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7 Best Linux Distro For Gaming In 2018

best linux distro for gaming

Want to play games on your Linux computer? That’s great, but first you need the best Linux OS for gaming. Today, there are various Linux distros that are tailored specifically for avid gamers. In addition to built-in drivers for powerful gaming graphics, some come bundled with ready-to-play games.

Some time ago Linux was nothing more than a command line based operating system. It was only good for calculations and scientific purposes. But today it’s a very versatile operating system that’s found on just about all types of devices, from desktops to laptops, smartphones and Chromeboxes.

Gamers have not been left behind. Years ago gaming on Linux was a pipe dream, but today its one of the most stable operating systems for gaming. With hardware and support improving each year, you can bet that there are Linux distros that support pretty much every game you can think of.

What Is The Best Linux Distro For Gaming

There are well over 200 hundred Linux distros, each with a different set of mantras. Those made specifically for gaming are not so many, not because Linux users are not fans of gaming, but rather because virtually all modern Linux distros support every gaming graphics card. As such you can easily convert your normal Linux machine to a powerful gaming computer.

That said, some special edition distros continue to stand out in the field of gaming because they are made specifically for that. In addition to offering games right off the bat, they allow you to install some more for your ultimate entertainment. They come equipped with everything you need from drivers, software, emulators etc.

So, with that in mind, which is the best Linux OS for gaming?

We have picked the top 7 from gaming distros that are common and perform excellently.

Steam OS

steam os

SteamOS always gets the top spot on virtually all reviews of the best Linux OS for gaming. Reason? It’s designed with avid gamers in mind. No wonder it’s the most popular and undoubtedly the best Linux distro for gaming.

Created by Valve Corporation (the creators of Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead etc.), SteamOS is the go-to Linux for die-hard fans of Steam Games. In fact, if you have this OS you can only download games from Steam Store. Although the distro is based on Debian, it doesn’t allow you to download stuff from Debian Package Manager despite its support for Debian Packaging Tool APT.

That’s a bit of a bummer if you want to download games from other stores. On the upside, you can download literally any game that’s available on Steam Store – and those are so many modern games.

steam os screenshot

Steam comes with its custom GNOME desktop environment.It is easily accessible and you can control it by using your keyboard or Joystick. It supports different GPU and Gamepad. So, forget about finding and installing drivers.

Got Power?

A common feature of all gaming distros, but you’ll find that SteamOS needs a little more of everything; whether it’s RAM, disk space, graphics card or any other gaming resource. That too tends to be a buzz kill especially for gamers who don’t have the budget for a high-end computer.

Still, SteamOS is the champ of Linux gaming. Built with a custom GNOME desktop environment, this distro comes pre-installed with Steam for easy access to games. As a gaming OS, it is fully compatible with various keyboards/joysticks, graphics cards and GPUs so you don’t have to worry about finding and installing drivers.

Although, by default, SteamOS comes pre-installed with Steam only, you can activate its desktop mode and get a full-feature desktop OS that supports other applications besides games. That’s a handy option for gamers who don’t have a dedicated computer for gaming.

Steam OS At A Glance

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
Debian x86/x64 GNOME .deb

Steam OS System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 4GB RAM or more
  • 2.0GHz or faster processor (64-bit, quad core processor recommended)
  • 80GB HDD space or more (200GB recommended)
  • 4GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel HD graphics or AMD Radeon 8500 or a later graphics card (for Steam Games)
  • UEFI firmware supported motherboard (recommended)
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • High-performance OS that supports high-end games
  • Comes pre-installed with Steam Store for easy access to games
  • Steam Store offers a huge collection of games
  • Supports various CPUs and GPUs
  • Compatible with different models of gamepads/joysticks
  • Beautiful and soothing user interface

Cons

  • Requires high-end hardware to install and run
  • Supports Steam games only

 

Play Linux

play linux

If you are looking for a simple yet effective Linux distro for gaming then Play Linux should probably be on top of your list. Although it was discontinued, this OS is still available for download. But of course there won’t be any new updates or additions to its existing functionality.

So what puts Play Linux among the best Linux OS for gaming?

For starters it combines the simple, easy-to-use and lightweight design of the Nebula Desktop Environment with the reliability of Debian. Combined, the two ensure that Play Linux runs smoothly even when used on low to mid-range computers.

play linux screenshot

Despite being a gaming OS, Play Linux is surprisingly resource efficient. With just 1GB of RAM and 10GB of hard disk space you can install and use this distro – provided your computer has a 2GHz or faster processor. It’s designed to detect your CPU’s load and automatically disable unnecessary processes (such as composite windows manager) temporarily when you are gaming.

If that’s not enough to convince you then perhaps the customizable nature of Nebula will. In fact Play Linux comes with a customizer application that offers extensive control over how the OS looks and feels. Besides that, it comes pre-installed with Steam to make it easier for you to access games on the platform.

Even More

Perhaps the one feature that makes Play Linux the best Linux OS for gaming is its AutoGPU installer. It automatically installs and configures drivers of your graphics cards so that you don’t waste your time doing it yourself.

While it’s primarily a gaming OS, Play Linux has a desktop mode as well. When activated, the desktop mode lets you use your machine as an ordinary computer (not a gaming one). To make that easier it comes pre-installed with File Manager, Chromium Browser and Package Manager for installing more applications.

Play Linux At A Glance

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
Debian x86/x64 Nebula .deb

Play Linux System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 1GB RAM or more (2GB recommended)
  • 2.0GHz or faster processor (64-bit, dual core processor recommended)
  • 10GB HDD space or more (20GB recommended)
  • 4GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel HD graphics or AMD Radeon 8500 or a later graphics card (for Steam Games)
  • Intel/Nvidia/AMD Graphics Card (for regular Linux games)
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Beautiful, simple and easy to use interface
  • Comes pre-installed with Steam Chromium Browser and other applications
  • Also includes PlayOnLinux (for running Windows games)
  • AutoGPU feature installs drivers of graphics cards automatically
  • Can be used as desktop operating system
  • Lightweight distro that requires minimal resources

Cons

  • Not for hardcore gamers
  • Was discontinued, so no new updates or features

Game Drift Linux
game drift linux

Game Drift Linux is a new and feature rich Linux gaming distro. It is one if the best Linux distro for gaming.

Why?

game drift linux desktop

Game Drift Linux is based on Ubuntu. The beauty of that is that you can easily install any Ubuntu-based games like SuperTuxKart, Torcs, Speed Dreams etc. But perhaps the best part is that it supports CrossOver.

CrossOver is a Windows emulator for Linux (like Wine). With it you can easily install and play more than 1200 popular Windows games on Game Drift; from Need for Speed to Battlefield 3 and even Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Alongside CrossOver, Game Drift has its own Game Store where you can download all the best and popular Linux-compatible games. The only problem is that the store doesn’t have a big collection of games. But it’s still updated regularly, so at any given time you will find something to pick your interest, particularly if you are a beginner or intermediate gamer.

Despite those few drawbacks, Game drift gets a spot as the best Linux OS for gaming because it’s fully optimized to give the best gaming experience. You get out-of-box support for both Linux and Windows games.

Game Drift Linux At A Glance

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
Ubuntu (LTS) x86/x64 MATE .deb

Game Drift Linux System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 1GB RAM or more (2GB recommended)
  • 2.0GHz or faster processor (64-bit, dual core processor recommended)
  • 4GB HDD space or more (15GB recommended)
  • 4GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel HD graphics or AMD Radeon 8500 or a later graphics card (for Windows Games)
  • Intel/Nvidia/AMD Graphics Card (for regular Linux games)
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Small, fast and simple Llinux distro
  • Supports an extensive number of Ubuntu and Linux games
  • Comes with CrossOver for easy installation and playing of popular Windows games
  • 3D video drivers can install on Game Drift easily
  • Can be install either on hard disk or USB storage
  • Comes with a dedicated Game Store for downloading Linux games

Cons

  • CrossOver is only free for 30 days after which you have to pay for premium games
  • Doesn’t have the best user interface

 

Sparky Linux Gameover Edition

sparky linux

SparkyLinux Gameover Edition is a Debian-based distro that’s geared towards gaming. It uses a basic LXDE setup, and as such, supports a variety of handy applications for gamers. In fact the distro comes pre-installed with several Linux games.

More importantly, it has Steam, Wine and PlayOnLinux – all built in the OS. That means it’s ready to download and install games from all those platforms right off the box. Whether you want to play PC games or Linux-compatible games, SparkyLinux (combined with the mentioned platforms) supports them.

sparky linux gameover edition desktop

It also comes with APTus Gamer; a special feature that lets you install various emulators, consoles and other tools that are necessary for the ultimate gaming experience. They include Atari800, DOSBox, DOSEMU, MAME, ePSXe, PCSX, VisualBoyAdvance, PPSSPP, DeSmuME, ZSNES etc.

In terms of usability, SparkyLinux is a pretty straightforward Linux distro. That’s one of the reasons why some users call it the best Linux OS for gaming. Besides providing a utility for installing drivers, it has a simple-to-use interface. You will find the standard LXDE panel – all with a menu – at the bottom.

The right hand side contains a Conky interface that displays useful metrics. You can use them to know how the computer is performing when you’re gaming. At that time you will probably need to keep track of its memory and CPU usage, both of which are displayed alongside other metrics.

Take Note

While you can run SparkyLinux on a USB, you won’t be able to enjoy its full features. But if you install it you will be able to unlock its full potential in gaming. Also noteworthy is that the OS is fairly economical on resources (especially RAM and processing power) and can run on your older computer.

Sparky Linux Gameover Edition At A Glance

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
Debian x86/x64 LXDE .deb

Sparky Linux Gameover Edition System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 256MB RAM or more (1GB recommended)
  • 2.0GHz or faster processor (64-bit recommended)
  • 20GB HDD space or more (30GB recommended)
  • 16GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel 4500 Graphics/AMD Radeon 4500 or a later graphics card
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons of SprarkLinux

Pros

  • Stable And Rock Solid
  • Comes pre-installed with games
  • Also comes with Steam, Wine, and PlayOnLinux for adding more games
  • Features Sparky APTus Gamer for installing emulators, consoles and gaming tools
  • It’s a stable and solid distro

Cons

  • Slightly slower than other gaming distros

 

Fedora Games Spin

fedora games spin

Fedora Games Spin brings a colossal collection of games to your fingertips, literally. It comes with over 2,100 games already pre-installed for you to play right off the bat. They include Battle for Wesnoth, FreeCiv, Scorched 3D, Super TuxKart and Nethack.

While you won’t get every game in this OS, Fedora try to include the best from each category, ranging from adventure, strategy, arcade, action and many other categories. Overall, if you enjoy using Fedora or the XFCE desktop environment then this OS would be ideal for you.

Most reviews don’t rate Fedora Games Spin as the best Linux OS for gaming. The reason behind that is because it doesn’t come pre-installed with Steam, Wine or Play on Linux. Unless you download and install them using a software repository (using RPM or its default Package Manager), you will have limited access to some Linux games and you won’t be able to play any Windows-compatible games.

fedora games spin screenshot

The good news is that it has the YumEx application. This application is synonymous with Fedora, and in addition to acting as a graphical user interface (GUI) for the Yum package manager, it also lets you search and install games from repositories. So it might not be Steam or Wine or Play on Linux but it will still give you a more than decent access to Linux games.

Want to know if your computer can run Fedora Games Spin comfortably? Check out the section on hardware requirements below.

Fedora Games Spin At A Glance

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
Fedora x86/x64 XFCE .rpm

Fedora Games Spin System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 1GB RAM or more (2GB recommended)
  • 2.0GHz or faster processor (64-bit recommended)
  • 10GB HDD space or more (20GB recommended)
  • 8GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel/Nvidia/AMD Graphics Card
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • A great and reliable OS for Fedora lovers
  • Comes pre-installed with over 2100 Linux games
  • Can be run from the disk without installation
  • Fast and lightweight than the Fedora desktop version

Cons

  • Not for intermediate and avid gamers
  • Resource-intense games may not run properly

 

Lakka OS

lakka linux

Are you a Retrogame or Arcade game lover? Or perhaps you enjoy playing console games on your Linux computer?

If so then Lakka is the best Linux OS for you. Usually, if you want to play console games on Linux you have to download and install an emulator for that console.

For example, if you are an avid fan of PlayStation (PS) and you want to play PS games on Linux you have to download and install a PS emulator. Unfortunately, more often than not such emulators either end up crashing, fail to perform well or both.

But with Lakka you won’t have to worry about any of that.

It comes pre-installed with emulators for various consoles of retro and arcade games, ranging from PlayStation to 3DO, SNES, Arcade, Neo Geo Pocket, Atari and Game Boy just to name a few.

lakka os screenshot

That is the best thing about Lakka. Equally important is that this OS supports a wide range of hardware devices including computers, Raspberry Pi, CuBoxi, HummingBoard, UDOO, Odroid C1, Odroid-XU3/4, WeTek Play, Banana Pi, Cubie board, Cubie board 2 and CubicTruck. So when you are not playing games on your Linux computer you can still install Lakka on any other compatible device and enjoy your retro and arcade games.

Lakka also has others different features.If we compare it with RetroPi, Lakka support Desktop Computers easily. It also has automatic support for joysticks.

Overall, Lakka is a very nice OS that bundles almost all popular console emulators in one package. It also brings additional features like the ability to capture and save screenshots.

Lakka Linux At A Glance 

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
OpenELEC x86/x64/ARM RetroArch N/A

Lakka Linux System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 512MB RAM or more (1GB recommended)
  • 1.0GHz or faster processor
  • 1GB HDD space or more (10GB recommended)
  • 4GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel 4500, Nvidia Quadro 3100M or a newer graphics card (for HD games only)
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons of Lakka

Pros

  • Very lightweight and requires minimal resources
  • Has a beautiful and intuitive user interface
  • It’s an all in one console emulator
  • Based On OpenELEC, which makes it solid and stable
  • Simple and straightforward to configure
  • Multi-hardware support
  • Comes with automatic joystick configuration
  • Also includes automatic metadata scraper

Cons

  • Only supports console (NES,SEGA,PlayStation,N64 etc.) games

 

Ubuntu Game Pack

ubuntu game pack

Love Ubuntu and want to play games on it?

Ubuntu Game Pack makes the best Linux OS for gaming for you. It’s not the default Ubuntu. Instead it’s a distro based on Ubuntu. A complete Ubuntu gaming solution. It comes with all of the Windows and Linux-Based games you need.

While combining the default Ubuntu with repositories like Steam, Play on Linux and Wine is an option, you won’t get the best experience, even when playing the most resource-efficient games. That because the default Ubuntu is not really optimized for gaming.

Ubuntu GamePack, on the other hand, is designed specifically with gamers in mind. It comes with many Linux and Windows games already pre-installed. It also includes Steam, so you won’t have any trouble playing Steam games. That’s an advantage for gamers who are crazy about Linux games.

ubuntu game pack screenshot

If you are more thrilled by Windows games you will be glad to know that Ubuntu GamePack comes with Lutris, Wine and PlayOnLinux. Lutris is perhaps the most valued by many users because it features the Ubuntu Game Pack which allows you to easily manage your Windows Games, Linux Games, Steam Games, Console Games and many more. That said, all these repositories work to bring a colossal collection of games to your Ubuntu GamePack distro.

Also bundled in the OS are Adobe Flash and Oracle Java, both of which allow you to play a variety of online games without any hassle. Because of its MATE desktop environment, you can use Ubuntu GamePack as an ordinary desktop operating system.

It’s simple and straightforward to configure the desktop mode. In that mode you can install and run all your regular desktop applications.

Ubuntu Game Pack At A Glance

Logo Based On Architecture Desktop Environment Package Manager
Ubuntu x86/x64 Unity .deb

Ubuntu Game Pack System Requirments (From Official Source)

  • 2GB RAM or more (4GB recommended)
  • 2.0GHz or faster processor (64-bit, dual core recommended)
  • 20GB HDD space or more
  • 4GB Pendrive or USB drive or DVD-RW for installation
  • Intel, NVIDIA or AMD graphics card (for regular games)
  • Wired or wireless internet connection for installing applications

Pros And Cons of Ubuntu GamePack

Pros

  • Based on Ubuntu and that makes it very stable
  • Has built-in Steam, Wine, Play on Linux and Lutris repositories
  • Supports over 5849 games (according to their website)
  • Comes pre-installed with Adobe Flash and Oracle Java for playing online games

Cons

  • Slightly slower than other Linux distros for gaming

 

At the End…

Although I tried to include as many diverse distros as possible, its practically impossible to have all the good distros in one article. Still, the 7 that I have picked are the very best in one way or another.

Note: If you want the best Linux distro for your Laptop, please check this guide 7 Best Linux Distro For Your Laptop In 2018

And also, check this guide if you want to secure yourself properly on the Web. >>>Click Here<<<

Are you an avid gamer using Linux? Which distro works best for you? Talk to us and I’ll try to include as many distros as possible in my next articles. Feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions and we will answer as many as possible.

Stay tuned With How To Use Linux.


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Arief JR
Guest

Wow this good article, really help. This for installing on my VM, I’m using Slackware.

Asaduzzaman Abir
Guest

Thanks For Your Comment Arief

Randall
Guest
Randall

Most people can’t afford a pc that can run the Lakka OS.
According to the above article, it requires 512 GB of ram.

Probably cost around $50,000.

The above 512 GB is a type is it not?

Asaduzzaman Abir
Guest

Thanks for your valuable comment Randall.That was a mistake.We have fixed it.

Albedo
Guest
Albedo

one day youll look back and say “it needs 32 TB of RAM and I have 16″… I once thought 64 MB was a big deal…

Viktor King
Guest
Viktor King

I remember when 16MB of RAM was a big deal.
“Dude! I can load a map in Duke Nukem 3D and the music doesn’t skip!”

chris
Guest
chris

i’ve run lakka on a 1st gen atom based pc with 2gb of ram so 512 gb of ram is obviously a typo

billy
Guest
billy

idk where you got the 512gb when its 512mb to play most games that it can run becuse it plays olde games at most mosst you need for it is 4 and i ran it on my olde xp pc with 1gb and made it into a great game console still uses the olde cat5 cables the dust got cleaned out the olde 200mb video card still works well for most games i play on it

Lou McPou
Guest

I know that this is old, but “The above 512 GB is a type is it not” is a fucking gem. A prime example of irony, and it happened to the perfect type of person. The type of person that pretends that a Linux distro actually requires 512GB of motherfucking ram. AKA, a vapid fucking retard.

César Augusto Neves
Guest
César Augusto Neves

Great article. I understand it’s a list of your best Linux gaming distros, but there is also a PuppyArcade at http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm designed and preconfigured for emulation on older (or newer) machines. It’s actually a very complete emulation distro including everything from Atari 2600 to PS2 and PSP, with a good navigation interface (ROM Loader – capable of downloading front covers and data info of games). I’m from Brazil, and until recently, I was working in a public school with some very old computers (Pentiun 4, 256MB RAM, 10GB HD). The school Principal claimed the computer were useless and should go… Read more »

Asaduzzaman Abir
Guest

Thanks for the constructive comment.I will try to add PuppyArcade and GroovyArcade to another post.

chris
Guest
chris

I love Puppy Linux! i went through college starting in 08 using a very old ibm laptop (2000) with puppy installed just as a test to see if i could do everything that needed to get done on a laptop that was very outdated. i was able to get all my work done easily and was also able to play tons of older games using an emulator. it was a fun experience and one of my first real experiences with linux and really helped cement my love for using linux to revive old hardware

VAH
Guest
VAH

PUPPY ARCADE 11 is the best for old pc and laptop 2nd SLACKOS !!! baby !

Nick F
Guest
Nick F

I would of thought Zorin would of been on here as it has steam, wine and play on Linux. it is also aimed at new comers to Linux with a theme selector for those coming from either windows or mac.

chris
Guest
chris

I’m pumped to see articles like this! i’ve been into gaming on Linux for over a decade now and always had to do my own research to find out what works best. this article was very informative and helpful and i cant wait to try some gaming distros that i never heard of. well done!

Ssgt McMullen
Guest
Ssgt McMullen

i well i have in planning the idea to dual boot with windows 10 pro 64 bit alongside a linux distro for testing purposes. after reading this article, which i found exceptional by the way, i downloaded Ubuntu and Sparky. ill probably go with ubuntu. thank you for this all in one guide. saved me a ton of research.

Amos
Guest
Amos

is ubuntu game pack 64 bit??

Andrè Pietroschek
Guest

Thank you. I had been away from Linux since PCLinux OS 2011. It is nice to know and I was especially happy about the ‘Auto GPU’, which is a concept worthy to become far-spread, imo.

THR
Guest

Nice list, though it needs updating.

Peter John
Guest

I found this list very interesting. You should keep update this because readers like me are bookmarking and sharing with friends. I read some comments below and same updates are expected.

corbin
Guest
corbin

Awesome collection, it’s good to see research and pros & cons put together like this… Before I read this article I installed sparky linux (gameon sounds better), but on startup there was a confusing request that gave me security concerns… If this article is going to be updated, “voyager gs” looks good. It use to be buried on one of there back pages, now there is a link on the front page (starts out french, choose your language on the next page). The graphic design is modern and it has “Steam – Steam login; Wine-Staging 2.11; winetricks – Gnome Twitch;… Read more »

Darras
Guest
Darras

Thank you – I have struggled with all this Linux stuff which frustrates me because I so want to rid myself of the Microsoft shackles!
I will give a couple of these options a go.