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How To Play Atari Games On Linux

Have the itch to play old Atari games again but don’t have the console to play them on? Not to worry, thanks to the magic of computers, it’s now easier than ever to relive the Atari classics right on your Linux PC using an emulation program. Emulators allow you to play all sorts of old, console specific games on Linux. For example, you can play Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, Game Cube, and Sega games on Linux with the right emulator. Thanks to emulation, you can enjoy all your favorite old games with the controller of your choice, rather than the one that came with the Atari 2600.

SPOILER ALERT: Scroll down and watch the video tutorial at the end of this article.

In this guide, we’ll cover exactly how to install and use the Linux Atari 2600 emulator Stella. We’ll go over things like loading up games, tweaking sound options, setting up controllers, and more!

Note: AddictiveTips in no way encourages or condones the illegal downloading or distribution of ROM files for Stella. If you want to play Atari 2600 games with Stella, please use your own game ROM files you’ve backed up to your PC, legally.

Install Stella


sudo apt install stella


sudo apt-get install stella

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S stella


sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-NUMBER.noarch.rpm -y

Note: change NUMBER to the Fedora version number on your system.

sudo dnf install stella


Grab the Stella Atari emulator for OpenSUSE via the OBS. Just click on the “1 Click Install” button next to your Suse version.

Other Linuxes

Want the Stella emulator for your Linux distribution but it’s not on the list? Download the latest source code from the website and build it!

Loading A Game

The first time you open up Stella, you’ll be required to set the “Rom path”. Rom path is the folder where all of your games are. Click “OK” on the welcome message, and using the arrow keys/enter button, navigate the integrated file-browser. Keep in mind that you can only have one ROM path, and not multiple paths. It is because of this, it’s a good idea to organize items in subfolders. For example:

Atari_Roms > etc > etc

With the ROM path set, Stella will always open a list of ROMs to play. Anytime you’d like to update the list, simply use the file manager on your PC and place the ROMS in the folder. It should automatically update it.

To load a game, you’ll need to use the “up” or “down” arrow keys to navigate through the list. When you’ve decided what game to play, press “enter” on the keyboard. It should instantly start.

Note: exit a game at any time by clicking the “ESC” button.


To access the sound settings for the Stella emulator, click the “options” button when on the main ROM selection menu. From there, click “Audio settings”. In the audio settings, the user has the ability to change the volume, sample size, and frequency.

Click on the drop-down menu next to “Sample size” and select a new option. The default setting is 512 bytes, but Stella allows users to set it to 128 KB, 256 KB, 1 KB, 2 KB, and 4 KB. To change the sound frequency, click on the menu next to “Frequency”. The sound frequency default is 31400 Hz, but other settings include 11025 Hz, 22050 Hz, 44100 Hz, and 48000 HZ. To change the volume levels, hover over the red line with the mouse, and use the scroll-wheel to turn it up and down. It is also possible to turn off the sound to the emulation entirely, by clicking the box next to “Enable Sound”.

Graphics Options

Stella has pretty decent graphical settings. To access them, click “options”, then select “Video settings”. In this area, it’s possible to change all of the graphical options in the Stella emulator, as well as tweaking how it renders the ROMs. By default, the app uses the OpenGL rendering system. This should be fine, but if you’re having issues, you may want to change it. Other options include “OpenGLES” and the emulator’s own Software rendering.

Need full-screen mode? Select the box next to “Fullscreen”. There’s also a “Fullscreen Fill” option, that, when enabled makes it so that the entire screen is used, and there are no black bars. Besides changing the rendering, and screen settings, users can also mess with the color palette, zoom, aspect ratio and even the frame rate.

After you’ve decided on the graphical settings, click “OK” to apply them. Settings with * require a restart.

Set Up Controller

Controller settings for the Stella Atari 2600 emulator, like all other settings, are tucked away under the options area. Get there by clicking on “options”, then selecting “Input Settings”. Under the Input Settings area, you can scroll through and set up the controls for each button.

Plug in any gamepad that already has support for Linux, and it should work. Then in the Input Settings, click on “Emul. Events”. From here, click on each control, then select the “map” button. Keep in mind that there are a lot of controls, so mapping the controls may take some time.

Saving Games

Stella handles game saves pretty easily. At any time the user can press the F9 key to save a running ROM to a save slot, or press F11 to load from a state.

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