We have had a lot of news about games in the Linux world coming out in recent weeks. We already have an interesting performance for games like Grand Theft Auto V, and the trend is for the compatibility level to improve every day, with Valve’s recent announcement of Proton as announced here! This even was the head behind the development of DXVK which brought a new step in the compatibility of Windows games on Linux.
It is already becoming difficult to ignore the possibility that in the future, Linux will be a hard match in the competition with Windows in the aspect of running games. Even with “translators, emulators, layers of abstraction and other” dirty “media, performance is slowly approaching the ideal. And this is possible to achieve in the future since Linux has direct means of processing the games compared to the computing system. Today, I’ll show you how to get your Linux system ready; or how to prepare one, to play games!
Choosing the Hardware
As much as the Linux kernel, it basically supports any existing hardware nowadays. There is better-supported hardware than others. If you think about putting together a gaming PC, keep reading. If you already have a computer and just need the software, you can go to the next section Choosing the Operating System.
Note: The recommendations made here are based on the diverse opinion found in forums. Do not take everything for granted, and find out if your future hardware will be fully supported, especially the newly released models!
Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitors
Grossly I can state that you do not have to worry about keyboard, mouse, and monitor. All these are supported.
In the case of gamers, beware of those Razer ultra gamers, some commands and extra functions presented problems when mapping to Linux. I did not see any problems with mechanical keyboards.
Among the market options, we have AMD and Intel. Do not pay attention to details because any current processor will be supported. Personal Recommendation? Whatever.
AMD CPUs have greatly improved their Linux support in the latest upgrades and the Ryzen line is reaching Intel enthusiastically as a very interesting option for anyone who wants to work with high-performance software and games.
In addition, Intel’s CPUs will have the applied Spectre and Meltdown fault mitigation fixes that take performance up to 20% depending on the hardware. Use whatever is best for you in the cost vs. benefit aspect.
Choose Video Card
Among the options, we have AMD and NVIDIA, in addition to Intel HD Graphics, usually Onboard. Do not pay attention to details because any current video card will be supported *.Personal Recommendation? NVIDIA. Because NVIDIA provides native drivers for Linux, applicable via the script that are frequently updated and already has older support in the market. Avoid high-end GPUs, such as the GTX 1080 line, as their drivers will be less up-to-date and/or tested for being very recent.
Secondary recommendation? OMG. Especially those supported by the AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 driver Putting at the tip of the pencil, AMD may lose to NVIDIA in performance on Linux, but its support is growing exponentially and today is much better than it has been for 2 years.
Who does not have resources for a GPU, you can go to Intel HD Graphics, if you invest in an Intel Core i9 or Xeon. Intel’s Onboard GPUs deliver interesting gaming performance, with drivers natively supported by Linux.
Printer? And why not? Well, it’s general knowledge but I must reinforce: If you’re choosing a printer, go for HP or Epson. They are the best supported we have in the market. Avoid Canon, Brother, and other line printers. Although Brother has some Linux drivers, several models currently have compatibility issues.
If you need to print to disks, run Linux! The penguin does not support printing on disks mainly due to the low demand of users who use this type of function.
Choosing the Operating System
The key point here is the decision to choose the operating system that will be used to run games. If you have already chosen your ideal operating system, you can go down to the Setup session below.If in doubt, you can follow our recommendations below and build a game-focused system!
All of the systems listed below support .deb packages because they are the most popular among companies closing games for Linux.
I recommend that the systems below, which have a * in the name, have their dual-boot installation if your computer is for personal and everyday use. In this case, they are systems for those who want to turn their computer almost into a console; or who wish to have more optimization on less powerful hardware. In both cases, the highlight is for those who play Linux and do not have the financial resources to upgrade their machine.
These systems with * can also be optimized for day to day use if the user is more experienced! They are as good as other existing distros, changing only the fact that they require more configurations and are less user-friendly.
Ubuntu MATE, Xubuntu or Lubuntu: All 16.04!
By far the 3 friendliest, lightweight systems that perform well when it comes to running a game. From personal experience, Ubuntu MATE brings you the NVIDIA Optimus configuration panel.
Of the 3, my recommendation is the Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS.
- Why not 18.04?
Because 18.04 still presented instabilities with games that before there were no 16.04. Mainly those who rely on WINE. The performance will be better by several factors but the main one is that the overall system is more stable than 18.04.
Important Note: If you use one of the 3, in the LTS version, switch kernels! Apply the last of line 4.14 – if this is no longer the distro pattern – or 4.18; but keep an eye on the next LTS, which will be 4.19. The closer to recent releases, the better the drivers provided by the Kernel and the better the performance with games.
Debian is user-friendly and performs well, not differing much from previous kernel swap recommendations. The only problem I can say about it is that some modules may be natively missing and installing extra packages is needed to have all the power available. You may also need to configure the Debian non-free repository.
* Ubuntu Minimal + OpenBox
This option, aimed at Linux users with more humble hardware, I developed personally after needing to configure an old notebook which I intended to run some games. Not just games, the extreme optimization, in this case, brings a complete system with the largest packet compatibility possible, friendly, with a simple and solid user interface, allowing you to extract more from the hardware. Okay, there is the Gentoo option, whose system is all compiled. But it takes a long time to compile and configure, and the performance gain at the end is paltry, not far from the performance of a properly configured Ubuntu Minimal. I also chose Ubuntu because most Linux games run under .deb packages, increasing compatibility. – All of Steam are in .deb. The configuration of this system, which is more complex than the SteamOS mentioned below can make it ideal even for tasks such as surfing the internet and editing images for example, because the system will have very low consumption of RAM.
I’ve added some interesting information: I ran Windows 7 under VirtualBox on a minimally configured system like this. With XOrg and OpenBox tuned, everything works well, even if it’s aesthetically appealing – but the focus here is the maximum performance, so it was a success!
The choice of OpenBox interface was for some reasons:
- Solid interface (few bugs)
- Easy to set up
- Many features
- Simple to use
- Highly compatible with software
- Extremely lightweight interface, consuming few hardware resources
The properly configured OpenBox interface resembles a 90s system. But aesthetic “horror” brings with it the advantage of minimally consuming hardware resources, allowing you to take better advantage of the system. The information I cannot forget: Ubuntu Minimal + OpenBox starts consuming only 60Mb of RAM. This absurdity of lightness already provides the graphics server required to run Steam games, Wine and the like. The detail that the graphics drivers and their communication with Xorg are under the responsibility of the kernel. Since Ubuntu Minimal has a 4.4.x kernel by default, and you plan to run that kernel on a more modern computer (such as a Core i7 and Geforce 1060) then upgrade it to a newer one such as 4.14.x LTS. The package can be downloaded by clicking here and installed with a deb package manager like “gdebi“! This way you will also have the most current drivers from the Vulkan, MESA and/or OpenGL library.
To install gdebi, use:
$ sudo apt install gdebi
Excited to use this method? Do the following:
- Download by clicking here and install Ubuntu Minimal on your obsolete/weak/old hardware. Record the .ISO using the Gnome Disks or even the dd command. The system has a minimal yet friendly installation interface, allowing you to choose what you want to install or not. I recommend that you, given the installation point when you have suggested the packages you want to install, uncheck everything and confirm.
- When the system starts, you will be presented to the Terminal without a user interface. Log in as required. Ubuntu will be totally “clean”, only the kernel, GNU packages, and some Canonical daemons.
- Install OpenBox and XOrg with the commands: $ sudo apt install openbox xorg obconf
- Restart the PC.
- To enable the user interface, create the xinitrc file: $ cd ~ $ nano .xinitrc Add these two lines inside:#! / bin / bash exec openbox-session
- Once created, save with CTRL + O and CTRL + X
- Now run the user interface with the command:
- If all went well, you will start your graphical interface and you will see a gray screen.
Right click and you will see a simple start menu, listing the installed programs and some options.
- To add more features to the system, you can choose these options (via terminal):
- Firefox Browser: $ sudo apt install firefox
- Install a window composer: sudo apt install xcompmgr
- If you want a dock, use the Cairo Dock: sudo apt install cairo-dock
- If you installed xompmgr and cairo-dock, configure them to start automatically: $ nano ~ / .config / openbox / autostart Add the following lines: xcompmgr & cairo-dock & Complete with the following command: $ openbox –reconfigure
- You can complete the settings/customizations by OBConfig: $ obconfig In it you adjust various details of the system and the theme of it.
- To install programs, use the traditional methodology. $ sudo apt install steam wine playonlinux
From here the OpenBox can look extremely minimal, but the consumption of system resources will be minimal, allowing you to have more CPU, RAM, and GPU available for heavier workloads.
Did you find the configuration of Ubuntu with OpenBox complicated? Try CrunchBangPlusPlus! This is a Linux distribution aimed at medium-high end computers with graphical optimization. Although very similar to what was presented previously with Ubuntu Minimal + OpenBox, it has Debian with OpenBox interface. But important: with the most up-to-date kernel and modules!
It’s the same interface as Ubuntu Minimal + OpenBox.
But with Debian. Its goal is to be a lightweight system complete enough to get the most optimization for those who play on the computer. But beware that because it is Debian, some modules may be natively missing and installing extra packages is necessary to have all the power available. You may also need to configure the Debian non-free repository. To download it, click here! Its installation is not unlike much of a conventional Linux distro.
* Batocera (Recalbox)
Batocera is an operating system aimed at emulating various hardware. It optimizes your computer with a minimal dedicated interface, allowing you to run emulators like SNES, PSOne, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PSP, etc., with better performance than you would have if you just installed them as mere additional applications on a Linux system like Fedora or Ubuntu. Note that this system does NOT run games in .deb or Steam games, focusing only on optimizing your system to better handle the execution of emulators.
Batocera’s interface is similar to that of a console, with minimal access features. The system comes with kernel, tools, emulators and optimized for games. The Batocera exists for several architectures:
- x86 (i386)
- x86_64 (amd64)
- ARM for Raspberry Pi (Zero, 1, 2 and 3), ODROID XU4 and ODROID C2
To download it go here, scroll down to Downloads and choose the architecture of your system. A .ISO for x86 and x86_64 can be written to a USB stick to be installed as LiveUSB using Disks or dd.
The entire system configuration uses a very intuitive user interface and the system already comes with the main settings and drivers to match the largest possible number of controls, including the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Kodi, a multimedia service that transforms any PC on a Chromecast, comes native to the system installation as a more entertainment option.
Originally developed by Valve as the operating system for Steam Machines, which are basically console-optimized computers, SteamOS is based on GNU / Linux Debian, has a Gnome 3 interface and focuses on enthusiastic gamers who have more powerful hardware, play on Linux and want to get more optimization and performance out of their computers.
SteamOS Minimal User Interface SteamOS Minimal User Interface
The system is extremely dry to only have what is strictly necessary, such as a web browser, Bug Reporter and Steam client. The choice of Debian as a base makes the system compatible with the largest possible portion of the currently developed games, which are enclosed in .deb packages.
Whoever wants to use the Valve system, will have the following provision: (Update of 04/01/2018)
- Kernel Linux 4.14.3
- Graphics Drivers NVIDIA 387.22
- Drivers Table 17.2.4 for AMD and Intel
Remembering that SteamOS is still in Beta and interface bugs can occur. Despite this, the system continues to be updated and its development remains strong!
The download can be done by clicking here!
With hand-picked hardware and a refined operating system, it’s time to get your system ready for action.Making use of the Steam Client you will already be well served with the addition of the Proton feature to run Windows games in Linux thanks to the SteamPlay initiative. If you already have the game in Windows, access your SteamPlay from Linux and it will be available for testing. The initial performance of most is poor but tends to improve, since it was a feature added to a few days that is still in the Beta phase.
Unfortunately, this publication ends here because the other tips are in isolated publications here on the site where we detail every extra feature that can be added to your system. Do not know how to enable all Windows games to run on Linux by SteamPlay? This discussion may help you!
Want more games for Linux?
Here’s the list of recommended Steam Summer Sale games this year that featured a number of unreleased titles. Although the promotions are over, you can the list of games for you to check out by clicking here.