I’ve previously talked about how the Internet Archive is a great place to play your favorite abandonware from decades ago within your browser, and it’s even better now. The archive has added 2,500 new MS-DOS titles for you to try out, and they are all free of charge.
If you’re curious about exactly how this is possible, the Internet Archive has a wonderful blog post that explains the process of getting these games working in a playable state. As digital historian Jason Scott writes:
“What makes the collection more than just a pile of old, now-playable games, is how it has to take head-on the problems of software preservation and history. Having an old executable and a scanned copy of the manual represents only the first few steps. DOS has remained consistent in some ways over the last (nearly) 40 years, but a lot has changed under the hood and programs were sometimes only written to work on very specific hardware and a very specific setup. They were released, sold some amount of copies, and then disappeared off the shelves, if not everyone’s memories.
It is all these extra steps, under the hood, of acquisition and configuration, that represents the hardest work by the eXoDOS project, and I recognize that long-time and Herculean effort. As a result, the eXoDOS project has over 7,000 titles they’ve made work dependably and consistently.”
Now, if you’d rather just get to the games, know that scanning your way through 2,500 titles is going to take some time. And you’ll probably have to do a bit of internet searching to convince yourself to try titles that might sound familiar, but you don’t really remember all that well. To get you started, here are a few recommendations we think are worth trying out (unless you want to go download and play everything).
The Secret of Monkey Island
It doesn’t get much more fun than this. Sure, you can probably pick up this game on your favorite digital distribution service for a tiny fee, or you can just go ahead and sink hours into the MS-DOS version for absolutely nothing. Say hi to Stan for me.
This is one of the earliest games I remember playing on my MS-DOS system way back when—likely a 386 or 486 computer with some paltry amount of memory (that at the time, probably felt pretty awesome). The joy of this game is in the brutality. You run around New York City, gunning down any bad guys you can get your hands on. The more evil you stop, the more money you make, and the closer you are to obliterating the mighty Kingpin. It didn’t get much more violent than this back in the MS-DOS days.
The Price is Right
I mean, how else are you going to prepare for winning big on the show, like that guy from the documentary?
I used to be terrified of this game as a kid for whatever reason. Now, it doesn’t seem quite so bad. Your goal? Set traps to help keep mysterious intruders—vampires, if I’m right—from killing a party’s worth of people. It’s a silly concept in 2019, but Night Trap was a pretty big deal two-plus decades ago.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Get in some practice flying the way things used to be—back in 1993—before you take on Microsoft’s big updated version that’s set to launch next year.
I still can’t do a good carrier landing.
The Incredible Machine 2
I’m pretty sure I convinced my parents to buy me this back in the ‘90s because I said it was educational. It is, sort of, since you’re solving puzzles in all sorts of creative ways, but it’s also a great way to spend an afternoon gaming.
The Elder Scrolls - Daggerfall
Yes. Oh, yes. I was terrible at navigating my way through this game’s dungeons, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have the most maxed-out character in the realm—thanks to the ingenious cheat of walking into one of the game’s many shops, advancing time past the shop’s closing, stealing everything on its shelves, then selling it all back to the shopkeeper (or keeping it yourself) in the morning. Ah, Daggerfall; you taught me how to cheat with creativity, which I carried with me right into my Dungeons & Dragons years.
Star Trek - Judgement Rites
I never made it through this game, but I respect what it was trying to do way back in the early ‘90s. If you like adventures mixed with a bit of action—which is basically Star Trek in a nutshell—you’ll get a kick out of this title, which I maintain was ahead of its time.