Gamers who want to pursue their hobby primarily on the PC no longer necessarily have to rely on Microsoft’s Windows 10 or Windows 11 operating systems. Because free operating systems, so-called distributions, based on the free operating system kernel Linux, have recently approached the mainstream much faster, not least thanks to the efforts of Valve.
Valve provides tailwind
At the latest with the release of the handheld PC Steam Deck, which uses the custom APU (“Aerith”) adapted by AMD for Valve with four Zen 2 processor cores (8 threads) and an RDNA2 GPU with 512 shaders (8 CUs) as well as 16 GiByte LPDDR5-5500 combined with SteamOS, gaming has finally arrived on Linux.
In the last 12 months, Valve has made several optimizations for its Proton compatibility tool on the constantly evolving in-house gaming operating system, which is based on Arch Linux, the free desktop environment KDE Plasma and the Steam client and is currently available as SteamOS 3.4.6 Beta consequences.
Windows games run on Linux
Proton, which is based on the Wine runtime environment, which is compatible with Windows, ensures that a huge number of games developed natively for Windows can also be run under Linux without any problems. Also the free graphics stack Mesa 3D as well as the DirectX-to-Vulkan translator DXVK are essential for gaming under Linux and have shown a remarkable pace of development lately. Players are by no means limited to SteamOS, any current distribution is suitable.
What do gamers need to play on Linux?
But what exactly do gamers who intend to give Linux a chance as an alternative to Windows need? Apart from a continuously updated Linux distribution, a so-called “rolling release”, with the latest software packages, libraries, runtime environments, APIs and drivers, all of which are supplied with the operating system, not much. The operating systems are the most stable starting point Manjaro, openSUSE Tumbleweed and Pop!_OS at.
Requirements for playing on Linux:
- A recent Linux distribution
- Current software packages and libraries
- A current version of the free graphics stack Mesa 3D
- The latest Steam client with updated Proton API
- Current graphics drivers from AMD or Nvidia
- The latest version of Wine API
- A current Linux kernel
In particular, the Steam client and the Proton API supplied with it, the free graphics stack Mesa 3D, the Wine API and the DirectX to Vulkan translator “DXVK” should be available in a current version. In order to support the latest hardware such as the AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D or the Nvidia Geforce RTX 4090, a current operating system kernel should also be on board.
What works and what doesn’t work?
Especially through Steam Play and Proton, a huge selection of games now runs on Linux. Like the gaming database ProtonDB As can be seen, Valve itself now classifies more than 8,000 games from its own library as playable under Linux. More than 3,000 games have already been verified for the Steam Deck. Technologies such as ray tracing, DLSS and FSR are now also supported.
Even AAA games like Hogwarts Legacy and Elden Ring, which even shows better performance under Linux than under Windows, and the RGP milestone The Witcher 3 no longer pose a problem under Linux. Even most copy protection measures and anti-cheat engines like BattleEye and EasyAntiCheat are now supported via Proton. Some multiplayer games still have some catching up to do.
And what about off Steam?
In addition to the Steam client, there are also alternatives such as the open source game manager Lutris to choose from, which makes GOG and Epic Games available under Linux and can conveniently manage game libraries.
Play on Linux! Tired of Windows PC?
Write off the Windows PC as a gaming machine? No, that’s not necessary! why? It plays great on Windows 10 and Windows 11. However, Linux is already a real alternative for many players today and combines all the advantages of the free operating system, such as a high level of data protection and a particularly high degree of adaptability, with the option of being able to play current games.
Your opinion is asked!
What do you think of gaming on Linux? Is the free operating system an alternative for you, or do you prefer Windows 10 and Windows 11? The editors look forward to your well-founded opinion in the comments on this report. You must be logged in to PCGH.de or the Extreme forum to comment. If you don’t have an account yet, you can register register here.