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The best Linux distribution for gaming in 2023

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Back in 2020 I pointed out what were the best Linux distributions for gaming, so here's the current state and what you should go for in 2023.

The thing is: not a lot has changed since my last article. Linux is still a minefield of many different distributions for people, and it can be very confusing. There's a lot of articles out there recommending really random and outdated distributions in lists too, so here's the real thing.

Without getting bogged down into packaging issues, and just giving you the basics of "this will work just fine" — go and install Ubuntu. People will (and I expect them to) argue for others, and people are free to, but a lot of people suggest other distributions for the wrong reasons. Manjaro has too many problems both technical and management, Arch can and will break things if you don't know exactly what you're doing, Fedora is messy with NVIDIA drivers and SELinux on Fedora is a nuisance and so on. Ubuntu is still to this day, the most simple distribution of Linux to install and get gaming.

Ubuntu isn't perfect by a long shot, but it remains as my number 1 choice to suggest to people both new and old to get into Linux and get gaming. It's one of the most used on desktop by any statistic you can find, which also means troubleshooting it is generally easier too.

With the Ubuntu LTS (long term support) releases, you also get support for at least 5 years, so you don't have the hassle and potential breakage of major system internal updates for quite a long time.

Valve's own stats show Ubuntu as one of the most popular too and it has been the same since Steam came to Linux.

As a user of Fedora myself, take it from me if you're in any way new to Linux: just go with Ubuntu. If you ever decide you "really know Linux now", then you can think about using something else. Don't make it difficult for yourself.

How might this change in future?

Well, Valve are here with the Steam Deck and SteamOS. Eventually, Valve will release SteamOS 3 so anyone can download it and install it. That might end up being a good pick, but right now it's not on the table as it's not released and anyone making their own version of it (like HoloISO and others) are too small to recommend serious use of them.

If you need help and support, specifically for Linux and also Steam Deck gaming, you can try asking in our Forum, Discord, IRC and Telegram.

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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Arehandoro Dec 1, 2022
Hello everyone, come on in, I'm just getting the popcorn ready.
Tchey Dec 1, 2022
I’m not a tech guy, really just a "basic+" user. I’m on Linux just as i was on Windows before. I click it works, i do very small tuning here and there, and basically that’s it.

I used to be on Ubuntu, but for the last 5 years or so, i’m on Manjaro, and i find it very enough for everything, and i’ve had less issues overall.

But... That may simply be because Linux itself is improving, and maybe if i was on Ubuntu my feeling would be the same : less and less issues.
Kithop Dec 1, 2022
I was honestly kind of expecting the answer to be something like:

'Whatever you're already using and happy/comfortable with' - but that only really holds true if you're talking about managed things like Steam and Lutris that do the vast majority of the heavy lifting for you (e.g the Steam Runtime based off of Ubuntu that everything seems to run against).

There are some really annoying things about Ubuntu for totally new-to-Linux users. Most people have interacted with Windows machines or Macs, and Gnome 3 might be a little hard to adjust to for them; my recommendation there would be the Kubuntu or Xubuntu spins (defaulting to KDE Plasma and Xfce respectively) for a more 'familiar' default UI. (And of course you can add and change that from any starting point; no need to reinstall because you want to use something different.)

The situation with snaps is also frustrating once you start getting into things, but *most* new users shouldn't be raging at Canonical just yet. If you've learned enough to start hating snaps (and systemd... and Pulseaudio...) and start hunting for alternatives without them, congrats! You're not the target audience for this article any more. ;p

Once you dive into the rabbit hole of non-Steam ports, though, yeah - the Ubuntu repos are pretty good. PPAs fill the gap beyond that in the same way the AUR does for Arch (& derivatives). You may appreciate a lot of software being built as and offering .deb files to install, too.

Ubuntu's not necessarily the 'best' distro, the most open, etc., but it's definitely got a lock on 'good enough to get started with'.

Just... be prepared to want to switch in a couple years as you learn and grow. :)
fagnerln Dec 1, 2022
I don't use Ubuntu for years but I'm always following the development and install it to mess a bit and then return to OpenSUSE or Fedora.

But I agree with you, Ubuntu is a safer choice as it simply work.

And Steam Snap sounds interesting, looks like it has lower performance currently, but if they manage to make it on par, it'll be great as it will use the "Oibaf" Mesa, while the OS can stay on stable version.
Lofty Dec 1, 2022
Or Linux Mint, which is kind of like Ubuntu but with a sane Desktop
Abedsbrother Dec 1, 2022
Usually run RebornOS (Arch) but am currently preparing to give Nobara a try. As time has passed, am less interested in cutting edge and more interested in stability (being a Patient Gamer helps).
dorron Dec 1, 2022
Quoting: LoftyOr Linux Mint, which is kind of like Ubuntu but with a sane Desktop
CatKiller Dec 1, 2022
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I'm not going to argue for a different distro - the reasons for recommending Ubuntu (sensible release cadence, well-supported, lots of users so lots of available information) are exactly right - but I will suggest a different flavour of Ubuntu since the Ubuntu website does a terrible job of letting people know that that's a thing that exists. The KDE flavour (Kubuntu is going to seem more familiar to a new user coming from Windows than vanilla Ubuntu's Gnome. It's all the same software and updates, but using the KDE Plasma desktop environment (like the Deck does) rather than the Gnome desktop environment.
Mohandevir Dec 1, 2022
No Pop_OS!?
Bumadar Dec 1, 2022
If your an nvidia user I agree, it works better out of the box on them.
If your an amd user then I feel there are more option as you can totally avoid closed source drivers.
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