DOS games are a very specific retro genre that holds a lot of nostalgia for a lot of users, myself included. With a rich history of games to explore and a smoother way to experience them on the horizon, there’s a lot lurking in this old realm of games for new users too.
DOSBox has been a staple of retro PC gamers for years. It’s been the go-to emulator for DOS games, and, like DOS itself, has always been a little clunky and not the most user-friendly platform. It even has a dedicated Wiki explaining how to use it, which is helpful, but also very intimidating in the amount of steps it requires in a modern ‘press button and it works’ society.
Enter DOSBox Pure, a completely new version of the old classic from developer Bernhard Shelling, intended to bring old classics to a new audience in a much more user friendly way.
DOSBox Pure is designed to be as user friendly as possible, which is reflected in everything from its clean, sleek layout through to its various features. DOS games can be run directly from .zip files, including the mounting of CD images, so no more fiddling around with other tools.
It also promises full controller support for gamepads and joysticks, and my personal favourite feature, a dedicated cheat menu. This lets you search existing cheats, or even discover new cheats not already catalogued.
Another promising feature that emulator users have loved for a long time is the use of save states, and saving modifications in separate files, as well as various other quality of life features, such as on screen keyboards, MIDI support with SoundFonts and, delightfully, a dedicated game library with 20 years of video game history to peruse in between gaming sessions, offering the ability to sort by genre, developer, release year and more as a way to pick what to play next.
All of these features come together to create easily the most comprehensive DOS emulator going. While there’s no set date, Shelling says to expect the emulator in late 2020. He hopes.
So, while you’re waiting, why not start putting together a list of DOS games to enjoy? Here’s a few personal favourites to get you started:
Every Commander Keen game (id Software)
So, you probably know that Commander Keen is BJ Blazkowicz’s grandson (yes, the Wolfenstein guy), but did you know the interesting history of its development?
John Carmack wanted to create a smooth scrolling system for PC, similar to what was happening on consoles. He floated the idea with Tom Hall, and a prototype was created, reconstructing the first level of the newly released Super Mario Bros. 3. It was a success, and the rest is history. It’s a classic, if clunky, platformer full of charm.
Dark Seed (Cyberdreams)
An absolutely gorgeous DOS game, thanks largely to art from the legendary H. R. Giger. Players take the role of Mike Dawson, an incredibly average guy who just happened to buy a big, creepy mansion. Shortly after, he starts having odd dreams and headaches, probably because alternate dimension aliens opened up his skull.
It’s incredibly obtuse and you WILL fail an upsetting amount of times without a guide, in true 90s adventure game fashion, but that’s half the fun.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (Bethesda)
You’ve played Skyrim 500 times and never even finished the main story (this is not about me). Why not take a look back to see how the series evolved? Daggerfall is a hugely impressive game with over 15,000 (yes, fifteen thousand) towns, cities, villages and dungeons to go check out.
It even has all the things you know and love from modern games, including factions to join, spells to create and the classic werewolf and vampire transformations. And wereboar, if you’re into that.
Sim City 2000 (Maxis Software)
A classic on school computers everywhere. You make a city, and you have to make it function without it catching on fire/being ruined by a natural disaster/any number of other things that can go wrong in cities, including the ever dreaded monster attack (one day it will ABSOLUTELY happen). Surprisingly soothing, infinitely frustrating.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 1-5
Sure, you’ve played the fancy new one. Flown around the absolutely gorgeous and super realistic looking world. But don’t you want the same level of control over your plane in a much more simplistic looking fashion? Pixels everywhere? The ability to only visit most of America, parts of Europe and maybe a few other places with various add-ons? Of course you do.
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.