I’m a big fan of DOSbox. There are plenty of games out there that were created before Windows really took off, and many of them are still worth playing even today. I’m talking about the 1988-1999 era in games…
DOSbox is an open source, cross-platform recreation of the DOS environment. It is not a full fledged operating system like FreeDOS is, but it includes support for most of the sound and graphics hardware of the DOS gaming heyday. The default appearance of DOSbox looks like this:
I recommend the use of a front-end GUI to make configuration easier (and prettier, honestly). If you use DOSbox on Windows machines, you have several choices, including D-Fend Reloaded, but I haven’t really taken a good look at them. My own preference is a Java program called DBGL. It is cross-platform, open-source, and lets you adjust pretty much everything you need to for playing games. On Ubuntu systems, you will need to install the “sun-java6-jre” and “sun-java6-bin” packages before it will run. DBGL includes the latest version of DOSbox in its tgz file. Just right click and “Extract Here” to unzip it in the current directory.
This is Civilization running, using DBGL:
Caution – Some of these games do not have an easy way to “escape” DOSbox if you need to quit. Usually the game manual will mention how to quit, but if not, you’ll need to press Ctrl +F10. That will release the mouse so you can do other things.
Where to find games:
Well, the best source is to have an actual copy that you own. That way, everything is legal for certain. There are websites that list “abandoned games”, however I won’t mention most of them since I am unsure of what efforts they make to stay legal. Abandonia is one popular site that offers “buy” options on certain games, and doesn’t list some obvious choices (Might & Magic 3 to 6, for instance), so I am pretty sure they make a sincere effort to only feature truly abandoned games. There are still plenty of great games there. There is also Good Old Games. They have the best DOS games for sale, no DRM (anti-piracy tech), and they maintain a list of games known to run on Linux.