Best Linux Distro for Gaming

In recent years, it has become clear that Linux is a viable operating system for gaming if it has the right support. Your gaming experience can range from horrible to great, depending largely on which Linux distro you decide to use. Some Linux distributions are definitely more suited to handle gaming, and there are a ton of others that gamers would do well to avoid entirely.

In this tutorial, we have compiled a list of our top picks for gaming distros. Each one has their own pros and cons, depending on what kind of gaming you want to focus on – newer games vs retro games, for example. This should steer you in the right direction and let you pick a Linux distribution that will cover your gaming needs.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • Best Linux distributions for gaming
Best Linux Distro for Gaming
Best Linux Distro for Gaming
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Ubuntu, Fedora, Lakka, Garuda, Manjaro, Pop OS, SteamOS
Software N/A
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Best Linux Distro for Gaming



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The “best” Linux distro is always a heated topic among users. The truth is that there is no definitively best Linux distro for any particular purpose, including gaming. Each user will have their own preferences and their own idea of what makes a distro ideal for gaming. The below list should give you some hints and steer you in the right direction to make an informed decision on what Linux distro is most likely to appeal to you as a gamer.

Ubuntu

It might be a cliché to include Ubuntu on any “Best Linux distros for …” list, but there’s a reason for that. It’s a great distro for pretty much any purpose, including gaming. It is user friendly and comes with many different options for a pre-installed desktop environment. Installing games is usually a simple and painless process, with Ubuntu supporting a wide variety of hardware and software.

What we like:

  • Works well as a daily driver
  • Wide support for hardware and software alike
  • Simple to use for a variety of tasks

What we don’t like:

  • Doesn’t come with games pre-installed
  • Not as customizable as some distros
  • Not the most resource efficient

Fedora (Games Spin)

Fedora is already a good distro for gaming, and a solid choice for many other purposes. But there is also an official “spin” (which means edition, basically) that is made especially for playing games. This distro includes a slew of games by default, which will showcase the distro’s ability to run games. And you can always install more, since a lot of the necessary software and dependencies are either included by default or very easy to install.

What we like:

  • Bleeding edge software
  • Some games are pre-installed
  • Comes with Xfce desktop envrionment

What we don’t like:

  • Missing some essential game platforms
  • Not as user friendly as some distros
  • Constant updates and less stability

Lakka

Lakka is the go-to Linux distro for retro gaming. It comes bundled with a number of emulators, so you can get up and running with your old gaming titles in no time. It is a super lightweight distro and runs fine on low powered systems such as a Raspberry Pi. The drawback is that this system has a very specific purpose, so you would likely only be using it for retro gaming and that’s it.

What we like:

  • Comes with lots of emulators pre-installed
  • Runs on older hardware
  • Transforms your PC into a retro gaming console

What we don’t like:

  • Has one purpose (not a daily driver)
  • Is not meant to run newer games
  • No widespread support compared to longtime established distros

Garuda




Garuda often gets overlooked in favor of more well known distros, but it packs a punch. It feels snappy and has some nice effects out of the box. The greatest thing for gamers is that it comes with a dedicated panel from which you can install many different gaming platforms, compatibility layers, and emulators. With one click, you can install Wine, Steam, emulators, GOG, etc.

What we like:

  • Unique approach to speed and aesthetics
  • Dedicated gaming panel
  • Dead simple to install necessary gaming tools

What we don’t like:

  • Bleeding edge can lead to instability
  • Meant for PCs on the beefy side of hardware
  • Relatively new; not as much support

Manjaro

Manjaro specializes in ease of use. This carries over to gaming support, which is pretty well streamlined and straightforward. There are a few gaming apps installed by default, and all of the others that you may need are simple enough to install. Access to the AUR increases compatibility with some pesky gaming titles, as you are able to install a variety of dependencies very easily.

What we like:

  • Very user friendly distro
  • Works great for many purposes (daily driver)
  • Most everything is plug and play; good compatibility

What we don’t like:

  • Advanced users may find it lacking
  • Does not come with all the necessary gaming tools pre-installed
  • Rolling release

Pop OS

Pop OS has become popular for a variety of uses, thanks in large part to its custom desktop environment and hybrid graphics support. It gives a lot of power to the user, letting them build their system as they see fit for games, and even run games directly on the GPU.

What we like:

  • Pop Shell desktop environment
  • Varied graphics support
  • Highly customizable

What we don’t like:

  • No gaming software out of the box
  • Could be confusing to Linux newcomers
  • Not as user friendly as Ubuntu or Manjaro

SteamOS




It was debatable whether SteamOS should make this list or not. It is currently not a totally stable operating system and shouldn’t yet be installed on your gaming rig, but we have high hopes for its future. Developed by Valve, you can expect it to feature maximum support for as many Steam games as possible. This could become the best gaming distro in the near future.

What we like:

  • Backed by Valve
  • Dedicated gaming distro
  • Great for gamers that mostly use Steam

What we don’t like:

  • Centers around Steam and not other platforms
  • Can/should only be used as a gaming OS
  • Questionable support and future

Closing Thoughts

In this tutorial, we learned about the best Linux distros to use for gaming. Remember, you can game on any Linux distribution. There’s nothing holding you back. That said, there are a few that make the endeavor much easier, and this list should give you a starting point to figure out which one will work best for your gaming needs.



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