It feels like a bygone era when I would sit at my computer, penniless and wishing for video games, and relish in the sites that would dole out the first 20 minutes of games for free. I remember finding a plethora of buried websites that were little more than directories of sharewares and feeling like I’d just struck gold.
This past weekend I felt like I was there again when I tripped down a very deep hole of games from the 80’s and 90’s. The incredible thing here is that these experiences weren’t demos, they were full-fledged games. And they were free! No, they weren’t pirated, they were abandonware!
For anyone not up on what abandonware is, it’s a form of shareware in which the rights holder has basically thrown up their hands and said “Forget this!” The idea of this is hilarious to me. In an age of security nets to catch security nets and infinite DRM codes, knowing that some companies are putting a digital box of old games on the curb – with a big, spray painted, “FREE” sign leaning against it – makes me laugh like nothing else.
A surprising number of really solid games have been fed into the abandonware machine. It’s important to keep in mind that part of the charm of abondonware is the utter lack of support, so I hope you’re up on basic computer use (DOSBox is a must). But if you can fight through that, tuck in for some great titles from the early days including:
- Oregon Trail
- SimCity 2000
- Bubble Bobble
- Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness
- Ghosts n’ Goblins
- Alone in the Dark
- Doom 2
- XCOM: Terror from the Deep
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
The list goes on.
Having spent some time going over these games, the thing that twinged the back of my mind initially has come to pass: some of these simply do not hold up. An adonis or two may grip you until the credits roll, but being buried in overly complex menus and repetitive, usually blisteringly hard, gameplay will shorten your experiences. But hey, they’re free, so just breeze into a new one!
This is a prime opportunity for any video game lover to get back in touch with their roots. With so many genre defining games now “abandoned”, it’s worth burning an afternoon – or an entire weekend – to get back into the thick of pixelation and voice acting of questionable quality.