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What Linux Distribution is the Best for Games? 178

CodeGeekGuy asks: "I've been thinking of doing the big switcheroo from Windows to Linux. I have, in the past, had various levels of success using Linux, but I generally have to give up as soon as I feel like playing a game. I've done dual booting before, but find it a pain if you're waiting for something to finish and just want a quick game of Half Life 2 or WoW. I'm willing to give this another shot (as I hear that Cedega plays HL2 and WoW quite nicely). I've used Mandrake and Fedora Core and even Redhat, is there another distribution out there that is the best distro to use to get Cedega (and ultimately games) to work well? "
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What Linux Distribution is the Best for Games?

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  • by KingBahamut ( 615285 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @02:28PM (#11620500)
    Your still going to be bound by Cedega's working game list only. That aside, Ive had fairly good success with Suse, Fedora, and Gentoo.
  • Gentoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClassicG ( 138845 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @02:29PM (#11620529) Homepage
    If you have the patience to set it up intially, I think Gentoo might be your best bet, as the flexibility of Gentoo and it's packaging system is second to none. Compiling the initial system shouldn't be a serious problem on any machine beefy enough to run modern games - my last stage-one complete rebuild from scratch took less than a day, including KDE.
    • Re:Gentoo (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tr0mBoNe- ( 708581 )
      I've "sat through" the install on a less than uber system and it can take upwards of 3 days to build and install all the needed and wanted packages for a complete system. But, it's worth it.

      I've had Cedega running with Steam for CS quite well. It only took 2 tries and 32 wtf's. Also, for games that run in linux when a patch is properly applied, you can emerge them. but you need the cd's or images as the emerge only comes with the patch. but it does the install for ya. Gentoo is teh slick... I just wish the
      • by ClassicG ( 138845 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:54PM (#11621560) Homepage
        Heh, I know it's not to everybody's liking, but I think the manual install process of Gentoo is actually one of it's strengths. I learned more about Linux in the two days it took me to get Gentoo set up the first time than I did after months of playing around with RedHat and Mandrake and the like.
        • I think it's more that the manual install forces you to read the gentoo install docs than just the manual install by itself...
      • I just wish their install process was a little more automated. HINT HINT!!

        Agreed. Porthole [] is a step in the right direction, but its pretty buggy still.
    • If you have the patience to set it up intially, I think Gentoo might be your best bet, as the flexibility of Gentoo and it's packaging system is second to none.

      You, sir, have never used apt.

      Regardless, you did nothing to answer the OP's question, which is what distribution would be best for gaming. The real answer is that any distribution will be equally good for gaming (within a reasonable margin) since Cedega is the part that makes Windows games run.

      The only factors the distribution contribute are: a

    • Discover Vidalinux -
      Vidalinux is basically Gentoo without the painful install. In addition to its easy graphical installer it has knoppix style hardware detection. I've installed it on two machines already (including a relatively low end Thinkpad T22) . I will probably install it over this stock gentoo machine sooner or later. With it you get the latest gnome desktop and a good selection of packages. It uses the standard gentoo portage. And switching to KDE is just an emerge away if you prefer KDE. Id recom
    • Re:Gentoo (Score:5, Informative)

      by wolf31o2 ( 778801 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @10:57PM (#11625829)

      You know, I am one of the Games developers for Gentoo, and I can tell you that we aren't anything special when it comes to non-native gaming. We might do a little better on the open source games than most people, but when it comes to commercial games, it really is all the same. Either cedega or WINE is really doing the work, if you're playing Windows games.
  • I've had great luck with Ubuntu, Suse, or Mandrake. I've had bad luck with Fedora Core. Other than that I really couldn't speak for any other distros as these are the ones I've tried to game with.

    • You know, I wish there was just a website that shows you how to get the most popular games working on 1 linux distribution. Unfortunately there is no such thing.

      • A one distro solution doesn't mean anything when it is all driven by Cedega/Wine/WineX

        The most something like that could accomplish would be tweaks to fix things that the distro may have broken.

        The closest you will get right now is the Unofficial Transgaming Wiki page [] which mentions which version work better with what games and what tweaks maybe needed to get it to work.
  • Gentoo (Score:2, Informative)

    by Apreche ( 239272 )
    Gentoo is by far the best distro for gaming. I've used just about every major distro there is. Gentoo is the only one where I could reliably make games work. I've got nvidia drivers, alsa, the doom3 demo, emulators. Heck, I've got Mechwarrior 2 running in DOSbox on this thing. It didn't work when I tried it on fedora.
  • by SPQRDecker ( 762669 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @02:40PM (#11620688)
    As much as I hate to say it, if you want to play games that are designed for Windows, the best thing to do is boot into Windows. No matter how good Cedega gets, it will still be an attempt to imitate the environment that the game was designed for, and will always have some performane lag. Not only that, but if it is a graphically intensive video game, as most are, you will want the best possible video drivers for direct rendering and such, and in that respect, Linux is nowhere nere as adept as Windows yet. But, on the bright side, since the game is full screen, you won't have any of the annoying widgets like the 'start' menu around to remind you what OS you're in. If, however, you still want to play your game on Linux, I don't think that the distribution really matters. What does matter is that you are using the vendor supplied proprietary driver, either from nVidia or from ATI, rather than the open source equivalent, which is not nearly as good at demanding rendering tasks. Most distributions, including Fedora and Redhat, only include the open source version, so be sure to go to your video card maker's website and download their linux drivers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The fact is that different distributions can make this emulation process smoother & faster, which in turn make the gaming better. I run CS (1.6) through Point2Play (Cedega frontend) on Ubuntu, works flawlessly, I run nVidia drivers which are pretty damn good, though my FPS is down about 30% from 100 on Windows, it isn't noticeable (in a game like CS 1.6, anyway).

      Some people experience better FPS through Linux/Cedega than they do on Windows XP. I'm not sure why, to be honest, but it can happen.

      You can
    • by Sparr0 ( 451780 ) <> on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:31PM (#11621291) Homepage Journal
      great speech, from someone who has never used cedega. linux HAS the best video drivers, with as many or more features as the windows counterparts (for my nvidia cards at least). for performance lag, thats on a game by game basis. linux native games (savage, ut2004, every single ID game) run faster in linux almost 100% of the time. SOME windows games run faster (WoW being a prime example). most windows games run slightly slower on the graphical end, but almost every single windows game runs faster on the computational end, because the cedega emulation of various windows system calls such as disk access and paging are faster.
      • I hate to do this, but I have got to call bullshit on this. I run WoW both on WinXP and VidaLinux with Cedega. Cedega's performance is crap for this game. Just one look at their forums could tell you that, but I am telling you from experience, it sucks. Especially if you want to go anywhere there are other people.

        In windows my average fps hover around 50 - 60 when soloing somewhere, and 35 - 45 when in a populated area. On Linux with Cedega however it hovers around 15 - 20 when solo and drops to an u

      • I've cut off my ties with Windows permanently now that it'll run every game I could ever want to play (with the exception of Gunbound >.). Every Blizzard game works perfectly (including WoW, for me). Most FPS games work (Valve's games, and Id's games for sure). I don't know what the status of Sims 2 is, but otherwise I think that "I don't like linux because it doesn't run my games" is a very poor excuse at this point.

        - shazow
    • I agree with you that Windows is the best platform for playing Windows games, but your comment that Cedega will always perform slower is just dead wrong. There are already many tasks where Cedega is faster than native Windows. Think of it like saying that GTK is slower than X libraries because GTK has to imitate the X environment. It simply is not true. All the Cedega (or WINE) need to do is provide the proper interfaces. The underlying code is different, so its speed is dependent on how well it is opt
  • by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:00PM (#11620931) Journal
    Let me put it this way:

    You are buying a vehicle. You want something fun, fast and sporty. You go and buy a 3/4 ton pickup. Mistake!

    Select your OS based on what you want to run. If what you are running is "Windows Games", examine the first word -- Windows -- and run them on that platform. If you want to run Linux, go and buy VMWARE, and run Linux on the same box. No big sweat, and no particular problem.

    Or, use the money you would spend on VMWARE, and buy another box for Linux.

    I am sure that you will get a lot of "Red Hat sucks", "Gentoo rules", "SuSe rules", "Mandrake is the schiznit" answers.

    Ignore them. Again, pick a REASON as to why you want to use Linux -- is it a hobby? if so, Gentoo or "Linux from Scratch" may be suitable. Do you want to do real work? Red Hat/Fedora Core or SuSe. Whatever, its your choice.

    If you *do* explore VMWARE, you may want to pick a VMWARE supported system.

    Anyway, the OS is a commodity (at least in the Linux world, with Microsoft, it tends to be forced on you based on applications -- it's the platform). So don't sweat it.

    • Im pretty sure VMWARE does not support hardware acceleration for video or sound card. At least when I last checked. If they have recently added some king of passthrough to get hardware acceleration, then it may work.
    • KVM switch (Score:2, Interesting)

      by doorbender ( 146144 )
      When I get home I game and have grown tired of trying to get linux to run the games i want to play, AND don't have the budget to buy a second virtual OS.


      I recommend a KVM switch. Run lin on one box and win on the other.

      AND ATI suck as it is THERE fault they have crappy support (if you can find any) for linux.

      I feel like a jilted lover. 5 years ago I swore by ATI but now I only allow myself to have one ATI card at a time so I can use linux on the other pcs.
    • amen.

      games are one of the things that are still weak in linux...but i rarely game, so it does not bug me.

      linux is very strong as far as support for software development tools of any kind, server applications, even a good range of office productivity apps. I am able to find native programs to fit most of my needs.

      I've even found plenty of native games to satisfy me, like tuxracer, defendguin, puzzlepirates. Found a lot more for$$$ games that surprised me, like SimCity3000, Civilization, Descent, Doom

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:05PM (#11620978) kill a puppy. It's true.

    See: 10 Points to Consider Before Buying Cedega [].

  • by the_greywolf ( 311406 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:09PM (#11621023) Homepage

    i run Gentoo and had no trouble getting Cedega working.

    that said, i also use Con Kolivas' kernel patchset. initially i had problems, but we came up with a nice list of audio tips [] to help get things working right.

    i'm waiting right now for some work Ingo Molnar has indicated he's going to do that could help Wine out dramatically. be prepared to recompile your kernel several times in the near future.

  • 3 letter answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gothzilla ( 676407 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:11PM (#11621040)

    Just get a KVM switch and hook it up to a linux box and a windows box. Problem solved.
    • Unfortunately, a KVM switch introduces other problems. I've tried this, with limited success: fuzzy video at higher resolutions, poor mouse support, little or no mouse-wheel support, little or no three-button support, etc.

      The more capable switches are trying to do more than simply connecting to the target machines. In general, the "dumber" the switch is, the better it should perform as a "game toggle."

      -- Dr. Bob

      STL (DuBourg, STLSFS, Rivendell, The Shire, Archon, Fontbonne)
      CA (Planet 10, Realty Fault)
  • zen linux (Score:2, Informative)

    by jbltgz ( 549512 )
    try zen linux [], then apt-get install wine.
  • SuSE (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheRealJFM ( 671978 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:17PM (#11621111) Homepage Journal
    I recommend SuSE here, simply because of its driver support. It installs the nvidia drivers at install time if you have a net connection, and provides a good GUI to control all of that.

    One click enabling of direct rendering (3d acceleration) is something that I think would be a godsend to most new users.

    Also SuSE's exellent documentation cannot be ignored.

    On the cedega front I suggest you do try this! It plays Counter Strike via Steam perfectly here, though I can't comment on WOW or anything like that.

    I've heard Half Life 2 support is pretty good, and there are a lot of revies on the net that show it's working pretty well. In fact its cedega that's tempting me to go and buy HL2 - an interesting fact since I don't own a windows pc :p

    The best thing to do is to just *try* all these things. SuSE isn't free, but there is an FTP install that should cover everything you need for gaming (the commercial extensions wont help you here and the drivers for nvidia are downloaded at install time or during a later online update).

    The only problem with SuSE is a lack of a good package manager, but the installation of Apt For SuSE ( solves any problems here.

    As for stability I'd recommend SuSE over Mandrake, in usablilty i'd recommend it over just about everything, and I'd recommend it for gamers over the other distros.

    I'm happy to answer any questions. :)

    (I recommend other distros for other things (eg slackware or debian for servers) but thats not the point. For home users its SuSE all the way)
    • Personally, I would avoid SuSE at all costs. While I don't use it for home use, I have a lot of experience with it at work. I don't use this by choice, just an external company decided to go with it, so we do all our related testing on it as well. I have had so many problems with SuSE, I don't know where to begin. The first one that was really bizarre, is that if you have multiple NICs in it, it will sometimes decide to flip which interface is associated which eth (as in, eth0 and eth1 are now flipped).
      • SuSE is one of the few distros i've used where everything works without excess playing around.

        i wouldn't recommend it for a business environment, though. maybe xandros for that

        I think you must be using a very old and pre-novell version, since 9.2 comes with kernel 2.6 installed by default.

        i haven't experienced any of those problems, and i am on some *very* weird hardware ;)

        Since Fedora Core 1 came with a 2.6 kernel (tell me if i'm wrong, it might have been fedora core 2) its a bit unfair to compare a ve
        • Well, if they don't have to pay for it, yeah, try everything! And you are correct, I am having to use an older distro. That's how this business works is that you take the latest and greatest at the time and then make it stable and standard. So I am using something that is just pre-9. But my experience with it scares me off from future use. Like, YAST2 is a real easy way to configure stuff for people unfamiliar with Linux. But it is extremely irritating when you make changes the normal way and they don
          • yeah... this is all a matter of opinion, of course ;)

            I am not a corporate user, so I tend to take very simple approaches where I don't have to worry about compatibility, etc

            however, now Novell are at the helm of SuSE things have changed quite a bit in that respect.

            its also all LSB, so things should be fine as far as manually configuring stuff

            I don't really know, though, i'm usually happy just to use Yast which i think is a good tool, although for a lot of things (antivir, ntp, apt, etc) i do it by hand
    • The best thing to do is to just *try* all these things. SuSE isn't free, but there is an FTP install that should cover everything you need for gaming (the commercial extensions wont help you here and the drivers for nvidia are downloaded at install time or during a later online update).

      Actually you can get Suse for free now too w/o the pain of an FTP install. []

  • Get a console (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fr0dicus ( 641320 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:30PM (#11621272) Journal
    Install Linux, get a console, and simplify. The Xbox has or is getting 75% of what's decent on the PC. Joypads take five minutes to learn unless you're mentally deficient.
    • then i must really not like 75% of what's decent on the PC.

      the only reason i can even remotely see for buying an XBox is Halo and Halo 2. but i simply can't justify buying a $150 console for two $70 games that require a $35 addon and a $50/mo service, and then plug all tat shit into a $100 TV i don't yet own.

      you can keep your XBox. but keep it away from me.
    • OH HELL NO.

      I have been thinking that I was missing out on all of this great gaming going on on consoles since I don't have a xbox or ps2. Let me tell you last night I played halo2 on xbox at an after-work tourney, and the week before played around with GTA San Andreas on a PS2. What a disappointment. I found the graphics seriously lacking (what is it, half the resolution of the shittiest 640x480 monitor?), the little game controllers sucked ass and the low scan rate of the TV gave me a headache. Consoles
  • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) * on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:31PM (#11621290) Homepage Journal
    What Linux Distribution is the Best for Games?

    And which Lotus is best for off-roading?
  • by rogabean ( 741411 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @03:51PM (#11621526)
    As a longtime Cedega (wineX) user I've had best luck under Mandrake in general. Suse was my preferred distro prior but as of the last year I've had nothing but trouble gaming under it... Fedora seemed to do ok, but the most solid so far (currently playing the two games you mentioned) has been Mandrake for gaming purposes.
  • Go Native! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JTorres176 ( 842422 )
    Okay, well, maybe not native. I use slackware and SuSE 9.2. I haven't been able to get ATI's drivers to work for Slack for almost a year now, but SuSE's downloads work well if you follow their instructions EXACTLY! I'd say go native for gaming though. There's flight simulators, Seach and Rescue, and a good number of others available. Also, playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory on Windows yields about 80fps at 1024x786 on my RV350AP, in linux, it's over 100fps, occasionally spiking to ab
  • Ubuntu (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sn0wman3030 ( 618319 )
    I run Ubuntu and play WoW all the time. While games don't run as fast as they do nativly in Windows, the convenience is undeniable. I'd recommend any debian or rpm based distrobution because Transgaming distributes Cedega packaged with both of those.
  • As I see it, unless you have your *very first ever* gaming computer, there is no reason to not run Windows in addition to Linux. Eventually you will get a new one, and when you do, your old one can serve as your everyday linux box, with no dual booting, and only the additional cost of the KVM switch.
  • by mushroom blue ( 8836 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @05:19PM (#11622590)
    if you're wanting an OS to play games, I'd say try Gentoo [], and maybe check out Ubuntu [] as well.

    I'm a Gentoo guy, but I totally understand why people wouldn't want to go through the long install process. This is why VidaLinux [] exists. VidaLinux is essentially a precompiled Gentoo (with Gnome 2.8, etc), installed with Redhat's Anaconda Installer. works amazingly well Full working Gentoo distribution up and running in under an hour.

    don't want to compile future packages? that's allright. just check out Project Chinstrap [], which has precompiled packages for Gentoo. Easy as pie.

    Ubuntu has its share of issues, but overall, it's a top-notch choice as well. both should work amazingly well for games.
  • I've been thinking of doing the big switcheroo from Windows to Linux.

    If you're really thinking about dumping Windows, have you considered OS X? While there aren't anywhere near as many games on OS X as there are for Windows, the ones we do get are quality titles with native support, like World of WarCraft, Halo, The Sims, etc. You can find a pretty good list of games at Apple's web site. [] You can easily dip your toes into the water by ordering a Mac mini.

  • I have 2 swappable HDs and a HD bay on my computer here. When I want to work under Linux, in goes drive A and I can do some serious computing. When I want to fuck around playing Windows games, I put in drive B and I can play City of Heroes.

    Its superior to dual booting to my mind, each OS is completely separate and cannot possibly affect the other one, and its relatively painless to switch them around. At the same time while I am in Linux, I am not tempted to fire up a game as a distraction :P
  • You might as well be asking which sexual position is best. There are so many different opposing and agreeing views you have to really decide for yourself. Honestly, a debian based system would be what I recommend, but SuSe has a nice interface and just seems really professional - except not a very friendly package manager. Fedora doesn't cut it in my estimation.

    I use Xandros myself, but I don't play games much -- I don't have a good graphics card -- and the libs get old real quick -- hard to update. =
  • The best Unix for games is still Mac OS X, which can run a lot more games natively than Linux/X86 can, and Virtual PC, while far from perfect, can as I recall run 2D DOS and Windows games reasonably well. And then there's the fact that most of the vintage Mac OS {n|6>=n=9} games.

    Don't forget the UNIX games either.

    Windows 98 is fairly good for older games too, but for new games that aren't OS X or Linux friendly you often just have to bite the bullet and boot into XP -- firewall it heavily and run Wind
  • There are mainly two types of linux games.
    1. Binary Packaged Games
    2. Source Packaged Games

    For the first type, any pretty reasonably recent distro will work. The two main package formats are RPM and DEB. RPM used to be it for the most part, but these days you can usually find a DEB if there is an RPM to be had.

    RPM's do somewhat of a "dirty" install in that they often put files in non-standard locations and they have dependency issues. DEB packages don't really have any major flaws except perhaps that they ar

  • I'm confused . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by npsimons ( 32752 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @08:56PM (#11655518) Homepage Journal
    You ask "What Linux distribution is best for games?", but then you mention non-Linux games. If you want to play Windows games, install Windows. If you are really dedicated to switching to Linux, wipe Windows, throw out your Windows games and go to If the game(s) you want to play don't run under Linux, complain (loudly but rationally) to the companies that make those games. Don't try some half-assed "portability layer" which will only leave you bitter about Linux when the Next Great Thing won't run under it.

    The only thing Cedega does is to dissuade publishers from making real Linux games and actually porting to something other than Windows.
    Transgaming is almost as bad for open source as Microsoft is by itself.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972