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The best Linux distribution for gaming in 2023

By - | Views: 70,936

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 There's a lot of articles out there recommending really random and outdated distributions in lists too, so here's the real thing.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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
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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.
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119 comments
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Minux 3 Dec, 2022
I agree as some have said about using Pop!_OS over Ubuntu. In fact I used to recommend Ubuntu. I didn't use to see what others did about Pop, in my case it was usually a worse experience.

After some years, for me, it's been a point where Pop surpassed Ubuntu in many ways. Specially in the gaming part. Top-notch installation, fast and polished, non bloated.

I'm not usually a fan of a company, but System76 really makes me feel different about it. Now I find myself recommending Pop!_OS for Linux newcomers.

To conclude, I'm now jumping between Pop and Arch constantly, but Pop makes it look so easy most of the time.

Note that this is just a humble opinion from a guy who tries to be as humble as he can. :)


Last edited by Minux on 3 December 2022 at 12:42 pm UTC
twinsonian 3 Dec, 2022
Good article. It is difficult for many of us to differentiate our personal preferences or experiences with use cases and other perspectives. In fact, I will be guilty of it too:

Ubuntu and derivatives are currently the best and I look forward to being able to install them on the Steam Deck at some point. I enjoy Kubuntu and Mint for most of my machines.

This isnt to say that all of the other loved distros arent great but many of the papercuts associated with using them means they are great for the people that they fit for. For a general audience the Ubuntu line just checks the most boxes.
omeganebula 3 Dec, 2022
Quoting: pleasereadthemanualI researched this at the time but could not find a clear-cut answer. See, for example, this page on the End Software Patents wiki: https://wiki.endsoftwarepatents.org/wiki/Software_patents_exist_in_Europe,_kinda

And this page: https://wiki.endsoftwarepatents.org/wiki/Do_software_patents_exist_in_my_area

Quoting: endsoftwarepatentsFor example, the European Patent Office grants software patents. Courts in Germany have mostly rejected them, but courts in the UK have upheld some. This uncertainty reduces the problem: although there are 70,000 EPO granted software patents, the patent holders rarely go to court because they're afraid their patent will be invalidated.

This doesn't prevent the harm. Software patent holders in the EU can still threaten software developers, and they can demand sums of money. If the victim doesn't have enough money to defend themselves in court, then the patent holder might "win" and thus get money or market control even though their patent is probably invalid.

For France specifically, it's listed as part of a patent pool for H.264/AVC: https://web.archive.org/web/20110114054025/http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/AVC/Pages/PatentList.aspx
Indeed, it's not black and white in theory, but in practice I have never seen any company be concerned about software patents. The EU is incompetent as always, but software patent lawsuits are usually dismissed with one or two exceptions, if they occur at all, which is why I simplified my previous comment. In the 2000s, for example, Europe was flooded with unlicensed MP3 players imported from China. MPEG LA didn't even try to ban them and every business was able to sell them legally.
However, the situation regarding design protection and other patents is just as terrible as in the US, for example Apple has used these "protections" to ban devices in Europe after failing to do anything with software patents.
Deleted_User 5 Dec, 2022
In conclusion the opinions here in the forum reflect the usage of distros as steam states (nov 2022):

Ubuntu 22.04.1 LTS 64 bit
0.16%

"Arch Linux" 64 bit
0.14%

"Manjaro Linux" 64 bit
0.10%

Linux Mint 21 64 bit
0.06%


Last edited by Deleted_User on 5 December 2022 at 8:48 am UTC
WayneJetSki 5 Dec, 2022
I liked Ubuntu 22.04 but after a couple months I couldnt apply updates anymore because of some conflict or whatever. I am slightly more advanced than a novice Linux user, but I couldnt figure out how to correct that so, so I was forced to just reinstalled another Linux OS (tried popOS) to wipe away the problems.

Ubuntu is one of the best OSs' that I have used, but Ubuntu also has a long way to go if I was already running into issues of being able to install important security updates after a couple months. I did not have anything exotic installed, just Steam and some other programs like VLC and chrome.

I am thinking of going back to Ubuntu after using popOS for a bit. Hopefully the issue I ran into with get resolved around February when Ubuntu 22.04.2 comes out.


Last edited by WayneJetSki on 5 December 2022 at 4:28 pm UTC
citral 5 Dec, 2022
Well pop! os is fairly heavyweight, so it's not ideal as you'd want as much resource as possible for gaming usually. That said, nowadays the GPU is usually the bottleneck (if not trying to run without vsync which I don't understand why people do) so even if some background stuff use a bit of cpu it's not the end of the world.

Where it really shines is on dual Nvidia + Intel/AMD GPU laptops. There's simply no other distribution that "just works" out of the box. One can make it work, but even for a veteran like me it's a major pain in the b***

Also for people who use cuda, it's perfect. It's extremely dev friendly.

If you're not concerned by this scenarii, I think a debian based distribution makes more sense as they're lighter on resources, although if your hardware is recent I'd really recommend going rolling distro, such as debian testing or unstable, cause perf improves very frequently at the moment
Purple Library Guy 5 Dec, 2022
Quoting: citralIf you're not concerned by this scenarii, I think a debian based distribution makes more sense as they're lighter on resources
Technically, Pop!OS is a debian based distribution.
denyasis 6 Dec, 2022
This is very the most respectful "distro-war" thread I've ever seen in my life.

YAY
rustigsmed 6 Dec, 2022
yes have to agree, although I would go Kubuntu rather than ubuntu, and would probably suggest Pop!_OS if nVidia is involved and you were ok with the de.
CatKiller 6 Dec, 2022
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Quoting: rustigsmedyes have to agree, although I would go Kubuntu rather than ubuntu, and would probably suggest Pop!_OS if nVidia is involved and you were ok with the de.
The only Nvidia advantage for Pop is if your GPU/monitor combination means that the open source nouveau can't set the resolution properly (the black screen with the blinking cursor - for which there's a fix, but it is something that one would have to specifically learn about), which isn't all combinations and will hopefully become fewer as nouveau improves and the open source module from Nvidia matures.

Every modern distro can install the proprietary Nvidia driver as part of the installation process (just like Pop does), they just don't use the proprietary Nvidia driver in the installer environment (which Pop does).

Once the distro is installed, it's all the same.


Last edited by CatKiller on 6 December 2022 at 12:52 pm UTC
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