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Box86 Gaming

ARM Gaming

I see more and more posts about new solutions and platforms beeing created that will enable gaming on ARM, like if it was something new and revolutionnary.

While I do agree it’s revolutionnary, I disagree with the “new” aspect. Gaming on ARM is quite old in fact. For those who remember that time, Pocket PC was running on ARM, back in 2002. And so was PalmOS around the same time. Thoses pocket assistants, before smartphones existed, already boasted some nice game, like Warfare Incorporated (an RTS game), that is now opensourced under the name “Hostile Takeover”, and can run on basically anything

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Hostile Takeover running on OpenPandora

But of course, this is not what all this fuzz is about. The point now is to play actual PC games on ARM. Not dumbed-down PC-Game ported and adapted to use simple game play and finger-based UI to play on phone. Full PC game, using emulation, because for now thoses Games run on x86/x86_64 CPU and not ARM CPU. But is it really new? Solution to use x86 software on ARM has been floating around for a long time now. Qemu is there since, well, forever, and a few other solutions have popped up since. Box86 runs x86 linux apps on ARM since 2019. Windows also runs x86 windows apps since the launch of Windows 10 on ARM.

Of course, x86_64 emulation is more recent. Qemu was there forever, but efficient solutions are just starting to really appear now. Apple has it’s Rosetta 2, Windows 10 or ARM now has it’s own. Box64 is in the making and FEX-Emu is also coming.

Playing PC Games is already possible on ARM plateform. Software is here. Hardware and driver not always yet. With box86, many windows games run (using wine), but the hardware (a Pi4 or some RK3399 boards) often lack GPU power and features. Like for AmongUs, a Unity3D game, that cannot run with current GPU driver because the game uses DirectX 11 features that are just not supported by neither the Pi4 nor the RK3399.

Some games run fine, like for example FlatOut. It’s an old one, I know, but the performances are just great! It’s a superbly optimized game, and a very fun one too.

FlatOut in a window running on a Pi4 hardware with Wine and box86

While modern 3D games often pushes way too many triangles and shaders for current SBCs, it will probably change soon, as more and more ARM hardware solutions are beeing created.

So, if you already have some ARM board somewhere (like a Pi4 or one of the many RK3399 based out there), get a taste of the future and install linux on it. Add box86 (and box64 when it’s out), wine, and try things, you may be surprised by all the things that work already!

Deponia – The Full Journey, running perfectly on a RK3399 board with box64 at 1080p

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