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Best Linux Distro for Gaming

Looking for the best Linux distros for gaming? Let me help you power your next gaming adventure with 6 options.

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Gaming on Linux has improved a lot because of projects like WineHQ and ProtonDB. Sure, with enough skills, you can game on any Linux distro. But sometimes the tweaks are complex and you may not be able to achieve such fine-tuned output that is readily available in Linux distros built for gaming.

But before I walk you through the best Linux distros for gaming, I’d like to address the often-asked question “Do you really need a gaming distro?”

Why do you need a Linux distro for Gaming?

A key component for gaming on Linux is the Mesa graphics library. Mesa translates graphics API calls from games into hardware-specific instructions for AMD and Intel GPUs.

Having the latest Mesa version is crucial because newer releases include performance optimizations, bug fixes, and support for the latest graphics features and games.

Some mainstream distros, like Debian stable, use older versions of Mesa that can cause issues like crashes in games that rely heavily on the latest Mesa libraries.

Gaming distros ensure you have cutting-edge Mesa versions for maximum compatibility and stability. Furthermore, gaming distros also provide recent kernel versions and easy access to install tools like Wine, Proton, and DXVK.

6 Best Linux distros for Gaming

In this section, I will walk you through the top 6 distros that you can consider to power your next gaming session. But before that, let’s take a look at the brief of what each distro has to offer:

  • Nobara: It provides an optimized, out-of-the-box gaming experience on Fedora with pre-installed drivers, custom fixes, and support for Windows compatibility layers like Wine and Proton.
  • openSUSE Tumbleweed: It offers a stable rolling release with the latest drivers and kernels optimized for gaming performance, without requiring much tweaking.
  • Pop!_OS: Pop!_OS by System76 is designed for an easy, performant gaming experience with built-in support for Steam and Lutris, automatic driver installation, and a polished GNOME desktop.
  • Bazzite: It is a custom Fedora-based distro tailored for living room gaming, with an immutable base, Proton support, extensive hardware compatibility, and a responsive development team.
  • Garuda Linux: It provides a beautiful, performant, and user-friendly Arch-based gaming distro with an optimized Linux-zen kernel, Nvidia/AMD driver support, and quality-of-life enhancements out of the box.
  • ChimeraOS: It brings a SteamOS-like console experience to PC gaming, with an immutable Arch base, Proton/Steam integration, easy updates and rollbacks, and broad hardware support.

Now, let’s address each distro in a detailed manner.

1. Nobara

Nobara Linux

Nobara is a modified version of Fedora Linux that aims to provide an optimized, user-friendly gaming experience out of the box. Created by Thomas Crider (aka GloriousEggroll), who is also known for his work on Proton-GE.

Here are several reasons why Nobara is a great gaming distro:

  • Includes essential gaming packages and dependencies pre-installed (drivers, custom kernel patches, Wine, Proton).
  • Eliminates the need for manual installation of gaming components.
  • Includes performance optimizations tailored for gaming (optimized kernel, filesystem improvements, increased system resource limits).
  • Provides a welcome app for installing codecs, drivers, and packages.
  • Offers GUI tools for managing settings, installing games, and configuring Proton/Wine.
  • Closely integrated with GloriousEggroll’s work, including the latest Proton-GE.
  • Offers separate ISOs for different use cases (e.g., NVIDIA GPUs).
  • Hardware-specific optimization for enhanced gaming experience.

Yep, there are so many reasons to consider Nobara. One user reported that “everything just works perfectly right after installation” and the experience has been “really smooth”.

2. openSUSE Tumbleweed


I know this may come as a shock but openSUSE Tumbleweed is one of the most popular distros for gaming. The first and obvious reason is that the openSUSE Tumbleweed is a rolling release and ensures you with the most recent packages which are necessary for gaming.

But being a rolling release does not mean the stability is compromised. Here are several other reasons which make openSUSE Tumbleweed a great distro:

  • For Nvidia GPUs, the proprietary drivers can be easily installed from the main repository.
  • Steam can be installed directly from the main repository or software centre. It sets up the necessary dependencies like 32-bit libraries, Wine, Vulkan, and Proton compatibility tools automatically.
  • Despite being a rolling release, Tumbleweed has a QA process powered by openQA that helps prevent regressions and major issues. This leads to a more stable gaming experience compared to some other rolling release distros.
  • Users report that games run flawlessly on Tumbleweed with no jitters or major problems suggesting the performance is on par with other optimized gaming distros.

One user shared his experience on YouTube saying “I’ve been using OpenSuse Tumbleweed for 40 days. Great for gaming.”

Another long-term user highlighted the distribution’s reliability, stating, “Tumbleweed has been my best experience in Linux since 1998. It games absolutely fantastic and just works. It is my #1 go-to distro for everything these days”.

3. Pop!_OS

pop os

Pardon me if I get too biased here as my entire stack of computers has been powered by Pop!_OS for the past 2 years and I have some strong reasons why.

My favourite and the most highlighted feature of Pop!_OS is you get backed-in support for Nvidia graphics and if you have a hybrid GPU setup, then, you can change between two GPUs with a single click.

Here are some more reasons to love Pop!_OS:

  • Pop!_OS provides separate ISOs for Intel/AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards. The NVIDIA ISO comes with the proprietary driver pre-loaded. This makes the installation process seamless and removes potential headaches for NVIDIA GPU users.
  • Pop!_OS is known for its speed and smooth performance. It maintains a quick and responsive interface even while gaming. Some benchmarks have even shown certain games performing slightly better on Pop!_OS compared to Windows.
  • Pop!_OS ships with a recent Linux kernel version and all the libraries required for gaming are up-to-date. This provides better hardware support and compatibility with the latest games.
  • My favourite part of Pop!_OS is the auto-tiling feature. It efficiently arranges windows and provides keyboard shortcuts for navigation. This can help with multitasking and workflow during gaming sessions.

A user mentioned that his encounter with Pop!_OS was plug and play and it didn’t require any complex steps to set up a perfect gaming environment with Linux.

4. Bazzite


Bazzite is based on Fedora Atomic which means the base is immutable and there are close to zero chances that it’ll break. An atomic distro updates itself in the background and the user can not make changes to the root directory.

Here are various reasons why you can consider Bazzite as your next gaming distro:

  • It provides expanded hardware support out of the box, including drivers for Microsoft Surface devices, Nvidia and GPUs, and various gaming controllers. Support for hardware-accelerated video decoding is the cherry on the cake.
  • It comes with Steam and Lutris preinstalled. You also get the optional installation of tools like Decky Loader, EmuDeck, RetroDECK, and ProtonUp-Qt during the setup to provide you best gaming experience out of the box.
  • If you own handheld gaming devices, then Bazzite provides support for Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go, Ayn Loki, etc. You also get features like TDP control, gyro support, and extra controller buttons on these devices.

A user said “The more I use it, the more I’m in love with it. It’s damn stable, keeping everything in containers gives you the freedom to try and experiment stuff” indicating how stable the Bazzite Linux is.

5. Garuda Linux

Garuda linux

If we are considering bleeding edge distros for gaming, then the list without Arch Linux won’t make any sense. You need an option that enables all the required gaming configures out of the box and that’s where the Garuda Linux comes to play.

Here are several other reasons to love Garuda Linux:

  • It uses a Linux-zen kernel by default, which is optimized for desktop, multimedia and gaming workloads.
  • Comes with various performance optimizations and tweaks enabled out of the box, such as ZRAM for memory compression, systemd-oomd to prevent out-of-memory issues, and Ananicy-Cpp to keep the system responsive during heavy tasks.
  • You also get graphical tools to easily manage system settings important for gaming, such as Garuda Assistant to configure system services, Garuda Settings Manager to install drivers and kernels, and Garuda Gamer to install curated gaming packages.

A user while sharing his positive feedback on Reddit said “Garuda is the only distro that makes Steam work out of the box and allows me to import games without hassle.”

6. ChimeraOS


Unlike other gaming distros, ChimeraOS is a little different as it aims to bring a console gaming experience to any PC. It boots directly into a controller-friendly interface similar to Steam’s Big Picture mode, making it easy to navigate and launch games from the couch.

Here are some interesting features of ChimeraOS which make it one of the best Linux distros for gaming:

  • ChimeraOS includes performance optimizations and tweaks out of the box. It uses a recent Linux kernel and includes Mesa drivers for good gaming performance on supported AMD and Intel GPUs.
  • System and game updates are downloaded and installed automatically in the background, without interrupting the gaming session. This keeps the system up-to-date without manual maintenance.
  • Being based on Arch Linux, ChimeraOS provides you with the most recent versions of graphics drivers, gaming-related tools and libraries.
  • It offers a web-based interface for easy configuration of system settings and the best part it it can be accessed from another device’s web browser.

Which Linux Gaming Distro should I pick?

Well, it depends on your use case. If you’re just getting started and have Nvidia GPU, then you can not go wrong with Pop!_OS. If you want more features and better support, then you can use Nobara Linux as well.

The idea is to try multiple Linux gaming distros and choose what works best for you, but for someone, Pop!_OS will get the job done whereas the other has to go with Arch due to new hardware.

Let me know which Linux gaming distro you use.

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A tech journalist whose life revolves around networks.

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