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Best Linux Distro for Gaming

Gaming on Linux has gained traction, but finding the right Linux distribution (distro) for gaming can be challenging. Linux gaming presents hurdles such as driver compatibility, performance disparities, and a fragmented ecosystem. These issues can lead to subpar gaming experiences and complications for newcomers.


Gaming-centric distros address Linux gaming's challenges by offering optimized graphics drivers, smoother installation of gaming essentials, and enhanced compatibility. These distros streamline the transition for gamers while leveraging Linux's benefits.


We'll compare notable gaming distros, exploring hardware compatibility, driver support, user-friendliness, and gaming performance.


Best Linux Distro for Gaming

Here we have the list of the top 10 best Linux distro for gaming in 2023:

  1. Pop!_OS

  2. Ubuntu

  3. Manjaro

  4. Fedora

  5. Garuda Linux

  6. Linux Mint

  7. Elementary OS

  8. Solus OS

  9. Zorin OS

  10. Steam OS


1. Pop!_OS

Pop!_OS is a Linux distro developed by System76, a company that specializes in Linux-based computers. It's based on Ubuntu and is designed to provide a user-friendly experience with a focus on productivity and performance. Pop!_OS comes with the GNOME desktop environment by default but also offers a variant with the more lightweight and customizable Pop Shell. It's known for its seamless integration with System76 hardware and its emphasis on supporting modern technologies like Nvidia graphics drivers.


Hardware Compatibility: Good compatibility, particularly with System76 hardware. Also works well with a wide range of other hardware.


Driver Support: Strong support for Nvidia graphics cards, including easy installation of proprietary drivers. Also supports other hardware configurations.


Target Audience: General users, developers, and users who want a seamless experience on System76 hardware.


Performance: Optimized for performance, especially with Nvidia graphics. System76 provides power profiles to manage performance vs. battery life.


Features:

  • User-friendly interface: Pop!_OS uses the GNOME desktop environment, which is known for its simplicity and ease of use. It also comes with a number of gaming-friendly features, such as a performance overlay that shows you how much CPU and GPU resources are being used, and a game mode that can be used to improve performance.

  • Gaming-friendly features: Pop!_OS comes pre-installed with Steam and other popular gaming applications, such as Lutris and Discord. It also has a number of performance-enhancing features, such as a CPU governor that can be tuned for gaming.

  • Pre-installed with Steam and other popular gaming applications: Pop!_OS comes pre-installed with Steam, the most popular gaming platform on Linux. It also comes with other popular gaming applications, such as Lutris and Discord.

  • Performance overlay: Pop!_OS comes with a performance overlay that shows you how much CPU and GPU resources are being used. This can be helpful for troubleshooting performance issues.

  • Game mode: Pop!_OS has a game mode that can be used to improve performance. This mode disables unnecessary background tasks and services, which can free up resources for gaming.


2. Ubuntu

Ubuntu is one of the most popular and widely used Linux distro. It's known for its ease of use and strong community support. Ubuntu is based on Debian and offers several desktop environments to choose from, including the default GNOME desktop. It's available in various editions tailored for different use cases, such as Ubuntu Desktop, Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu LTS (Long-Term Support), and more.


Hardware Compatibility: Good overall compatibility with a wide range of hardware due to its popularity and community support.


Driver Support: Offers a wide range of hardware drivers, both open-source and proprietary. Supports Nvidia graphics cards.


Target Audience: General users, developers, and businesses. Ubuntu's LTS releases are often preferred for stability.


Performance: Generally performs well, especially on well-supported hardware.


Features:

  • Stable and reliable platform: Ubuntu is one of the most stable and reliable Linux distros. It is also one of the most popular, so there is a large community of users and developers who can help you if you need it.

  • Large community of users and developers: Ubuntu has a large community of users and developers. This means that there are many resources available, such as forums, tutorials, and documentation.

  • Number of gaming-related packages available in its repositories: Ubuntu has a number of gaming-related packages available in its repositories. This means that you can easily install the games you want to play.

  • Steam client and Lutris game manager: Ubuntu comes with the Steam client pre-installed. You can also install the Lutris game manager, which can be used to play games that are not available in the Steam store.


3. Manjaro

Manjaro is an Arch Linux-based distribution that aims to provide a user-friendly experience while retaining the benefits of Arch's rolling-release model. It offers a choice of desktop environments and window managers, making it customizable to users' preferences. Manjaro includes its own package manager, Pamac, which simplifies the installation and management of software.


Hardware Compatibility: Good compatibility, but might require more user involvement for certain hardware configurations.


Driver Support: Offers open-source and proprietary drivers, including Nvidia drivers. AUR (Arch User Repository) expands software availability.


Target Audience: Intermediate to advanced users who appreciate Arch's rolling release model and a balance between up-to-date software and stability.


Performance: Can offer excellent performance but might require more configuration compared to more user-friendly distributions.


Features:

  • Bleeding-edge software and performance: Manjaro is based on Arch Linux, which is known for its bleeding-edge software and performance. This means that you will always have the latest and greatest games available.

  • Dedicated gaming repository: Manjaro has a dedicated gaming repository that contains a number of gaming-related packages. This makes it easy to install the games you want to play.

  • Game Mode: Manjaro has a Game Mode that can be used to improve performance. This mode disables unnecessary background tasks and services, which can free up resources for gaming.


4. Fedora

While Fedora itself isn't specifically marketed as a gaming Linux distribution, it's a popular choice among Linux enthusiasts and developers. It's developed by the Fedora Project, sponsored by Red Hat. Fedora Workstation edition is designed for desktop users and developers, offering the GNOME desktop environment by default. While not exclusively focused on gaming, Fedora benefits from its active community and up-to-date software repositories, which can provide a good gaming experience when configured properly.


Hardware Compatibility: Good compatibility, particularly with recent hardware due to its focus on using newer software components.


Driver Support: Provides open-source drivers by default. Proprietary drivers are available but might require additional setup.


Target Audience: Developers, enthusiasts, and users who want to work with up-to-date software and technologies.


Performance: Tends to offer good performance, especially on hardware that's well-supported by the Linux kernel.


Features:

  • Innovative features and focus on open source software: Fedora is known for its innovative features and focus on open source software. This means that you will always have access to the latest and greatest gaming technologies.

  • Number of gaming-related packages available in its repositories: Fedora has a number of gaming-related packages available in its repositories. This means that you can easily install the games you want to play.

  • Steam client and Lutris game manager: Fedora comes with the Steam client pre-installed. You can also install the Lutris game manager, which can be used to play games that are not available in the Steam store.


5. Garuda Linux

Garuda Linux is a rolling-release distribution that is based on Arch Linux. It aims to provide a user-friendly experience while offering a variety of desktop environments and a wide range of pre-installed software. Garuda Linux is known for its visually appealing design and performance optimization for gaming and multimedia tasks.


Hardware Compatibility: Decent compatibility, but being based on Arch Linux, it might require more user intervention for specific hardware.


Driver Support: Offers a variety of hardware drivers. Provides easy setup for gaming and multimedia-related drivers.


Target Audience: Enthusiasts, gamers, and users who want a visually appealing and performance-optimized experience.


Performance: Designed for performance, especially in gaming and multimedia tasks.


Features:

  • Customizability and gaming-friendly features: Garuda Linux is known for its customizability and gaming-friendly features. You can easily customize the look and feel of your system, and there are a number of gaming-related tools and features available.

  • Pre-installed with a variety of gaming applications and tools: Garuda Linux comes pre-installed with a variety of gaming applications and tools. This includes the Steam client, Lutris, and a number of performance-enhancing tools.

  • Performance-enhancing features: Garuda Linux has a number of performance-enhancing features, such as a CPU governor that can be tuned for gaming.


6. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a user-friendly Linux distribution based on Ubuntu (which itself is based on Debian). It comes with various desktop environments, but its flagship edition is Cinnamon, which offers a traditional desktop experience. Linux Mint focuses on providing a polished and easy-to-use interface while also including a variety of useful software and codecs out of the box.


Hardware Compatibility: Good compatibility, especially for mainstream hardware.


Driver Support: Provides a range of drivers, including proprietary graphics drivers. Focuses on ease of use.


Target Audience: Users transitioning from other operating systems, newcomers to Linux, and those who prefer a familiar interface.


Performance: Strives for a balanced performance while emphasizing user-friendly experience.


Features:

  • User-friendly interface: Linux Mint uses the Cinnamon desktop environment, which is known for its simplicity and ease of use. It also comes with a number of gaming-friendly features, such as a performance overlay and a game mode.

  • Variety of desktop environments: Linux Mint offers a variety of desktop environments to choose from, so you can find one that fits your needs and preferences.

  • Wide range of customization options: Linux Mint offers a wide range of customization options, so you can make your system look and feel the way you want it to.


7. Elementary OS

Elementary OS is designed with an emphasis on aesthetics and simplicity. It's built on Ubuntu and uses its own Pantheon desktop environment. The goal of Elementary OS is to provide a clean and elegant user interface while promoting a consistent user experience across its applications.


Hardware Compatibility: Decent compatibility, though it might require additional setup for certain hardware.


Driver Support: Focuses on open-source drivers. Aims for a clean and consistent user experience.


Target Audience: Users who appreciate a polished and modern design, particularly those who value aesthetics and simplicity.


Performance: Prioritizes an elegant user experience but also strives for good overall performance.


Features:

  • Simple and elegant design: Elementary OS is known for its simple and elegant design. It uses the Pantheon desktop environment, which is designed to be user-friendly and efficient.

  • Pantheon desktop environment: The Pantheon desktop environment is designed to be user-friendly and efficient. It is also very customizable, so you can make it look and feel the way you want it to.

  • No bloatware: Elementary OS does not come with any bloatware, so you can be sure that your system is running smoothly.


8. Solus OS

Solus OS is an independent, desktop-focused Linux distribution. It uses its own package manager and desktop environment called Budgie. Solus places a strong emphasis on desktop usability, performance, and software optimization. It's designed to provide a streamlined and user-friendly experience.


Hardware Compatibility: Good compatibility for a variety of hardware.


Driver Support: Provides drivers for mainstream hardware, with an emphasis on user-friendliness.


Target Audience: General users, enthusiasts, and those who value an independent, curated experience.


Performance: Focuses on performance optimization and usability, often providing a good experience out of the box.


Features:

  • Fast and lightweight: Solus OS is designed to be fast and lightweight. This makes it a good choice for older hardware or for systems with limited resources.

  • Budgie desktop environment: Solus OS uses the Budgie desktop environment, which is known for its simplicity and ease of use.

  • Rolling-release distro: Solus OS is a rolling-release distro, which means that it is constantly being updated with the latest software. This can be a good thing for gamers, as it means that they will always have access to the latest games


9. Zorin OS

Zorin OS is designed to be familiar to users coming from other operating systems, particularly Windows. It offers a range of user interface options that mimic the appearance of Windows or macOS, making the transition easier for new Linux users. Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu and comes with various pre-installed software.


Hardware Compatibility: Good compatibility for mainstream hardware.


Driver Support: Offers a range of drivers, focusing on providing a familiar interface for users transitioning from other OSes.


Target Audience: Users looking for an alternative to Windows or macOS, particularly those who prefer a similar UI.


Performance: Strives for a user-friendly experience with decent overall performance.


Features:

  • User-friendly for Windows users: Zorin OS is designed to be user-friendly for Windows users. It uses the Gnome desktop environment, which is similar to the Windows desktop environment.

  • Windows-like Gnome desktop environment: The Gnome desktop environment is similar to the Windows desktop environment, so it will be familiar to Windows users.

  • Similar to what Windows users are used to: Zorin OS is designed to be similar to what Windows users are used to. This includes the way that the applications are organized and the way that the system settings are configured.


10. SteamOS

SteamOS is a Linux distro developed by Valve Corporation specifically for gaming. It's designed to run on living room devices like gaming PCs and dedicated Steam Machines. SteamOS comes with the Steam gaming platform pre-installed, allowing users to play a wide range of games from the Steam library on their TV or monitor.


Hardware Compatibility: Designed for gaming PCs and living room devices. Compatibility might vary based on gaming hardware.


Driver Support: Optimized for gaming with Nvidia graphics cards. Focuses on supporting gaming-related drivers.


Target Audience: Gamers who want a dedicated gaming OS for their gaming PC or Steam Machine.


Performance: Prioritizes gaming performance, with an interface designed for the living room gaming experience.


Features:

  • Optimized for gaming: SteamOS is specifically designed for gaming. It uses the Steam client as its default desktop environment and comes with a number of gaming-related features.

  • Comes with all the necessary software pre-installed: SteamOS comes with all the necessary software pre-installed, so you can start gaming right away.

  • Easy to use: SteamOS is easy to use, even for people who are not familiar with Linux.


Conclusion

In Linux gaming, the quest for the best distribution to match your gaming desires comes down to a careful balance of hardware compatibility, driver support, user experience, and performance optimization. Each of the distros we've explored brings its unique strengths to the table, tailored to different user profiles and preferences.

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