Linux has made significant headway in supporting games over the past few years. Unfortunately, most of the progress has been made through the creation of Windows emulators. This is largely due to the Vulkan API. With its help, it was possible to increase the performance of games to almost the level that can be obtained in the native Windows environment. Yet a small fraction of PC games support Vulkan and are released on Linux. In this article, we've handpicked the best Linux distros for gaming in 2020.
The low popularity of Linux among game developers is due to several factors. First, there are an order of magnitude fewer Linux users than Windows users. Secondly, the wide variety of distributions greatly complicates and increases the cost of debugging and testing games. But among all the variety, there are distributions that include a number of preinstalled emulators. Just about such about them and will be discussed.
If you want to do everything yourself, you can familiarize yourself with our material on games on Linux .
BEST LINUX DISTROS FOR GAMING
The list includes universal distributions for games, for working with Steam and for emulating consoles. With the first, everything is clear, these are just distributions with pre-installed games and emulators. Distributions with Steam as their main application are designed primarily to work with the Steam game library. Distributions for emulating old consoles are primarily designed to be installed on minicomputers like the Raspberry Pi or old PCs. In other words, for those computers that cannot cope with modern games.
1. UBUNTU GAMEPACK
The Ubuntu GamePack distribution was created by a Ukrainian developer as part of the UALinux project . Almost everything you need to install and run games is preinstalled here. Here is a list of some of the apps:
- Game jolt
A key factor in choosing this particular distribution is the time savings on the initial installation and Ubuntu as the basis. It is perfect not only for games, but for everything else. If you are thinking about which Linux to choose for gaming and have already used Ubuntu, then Ubuntu GamePack is likely to be a great option.
2. SPARKY LINUX GAMEOVER
The versatile Sparky Linux GameOver distribution comes preinstalled with many simple games as well as a Steam client. More applications can be found in the simple package manager Sparky APTus Gamer. Among them are DosBox, PlayOnLinux, Wine, and a range of old console emulators.
The distribution is based on Debian and uses the Xfce desktop environment. The interface works noticeably faster than in GamePack, but in resource-intensive games you will hardly notice a significant difference between these distributions.
The game distribution SteamOS is a Debian with a minimal set of packages. In autorun, there is a Steam client in Big Picture mode. The main problem with the distribution is that it is designed to run on powerful PCs, and their scope is not limited to games. If you start using it as a normal distribution kit, numerous shortcomings will begin to surface, such as lack of packages and errors when launching programs.
The distribution has not been updated since mid-2019. And the Steam Machines project to create PC consoles with this OS has failed. It is not clear whether the distribution kit will develop further.
If you still want an operating system dedicated to one single program, the Steam client, then it's best to look at GamerOS. This distribution is based on Arch. Do not be alarmed, during installation you will be asked only a few questions, you will not have to enter any console commands. Arch ensures that only the latest drivers are used on the system.
Also, along with the client, you will have access to a number of emulators of old consoles, up to the Playstation 2. By the way, these emulators are launched from the Steam client. This opportunity came thanks to the Steam Buddy tool, developed specifically for GamerOS. This is where the pros end. You won't even find a desktop in this distribution. Therefore, you will hardly be able to use it as the main operating system.
The two previous distributions, tailored to work with the Steam client, and raise doubts about the appropriateness of their use on productive computers. But when it comes to emulating old consoles, then you can get by with a relatively weak PC or even a minicomputer based on an ARM processor. Just such devices can be allocated exclusively for installing old games.
One of the most popular programs that has collected many emulators for consoles and old computers is RetroArch with its own Libretro libraries. But not many people know that there is a separate Linux distribution for this program called Lakka.
There may be some difficulties with installing games. This may require a second computer connected to the same network. It is possible to copy files using the Samba protocol. Another option would be to install Lakka on an external drive.
Another distro for emulating older consoles is RetroPie. It's not hard to guess from the name that it is intended to be installed on a Raspberry Pi, but it can also be installed on a PC.
The main element is the Emulation Station shell. But at the same time, all the same Libretro libraries are used. A more convenient shell than RetroArch can serve as the basis for choosing this particular distribution kit. Among other things, the distribution includes a Kodi player that can turn your computer into a multimedia station for playing movies and music.
There are other distributions built in a similar way. For example, Batocera.linux or Recalbox .
As you can see, you can find the best Linux distro for gaming to suit your specific needs. Looking to build a retro gaming station based on an old PC or Raspberry Pi, get a universal distribution for games, or one that only runs Steam? Now you know what to choose from.
What Linux gaming distributions do you use? What do you think of them? Are they necessary, or is it better to install all programs manually? Are you already using RetroPie or something else from this list? Share your opinion in the comments.