When it comes to the most used OS for gaming, it’s no secret that Windows remains in the lead. After all, it has the simplest user interface. Plus, it has a ton of built-in features that allow it to run games more efficiently, like the newly added Game Mode and power optimization settings. However, if users are willing to venture out of their comfort zone and try another OS, they’ll find that Linux has more to offer.
What is Linux?
Linux is one of the best free, open-source OSes on the market. Instead of coming in an all-in-one package like Windows and macOS, a Linux OS is built according to the user’s preference. Several programmers and developers work independently to create the parts that make up an OS, like its core programming and GNU libraries. Then, users can mix-and-match whatever component they want to build their OS with. A complete Linux OS is called a “distro.”
If you are looking to optimize your computer for gaming, then you’ll have to take the most gaming-inclined parts and patch it together to make a gaming distro. Fortunately, some entities have already taken the initiative to compile the parts and develop a working system for you. Here are some of the best gaming distros available this year.
SteamOS is a distro whose assets are made by Valve, the developers behind some of the biggest titles in PC gaming like Counter-Strike, Half-Life, and Portal. SteamOS is a very popular choice due to its excellent compatibility with Steam. This distro aims to deliver a console-like PC experience. The Steam client is available on the desktop, and games can be selected from a library directly installed into your computer.
Since the Steam client is native to the system, games will boot up faster. Plus, you’ll enjoy a lag-free playing experience. It has really high hardware requirements, however, but if your PC is built for gaming, you won’t find a better OS.
• Intel or AMD 64-bit CPU
• NVIDIA Fermi or AMD RADEON GPU
• 4 GB RAM
• 200 GB storage
If you can’t meet SteamOS’s extreme hardware requirements but would still like to play games on Linux, then SparkyLinux is the next best option. It’s based on Debian, another open-source OS, which has an excellent but really complicated framework. A community of developers transferred the same concept to Linux, and it’s easier than ever to use. SparkyLinux uses the OpenBox graphical interface. It’s not as powerful as GNOME 3 (which is what SteamOS runs on) or MATE, but it’s definitely lighter, allowing SparkyLinux to run on less powerful computers. This distro also supports gaming platforms like Steam and Wine.
If you have the extra space, get the “GameOver edition.” It has additional tools like Xdaman and APTus Gamer that enables faster downloads, live streaming support, and the like.
• 2 GHz CPU
• 1 GB RAM
• 9 GB storage
Linux Lite doesn’t aim to compete with other gaming-specific distros on the market. Instead, it gives owners of old computers the chance to play their favorite titles. Linux Lite is based around XFCE, one of the most lightweight systems on Linux. However, it has been customized to deliver a faster and more user-friendly experience. This distro can even run Linux PCB design software and CAD applications smoothly. These programs come with powerful software used to build interfaces, so they’re very taxing on your hardware. But Linus Lite frees up so much RAM and memory that it’s not a problem. By extension, gaming won’t be a problem, either. In fact, one of the built-in software options you can choose from Linux Lite is a Lite customized Steam software.
• 1 GHz CPU
• 1024 MB RAM
• 8 GB storage
Much like Linux Lite, Lakka is also a lightweight distro. In fact, it’s even lighter than the former. Lakka’s goal isn’t to turn a computer into a gaming PC, but to allow the hardware to play console games. Whether you’re a fan of Super Mario 64 on the N64 or Uncharted 3 for the PS3, Lakka is installed with impressive supports for all of these titles.
Fun fact: Lakka was built on top of a popular program called “RetroArch,” which supports a number of joypads and modern controllers. Therefore, you don’t need to install any additional software to use your DualShock or Xbox controller to play PC games.
Its only downside is that it’s not very good for anything else; so only install Lakka on a computer you want to dedicate to console gaming.
• Any 64-bit CPU
• 64 MB RAM
• 512 MB storage
Ubuntu comes from the South African ideology “ubuntu,” which means “humanity towards others.” As such, it’s an OS that heavily focuses on user experience, from installation to use. Again, it’s not primarily a gaming OS, but it does offer those who have little to no Linux knowledge access to some of the best features in a Linux OS. For example, it has nearly all the clients you’ll be using, including gaming ones like Steam, Wine, and Lutrix. The latter is a platform for managing consoles on Linux. It also supports every driver you’re planning to install, from Razer Cortex’s Game Booster to Iolo’s System Optimizer. In addition, supports Oracle Java and Adobe Flash for as long as it’s available, so playing online games will be the least of your problems.
• 1.6 GHz CPU
• 1 GB RAM (but 4 GB is recommended)
• 16 GB storage
Bonus: Play on Linux
Play on Linux isn’t technically a full-fledged distro. However, it’s so popular that it has earned a mention on this list. If you weren’t aware, not every game is supported on Linux. Game developers need to create a separate Linux port for it to be playable. However, by installing Play on Linux into your Linux OS, your system can run games that haven’t been ported to the OS.
It’s important to remember that Linux was created by a community of PC users for PC users. Depending on what kind of features you’re looking for and your hardware specifications, there’s a Linux distro for every type of gamer.
If you’re looking to boost your Linux gaming experience, check out our previous post on Intel Optane Memory and SDDs.