The Steam Link can obviously stream your favorite games from your PC to your television, but it can do other things, too. In particular, since Steam has made its developer kit for the Link available to third-parties, there are a handful of native apps built specifically for the Steam Link. These apps can be launched directly without any need to stream them from the connected PC. While the Steam Link has been around for a few years now, this library of apps is still pretty limited and easy to overlook. Additionally, some of these packages may provide simple instructions for installation, but others may require the user to compile the package him or herself, which can add some complexity for the uninitiated.
What Native Apps are Available?
Kodi is a free media player that is the direct descendant of the original Xbox Media Center (XBMC) application that ran on jailbroken Xboxes and made the idea of turning your console into a serious media center a reality. Kodi supports all of the features that you would generally expect from a media center, including the ability to play nearly any media format, whether it be audio, video, or static images. In the vein of the original XBMC, Kodi is still open-source and thanks to the large and open community, there are hundreds of plugins that extend Kodi in many useful ways. By looking through the plugin list, you’ll find standard plugins for services such as YouTube and Twitch, as well as plugins for new and unique stations and applications that you have likely never even heard of. As perhaps the most impressive and useful app that can run directly on the Steam Link, we have written a guide to getting this app up and running.
This project allows MAME ROMs to be played directly from the Steam Link. While RetroArch can play games from nearly any system (if you’re streaming it from your gaming PC, at least), native apps on the Steam Link don’t have quite the same power available. MAME4ALL fills this gap by instead offering access to emulation of classic arcade consoles and games that you might remember. These games generally require less power and make a good fit for the Steam Link. Speaking of RetroArch, however…
While we have previously written about how users can put RetroArch on their gaming PC and then stream classic games to their Steam Link, if you aren’t interested in emulating more modern and demanding systems, you can actually skip the middle-man and install RetroArch as a native app directly on the Steam Link. You can even take advantage of some of the empty storage space on the Steam Link and place your ROMs directly onto the Link.
OpenTyrian is a classic top-scrolling space shooter. The Steam Link build supports your controller and is a nice break from some of the more heavy gaming that you might be doing on your Steam Link. Unfortunately, if you want to change the keybindings from the defaults, it requires that the source be rebuilt instead of downloading the already compiled package that is available at the link.
PrBoom is a Doom source port that has been compiled for the Steam Link. While this unfortunately doesn’t have controller support (you’ll need a keyboard and mouse to play), it’s still the Doom that you remember in a very convenient package.