pi.

I’m going to show you how to do this, it’s pretty simple. But first, I’m going to give you a quick overview of where this Steam Link thing comes from.

If you’re looking to quickly progress on Raspberry Pi, you can check out my e-book here. It’s a 30-day challenge where you learn one new thing every day until you become a Raspberry Pi expert. The first third of the book teaches you the basics, but the following chapters include projects you can try on your own.

Steam Link origins

As mentioned in the introduction, Steam is a well-known marketplace for games. Like an app store on mobile, you can browse their game catalog, and then buy and download tons of games. Steam has over 150 million players and 15,000 games in store.

Steam has always tried to innovate for gamers (as if the marketplace wasn’t already a big deal for us). They worked on releasing a version for macOS and Linux. Then they tried game consoles (Steam OS, Steam Machine, Steam Deck, …) and in 2015 they came up with the idea of Steam Link, which interests us today.

The Steam Link is a small box, with USB, HDMI and RJ45 ports. It allows us to play our favorites games on the TV, like a console. But this little box is not really running the games.
It’s only a screen sharing system, you see on the TV or computer screen, and can play with other controllers.

My favorite games!
Get a list of my 24 favorites games (with links) to play on Retropie, Recalbox or Lakka
Download now

There are a lot of similarities between the Steam Link hardware and the Raspberry Pi. Here is what the Steam Link looks like inside the box:

steam link mainboard

I know. A small board running a Debian-based operating system reminds me of something, doesn’t it?

Recently, the Steam Link software was released in the Raspberry Pi OS repository, so we can install it easily and freely on Raspberry Pi. That’s the goal of this post, so let’s move on to the installation process.

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How to turn your Raspberry Pi into a Steam Link?

Here are the main steps to get Steam Link up and running on your Raspberry Pi:

  • Install Raspberry Pi OS and make sure it’s connected to your network.
  • Install the Steam Link package on it.
  • Pair the Raspberry Pi to a computer running Steam to play.

Let’s go through each step in detail.

Prerequisites

You don’t need much to play Steam games on your Raspberry Pi, but here are my recommendations:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B+, 4 or 400 (check my recommend model here).
    You don’t need the latest model, as most of the load is carried by the computer, not the Raspberry Pi. And recent models are not necessarily supported anyway.
  • A good game controller (I recommend this one on Amazon, but it depends on which games you play)
  • A computer on Windows with Steam installed.
    This is the computer that will actually run the games, so make sure it meets the game requirements.

Raspberry Pi OS installation

The first thing you need to do, if not already done, is to install Raspberry Pi OS on your Raspberry Pi.

Warning: At the time of my last test, Steam Link was only supported on Raspberry Pi OS Buster 32 bits. So make sure you use that version instead of the default one.

My favorite games!
Get a list of my 24 favorites games (with links) to play on Retropie, Recalbox or Lakka
Download now

If you don’t know how to install it, check my Raspberry Pi OS installation guide here.

Once installed, make sure you have:

  • Access to your local network and Internet.
  • Updated your system and installed the latest packages versions.
    sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
  • Enabled SSH if you want to copy/paste the commands I’ll give you to install everything.
    You can read my SSH guide here if needed.

Are you a bit lost in the Linux command line? Check this article first for the most important commands to remember and a free downloadable cheat sheet so you can have the commands at your fingertips.

Steam Link installation

Then follow the installation steps below:

  • Start a terminal, or connect via SSH.
  • Install the Steam Link package with this command:
    sudo apt install steamlink

It’s already finished for the installation part.

First start

Then start the application:

  • Open the main menu.
  • Go to Games and click on “Steam Link”.

    It might do an update before starting, just confirm the installation.
  • The app opens, click on “Get started”.
  • If asked, pair your controller.
    It’s mainly if you use the Steam controller (check it on Amazon if you’re interested).
    For USB controllers, just plug them, and Steam will detect them directly.
  • Then, select the computer you want to use in the list:
  • Finally, enter the pin on your computer’s screen to pair the two devices.
    Steam will start some network tests, and just after you will be ready to play.

First game

Here is the screen you should get:

Now click on “Start playing” and follow theses step:

  • The first time you click on “Start Playing”, Steam may ask you to install an additional driver on the main computer.
    In my case, it was only an audio driver (to send the computer sound to the Raspberry Pi, I think).
    Click on “Install” on the computer and it’s done.
  • Then the Steam main screen will appear.
    It’s almost the same menu as on your PC:
    steam menu
  • If you already have some games, go into “Library” and select a game.
  • On the Game page, you have two main parts:
    • Your game:
      • This is where you can start the game.
        You can also get other information like your statistics, friends playing this game and recent news.
    • Manage game:
      • Here you have all the configuration and preferences for the game.
        I recommend you to check at least the controller configuration.
        Maybe the game controls don’t exactly fit your retro controller.
        Or, they will need a keyboard key, whereas it’s not convenient for gaming on Raspberry Pi.
  • Then, in “Your game” click on “Launch game”.
    The first time it can take a few minutes to configure the Steam Link correctly. Be patient.
  • Finally, you are ready to play your favorite game:
    rocket league on raspberry pi

Extra tip

I don’t know if it might interest you, but I found something funny.
If you force quit Steam on the computer (ALT+F4), the screen mirroring stays active.

You gain access to your computer on the TV.
This allows you to view movies, pictures, documents or websites on your TV.
If you don’t have a smart TV yet, this could be useful to bring the power of Windows apps on the Raspberry Pi.

Demonstration video

Here is a video of the steps to install and play Steam on your Raspberry Pi:

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Related questions

How to exit the Steam Link app? Yes, I didn’t talk about this. On the main screen, you have a power button in the top right. Click on it and click “Stop Streaming” to disconnect from this computer or “Turn Off Controller” to exit the app.

Is there another way to use the Steam Link? Yes, the Steam Link is now available on smartphones and smart TV. If you have a recent TV, you don’t really need to use your Raspberry Pi. You can also play steam games on your phone, but I didn’t try this, I don’t really see how it can work.

Download Your Essential Linux Commands Guide!
It's a free PDF guide containing every Raspberry Pi Linux command you should know!
Download now

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Conclusion

Here it is, you know everything you need to use the Steam Link on Raspberry Pi.
This software is amazing!
It allows us to have a virtual game console in the living room, with the same games we can play on the PC.
It’s really a good invention, and the Raspberry Pi is perfect for this.

Whenever you’re ready, here are other ways I can help you:

The RaspberryTips Community: If you want to hang out with me and other Raspberry Pi fans, you can join the community. I share exclusive tutorials and behind-the-scenes content there. Premium members can also visit the website without ads.

Master your Raspberry Pi in 30 days: If you are looking for the best tips to become an expert on Raspberry Pi, this book is for you. Learn useful Linux skills and practice multiple projects with step-by-step guides.

The Raspberry Pi Bootcamp: Understand everything about the Raspberry Pi, stop searching for help all the time, and finally enjoy completing your projects.

Master Python on Raspberry Pi: Create, understand, and improve any Python script for your Raspberry Pi. Learn the essentials step-by-step without losing time understanding useless concepts.

You can also find all my recommendations for tools and hardware on this page.

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