DOS games

MS-DOS has one of the broadest and most interesting library of games of any computer platform. looking to delve into the library, and am hoping for some interesting thoughts about DOS games; hidden gems, unexpected/bizarre ports, nostalgic favorites. big games, little games, anything is fair game.

this sbwiki article is, uh

Not all DOS games I think, but mostly.

Favorite DOS game:

I only had the shareware version and I still wonder how good the registered version would have been. I will never play it.

Um that’s all I have to say

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It’s very hard for me to separate “DOS game” and “early Windows game” in my mind, since early on Windows was just a DOS wrapper anyway.

Like, for me, SimCity 2000 was a DOS game. Daggerfall, Wolf3D.

OH WAIT I just remembered NOCTIS IV which is clearly the most best DOS game. It still stands completely on its own.


a lot of early windows games were still available in a DOS version (and this practice continued to some extent all the way through the late nineties [aside: a fair amount of the early co-releases performed better on DOS(!)]), so the confusion is understandable. still, i’m very specifically interested in DOS games and not games that were exclusively released for Windows (this is mostly so I can hoard games for DOSBOX on my raspberry pi. i was playing descent last night and i forgot how utterly bitchin that game is [aside: holy shit are there other games like descent, because got damn that game is great (i used to play online in the mid/late-90s over Kali IPX emulation on Mac, jeez what a throwback)]).


Apparently Windows 3.1 came out in '92, and obviously there were the previous Windows versions before that. I was 8 in '92, so it’s tough for me to remember a time when a PC (which we would’ve called an “IBM” back then lol) exclusively used DOS, though obviously there were a lot of older computers around, especially government ones (libraries and schools and whatnot) that didn’t have Windows for a long time.

Anyway if you include Descent in “DOS games” then yeah we’re in the same zone. (Literal “pre-Windows games” would be very old and a much smaller list.) Then you’d wanna look at, uh:

Sierra & LucasArts adventures
Other LucasArts output: Outlaws, Dark Forces
Worth toying around with the mainline Sim series - Farm, Earth, Life, Isle
Do I have to say Doom?
Goldbox if you’re into that

I dunno this all seems pretty generic, is there something rarer or weirder you’re looking for?

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i don’t know how i originally came across it, but vga miner is something i occasionally pass a little time with

The only thing I’ve ever used twitch for are semi-regular streams of Mix-Up Mother Goose. It’s like a chill fetch quest King’s Quest for new readers. It was the cool thing to play at the public library when you didn’t want to deal with Carmen Sandiago.

My original twitch gimmick was going to be Number Munchers on the hardest difficulty but after a couple dry runs I chickened out.

Those CGA Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy contestant portraits are high art.

Blood and Catacombs 3D are my non edutainment picks.

I’ve always wished I had the patience for Wasteland, Escape from Hell, the isometric combat Goldbox games (in particular XXVc), and the early Ultimas. I’ve been reading all about them in games magazines long before I had a computer, and love them all in theory.

ultima underworld is unbelievably cool and good holy fucking shit

DOS basically wasn’t more popular than Mac or Amiga (or Apple II and C64 for that matter) as a gaming platform up until early versions of Windows (with maybe a couple years in play beforehand); Fallout 1 came out for DOS but Fallout 2 didn’t.

properly speaking DOS games are like 90-97

descent wasn’t even released for windows initially! (it’s on steam now, though, and there were ports to Mac and PlayStation)

e: actually it’s been removed from both gog and steam due to a royalties dispute between developer parallax and publisher interplay. hasn’t been restored.

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DOOM was almost certainly a major turning point here, right?

yup but that wasn’t until the end of 93, when windows 3.1 had already been out for a while!

i’m just going to put out some obligatory favorites of my own here

  • Warlords II Deluxe - briskly paced fantasy-themed conquest-oriented turn-based strategy game with some minor RPG elements (you can explore ruins for items which upgrade your heroes, which in turn grant benefits to their stack of units). the frame of reference re: scale is small country instead of continent (probably arguable, actually, depending on how you interpret the scale), which makes the maps feel just sprawling enough. unbelievably fun in hotseat play. when 3 heroes offer to join you in one turn and your friend still just has their starter hero things will get dicey. keep this in mind before you lose all your friends and loved ones to warlords rage.
  • Hexen - why is this game so cool? it’s also bizarre and i get stuck not too far in every time. love it anyway. much more ambitious than the more low-key heretic (which is more or less doom with a different aesthetic).
  • Frontier: Elite II
  • Destruction Derby - why is this even on DOS? i don’t know, but it supports analog input and the PSX version doesn’t. suck it sony (e: actually i’m wrong, the playstation version apparently supports steering wheel peripherals!)
  • Lemmings 3 - i didn’t even know this existed until yesterday. you can unblock blockers. YOU CAN UNBLOCK BLOCKERS. cute little “worlds” with themed levels. you can pick up items for contextual actions (shovel to dig, lifebuoy to float through bodies of water)
  • Lemmings 3D - i really like this game even though it is difficult to control and the camera is a pain. it’s quite bold and very difficult (to me at least).
  • Syndicate - the game is fundamentally terrible because you can’t see what you’re doing when you’re inside buildings. meanwhile the music, the cutscenes, the concept and, the overall aesthetic are excellent.
  • Labyrinth of Time - my favorite adventure game. don’t spend your only quarter on the fortune teller.

Windows 3.1 was also kind of shit at running things not made for it. It wasn’t until Win95 that playing DOS games became more viable in a Windows environment, and it wouldn’t be until DirectX that Win95 really took off for gaming. But even then some games just outright refused to play outside DOS proper, which is why I ended up not replaying Crusader: No Remorse for many years until DOSBox’s and my PC’s capabilities converged to the point of making it possible again.
See also why stuff like Doom 95 and WinQuake existed.

Anyways, just hitting up the old Apogee line of shareware has some good fun in it, some of my old favorites include Monster Bash, Duke Nukem 1 and 2, Major Stryker, Raptor: Call of the Shadows, Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage and Mystic Towers. Epic from their Megagames days are Jazz Jackrabbit and One Must Fall: 2097. For Blizzard there’s Warcraft 1, though the old ass interface renders it almost unplayable now. Blackthorne also was on the PC but nothing really warrants it over the SNES version as I recall.

I wonder if any ISOs of shareware CDs are out there? Because that’s the true early-mid 90s DOS gaming experience.

But to get slightly meatier than just name dropping there’s Zone 66 which always stood out for being a sort of free roaming SHMUP style of play, plus a fucking great soundtrack, The intro music is one of those tunes I can always pull out of my head ever since I first heard it.


shit i had this demo too. incredible stuff

I remember playing the DOS version of Heroes of Might and Magic 2 for some reason, but I can’t remember why now. I think the cut scenes didn’t work in Windows?

I apparently broke my dad’s computer trying to install this game:

He eventually got it to work. I’m pretty sure it has UFOs.

EDIT: I will write at length about NOCTIS IV soon, rather than just saying names of games.

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but of course (e: rightfully pointed out by creep that this is NSFW)

also worth pointing out that x86 was not a popular home computer architecture, and thus very unusual to encounter outside of an office setting (the 68k was overwhelmingly more dominant for 16-bit consumer electronics, including the Mac, Amiga, Megadrive, etc.), until the 486/Pentium era. prior to then if you were making a DOS game you were mostly making it for people who bought computers that let them take their work home.


i turned on king’s quest 1 and the music started and i frantically searched for the remote to turn it down because it was like 1 AM and that pc speaker pierce is strong. i looked at the trees and the castle and the moat and the alligators and the flowers and the lake and then got eaten by a wolf. alt+f4

i turned on king’s quest 6 and it was pretty and the music was better. maybe i’ll try that one.

i played magic carpet… what do you, uh, what do you do?

This was my experience with this game as well. I was on a Molyneux kick after Dungeon Keeper and…yeah this game baffled me