Best Abandonware Games

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

10. Lemmings

  • 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

9. Crusader – No Remorse

  • 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.

Also check out: Death rally, GTA 1, GTA 2

7. Abuse

  • 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.

Also check out: Ur-Quan Masters (modern port, probably easier to run than the original binaries), StarCon, StarCon 3

5. Monkey Island

  • 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!

Also check out: Monkey Island 2, Loom, Any other SCUMM game – they’re all excellent

4. Blackthorne

  • 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.

Also check out: Prince of Persia, Prince of Persia 2

3. Warcraft

  • 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.

Also check out: Warcraft 2, Command and Conquer, Command and Conquer: Red Alert

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!

Also check out: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom

1. Civilization

  • 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.

Also check out: Civ 2, Pirates, Pirates Gold, Colonization, Defender of the Crown (the Atari ST version looked alot better…)

Other titles worth mentioning :

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.

22 Responses

  1. You remembered my in-air rocket frag. [single tear]

    god i miss that shit.

  2. xcom was the best except for apocalypse ^^

  3. […] fakes being an old computer, which allows old games to run. To read more about either check out my Best Abandonware Games […]

  4. I tend to love abandonware games—having spent my youth in the late eighties and early nineties—so I have a soft spot in my heart for people who provoke nostalgia in me through their mention. However, I’m a little miffed by some of your commentary. On the story of Blackthorne: “Iā€™m not sure, something about you being a prince and having to save your people from Sarlac. Or something.” Do you even WANT to be writing about these games? You could have gone sans-commentary if you were going to be so uninspired. Doom 2, aptly named “Hell on Earth,” is exactly that: Hell on Earth. The story you attempted to cite occurred in the first game. I mean, is a 10-seconds peek at something like Wikipedia too much to ask? And Mech Warrior and Mech Warrior 2 being too new to be abandonware? The second installment came out in 1995. That’s before both Abuse (1996) and Fallout (1997) which made your list without such a comment. In fact, even Mech Warrior 3 is about a year shy of being 10-years old.

    Seriously, do you even like these games or are you just writing to write?

  5. Thanks Jeff:

    I never really considered the actual story of Doom an integral part of the gameplay. Has anyone? I mean you shoot zombies, and aliens, and demons. Does it matter where they came from? If it did Id would have spent more than 3 paragraphs of text for every chapter in the game (so effectively none) to explain what was happening. Similarly, the story in Blackthorne does nothing to help me enjoy it, so I don’t bother to remember or write about it.

    True that Mech2 is newer than Abuse, but when you PLAY Abuse, it feels much older than Mech2, regardless of the calendar dates when they were reviewed. You have to agree with me on that.

    Basically, anything that fit on floppies fits my description of Abandonware, Mech2 certainly isn’t one of those, and neither is in Fallout. Thats why both series are notable mentions, but not in my abandonware list.

  6. Nice list. I love abondonware myself. Classic games let you focus on in-depth gameplay, rather then whizz-bang effects. The fact that I run Debian Linux on a 5yo P3 laptop makes me like them even more. šŸ˜‰

    However, you carelessly omitted the Master Of Orion series, which is on top of my personal strategy games list.

  7. Nice Llewelyn, don’t give up on that old hardware or old games!

    I’ve never played master of Orion (gasp!), maybe I should check it out.

  8. […] fakes being an old computer, which allows old games to run. To read more about either check out my Best Abandonware Games […]

  9. Great list – like many of the games on it!

  10. I can’t believe carmageddon 1 is not in your top 10. This leads me to question your gaming aptitude =x
    Also, check out Syndicate wars =]

  11. Carmageddon? I’m not going to even comment on that.

    But I know Syndicate would definitely be on Mike’s list.

  12. Hell yeah, its on my list!

  13. […] titles ever made. Civilization, Doom, StarCon, are all here. Includes links where to find binaries! StarCon PreviewIGN is the ultimate resource for starcon previews featuring in-depth coverage […]

  14. I used to spend days playing Lemmings back in the 90s. I’ve found a Linux knock-off called “Penguis”. It’s very good.

  15. I’ve been trying to find new levels for Pingus bit haven’t had much luck.

  16. I believe if you use the level editor in Pingus you can unlock or create new levels. Abuse was a fantastic game for it’s time. You’ve inspired me to find a copy and give it another go.

  17. If you are into classic games give monopoly tycoon a try, really great game but completely underrated. addictive, wish they had more….

  18. Because of the new technology, many games are being abandoned, just like the Monkey Island, I really love to play this game. Lot of challenges to face and more excitement in old games. Until now I played some of the old abandon games.

  19. Civilization… GREAT !!!! except graphic, better than CIV4

    You don’t need to memorize all the copy protection asks and answers to pass copy protection, just open a second dosBox, launch a second instanciation of Civ and go to the menu civilopedia, choose the technology the questions is about and you will get the technology needed before developping this one, wich is the answer.

    Have Fun, and maybe… Add this trick to the post for everyone šŸ˜‰

    Good GAME

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