When it comes to gaming, Windows is always the go-to operating system (OS). Almost every game out there is made keeping in mind the Windows OS. But with more support for games, Linux has become a lot more gamer-friendly. Now it supports more games, although it does not do without Windows emulators.
Thanks to these emulators, playing games on Linux has become almost the same as on Windows. Plus, there are more projects in the making to make Linux a more game-friendly OS.
As a fact, there are rarely any games that are made specifically for Linux. There are some native games, but if you want to play some other popular games, you will have to resort to pre-installed emulators and tools like SteamPlay, Wine PlayOnLinux.
One of the main reasons Linux’s widespread acceptance lags behind Windows operating systems is because of the minimal support for games. In the past, gamers could only play text-based games using the command line. However, several distros support gaming due to the recent progressive development and significant advances in the Linux desktop. Many of these distributions provide a great gaming experience with reliable GUI applications and features.
Linux has a small user base compared to Microsoft’s Windows OS, and thus developers are not keen to transfer their creations on Linux. Plus, with so many distros, it becomes difficult to debug and optimize games for each Linux distribution. But what’s great is that many of these distributions come with pre-installed emulators, making it easy to run games.
Linux users have the choice between numerous distributions with different desktop environments. Gamers need to see which is suitable for their purposes. It is why we will take a look at some of these distributions that have hit the limelight in recent times.
If you like Ubuntu or are a fan of the distribution, your first pick is Ubuntu GamePack; a Linux distribution focused on gaming. It is part of the UALinux project. Ukrainian-based programmers oversee the project. The company also develops other solutions such as ServerPack, CyberPack, BusinessPack, DesktopPack, and EducationPack. Each version is designed independently has its features. GamePack is very similar to Drauger OS. What sets it apart is the customized Gnome desktop environment.
When it comes to the GamePack, the distros pack all necessary tools and application that allows users to install and run games efficiently.
Ubuntu GamePack has several advantages over other distros. First and foremost, you can significantly save time and effort when downloading and installing games. Another perk is that the distros are based on Ubuntu so that you can use it for gaming and entertainment and everything else. In short, if you know the Ubuntu distribution, then the GamePack is your best option.
Thanks to its support for multiple gaming platforms like PlayOnLinux and Steam, Ubuntu GamePack pitches higher than other Linux distros. It also includes a DOSBox emulator so that users can efficiently run DOS games. Users can also enjoy classic adventure and role-playing games using the ScummVM program. The only downside is that GamePack does not come with pre-installed games.
Interestingly, Ubuntu GamePack comes with Adobe Flash, so you can even enjoy flash games. Despite its extensive features and capability, the Ubuntu GamePack does not need potent hardware, making it perfect even for older machines. Another advantage is that it allows users to optimize games via its GameMode optimizer. Users can tweak Linux settings for better gaming performance and experience.
It supports over 5840 games, including many of the Windows games.
What we like:
- Supports many gaming platforms – such as Steam, PlayOnLinux, and Lutris.
- Access to thousands of online and offline games.
- It is possible to play Windows games using the Wine application.
- Come with a massive repository of over 390 games.
- Supports Adobe Flash and Oracle Java for efficient and reliable execution of online games.
If you like the idea of Steam OS but want something better than the GamerOS distro is your best bet. It will turn your PC practically into a gaming console. GamerOS is an Arch Linux-based distribution. It is effortless to install, and you do not have to write any commands in the terminal. An Arch foundation is needed to ensure that the latest drivers are always installed on your PC. Plus, the OS will only work with Arch, so you can’t dual-boot it.
GamerOS packs pre-installed emulators of some older consoles, including the PS2. When it comes to gaming consoles, the GamerOS supports Switch Pro, Xbox 360, DualShock, Xbox One, and many others. They run straight from Steam, allowing you to keep all your games in one place. It all sounds great, but remember that this Linux distro doesn’t even have a desktop. Therefore, you will not be able to use it for other tasks, except for Steam and emulators’ games.
The concept of SteamOS is interesting, and GamerOS only made it better.
As the name suggests, this distro is what every gamer is looking for to turn their PC into a complete gaming machine. Apart from easy installation, it offers regular updates, and it is designed to navigate using your console controllers.
Interestingly, it is the default way to navigate on the OS. However, you can still always use a mouse and keyboard. Unlike Ubuntu GamePack, the GamerOS only supports Steam and no other gaming platforms. But thanks to Steam Buddy, users can even play non-steam games. Steam Buddy is a custom web-based service that allows gamers to play non-steam games.
As soon as you start your PC, the system will boot to Steam Big Picture Mode. The mode is specifically designed so that you connect to your TV. To ameliorate the gaming experience, GamerOS comes with its set of tool kits. All you have to do is choose a game, hit play, and enjoy.
What we like:
- Directly boots into Steam Big Picture
- Hassle-free installation
- Supports non-steam games via Steam Buddy
- Controller-first interface
Must read – Why You Should Buy A Gaming Laptop
Lakka is one of the most lightweight Linux distros. Even though it is a lightweight system, it can turn your PC into a powerful retro game console. What is remarkable is that it supports XBOX 360, PS3, and PS4 controllers along with most of the keyboards. Lakka is based on RetroArch, which supports many gaming consoles and Windows emulators. You can also use Libretro’s libraries.
RetroArch comes with Joypad Auto Configuration, which means all the popular controllers’ auto-configured when you plug them into the system. This feature is helpful as you do not have to map keys manually. Plus, Lakka is more user-friendly than its fellow retro gaming distros.
New users may find the distros a bit intimidating due to the extensive library of options to tweak.
SteamOS and GamerOS are good distributions for working with the Steam client, but the main drawback is that you can’t use them for other purposes. GamerOS is suitable for most modern games, but what if you want to play an old game. You don’t need to install an entirely separate operating system to play classic games; you can use the Lakka distribution.
It can even be installed on external media and connected to a computer only for games. Lakka comes with clear and easy-to-follow documentation. One of the drawbacks of Lakka is that it does not come with pre-installed games.
Lakka has some good competitors, such as RetroPie, which in itself is a powerful emulation platform. But what makes Lakka better is the supports for hardware. Plus, it is open-source distros that have a strong community of gamers, developers, and designers that make it so successful.
What we like :
- Beautiful interface
- Emulates many consoles
- Supports multiple gaming platforms
- Automatic joystick recognition
- Game-centric functions
If you are looking to game on Linux, there is no better distribution than the Drauger OS. It is entirely focused on gaming. Other distributions on our list have more than gaming, which is good, but Draguer is a distro that is solely meant to play games. You won’t use it for your regular work or coding. Although it comes with many apps, the distros are mainly designed for gaming.
Interestingly, you won’t see many pre-installed programs that you will find on Steam or Pop! Or other distributions. Which means there is no office suite or video player. Instead, you will find tools and applications related to gaming such as PlayOnLinux, Wine, Lutris, Steam, and DXVK, among many others. Moreover, you will need about 32 GB of space to install Draguer. You can run both Linux and Windows games without any hassle.
Drauger distro uses a low-latency kernel, i.e., the mainline kernel, to enhance gaming performance. It is one of its most significant advantages over other distros that use the Ubuntu kernel. In short, you get higher frame rates and lower screen tearing. Another great feature is that it supports almost all Xbox controllers. It also supports some PlayStation controllers. The only downside is that it is complex to install Drauger.
Drauger OS install the Steam client on the launch of the Live environment. What we appreciated most is the walkthrough app that takes you on a tour of the new system. It is beneficial for those who are new to Drauger or, for that matter, Linux. The distros come with a customized Xfce desktop environment, which is easy to use and very user-friendly.
What we like:
- Multiple gaming platforms
- It supports many game controllers
Steam OS is probably the most well-known and used cross-platform Linux game distribution based on Debian Linux. It packs a large assortment of entertainment software and can be thought of as the complete Linux gaming platform.
With Steam OS installed, you’ll not only have unlimited access to multiple online games, but you’ll also be able to join the active gamer community around the world. Users can also create their content and share it with many other community members.
It is based on Debian and is made for games. Steam always starts in Big Picture mode so that you will spend most of your time there.
Unlike other Linux distributions for games, SteamOS is designed to work with powerful hardware, and such computers are mainly used for more than just games. Therefore, this distribution may not be suitable for you if you do not have a powerful PC.
Moreover, the last SteamOS update happened in 2019. So what will happen with this distribution next is unknown at the moment.
It is designed to run Valve’s Steam, one of the richest libraries. Valve is one of the few companies that has been dedicated to games for Linux. SteamOS is intended for gaming only and should not be seen as a replacement standard for other desktop operating systems. This distro comes pre-installed for 64-bit machines and runs best with 4 GB of RAM.
For many gamers, SteamOS is the best Linux game distribution. It does not support as many hardware units as the other distros, which is why it comes down on our list. As it requires at least 4 GB of RAM, it is unlikely that you will be able to turn your old machine into a gaming station.
Steam is a proprietary game engine, and you can run thousands of games on it. It also has a store where you can buy even more games.
What we like:
- Supports numerous games on the Steam store
- Includes custom build GNOME desktop environment
- Enable the use of a keyboard or joystick
- Offers multiple minor gaming software
Also read – How To Install Kali Linux
Fedora Games Spin
Fedora Games Spin is an excellent Linux distribution for games. The main idea behind Fedora Games spin is to highlight the best open source games available in Fedora repositories. Users can run it in live mode from USB / DVD media without necessarily installing it, and it comes with an Xfce desktop environment and nearly 2100 Linux games. Plus, it offers support for Plasma and Cinnamon.
The distribution comes as a hefty 4.1 GB Image that contains a rich collection of games ranging from arcade to strategy to first-person shooter games and everything in between. The best part is that you can play all the games in the Live environment.
While the Fedora Games spin is a versatile and competent gaming distribution that performs as marketed, it misses some of the features that other gaming distros have. For instance, it does not bundle other channels such as Steam, PlayonLinux, and WINE. However, users can manually install them. You can install applications like Steam in a breeze. Plus, a user with NVIDIA graphics cards can install their drivers with ease. Fedora is a gaming-friendly distro that is stable, robust, and up-to-date.
What we like:
- Preloaded with thousands of games
- Can play all game in a Live environment
Pop! _OS is an Ubuntu-based distribution with a strong focus on gaming. The main reason behind it is that it is developed by System76, a well-known hardware manufacturer. It means that you have a reliable distro where the system and all upgrades are thoroughly reviewed and work flawlessly.
It can function as Canonical’s operating system since it is based on Ubuntu, so if you are someone who likes Canonical but wants something better than POP! _OS is an excellent substitute.
Pop!OS is based on the Ubuntu LTS release and uses its interface over Gnome, know as Pop Shell. The distro comes with all the requisite functionality, allowing users to customize it to their liking. For players, this means incorporating hybrid graphics on Linux.
Even though the distro does not come with any gaming platforms, it is still one of the best distros for gaming. However, you can easily install the likes of Steam, Lutris, or n platform from its app store.
Pop! OS has a very streamlined navigation system and some organized and straightforward workflows, which give users optimum efficiency and a better user experience.
What we like:
- Can incorporate hybrid graphics
- Lightweight and fast
SparkyLinux comes with all the necessary tools, such as Steam, in addition to pre-installed games. If you need other applications for running games, such as DosBox or Wine, check out the SparkyAPTus Gamer package manager. Here you will find more tools for games, including emulators for Windows and older consoles.
Each of the versions is stable, and the latest is the Sparky 2021.03 Special Editions. The SparkyLinux is one of the best Linux distributions for gamers. Few Linux distros are tailor-made for professional gaming. But SparkyLinux does just that.
The SparkyLinux GameOver Edition may be one of the best Linux distros for gamers available.
Few Linux distros are tailor-made for professional gaming. But SparkyLinux does just that.
You can access numerous emulators through a quick launch bar. With SparkyLinux, you get multiple games and a Steam client.
SparkyLinux favors lightweight desktop environments, such as LXDE, Enlightenment, JWM, KDE, LXQt, Openbox, MATE, and Xfce.
Sparky Linux GameOver is based on Debian with Xfce shell. In terms of speed, it significantly surpasses the Ubuntu GamePack, but this is noticeable only in the interface. In games, there is practically no difference.
What we like:
- Fast and user-friendly interface.
For programmers, Manjaro is the robust and stable Linux distribution. With it, you get Steam and all necessary game-centric tools and software. Plus, it also comes with video editing, and recording apps, and more. All this makes it an easy-to-use gaming distro for professional gamers.
It’s compatible with any gaming hardware that you can think of. Manjaro works with every game, whether it’s on a console, Windows, or Steam. It is compatible with a range of platforms and operating systems. It also includes all the emulators, including DOS box, Dolphin, WINE, and Winetricks. Not only that, but it just takes a few clicks to get started, which is what every gamer wants.
It is an ideal middle ground for new and old users who want to enjoy cutting-edge software and stability.
Manjaro pre-installs the Steam client and game drivers for AMD Radeon and Nvidia GeForce, so gamers don’t have to perform these additional tasks. Just like Pop! OS, the controller support is decent and satisfactory, and all the main functions work flawlessly.
What we like:
- Supports many games
- It comes with emulators
Game Drift Linux, based on Ubuntu Drift Linux, is a relatively new and modern game distribution. It is surprisingly lightweight and distro. It has several games in the game store and supports Windows games via the reliable CrossOver Games platform. Furthermore, it provides users with a good gaming experience.
What is remarkable is the game store that has both free and premium games. Plus, you can run over 1200 Windows games on Game Drift using CrossOver Games technology. While the distro is free to use, gamers need to buy an activation key to use the CrossOver platform. That is probably the only downside of Game Drift.
What we like:
- Supports many games
- It comes with emulators
Linux has made significant progress in terms of game support. However, most of the improvement has come in the form of Windows emulators, thanks to Vulkan API.
More Linux distributions are becoming an excellent operating system for gaming purposes, and you have new options every day. Users can enjoy games that once were only played on Windows or Mac OS X.
It is impossible to choose the best Linux distribution for gaming since each has its characteristics. Some of the other distros that are worthwhile checking are Solus, Manjaro mGAMe, SuperGamer, Retropie, and batocera. Linux.
We recommend thinking about what you want: a regular distribution on which you can install games without any problems, or a particular OS designed only for games? Choose what suits your needs best and have fun playing on Linux.
We’ve covered some of the best Linux distributions for gaming, but the list can be longer. So if you are a passionate Linux gamer, you can explore other distributions and share your experiences with us.