If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got too many game launchers and clients on PC.
It can be tough to manage the potentially hundreds of games we own when they’re split across Steam, Origin, Uplay, Epic, Bethesda, GOG, Battle.net, Windows Store, or any number more.
However, there are solutions.
A number of key teams are working on or have release universal game launchers that attempt to bring your entire PC game library together into one place. All those hundreds of games accessible with a quick double-click.
What’s a Universal Game Launcher?
Universal Game Launchers are applications that hook into your various store accounts and libraries in an effort to bring all your games into one place. Think of a single place that has Battlefield V from Origin, Starcraft 2 from Battle.net, PUBG from Steam, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey from Uplay. Click any of these games and it’ll automatically boot the appropriate client and run the game. No messing around and no trying to remember which games you own on which storefront.
Are you looking for a single game launcher for all PC games?
If you’re looking for a universal launcher, there are already a few options. There’s a long way still to go for some of these services, particularly in providing access to your entire library of games. However, they’ve come a really long way lately and are definitely worth checking out.
Here are the best unified PC game clients
Launchbox is an incredibly powerful and versatile solution for managing game libraries. It’s been built as a frontend for DOSBox and supports just about every time of PC game and retro console game. It’s even got lots of built-in emulation support as well as automatic downloading of box art and assorted info on just about every game under the sun. You can load in your collection of, ahem, legally obtained SNES ROMs and Launchbox will slot them into your library, add a packshot, release date info and also sorts of other bits of assorted metadata.
But there is a catch.
While a lot of the features in Launchbox can be automated, there can also be a lot of fiddling. Connecting it to your Steam account isn’t as easy as it could be, while it can only scan for games from other clients that have already been installed on your system. Tame this beast though and you’ve got a powerful one-stop shop for all your gaming needs.
A bit of a newcomer to the world of universal game libraries, Playnite has nevertheless already made impressive strides. There is automatic integration of your Battle.net, Bethesda, GOG, Origin, Steam, Twitch and Uplay game libraries. You will have a one-time setup logging into all these services through the client, but once that’s done it can scan and automatically add every game from these services, whether you have them installed or not. You can even kickstart the downloads within the Playnite client itself.
Just as with Launchbox, Playnite allows for the automatic downloading of metadata for the games. It’s less extensive and doesn’t really cover older retro goodies, but if you’re sticking to PC gaming then it definitely gets the job done.
And that’s not all...
One other nice little feature in Playnite is the integration of Steam friends and chat. You can use the Playnite client to chat through Steam.
Some people have a huge attachment to Steam. It’s been a cornerstone of PC gaming for well over a decade now and folks have built bulging game libraries that mean they don’t want to move anywhere, not even to a unified game library.
It is perfectly possible to add each and every game you own to your Steam library though. Adding non-Steam games is pretty simple - just point towards the executable and then name the link. However, this can be massively time-consuming if manually importing larger libraries, and you will have to add new links every time you download a new game.
For those of you who remember a time before Steam, it’s also perfectly feasible to use Windows Explorer as a universal PC game library.
How can you actually use this?
Well, how you do it is up to you, but a single desktop folder can house A-Z shortcuts to every single game you own. Or subfolders per client, or genre, or whatever you fancy. It’s not flashy and it does require a bit of fiddling, but it’s definitely an alternative and old-school method of keeping your games in one place.
Failing that, you could splash them across your desktop like an absolute heathen.
There are a few suggestions then, but as always we're keen to find out what your solutions are to this mounting problem in PC gaming. How do you keep all your PC games and clients managed? Let us know below!