How To Play Video Games On A PC is strangely a common question. So I decided to show you the ins and outs of playing games on a PC.
A personal computer is a versatile beast when it comes to playing games and Emulators make it possible to play all kinds of games from original arcade games right through to mobile games.
Decide On A Game
Chances are that you already have a game in mind. It could be a review of a game you saw or the latest buzz.
Perhaps you heard of a game that was popular way back when the operating system for computers still worked on DOS (Disk Operating System). Or you would like to revisit a childhood favorite but it is simply not compatible with your operating system. No problem: Simply install the correct Emulator for the game and you are set.
The important part is to check whether your computer has the specifications necessary to run the game or application. I talk about this a bit further down.
An emulator imitates other systems (usually older platforms) or other operating systems that enables you to run programs intended for that platform.
Emulators will normally be a software program that you download and install on your computer so that you can run the desired game or application. To find out more on using Emulators, then keep on reading.
Many games are available on more than one platform so it is your choice. But let us say that you would like to play Uniracers and you loved playing it on the SNES, then you would acquire a SNES emulator and the actual Uniracers game for SNES in a digital format which will be referred to as ROMs.
ROM stands for ‘Read Only Memory’ and is a type of storage similar to your BIOS where the information is stored on a chip and on a more permanent basis. The information from the actual ROM is extracted and normally packaged in an archive (Zip or 7z) format to be used with the emulator.
Ways You Can Play Games On Your Computer
There are many ways to play video games from your PC and here is a quick overview of them:
- Arcade Games – Use an Emulator like Mame
- Internet Browser games – You will need a Java enabled browser like Google Chrome
- Flash Games – You will need Adobe Flash Player installed and enabled for the Internet Browser you use.
- DOS games – You will need DOSBox to play these older games
- From CD or DVD – A DVD drive for your computer is required to install the game from disk.
- From ISO (A complete image of a disc) – Windows 10 or a third party application like Daemon Tools lite is needed to mount the image.
- Digital Distribution Platforms like Steam, Origin, GOG and UPlay
- Playing Android games on your computer – Use an Emulator like BlueStacks.
You now also get Xbox One game titles that runs on both the console and your PC, called ‘Play Anywhere’ titles.
Other popular emulators:
- Project64 – Nintendo 64 Emulator
- Dolphin – Wii and GameCube Emulator
- PCSX2 – PlayStation 2 Emulator
- SNES9x – Super Nintendo Emulator
Make Sure You Are Able To Run The Game Or Application
You have decided on a game or Emulator to run and now it is important to make sure that your computer will be able to run the application.
Applications, especially Windows games will have a minimum – and recommended system requirement. I will advise you to always make sure your computer have the recommended specifications for the software rather than the minimum as the minimum requirement will be the bare minimum specs for you to open and run the application, but the playability and performance of the application may be very poor.
I will recommend running Windows 10 as it is a good, optimized and stable operating system.
To view your computer’s system information on Windows 10, do the following:
- Right-click on the Windows Start Button
- Select ‘System’
This will show the basic information of your computer which includes the Processor Speed, Installed RAM, Computer Name, the System Type, Computer Name, Domain or Workgroup Name.
To view more detailed information:
- Press on the keyboard the ‘Windows button + R’ to open the Run command box.
- Type ‘msinfo32’ in the box and hit the ‘Enter’ key or click the ‘OK’ button
Your graphics card information can be found by expanding ‘Components’ and then clicking on ‘Display’
For a user-friendly way of getting detailed information regarding your computer, simply download and install CPU-Z
The best platform for a true arcade game experience is arguably the MAME emulator. Many retro game cabinets for arcade gaming fans are build using this emulator.
Simply Google ‘MAME game cabinets‘ and you will see some amazing builds.
You could buy the ROMs (games) for MAME back in the day but not anymore. Somewhere in the late 90s I bought 5 DVDs with MAME ROMs and I am so glad I did! I can now play my favourite arcade games with the press of a button.
You can still get/download the arcade games but I am not sure that it is legal and because of copyright laws, I will refrain from elaborating on acquiring these games.
I still run an older release of MAME that works great for me and here is a picture of my MAME dashboard.
I have more than 4,800 working games for Mame but you will see in the image above some games with red crosses next to them. These are not working due to a number of things: It could be missing the HD file or proper emulation for the game was not yet possible at the time.
Internet Browser Games
A Dark Room is one such a game of many others. This is where you absolutely do not need anything extra to play a game but the Internet and typing in an Internet address in your Internet Browser.
These games do not require Adobe Flash Player to work.
Flash games makes use of Adobe Flash Player and the graphics are normally better than Internet Browser games even though the flash games are typically hosted on a website as well.
An example of an Adobe Flash game is Frog Fractions
When you open a Flash Game and the website indicates that you do not have Adobe Flash Player installed, the website will either present you with a download link or you can simply go here: Adobe Flash Player
By default Adobe Flash Player will be disabled. This time when you navigate to the game URL using Google Chrome, you will be presented with a puzzle piece like this:
Click on the puzzle piece and the next popup will ask you to allow the request or not:
Click ‘Allow’ if you want to play the game. Now there will be a loading progress counter or bar and when it reaches 100%, the game will start.
There are plenty of old games which are still regarded as some of the best games of all time.
One such example is XCOM: UFO Defense and it remarkably only used 10MB of hard drive space. I am sure that a high resolution photo from your mobile device can exceed 10MB.
Older games like these require DOSBox to play them.
When you run DOSBox, you will be presented with the command prompt interface that was DOS and the commands are the same but perhaps a bit more limited.
If you worked on DOS or you are familiar with it, it will be very easy to get the hang of things. You basically create a virtual drive that points to your DOS games directory using the ‘mount’ command. Now you simply navigate to that drive and ‘select’ the game you want to play. By ‘select’ I mean typing the necessary commands to run the game.
For those less familiar with DOS, do not fret because I created a detailed post on How To Play DOS Games including over a LAN (Local Area Network)
Some other great DOS titles include: Doom, Death Rally, Duke Nukem 3D, WarCraft 2, Privateer and Master Of Orion.
Digital Distribution Platforms
STEAM is probably the most well-known of the lot and their online store is massive.
Things I like about Steam:
- You cannot lose your game disk or scratch it beyond use.
- Browse your library of games, click on one and start playing.
- You can even navigate your games with your game controller.
- There is a forum, online and in-game chat, adding of friends and more.
Things I do not like about Steam:
- You cannot play a game with friends without patching it first.
- Steam can be a bandwidth killer if you have auto-updates enabled and in some countries like mine, bandwidth is very expensive and the Internet is not always available in my area.
- If you purchase a game on Steam, you need to have Steam installed and updated in order to play that game.
- You need Steam installed to play a Steam game because they enforce Digital Rights Management (DRM) to protect illegal distribution of game titles.
- It feels more like you are renting the rights to play a game with nothing tangible in your hands.
Neverwinter Nights is one of my prized possessions that came with a thick manual, a color map of Neverwinter, the CD’s and neatly packaged in a nice and sturdy box. Wallpapers, demo’s of other games and the map editor was all included on disk. It gave you a sense of value. On top of this, the price was affordable.
Now I pay through the nose for bandwidth to download the game, games became more costly and yet there are no physical disks, paper manual, color map or anything which defies all logic concerning price and value. But moving on.
I am thankful for Steam that brought Offlline Play in effect which was not the case from the beginning and also finally introduced family sharing of games. It is still not ideal, because a family of 5 will still each need their own copy of the game to play with one another online or LAN in offline mode. (If available)
With all of that said, I have many titles on Steam and it is a great platform overall.
Playing Android Games On Your PC
There are a few Emulators available to run Android on your computer (Andy, Nox, PrimeOS and more), but I prefer BlueStacks by far. Some of the reasons include:
- It is easy to install a downloaded Android application (APK file)
- BlueStacks is compatible with a wide range of Android applications and games
- It is packed with features.
- It is user-friendly
- It does not need to run on a virtual machine
- Supports Android 7.1.2 (Nougat) at the time of writing this article.
BlueStacks does need a good graphics card to run smoothly and it does have its shortcomings too, but functionality wise, ease of installation along with the least frustration I personally experienced; it is worth trying first.
There are many ways to acquire and play games on a PC. From installing games from disk to loading emulators for playing DOS, Mobile or console games. Microsoft has done the effort to create games that will run on both the XBOX One and Windows 10 platform using the same disk It is something I would like to see the competition do as well in regards with cross platform titles.
If you have a question, please leave it in the comments below and I will respond as soon as possible. You are welcome to add your experience (in the comment section below) with playing games and How To Play Video Games On A PC that works for you.