Abandonware is old PC software that is “abandoned” by the company that owns the rights to it. What abandoned means is pretty vague – I don’t ask any questions.
Many (most?) of these games need to be played from DosBox, and can’t be played directly through anything higher than win 98. There is a DosBox tutorial on how to use it with games at the DosBox website.
If you aren’t a total nerd, and command prompts scare you, D-Fend Reloaded is a graphical front end (windows) for DosBox
- Basic story: In each stage there are start and end points – get the Lemmings from one to the other. Its usually not easy, and you need to get a minimum number of lemmings through to finish the level (they die very fast if you aren’t paying attention).
- Gameplay: A puzzle game, Lemmings deserves to be on this list just on creativity alone. Each level, you are given a number of special abilities to use with the lemmings to get them to the goal. Usually, you are given barely enough abilities finish the level, so planning is needed. In the shot above, they are jumping with an umbrella so they don’t end up looking like one of Mike’s bowel movements when they hit the ground.
- Nostalgic bit: I remember being very pleased when I figured out the “pause” button is a picture of “paws”. Also, the music in this game is great.
Also check out: Lemmings 2
- Basic story: The World Economic Consortium (WEC) controls the entire world in an ultraviolent Orwellian future. You are a Silencer, an elite badass who goes around killing for the WEC. You have turned on the WEC and joined a resistance group.
- Gameplay: For the time, the graphics in this game were really top-notch. The action is excellent, and the killing of Very Bad People is very gratifying. Also, they did an excellent job of weaving the world and plot into the levels and cut scenes without it being to meager or overdone. Control in the game is a little cumbersome, but once you’ve gotten used to it, its all good.
- Nostalgic bit: Blowing stuff up. In the name of freedom.
Also check out: Crusader – No Regret
8. Ironman / Ivan Stewart’s Offroad
- Basic story: Drive your truck, earn money by winning, buy upgrades. Win more.
- Gameplay: No need to be careful with your driving here, nobody is going to punish you for shooting off a bunch of nitros right into the wall. In order to have fast lap times, you do need to pay attention to the terrain of the level – stay out of water, off of bumps, and catch shortcuts when you can. The best part is buying upgrades in between levels – nitros, suspension, tires, engine upgrades. Although playing this in the arcade was the bomb, the PC version is also pretty good, and it didn’t steal your lunch money.
- Nostalgic bit: Stumbling on a simple cheat when playing with my friend, then playing for hours whipping the computer’s ass.
- Basic story: I dunno, killing aliens? Feels like Aliens vs Predator.
- Gameplay: This was the first action game that really did a brilliant job integrating keyboard and mouse, and it was basically ignored, becoming a cult classic. The pace of the game is crazy fast, but the control is so perfect that even if its hard, it all feels fair. If you like platformers, this is a must play – not only is the action good, but the atomosphere is perfectly gritty. Playing this takes the same coordination Geometry Wars does.
- Nostalgic bit: Just trying to understand how to use the mouse and the keyboard worked, then getting used to it. Awesome.
6. StarCon 2
- Basic story: A race of aliens, the Ur-Quan have taken over earth. Do whatever you want.
- Gameplay: The universe is huge, detailed, and personality squeezes out of every bit and pixel. You can take on jobs, hang out, fight, whatever. People talked about how GTA 3 was amazing because it was an open environment? StarCon’s universe is much more impressive, and it was made in ’92. This game has elements for everyone, RPG, action, strategy… if you play video games, there is something here for you.
- Nostalgic bit: Just rocking melee mode with my neighbor. Ur-Quan ship == beatstick.
- Basic story: You are a guy who wants to become a pirate, but for that to happen, you must pass three trials. As thats happening, you fall in love, and your lady is kidnapped.
- Gameplay: This game is just tasty. All the graphics, sound, music, and dialogue are all spot on perfect, the game is awesome to play. It’s basically an interactive story. Walk around, talk to people (carefully!) use different actions on different things. Put different things together. Be Happy. Finish.
- Nostalgic bit: This was the first game I ever played on CD. Aside from that, everything – look at the color!
- Basic story: I’m not sure, something about you being a prince and having to save your people from Sarlac. Or something.
- Gameplay: Feels alot like Prince of Persia, but its a much darker, more violent world. The levels involve some puzzle solving, and a good deal of fighting (which is perfectly done). When shooting Orcs, you really feel like a crazy renegade badass. I still play this game often on my Gameboy Advance – just the fact that it was ported there at all tells you its a real classic. If you liked Prince of Persia, or like action games, you need to do yourself a favor and play this one.
- Nostalgic bit: The no-look backwards shot. What a cold way to shoot prisoners that don’t respect your athoritah. Also, killing those fucking Orcs for laughing after they got a shot in.
- Basic story: If you’re reading this, you know.
- Gameplay: This is the game that really popularized RTSs and put Blizzard on the map. The control in this game is a little weird looking back at it (at the time it felt natural), and some of the units (fully upgraded mages) are a little unbalanced. Anyway, it doesn’t matter – its a classic, and considering how early in the RTS game this was done, its amazing.
- Nostalgic bit: Clicking on the dudes over and over again till they got pissed off.
2. Doom 2
- Basic story: I think a portal to Hell opened up on Mars. Kill everything.
- Gameplay: Wow. Aside from Wolfenstein, this is the game that put FPSs on the map. Everything about this game is perfection, the sounds, music, enemies, weapons, the list goes on and on. Also really the first game to popularize deathmatches and networked games. If you don’t know what iddqd means, you need to play more.
- Nostalgic bit: Deathmatch games with Mike over the modem on level 1 – In air rocket frag!
- Basic story: Build a civilization from the dawn of man, competing against rival civlizations.
- Gameplay: Insanely deep for the time, this is the real beginning of Sid Meier’s legendary career, as well as the Civilization series, which is still in progress. Although this game is from ’91, Civilization 4, published in 2005 is not that different (just additions of religion and culture). Writing a game that barely needs any changes aside from graphical refreshes over a decade and a half is pretty damn amazing. My favorite computer game of all time, bar none.
- Nostalgic bit: Losing the manual and memorizing the copy protection questions by trial and error.
Other titles worth mentioning :
- X-Com series: (I know these games are amazing, I just never played them as a kid)
- Fallout series (Great games, but so buggy I could never finish them)
- Mechwarior series (so damn good, but a little to new to be real abandonware)
The Home of the Underdogs is another good abandonware site
If you dig this list, Reloaded [by Abandonia] is also worth checking out. Its all privately made games (or mods) in the spirit of abandonware.
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