Nostalgia means different things to different people. For me it can vary from a day of playing on an old 286 PC, watching Buffy on a 3rd hand CRT; To playing days worth of Disgaea at uni and waiting for my old PC to finish rendering anything. For others it’ll be the PS2 or even the GameCube! The one thing we all have in common though is that nostalgia tends to be fleeting. We enjoy those blasts from the past for a while but it fades away soon enough (how many of you still use your mini consoles?) PC gaming nostalgia is an odd thing, typically that old game box in the loft has a 50/50 chance the disc inside will still work at all, let alone be compatible with a modern OS. Now with GOG and HD remasters the need to dig out the older classics is less and most can even be played in a browser! Still some days you just want to re-install DOSBox, remind yourself how it works and get some really old PC games going in full retro glory. We all have our favorites so here is a few of mine to get you started.
Scumm and classic Windows games have been ommitted for now (I’ve covered Scumm adventure games already over here)
Lusciously animated pixel cutscenes really do start the original Civilization off on a really strong foot. We’re now at the 6th iteration of Civ games and if you think it’s hard to learn and get into now, you should go back to the original and see how hard it was back in the day. It’s an incredibly complex and impressive strategy game with huge layers of detail to every system. If a game from this era had Sid Meier and MicroProse on the cover then you knew you were going to need the manual and days to play it. It’s still a blast and tests your knowledge of core Civ systems. The animated building of each new city structure is still a sight to behold.
Commander Keen (any of them)
GOG is not the only marketplace for DOS nostalgia, you can purchase an impressive amount of titles from Steam. Not only are there point and click adventures and the original Worms but Steam now has the set of Commander Keen classics. If you don’t want to have to muck about with the DOSBox setup and tracking down the games, you simply purchase them from the client, go to run the game from the series you want and you’re away. I was a little surprised at first but the games boot straight from DOSBox and in no time you’ll be pogo jumping to victory! Commander Keen is an obvious choice for most PC Gamers as Commander Keen was IDs Mario alternative back in the day. It’s a shame the reboot was cancelled but hopefully it means we’ll have something new to look forward to instead of a free to play mobile title.
Classic Railroad Tycoon has this fantastic, “I must beat this” feeling that very few strategy games have. Incredibly complex systems that have scant documentation or help guides, a UI that is janky with mouse or keyboard and a difficulty that can charitably called “challenging” On paper there isn’t much to recommend about Railroad Tycoon and yet once you start getting into the game and figuring things out, you’ll find that you just won’t want to stop. From remembering what acronyms mean to knowing not to be in debt before big events occur that crash the market, it all just comes together in a fantastic nerdy way. The original is still the best for playing in England with the focus on more American setups in every game since, Railroad Tycoon is still worth the ticket, it’s worth noting though that Deluxe doesn’t feel like the same game and the original is much more fun, in a punishingly bizarre way.
The Adventures Of Captain Comic
Patience, timing and plenty of written notes are required to complete Captain Comic. A fantastically tricky platformer that has simple little music beats and notes that will blast you right back to 1988. To a time when Shareware was commonplace and Apogee Software was being copied across to every disk you could find (all of those titles are still worth a quick 5 mins if you find any) Captain Comic is still an incredibly challenging game if only because you’ll find yourself wanting to rush through only to fall and die and die again. The Dark Souls of PC platform games.
The Obvious – Old Games are still fun
Here’s the thing, Chances are if you want to play an old classic PC game, it’s already available somewhere. The most obvious classic PC games are likely already ported onto a console/handheld you own. If you want to play DOOM simply pick up a copy on the Switch or Toaster. C&C, Duke3D, Prince Of Persia, Wolfenstein 3d or Lemmings now have so many conversions that you’ll likely find the old issues have either been patched out or turned into entire mods. It’s always worth a quick look online to see what quick fix you can get because a lot of these haven’t aged as harshly as you expect.
In fact, some have aged so little that you’ll find new games that use the same systems and design to flesh out a different style or narrative. There are games such as The Organ Trail that take the original Oregon Trail, add in new elements and retool the entire experience to surviving the zombie hordes. Even windows games such as Theme Hospital now have spiritual successors such Two Point Hospital but if you don’t want to move to a more modern game there are projects such as CorsixTH that allow you to play the original in HD on modern systems.
Your old games are still good, go have a look in your storage!
You can install old CDs using DOSBox with minimal tinkering.
Have a go, google them to see what people are up to now and have some fun!
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