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Ways to Play (2022-05-12)

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.
Itch.io
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 Battle.net?" 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, 2010-2016)

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.
DOSBox-X
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.
PCem
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 1981 to 2000.

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. RGB Classic Games Another archive of games from the PC's long history. DOS Games Archive Great place to find games and related information. DOS Haven All the indie games for DOS that were released this century. 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.

Doom Engine Games

Crispy Doom, based on Chocolate Doom, is my recommended Limit-Removing port. It adds a few enhancements, but keeps things close enough to the original release for a purist like me to be happy.

To enhance the gratuitous demonicide, try adding-on SMOOTHED monsters, High-Res SFX, and the Minor Sprite Fixing Project.

DSDA-Doom, based on PRBoom+um, is my recommended Boom/MBF-Compatible port. I use this one to handle the mods that use more advanced features. Ability to playback demos from a variety of other early ports is retained via the -complevel feature.

Lastly, GZDoom is the most advanced port, and adds lots of features useful for many total conversions and original games. I actually recommend grabbing a few different versions, namely 1.0.32 (which also plays ZDoom 2.0/2.1 mods), 2.4.0 (for ZDoom 2.2+/GZDoom 1.1+ mods), and the latest release for any post-2017 mods you find interesting.

The IWADs needed to play most Doom mods are available for purchase via GOG, or you can use FreeDoom. While you're at it, why not grab a copy of everything uploaded to /idgames/ before March 2020?

Other Games

Miscellaneous

[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 2004 run'n'gun platformer that started a movement. [Dave's Videogame Classics] An archived emulation website - a fascinating look into the past. [Doom] Instant access to the 2015-2018 Cacowards and runners-up. [Let's Play Archive] If you prefer to watch games, here's 2500+ playthroughs.

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

And, of course, some utilities you might find useful when dealing with the older games:

dgVoodoo2
A wrapper to convert GLide and early DirectX programs to Direct3D 10+.
DxWnd
Lets you run fullscreen games in a window.
Falcosoft MIDI 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 when installing games.
WineVDM
A Win16 EXE interpreter for our otherwise incompatible 64-bit OSes.
 
Additional Resources Delisted Games All the titles that got removed from digital storefronts 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 take a look at.

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.

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.

If you like real hardware but want to take a zero-cartridge/discless approach, there are various flash cartridges and optical drive emulators available for most generation 3-5 consoles and handhelds.

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 1996 on reverse engineering all this proprietary nonsense into something you can launch from your desktop. In particular, you can find all the best emulators to tackle the jobs MAME can't handle over on NonMAME.

NOTICE: Due to the core 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 gen 5+ consoles and gen 8+ handhelds.

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.
Retro Gaming with Racketboy Learn about the greatest games of previous generations. The Retro Underground Reviews of more obscure gaming gems. Price Charting Tracking the average cost of used games since 2008. Metroid II's Secret Worlds Explorations of curious eight bit glitch areas.

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 of your 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-2022 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

[Listen]Listen to "Adrenalin Software - Popcorn" on YouTube?

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