Anyone that knows me personally, knows that I am first and foremost a console gamer. It’s been that way since the early 90s when I first wrapped my grubby mitts around a SNES controller. However, during those defining years for software developers, there WAS a time where I was a console gamer and an avid PC gamer. Unfortunately, with all of the exponential advances that PCs have been making over the last ten years or so, I’ve grown cold at the thought of being a PC gamer again.
I’m sure I would enjoy many of the games that are out on PCs these days; I just don’t want to pay $600+ to have a somewhat entry level PC that can run games at an “ok” level. Even more unbelievable are some of the people paying almost 3 grand on a ‘gaming’ rig. I have my gaming ‘rig’ hooked up to my TV, its called an Xbox 360.
Before you get the wrong idea guys, let me explain that there WAS a time where PC gaming wasn’t that hard to have the right system requirements to play. This magical age came forth mainly for me in the mid 90s right before you HAD to have Windows installed on your computer to play games…that’s right, I’m going there back to the good ‘ol days where you played games using MS-DOS.
I miss having my computer boot up and waiting for my every command. That’s not to say that I don’t love having a GUI based operating system. Who else here (besides me) remembers the days where you had to make a boot disk with minimal CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files on them so you would have enough system resources to play a game? Well with tonight’s list, I will attempt to re-capture some of the good memories that I have of DOS gaming cause tonight’s list is my Top 10 Games You HAD to run in DOS.
The Adventures of Willy Beamish
It was a typical, boring, hot afternoon living in Idaho when I went over to my friend’s house after school one day. I was expecting us to be playing Ultima for the 8,000th time or heading up to his room to play Super Castlevania on his SNES. Luckily for both of us, he had better grades that quarter, so his parents went out and picked up a copy of this game for him. For the next 3 days we spent every afternoon after school sitting in front of his PC trying to get the maximum score in the game.
This was a great Dynamix game that tried to make it the usual click-adventure game into an interactive cartoon. It played pretty much like any third person adventure game in the early days of PC gaming, but was innovative for having more than one way to make it to the end of the game. You could be a saint and avoid all trouble altogether, or you could have been an irritating little shit that will eventually get his ass thrown in military school for being that way. If you were one of the lucky kids that had a CD-ROM back then you were treated to voiceovers for some of the dialogue in-game. For us though, we had to load all of the discs and wait for it all to unpack…I definitely don’t miss that aspect of PC gaming.
Leisure Suit Larry in The Land of The Lounge Lizards
I think my first experience with a Leisure Suit Larry game was back in 1989 when I found it mysteriously lurking on part of the hard drive I never explored before. Turns out my dad was a closet-ed pervy computer gamer who tried to hide this game from us kids. I remember him coming home one day to find me playing this on the PC and wondering how I managed to get past the built-in age restriction programming which asked questions to verify how old you were. I was a smart kid so I ended up just doing the whole trial and error method until I knew enough of them to proceed.
Larry Laffer, the protagonist, has decided to leave his nerdy life behind and make an attempt to re-define himself in the city of ‘Lost Wages’. You take the role of the the leisure suit clad idiot on his quest to find the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, there is a myriad of problems that face you, that keep you from this goal. You have to go through a game of 20 questions in your quest to buy condoms, a black dog pees on you if you stay still on the screen too long, and you get killed if you pester a guy sitting at the bar. There were so many ways you could waste time playing this game.
Many of you old timers like me can remember a time where having anything graphic settings that were more than monochrome in a computer game was a luxury, but the real beauty of games like this one showed many companies that there was indeed a market for more ‘mature’ games that could be targeted at older crowds of computer gamers. The game was pretty typical of games from Sierra back in the day in the age where they mixed 2D sprite based adventures with text-based gaming.
MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
My friend brought this game over to my house one day after school and I remember myself being immediately enamored with the simulation aspect of the game (there’s nothing I love more than giant robot mech simulators!). After I secured my own copy of the game, I spent months obsessing about this game and the subsequent expansions that were released.
The events of MechWarrior 2 make you pick between one of the two opposing clans in a battle for supremacy as a entry level soldier, but to be honest, I didn’t care too much for the story element of this game. I played it mainly for the giant robots and fully customizable mechs. This was one of the first games I played on my PC that gave me a feeling of immersion in its 3D environments. The game was a huge success for Activision that led to an expansion pack and even a stand alone game known as MechWarrior2: Mercenaries.
There have been very few games that have warranted the purchase of new hardware for my computer when I was growing up. This game simply demanded a new joystick, the Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro was it. Damn I can recall how much fun I had playing this game in my early teen years over the modem with my buddy. Sure, it is by no means as fun as Xbox Live, but back then we worked with what we had usually a 14400 baud modem.
Command & Conquer
The real-time strategy genre was foreign to me until I picked this game up when it came out. It had received so much critical acclaim from all of my friends at the time that I simply couldn’t exist as a person unless I bought it too. Giving in to this peer pressure led to many nights of being up until 5 am having multiplayer matches over that awesome modem I mentioned earlier.
The story was fairly simple, its the UN backed Global Defense Initiative (good guys) versus the cult-like quasi-religious Brotherhood of Nod (bad guys) in a battle for supremacy. You’d choose at the beginning of the game which campaign to follow through with and depending on your successes or failures you’d get different endings.
The first game from Westwood Studios in the long running series of games that share the same name. The official title was also known by many as “Tiberian Dawn” due to it being the first in the Tiberian Series. The extensive use of live action FMV cutscenes that would be shown in between each mission was great cause it would give you an idea of the progress or decline your forces have been making.
The storyline was completely epic in its scale, and I loved the acting (especially for Kane). One thing that I loved/hated was that the game was shipped on multiple CDs even though it would fit on one CD-ROM so you could let a friend borrow the other campaign that you weren’t playing at the time.
Wing Commander III: Heart of The Tiger
This was an awesome birthday gift for me when I turned 14, who wouldn’t love a Wing Commander game that came packaged in a 5 CD-ROM bundle? At the time, I thought to myself, “holy shit this game has to have tons of content!” Luckily I was right. This was most likely the first time in a computer game where I felt that the production quality of the cutscenes rivaled that of any movie I had seen at that time.
Wing Commander III takes place almost 15 years after the events of Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi when the newly named protagonist from the first two games (Col. Christopher Blair) is given the assignment of being the “Wing Commander” aboard the aging TCS Victory. The game boils down to a near WWII-esque decision on whether or not to use a weapon of mass destruction to end the Human / Kilrathi war that had been raging for nearly 30 years.
This game was fucking excellent mainly because the interactive movie experience they made, not too unlike what are experiencing nowadays with games like Mass Effect. The characters you’d interact with would respond differently depending on the answer to the questions they’d ask. Keep in mind that this was the early ’90s we’re talking about here, this is still very much the land of the SNES in console terms. This game also made the leap from sprite based to 3D texture wrapped polygons before 3D processor were available on the market. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that it starred Luke Skywalker (MARK FUCKING HAMILL) himself in the lead role and Johnathan Rhys Davies (Ghimli the Dwarf) from Lord of the Rings in a supporting role.
King’s Quest VI: Heir Today Gone Tomorrow
I first played Kings Quest, starting with this one when I was staying at my grandma’s house back in 1992, no shit people, my grandma is a computer nerd. She picked it up because she had made the mistake thinking I liked King’s Quest instead of Space Quest at the time, so I had no idea what to expect…It was all good though, I would play any Sierra adventure game that you’d put in front of me, especially if it has roman numeral that high.
I can’t tell you much of the backstory. well because I honestly don’t know it. King’s Quest VI is the ONLY one of the whole series that I spent any time with. I know that the princess that is rescued in this game had some backstory in the previous one, but who cares?!? Ok, reality time, the whole point of this game is that you are a prince who has a magic mirror that showed you that a damsel is in distress. Like as ass, you jaunt off and travel to this far away land to save her. Nobody told you that the seas around the islands you are travelling to are incredibly rough. You crash your ship, wake up on the shore with nothing but the clothes on your back, taa daa! The game begins!
The reason that I loved this is game is pretty simple, it was fun and at the same time really fucking hard to figure out. The graphics for the game were top notch for its time, the puzzles were tough as always, and I’m a sucker for games that place you in a land where you can experience a bunch of fairy-tale-esque characters. I had to use the guidebook for many of the game’s puzzles, but it seems like I would have never got the good ending if I would have tried to finish it myself.
Duke Nukem 3D
This was THE FIRST game I picked up with my FIRST paycheck when I FIRST got a job when I was 16. Working at Blimpie, making sammiches for all the fat people who wanted extra mayo wasn’t so bad when I could go home with a wallet full of money and play me some Duke Nukem!
Straight from the designers themselves:
“Murderous aliens have landed in futuristic Los Angeles, and humans suddenly find themselves atop the endangered species list. The odds are a million-to-one, just the way Duke likes it!
Honestly there’s not much story to be had here. This game was just an in-your-face-I’m-a-man-spelled-m-a-n testosterone romp through an adolescent fantasy of being the biggest badass in the world. Here’s the story in a nutshell: SAVE THE PLANET and see some boobies.
The game wasn’t a typical FPS where you didn’t get a chance to interact with your environment, you had pool tables to mess with, toilets to flush, strippers shaking their stuff for some moneys, arcade games to play, and light switches to turn on and off. The varied environments for each level really spoke to how much love was put into making the game different from the cookie cutter FPS games of that time. The weapons were creative especially with those like the shrink gun and the pipe bombs (my favorite). The game also featured equipment that you could use whenever you felt like it, like the HoloDuke which was used to distract enemies, and the best item in the game a jet pack (which = win).
Duke Nukem was a game experience that I haven’t experienced in a long time. It was just a simple, fun, juvenile romp, where it was common to hear lines from Duke like the one he stole from another macho-badass “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of gum”, c’mon tell me that he’s not a badass, I dares ya!
Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness
When I played the first Warcraft game on my PC, it was years after I had bought Warcraft 2. I didn’t mind the game, though it did seem like there was something missing from the overall experience. Luckily for me, Blizzard did a really good job of improving on the original game. I felt like I honestly got my money’s worth out of a game, something which is quickly going the way of the dodo.
The Warcraft series is full of too much mythos and a little too much lore for me to include any of it here, and I’d probably end up screwing up the story anyways, but I’ll give it a shot. From what I can recall the story took place after the fall of Azeroth, when the Orcs pushed all of the survivors to the northern lands of Lordaeron. From then on, the storyline gets fuzzy for me. I know this, the game is your standard RTS fare, one side versus another!
All I could think when playing this game is “Blizzard did it again!” Being a console gamer, I was lucky enough to play other games released by Blizzard in time past. Games like Blackthorne and Rock & Roll Racing gave me a benchmark that I could rate the quality of any subsequent games the company released, and Warcraft 2 was no disappointment. The company took all of the good from the first game, put it in the second game, improved upon it, balanced the gameplay out, and released an RTS juggernaut on the world.
Return To Zork
Oh man, I miss the old days when Infocom was a decent computer game company. Those days where there were only text based adventures…wait a minute, no, no I don’t. I hate text only adventures.
After Infocom was bought in ’86 by Activision, we saw nothing released from the Infocom label from 1989 until the early 90s, where the new games were brought out using the Infocom Zork brand. This game was the final Zork game to be published using the Infocom label.
Your character has miraculously won a sweepstakes that gives you an all expenses trip to the ‘Valley of the Sparrows’, which seems pretty sweet until you arrive in the town and realize that something isn’t quite right with the town and its residents. The entire area seems to have become all jacked up. This is all thanks to a dark being simply referred to as Morpheus. It’s up to you to find out what’s going on and avoid death at the same time.
Unlike all of the other games in the Zork series, this game made a marked departure from the original format of a ‘text adventure’. The game takes place in the first person perspective and was one of the first games I played that used video capture actors and extemely detailed graphics for the static images. The point and click interface was annexed from other games of the same ilk, but was highly successful in the ways you could interact with the environment, no longer did you have to worry about using your imagination to figure out what you can do with the plant and knife you have in your inventory.
Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and The Time Rippers
I played Space Quest for the first time when I was nine back in 1989 (Space Quest III) when most of the comedy in the game was lost on me. The series has always been known for its satire and parody, though I enjoyed it mostly for its inclusion of Sound Blaster support. Before then, all computer games usually used the built-in computer’s speaker which sounded god-awful. I was lucky enough to have a dad who understood his wierd kid and was given this game when I turned 11, and I remember playing it over and over again, nearly on a weekly basis.
You are the aptly named Roger Wilco, a space janitor who always seems to find himself in the most dire of situations regardless of where he might be. In Space Quest IV, you embark on a zany trek through time which takes you to many different incarnations of the Space Quest series throughout time (SQ I -> SQ XII). You see, the evil Sludge Vohaul from Space Quest II comes back in Space Quest XII in an attempt to kill Roger in Space Quest IV much like the storyline of The Terminator. Confused yet? Good, it’s meant to be crazy, wacky, and zany like that.
The game featured a totally awesome 256-color pallete with hand painted sprites and an incredible mouse-driven interface with the game which made playing the game so much easier than having to always type the commands on the screen.
I loved the humor that this game has, especially when it comes to your time travelling changing the title of the game on the screen. There was a part near the end where you had to erase programs off of a supercomputer from the future, included on the directory in the computer was a file known as ‘SQIV’ and if you deleted it, it booted you back to DOS, that blew my mind as a kid that the programmers would mess with their audience in such a way. I regard the Space Quest series as the most brilliant game in the click adventure games ever made on the PC.
Well, this concludes yet another Weird Kid’s Top 10 list. I hope you all enjoyed reading it. I know for certain that there are many of you out there that will disagree with some of my choices for this list, but keep in mind that this is in no way a definitive listing nor is it meant to be taken seriously. Its all for fun, just enjoy reading and take something away with you or leave a comment if you so wish.
If you have a particular Top 10 that you’d like to see email me, and I’d be happy to oblige. Thank you again for reading. See you next time!
Rise of the Triad
The Hand of Fate
Day of the Tentacle