The computer games of my youth were mostly DOS-based, so when I found out that the Internet Archive has added over 2 300 old MS-DOS games to its library of playable games, I was beyond pleased. It meant that I could finally play a lot of them again, this time on my modern PC through the magic of DOSBOX emulation and advanced browser technology.
While I was strolling down Memory Lane, catching sight of a lot of games I hadn’t played in years, I thought the best thing to with this treasure trove of golden oldies would be to share them.
So to that end, here’s a list of some of my favourite games from yesteryear, which I invite you all to try thanks to the hard work of Internet archivist Jason Scott.
Westwood Studios, 1992
The second attempt at gamifying Frank Herbert’s Dune universe proved so successful that it turned out to be the father of the real-time strategy genre.
It introduced gamers to the concept of base-building, resource-harvesting and army-building, letting them play as any of Dune’s three main Houses, each with their own unique units, buildings and military abilities.
I’ll never forget the awesome destructive might of House Harkonnen’s nuclear missiles (and hoping against hope that they’d hit where I had sent them), the base-smashing capabilities of House Atreides’ Sonic Tanks or being ambushed by the insidious Ordos and their Deviator Launchers, which would annoyingly turn my own troops against one another with mind-altering gas rockets.
The controls are pretty bad by today’s standards – you can’t group units at all or right-click to tell them to move, gggrrrrr – but the core game is still as enjoyable now as it was then. Ah, good times.
Sierra Online, 1992
This point-and-click adventure from Sierra Online starred Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and players were charged with raising enough money to pay King Richard I’s ransom while avoiding Robin’s nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Maid Marian provided some welcome romantic interest (of course), and Sierra managed to put in some cool scenes showing off Robin’s famed longbow skills.
It’s so memorable because it featured beautiful hand-painted graphics and some of the first digitised sound effects I had heard in a videogame, including a very cool twang, thwack, aaaaargh! sound of someone being shot with an arrow. That’s no big deal now, but back in the day it was almost literally mind-blowing, and being able to hear it again now is fantastic.
For some reason my young brain just couldn’t figure out how to beat Maniac Mansion, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of its quirky characters, genuinely funny situations and excellent dialogue. “Yeah, so? What’s your point, Ed?” became an integral part of my witty teenage repertoire as my reply to pointed questions where I didn’t care about the asker’s point.
I remember I’d explore the titular Mansion, pick up a bunch of stuff I had no idea what to do with and then get caught by the evil Dr. Fred or his family and find myself chucked in a dungeon I didn’t know how to escape. I’d then switch to a new character and do the same thing, eventually ending up with everyone in the dungeon before quitting in frustration.
So play it, but maybe bring along a walkthrough. I think I’ll join you.
Trolls is one of two side-scrolling arcade games I actually finished back in the day (the other being Duke Nukem II). It was the combination of brightly-coloured VGA graphics, its catchy music and the delicious candy- and toy-themed worlds I found myself in that kept young me playing, level after level. Hearing the game’s theme song now, all these years later, takes me right back to a really good place.
Distinctive Software Inc., 1990
I must have spent dozens of hours with a friend of mine playing Stunts, both driving the pre-made courses full of insane jumps and loops and building my own out of the game’s rather forward-thinking track-building feature.
There was a bug in the game with the fastest car that would set the engine to hit max revs after catching a bit of air off a curved ramp, but not drop once the car landed, resulting in the car driving at its top speed until you hit the brakes.
We’d build these huge tracks with the appropriate jump near the start followed by long, straight bits so we could enjoy the sensation of speed for longer. By today’s standards the game’s 3D graphics are awful, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Far from it.