For PC gamers, there is only one de facto operating system. It’s Windows 10. It’s really easy. Build or buy a fashionable gaming PC, hit Windows 10 on that PC, and go for a coffee while Steam is downloading the library. All you have to do is load 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.
For me, I’m in a position to learn Linux, but I also love games. So how difficult is it to combine the two? Not as bad as you think.
Which Linux distribution do you choose?
Unlike Windows 10 and macOS, when it comes to Linux, you’re confused about your 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 the best Linux distributions for games, especially for gamers, with specific tweaks and preloaded software tools to help PC gamers get things done much faster.
I’m using Linux Mint, but I’m used to it since I first started using it when I jumped into Linux. It’s based on Ubuntu and is very beginner friendly.
Linux game hardware and drivers
This is the part that really surprised me when I first started thinking seriously about playing games on Linux. In Windows 10, the driver may be sufficient, but surprisingly, the situation in Linux seems to be better.
Take, for example, my gaming PC. At this point, I’m running an AMD Radeon GPU, so I don’t even need to install any drivers. The open source driver, Mesa, is built into Linux Mint (and many other distributions) and works right out of the box. New drivers are available, but updating to them is not difficult once you have access to a web browser and search engine.
Nvidia graphics cards are a bit different, but there are both open source and proprietary drivers available for them. Try Linux Mint on a gaming laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2060 and imagine my joy when the built-in driver manager pops up on first boot and chooses from the latest version of each. Just knowing what you need for that particular machine made installation easier.
How about PC game 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 world’s largest PC gaming provider, the fact that Steam is behind is good news for us.
Steam has a lot of Linux-native games, and perhaps an amazing 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 Proton, but it still needs to be fixed. Also, some games often don’t run at all due to the built-in anti-cheat software. For example, Destiny 2 will not boot completely due to an anti-cheat system that is not supported by Linux. However, most games have ProtonDB, a third-party resource 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 particular game to run a different version. The ProtonDB community is great at 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 Proton GE (Glorious Eggroll named after its creator), which is often even better.
Outside of Steam, you can also play games from services such as 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. I use a third party platform called Lutris to access Epic and Ubisoft and play games, but it’s almost impossible to tell that I’m actually using Linux.
PC games are all about tinkering
One of the most conceivable things about PC games on Linux is that it requires a lot of necessary tweaking. I thought so too, but how much time do you spend tinkering with games and settings? And how do you get the perfect performance? That doesn’t change here either.
Many games played on Linux are non-native, so there are usually performance differences from 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. Lutris mentioned above uses WINE in its core, but it can also be used to run other tools without using a terminal at all. Feral Gamemode is popular and is included in some of the games Feral has ported to Linux, but you can use it in any game to improve performance. Steam adds commands to the game settings, but Lutris only needs to toggle it on. The same is true for the ACO compiler. Vulkan works well on Linux, and for those who want to see detailed performance data, there are tools such as MangoHud that display a full-featured overlay on the screen.
Also, with OBS natively built for Linux, streaming to Twitch is not an issue.
PC games on Linux are not difficult, very fun
If you like tinkering, try Linux. I’m not saying that Windows 10 should be stopped right away, but I’d like to tell you not to be afraid to give it a try. I wanted to learn how to use it, but I just traced the surface, but I am very happy to make fine adjustments and check the results. Immediately after the rage, I, a beginner, broke something.
However, there are some things to be aware of. For example, I used an NTFS-formatted SSD to store my Steam library, so none of my non-Linux native games were loaded. Reformatting the drive to Linux’s recommended format, ext4, was all right.
There’s a lot to learn and it’s easy to get lost in a rabbit hole. However, there are numerous resources to make that learning easy and enjoyable, and the knowledge of the community is staggering. But just as surprisingly, you don’t really have to do this. Of course, using Epic and other non-Steam platforms requires a bit of work, but it’s not difficult.
If your library is primarily on Steam, you only need to check a few boxes. There’s nothing more difficult than living with Windows 10. Moreover, updating the OS will not completely ruin everything you set up.
PC Games on Linux: How Difficult?
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