30 Best MS-DOS Games You Must Play
MS-DOS stands for Microsoft disk operating system. It is one of the most successful operating systems that have been developed to date. This was the real revolution in programming despite its small size and relative simplicity.
It was debuted back in 1981 and probably didn’t seem like a promising platform for gaming, but from 1981 to 1997, publishers released thousands of games from every genre for the PC.
I remember when we first got our own home PC in the late 90s. My friends and cousins would come over to our house to play games, taking turns, and often arguing about who’s the better player.
I grew up playing the Famicom and NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), and those were some great gaming experiences. Back when you would have to listen to these sounds trying to connect to the internet. For nostalgia’s sake, listen to it again!
Those were the days of Minesweeper, Solitaire, Commandos, saving up and buying games, cool screensavers, trading floppy disks, and using Encarta for school projects. Also, people were talking non-stop about the famous Y2K bug.
I’m sure most gamers during this time would agree, PC gaming picked up, and MS-DOS was part of that success story. So, I made a list of some of the best MS-DOS games that I used to play and if you have not played these, give them a try.
Everybody has heard of Doom. It was released in 1993 and developed by id Software, and published by GT Interactive. Doom is known as the father of FPS games because FPS games weren’t called FPS until a while after Doom was released.
It has brilliant sound effects and music. It got mad famous, and shortly after Doom, there was an influx of copycat games.
It’s very simple, you traverse the levels, and you’ve got to find keys to get through doors and shoot up enemies.
This game was for sure the perfect package offering more levels and an assortment of weapons to fight off the legions of hell, and most notably the double-barrel shotgun. I was too young to play this game when it first launched but got introduced to it in the late 90s.
I was about nine back then, but I still remember being so immersed by the game’s atmosphere. The enemies are running away from the spider mastermind. Yes, a true classic!
This is a 1991 release, developed by Robert Cook and James Brown and published by Mindscape. This is an isometric kind of action-adventure game with puzzle-solving elements.
You’re in a building with various floors, and you have to make your way through the building and solve various puzzles. So, there are various doors that you have to unlock with keys and solve various puzzles.
Also, there are traps like grenade launchers and electric floors. You have to get around all these traps with a laser pistol. The laser can be used to solve puzzles. The laser ricochets off the walls and flip switches that will open doors, turn on/off machines.
In this bio facility, there are bionic enemies, who you will defeat while solving the puzzles. It’s really fun, and I think games with puzzle-solving elements do age well because they’re timeless.
I remember when I was in fifth grade, we would always play this game in our computer class. I copied it over on a floppy disk and installed it on my PC. What a fun, fast-paced action game where you steer your spaceship through a track of floating panels, tunnels, and obstacles.
This game also added another level of challenge through special panels providing feel speed or explosion. The gameplay was balanced and challenging but not too frustrating. It is a game I still remember fondly.
It was developed and published by LucasArts, an awesome Star Wars FPS game definitely worth checking out. It was published in the same era as Doom. However, it came a couple of years after Doom.
So, at the height of the first-person shooter craze where a lot of Duke Nukem and Doom clones were coming out. This is probably one of the best with a great storyline.
You play a guy called Kyle Catarrh, and you are striving to foil the Empire’s plot, a project called Dark Trooper Project. You traverse various Star Wars-themed levels and are up against different well-known Star Wars enemies.
It has amazing audio and music with some brilliant cutscenes. It feels great fighting Stormtroopers in that kind of the first-person scenario.
The Lion King
Disney’s Lion King surely brought the challenge. This 2D game offered fun and challenging gameplay. This game was amazing.
You start as young Simba, where you’d be flung around by monkeys, riding ostriches, flee stampede, catch bugs with Timon and Pumbaa. After some level, Simba transitions into an adult, and you would be squaring off with the one and only Scar.
This game holds it down, offering a solid and simple environment design that is still relatively easy to look at today. You play as a manager oversees steam of hospitals with a goal of working yourself up the chain to earn that dollar.
This game has a clear story, and you are tasked with ensuring the profitability and reputation of each job you’re assigned to. It is a rarity in the modern gaming landscape and still a fun game that focuses on micro-management gameplay.
You are building up a hospital with your liking with a few funny quirks along the way. You should check the style out if you get the chance.
The Incredible Machine 2
Somewhat, a forgotten game. The first sequel in the Incredible Machine franchise added new puzzles, parts, and a new interface. I remember playing this game back in 2000 and spending hours figuring out some of its puzzles.
Especially the editor mode was great, which allowed you to create your own puzzles. It’s one of those games that requires strategy and creative problem-solving. This one is highly recommended for gamers of every age.
It was released in 1993 by Bullfrog and published by EA. This game is one of my favorites from back in the day, and it’s also one of the most enjoyable to play. Syndicate is a kind of isometric game where you control androids or cyborgs, and they do your bidding.
The scenario is it’s a very bleak future and the corporations waging war against each other. In each corporation has these cyborgs doing their bidding. So you control a team of up to four cyborgs at a time, and each mission will be different.
You will be tasked with an assassination, kidnapping, getting some tech, or persuading people. There’s this brilliant weapon in the game called the Persuadertron, which influences people to do what you want them to do. So, they’ll be persuaded to come and work for your corporation.
You will also encounter enemy syndicate cyborgs, and it can get a bit hairy at times when you run into a huge number of enemy corporations.
Overall, it’s a good and fun game, which can be very challenging. It takes several attempts to do some of the missions, and they do get very hard as you progress. You also got a global map, which shows the countries you take over, and slowly you will take over the world.
You get a great array of weapons, and you can also upgrade your cyborgs. If you upgrade the legs, they can walk faster, and upgrading arms make them stronger. There are all sorts of upgrades, and you can use the money to research weapons to get a better arsenal.
Big Red Racing
Now, this was a game you definitely want to get into if you went into arcade racing games with multiplayer support. I remember playing this game back in 1997.
The quirky art style, commentaries, MTV style soundtrack made for a fun interactive racing game that offered fast driving in a 3D environment with the most awesome range of vehicles. I’ll never forget this one.
Yes, it did age poorly, but I’d still give this one a shot for the sake of nostalgia.
This somewhat forgotten action strategy game will keep you busy for hours. Armed with only a sword, your sole mission is to protect your village from those pesky hoardings. They always attack your village and try and eat everything they find.
If you survive an attack wave, you get rewarded with better weapons and also being able to expand your village.
I remember planning my town and using real-time action elements to fight the horde off. It’s truly a memorable gaming experience.
Monkey Island/ Monkey Island 2
Monkey Island was released in 1990, and Monkey Island 2 was released in 1992. They were both developed and published by LucasArts. Both of these games are among my favorites of all time.
They are among the best point-and-click adventure games ever made. If you like point-and-click adventure games and you haven’t played these, make sure to play them. You will love them.
The humor in these games is absolutely unmatched, and it is genuinely really funny, dry humor with a great story. You play as Guybrush Threepwood, an aspiring pirate who ends up on an island.
Here you will start doing tasks for other pirates or pirate leaders on the island. You have to do the tasks in order to become an official pirate. You get into all sorts of scrapes, and you will meet your arch-enemy, pirate LeChuck.
You also get in love with the governor (Elaine Marley) on the island, and all sorts of stuff end up going on. The puzzles can be quite tricky, but you’ll get there. In the end, there’s nothing that’s completely insolvable due to being difficult.
As I said, the humor is unmatched and fantastic. So, if you’re going to check out one of these games, I’d say I prefer the second part, but I would advise you to play the first game too. The graphics are far more primitive in the first game, but it is still a fantastic game and worth checking out.
Prince of Persia
Back when we would be taking turns playing this game at my cousin’s house. It’s one of those old IBM PC-compatible computer games. I remember being taken by the animation movements and dungeons you had to get through.
This game was challenging for me as a kid and still is. Though I died many times, I still have many fond memories of playing.
Before getting the PC, I also remember playing this game on SEGA. My uncle would come home, and he would pass the level for me as it was so difficult for me.
Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer is a real-time strategy game, released in 1995 by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin. We’re going right back to when real-time strategy games were very primitive and in their infancy.
Command & Conquer is a franchise that’s still going today. So, you may have played one of the more recent ones if you haven’t played this. But I thoroughly recommend going back and playing this one.
In this game, you’re managing resources, building your base, and then fighting your enemies. This game is really fun, and I’ve spent hours and hours on this back in the day.
There are some brilliant cutscenes, which might look a bit cheesy nowadays. But back in the day, the cutscenes looked very impressive. I remember the sequel Red Alert having particularly good cutscenes with actual actors.
Duke Nukem 3D
It was the first FPS game I played. It was so addicting that I got hooked. I remember moving through the 3D spaces, the ammo locations, every enemy spawn, the music, red-light district, and strippers.
I’d play the game every afternoon after school, where me and my friends would take turns trying to beat each level. This is what gaming was about, pure fun and memories.
It is a 1994 game, also made by LucasArts. There are many LucasArts games, which shows that they were one of the best developers for the PC back in the 90s.
TIE Fighter is in the X-Wing series, so the first game is X-Wing, and the TIE Fighters is the second. There is also X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, which came up afterward, but the TIE fighter is the best one in the series for me.
It’s really good and fun. I liked it the best because you get to play the bad guy. So, you’re fighting for the Empire rather than the rebels, and you’re piloting various types of fighters.
The game is like a space simulator, and you get various missions where you’ll have to do an escort or assault on a rebel fleet. You’re piloting different TIE fighters like Tie advance and TIE bomber.
Fighting in the space is awesome, and the cutscenes were really good too. Graphics do look a bit dated, but it doesn’t really detract from a good gaming experience.
Gameplay is fun and takes a bit of strategic thinking. Sometimes, there’s quite a lot going on, so you have to learn a few keyboard controls to control and pilot the ship.
The DOS era, gaming in the 90s, and nostalgia. Well, Hocus Pocus always played a big role and still stands as one of my childhood favorites.
You explore whimsical areas, killing monsters, collecting globes, and collecting many magic potions on your way. Some of the potions will restore health others will grant special powers such as super jump that will allow you to access new areas.
This charming 2D platformer is still one of my favorite childhood classics.
This was released in 1993, developed by sensible software, and published by Virgin. It is a point-and-click game, you’re controlling a small team of soldiers, and you need to make your way through the level.
You have to kill all the enemies and hostages too who need to be rescued. It is quite simple to play, you just point the cursor at the enemies you want to kill, and you click one mouse button to shoot and the other mouse button to throw grenades.
This high-speed action platform game was the PC world’s answer to Sonic The Hedgehog. When you play as Jazz on a quest to rescue the rabbit princess, you travel through different planets to gather clues regarding her whereabouts.
You acquire different weapons, various power-ups and eventually face off against the villain tortoise, Devan Shell. This game will guarantee to take you back a couple of years with some great gameplay and a cool soundtrack.
I couldn’t find much info on the developer, but I think it was created by John E. Dell. I used to play it as Dope Wars, and I think it got various names, but Dope Wars is a more updated version of it.
You can also play it in your browser. I think this game will be the most accessible game on the list for most people because you can just jump on your browser and play this game. It is by far the most simple game on this list.
It is a drug-selling simulator, and you’re a drug dealer. You start with X amount of cash, and you have to start buying and selling drugs, and you have 30 days to make as much money as you can. There are no objectives other than trying to beat your last high score, and that makes for a surprisingly addictive game.
This game (appropriately enough) is like crack, and you can’t stop playing it. Each turn is a day, so you take a turn by traveling between various places. I think it’s set in New York, and you travel between Manhattan, Staten Island `and Coney Island.
Every time you travel to one of these places, a day passes, and basically, the hope is that you’ll buy your drugs cheap in one place, and you’ll sell them at a higher price in another place. There are all sorts of different drugs to buy, including hash, cocaine, heroin, weed.
Various things happen in the game, like the Marrakesh Express will arrive, which means the hash price will drop. You can also get into scrapes and also get chased by the police. You will have to kind of work your way around different things.
This game was a classic, and even after 28 years, I still often find myself playing this one. It’s easy to look at Wolfenstein 3D. Both the ceiling and floor are one solid color with repetitive blocky textures. But the gameplay was nonetheless exciting and fun.
Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters
This was developed by Atari and published by Domark in 1991. As a kid, the name of the game was an instant attraction. When I saw the cover, I was like, wow, this looks cool. It had a cool cartoony cover.
It is a really good and fun game with brilliant music. It’s an isometric game where you’re running around and shooting loads of robots trying to save the lady. You will have escalators that will take you to different levels, and you are running around shooting robots.
Warcraft 2 – Tides of Darkness
This game stands out with its pixeled but detailed visuals, great campaign and scenario modes. You could also select the characters, which was a pretty cool feature for that time.
The way characters talk back to you as a player comic style, the speeches, RTS gameplay, and random map all made for some great gaming experiences.
Long before that deadly game of chess in the Harry Potter movie, we had Battle chess. This game was cool, even for a chess game, and inspired many to learn and play chess more.
It was a truly creative concept to see as you get to watch small in-game 3d animations going into battle and taking each other down.
The Lost Vikings
This platformer was developed by Silicon & Synapse (now called Blizzard) and published by interplay in 1992. This is a puzzle game where you control three Vikings, and each Viking has a different set of skills.
One Viking can charge and bash, one can be used as a shield to hold up against enemy attacks, or he can hold the shield up in the air so that his two buddies can jump on the shield to get to higher places.
You will use their skills to control them one at a time to traverse a level. Switch between whichever Viking you want to control, and then you have to get them all to the end of the level.
As with any puzzle game, it can sometimes be challenging, making it a great puzzle game. It looks fantastic, and you’ll have plenty of fun playing it.
One of the most popular games of that era, Quake was innovative for its time and offered excellent gameplay.
I was taken by the exploration enemies and arsenal of weapons you could choose from, but for me, nothing could beat that good old axe.
I still remember the different levels from that sci-fi military installations to working your way through castles and dungeons. It was a memorable gaming experience and a good title to play.
Day of the Tentacle
This is the last LucasArts game on this list, Day of the Tentacle, a point-and-click adventure game. This is the sequel to Maniac Mansion, but it’s quite different from it. The graphics look gorgeous, released in 1993 after six years of Maniac Mansion.
It had two versions, one on a floppy disk and one on a CD full voice acting. I would recommend you to play the talkie version. The game was also remastered recently, so you can go down that route and play on Steam or PS4 or whatever you want to play on.
It has brilliant humor because Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman created it, and it was their first project together as team leaders. As they worked on Monkey Island, they brought a lot of that good dry humor over to Maniac Mansion.
It has some great and fun puzzles, and the characters are good too. You play three characters Bernard, Hoagie, and Laverne, his two friends, and they get sort of split into three different time zones.
Hoagie gets flung 200 years into the past and Laverne 200 years into the future, and then Bernard stays in the present. So, as you switch between the three characters, you’re switching between these sort of periods in history, and you have to solve puzzles based upon this.
It’s such a good idea to have this time travel element, which makes the puzzles fantastic When you perform something in the past, it will affect the present and future. The puzzles are good, and the story makes it a fun game.
Dune II – Battle for Arrakis
A real-time strategy game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin, quite similar to same as Command & Conquer. I think it got a bit different name in the United States, something like Dune 2 Building of a Dynasty.
It follows the plot loosely of the film Dune, and you have the different households like Hawk Conan and the Tradies. They’re fighting each other to control land and the planet, and you have to harvest the spice.
If you’ve seen the film, then you might remember the saying, “He who controls the spice controls whatever it is the world.” I can’t remember the exact quote, but you have spice, and you account of the giant spice worms or whatever they were called.
This game is amazing, and I think even better than Command and Conquer. It came out three years before Command & Conquer, but it’s kind of where the John Roux started.
So, if you’re a fan of real-time strategy games, definitely go back and look at this because it’s a real slice of the history of where that genre became like a real player in the market.
Going back to 1990, this game was brought to dust by Ocean, one of the big players at the time on Commodore 64, Amiga, and DOS. Ocean did a fantastic job, and PANG was available on all sorts of systems. I first played it on the Amiga, then DOS.
PANG is a game where you are a guy with a sort of grappling gun or a harpoon. You fire it into the air and hit bubbles, and the bubbles pop, and they split in two, and when the bubbles get a certain size like very small, they will then vanish.
This game requires you to destroy all the bubbles on the level without getting hit by them. It is very interesting and super addictive but can get quite tricky. You can also play this game as a co-op with two players. Each time you will try to beat your own score or your friend’s.
This game was released in 1990, developed by Bitmap Brothers, and published by Image Works. Bitmap Brothers was another big player in the late 80s and early 90s on the home computers, and they had such a distinct signed kind of graphical style.
You would just know by the box art of a game that it is a Bitmap Brothers game. Speedball has gorgeous graphics and a fun game to play. It did get an update and re-released on PS3 and PSN.
This is a futuristic sports game, and you are in a metallic arena. Two teams are competing with each other, and you’re controlling one of the teams. You will pass around the metal ball and finally try to score a goal.
There are other ways to score points as you’re constantly taking each other out. It’s very simple and kind of like a futuristic American football game. This is super fun when two friends are playing against each other.
So, what are your thoughts on these games? Do you remember some of them? Which were your favorite games back then?