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With both Amiga and Atari ST done, it’s time for DOS Games, and once again, I list my Top 7 MS-DOS Games, based from my gradually fading memory of time spent within each game. DOS holds a very special place in my nostalgic mind, mainly for the hours I poured into getting games to work with config.sys and autoexec.bat and all the subtle nuances involved with base memory and drivers. It was sheer, sheer, exhaustive FUN (from my perspective at least), and it made getting the game to run that much more of an adventure in itself. So without further ado…
Continuing my series of Top 7 Games, I felt it was time to take a dive into the world of IBM Compatible PCs, and more importantly MS-DOS based games.
DOS is a particular favourite operating system of mine. DOS 6.22, coupled with Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was the first operating system combination I truly acquainted myself with. It came pre-installed on my 486DX2-50 back in the Christmas of 1995, and given that I’ve been using x86 architecture PCs from that day since, it’s evident that the platform appealed to me.
So it follows that there’s a whole lotta DOS games which I loved and indeed, still love to this day, so this list definitely wasn’t the easiest to make. However, I’ve come up with a winning formula; essentially it’s based on how much time I poured into each game. Obviously I didn’t catalogue this through my youth, so it’s a gut feel, but it feels about right. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for several other Top 7 DOS games in the near future.
Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon
This isn’t my normal game type. Usually I find the point and click genre far too slow paced and frustrating to get into. But there was something about this game which immediately took me. Maybe it was James Earl Junior’s voice introduction, maybe it was the tongue in cheek scenes by Chris Jones, maybe it was the blocky first person investigation scenes.
I think, in reality, it was a combination of all of these factors. Plus I’ve always had a keen interest in investigation. In any case, I loved this game, I loved the strange conversations with the tabloid seller and the voice over cues from Tex. LA Noire stand aside, you ain’t beating this one.
Take robots, tanks, strategy and networkable multi-player and you have ZED (not Zee). It’s very much a command and conquer style game where you have to guide your respective team of robots to dominance of a particular landscape. You do this by taking on the rival team of robots who start out with a base at the other end of the map.
Through building manufacturing units to create ever bigger tanks and infantry, you slowly build up enough forces to wipe out your opposition, take base camps and ultimately storm the enemies fortress.
This is strategy in such a pure form that it’s utterly enjoyable.
Star Wars X Wing
The first LucasARTS DOS game set in the Star Wars universe was X-Wing, and what a bloomin’ game it was. As one of the first games to use 3D polygons for spaceships, I found it absolutely marvelous cruising around this 3 dimensional landscape blowing the hell out of Tie fighters and capital ships in a style reminiscent of the early Star Raiders game.
There are numerous missions including seek & destroy, convoys, and escorts. But you can’t beat a good old dog fight.
Also to note is this was the first game to feature the iMuse dynamic music system, allowing the MIDI tunes to really hot up when the action got wild.
Grand Theft Auto
Released in 1997, GTA was quite a late comer to the world of DOS, and was quickly released on Windows ’95 as well. The original concept was actually intended for the Commodore Amiga, to be called Race ‘n’ Chase. Thankfully, the platform was quickly changed to the PC, followed by the name.
Since it’s release we’ve been through all the sequels, but none of those for me can match up to the excitement and playability of the first game… not even GTA 5. The first time I witnessed that camera angle flying in and out of Liberty City as it raced to keep up with your car over road, pavement or parking lot, I was mesmerised.
I utterly love games with a top down perspective, and this just took it to a whole new level. The freedom to pretty much do as you want was like a breath of fresh air and the challenges just hard enough to provide a satisfying challenge without causing frustration.
If you did get frustrated, you could always take down a line of Hare Krishna and get yourself a GOURANGA bonus!
Sim City 2000
Days… endless days… No, weeks.. Months! Possibly years were sunk into this game, and I still have no idea of what the ultimate goal is, or ever was.
There’s something just utterly addictive about creating your own thing from scratch and building it into something magnificent. In this case, that thing is a city. An evolving city which starts out in the 19th century and evolves into the future as you build ever higher sky scrapers and more advanced electricity plants.
Other than the exodus, where inhabitants blast off from your city, not having a goal doesn’t really matter, because ultimately the goal of any game is to relax your mind and have fun for a few hours, and Sim City 2000 certainly did that for me. I’m sure it probably inspired a degree of creativity along the way too.
Duke Nukem 3D
This was a time when Shareware was king, and for me, that was certainly more than true. The first time you heard John St. Jon’s voice you knew something was up, and your intuition would serve you correctly, as you’re dumped into an apparent Earth landscape ready to kick some alien ass.
The game play was similar to Doom, but there was more. There were interactive & destructable level elements, you could jump, Duke could talk, take a piss and dish out witty or degrading remarks on the toss of a coin. It was sheer first person mayhem, and before this point, nothing akin to this had really been witnessed.
I loved it, and once you plugged it into BT Wireplay, deathmatch and Co-operative modes were something to behold as well.
But even after Duke Nukem 3D, you cannot detract me from my first love. The fist time I set eyes upon Doom, I knew my life was about to change. I knew I could never be parted from this beautiful little creation *only youuuuu, can make this world seem bright (horror on screen back and forth to me)*. This is the game which convinced me that I needed to convince my parents to buy me a PC.
I think my entire gaming life up until that point had been waiting for this very game. For this level of interaction and immersion. This level of pure escapism, even if I could only have PC Speaker sound effects to begin with.
God those PC speaker sounds are nostalgic.
This game pretty much nailed the FPS genre in one fell swoop, and it continues to be the game that so many FPS games seek inspiration from to this very day.
I have always got time for a few levels of Doom, even when I haven’t got time. Even when it’s the middle of the night, or I’ve got to be at a meeting, or a doctor’s appointment or a funeral.
It’s an obvious choice, but like I said, this list is built on time spent in game, and coupled with the various mods and expansion packs this game had from Aliens Doom to the WAD level editor, it wins, simply because it has to, and because I want it to.
The DOS library is humongous, and it’s probably even harder than the Amiga to pick a list for, so other notable games include Theme Hospital, Quarantine, Descent, Creature Shock, Quake and the Malice add on, Rise of the TRIAD and Space Hulk to just name a few, but undoubtedly one of the main delights of a DOS game was getting it running to start with! Endless tweaking of autoexec.bat and config.sys to load drivers high, find enough base memory, install soundblaster drivers, configure IRQ and DMA settings and even making sure you had the correct keyboard map was a game in itself, and I think if I’m completely honest, I probably enjoyed doing all that more than the actual games themselves.
So as a separate award, I nominate DOS itself as the best game of all time, because it was certainly the one I poured the most time into, with absolutely no question of a doubt!