How To Play Dos Games on your current operating system is easily achieved by downloading and installing a DOS emulator like DOSBox. There is also ScummVM but DOSBox works with all titles I have tested so far.
What Is DOSBox
DOSBox is an emulator that emulates the Disk Operating System (DOS) which allows you to run DOS based applications. Some of my favorite games I still play through DOSBox: Black Thorne, XCOM: UFO Defense, Duke Nukem 3D and Death Rally.
How To Play DOS Games – Getting Started
Following are the steps on How To Play DOS Games. Please follow along:
You will firstly need to download and install the emulator from here: DOSBox Emulator
Once on the website, select the version of DOSBox for your operating system. I have Windows 10 and so I will click on the ‘Windows’ link.
Now Sourceforge.net will open in a new tab with a countdown for when the application will start downloading. When the counter hits zero, the DOSBox installation file will automatically be downloaded.
Now that the file is downloaded, run the DOSBox setup file by double-clicking it. You can find the file in the specified downloads folder for your browser or you may see it in the bottom bar for Google Chrome or at the top-right for FireFox.
My downloaded files are located in my ‘Downloads’ folder under my user name. So I just navigate to my ‘Downloads’ folder and open the file from there.
You may get a warning asking if you want to allow the application to make changes to your computer. Click on ‘Yes’
Next you will see the License Agreement. Read through it and click on ‘Next’
The following window will basically give you the option of placing a shortcut on your desktop or not. Make your choice and hit ‘Next’
The final Window shows the default directory where DOSBox will be installed in and the option to change the destination folder by clicking ‘Browse…’ I will leave mine on the default and click on ‘Install’
Now that the installation is completed, click on ‘Close’
How To Install DOSBox Games
You may have the game still on the original disk or you may have bought the digital downloadable version of the game from a place like: https://www.dosgamesarchive.com/sale/
Installing the game from a disk is a bit more complicated than just getting the digital download to work. Some DOS games you buy online may even automatically start through DOSBox without any configuration or setup needed.
I will be handling How To Play DOS Games that you already own or recently bought in its original state. This will require you to run the game through DOSBox manually or setup your own Autoexec.bat file (Those that still worked on DOS will remember that this is a startup file that holds commands to be execute before the operating system starts) This falls a bit outside the scope for this article.
Let me show you how to install a DOS game from a physical disk first:
Install Your DOS Game From CD
We will be making use of the ‘mount’ command to mount your DVD-drive to a virtual drive letter on DOSBox and here is how:
- Place The original disk in your CD or DVD drive
- Startup DOSBox
- Assuming your CD-Rom or DVD drive letter is D: add the following line to map it as your virtual drive D:
- mount d D:\ -t cdrom and hit ‘Enter’
So all we did was, create a virtual drive (d) on DOSBox for our DVD-drive which is actually drive letter D: on my computer as well. If I said ‘mount e…’ instead, I would have created a virtual drive letter ‘e’ on DosBox for my actual DVD-drive.
If your CD or DVD drive letter is something else, simply substitute that drive letter for the ‘D’ in ‘D:\’ in that command line.
Next we want to create another virtual drive letter on DOSBox that will point to an actual directory on my computer where I want to install the DOS game.
I have a hard drive with the drive letter G: and on that drive, I have a directory called ‘Games’ and this is where I want to install my DOS game. To keep it uniform, I will create a virtual drive letter on DOSBox called ‘g’ as well to represent my Games folder on my G drive (on my computer). I hope that makes sense. This is what I will type in DOSBox:
mount g G:\Games and then hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard.
Now I have two virtual drive letters on DOSBox: D: for my DVD drive and G: for my Games directory.
To install the DOS game, change to the virtual drive letter created in DOSBox for your DVD drive. You do this by typing:
D: and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
Browse the disk for the installation file by typing:
Dir /w and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard
You are looking for a .BAT or .EXE file. Normally the installation file will not be called ‘Setup’ as this is normally used for configuring the sound card and other settings for the game.
For XCOM: UFO Defense (as example), this file is called ‘hdinstall.bat‘
So once you have located the installation file, simply type the file name exactly as shown when you browsed the disk. To install XCOM: UFO Defense as example, I will type:
hdinstall.bat and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard
As you would expect, the installation file opens and goes through the installation process and you will be asked in which directory you want to install the game.
We have already created a drive letter that points to our Games folder. So if I wanted to install the game in a folder called ‘UFO’ located in my Games folder, then I will type the following for my directory I want to install the game in:
G:\UFO (Remember that the drive letter G:\ points to my PC folder G:\Games)
Once the installation of the game is done, you may be presented with a button to ‘Exit To DOS’. Click that button if present but simply make sure that you are back in DOSBox.
To run the game, navigate to the directory where you installed the game on DOSBox by typing:
G:\ and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard and then type:
cd UFO and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard. (Remember I installed my game in the folder called ‘UFO’ Yours will probably be different)
Browse the directory for the executable file to run the game by typing:
Dir /w and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
The ‘/w’ is just for displaying all the files across the screen. You can simply make use of /p as well. This will pause the scrolling effect through the files when the screen is full and when hitting a key, it will scroll further if there are more results.
Now just type the executable file name and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
If done correctly, your game will start!
An Example With Pictures To Follow
LOADFIX is a program to reduce the amount of available conventional memory. It’s useful for old programs which don’t expect much memory to be free.
Install A Dos Game From A Digital Download
You bought a DOS game in digital format and downloaded it. Normally you will download the game in a compressed file format like Zip.
In my example, I want to check out Stardust and I have downloaded the demo file called ‘sddemo.zip’ Now follow these steps:
- Locate and extract the game to your desired folder. I have extracted mine to E:\Games\Dos\Stardust
- Open DOSBox and mount the directory containing your game to a virtual drive by typing:
- mount g E:\Games\Dos\Stardust and hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard.
The letter after mount can be any virtual drive letter you want to assign to the directory. The above directory (E:\Games\Dos\Stardust) is where I extracted my game to.
Now simply type:
g: and hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard to open the virtual drive.
Now browse for the executable file to run the game by typing:
dir /w and hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard.
The file name you are looking for is usually a .BAT or .EXE file that correspond to the game name. For my game, I type:
stardust.exe and hit ‘Enter’ on my keyboard.
If you do not hear any sound or music, you may want to exit the game and run Setup.exe
The configuration screen will differ depending on the game. Some will ask you a series of questions where you need to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and others will ask you to input the settings.
Configuring Your Sound Card
This involves choosing your base I/O port, IRQ (Interrupt request) and DMA (direct memory access) channel. Back in the day each device needed its own IRQ assigned by jumpers or switches to send interrupt requests to the CPU. Depending on your hardware, IRQ 7 and 5 was normally open and I would use that for my sound card.
Without needing to go into much detail, these settings will normally work for setting up a sound card:
Sound card: Sound Blaster Pro or Sound Blaster 16
Base Port: 220
For the music board choose either AdLib or General Midi
The setting above will generally work for most games.
Playing A DOS Game Over A LAN
Now you know the basics of How To Play DOS Games , but what if you want to enjoy a multiplayer DOS game with a friend? Can this be done? Yes, you can!
Here are the steps to follow:
Navigate to the installation folder of DOSBox and open the configuration file or run the DOSBox0.xx Options.bat file.
Depending on your version of DOSBox, you may also have an ‘Options’ folder with a shortcut called: DOSBox x.xx Options. I know that DOSBox 0.74 and up works well
Find the heading [IPX] and change IPX=false to IPX=true
Save the file.
On the computer that will host the game, note down the IP address.
You can find the IP address by pressing the Windows key + R on the keyboard and then type:
cmd and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
At the command prompt type:
ipconfig and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
5. Open DosBox on the hosting computer and type: ipxnet startserver and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard
6. Now go the other computers that will join the game and type: ipxnet connect [IP Address From Step 4]
7. Navigate to the virtual drive where the game is installed as explained before and run the Setup.exe file
DOS network games will be setup and executed from the Setup.exe file. It can also be in the actual game’s menu after startup.
If I take Duke Nukem 3D as an example, then I will run its ‘Setup.exe’ file which will present me with a few options. Lets have a look…
To start a Duke Nukem 3D network game follow these steps:
- Find your computer IP address as outlined above.
- Open DOSBox and, on the PC that will host the game, type: ipxnet startserver and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard. (Make sure you have enabled IPX in the DOSBox configuration file first else you will get ‘Illegal Command’)
- Now go to the other computers that will join the game, open DOSBox and type: ipxnet connect 192.168.16.150 (The hosting computer’s IP address) and hit ‘Enter’ on thekeyboard.
- Now navigate to the Duke Nukem 3D installation folder by switching to the mounted virtual drive of the host computer. Mine is the letter ‘G’ and so I type: g: and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
- Change to the install directory on the host computer. Mine is called ‘Duke3dAT’ and so I type: cd duke3dat and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
- Now type: setup.exe and hit ‘Enter’ on the keyboard
- This will open the Setup or configuration menu for the game. There is an option for Modem play, a Serial game and a Network game. You want to select and open ‘Network Game’ using the arrow keys and ‘Enter’ on the keyboard.
- Here you can change the number of players for up to 8 players, change your player name, your starting level and more.
- When ready, navigate to ‘Save and launch Duke Nukem 3D’ and hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard. The hosting computer will start looking for other players.
- On all the computers that will join the game, mount the virtual drives for the directories where Duke Nukem 3D is installed just like in step 4 to 5 and repeat steps 6 to 9 on all the peers.
- If done correctly the host will find all the other players and the game will start for all computers hosting and joining the game.
- On the host computer, start a new game and when it launches, select a ‘New Game’, choose the ‘Game Type’ (Duke Match or Coop Play) and more.
- Start the game and presto! Everyone should now be in the game having fun together.
The same principle applies to most DOS network games with minor changes.
You can still play your favourite game even if it ran on DOS back in the day thanks to the creators of DOSBox. It really is very simple and once you got the hang of it, you will be creating your own DOS menus for staring your DOS games and perhaps even create your own startup files that will automatically launch the game for you through DOSBox with the click of a mouse.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questionsand I will respond to your promptly. If you simply want to share your experience with DOSBox or discuss your favourite DOS games, please feel free to do so in the comment section.
Thank you for reading my review on How To Play Dos Games!