Since the Steam Deck came out, gaming on Linux has become increasingly popular. Linux has changed significantly in the last couple of years, and you can set it up for gaming quickly.
Gamers on the Linux platform are getting a better experience than ever, with even cloud gaming platforms opting to go with Linux.
If you’re a Linux enthusiast, getting the right combination of hardware and software is essential before you begin your gaming journey. We are here to help you with that as we review the prerequisites for gaming on Linux.
While most games are supported on Linux, all of them are not. PC gamers prefer the Windows platform, so many game developers do not prioritize optimizing the operating system. This also means that newer features can take longer to roll out.
Table of Contents
- Recommendation For A Linux Gaming PC Build
- Setting Up Linux For Gaming
- Other Popular Linux Distros
- Must-Have Software
- Gaming Performance On Linux
- Pros Of Gaming On Linux
- Cons Of Gaming On Linux
Recommendation For A Linux Gaming PC Build
|Graphics Card||AMD RX 5700 XT
AMD RX 6700 XT
|CPU||Intel Core i5 12400
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
G.Skill Trident Z Neo
G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB or Corsair
Dominator Platinum RGB
|GIGABYTE B660M DS3H DDR4 (Intel 12400)
ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-Plus (AMD Ryzen 5600X)
When it comes to gaming, a decent graphics card is vital since it will do the heavy lifting and render everything you see on the screen. Powerful graphics cards ensure an excellent visual experience, but gaming on Linux requires specialized driver support.
AMD actively develops open-source drivers with kernel developers and has better support, so we recommend AMD graphics cards. We recommend the RX 5700 XT as a pocket-friendly option or the 6700 XT for superior performance.
At the time of writing, AMD graphics drivers for Linux are available for RX 6000, RX 5000, RX 500, and RX 400 series graphics cards. And we are awaiting support for the Radeon RX 7000 series GPU, as it’s relatively new.
A good CPU should complement your PC’s graphics card. At 1080p, the graphics card will do most of the heavy lifting in games, so you needn’t get a top-tier CPU for gaming. We can recommend the Intel Core i5-12400 or the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X since the more mainstream Intel 13th generation and AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPUs (non-K Intel and non-X AMD) have yet to be released.
The Intel Core i5-12400 offers an excellent combination of cores and clock speed as it features 6-cores (12-threads) and clock speed up to 4.4 GHz. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X also has 6-cores and a clock speed of up to 4.6 GHz. Both are great options for gaming.
The Intel Core i5-12400 CPU supports both DDR4 and DDR5 memory. So which one should you pick? DDR4 is tried and tested and has lower latency, but DDR5 is much faster.
DDR4 memory is also cheaper than DDR5—the performance gains from high-speed DDR5 memory while gaming on Linux varies from game to game. If you want to save money, DDR4 memory is the best bet, but if you want to future-proof your system, it’s advisable to go with DDR5.
Corsair Dominator and G.Skill Trident Z Neo are some great DDR4 options, and the G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB and Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB are some of the best DDR5 memory options.
The motherboard facilitates data transfer between the different components of your PC, and among other things, it defines RAM speed. Further, it provides overclocking capabilities for the CPU (and RAM) and allows you to attach several M.2 NVMe SSDs. Be informed that you must pick a motherboard compatible with the chosen CPU.
The GIGABYTE B660M DS3H DDR4 is an inexpensive motherboard supporting DDR4, PCIe 4.0, USB-C 3.2 Gen2, and 2.5GbE LAN. Moreover, it sports M.2 slots so that you can attach high-speed storage, an essential for gaming.
If you want to go with the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, we recommend the ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-Plus. This solid mid-range motherboard supports PCIe 4.0 and has a pair of M.2 slots. This is not a full-size ATX motherboard, but it still has all the gaming features you need. Including USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C and 2.5G Ethernet.
Setting Up Linux For Gaming
The first step is running a Linux operating system on your PC. For this, you will need a USB flash drive with at least 8GB capacity to flash an image of the operating system and install it on your PC.
- Download Manjaro
- Download and launch Etcher
- Select “flash from file”
- Select the Manjaro version that you downloaded
- Ensure your USB drive is connected and select Target drive.
- Click on “Flash!”
Once completed, your flash drive is ready for installing Linux. Plug in the USB drive, turn on the PC and enter the boot setup by pressing the hotkey (F12).
- Choose the USB drive in the boot menu
- Select boot with open-source drivers
- Click on Install Manjaro
- Follow the step by choosing your preferences
- Click on Install
Once the process has been completed, you must restart your PC. You will notice that Steam is installed by default, but there are a couple of settings that we recommend you change before gaming.
With Manjaro, the graphics card drivers are usually up to date, but you should check manually just to be sure. To do that, open the app drawer from the bottom left corner and search for Hardware Configuration. Here you can see the installed drivers of your graphics card and auto-install open-source drivers.
Now you need to enable Proton to play games. Log into Steam and head into Steam settings. Select Steam Play, enable Steam Play for supported and all other titles, and click OK. This will allow you to play more games. You can search for the version of Proton that works best with the game you are interested in playing. Once Steam has restarted, you will be able to run games.
Other Popular Linux Distros
We have recommended Majaro for gaming on Linux, but there are other distros that you can pick. The following are some of the popular ones.
Drauger Uses Steam for games, so it is easy to install games. This OS is portable, and you can take it anywhere with you on a flash drive. The operating system has an app manager and a script manager so you can install and modify games. It is free for x86 and x64 platforms.
Ubuntu GamePack is designed to be compatible with popular games and is one of the best versions of Ubuntu for gaming. It offers better performance, graphics, and audio quality. It is quick to set up and update.
Fedora Games spin
This Linux distro is based on Fedora. The community provides the spin with games; you can play all the popular games on it. It comes with the Steam client and is easy to set up. It also has tools for surfing the web, chatting, and watching videos. Furthermore, it also includes working graphics drivers.
This is a very lightweight Linux distro that has been designed with ease of use in mind. It comes with Steam and supports Steam Big Picture mode. It is based on Ubuntu and supports games across different clients.
This is another lightweight distro that is based on RetroArch. It has a simple interface that is easy to use, even for beginners. Since this is a lightweight distro, it boots very fast, even on older hardware. It is ideal for emulating consoles such as the PS2 or PSP.
As mentioned above, you will need Steam and Proton for gaming on Linux, but other software can make things easier for you.
This is excellent for games that need tweaks. Pillars of Eternity 2, for example, won’t run well on CPUs with many cores; Lutris can hide the cores from the game and restore them once you’re done gaming for the day.
This software allows you to remap any input to keyboard or mouse keys. You can also map extra mouse buttons.
Heroic Games Launcher
If you have trouble running games via the Epic Games Store or GOG on Linux, we recommend using the Heroic Games Launcher. You can use Lutris for all other games.
If you want to monitor your hardware while playing a game, then Mangohud is what you need.
Replay Sorcery allows you to record your gameplay and works with Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
This screenshot tool has all the options of a decent screenshot utility, including a nice overlay.
Gaming Performance On Linux
As mentioned before, gaming on Linux is better than ever, but not all games work. More than 65% of games work well, and the performance can be on par with Windows, especially at 1080p. Jarrod’sTech tested both Windows and Linux operating systems using the same PC and found that the performance was very close in games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Warhammer III, and Apex Legends.
If you increase the resolution to 1440p, Windows has a significant lead in games such as Apex Legends and Spider-Man Remastered. However, games like Control run better on Linux at 1080p and 1440p.
ETA Prime tried Project Cars 2, Injustice 2, God of War, Cyberpunk 2077, and Elden Ring on Linux, and most of the games performed well at 60+ FPS with performance settings on lower-end hardware. Even Elden Ring ran at 45 FPS and did not hit 60 FPS due to the older hardware.
Pros Of Gaming On Linux
Linux is centralized and does not work like a store. So it’s easy to find, install, and update software. Furthermore, there are plenty of choices regarding the user interface. Gaming on Linux also has better privacy and is free, unlike Windows.
In terms of gaming, it relies on OpenGL and Vulkan rather than proprietary DirectX or Metal. The operating system can be installed on almost any machine and has more consistent drivers.
Cons Of Gaming On Linux
If you are or have been a Windows user, there is a learning curve for gaming on Linux. While support for games is much better now, you may encounter issues that you will need to troubleshoot, and you will find that games that work on Windows require workarounds on Linux, and one problem can lead to another, causing a lot of frustration. Hence, gaming on Linux is not advisable for novice users, and you must be well-versed in Linux to ensure a hassle-free gaming experience.
Linux has improved significantly and is better than ever for gaming. While there are plenty of supported games, not all will work, and you might need to make some tweaks. If you want to play games on Linux, we recommend using an AMD graphics card for better performance and driver support.