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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 There's a lot of articles out there recommending really random and outdated distributions in lists too, so here's the real thing.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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wvstolzing Dec 1, 2022
I think the verdict is right & there really isn't much room for controversy.

... for a bit of off-topic fun, though -- regarding selinux, have you guys seen this?

It's a cheeky little book that covers the basics of labelling in selinux, as if to say, 'stop complaining; it's so simple it can be described in a coloring book'. Which is true -- though it's no surprise that with proper documentation, the 'basics' should be easy to get. What can get difficult isn't even diagnosing the little errors that can creep up in desktop use (the diagnosis tools are pretty good); it's deciding how to resolve them (do I set an ad hoc policy? adjust a system wide boolean? is it ok if I allow this process access to this port/socket/whatever, or should I stick with the officially sanctioned ones?).
ridge Dec 1, 2022
Got my start on Ubuntu, and while I haven't tried it in a while I'm sure Kubuntu is a perfectly ok place to play games on.
Though I personally recommend Fedora KDE and OpenSUSE Tumbleweed to friends who want to try a Linux distro, and most of them enjoy one of those
Joeg1484 Dec 1, 2022
Ive been using and supporting Linux personally and professionally for over 20 years so consider myself an expert in the OS for the most part. I constantly use "Harder" distros, because I can fix the issues that usually come up.

BUT - its my day to day job, so when I get home and want to play a game, I dont want to fix shit. I want to play! So, I have to agree - Ubuntu and its off-shots seem to be the most solid choice as they are the most visible and get the most support.

Case in point - my Valve Index runs WITHOUT issue on Ubuntu and its spins... But I have nothing but issues on Arch and its spins... So, when I want hassle free playing (More or less), I go with Pop_OS. Ubuntu is fine, but I just like System 76, so use that.

Anyway, my 2 cents - hope you dont want a refund :-D.
legluondunet Dec 1, 2022
After several years on Ubuntu, I now use Manjaro at work and at home because:
- I find it more stable
- easy to find support on their forum in english and french
- rolling release
- better packages dependencies rules, for example, when you install wine, it installs everything you need and suggestions are pertinent

Last edited by legluondunet on 2 December 2022 at 9:08 am UTC
ExpandingMan Dec 1, 2022
I use Manjaro on all of my personal machines and am extremely happy with it, but I have to use Ubuntu for work and, I gotta say, I am not at all happy with it lately. Not only do you lack a viable alternative to AUR but the repositories you do have are aggravatingly bare, update *waaaay* too slowly, and things have only gotten worse since they started moving things to snap. Concerns about snap are a whole other issue, but removing even the *option* of installing something with `apt` because a snap exists can be annoying.

The default configuration may work ok, but Ubuntu never seems to work right when you try to change the configuration. Try to switch to window manager, it breaks GDM somehow. Install lightdm with apt, of course it's broken on install and has to be fixed to be useful.

Even the idea that there is tons of information on ubuntu because it's so widely used doesn't seem to actually pan out. As far as I know there is nothing even close to as comprehensive as the Arch wiki, and the ubuntu wiki frequently seems badly out of date.

So, yes, Ubuntu may work well if you intend to install it, play games and never do anything else, but for day-to-day use I'm not at all happy with where it is right now.
jens Dec 1, 2022
  • Supporter
I'm using Fedora (plus negativo17 repos for NVIDIA drivers) at home for a.o. gaming where a little bump once in a while is acceptable and Ubuntu LTS at work where things needs to be rock-solid. So yeah agree :)

(Really the only thing I don't like is the very intrusive push to snaps, otherwise Ubuntu LTS is close to perfect for focusing on getting things done)

Last edited by jens on 1 December 2022 at 5:36 pm UTC
Odisej Dec 1, 2022
I have to agree. In the past Ubuntu started giving me quite a headache with Steam et al. that is why I ended up using Manjaro for the last couple of years (tried just about all the major distros out there). Just a few weeks ago I ran into some problems (Uplay) and tested if they are present in Ubuntu as well. Yes, the they were there but I enjoyed setting Ubuntu 22.10 up so much I stayed with it. I love it. It is Ubuntu I loved so much years ago. It is the distro that brought me to linux. Still remember that nice movie included with Nelson Mandela explaining what Ubuntu means.

I love Gnome so this is also a big factor.

Anyway, Manjaro is wonderful too but I do prefer the aesthetics of Ubuntu.

Otherwise, I have to say this, just about any distro is good to use these days so I really don't see a lot of differences between them in a sense that one plays nicer with games than another.

Also started to love snaps and flatpaks in the meantime. Linux is just..well, the best desktop OS there is.
Vasya Sovari Dec 1, 2022
Mint is greatly preferable to Ubuntu. It has an interface that doesn't suck, is loaded with sane defaults, and maintained by some of the best people in the Linux world.

I say this as an Arch user.

Mint is the only distro I'd recommend to brand new Linux gamers.
dibz Dec 1, 2022
Agreed with the other pro-Mint comments here. It's the better Ubuntu, sans Canonical. Packages are a little slower to be pushed, and that's a good thing; They're tested better.

Ubuntu is pretty solid, but I have always had niggling issues here and there that people tend to attribute as part of the Linux experience, with virtually every Ubuntu release. Canonical tends to not have a great attitude with minor package or w/e issues, and if they fix it, it'll be in the next version -- where you get new minor issues, rinse, and repeat. Minor annoyances can really put people off if they're new to Linux.

Except it's not really part of the Linux experience. Mint polishes that not-quite-a-turd, I could count the issues like that on one hand that I've had with Mint over the years, and it's quite a few years at this point.

Also, on a different point, I will never understand why some people recommend Mint as a beginner distribution, which is a weird stigma to create. It gives the idea that it's meant just for beginners, but why does a distribution have to be hard, or work, heavily customized, or simply more difficult? It's totally fine if that's your thing of course, but there is no justification for it beyond personal preference typically.

Last edited by dibz on 1 December 2022 at 6:13 pm UTC
ElectricPrism Dec 1, 2022
Obviously Liam is bias because Ubuntu is from the UK /s Just kidding buddy

My pre-click instinct told me the answer could be SteamOS as it's the heavy hitter and is the obvious one lifting us up as a serious platform.

I really hope Fedora closes the gap, they are doing a Raspberry Pi release, but I think some of their strict adherence to FOSS and making it harder to get mp3 codecs and other "absolutely proprietary" stuff do cost them the lead.

Its hard for me to get behind Canonical when I feel style vibes -- but hell, for the ultranoob they're hard to beat as they hit all the marks for that demographic.

Edit: I think GOL and other Linux sites need to supplant top Google search results for "Best Gaming Distros" -- these nobodies who could get no shits about linux get to fill the internet with their spam and bad advice -- we should have a coordinated effort to supplant them to protect noobs from their idiocy.

Last edited by ElectricPrism on 1 December 2022 at 6:33 pm UTC
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