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A look at how much RAM you might need as a Linux gamer

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I had a chat on reddit about RAM use and it inspired me to check out multiple games to see just how much RAM you should be looking to have as a Linux gamer. Part of my thought pattern here is that I tend to leave a bunch of applications open when gaming (Discord, Telegram, IRC, Chrome) and I imagined other people did too. So I wondered: Just how much RAM will games use up and is 8GB still okay for now?

These tests were done on my main machine with 16GB RAM and XFCE which is quite light on RAM use compared to other desktops.

I also did a Twitter and Telegram poll to see if people generally leave background applications running like me. Both polls were very much one-sided with people leaving applications open in the background.

The tests

My system uses about approximately 1.07GB RAM with just Steam open by itself, so I will use that as the figure when adding things together.

I chose some games that I felt would be quite hard-hitters or popular amongst Linux gamers, considering these tests take quite a while to do I do have to keep it to a limit.

This is not the RAM used at the end of the session, but the maximum the game requested to use throughout the time spent in it. This does not include cache (which can differ from machine to machine), just the actual RAM being used.

ARK Survival Evolved: High details, 1 hour playtime.
Game RAM Use: 7.3GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 8.37GB

HITMAN: Ultra details, SSAO off. About 30 Minutes playtime.
Game RAM Use: 5.6GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 6.67GB

DiRT Rally: Ultra details, 4xMSAA. Daily event, Rallycross custom event plus a Championship stage.
Game RAM Use: 4.8GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 5.87GB

Dying Light: High details, AA on. About 30 Minutes playtime.
Game RAM Use: 5.7GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 6.77GB

Cities Skylines: High details, AA on. About 30 Minutes playtime.
Game RAM Use: 5GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 6.07GB

That was only on a small scenario too.

I did additional tests with Cities, one with a 100K population.

Game RAM Use: 5.8GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 6.87GB

A 1 Million population city.

Game RAM Use: 6.7GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 7.77GB

Rocket League, 1v1, 2v2 and a two 3v3 matches
Game RAM Use: 2.2GB
Total with Steam + Desktop: 3.27GB

Looking at my simple testing, it is entirely possible and relatively easy to stick with 8GB RAM for now, as long as you close most of your background applications. However, if you are on 8GB RAM you will want to be careful about how much you leave open, especially considering how close to 8GB my short sessions were in some, as RAM use will likely creep up in longer sessions.

I will recommend at least 16GB RAM to ensure you have breathing room without the nuisances of closing everything possible before gaming. Not only that, but it will give you room to grow as our games are getting bigger and bigger. It would be silly to buy 8GB now and if you are still on 8GB this might give you something to think about.

You should always aim to have some breathing room with RAM for any issues encountered in games and extras you need to run behind them at any time.

If you have ideas for tests for me to do at any time, feel free to pop a message in the comments or email me. Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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42 comments
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STiAT 5 March 2017 at 11:39 pm UTC
For that reason I upgraded to 16GB, because I usually have the browser and some other stuff open in the background for regular checks.

And browsers on modern sites today easily eat up a gig of RAM.
Shmerl 5 March 2017 at 11:40 pm UTC
Yeah, I recommend to have 16GB minimum as well. Pretty useful for running VMs too.
tomaszg 6 March 2017 at 12:33 am UTC
Did you include "Buffers and cache" size for your calculation of total RAM used? For example for War Thunder I get around 4.5GB used (while the game is minimised) and additional 5.5GB used for cache. This extra memory is also important from the point of view of performance.
no_information_here 6 March 2017 at 12:35 am UTC
Liam, that is a nice test and I think it gives a decent data point. However, you should be aware that your operating system will often allocate more RAM if it has it available. Since you have 16GB, you will (probably) be seeing higher RAM usage than someone with the same setup but 8GB instead.

Things like browsers commonly take more RAM on higher-spec systems. Other people may be able to fill in more detail.


Last edited by no_information_here at 6 March 2017 at 12:35 am UTC
Caesim 6 March 2017 at 2:01 am UTC
One can always use something like zram on Linux to basically get more out of your RAM at the cost of a bit more CPU usage. I've used that before to get games running which normally would be unplayable.


Last edited by Caesim at 6 March 2017 at 2:17 am UTC
Nor Mantis 6 March 2017 at 2:45 am UTC
I ran with 8GB for a long time perfectly fine. Then I wanted to start using mods in Cities Skylines and the game would not even launch. I upgraded to 24GB recently because of this and now Cities runs. With mods, it needs much more than 8GB ram. I find this with a lot of games, if you like using mods take this into account when figuring out how much ram you will need.

Ark also ran better once I had more than 8GB. But Ark runs poorly at the best of times.


Last edited by Nor Mantis at 6 March 2017 at 2:47 am UTC
JudasIscariot 6 March 2017 at 3:22 am UTC
I went with 32 GB when building my new system as the system before that only had 4 GB of RAM...in 2017

I run games in Wine quite often and with DX11 support getting better with each Wine release, I want to ensure I don't have to worry about memory issues. Also, I run GNOME3 and that isn't the lightest of DEs.

The only bottleneck I may have at the moment is my 970 GTX card but it seems OK for now.
imdan12 6 March 2017 at 3:49 am UTC
Please test Overwatch on Wine to see if it is playable.
JudasIscariot 6 March 2017 at 4:47 am UTC
imdan12Please test Overwatch on Wine to see if it is playable.

It's not playable just yet as not all of the patches by Andrew Wesie have made it into Wine as of right now.
Xpander 6 March 2017 at 5:08 am UTC
And if some people are like me who has Browser with 40 tabs constantly opened which may take 6-7GB itself, then yeah 8GB aint cut it. I sometimes run out of 16GB even.. i probably need 32
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