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The best Linux distribution for gaming in 2023

By - | Views: 72,972

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 There's a lot of articles out there recommending really random and outdated distributions in lists too, so here's the real thing.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 and find me on Mastodon.
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119 comments
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samurro 6 Dec, 2022
The obvious answer is Arch. Not even joking. If you are pleb like me, go with Manjaro. But everything apart from Arch for gaming is not "best".

Valve agrees.
wvstolzing 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: samurroThe obvious answer is Arch. Not even joking. If you are pleb like me, go with Manjaro. But everything apart from Arch for gaming is not "best".

Valve agrees.

Valve agreed that it was the best for them to base their own distro on, not the best to use at home as regular users.
CatKiller 6 Dec, 2022
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Quoting: samurroValve agrees.
Valve feel that using Arch as a starting point for their own distro is better than waiting for Debian's package approval process to conclude. You aren't making your own distro, and you aren't waiting for Debian to pick up your upstream changes. Joking or not, your "answer" is nonsense.

By your logic, everything apart from Gentoo for non-technical use is not "best". Google agrees.
Purple Library Guy 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: samurroThe obvious answer is Arch. Not even joking. If you are pleb like me, go with Manjaro. But everything apart from Arch for gaming is not "best".

Valve agrees.
Joining the chorus here, Valve agrees that you should take a snapshot of Arch, test it for a few months, and then use it while refusing Arch's updates so you don't break your system. Not sure that constitutes a vote of confidence in how ordinary people use Arch.
samurro 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: wvstolzing
Quoting: samurroThe obvious answer is Arch. Not even joking. If you are pleb like me, go with Manjaro. But everything apart from Arch for gaming is not "best".

Valve agrees.

Valve agreed that it was the best for them to base their own distro on, not the best to use at home as regular users.

Curious, whats wrong with Arch-based distros for home users?


Last edited by samurro on 6 December 2022 at 8:38 pm UTC
citral 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: CatKiller
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.

Err no, the big advantage of pop is if you have an integrated graphics card (say Intel) PLUS a discrete Nvidia GPU. With pop you can use it like you would on win (proprietary Nvidia drivers included) : use one, the other, or both at the same time, and mix and match with screens over dp, HDMI, USB-C etc. Everything works out of the box with a nice switch on the desktop if you want to say disable the discrete GPU to save battery.

Good luck with any other distribution, been there done that (eventually sold the laptop and sweared never again tbh)


Last edited by citral on 6 December 2022 at 8:40 pm UTC
sarmad 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: citral
Quoting: CatKiller
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.

Err no, the big advantage of pop is if you have an integrated graphics card (say Intel) PLUS a discrete Nvidia GPU. With pop you can use it like you would on win (proprietary Nvidia drivers included) : use one, the other, or both at the same time, and mix and match with screens over dp, HDMI, USB-C etc. Everything works out of the box with a nice switch on the desktop if you want to say disable the discrete GPU to save battery.

Good luck with any other distribution, been there done that (eventually sold the laptop and sweared never again tbh)

Ubuntu handles it the same way, and I'm guessing most of what Pop provides in terms of nVidia is actually inherited from Ubuntu. The only thing Pop adds is the ability to switch the GPU from the Gnome main menu whereas in Ubuntu you have do it from the nVidia control panel.

The best experience with nVidia I've had is with my current MSI GS66 laptop, which has the internal screen and the display port both connected to the iGPU rather than the dGPU, so the dGPU is only used when a game is running and only renders to back buffers. This is the only way to have a flawless experience with hybrid GPUs on Linux.
Purple Library Guy 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: samurro
Quoting: wvstolzing
Quoting: samurroThe obvious answer is Arch. Not even joking. If you are pleb like me, go with Manjaro. But everything apart from Arch for gaming is not "best".

Valve agrees.

Valve agreed that it was the best for them to base their own distro on, not the best to use at home as regular users.

Curious, whats wrong with Arch-based distros for home users?
Most of the time when I see Arch's boosters talk about Arch, they say it's hard work to install but by the time you manage it you understand your system far better and have more fine-grained control over it.
IMO exactly that disqualifies it for the average home user. It's a good thing to exist, for people who want to understand their system better. But most people don't, they want easy and user friendly and just working.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy on 6 December 2022 at 10:44 pm UTC
citral 6 Dec, 2022
Quoting: sarmad
Quoting: citral
Quoting: CatKiller
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.

Err no, the big advantage of pop is if you have an integrated graphics card (say Intel) PLUS a discrete Nvidia GPU. With pop you can use it like you would on win (proprietary Nvidia drivers included) : use one, the other, or both at the same time, and mix and match with screens over dp, HDMI, USB-C etc. Everything works out of the box with a nice switch on the desktop if you want to say disable the discrete GPU to save battery.

Good luck with any other distribution, been there done that (eventually sold the laptop and sweared never again tbh)

Ubuntu handles it the same way, and I'm guessing most of what Pop provides in terms of nVidia is actually inherited from Ubuntu. The only thing Pop adds is the ability to switch the GPU from the Gnome main menu whereas in Ubuntu you have do it from the nVidia control panel.

The best experience with nVidia I've had is with my current MSI GS66 laptop, which has the internal screen and the display port both connected to the iGPU rather than the dGPU, so the dGPU is only used when a game is running and only renders to back buffers. This is the only way to have a flawless experience with hybrid GPUs on Linux.

Ah, good to know, wasn't the case when I had my legion laptop so I guess Ubuntu "borrowed" from pop then, but that's good to see! I guess Ubuntu is defo the best newbie gaming distro then in 2022 :)
wvstolzing 7 Dec, 2022
Quoting: samurro
Quoting: wvstolzing
Quoting: samurroThe obvious answer is Arch. Not even joking. If you are pleb like me, go with Manjaro. But everything apart from Arch for gaming is not "best".

Valve agrees.

Valve agreed that it was the best for them to base their own distro on, not the best to use at home as regular users.

Curious, whats wrong with Arch-based distros for home users?

Put like that without qualification, there's nothing wrong, of course; but that's not what I said. I said, 'not the best for home users (given a specific purpose/use case)'; I didn't say 'it’s wrong for home users (in general)'.

The use case in question is 'looking to move one's everyday stuff, including gaming, over to linux as a non-enthusiast, as someone not particularly keen to 'look under the hud' occasionally'.

... and by the way, Arch is way too high level for it to have all that 'learning benefit' that it's touted for. It's no LFS. The latter has the benefit of providing some insight into how packages hang together, why x needs to be built like that before y so that z can work, etc. etc. Installing & maintaining Arch doesn't exercise one's judgment with respect to such questions; things are too 'ready for consumption' -- follow the recipes on the wiki, which you need not even understand, & things might start working.
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