These are the best distributions to play on Linux »MuyLinux: The client version of Steam for Linux saw the light in 2013 as an escape route from Valve to the possible closure of the Microsoft ecosystem, a company that many suspect threatened to impose its store as the only one available on Windows. Since then a lot has happened, from the failure of SteamOS and Steam Machines to Valve’s multiplatform revolution through Proton and its important contribution to AMD drivers.
However, none of this has changed the chaotic and heterogeneous nature of GNU / Linux, which ends up being an obstacle for some Windows and macOS users accustomed to monolithic systems (in their conception), homogeneous and totally cohesive. If this is already an important barrier on the desktop, when we talk about games it is even more so. People start to get an idea of the distributions and the first thing they do is search for “Linux distributions to play” on Google, a path that often ends up leading to unsatisfactory solutions.
When a user searches for “Linux distributions to play” in Google, in the end they may end up arriving at distributions that sell themselves as systems to play, but are deep down small projects maintained by very few people. Consequently, the support offered by those projects may be poor. And, in case of finding a problem, the user will find himself unable to find a solution, so in the end the conclusion he will draw will be very clear: Linux is not good for playing games.
Therefore, following the line of a video posted on the YouTube channel Linux for Everyone, we are going to try to shed some light on Linux Gaming and the most recommended distributions to play. For many the answers that we are going to give are possibly too conservative, obvious and / or unimaginative, but honestly, the best thing to get a good experience with the games is to bet on the giants, which are ultimately the ones that offer the best support at all levels. So if you are interested in playing from Linux, these are the systems to use.
Keep in mind that this list is not a ranking, so the first is not the best nor the last the worst, since the choice of the best distribution is a path that the user must travel by himself.
We start with the System76 distribution, which is based on Ubuntu. In other words, it’s little more than a modified Ubuntu, so it benefits from all the third-party support out there for it.
Pop! _OS is a distribution with a singular aesthetic finish, but very well done, and that has among its main values being one of the most driver-friendly GNU / Linux systems from NVIDIA, one of the most problematic components of which there are available for the Open Source system. In addition, the American manufacturer takes care of supplying the NVIDIA driver himself, minimizing the configuration required on that front.
For AMD (Intel too, but while its dedicated graphics are not on the market, we leave it out because the integrated ones do not give to play AAA titles) the path is a bit more laborious, but configuring the Kisak PPA should be enough to have one one of the more standard frameworks to play on Linux, especially since Steam for Linux is developed with Ubuntu in mind (this is not to say that it does not work very well in other distributions).
The most popular GNU / Linux distribution could not be absent from this list, and, as we have already said, it is best to bet on the big boys if you want to play with guarantees with the Open Source system.
Little more can be said about the system that has made Linux have a real presence on the desktop. In addition to have a long history in which it has proven to be a reliable and reliable product both on desktop and servers, is still the one with the best support from third parties.
For more than two years the aesthetic finish of Ubuntu has been based on a “GNOME Shell unity”, to which they add a sidebar and for which they have carried some of the elements present in Unity 7, such as their own translations, the renderer of fonts and its own scaling tool for HiDPI displays.
It is recommended for AMD Radeon graphics to configure the Kisak PPA and for NVIDIA the PPA Graphics Drivers. For the first, a standard update is enough to activate its support, while the second is managed through the driver manager.
And here another derivative of Ubuntu, this time with the desktop environment (graphical interface for newbies) Cinnamon, which stands out for its Windows-like layout.
Having a Windows-like desktop layout makes Linux Mint more user-friendly for those coming from the Microsoft system. Added to this is the fact that it has many additional tools, including some that make it easy to install and manage components like NVDIA Prime, which may end up being essential when using the system on a laptop with hybrid graphics.
For the rest, more of the same: Kisak for AMD Radeon and Graphics Drivers for NVIDIA.
The most popular derivative of Arch Linux has made a name for itself among Linux desktops thanks to the fact that its development has been sustained by three commercial pillars: knowing what product they wanted to offer, what audience they wanted to reach and having defined quality standards.
Arch Linux is a distribution for advanced users, but this does not reach Manjaro, which pretends to be the opposite. Manjaro offers easy installation using Squids and pre-installs tons of things, including codecs, Steam, and the NVIDIA driver, so the user can start installing their games from the first start without wasting time searching repositories or the Internet.
Another of the main values is that it is a distribution rolling release or continuous release. This means that, once the system is installed, the user will get updates permanently and indefinitely over time, without needing to redownload a system image to update by reinstallation.
The updates also cover the kernel, which is responsible for supplying the AMDGPU driver for Radeon graphics, and Mesa, the component that provides support for OpenGL and Vulkan APIs, so for both NVIDIA and Radeon the system will always have the latest. to offer the best support.
Finally, it is worth highlighting the default use of an LTS kernel, which gives Manjaro stability and above all reliability when dealing with the NVIDIA driver.
Red Hat sponsored community distribution has been shown to be one of the most automated GNU / Linux systems out there, but before continuing let’s make one thing clear: it is not friendly with the NVIDIA driver. In other words, Fedora is only recommended if using an AMD Radeon graphics.
Here we find a distribution with specific releases (point release), but which usually offers fairly up-to-date software, including the kernel and Mesa. This, together with the great configuration of the version of Steam supplied by RPMFusion, makes Fedora a very easy system to configure for gamingas well as being very well positioned to run on recent hardware.
Fedora has experienced an impressive progression in recent years, to the extent that today can be fully configured for desktop and games from the graphical interface, without requiring the intervention of the command console. If the user is able to adapt to their bare and base implementation of GNOME Shell, they will find a system with very little maintenance thanks to DNF, Flatpak’s out-of-the-box configuration, and their obsession to centralize everything in GNOME.
We close the list with the most popular distribution for advanced users that exists: Arch Linux. Obviously, this system is not intended for newbies or those looking for something neglected and easy to use, but there are compelling reasons to include it in the list.
First of all, Arch Linux is a distribution rolling release Y bleeding edge, hence it is updated continuously and indefinitely in time while supplying very recent software, including Linux kernel, Steam, Mesa, and NVIDIA driver. This not only gives it capabilities to support the latest games, but also to work properly on recent hardware.
The other great feature of Arch Linux is that it relies on the KISS principle, so the user part of a minimal system to which you can add the necessary components to play. In this way, it is possible to eliminate the presence of dispensable elements, but that most distributions tend to pre-install in order to provide correct support for many contexts.
In short, with Arch Linux you can concentrate your computer’s resources on running games, opening the door to improving performance and even lowering system requirements by having fewer processes running. Of course, we advise that this does not work miracles against bloated distributions.
As we said at the beginning, the best way to play on Linux is to bet on large distributions, despite the fact that these many times do not sell themselves as systems to play, and that is that a popular and widely used distribution is synonymous with a better support, both for the basics and for the incidents that one can run into.
Finally, we want to close by recommending the installation of GameMode, Feral Interactive’s tool for improving gaming performance on Linux, which is installed by default on distributions such as Ubuntu and Fedora.
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