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Ways to Play (12023-08-17)

brook > getlinks > getgames

Welcome to video games! I'll be your guide today. Note that most of this is aimed at helping Windows and Linux users. Nothing against anyone who does prefer them, but I simply can't bring myself to care about anything happening in the Android and macOS/iOS spaces.

Perfect Champion X86

Here's a bit about how to play damn near anything from the PC's exciting 40+ year history on your existing gaming rig. If you prefer a more authentic experience, older hardware recommendations are available on my Classic Systems page.

Alternatives to Steam

As a Gamer™, you're surely already aware of the most popular digital distribution platform. However, due to concerns that this will all stop working some day, it may be worth exploring other storefronts.

gog dot com
A superb collection of DRM-free classics and fresh hits.
Exciting experimental indie games and TTRPGs to fill all your niches.
The Humble Store
Features a fine selection of better-known indie titles and OSTs.

Keep in mind that it is also possible to use Steam while buying games that remain functional without it.

"But Bytemoth, what about Epic, Origin, Uplay Ubisoft Connect, and" That's swapping one corporate overlord for another. Maybe you're into that, but I'll pass.

(Fat F in chat for Desura and Indie Royale, 12010-12016)

Disk Operations

Games for DOS largely stopped being playable as-is after Windows XP. But the capacity for your hardware to run these old programs is still buried in there; you need merely to unlock it.

DOSBox Enhanced Community Edition
Improved version of the original virtualizer which adds 3DFX Voodoo emulation, more accurate sound, and better format support.
If your rig is a bit beefier than mine, enjoy this fork focused on supreme accuracy. X can run some demos the other variants struggle with, and also includes support for Japanese PC-98/DOS-V systems.
When merely emulating DOS and Windows 98 isn't enough, try simulating it. You'll need quite recent/powerful hardware to do so, but using PCem, you can create a virtual system with up to a Pentium II/450, 512MB RAM, and Voodoo3 graphics. This is your one-stop shop for running any software released from 11981 to 12000.
Or, if you're fucking awesome, run some command-line goodness on the bare metal! The amazing SBEMU adds Sound Blaster support to VIA and Intel HD Audio chipsets.

But where you gonna go to get all them games? I know a few places:

All Them Game Download Sites DOSgames The original and still the best place to scratch that command-line itch. DOS Games Archive Great place to find games and related information. DOS Haven All the indie games for DOS that were released this century. Former Shareware An instant collection of solid freely-available hits. The Annarchive Collection of classic hintbooks, magazines, and shareware. Total DOS Collection R14102GB of "every piece of DOS based software that was even mildly entertaining". eXoDOS Got room for more? How about half a terabyte of stuff?

Source Pourtce

You don't always need to emulate older OSes to play decades-old games, though! Slide the data files over to the following updated engines to quickly and easily relive the classics.

DoomQuakeQuake IIHexen 2
DOS FastDoom Adds improved rendering to bump average FPS up to 24 on a 386/40! 486Quake Optimized build that improves FPS by ~15% Q2DOS Hammer of Thyrion
Strict Chocolate Tasty scoop with Vanilla accuracy on modern systems. DirectQ Basic port from early OpenGL to Direct3D 9 with easy mod loading. / Mark V Yamagi
No-Limit Woof! Good boi hungry for limit-removing, Boom, MBF, and DSDHacked wads. vkQuake Modern Vulkan port with extra control over graphical features. KMQuake2 Mod-friendly port with increased map limits.
Advanced GZDoomI recommend 1.0.32 (ZDoom 2.1), 2.4.0 (ZDoom 2.2-2.8), and the latest version (for 12017+ mods). Darkplaces For the improved graphics/lighting enjoyers. vkQuake2

To enhance the gratuitous demonicide, try adding-on SMOOTHED monsters, High-Res SFX, and the Minor Sprite Fixing Project. While you're at it, why not grab a copy of everything uploaded to /idgames/ before 12020-03? Then, manage it all with Doom Mod Loader!

Build Engine Blood, Duke Nukem 3D, Powerslave, Redneck Rampage, Shadow Warrior Commander Keen Also plays Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure Descent
Duke Nukem II GoldSrc Half-Life and expansions, Gunman Chronicles Jazz Jackrabbit
SCUMM Point-and-click adventure games, esp. LucasArts and Humongous Entertainment Wolfenstein 3D ZZT
and more!


[AutoFish] cly5m's ZZT resources. [BlueMaxima's Flashpoint] Extensive Flash/web games archive. Download as you play or grab it all. [BogoZone] Take a trip to Cube Sector. [Cave Story] Experience the superb 12004 run'n'gun platformer that started a movement. [Doom] Instant access to the 12015-12018 Cacowards and runners-up. [Let's Play Archive] If you prefer to watch games, here's 2500+ playthroughs. Maddy Makes Games Maddy made games. You should play them some time.

If you're totally lost, here's a few free games to get started.

Utilities for Classic Games
dgVoodoo2 A wrapper to convert GLide and early DirectX programs to Direct3D 10+. DxWnd Lets you run fullscreen games in a window. Falcosoft Player The ultimate resource for MIDI music playback control. MIDI soundfonts Quality SF2 instrument banks for customized playback.
ImDisk Toolkit Virtual drive utility for mounting all sorts of disc images. ImgBurn Fast and easy disc ripping and verification. SteamCleaner Gets rid of redundant files and runtimes left behind after installation. WineVDM A Win16 EXE interpreter for our otherwise incompatible 64-bit OSes.

Additional Resources Delisted Games All the titles that got demoted to abandonware this week. FCK DRM Don't get fucked by post-purchase-control bullshit. Buy DRM-free. Game Copy World Cracks and patches to let you keep running the games you paid for. Tribute to Text-Mode GamesBask in the glory of codepage 437. PC Gaming Wiki Find where to buy games, what they'll run on, and how to fix them up. Logical Increments Suggested PC builds, what they can play, and how much they cost. You Should Play These My previous list of suggested titles to get a sniff of.

The Console Crowd

There's also specific-purpose hardware from companies you know and 'love'. But for the ones at least 15 years old, there's usually a few different ways to do things. While real hardware is preferable, I realize that not everyone has the needed space, A/V wizardry, or ability to justify the cost. So, here's the alternatives.

If you are using real generation 3-6 hardware and want it to look the best it can, take the RGB Master Class to learn how to get the best video quality possible from pre-HDMI consoles. If your display only has HDMI, you'll need to either use an upscaler such as the RetroTink, or pick up individual digital AV cables available under the LevelHike, Kaico, and Rad2X brands. Got a 3DS, Vita, or Wii U? Hack 'em!

Console AV Output Realquickfast Reference
NES RCA-F Model 1 Mod Mod/FPGA
N64 NMAV Mod
Gamecube Model 1 GCVideo
Wii WiiAV WiiAV Models 001/101 Mod/WiiU
Wii U WiiAV 1.4
SwitchNo Dock
M.System RCA-F Model 1 Mod YPbPr FPGA
Genesis Yes Yes Mod/Clone Mod/FPGA
Saturn Saturn AV cables MiSTer
Dreamcast Dreamcast AV cables VGA Mod
XBox 360No Yes 12005-12012 12007-12016
One/SeriesNo 1.4b-2.1
PSPNo PSP-3000 Only 2000/3000 Aftermkt
PS4/5No 2.0/2.1
JaguarYes SCART Jag2HD
TurboGrafxCable Mod/Addon Aftermkt
3DORCAMiniDIN Mod In Dev

Backwards Compatibility

Bit of a rare beast, this one, but here's where you can expect older carts/discs to work on later-generation hardware:

Hardware Clones

If you enjoy collecting games but not the ancient hardware part, it's not difficult to find clones of generation 3-4 Nintendo and Sega hardware. Shitloads'a SOAC NES/SNES/SMD combo units out there, but everything else is significantly less popular for some reason.

FPGA clones have also been popping up, and these provide extremely accurate hardware-level simulation of the original systems. There's a few originals such as the RetroUSB AVS out there, but the majority of these systems are made and sold by Analogue.

On the other hand, if you like real hardware but want to take a zero-cartridge/discless approach, there are various flash cartridges and ODEs available for most generation 3-6 consoles and handhelds.

While it's important to support these developments when possible, if Everdrives are outside your price range, there are some mass-manufactured alternatives that do the same job, albeit a bit slower. For example, there's the Everdrive-MD for Genesis, Super64/ED64plus for N64, EZ-Flash Jr/Omega for GB[C/A], and R4 carts for the DS. Also, if you have a VA2 Dreamcast that doesn't support ODEs, SD card adapters for the console's serial port are readily available.

Software Emulation

Oh, you like console games, huh? Well how about ya just play 'em on your fuckin' PC! That's right, talented programmers have been working around the clock since 11996 on reverse engineering all this proprietary nonsense into something you can launch from your desktop. You can find all the best emulators to tackle the jobs MAME can't handle over on NonMAME.

NOTICE: Due to the main developers of RetroArch being serial harrassers, it is recommended that you instead use BizHawk as a multi-emulator solution.

ROM files to use with these emulators aren't very hard to find - just go searching. Lots of places out there to download individual files, but I'd suggest going for full romsets to get instant collections in as few downloads as possible. In particular, the Champion Collections and Cylum sets seem decent.

Sets for cartridge-based consoles and handhelds will take up small handfuls of gigabytes, if even that. Generation 4 CD-based games take up more space, but you shouldn't need to worry about picking up extra storage drives until you hit the PS1/Saturn and PSP.

Or, dump your own games! If you have a physical collection, something like the Retrode 2 (with the proper addons) can create files from your existing SNES, N64, Game Boy (Color/Advance), Master System, and Genesis carts. While a bog-standard DVD drive should be able to read any CD-based console and PS2 games. Good luck with anything more recent, though. Most of them are possible, but various kinds of pain in the ass.

Additional Resources retrobrews Legal and free homebrew games for classic consoles. NESworld Homebrew A comprehensive database of homebrew for early Nintendo systems. [Zophar's Domain] An extensive resource on console emulators. Emulation General Wiki Collected knowledge of emulators, virtualizers, and hypervisors. Dolphin 5.0-16391The final precompiled release of the FOSS GameCube/Wii emulator for Windows 7 and 8.x. Uzebox Open-source 8-bit game console.
Console Power Supply BibleRealquickfast reference for appropriate game console power bricks. (New!) Does It Play? Verified list of 8-9th gen console games that are fully playable offline. Retro Gaming with Racketboy Learn about the greatest games of previous generations. Price Charting Tracking the average cost of used games since 12008. Metroid II's Secret Worlds Explorations of curious eight bit glitch areas. Useful Gaming Websites Gemini's recommendations for game info sites.

Hardware Emulation

Lastly, we come to what I consider to be the ideal compromise between accuracy, space-saving, and cost efficiency: FPGA. Specificially, the MiSTer project. This is an open-source preservation initiative to simulate as much gaming and computer hardware as possible, so that it survives well into the future.

With the current (DE-10 Nano) generation of technology, MiSTer is able to simulate hardware up to and including the Amiga 3000, 486SX/33, Saturn, PS1, and GBA. While there is no way to use original cartridges, disks, or discs on one of these systems, the official controllers can be hooked up via SNAC adapters. Or you can also use any USB or Bluetooth-powered gamepads.

This is an ecosystem I've been unable to get into due to the chip shortage, so until I'm able to report more, check out this early-12022 surface-scratch video guide to MiSTer from My Life In Gaming.

Game Over

That's about all I've got to say. Go play some games, find your favorites, and write about them on your own site. Who knows, I might even read it some time.

Fuck Samus Returns
All my homies play AM2R

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