Welcome to video games! I'll be your guide today. Note that most of this is aimed at helping Windows and Linux users. Nothing against anyone who does prefer them, but I simply can't bring myself to care about anything happening in the Android and macOS/iOS spaces.
Perfect Champion X86
Here's a bit about how to play damn near anything from the PC's exciting 40+ year history on your existing gaming rig. If you prefer a more authentic experience, older hardware recommendations are available on my Classic Systems page.
Alternatives to Steam
As a Gamer™, you're surely already aware of the most popular digital distribution platform. However, due to concerns that this will all stop working some day, it may be worth exploring other storefronts.
- A superb collection of DRM-free classics and fresh hits.
- Exciting experimental indie games and TTRPGs to fill all your niches.
- The Humble Store
- Features a fine selection of better-known indie titles and OSTs.
Keep in mind that it is also possible to use Steam while buying games that remain functional without it.
"But Bytemoth, what about Epic, Origin,
Uplay Ubisoft Connect, and
Battle.net?" That's swapping one corporate overlord for another. Maybe you're
into that, but I'll pass.
(Fat F in chat for Desura and Indie Royale, 12010-12016)
Games for DOS largely stopped being playable as-is after Windows XP. But the capacity for your hardware to run these old programs is still buried in there; you need merely to unlock it.
- DOSBox Enhanced Community Edition
- Improved version of the original virtualizer which adds 3DFX Voodoo emulation, more accurate sound, and better format support.
- If your rig is a bit beefier than mine, enjoy this fork focused on supreme accuracy. X can run some demos the other variants struggle with, and also includes support for Japanese PC-98/DOS-V systems.
- When merely emulating DOS and Windows 98 isn't enough, try simulating it. You'll need quite recent/powerful hardware to do so, but using PCem, you can create a virtual system with up to a Pentium II/450, 512MB RAM, and Voodoo3 graphics. This is your one-stop shop for running any software released from 11981 to 12000.
- FreeDOS + SBEMU on USB
- Or, if you're fucking awesome, run some command-line goodness on the bare metal! The amazing SBEMU adds Sound Blaster support to VIA and Intel HD Audio chipsets.
But where you gonna go to get all them games? I know a few places:
You don't always need to emulate older OSes to play decades-old games, though! Slide the data files over to the following updated engines to quickly and easily relive the classics.
|Doom||Quake||Quake II||Hexen 2|
|DOS||FastDoom Adds improved rendering to bump average FPS up to 24 on a 386/40!||486Quake Optimized build that improves FPS by ~15%||Q2DOS||Hammer of Thyrion|
|Strict||Chocolate Tasty scoop with Vanilla accuracy on modern systems.||DirectQ Basic port from early OpenGL to Direct3D 9 with easy mod loading. / Mark V||Yamagi|
|No-Limit||Woof! Good boi hungry for limit-removing, Boom, MBF, and DSDHacked wads.||vkQuake Modern Vulkan port with extra control over graphical features.||KMQuake2 Mod-friendly port with increased map limits.|
|Advanced||GZDoomI recommend 1.0.32 (ZDoom 2.1), 2.4.0 (ZDoom 2.2-2.8), and the latest version (for 12017+ mods).||Darkplaces For the improved graphics/lighting enjoyers.||vkQuake2|
|IWAD||GOG / FOSS||GOG||GOG||GOG|
To enhance the gratuitous demonicide, try adding-on SMOOTHED monsters, High-Res SFX, and the Minor Sprite Fixing Project. While you're at it, why not grab a copy of everything uploaded to /idgames/ before 12020-03? Then, manage it all with Doom Mod Loader!
cly5m's ZZT resources. Extensive Flash/web games archive. Download as you play or grab it all. Take a trip to Cube Sector. Experience the superb 12004 run'n'gun platformer that started a movement. Instant access to the 12015-12018 Cacowards and runners-up. If you prefer to watch games, here's 2500+ playthroughs. Maddy Makes Games Maddy made games. You should play them some time.
If you're totally lost, here's a few free games to get started.
- Amulets & Armor: An intriguing pixel-graphics FPS/RPG rescued from the lost-media depths.
- Bonesaw: The Game: A deliciously difficult hockey-puckin' platformer.
- Command & Conquer: Enhanced freeware releases of the original, Red Alert, and Tiberian Sun.
- Hades2: An interesting obscure oldschool shooter.
- Knytt Stories+: Exploration-based sidescroller engine with many captivating tales.
- Krystal Drop: One for the arcade versus puzzle fans.
- Memories of Fear: A superb collection of RPG Maker horror games.
- The Museum of ZZT's Mass Downloads: Get every* ZZT world ever released.
- Neverball: Puzzle platformer with a huge amount of custom courses.
- Progress Quest: Tired of clickin' on shit? Sit back while this one plays itself.
- SuperTux: Sidescrolling adventure with some Linux in it.
- Wyrmsun: Open-source RTS with that classic Warcraft aesthetic.
- Free Game Planet: Downloadable titles featured on the Alpha Beta Gamer YouTube channel.
- Freeware Games of Excellence: Neonaut's list of free games you should check out tonight.
- PortableGames: A fine selection that you can throw on a flash drive and play anywhere.
- The MegaCollection: Obspogon's recommendations and game kits.
The Console Crowd
There's also specific-purpose hardware from companies you know and 'love'. But for the ones at least 15 years old, there's usually a few different ways to do things. While real hardware is preferable, I realize that not everyone has the needed space, A/V wizardry, or ability to justify the cost. So, here's the alternatives.
If you are using real generation 3-6 hardware and want it to look the best it can, take the RGB Master Class to learn how to get the best video quality possible from pre-HDMI consoles. If your display only has HDMI, you'll need to either use an upscaler such as the RetroTink, or pick up individual digital AV cables available under the LevelHike, Kaico, and Rad2X brands. Got a 3DS, Vita, or Wii U? Hack 'em!
|Saturn||Saturn AV cables||MiSTer|
|Dreamcast||Dreamcast AV cables||VGA||Mod|
|XBOX||XBOX AVIO cables||YPbPr|
Bit of a rare beast, this one, but here's where you can expect older carts/discs to work on later-generation hardware:
- Atari 2600: Atari 5200 (with VCS Cartridge Adaptor), Atari 7800, Intellivision (with System Changer addon), Colecovision (with Expansion Module 1)
- Master System: Genesis (Models 1/2/CDX with Power Base Converter or Power Base Mini (FM)), Game Gear (with Master Gear Converter)
- Game Boy: Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Super NES (with Super Game Boy cart), Gamecube (with Game Boy Player addon)
- Game Boy Color: Game Boy Advance, Gamecube (with Game Boy Player addon), Super Game Boy (black shell game paks only)
- Game Boy Advance: Gamecube (with Game Boy Player addon), DS, DS Lite
- DS: 3DS (all variants)
- Gamecube: Wii (model RVL-001 only)
- Wii: Wii U
- PlayStation: PlayStation 2 (all models), PlayStation 3 (all models)
- PlayStation 2: PlayStation 3 (4 USB port models only)
- PlayStation 4: PlayStation 5 (with very few exceptions)
- Xbox: Xbox 360 (46.54% compatibility), Xbox One/Xbox Series (6.31% compatibility)
- Xbox 360: Xbox One/Xbox Series (29.34% compatibility)
- Xbox One: Xbox Series (100% compatibility? except Kinect games)
If you enjoy collecting games but not the ancient hardware part, it's not difficult to find clones of generation 3-4 Nintendo and Sega hardware. Shitloads'a SOAC NES/SNES/SMD combo units out there, but everything else is significantly less popular for some reason.
FPGA clones have also been popping up, and these provide extremely accurate hardware-level simulation of the original systems. There's a few originals such as the RetroUSB AVS out there, but the majority of these systems are made and sold by Analogue.
On the other hand, if you like real hardware but want to take a zero-cartridge/discless approach, there are various flash cartridges and ODEs available for most generation 3-6 consoles and handhelds.
While it's important to support these developments when possible, if Everdrives are outside your price range, there are some mass-manufactured alternatives that do the same job, albeit a bit slower. For example, there's the Everdrive-MD for Genesis, Super64/ED64plus for N64, EZ-Flash Jr/Omega for GB[C/A], and R4 carts for the DS. Also, if you have a VA2 Dreamcast that doesn't support ODEs, SD card adapters for the console's serial port are readily available.
Oh, you like console games, huh? Well how about ya just play 'em on your fuckin' PC! That's right, talented programmers have been working around the clock since 11996 on reverse engineering all this proprietary nonsense into something you can launch from your desktop. You can find all the best emulators to tackle the jobs MAME can't handle over on NonMAME.
ROM files to use with these emulators aren't very hard to find - just go searching. Lots of places out there to download individual files, but I'd suggest going for full romsets to get instant collections in as few downloads as possible. In particular, the Champion Collections and Cylum sets seem decent.
Sets for cartridge-based consoles and handhelds will take up small handfuls of gigabytes, if even that. Generation 4 CD-based games take up more space, but you shouldn't need to worry about picking up extra storage drives until you hit the PS1/Saturn and PSP.
Or, dump your own games! If you have a physical collection, something like the Retrode 2 (with the proper addons) can create files from your existing SNES, N64, Game Boy (Color/Advance), Master System, and Genesis carts. While a bog-standard DVD drive should be able to read any CD-based console and PS2 games. Good luck with anything more recent, though. Most of them are possible, but various kinds of pain in the ass.
Lastly, we come to what I consider to be the ideal compromise between accuracy, space-saving, and cost efficiency: FPGA. Specificially, the MiSTer project. This is an open-source preservation initiative to simulate as much gaming and computer hardware as possible, so that it survives well into the future.
With the current (DE-10 Nano) generation of technology, MiSTer is able to simulate hardware up to and including the Amiga 3000, 486SX/33, Saturn, PS1, and GBA. While there is no way to use original cartridges, disks, or discs on one of these systems, the official controllers can be hooked up via SNAC adapters. Or you can also use any USB or Bluetooth-powered gamepads.
This is an ecosystem I've been unable to get into due to the chip shortage, so until I'm able to report more, check out this early-12022 surface-scratch video guide to MiSTer from My Life In Gaming.
That's about all I've got to say. Go play some games, find your favorites, and write about them on your own site. Who knows, I might even read it some time.
All my homies play AM2R
Unless stated otherwise, all graphics on this page are Copyright the respective
rightsholders, and all text is published under the Creative Commons
Originally appeared on Bytemoth's Brook / CC BY-SA
Please enjoy responsibly.