I got my first computer when I was 10 back in 1996; it was an
AMD Am386-40 (the fastest 386 you could buy) with 8 MB of RAM, running DOS 6.22
and Windows 3.1 on an amber monochrome (later a B&W) monitor.
Anyways, since the early 1990's, my brother and I have loved to play DOS
games. Back then, all 3 of our non-Linux computers were 486's and below
(the Linux server was a 486 as well), and were just right to run most of the
DOS games up to that point.
Nowadays, with modern multi-core systems running Windows NT-based OS's
(which do not fully support 16-bit DOS applications), without special software,
most of them don't work well, if at all. For a while, in the mid-00's I
had a second computer hooked up (a
P3-700 P3-933, with a genuine
Creative Labs SB16, running Windows 98), just to play older DOS games. I
do still have that machine, but it was merely serving as a placeholder until
the DOSBox emulator being developed worked well enough. (More on that in
Between the mid-90's (when I got my first exposure to shareware DOS games,
Microforum's Complete Encyclopedia of Games 2-CD set) and about 2004 I
downloaded, and otherwise got off shareware CDs, whatever shareware games that
were available and interested me. I did eventually find full versions of
some of them, like Descent (my all-time favorite DOS game) and Jazz
Jackrabbit. Since 2004, I've been hunting down full versions of DOS
games online, including some that I hadn't played before (like Wolfenstein 3D,
DOOM, and Quake, most likely because of their graphic nature). As a
result of this, and the success of DOSBox, our DOS games collection has swelled
to epic (pun!) proportions.
The special software I keep referring to, the open-source program called
DOSBox, is an emulator (a program
that reproduces the behavior and functions of old hardware and/or software on a
modern system) of an x86-based PC running DOS. Of course, due to its
nature as a hardware emulator, it takes plenty of processing power to run well;
this isn't the sort of thing you should attempt to run on an old P2-400, for
example. (For that matter, you shouldn't even bother running Windows XP
on a machine that old IMO, even though it's supported.) As of this
writing, DOSBox is very stable, and runs over 90% of the DOS games in my
personal collection flawlessly (only one game has any serious issues); a
user-submitted compatibility list is available on the DOSBox website. The
current release is version 0.74, and is available as both a source package, and
as pre-compiled binaries for Windows (XP and higher), Mac OS X, and other
UNIX-like OS's. (That is to say, POSIX-compatible, Linux-like, Un*x, or
whatever terminology you're familiar with.)
Getting back to DOS games… My areas of interest for DOS games are,
for the most part, action/adventure, arcade, and first-person-shooter games,
but I have been known to branch out on occasion. Below is a sampling of
those categories, as well as a couple of others; not all of the games will have
their own page.
Note added 3/09/11: I will be reworking this area of the site for the
next few months, so things may be a bit wonky until then. (The Descent
and Jazz sections in particular need to be CSS'ed something awful.)
questions or comments you might have about the pages, a particular game, or DOS
games in general may be directed to insectoid (at) budwin
(dot) net; please put IWP: in the subject line. I do
appreciate the feedback, both good and bad. However, any spam mail
will be subject to immediate de-resolution! Requests for copies of
non-shareware (i.e., purchased) games are treated likewise.
- The Adventures of Captain
Comic – A classic DOS sidescroller by a fellow named Michael Denio,
with 8 different levels and 14 different enemies. As Captain Comic, and
with your Blastola Cola, it's your task to jump through the levels, shooting
enemies and collecting helpful items on the way, eventually collecting the 3
treasures of Osmoc to win the game. The shareware episode, Planet of
Death, was released in 1988 (there have been several revisions since then;
the last was Revision 5 in 1991).
Sequels: Captain Comic II: Fractured
Reality was released for registered users in 1990. Comic must collect
6 power crystals from six different areas to prevent reality from tearing
itself apart. Among other things, CC2 has a save-game function, a ton of
new enemies and hazards, 6 boss enemies, and a copy-protection scheme (you have
to enter a code when you first play, or if you play on a different computer).
Availability: Captain Comic can be found on any good DOS games site,
though I highly recommend RGB Classic
Games (where you can download any of the 5 revisions of the game). As
far as I know, CC2 is not available to buy or download anywhere, but for a
while it was available on the Home
of the Underdogs site.
- Jazz Jackrabbit
– A classic action shooter from Epic MegaGames, released in 1994.
The story (according to the authors) is like The Tortoise and the
Hare… except that they both have guns! The hero, Jazz, is on a
mission to rescue the rabbit princess of planet Carrotus, Eva Earlong, from
head turtle Devan Shell's clutches.
Sequels: There was a sequel for Windows, Jazz Jackrabbit 2, in 1998,
which was well-received overall. Among the differences between JJ2 and
the original are the addition of multiple graphics layers (backgrounds,
foregrounds, and all that), tons of new enemies and hazards, and a level editor
with the full version. Plus, JJ2 has the capability of network and online
play, as well as a large fan base (the largest site I know of is
Jazz 2 Online).
Availability: The shareware versions of both games can be found
somewhere in the aforementioned site;
RGB Classic Games also has both sharewares. To the best of my
knowledge, Epic Classics is still
selling the CD version of JJ1 via mail order (as of 2009). As for JJ2,
you can look on Amazon.com, eBay, or any number of online retailers for a copy
(I got my copy, by sheer luck, at an EB Games store many years ago).
- Jetpack – Jetpack
was another game in the mid-90's that was very popular in the shareware
community. It's an action/arcade game, first released in 1993, where you
fly this guy around, collecting gems, treasures and fuel while avoiding
enemies. It's basically like "Lode Runner", with more freedom of
movement, and the ability to phase bricks in any direction. The shareware
version had 10 levels, and a level editor that allowed you to make and test
(but not play for a high score) up to 10 custom levels. The full version
has 100 levels and an unlimited level editor. It was re-released as
freeware by the author, Adam Pedersen, in 1998.
Sequels: There were hints of a Jetpack 2 sequel as early as 2000;
development on it has begun only recently, and is still in beta phase as of
Availability: The full version can be downloaded from
RGB Classic Games, or from the
author's website, Adept Software.
You can also check on the progress of the Jetpack sequel at
- Epic Pinball and Extreme Pinball – Epic MegaGames' two pinball
titles (from 1993 and 1995, respectively; the latter was also published by
Electronic Arts), both with great graphics and music. As with all Epic
games at the time, they were available by mail order, either as packs of 4
tables each (in Epic Pinball's case) or as an entire set. The shareware
of Epic Pinball has one table, "Android" ("Super Android" in later versions),
and the CD edition has the 12 original tables plus a CD-exclusive "African
Safari" table. Extreme Pinball, on the other hand, exchanged table
quantity for higher quality graphics and music, and IMO is far superior.
The shareware has one table, "Rock Fantasy", while the full version on CD
comes with 4 tables (my personal favorite is "Urban Chaos").
Availability: As of 2004 (which was when I bought them), both games were
available via mail order from
Epic Classics, either
seperately or as a package. I assume this is still the case, as I bought
another game (Radix) from them in late 2009.
- Invasion of the Mutant Space
Bats of Doom – Despite its goofy title, it's actually quite
addicting; I was playing this game as early as 1994! It's an arcade-style
shooter, but a bit more complex than coin-op classics like Galaga. There
are power-ups for your ship, and bonus rounds to test your skill. The
shareware version, released in 1993 by Pop Software, has 20 levels, and the
registered version has over 60.
Sequels: Return of the Mutant Space Bats of Doom, available to
registered users of "Invasion", was released in 1995. "Return" has 80
levels, but allows you to continue beyond (without receiving any extra lives)
for as long as you can stay alive.
Availability: This one's a bit difficult to get now. "Invasion"
was originally available by mail order (like most games at the time) from Pop
Software until that company went out of business. Recently, Mike Pooler
(the author of the games) re-launched the
spacebats.net site, and offered Bats 1 + 2 through PayPal. Then it
vanished again until January 2006, when spacebats.net went back up again and
the games were being sold (as a package) for $24 through PayPal.
Approximately one month after that, people began complaining that orders
were not being fulfilled (including mine!). Thanks to the efforts of
sites like RGB Classic Games,
whose maintainer has been in contact with Pooler, the future of these
two great games is being mended. (And yours truly finally got his copies.
Yay!) I'm sure that the RGB Classic Games site will let us know when/if
spacebats.net is running and fulfilling orders again, or if the games are
released as freeware), so stay tuned to that site if you're interested.
First-Person Shooter (FPS)
- Wolfenstein 3D – This game started it all. Developed by
id Software and released in 1993 by Apogee Software (famous for its
"Commander Keen" series of games), Wolf3D set the bar for all FPS's
that followed it. The premise of the game is that you're an Allied spy in
World War II-era Germany, captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in Castle
Wolfenstein. Your goal? Why, to shoot up Nazis and escape, of
course! It was one of the most graphically violent games of its time (which is
pretty tame, by today's standards).
Sequels: There were many spinoffs and ripoffs of Wolf3D; Epic's Ken's
Labyrinth (now freeware, courtesy of its author, Ken Silverman) was one of
the latter (though well-done, IMO), while Apogee's Blake Stone, Rise
of the Triad, and the immensly popular title below were a few of the
Availability: The shareware, of course, contains only one episode, and
can be found at any good DOS games site. The full version (6 episodes) is
available for $10 from both 3D Realms
Entertainment (Apogee's spinoff company) and from
id Software. (Confirmed as
of October 2008.)
- Doom – This immensely popular game was released by id Software
in 1993, shortly after Apogee released the Wolf3D spinoff Blake Stone
(which was quickly overshadowed). It's the next step up from Wolf3D; a
textured 3D environment, with wicked weapons (like the "BFG") and
hellish monsters. And yes, like Wolf3D, it's graphically
violent—but it's a lot of fun.
Sequels: Not only did Doom have many sequels (Ultimate Doom,
Doom II and Doom 3, to name a few) and ports to other systems
(like the Nintendo 64 and GameBoy), but also a spinoff series called
Quake (which also has many sequels). Another
spinoff—Heretic, and its sequel Hexen—had several
sequels as well.
Availability: The shareware version of Doom is available from just about
every DOS games site; again, your best bet would be
RGB Classic Games. The full
version of Doom (as Ultimate Doom, for Windows 9x) is available for $20 from
id Software. Quake, Heretic, and
Hexen are also available from the same place; Quake has both DOS and Win9x
EXEs. Note: though I say "Win9x EXE" here, both Ultimate Doom
and Quake work just fine on Windows XP as far as I can tell. (I have yet
to try them on Windows 7.)
- Descent –
This FPS/flight sim/action game came right on the heels of Doom, and is quite
possibly my favorite DOS game of all time; I latched onto it immediately after
first playing it around 1997. Similar in concept to Doom, but with a
fully-textured 3-D environment with complete freedom of movement, and robots
instead of monsters. Descent was developed by Parallax Software, and was
released by Interplay Software in 1994.
The Descent section of the site has been completely redesigned from the
original pages from 2006. They focus on the original Descent game, but
also contain release information about the two sequels, Descent II and
Educational / Puzzle
- Dr. Brain – When my brother and I were younger, before I had
my first computer, the first two of this series from Sierra On-Line (now Sierra
Entertainment), The Castle of Dr. Brain and The Island of Dr.
Brain, were our absolute favorite games. The two games have puzzles
easy, intermediate, and difficult in subjects including (but not limited to)
math, science, language, music, and logic. The Castle differs from the
Island in several ways; the most obvious is that unlike the Island, the
Castle's puzzles are one-shot, meaning you can only solve them once, regardless
of difficulty (on the Island, you can solve puzzles at all three difficulties
multiple times for extra points). Both games have a Hint function, which
provides hints or solutions for a puzzle at the cost of a hint coin/charge (and
in the Island, hints count against your score). The Castle was released
in 1991, the Island in 1992.
Sequels: Whereas the first two games of the series were more
adventure-educational games, the two sequels, The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain
(1995, for Windows 3.1) and The Time Warp of Dr. Brain (1996, for Win9x)
are more straight puzzle games, where you have a selection of puzzles and must
solve each one a certain number of times, depending on difficulty.
Availability: This is a tough one. Sierra's better-known old
titles include Leisure Suit Larry and the King's Quest series;
the Dr. Brain series does not appear to be on their site. Sierra
Entertainment was recently bought up by Activision, so your best bet, if you're
really interested in finding the games, is to search on eBay or Amazon.com.
- The (Even More) Incredible Machine – A puzzle game from
Dynamix (an offshoot of Sierra On-Line), actually the sequel to the original
TIM. There are over 100 puzzles, each gradually increasing in difficulty,
as well as an editor (the "Freeform mode") that you can use to make
your own puzzles. Speaking of difficulty… Unless you have an old
386 sitting around, it's doubtful that you'll be able to get TIM to even run on any modern system without using DOSBox (which runs it flawlessly). There
is also a Macintosh PPC version, which works fine on Mac OS 8, and probably 9
Sequels: There was one sequel, The Incredible Toon Machine (aka
Sid and Al's Incredible Toons), for Windows 3.1 and Macintosh PPC, which
is even more toon-ish than TIM. ITM actually does still run on modern
hardware, although there are some quirks that can make some puzzles solve
slightly different (timing issues, for example); for this reason I recommend,
if you find a copy, to run it under Win 3.1 on DOSBox. Interestingly, the
copy-protection keys for both games (the codes from the game manual that it
prompts you for when you start the program) are exactly the same for DOS/Win
as for the Mac, so a manual that came with the Windows version will work with
the Mac version, and vice-versa.
Availability: Again, check eBay or Amazon.com.