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 There's a lot of articles out there recommending really random and outdated distributions in lists too, so here's the real thing.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

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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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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Liam Dawe 1 Dec, 2022
I won't ever recommend people use something like Nobara. Regardless of who runs it, the point is pointing people towards tiny random distributions that could vanish at any point is not going to help Linux and Linux Gaming in the long run. If I'm going to put my reputation on a recommendation for a distribution, it's going to be one with a long history of support and good backing. Hopefully that makes sense.
iiari 1 Dec, 2022
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Quoting: AbedsbrotherUsually 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).
Good to hear Reborn OS is still around. I was on it a few years ago but was very hesitant to put all my eggs (especially my work laptop) in the basket of a fringe, "one man" distro. When the at the time college aged (I think) founder/dev was openly pondering in the forums about whether he'd be able to keep everything going during his upcoming compsci grad school, I moved on. Is he still the primary driver or is there a larger team?

Anyway, there were always some good ideas at Reborn. Glad to hear it's still going.

Last edited by iiari on 1 December 2022 at 10:44 pm UTC
whizse 1 Dec, 2022
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Quoting: rojimbooLet the distro wars commence! (or in this case, continue).
Lofty 1 Dec, 2022
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: NumericIn general, they don't want to know anything about their computer (mobile device), it just needs to function near 100% of the time and be able to "run the apps/games" and "visit the sites" that they want or need. Updates of any form are met with resistance or pure apathy. Good practices regarding data safety or backups are not considered or understood. As a FOSS advocate, I want to help these people have a safe and successful computing experience, but the lack of motivation/desire/understanding I encounter make it near impossible to recommend any Linux distribution.
I don't really get it, to be honest. These are real issues I guess, but what do they have to do with not recommending Linux distributions? I mean, it's not like Windows is nice to work with vis-a-vis updates, or does anything for you in terms of data safety or automagically creating backups without you having to notice. And Linux distros can visit the sites, run the games, and run apps that are generally equivalent (but cheaper) to what they're used to. The more user friendly ones do it with LESS need to fiddle around than Windows. So I mean, assuming you can't actually ban these people from using computers, why shouldn't they do it with Linux?

Y'know, I use Windows at work, but because we have IT people I don't have to administer it. But a few months ago, i bought a basic little computer to attach to the TV, just to surf the web so my wife can watch the news and stuff. It came installed with Windows and, feeling lazy, I initially just left Windows there--why not? Just running a browser. It was a massive pain. Windows is nagware. My wife was constantly calling me over because of some mysterious message that she thought meant something serious but was actually just Windows saying something you can click and forget, for no particular reason except to look vaguely ominous as far as I could tell. Or because they wanted you to switch to fucking Edge. Or because they wanted to know if you really meant it when you set settings to "don't phone home very much" or if you wouldn't rather switch to doing things the Microsoft spy-on-you way. And the updates, argh. Wiped Windows, put in Mint, clear sailing ever since.

Mint is a great media player ootb. I don't need a ten foot interface TBH. im quite happy to just have a typical desktop on the TV with some larger icons / fonts and a wireless keyboard/remote. I prefer it. a desktop filled with emulators, browsers and media players that's stable and familiar more to me than a dumbed down smart phone type interface. Although you can have an icon for the new steam big picture too and have the best of both worlds.

It's also the goto USB live boot distro if your system breaks whilst you fix it, or just get straight on the web and do work if your main machine takes a dump and you just need to get going.
prosoor 1 Dec, 2022
Kubuntu, because I don't like Gnome, and before that I didn't like Unity. KDE has lot more options than Gnome and can be better customised (in my opinion).
I wouldn't go to other non-xUbuntu Linux forks. I tried Arch, it broke suddenly taking some of my documents with it. It's because I didn't read every text file every single word in new updates while updating, and didn't type dozens of commands and made changes in definition files before installing new updates. It's ridiculous, it's not a mainframe server, it's a PC.
Fedora is rpg based, in my opinion thats inferior than deb. Although I would say Fedora is more technically progressive than Ubuntu and is a kernel pool for Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is a a good, but paid Linux.
Gentoo and Slack and other "compile it" variants are IMO not for the usual user..
I don't know how is SteamOS, is it still developed, is it better? But I don't use Linux for gaming only so it's not in my choice list.
So Kubuntu.

Last edited by prosoor on 1 December 2022 at 11:14 pm UTC
MiZoG 1 Dec, 2022
How many Linux-savvy content creators tried hard last year to convince us that Fedora is "THE default Linux desktop"?
Fedora is what it is. Influential, pioneering, example-setting but not meant for the "desktop user".
peta77 1 Dec, 2022
Quoting: MiZoGHow many Linux-savvy content creators tried hard last year to convince us that Fedora is "THE default Linux desktop"?
Fedora is what it is. Influential, pioneering, example-setting but not meant for the "desktop user".
Quoting: prosoorAlthough I would say Fedora is more technically progressive than Ubuntu and is a kernel pool for Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is a a good, but paid Linux.

Yep, it's a testing ground using newest technology and sometimes doing questionable modifications... I still remember when some projects refrained to build when using a RedHat-"optimized" gcc (before the name changed from RedHat to Fedora and there was no RedHat Enterprise Linux) because they knew it definitely would break the application.

RHEL though is a good distribution, well supported and most of the time very stable, but almost unusable for gaming.
Schattenspiegel 1 Dec, 2022
Don't want to steal credit for the quite solid base from Ubuntu, but yeah: it's Linux Mint.
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Quoting: ElectricPrismI 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.
This has little to do with philosophy and everything to do with MPEG-LA's software patent business model.

Unfortunately, patented codecs like H.264 (mp4) and mp3 can only be distributed after paying MPEG-LA a licensing fee for every person you distribute it to; unless you work out an agreement with MPEG-LA like Cisco did to distribute H.264 to an unlimited number of people, which is what allows Firefox users to play that codec—but that is far from cheap. While it's probable that MPEG-LA won't go after Red Hat, SUSE or Canonical for this, MPEG-LA is completely legally in the right to do so.

This doesn't only affect free software. DaVinci Resolve does not include encoders/decoders for H.264 or AAC due to patents in their GNU/Linux version of the free version of their software, and the Studio version still doesn't include AAC.

Fortunately, mp3's last patents expired in 2017. H.264's patents will last until 2027 or 2032 depending on who you ask. You might think that 30 years for a video codec's patents to expire is a long time, especially with the fast-moving software landscape. You're not the only one who thinks so. Facebook, Mozilla, Netflix, Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and even Apple (despite their reluctance to implement support for VP9) all agree that they want nothing more to do with patented codecs. That's why they formed the Alliance for Open Media and created AV1 in response to H.265 and its significantly more complicated (and expensive) patent pools.

If you're wondering why H.265/HEVC (and now VVC) never got much adoption compared to its predecessor, this is why. Everyone is sick of the patent pool model except for MPEG-LA. However, TV stations and broadcast media are still happy to adopt these new standards, so it's unlikely it will go away completely.
udekmp69 2 Dec, 2022
Fedora Silverblue, OpenSUSE MicroOS, and VanillaOS have a lot of potential for Linux newbies. It's for those who want to have a reliable and stable system that gets automatic updates that also has the ability to rollback from a bad update without losing any data. With Distrobox, you basically have access to every package manager that can run inside of a contained environment. Also, with all 3 of these distros I mentioned, you can still layer the default package manager if you need any extra system tools to be part of your system as well.

For the gaming aspect: make an Arch Linux distrobox container. Install Steam and Lutris, and use Mesa-git (if you're on AMD) inside the container. You now have a bleeding edge container just for Steam and Lutris while your base system can still run stable Mesa. Don't want to use Distrobox? Flatpak Steam, Lutris (and whatever other GUI wine frontend/prefix manager you use) is there as a fallback.

Seriously underrated distros that I never see get recommended. You have the best of both worlds --- stability and versatility! In a couple of years I can see them improving to the point where they will be much easier to work with than any traditional Linux desktop distro.

Last edited by udekmp69 on 2 December 2022 at 2:07 am UTC
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