Back to posts

DOS Gaming

I love history, I love computers, and I love video games. As such, I find it very interesting to play games from the early history of computers. There are many tools and websites available today for playing these sorts of games, but some are more difficult to find in certain localities. This page contains some interesting history and tools for playing games on DOS and other systems that predate me.

Abandonware sites

Since people don't really use DOS anymore, the creators of most DOS software don't sell their software anymore. Once the creators don't care about the software, it becomes known as abandonware. While the distribution of abandonware is technically somewhat of a legal gray zone, it doesn't actually hurt anybody since the creators aren't interested in monetizing the work anymore. Below is a list of some sites for downloading abandonware, as well as freeware and shareware.


Different systems require different emulators.

For DOS, you can either download the original software from a site like WinWorld, or use an emulator. Most emulators for DOS are flavors of DOSBox. I've had a lot of success with DOSBox-X.

PC-98 can also be emulated using DOSBox-X. The best dedicated PC-98 emulator I know of is Neko Project II.

Various game system emulators can be found on For Android, I prefer to use RetroArch to emulate most game systems.

Notable DOS games

I used to keep copies of some old software on my website, but, with one exception, I no longer keep these copies. There's simply no reason to do so since they're already hosted on multiple dedicated abandonware websites.

Below is a list of notable DOS games. These games can all be found on one or more of the abandonware sites listed above.


Civilization, developed by Sid Meier, is one of the earliest and greatest games of the 4X genre. The first game was released in 1991. In addition to the main series games, there are multiplayer options available for DOS in CivNet and Civilization II: Multiplayer Gold Edition.


Colossal Cave Adventure, developed between 1975 and 1977 by Will Crowther, is the first known work of interactive fiction. It is the first text adventure game, and the precursor to the adventure game genre. It is also the origin of the magic word "Xyzzy." Although it was originally developed for the PDP-10 mainframe, multiple versions exist for DOS.


DOOM was designed by John Romero, Tom Hall, and Sandy Petersen. It was released in 1993. DOOM helped to define the first-person shooter game genre, and pioneered technologies like 3D graphics, networked multiplayer, and modding. The source code for DOOM has been published, and is available on GitHub. Due to its small file size, DOOM has been ported to a wide variety of devices, including many which were never designed for gaming. The idiom "it runs DOOM" is often used to convey that a device is functional.


Dune is a game based on Frank Herbert's science fiction novel of the same name. The second game, Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty is the primary defining game for the real-time strategy game genre.


Elite is the parent of the open-world game genre. It was originally developed by Ian Bell and David Braben for the BBC Micro in 1984, but was ported to DOS by the original authors three years later. It was the direct inspiration for notable games such as Grand Theft Auto. Additionally, it is one of the earliest games in the space-trading game genre (which was established by Dave Kaufman's Star Trader in 1973). It was also one of the earliest games to use wire-frame 3D graphics.

Space Invaders

Space Invaders was originally created in 1978 by Tomohiro Nishikado as an arcade game. It was later ported to DOS. Space Invaders was the first fixed shooter, and defined the shoot 'em up game genre.


Rogue: Exploring the Dungeons of Doom was developed by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman (and later Ken Arnold) in 1980 for Unix-based mainframe systems. It was ported to DOS by Epyx in 1984. Rogue was the defining game for the roguelike video game genre.


Spacewar! was develped by Steve Russel (and later Martin Graetz, Wayne Wiitanen, Bob Saunders, and Steve Piner) in 1962 for the PDP-1 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was later spread to several installations of the PDP-1 computer, making it the first video game to be played at multiple computers. It was later ported to DOS by Bill Seiler in 1985.

Spacewar! directly inspired the first two commercial arcade video games, Galaxy Game (1971) and Computer Space (1971), as well as Orbitwar for PLATO (1974) and Asteroids (1979).

Spacewar! was the first game on the game canon at the Library of Congress.

The first video game tournament was the Intergalactic Spacewar! Olympics, held on October 19, 1972.


Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO) was the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system. Starting in 1960, it ran on the University of Illinois' ILLIAC I. Many modern concepts were originally developed on PLATO, including forums, message boards, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, remote screen sharing, and multiplayer video games. The first examples of multiplayer real-time games were developed on the PLATO system around 1973.

ILLIAC I was the first of the Illinois Automatic Computer (ILLIAC) series of computers built in 1952 by the University of Illinois. It was the first computer built and owned entirely by a United States educational institution.

PLATO was developed at the Computer-based Education Research Laboratory (CERL) at the University of Illinois. In 1976, the Control Data Corporation (CDC) purchased the commercial rights to PLATO. The rights of the name were sold, and the product was rebranded to Cyber-based Instructional System (CYBIS). Eventually, University Online (later VCampus) acquired CYBIS from CDC. VCampus eventually went out of business, and its assets were transferred to its CEO Nat Kannan.

TUTOR is a programming language developed for use on the PLATO system. It was initially designed by Paul Tenczar. Programs written in TUTOR are called "lessons."

As mentioned above, there is only one piece of old software that I host on my website. That piece of software is a package containing an emulator for CYBIS, running on top of NOS (an operating system), running on a DtCYBER (version 5.5.1) emulation of a CDC CYBER mainframe. It also includes usage guides for PLATO, CYBIS, and the TUTOR programming language, and a copy of a software called Pterm (version 5.0.8), which is used to connect to the system. The reason I host these files is because they are only available at one other location, and would be lost forever if that location went offline. You can download this package here. This package was constructed by Tom Hunter, Paul Koning, Nat Kannan, and Gerard van der Grinten.

Rather than running your own copy of CYBIS, you can connect to either Cyber1 or IRATA.ONLINE using Pterm, which will give you access to some of the old lessons mentioned below.

Role-playing games

The earliest surviving role-playing video game ("RPG") is pedit5 (also known as The Dungeon). It is believed to have been preceeded only by a game called m119h.

dnd (also known as The Game of Dungeons) was directly inspired by pedit5, and is the second-earliest surviving RPG. It was developed by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood in the TUTOR programming language for the PLATO system in 1974 and 1975. It was improved by Dirk Pellett and Flint Pellett from 1976 to 1985. It was the first interactive game to feature what would later be referred to as "bosses."

In 1975, Kevet Duncombe and Jim Battin developed Moria for the PLATO system. Moria was directly inspired by dnd, and featured dynamically-generated dungeons and a wireframe first-person display.

In 1977, Jim Schwaiger, John Gaby, Bencherd DeLong, and Jerry Bucksath developed Oubliette for the PLATO system. Oubliette was ported to DOS by Bear Systems in 1983.

Also in 1977, Daniel Lawrence rewrote dnd in BASIC for the PDP-10 as DND. In 1982, he reworked and re-released the game as Telengard. In 1983, the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) rewrote DND in Pascal. Due to the availability of this source code, DND was later ported and adapted to newer systems and programming languages.

In 1984, Bill Knight published DND for DOS. In 1988, he retitled and re-released it as Dungeons of the Necromancer's Domain.

The first video game

Although the "first" video game changes based on your definition of "video game," I consider the first video game to be Christopher Strachey's Draughts for the Pilot ACE (later for the Manchester Mark 1) in 1951.