Compatibility layers

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While not strictly emulation per se (hence why Wine stands for "Wine Is Not an Emulator"), compatibility layers allow software written for one operating system to run on a different OS, often by translating API and system calls made by an application to their equivalent calls in the host operating system. In theory, this should allow for near-native performance since no processor emulation takes place, but in practice some software such as games will tend to run a bit slower due to other bottlenecks that occur as a result of replicating the correct behavior, such as accounting for graphics APIs like Direct3D that aren't supported on non-Microsoft platforms. Additionally, compatibility layers may also use emulation in order to run software built for a different architecture.

Compatibility layers

Name Operating System(s) Latest Version FLOSS Active Recommended Runs the following software
PC / x86
Wine       8.0
(Dev: 8.3)
Windows applications and games
Proton   7.0-6 Windows games
TeknoParrot PC-based arcade games
Rosetta   N/A x86 macOS applications (PowerPC macOS apps on earlier versions)
CrossOver       22.1 Windows applications and games
Anbox   git Android software
Darling   git (WIP) macOS software
WineVDM   git
16-bit Windows apps and games
Wineskin   1.7 Windows applications and games
WineBottler Dev Windows applications and games
WoW   ? Windows 9x apps and games
Win3mu   ? Windows 3.x apps and games
NTVDMx64   git DOS applications and games
Ardi Executor       2.1.17 Classic Mac OS software up to System 6
DOSEmu   1.4.0 DOS software
DOSEmu2   git DOS software
Mobile / ARM
Box86         git TBD x86 Linux programs
Wine   8.3 ~ (WIP) Windows applications and games
Hangover     git Windows applications and games
Anbox   git Android software
FEX-Emu   git TBD TBD x86 and X86-64 Linux programs
Skyline   TBD ~ Nintendo Switch games and homebrew
Nintendont     git GameCube games


  • Wine is a free and open-source compatibility layer that aims to allow computer programs (application software and computer games) developed for Microsoft Windows to run on Unix-like operating systems, primarily Linux and macOS. Since late 2017 there is also an experimental build for Android. Wine is almost as old as the Linux project, starting in the summer of 1993. Today it's widely used, very popular and sponsored by companies such as CodeWeavers and Valve. The core Wine development aims at a correct implementation of the Windows API as a whole. In this regard it's similar to the MAME project in its focus on correctness over usability. There are a lot of versions/forks of Wine which focus of different goals, such as usability, compatibility, gaming, office applications, etc. A few are listed below, Wikipedia has a more complete list.
    • Proton is Valve's one-click solution to play Windows games on Linux. It's included in the Steam Linux client by default. Simply click on a whitelisted game and it will launch without any configuration, or enable it for all games in the settings. Proton is based on a fork of Wine in combination with other components such as DXVK (explained below) and FAudio.
    • CrossOver is a commercialized, supported version of Wine from CodeWeavers. It uses additional patches on top of Wine to make it easy to use. They contribute all of their work on CrossOvers back to Wine and make up about two thirds of the commits made to Wine. CrossOver is available on macOS, Linux and Chrome OS.
    • Wineskin is an open-source compatibility layer which allows users to easily convert Windows software to macOS. The ports are in the form of Mac .app bundles with a self-contained Wine instance which are wrapped around the application to be converted.
  • TeknoParrot is a compatibility layer for Windows PCs to run games originally made for Windows-based arcade systems. Has since version 1.51 also support for some games from the Linux-based Sega Lindbergh arcade board.
  • Darling is a translation layer that allows you to run unmodified macOS binaries on Linux. In its nature, it is similar to the well-known Wine project. At this point, does not yet run macOS application with a GUI.


Compatibility layers may also make use of wrappers, which translate a specific graphics API to another. How the user sets up the wrapper varies between each project but most involve a drop-in replacement of the original libraries.

Main article: Wrappers