If you’re not satisfied with online emulation or mobile apps, you can take advantage of Chrome OS’ underlying Linux system and run actual, honest-to-goodness desktop games.
You’ll still be limited by your Chromebook’s hardware, and by which games have Linux support, but it’s something. (Some Windows-only games may be playable through WINE, though that’s a bit outside the scope of this guide.)
If you haven’t already, check out our guide to installing Linux on your Chromebook to get set up. If you’re using Crouton or dual-booting Linux, then you should just be able to open a Terminal and run:
sudo apt install steam
If you’re using Chrome OS’ built-in Linux support, also called Crostini, things are a bit more complicated. You’ll need to enter chrome://flags/#crostini-gpu-support in your address bar, enable the GPU support flag, and add the necessary repositories to your system before installing Steam. Check out these instructions on the /r/crostini wiki for more information.
Just know that this only works on a few select Chromebooks at the moment, and comes with quite a few quirks—like the pointer being locked to the screen’s boundaries, or some games showing very dark graphics—but some users have reported decent results.
Once Steam is installed, you can download whatever games you want! They have a pretty good selection of Linux titles, as does GOG, which specializes in classic games that might run better on lower-end hardware.
If, like most Chromebooks, your CPU is a little underpowered, check out our guide to gaming on a low-end PC for more tips.