PC games on Linux: is it worth using the system to play?

Who I am
Carlos Laforet Coll

For PC gamers, there is only one operating system in fact, and that is Windows 10. Build or buy a modern gaming PC, log into Windows 10 on that PC, and go grab a coffee while Steam is downloading the library. All you need to do is carry your luggage.

It's not that simple, but it's an image. Hardware prices aren't the only reason Mac games aren't a big deal. However, you can also install Linux on your PC. Recently, Linux games have received strong support from Valve and others, along with an active community.

But how difficult is it to combine the two? It's not as bad as you think.

Which Linux distribution to choose?

Unlike Windows 10 and macOS, when it comes to Linux, you get confused about the options. Every best Linux distribution has an active community and there are huge resources to help you when you need it, so it's not too hard to try new things.

Some are considered to be the best Linux distributions for gaming, especially for gamers, with specific tweaks and preloaded software tools to help PC gamers get things done much faster.

Linux game hardware and drivers

This is the part that might surprise anyone who is starting to seriously think about playing Linux. On Windows 10 the driver might be enough, but surprisingly the situation on Linux seems to be better.

Here's an example: a computer running an AMD Radeon GPU, so no drivers need to be installed. The open source Mesa driver is built into Linux Mint (and many other distributions) and works right out of the box. New drivers are available, but updating them is not difficult once you have access to a web browser and search engine.

Nvidia graphics cards are a little different, but there are open source and proprietary drivers available for them. Try Linux Mint on a gaming laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2060 and imagine the joy when the built-in driver manager pops up on first boot and picks the latest version of each. Knowing what you need for that particular machine makes installation easier.

How is PC gaming support on Linux?

Comparing a small percentage of Steam users running Linux with Windows 10, you're wondering why Valve lags behind the platform. But since Steam is the biggest provider of PC games in the world, we have good news here.

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Steam has a lot of native Linux games, and perhaps an incredible number, but the real magic is Proton. This compatibility layer allows gamers to play Windows-only titles on Linux, but with varying degrees of success. Steam has a whitelist of officially supported titles, but you can tell Proton to try something in the library and play it.

However, there are restrictions. It's as good as the Proton, but it still needs to be fixed. Also, some games often don't work due to built-in anti-cheat software. For example, Destiny 2 does not fully boot due to an anti-cheat system that is not supported by Linux. However, most games have ProtonDB, a third-party feature that they always use. If you link it to the Steam library, you'll see what you can expect.

Proton is also not limited to one version. You can use an older version or force a specific game to run a different version. The ProtonDB community is great for reporting issues and fixes. In some cases, just using an older version of Proton will solve the problem. Or, if you're curious, there's a popular custom Proton called the Proton GE (Glorious Eggroll named after its creator), which is usually even better.

Outside of Steam, you can also play games from services like Epic Games, Ubisoft Connect, and EA Origin. The magic of WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) allows you to run Windows-only programs on Linux.

Do I have to configure all games on Linux?

One of the most conceivable things about PC gaming on Linux is that they require a lot of necessary tweaking. One thing we can think about is how much time do you spend fiddling with games and settings? And how do you get the perfect performance? That doesn't change here either.

Many games played on Linux are not native, so there are often performance differences compared to Windows. Running the compatibility layer is not surprising as it is different from running the game natively.

But Linux, which is Linux, has some really great tools to make your game better. The Lutris mentioned above uses WINE at its core, but it can also be used to run other tools without using a terminal. Feral Gamemode is popular and included in some of the games Feral ported to Linux, but you can use it in any game to improve performance. Steam adds commands to the game's settings, but Lutris just needs to enable it. The same is true for the ACO compiler. Vulkan works fine on Linux, and for those who want to see detailed performance data, there are tools like MangoHud that display a full overlay on the screen. Also, with OBS natively built for Linux, streaming to Twitch is no problem.

Worth playing on Linux

If you like change try Linux. We're not saying Windows 10 should stop right away, but we can tell you don't be afraid to give it a try. However, there are a few things to note.

There's a lot to learn and it's easy to get lost. However, there are numerous resources to make this learning easy and enjoyable, and the knowledge of the community is impressive. But just as surprisingly, you don't really need to do that. Sure, using Epic and other non-Steam platforms takes a bit of work, but it's not difficult.

If your library is mostly on Steam, you just need to check a few boxes. There's nothing more difficult than living with Windows 10. Plus, upgrading your operating system won't completely ruin everything you've set up.

Stay tuned on our website for more news and news about the world of games. Take care and until next time!

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