Three gaming-focused Linux operating systems beat Windows 11 in gaming benchmarks

Gamer sits in front of a monitor playing a game
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Linux gaming performance has been improving for years, but how good is it? ComputerBase benchmarked three different Linux operating systems against Windows 11 in several gaming benchmarks and found all three were able to outperform Microsoft's latest OS. On top of this, all three Linux variants were able to accomplish their impressive performance runs while running all benchmarked titles through Valve's Proton compatibility layer.

The three Linux operating systems ComputerBase benchmarked are Arch Linux, Pop!_OS and Nobara OS. Arch is the most "Linux-like" of the three featuring, a minimalistic default installation that requires user customization to get the most out of it. But at the same time, it also features some of the fastest software and OS updates of any Linux distro. If you didn't know, Valve's SteamOS 3, which powers the Steam Deck, is based on Arch Linux.

The other two Linux distros tested are far more friendly to Linux beginners, featuring default installations that come with loads of applications and plugins, with several designed for gaming. PoP!_OS is a Ubuntu-based operating system built by System76 that features Steam, Proton, and Lutris right out of the box. Nobara OS is a modified version of Fedora Linux that's designed specifically for gamers, featuring OBS, Wine and third-party Nvidia drivers (to name a few features) from the get-go.

ComputerBase's testing was done on an all-AMD test rig, featuring a Ryzen 7 5800X (non-3D) and a Radeon RX 6700 XT. Games tested included Cyberpunk 2077, Forspoken, Rachet & Clank, Starfield and The Talos Principle II. To reiterate: All of these games are Windows specific, and were run through Valve's Proton compatibility layer on their respective Linux operating systems.

Computerbase found that all three Linux operating systems were able to beat Windows 11 by a slim margin. Nobara OS took the top spot, achieving 100 fps flat, while Arch Linux and POP!_OS took second and third place, respectively, achieving 99 fps and 95 fps. Windows 11 took the last position, with an average frame rate of 94 fps (1 shy of POP!_OS). 

In the pre-game analysis, the rankings were less consistent, but in three of the games (Cyberpunk 2077, Forespoken and The Talos Principle II) Nobara OS beat the other three contenders, and in Starfield, Arch Linux came out on top. The only game where Windows 11 came in first was Rachet & Clank Rift Apart.

Similar to the overall results, the frame rate difference between each OS was very small, with most titles having an fps delta of less than eight between the fastest and slowest operating systems. The only exception was Cyberpunk 2077 which had a substantially larger 17 fps gap between the slowest and fastest OS. Surprisingly, the slowest OS was POP!_OS, which achieved 72.7 fps in that title. Nobara, the highest performing OS, achieved 89.6  in Cyberpunk, while Windows 11 landed third, with an average frame rate of 82.3.

ComputerBase' gaming benchmarks show how good Linux gaming performance has become. Even with the additional overhead of Valve's Proton compatibility layer, these three Linux operating systems still managed to beat or achieve very similar performance to Windows 11's native performance.

There's no doubt, then, that Linux is now a highly competitive gaming platform that can play Windows games (thanks to Proton) without sacrificing any serious performance penalties – at last on AMD hardware. It would be interesting to see how close to these tests the results would be with a comparable Intel / Nvidia test system.

Aaron Klotz
Freelance News Writer

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.