To play Windows-compatible games in its Linux-based operating system, the Steam Deck relies on a compatibility layer called Proton. It’s a collection of different technologies, including the venerable Wine software and software that translates Windows-native Direct3D API calls into Vulkan API calls that Linux can handle.
Proton is continually updated to fix rendering bugs in specific games and to add new games to the compatibility list; version 8.0 was released yesterday and added support for 18 new games (and fixes rendering bugs in tons of others). Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais called the release “our biggest rebase to date.”
The new compatibility list includes a few of the big, recognizable titles you’d expect Valve to prioritize, including the 2023 re-release of Dead Space and Square Enix’s Forspoken. But there is one oddball game that stood out to me: Chex Quest HD, the remastered version of a 1996 CD-ROM game that was included for free in boxes of Chex cereal for six weeks in the mid-’90s.
The original Chex Quest was a reskinned and modified version of The Ultimate Doom, a 1995 re-release of the 1993 original. For PC gamers at the time who had already moved on to Quake, its old graphics and gameplay (and its nakedly uncool corporate branding and kid-friendly aesthetic) made it passé. But for kids with no disposable income and/or parents who didn’t want them playing something as violent as Doom, it served as an introduction to the first-person shooter genre.
Its oddly devoted fanbase has given the Chex Quest franchise a much longer shelf life than a typical cereal box. Free-to-download sequels followed in 1997 and 2008, and the 2008 Chex Quest 3 release also included updated ZDoom versions of the first two games with other modifications and bug fixes. Chex Quest HD, the 2020 release supported by the Proton 8.0 update, is a full remaster of the original built using Unreal Engine 4. It’s a free download for Steam users, and there’s a $5 Nintendo Switch version available, too.
Although new Proton updates benefit the Steam Deck first and foremost, it’s an open source tool, and Valve bundles it in all versions of Steam for Linux. Find and enable the Steam Play setting (Canonical has Ubuntu instructions here, but it should be the same on most distros), and you’ll be able to try officially supported-and-tested Windows games on your own Linux PC. An experimental branch also exists if you want to try a game that isn’t on the official support list.
The Proton 8.0 update requires a GPU with Vulkan 1.3 support. Although this version of the Vulkan spec was only finalized in early 2022, GPUs that are still getting driver updates from their manufacturers should all support it. The Khronos Group’s conformance list shows Vulkan 1.3 support for Intel integrated GPUs going back to 2017’s 7th-generation Core processors, plus all Iris Xe and Arc GPUs; AMD GPUs as old as 2016’s Radeon RX 480; and Nvidia GPUs as old as 2014’s GeForce GTX 750 Ti.
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