The Hitchhiker's Guide to Linux Gaming: Best Linux Distro for Gaming and Streaming

Less than 1 percent of Steam users have Linux as their operating system. From these stats, you might assume that you shouldn’t use Linux for gaming. You couldn’t be more wrong.

It’s perfectly possible to build a fantastic Linux machine that is also a beastly gaming set up. Thanks to new compatibility tools, you can play 9500 games on Steam using Linux.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at what gaming on Linux is like in 2019. Which is the best Linux distro for gaming? What should you be aware of before jumping into open-source gaming?

Ready to start growing your stream and having fun while supporting open-source software? Then read on!

What Can I Play on Linux?

Linux gaming has come a long way in recent years. Way back in 2012, support on Linux for gaming was near nonexistent. Then Valve came along and proved that OpenGL works better than DirectX in Left 4 Dead 2.

Suddenly, this vast and untapped market was revealed. One year later, SteamOS was released, and gaming on Linux looked like a serious proposition.

Today, support for Linux is better than ever. A huge range of games support Linux natively, including DotA 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Rocket League, and Civilization VI.

It doesn’t end there, though. Steam also utilizes a piece of software called Proton, a variation on Wine (a Windows emulator for Linux.) This means that even games that are Windows exclusive can often be run on Linux.

Games that work with Proton include:

  • The Witcher 3.
  • Doom.
  • Cuphead.
  • Nier Automata.

If you’re a fan of retro games, you’re in luck too. Many emulators now play nice with Wine, letting you run classic NES, Playstation, and Dos games on your Linux machine.

Outside of Steam and emulation, you can find good support for Linux on GOG. offers a ton of Linux games old and new, with zero DRM. You also don’t need to install a client to use GOG, but they do offer one if you’d prefer.

Which is the Best Linux Distro for Gaming?

It will surprise nobody that the most-used Linux distro on Steam is Ubuntu. It’s an excellent choice with strong compatibility. Ubuntu gaming is easy and convenient, but there is a range of other excellent choices too.


If all you’re going to be doing is playing games, then Steam OS is a solid choice. It’s a basic Linux distro: there’s not even a file manager installed by default. Think of a computer with SteamOS installed as more akin to a games console than a normal machine.

However, it does offer strong and reliable performance. Based on Debian, SteamOS tends to offer slightly increased frame rates than Ubuntu. If you’re going to be using this PC as, well, a PC, then it isn’t worth sacrificing utility for a few frames.

Ubuntu Gamepack

Based on Ubuntu, this OS comes preinstalled with Steam, Wine, Lutris, and PlayonLinux. If you want an OS that lets you start gaming right out of the box, this is a strong candidate.

This OS is guaranteed to work with more than 6000 games. Unlike SteamOS, this operating system also offers the utility of a normal PC when it’s time to work. There’s native support for Flash and Java too.

SparkyLinux Gameover Edition

If you’re looking for classic gaming on Linux, you can’t improve on SparkyLinux. This OS comes with a huge number of games installed and gives you easy access to emulators.

If you want to play modern games, SparkyLinux also supports Steam and PlayonLinux. It’s a lightweight OS that offers incredible support for fans of retro and new games alike.

Best Linux for Gaming

We can’t recommend SteamOS while it’s still lacking in basic computer functionality. If you want a PC that is still a PC, we’d recommend Ubuntu Gamepack or SparkyLinux.

Linux Gaming Tips

Now that you’re ready to jump into Linux gaming, we thought we’d give you some tips to help you get the most out of your machine.

How to Stream on Linux

Streaming on Linux is just as easy as on Windows. Open Broadcast Software lets you stream to many different sites. It’s available as a snap too, making installation a breeze.

Check ProtonDB Before You Buy

If you’re looking at a game on the Steam store that isn’t native to Linux, you need ProtonDB. This website lets you look at user feedback to see how nicely any game plays with Proton. For example, you can see that Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is currently “borked,” and doesn’t work on Linux.

Graphics Card Driver Support

If you’ve looked at using Linux for gaming before, you might have heard negative stories about driver support. Nowadays, it’s far easier.

AMD and Intel graphics drivers are supported by default. If you’ve got an Nvidia card, you will need to grab the drivers yourself. This is because Nvidia drivers are proprietary, so they aren’t included in the Linux kernel.

Take a Look at GameMode

Getting poor framerates while gaming on Linux and can’t upgrade? Then take a look at GameMode. This little bit of software can help to optimize your machine for gaming.

It essentially tweaks the CPU speed, to improve performance.

Always Keep Your Linux Updated

Whichever OS you’re using, keeping it updated is essential. Updating regularly can improve performance and security. If you’re a first time user, you’ll be shocked by how regularly Linux updates

Gaming on Linux: Final Thoughts

We’ve come a long way from when Linux was essentially a no man’s land for gaming. While the debate about the best Linux distro for gaming rages on, all of the ones that we’ve discussed here are solid options.

If you’re a dedicated fan of both the open-source software movement and gaming, then get ready to have some fun. You’ve chosen the best possible time to start gaming on Linux.

Once you’ve picked your new OS, it’s time to decide on the best monitor for your gaming needs.