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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 There's a lot of articles out there recommending really random and outdated distributions in lists too, so here's the real thing.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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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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110 comments
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Unis_Torvalds Dec 2, 2022
Quoting: Liam Dawe...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.

Understandable point. However experiences like this:

Quoting: Blender-samaI have to say that my experience with Nobara is very good. I tried Ubuntu and POP.OS with both I had problems with gaming.

And famously this (Linus Tech Tips on YouTube) are arguably not going to help Linux gaming in the long run either (or the short run for that matter).

It's possible that an "it just works" out-of-the-box experience, especially for newcomers to the ecosystem, would be the best possible thing for promoting Linux gaming at large.

Maybe there could be a "Best Gaming Distros for Beginners" list, or an annual "Best Distros for Gaming in 20xx" list, which can be updated each year to drop distros if they become unsupported.

As an aside, Pop_Os! is not exactly tiny or random either, as it's backed by a company and sits at #5 on DistroWatch.org, higher than Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian. As others have mentioned, it offers painless Nvidia support out-of-the-box which, while bad for FOSS purists, is good for Windows refugees and the FOSS curious.
Liam Dawe Dec 3, 2022
DistroWatch rankings are utterly useless. Please stop using them, it’s just page hits on their website.

For everyone who has a good experience on anything, there will be someone saying they had a bad experience. That’s just life and doesn’t change my opinion that Ubuntu is the best starting point for most people.
CyborgZeta Dec 3, 2022
I would recommend a flavor like Kubuntu over Ubuntu, especially for a new user. Plasma is going to look more "sane" than GNOME, which is something I can attest to from back when I first tried Linux.
kaktuspalme Dec 3, 2022
If Ubuntu did Mesa and Kernel updates, I would put it on top. But without it I wouldn't recommend it, at least to AMD GPU users.
CatKiller Dec 3, 2022
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Quoting: kaktuspalmeIf Ubuntu did Mesa and Kernel updates, I would put it on top. But without it I wouldn't recommend it, at least to AMD GPU users.
They do.
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel/LTSEnablementStack
kaktuspalme Dec 3, 2022
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: kaktuspalmeIf Ubuntu did Mesa and Kernel updates, I would put it on top. But without it I wouldn't recommend it, at least to AMD GPU users.
They do.
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel/LTSEnablementStack

Yes, but a user has to enable it. That's too much for a regular computer user to ask for.
CatKiller Dec 3, 2022
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Quoting: kaktuspalmeYes, but a user has to enable it. That's too much for a regular computer user to ask for.
No they don't. Installs that come with a desktop environment are on HWE by default. Headless server installs are not on HWE by default.
kaktuspalme Dec 3, 2022
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: kaktuspalmeYes, but a user has to enable it. That's too much for a regular computer user to ask for.
No they don't. Installs that come with a desktop environment are on HWE by default. Headless server installs are not on HWE by default.
Oh I just see that since 20.04 they enable it by default. That's nice!
But I still see problems, for example the upcoming AMD 7000 Series GPU will probably not be supported by Ubuntu 22.04 until 2024 (correct me if I'm wrong). As far as I know, the LTS Enablement stack only allows you to update on an older LTS to some current LTS packages.
Sorry, I just saw that also non LTS-Ubuntu Kernels and Mesa will be used. I have to rethink the recommendation for distributions then.
But 7000 Series User will probably still have to wait until April 2023. But for sure a big improvement to how they handled it before.


Last edited by kaktuspalme on 3 December 2022 at 9:11 am UTC
CatKiller Dec 3, 2022
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The way it works is that an LTS will release with the version that was tested for that release. The interim six-monthly releases will get some testing, and then be released. After a little while of that testing by all the users of the interim releases, that version will then be rolled out to users of LTS releases. It's a fairly conservative means of getting everyone onto stuff that makes their hardware work while making sure it's well-tested and not too disruptive (nor too much work for the Ubuntu devs, since they're maintaining a half dozen different versions at any one time).

Obviously users can manually choose to use mainline kernels and new Mesa from a PPA if they want stuff faster than it comes through the Hardware Enablement process, but they'll get them in time, regardless.

It would obviously be easier if AMD could get their support lined up ready before they release their hardware, like Intel (and Nvidia) do. I understand they're not quite as bad at this as they used to be, but still not as good as their competitors.


Last edited by CatKiller on 3 December 2022 at 9:24 am UTC
omeganebula Dec 3, 2022
Quoting: pleasereadthemanualAs for why ffmpeg's x264/x265 can be freely used by free software media players that distribute their software to users like VLC, it has been suggested that France cares less about software patents than other countries (I don't know how true this is).
It's true. France couldn't care less, since there are no software patents in the European Union. This is not country-specific or a softer attitude, but an explicit rejection of the entire concept of software patents. Nobody pays software patent fees here.
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