Linux has not had the best reputation for gaming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t game on it. In fact, there are several gaming-focused Linux distros that offer out-of-the-box support for gaming libraries and drivers for gaming-focused hardware, like graphic cards.
Here are the six best Linux distros for gaming, including the features that make each distro the best and its shortcomings.
1. Steam OS
Steam OS is one of the best Linux distros for gaming because it was one of the first Linux distros specifically developed to change the “gaming on Linux is challenging” narrative and make playing Windows-native games on Linux a better experience for the end-user.
Gaming on Steam OS runs on Valve’s gaming system, the Steam Machine, a proprietary gaming platform featuring a wide selection of multi-platform games that Linux users can play on basic hardware.
Steam OS also uses a customized kernel to enhance the gaming experience.
- Can run most Linux and Windows native games
- An interesting console-like gaming experience
- Full-length indie films
- Primarily designed around the “Linux [gaming] into the living room” mindset and optimized for better graphical processing
- Compatibility with older gaming hardware and BIOS systems and dual boot support
- Limited built-in functions and no image viewer or file manager
- The installation process is not simple and may pose issues for inexperienced Linux users
- Limited games on the Steam Store
The key feature that makes Pop!_OS one of the best Linux distros for gaming is its built-in compatibility with the latest, modern gaming hardware.
This Ubuntu-based, open-source, free Linux distro developed by System 76 also features the GNOME desktop, in-built driver support for NVIDIA and AMD.
Additionally, thanks to the out-of-the-box GPU support, Pop!_OS is one of the easiest-to-install Linux distros.
- Constant updates: in-house development team continues to improve the code and make it open-source
- Stable, lightweight, and customizable
- Getting started with essential Linux gaming tools like Steam, GameHub, Wine, and Lutris is easy and requires only a few clicks.
- Out-of-the-box support for NVIDIA and AMD Radeon graphics hardware
- Easy to install based on your setup configuration – there’s an ISO for NVIDIA and AMD
- Snappy, fluid navigation, and workflows optimized for better performance
- Offers Long Term Support (LTS)
- Only offers 64-bit support, which can be restrictive to users with 32-bit processors
Some of the key features that make Manjaro one of the best Linux distros for gaming are its lightweight nature, customizability, consistent support and user-friendliness.
- Friendly, simple installation process
- Auto hardware detection and driver installations
- Uses the robust Pamac graphical manager, making it relatively easy to install available driver updates, packages, and kernels
- Large software repo and experienced users access to the Arch User Repository
- Robust user community, and therefore, getting support is easy
- As an Arch-Linux-based distro, navigating the system can be a challenge for inexperienced Linux users.
- Rolling release requires manual, weekly updates, which can get tedious
- Some stability issues
Previously called Evolve OS, Solus comes pre-installed with tons of software and options meant to enhance your gaming experience. For example, it offers built-in Steam integration and desktop environment choices, like Budgie, GNOME, KDE Plasma, Mate, and many others.
- Increased game performance and stability, thanks to the pre-installed library support
- Budgie desktop is a clean, fast, and lightweight desktop environment
- Optimized for faster performance
- Several pre-installed games as well as support for Steam, Lutris, and Wine
- Easy installation process
- Fast software center with third-party support
- Consistent rolling release updates
- Robust community support
- Tons of built-in software options
- Only supports 64-bit architecture
- Software center is redundantly challenging to navigate
5. MX Linux
Considered one of the cleanest, most powerful, and most downloaded Linux distros, MX Linux has an intuitive and responsive user interface and comes out-of-the-box optimized for enhanced performance and better control and customization.
- Built-in driver support for integrated AMD and Intel HD graphics
- Lightweight, stable, responsive, and featuring a clean desktop environment
- Performance-drive, thanks to Debian and XFCE
- Lightweight and stable
- Intuitive package installer and tools
- User-friendly but also flexible and customizable.
- Tons of pre-installed software tools, like Firefox, Thunderbird, Libre Office, and tons of others
- Only has one desktop environment
- Can be slow/buggy on some systems; some users consider it bloated
6. Drauger OS
This Linux gaming distro focuses on creating a high-performant gaming environment without sacrificing security. Additionally, low latency and the 100Hz scheduling frequency enhance gameplay performances, yielding better frame rates and lower screen tears.
- One of the most stable and secure Linux distros to install, boding well for gaming
- Built-in support for custom gaming kernels and wireless controllers
- Easy Steam installation process, with various apps and tools, like Wine, Steam, and Lutris installed out of the box
- Intuitive and familiar XFCE desktop environment
- Easy installation process
- Upgrading requires a new install
- Installing NVIDIA drivers can be challenging
This list has highlighted some of the best Linux Distros for gaming. They are not the only ones, though, as most Linux distros will support gameplay when configured properly. If you can’t make up your mind, try out these Linux distros first without installing them.