Best of Linux

Best Linux Distributions for Gaming

With 2% of the market share in gaming, Linux might not be the preferred choice for many gamers as most popular games are also not compatible with it. However, Linux gaming has improved tremendously over the years owing to the growing support from various platforms, such as Lutris and Wine, for Windows games on Linux, emulators, and the development of native games by the community. The best contribution to Linux gaming came from the Steam Wine-based project being compatible with all Linux distributions and distributions specific for gaming.

In continuation of the points mentioned above, the article covers various factors to consider while choosing the most suitable distribution, the most suited mainstream distributions, such as Ubuntu, Arch, and Manjaro, for gaming in Linux, and the best distributions explicitly crafted for gaming. Therefore, without further ado, it’s time to delve into the details.

Things to Keep in Mind

Even though Linux has come a long way in supporting graphic drivers and gaming libraries to facilitate playing games on any distribution, it is recommended to consider several essential parameters for a good pick:

  • user-friendly
  • easy on the system resources
  • the software or libraries required to support games must be available by default or is easy to install and enable

Best Distributions for Beginners

The section covers the best mainstream distributions for beginner Linux users, who require it for games or work-related tasks.

Ubuntu

Most users begin their Linux journey from Ubuntu as it serves as a foundation for most Debian-based distributions. It’s the most widely used distribution with a lot of support from the community and plenty of desktop versions, such as KDE, GENOME, and XFCE.

Getting started for gaming in Linux can be a hassle, but with the help of Steam, GameMode, Lutris, and other compatibility platforms, it is a beginner-friendly distribution to start.

Pros:

  • beginner-friendly
  • strong community support
  • versatile
  • stable

Cons:

  • setting up for games can be a problem

Manjaro

Manjaro is an open-source arch-based rolling release distribution that offers stability and Arch Linux benefits to beginner users. Manjaro provides extensive support for new kernel addition, upgrade, and management of multiple kernels.

Moreover, Manjaro offers a hardware detection tool that allows quick hardware identification and installation of new drivers. For instance, Nvidia drivers are difficult to work with most distributions, while Manajro provides proprietary drivers for automatic or manual installation.

Pros:

  • stable
  • massive community
  • arch Linux benefits
  • Manjaro Hardware Detection tool (mhwd)
  • multiple kernels

Cons:

  • rolling release may cause some issues

Pop!_OS

Pop!_OS is an Ubuntu-based Linux that provides GNOME as the default desktop. IT offers a polished desktop with its own PPA for third-party applications and app store Pop!_Store to install gaming platforms, such as GameMode, Lutris, and Wine.

The most noteworthy feature is that it allows gamers to install the correct Pop!_OS as it offers separate ISOs for Nvidia and AMD graphic cards. However, in Ubuntu, one can find drivers for Nvidia graphic cards but not for AMD systems. For gamers, Long Term Support (LTS) release will provide better reliability and performance.

Pros:

  • beginner-friendly
  • reliable
  • separate Nvidia/AMD ISOs
  • custom tweaks depending on system hardware

Cons:

  • less community support

Best Gaming Specific Distributions

Even though Linux isn’t as optimized for gaming as Windows, the open-source OS has proven to be a capable platform, as most gaming-specific distributions are Ubuntu, Fedora, or Arch-based distributions.

Drauger OS:

Drauger OS is a Ubuntu LTS based gaming distribution that is not for the usual day-to-day activities. It is hard to install and does not include desktop applications as available in other distributions, such as video editors and office suite.

However, it comes with a preinstalled platform — Wine — to install Windows games and game management software. Besides, it is the best-performing Linux as it offers low latency over throughput with the fastest support for installing the latest Nvidia drivers.

Pros:

  • game-focused kernel
  • game management software
  • massive community
  • low latency
  • impressive drivers support

Cons:

  • the installer may fail or it is hard to install

Ubuntu GamePack

Ubuntu GamePack is a Ubuntu Pack 20.04-based Linux gaming distribution. It is user-friendly and ideal for inexperienced Linux gamers with GNOME desktop as default. Besides, it comes with a game management system including platforms like Lutris, Steam, etc., and offers compatibility for more than 85 thousand games.

Unlike Drauger, Gamepack offers support for other day-to-day applications, such as Microsoft office and Twitch. The best feature of GamePack is the user customization for game performance optimization with GameMode. Most importantly, it provides a trial for a proprietary Wine-based application known as Crossover to run Windows games and programs.

Pros:

  • easy to use interface
  • GameMode optimization
  • desktop apps
  • support multi-platform games

Cons:

  • absence of default games

Manjaro Gaming Edition

The Manjaro Game Edition is ideal for game streamers or content creators as it comes installed with tools, such as audacity, gaming community, chatting software, and streaming applications.

It has a Manjaro hardware detection tool to offer support for graphic card drivers. Besides, the Gaming Edition is perfect for game streaming due to the preinstalled emulators, such as Stella, Dolphin, PCX2, and ZSNES.

Pros:

  • best for content creators/game streamers
  • preinstalled emulators

Cons:

  • does not support Steam Client

Conclusion

To sum it up, this article has endeavored to provide the reader with a holistic view of various gaming distributions. The pointers mentioned in this article can help you find the ideal gaming distribution. It covers multiple gaming distributions ranging from mainstream distributions to gaming-specific Linux distributions. Likewise, it clearly states the pros and cons to provide a better overview of several top distributions. However, it is recommended to find a suitable gaming distribution by distro-hopping, which is installing different distributions to find what you like the most.

About the author

Usama Azad

A security enthusiast who loves Terminal and Open Source. My area of expertise is Python, Linux (Debian), Bash, Penetration testing, and Firewalls. I’m born and raised in Wazirabad, Pakistan and currently doing Undergraduation from National University of Science and Technology (NUST). On Twitter i go by @UsamaAzad14