Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Computer Games of My Past

Wolfenstein 3D title screen

While searching the App Store on my iPad, I stumbled upon an old MS-DOS game remake called Wolfenstein 3D.  Wolf3D was one the first DOS games I ever played, which, I suppose, makes it one of the first computer or video games I played.  So I downloaded it (the lite version, of course, as you never know how well or poorly a game will port to iOS) and got my 1992 DOS game on.  I had a blast taking out , and even remembered where many of the secret rooms were. 

Having whetted my appetite for DOS games I Googled "famous MS-DOS games" to see what other forgotten treasures awaited me.  Of course, I started making a list of games (on Evernote this time, not Excel) I remembered playing a lot, and after seeing screenshots of them, I thought I should shake the dust off my blog and post them in hopes of you having shared some of the same experiences.  

In order for this list to be all-encompassing of games I enjoyed as a kid, I did not limit this to just DOS games.  Also, a number of these I played at the computer lab in elementary school, I'm sure you will at least recognize those.  Let me know which games you remember or what you played!

Computer Games from Childhood (in order of increasing nostalgia):

20. Number Munchers

19. Treasure Mountain

Treasure Mountain and Number Munchers are two games I vaguely remember playing in elementary school when we got to go to the computer lab, but I loved them as a child.  There just weren't enough minutes to be spent in the lab playing them.  Literally, I don't think I ever had time to get past the 2nd or 3rd level of Treasure Mountain...

18. The Incredible Machine

The Incredible Machine was basically one big DOS Rube Goldberg puzzle.  No clue how I got started on this game.  But it definitely wins the award for creative puzzle game.

17. Jill of the Jungle
Don't let those frogs touch you, they hurt

Jill of the Jungle was a classic side-scroller/platformer game for DOS.

16. Ski Free
Run for your liiife!!!

I hate that abominable snow monster so much.  He always ruined the most glorious 40 seconds of DOS skiing ever experienced.....why did anyone play this game?

15. Chip's Challenge

Get it?  His name is computer chip...

14. X-Wing

This was the rebel alliance flight sim made by Lucas arts.  First flight-sim game of the countdown.  Also first Star Wars game.

13. Oregon Trail

Staple of early 90's K-12 computer labs.  You have died of dysentery.

Speaking of Oregon Trail, this youtube video is awesome:

"Nobody wants to be the carpenter!"

12. The Lost Mind of Dr Brain

I loved Sierra games.  This was a collection of mildly educational mini-games that you had to complete to restore the lost sections of Dr. Brain's brain.  This was where I had my first programming experience.

11. Sim City

While I now favor as little government as possible, I had a fun time in my youth being the municipal dictator of Siscoville in Sim City 3000.  Also the news ticker had some amusing headlines:

"Sims Everywhere Agree: The Egg Came First, But Only After The Chicken"
"Sims Everywhere Agree: If You Throw A Stone, It Will Hit Something"
"*name of mayor* Sees Name In Ticker; Smiles At Irony"

10. Star Wars Rebel Assault (I & II)
Rebel Assault II box art

RA alternated between 3rd person action and Rebel flight sim.

(I enjoyed these top 10 games so much they get multiple pictures.  Also FYI, in case you start to think I was too in to Star Wars games, all Star Wars games mentioned here came in the same special bundle.)

Fun fact, Rebel Assault I was the first CD-ROM only game by Lucas Arts.  RA was a very cinematic based adventure game, that featured digitized video of real footage (note the rebel pictured above), instead of just an animated character.  It followed Rookie One, a farmer from Tatooine (so basically Luke Skywalker), on his journey from nobody to hero. 

9. Timelapse: Ancient Civilizations
Timelapse cover art

The puzzle-solving adventure begins on Easter Island.

Timelapse is graphic adventure/puzzle solving game much like Myst was.  I remember I was so excited after I got Timelaspe that I had a nightmare that night and I literally woke up trying to scream but couldn't.  It was terrifying and awesome at the same time.

8. King's Quest 7: The Princeless Bride
King's Quest 7 cover art

Point & clicking Princess Rosella's way through Ooga Booga Land

I loved the King's Quest games, though I guess I really only played KQ6 & KQ7.  These were third-person adventure games (also made by Sierra) that incorporated other mythical/folklore/fantasy characters (Rumpelstiltskin, Headless Horseman, Dracula, Little Red Ridinghood, etc) into its own world where the player (King Gramham, Prince Alexander, Princess Rosella, and others) is trying to save, or return to, their kingdom of Daventry.

Here is a video of the beginning of KQ7 (first part is the intro video, fast forward to 4:30 for gameplay).  The nice part about the KQ games (the later ones at least) were that they could actually be played without having to use a walkthrough, unlike Myst.

7. Star Wars: Dark Forces
Dark Forces box art

Star Wars, first person shooter style

Just a fun 1st person shooter made by Lucas Arts.  I actually only played the demo of this game I think so I only got the first three levels, but man did I love it.  If only I was older than 11 or 12, so that I could have driven to Walmart and bought the full version...

6. Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Blake Stone scientists.  Some were informers and would give you items,
others were enemies that would start shooting you if talked to them.

Yet another first person shooter that I only had the shareware version of, so I didn't ever get to complete the game.  Blake Stone was a great early first person shooter produced by Apogee Software.  The gameplay is similar to Wolfenstein 3D, but this is set in the future at an genetic R&D corporation, where Blake Stone was sent by the British Royal Navy to stop Dr. Goldfire.

5. Star Wars: Tie Fighter
Tie Fighter cover art

Cockpit view of a Tie Interceptor

In Tie Fighter, you worked for the Empire making sure to squash any rebel alliance rebellion before they could get a foothold.  This made for a fun, fresh perspective on the whole rebels vs empire story.  While more simple than some complex flight sims (see #4 below), Tie fight found a sweet spot in terms of giving you lots of control over your ship but not making the cockpit or controls too complicated.

There was so much I loved about this game, but one thing I will mention was weapon some ships had an ion cannon laser, which would disable ships after there shields were gone.  Nerdy, I know.  #4...

4. Falcon 4.0
Falcon 4.0 box art

Dogfight over the Korean peninsula

Looking at this screenshot makes me want to go buy a joystick and PC so I can play Falcon 4.0 again.  Man, I loved playing this game.  This game made me want to become a pilot for the military when I was young (you know before I realized accounting was much more exciting).

One of the many cool parts of F4.0 was how each of the buttons and gauges in the cockpit actually have a function and display important real time info.  Also, there were all sorts of cool things you could do to pre-sortie, like choose your loadout.  I'll continue on with the list before I bore you anymore though...

3. Myst
Myst box art.
Ground breaking game.
NO! DON'T TOUCH THAT P--too late...

Amazing graphics for 1993

Like Rebel Assault, Myst used digitized real video footage making for engaging cinematic cutscenes

Hard to put Myst at #3, it was such a enthralling adventure game.  Which is quite the feat considering it is basically impossible to beat without a walkthrough guide.

Here is link to the first 8 minutes of gameplay, I highly recommend watching part of it if you ever played Myst  (also if you haven't heard of Myst the video gives you a good idea what the point and click adventure was like).  The eeriness being the only person walking around a seemingly empty world was almost palpable.

I almost feel like Myst deserves its own blogpost.

2. King's Quest VI

A shipwrecked prince

Prince Alexander vs the Minotaur

First off if you haven't played King's Quest or if you have want to relive 9 mins of nostalgia, here is a link to a video of the beginning of King's Quest 6.

King's Quest VI was similar to KQ7 except it had worse graphics.  It is higher up on my list because it came before KQ7 and was also my first experience with KQ.  Here Prince Alexander is shipwrecked on a fantastical group of isles on his way to find his love, Princess Cassima, with nothing but his wits and whatever items he can find on his journey.

1. Wolfenstein 3D

It may be basic, and it definitely was pixelated, but it was my first 1st-person shooter and it was a blast.  So simple but so fun.  There were only three different guns, if I remember correctly.  Roaming around Nazi territory, where all I could see of myself was my hand and my gun.  Running against every wall pressing spacebar trying to find hidden rooms...those were the days.  It also had great DOS-y music.

There is also a iOS version of Wolfenstein 3D out there, FYI.

Let me know what games you played when you were growing up!



  1. You forgot my fave... Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego

    1. You are totally right! That game was great, too, I didn't even think about it.