Over 2,000 DOS Games Playable For Free At The Internet Archive (First Impressions, some Screenshots and Controls)


Update: Audio has been improved for many games, kudos go out to the Curators at The Archive
Update: Added a few Helpful Controls for the emulation, at the bottom of the article



For those who don't know, there are now over 2,000 DOS-era games that are playable directly in your browser at The Internet Archive, here:



I have been testing out these MS-DOS games for the past while and want to share with you all what I have experienced so far...


Only a smattering of the huge library of games available to play at the archive


Looking at the huge list of games from my past, a tear almost came to my eye, thanks to Jason Scott, curator of the collection at The Internet Archive. He has uploaded close to 2400 games at the time of this post, to the collection at the first link above. Smiling at the possibility of him making a 2400-baud Modem 'inside joke' (even if he didn't mean to), I quickly found some childhood favourites to try.



The 'DOSbox' Loading Screen at the Archive for the browser-based interface to the games


The games appear to run in a DOSbox emulator, running within a Java-based Engine in your browser. Unfortunately, there seems to be some problems with how the games are running [at the time of this writing]. For me, trying over a dozen of these classic games, all of them had sound that was 'garbled', or 'glitchy', with 'echo-ey' clicks and pops, which weren't supposed to be present [weren't present in the originals].



Title Screen captured from one of the Classic DOS Games playable at the Archive (Wolfenstein 3D)
Click to see 'Full Size'


Although the games looked fine, I started troubleshooting what might be happening with the audio... At first, I tried different browsers. Originally playing them in Google's Chrome, I tried Mozilla's Firefox as well, and then Microsoft's Internet Explorer. In all three browsers, the problem with the audio remained, for me. So, I moved to other troubleshooting steps, changing my audio adapter from the built-in ('on-board') motherboard audio to a more dedicated device (I had a USB Sound Adapter from my Creative Labs Tactic 3D headphones, which I wasn't using at the time, so I plugged that in for a quick test). The problem with the 'static-y'/'glitchy' sound remained. Slash-sigh.


Gameplay screenshot captured from one of the Classic DOS Games playable at the Archive (Prince of Persia)
Click to see 'Full Size'


Just to test if it was some configuration problem perhaps (after updating Java and other drivers), I tried accessing the site from an older XP machine I have. The sound in games still had 'pops' and 'clicks' [at the archive site]... I lastly tried a couple of games on a friend's PC (which was running Windows 7 64-bit, as my system was) and still experienced the sound problem. All of these games from my childhood - and I can't get any of the sound working properly for them, no matter what I do? But I'm sooo close to gaming nirvana! I felt like I finally arrived at Wally World after travelling across-country all this time, only to get a recorded message of Harold Ramis, delivered from Marty Moose, telling me that the amusement park is closed for two weeks for cleaning and repairs... /ShakesFistAtTheSky


Title Screen captured from one of the Classic DOS Games playable at the Archive (Total Carnage)
Click to see 'Full Size'


But, all is not lost... Surely there are other people enjoying the games as they are - as I didn't find many people talking online about having sound issue(s) in a rudimentary search online. Just to make sure my machine wasn't completely becoming a sufferer of Dosphobia (an illness I just made up), I tried some DOSbox-run games that I purchased from Good Old Games [now GOG.com]. Thankfully, Theme Hospital ran flawlessly (when run locally)!



GREEETEENGZ  WAHLAWD
Welcome Screen captured from one of the Classic DOS Games playable at the Archive (Warlords 2)
Click to see 'Full Size'



So, my dear friends, a veritable treasure trove of games exists at The Archive now, and is awaiting to be experienced. Hopefully, you are one of those whom are having no problems at all - and if you are having audio issues as I am ...well just play without sound for now. How? In the upper-right corner of the page, you should see two small text buttons that say "Exit Beta" and "Feedback". Clicking "Exit Beta" will take you to the 'Version One' of the game collection's [Archive] interface. When clicking on a game to play, there should now be a "Mute" button below the area where the game runs. Although the game will run without audio, they still appear to run fine visually [I had no problems on my older dual-core XP machine, running the games themselves, even though the sound problem still existed].

The upper-right corner buttons to use if you are having issues with audio (as I was) or if you are experiencing the mouse not being aligned properly (the mouse being far away from what is shown on the screen). To fix that problem, see the below Tip




If you are having issues with your mouse not lining up properly (not being 'where it should be' on the screen), try disabling the newer Beta interface/page by clicking on the "Exit Beta" button in the upper right corner. You will get a page that should now have buttons below the area where the game runs. Clicking the "Fullscreen" button should allow the game to 'take over your mouse' and align it within the in-game cursor more properly.



Gameplay screenshot captured from one of the Classic DOS Games playable at the Archive (Dune 2, The Building of a Dynasty)
Click to see 'Full Size'



Since the collection is still in Beta, it is understandable that some problems are present and hopefully these glitches will be fixed in the future - for those that experience them, like me. For now, it is still a fantastic effort by Mr.Scott to make all of these Classic games available at The Internet Archive website. Check them out - and enjoy reliving (or experiencing for the first time) a 'Golden Age' in gaming.



Menu Screen captured from one of the Classic DOS Games playable at the Archive (Eye of the Beholder 2, The Legend of Darkmoon)
Click to see 'Full Size'



By the way, because the games are being presented in DOSbox (an MS-DOS environment emulator), this also means that DOSbox keys should work within the Stream interaction as well. I haven't tested all of them, but here are some that may be helpful [and I know these work for sure with the Streaming Archive as I have used them myself]:

CTRL+F10 - Release the mouse (if the game has 'captured' it) and also get the game to 'recapture' it
CTRL+F12 - Increase the cycles the game uses [of the server, since that's where it's running].
CTRL+F11 - Decrease the cycles the game uses.
Cycles are how many Instructions that DOSbox will try to emulate each Millisecond. When running DOSbox locally (on your own system), a window in the background will usually display the Cycles setting the game is on, but as this is an online ("remote", client/server) version, that window isn't seen. If a game is seeming sluggish/slow/laggy/etc however, you can still try increasing the Cycles; but be aware that if it goes too high, it can make the game skip/chug and seem laggy as well. It's sort of a balance you'll have to find [I try to increase it if a game is running a little slow, but if the sound starts to cut out or skip, then I pull it back down a bit, and this seems to give a good emulation speed - this is the same process I use when playing purchased DOSbox games locally, on my system].
For ALL the controls available for the DOSbox Emulator, see this page at the Wiki for DOSbox:
(Note: I have not tested all of these over the Streaming playable games from The Archive, some of them may not work the same way [when used through the streaming interface as opposed to using them when running DOSbox locally])



Enjoy and See You In The Games!

[Update: During the period of testing and writing this article, some changes have been made at The Internet Archive's MS-DOS Games Collection. It seems that some games are now automatically 'Muted' (the audio is turned off). They can be 'Unmuted' via a button, but this is encouraging evidence that the curator et al. are listening and responding to Feedback that has been submitted at the site. To quote a new piece of text that now appears at the collection's page: "Thank you for your feedback - we will continue to upgrade/bugfix the emulator going forward". Fantastic, in my opinion] 

[Update 2015-01-17: Going back and testing many of the games that I had first encountered in this article, the audio has been improved (less clicking, stuttering) in all of them so far -  kudos to the Curators at The Archive!]


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