Best Linux distros for gaming

Game on Linux.

Image via ChimeraOS

Windows is the standard for gaming on a PC, but many users are turned off by how Windows handles personal data and its closed-source nature. This dissatisfaction is where Linux comes into play. Linux operating systems are open-source and can be the primary operating system on a PC, dual-booted, or run in a virtual machine. However, most Linux distributions aren’t as optimized for gaming as Windows. Thankfully, there are some Linux distributions (distros) created explicitly for gaming. Retro gaming, couch gaming, and desktop gaming are all possible with the right Linux distro. 

This guide covers the best Linux distributions for gaming along with their features.

Best overall

Ubuntu Gamepack

Image via UALinux

The Ubuntu Gamepack OS is the best of the best when it comes to Linux distributions for gaming.  It’s based on Ubuntu Pack 20.04, with many of the essential features users expect from an Ubuntu distribution. Additionally, Ubuntu Gamepack is easy to install and user-friendly, making it a solid choice for inexperienced Linux users. 

As expected, Ubuntu Gamepack excels at gaming. The OS is packed with the most popular game management systems, such as Steam and ITCH.IO. In addition, Ubuntu Gamepack’s custom OS is compatible with over 85,000 games. 

Because it’s based on Ubuntu Pack 20.04, Gamepack is a well-rounded OS compatible with many essential apps, like Microsoft Office. Ubuntu Gamepack’s user interface is similar to Windows 10, thanks to its simplicity and distinct visuals. Handling basic tasks in Gamepack, like file management, is almost identical to its Microsoft counterpart. And for those that watch streamers, Ubuntu Gamepack comes with Gnome Twitch, letting users watch Twitch directly from their desktop.

Not only does GamePack offer a wide range of games for users to play, but it also lets users customize their performance settings with Gamemodes. These Gamemodes change the operating system’s settings while gaming to optimize performance, making it perfect for users with weaker hardware. 

Ubuntu Gamepack is a versatile option with its wide array of games across multiple platforms. To run Windows apps, however, users will need Crossover. Thankfully Ubuntu Gamepack comes with a free 14-day trial of Crossover to help users get started.

Best performance

Drauger OS

Image via Drauger OS

Unlike the others on this list, Drauger OS is built on a low latency Kernel OS. A low latency OS prioritizes latency over throughput, making it a fitting choice for gamers. However, it isn’t an OS designed for daily use. Drauger OS is clunky, hard to install, and doesn’t come with many of the desktop apps one would expect from a Linux distro, like a word processor. Its UI isn’t as sleek or easy to use as Ubuntu’s Gamepack, either. It does come with Wine, allowing users to install Windows programs. 

What sets Drauger apart from other distros is its game management software. It comes preinstalled with more game management systems than any distro on this list, giving users more options to choose from. These include Gamehub, Lutris, Legendary, and PlayOnLinux. 

Its graphic driver support is impressive as well. Drauger is faster than most Linux operating systems at adapting the latest Nvidia drivers for use in a Linux environment. On top of this, it impressively has Vulkan support. Because Drauger OS is a low latency OS and it has exceptional GPU support. Drauger OS is the best bet for great performance in Linux. This distro’s community is another standout feature. Drauger has a massive dedicated community constantly improving the OS, and they don’t show any signs of stopping.

Best preloaded library

Fedora Games Spin

Image via Fedora Labs

Fedora Games Spin is a Fedora Spins OS with a GNOME desktop environment. What makes Fedora Games Spin a solid choice for gaming is its extensive list of preinstalled free games. Over 100 free Linux games come preinstalled on this OS, letting users start gaming as soon as the OS is installed. The library covers everything from racing games to turn-based strategy games. Don’t expect AAA games, though. Despite coming with a wide selection of games, they are still open-source and free, with their graphics reflecting as much. 

In addition, it’s user-friendly, which will satisfy new Linux users. Although Fedora Games Spin has an easy-to-use interface, it doesn’t come with much of the default system software users need.  Thanks to its easy-to-use Gnome desktop environment, users won’t have trouble downloading the other games and applications they need.

Best for emulation

Lakka

Image via Lakka.tv

Lakka is a lightweight RetroArch distribution designed for small, less powerful machines. Single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi are perfect for Lakka. The reason Lakka doesn’t need powerful hardware is that it’s designed for playing retro games. It’s a user-friendly OS made for couch gaming with a simple interface similar to the PlayStation 3’s home screen.

It doesn’t ship with any games, but installing them is easy. Users can connect their Lakka OS device to their network to easily drag and drop ROMs to the device or install them from an external drive via a USB. Just make sure you own a physical copy of a game before installing its ROM. The Lakka OS can run games from over 50 systems, including the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation. Additionally,  Lakka supports most controllers and keyboards, with the OS auto-configuring buttons for users. 

Best for couch gaming

ChimeraOS

Image via ChimeraOS

ChimeraOS is similar to SteamOS but more optimized and customizable. Like SteamOS, ChimeraOS is designed explicitly with couch gamers in mind. When you boot up the device, it loads directly into Steam Big Picture mode. This ease of access means all users have to do is plug in a controller to get started, keeping players from reaching for a keyboard to navigate menus. 

On top of playing Steam games, users can also install non-steam games via Steam Buddy. ChimeraOS guarantees hundreds of Steam games work on the operating system and comes with Steam Tweaks. This tool lets gamers customize their Steam gaming experience. Steam Tweaks lets you further enhance your gaming experience. Virtual machines are not supported with ChimeraOS, though, so the OS will need to be dual-booted.

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