In the 1980s and 1990s, before Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis invaded our living rooms, PC games earned the highest scores with gamers. And while classic titles like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog have been re-released, until recently classic computer games were only available to those willing to download emulators and track down files (or people somehow still sporting floppy drives).
Earlier this week, the Internet Archive tanked the world’s productivity by re-releasing almost 2,400 classic PC titles, all playable within a web browser. With that many games, you can bet there’s a lot of bad ones, and sadly, some of the best titles don’t work. (I’m looking at you, Pool of Radiance—there’s no way I can “Insert Disk 3” in 2015!)
But these ten favorites not only function, they’re still fun:
AD&D Eye of the Beholder: Roll the dice in this 1991 Dungeons & Dragons role playing game that was among the earliest titles to offer character creation. Sure, a lot of today’s games have this, and have leveled up to modern graphics, but there’s nothing like the nostalgia of being a chaotic good paladin roaming the dark passages beneath the city of Waterdeep. Look out, Kobolds!
Burgertime: Move over, Candy Crush, here comes the main course. Guide Peter Pepper in this hamburger assembling action game as he tries to build the biggest mouthfuls while being chased by enemy eggs, pickles and hot dogs. Back those bad guys off with a blast of pepper, chef, and stack those burgers as high as you can.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Riding the wave of Indy’s last adventure (because we all agree that the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull never happened, right?), this 1989 title was a Holy Grail for gamers, because it gave you control of one of the 80’s coolest characters. Among LucasArts’ earliest games, this browser version is easy to play using a keyboard, but it’s difficult to beat because Dr. Jones is a bit of a pushover.
The Hobbit: Open door. Go East. Enjoy game. Sure, after six movies, you might be sick of those tricksy little hobbitses today, but when this game was released in 1983, Tolkein fans only had the books, a 1977 cartoon, and some Led Zeppelin songs to tide them over. This text-based game barely has graphics — and if you want to go really old school you can even play without them, as you guide Bilbo through Middle Earth using only your imagination as your eyes.
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Back in the day, Sierra games were some of the most popular 8-bit adventures around. Today, through some copyright craziness, you can hardly find the old classics anywhere. (King’s Quest, the company’s first and biggest hit, is missing from this archive, for instance.) But this adult-oriented title follows the exploits of Larry Laffer as he strolls the city of Lost Wages, looking for love. Tame by today’s standards, it was the Grand Theft Auto of its time.
Lemmings 2: The Tribes: For some reason the original Lemmings didn’t make the online arcade, but this sequel still scratches the itch for people looking to save as many suicidal critters as they can. A cute puzzler, the object of this game is to lead the little rodents to safety, using lemmings’ specialized digging, blasting, and building skills to navigate the landscape of each level. Or, if you were a wicked child, you can still just guide them to elaborate, untimely demises.
Oregon Trail: B-A-N-G. Nostalgia for this stalwart of elementary school libraries has never faded — probably because they’ve relaunched the game so many times. Originally released in 1971, the Internet Archive’s edition is from 1990, but don’t worry, you can still die of dysentery in it. Some players have reported it freezes up, but others say claim if you load the page using the Firefox web browser, you’ll be on your way to the Willamette River Valley in no time.
Prince of Persia: Today’s kids will know this as the game that launched a Jake Gyllenhaal movie, but children of the 1990s fondly recall this as a top-notch adventure game, with great graphics and gameplay (at least for the time). Sure, it’s your typical rescue-the-princess plot, but the run-and-jump platformer has one thing that never gets old: infinite lives.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?: That’s a great question, but here’s an even better one: How come Interpol needs entry-level detectives to locate a woman wearing a red trench coat and hat? Regardless, this educational title rocked elementary school kids’ worlds back in the 1980s, putting their geography and history smarts to the test. Perhaps the best part of this game is its throwback sound effects, which you can hear in the browser without having to install a Sound Blaster card.
Wolfenstein 3D: The game that ushered in the first-person shooter category, this 1992 title was the precursor to Doom, Quake, and many of the gore-fests roaring across consoles today. Rated “PC-13” (for “profound carnage”), Wolfenstein has you, as allied spy B.J. Blazkowicz, racing to escape the Nazis’ clutches. Want a real challenge? Beat it using just the pistol, or even better, the knife. Guten tag!
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