A gaming distro, by definition, is host not only to a large variety of games, or software that allows one to play games, but it also has drivers and support for essential devices such as graphics cards and controllers.
Unlike most other genres of Linux distributions, gaming distros aren’t a thriving bunch. But this isn’t because Linux users dislike games, instead it’s due to the fact that this niche category is almost redundant thanks to most modern desktop distros. Almost all desktop distros are equipped nowadays with drivers for most modern graphics cards, which means that just about any distro can be turned into a gaming station. Despite this, some distros continue to churn out special gaming editions which provide hundreds of games right out of the gate, and the means to install even more with additional software such as Play on Linux, Wine and Steam. So without further ado, we’ll highlight five of the best gaming distros.
Fedora Games Spin
The Fedora Project produces several “spins” which are alternate versions of the distro, offering tools and software components chosen for a specific purpose. The Games spin of the distro features a vast collection of games spread across different genres such as arcade, sports, strategy, adventure, action, etc. The 4GB ISO can run off a Live USB, or alternatively be installed to disk, like regular Fedora. While it doesn’t feature all the games available in the repositories, users can install additional games from the repos using the YumEx application. The distro doesn’t ship with Steam or Play on Linux pre-installed, but these can be installed from the software repositories to access even more games.
Fedora Games Spin is ideal for those looking to try popular titles such as Scorched 3D, Battle for Wesnoth and the like.
Based on Ubuntu 14.04 and optimised for gaming, Play-Linux supports a large number of GPUs which are enabled by default. Unlike Sparky or Fedora, the distro doesn’t feature any games but provides the perfect platform to run games through Play on Linux.
Wine is pre-installed and the distro ships with WineTricks to help you tweak settings when needed. The Steam entry under Games is misleading as it’s only an installer which will fetch over 200MB of data files.
Play-Linux runs Flash, MP3 and other proprietary formats out of the box and performs exceptionally well despite being an alpha release. The team is busy working on the beta release hoping for a July 2015 launch – note that the project’s fairly active Facebook page acts as a news and help outlet.
Sparky Linux is a Debian-based distribution that puts out several releases based on different desktops such as XFCE, Mate, LXDE, etc. Since the past few releases, every even-numbered release is also accompanied by a special distro aimed at gamers. The Sparky Linux 3.6 “GameOver” edition is the latest such release.
The DVD release clocks in at over 3.5GB and is chock full of applications and games. The distro features several tools like Sparky APTus Gamer, which lets you install all available game emulators, the Desura installer, Kega Fusion – which is a Sega emulator – and more. A large number of pre-installed games across genres such as arcade, action, sports and so on is an added bonus. Also included are Play on Linux, Wine and the Steam installer.