With the best Linux distributions for gaming, it’s easy and simple to play PC games on your Linux desktop or laptop.
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In the last five years, Linux games have come a long way. It was always possible to play games on Linux, but there weren’t many games that worked perfectly.
When Valve announced their own Linux gaming distribution, it was a turning point that made game publishers stand up and take notice of the open source platform. Soon, games started coming out that worked with penguins, and now even big game studios are proud to show off how their biggest games work with penguins. Because of projects like Proton, even games that were only made for Windows can be played well on Linux.
Even before Valve got involved, open source projects like the WINE compatibility layer, gaming platforms like Lutris that rely on a strong community to run hundreds of games on Linux, and high-quality open source drivers from companies like AMD have led the way for gaming on Linux.
Because of all these projects, the open source operating system has shown that it is not only a very good gaming platform, but that it can sometimes even do better than Windows.
We’ve looked at these Linux distributions for gaming from many different angles. Some of the most important things we looked at were disc space for installation, support for different types of controllers (like PlayStation and Xbox), support for different gaming platforms, the number of games it comes with, and extra apps for regular use.
In true open source style, you have a few options that will help you make Linux the best place to play games. Here are some of the choices that are available.
Drauger OS says that it is a Linux Desktop Gaming OS on its website. The distro is based on Ubuntu LTS releases. Drauger, on the other hand, uses the mainline Linux kernel instead of the kernel from Ubuntu.
The developers have changed the scheduling frequency from 250Hz to 1000Hz and compiled the kernel so that it has low latency. Because of these changes, gamers should see higher frame rates, less tearing on the screen, and better game performance overall.
The distribution sets up Steam Client right away when the Live environment starts. The desktop environment for the distro is a customised version of Xfce, and new users will like the tutorial in the welcome app that gives them a quick tour of the new environment.
Drauger says it works with most Xbox and Xbox360 controllers as well as some PlayStation controllers. PlayOnLinux, WINE, Lutris, Steam, and DXVK are just some of the tools and apps that come pre-installed on the distro to make gaming better.
The distribution comes with a lot of apps, so you can also use it as a very capable desktop distribution for regular computing tasks. In fact, to install Drauger, you’ll need a disc with at least 32GB of space.
The Ukrainian company UALinux made Ubuntu GamePack, which is a lot like Drauger OS. Both are based on Ubuntu, but Ubuntu GamePack uses a modified version of Gnome for its desktop. In addition to proprietary codecs and drivers, Ubuntu GamePack includes a number of gaming platforms and tools, such as Steam, Lutris, PlayOnLinux, and more.
But Ubuntu GamePack also comes with a trial version of CrossOver, a proprietary compatibility app based on WINE that lets you play Windows games (and apps). The distribution also comes with DOSBox, which lets you play DOS games, and ScummVM, which lets you play old adventure and role-playing games.
The best thing about the distribution is a set of tweaks called GameMode that make the installation better for gaming. The distribution also comes with a bunch of regular desktop productivity apps, making it look like a very capable desktop distribution for gamers. It also beats Drauger because it uses a custom version of the easy-to-use Ubuntu Ubiquity installer.
Fedora Games spin
The Fedora Games spin exists to show off the best open source games that can be found in the Fedora repositories.
The distro comes as a big 4.1GB image that is full of all kinds of games, from strategy games to first-person shooters and everything in between. The best part is that you can play all of the games from within Live.
Fedora Games uses the Xfce desktop environment, and every time Fedora has a major release, the developers put out a new version. The latest version is based on Fedora Workstation 33 because of this.
The Fedora Games spin is a very good gaming distribution that does what it says it will do. However, it is not as flexible as some of the other gaming distributions we’ve talked about here. First of all, it doesn’t come with other platforms like Steam or tools like PlayonLinux or WINE, but you can install all of these by hand.
The distribution of Pop! OS by hardware vendor System76 is a good choice for gamers who want to put together their own gaming setup.
Pop!OS is based on Ubuntu LTS, but it has its own user interface called Pop Shell instead of Gnome. The distribution has all the plumbing it needs to let its users shape it to their needs. For gamers, this means getting hybrid graphics to work on Linux and adding an option in the context menu to start games on the GPU.
Even though the distribution doesn’t come with any gaming platforms, unlike the best Linux distributions for gaming, you can easily get Steam, Lutris, and GameHub from its app store. Also, the distro comes in two versions: one with the standard image and one with the proprietary Nvidia driver already installed.
Lakka is a lightweight version of Linux that can turn your computer into a retro games console. It is built on top of the libretro core and its front end is RetroArch.
Lakka can be used on PCs as a bootable USB image. There are also versions for machines that use the ARM architecture, like the Raspberry Pi.
This distribution works with most keyboards, wireless PS3 and PS4 controllers, and, if you have the proprietary dongle, Xbox 360 controllers. RetroArch has a very useful autoconfig feature that should make most controllers work right out of the box without you having to manually map keys. There are also some great walkthroughs for more unusual setups in the Lakka documentation.
Because of copy rights, the OS doesn’t come with any games already installed. You’ll need to get legal copies of ISO images of game CDs you already own or ROM files of arcade games that have already been put together. Check out the Internet Archive, which has some ROMs that are free for anyone to use.
Before I put this article online, I asked around to find out what people thought were the best Linux distributions for gaming.
Not just on our forums (itsfoss.community), but also on some Reddit threads, people said they liked Kubuntu because they think the KDE desktop environment is easy on their system resources, which makes their gaming experience better.
Don’t worry, I’m not the only one saying this. Jason Evangelho from Forbes also said that KDE is probably the best lightweight desktop environment.
Of course, this could change soon if KDE gets new features. But compared to GNOME, it doesn’t use as many system resources.
So, if you’re worried about your old gaming computer, you should give Kubuntu a try.