Nearly 2400 MS-DOS games are now playable in your browser

MS DOS games

I referenced the great 1986 EA game Starflight in yesterday's news about the Into the Stars Kickstarter because, to put it bluntly, I freakin' loved Starflight. It was an amazing accomplishment: A sandbox sci-fi game with planetary exploration, trading, ship-to-ship combat, diplomacy with seven unique alien races, and more, all squeezed into 256K—kilobytes!—of RAM. And now you youngsters can try it for yourselves, along with roughly 2400 other games from the MS-DOS era, all of them playable in your browser.

The gigantic collection of oldies comes to us courtesy of the Internet Archive, along with a warning from curator Jason Scott that it may at times be a bumpy ride. "Some of them will still fall over and die, and many of them might be weird to play in a browser window, and of course you can’t really save things off for later, and that will limit things too," he wrote. "But on the whole, you will experience some analogue of the MS-DOS program, in your browser, instantly."

Case in point: My beloved Starflight offers five different graphics settings (none of which you've likely ever heard of), but the only one that works—or at least, the only one that works for me—is EGA. Furthermore, once you've overcome that hurdle, it will ask you for a launch code before you undock your ship, which is actually the game's copy protection in action. You can enter any code you want and it will let you fly, but unless the DRM has been removed (and I've seen no reference to that being the case) you'll run into trouble down the road.

Occasional glitches aside, the remarkable thing here is that these games work as well as they do. Battle Chess, Tongue of the Fatman, and Koronis Rift may not be exactly as I remember them—the passage of time has a way of smoothing rough edges—but I've spent the last 20 minutes getting my ass kicked in Karateka and I'm not ready to give up yet. Consider yourself warned.


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