So it’s another long day and you’re stuck in the office. When you don’t have much to do, it’s a total drag to aimlessly scour the Internet while watching the minutes roll by.
Why would you do that when you could be playing a game?
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I’m a retro/classic gamer, so you can imagine how excited I was knowing that the Internet Archive released a limited selection of DOS games available for streaming, no downloading required. While it doesn’t have absolutely every amazing DOS game out there, it does have more than a few great titles to show off.
Playing games at work is the dream, certainly, but you’re still at your job. You don’t want to get caught. And while you could spend your time completely immersed in ‘Wolfenstein 3D’ or ‘Prince of Persia,’ they’re not very kind to you if you have to tab away hastily to keep prying eyes from knowing your secret.
So, here’s a short list of 11 great games for a more casual play-through. They don’t need a lot of intense babysitting, can be worked on in short bursts, and will not completely screw you over if you get rushed into a last-minute meeting and you have to leave them on.
The Lemmings need you! Mostly because they are cripplingly stupid. The sequel to the original Lemmings follows the titular beings as they hurl themselves off of and onto every dangerous obstacle in the world they’ve been dropped into. The cool thing about the sequel is that it’s non-linear, meaning that you can work through different sections that feature different lemming jobs depending on the scene. The levels are short, too, so they’re a nice brain break.
The forerunner to essentially the entire point-and-click Adventure genre, ‘Maniac Mansion’ is full of creepy jokes and morbidity. You control a group of teens looking to save main guy Dave’s girlfriend Sandy, collecting everything in sight and dodging the creepy Dr. Fred and his family. It’s not an easy game and, unlike future LucasArts games like ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’ you can accidentally prevent yourself from beating the game if you get rid of a necessary item. Or blow up a hamster in a microwave on purpose.
Sure, it’s about history and (thoroughly outdated) geography, but there’s something soothing about trying to catch the sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize, Carmen San Diego. Although there are plenty of iterations of the franchise available to play in the archive, this one has the benefit of enhanced graphics without muddling up the interface with silly phones or a more point-and-click style.
The game that put middle-schoolers on the ultimate power trip is available in its DOS version on the archive. While less pretty both visually and sonically than its Super Nintendo counterpart, the core of ‘SimCity’ is the same as you’ve come to know and love. Zone for different needs! Build Roads! Blow it all up if it sucks! This is also a game that is ideal for multitasking, since it involves a lot of downtime to let your citizens do the hard work for you.
Essentially the video game version of shock sex comedies like ‘Porky’s,’ the ‘Leisure Suit Larry’ franchise follows a hapless singleton looking to score. You travel around town, collect items, and try to impress women enough to bed them, while avoiding bizarre death and other hazards of the swinging ’70s lifestyle. There are also many versions of this game (and sequels) available in the archive, but the original is best.
‘Sim Ant’ is like the low-key champion of the DOS library. For one, it’s actually a very scientific look into the life of an ant. Also, the complex mechanisms involved when you’re a single ant in a large colony is what inspired creator Will Wright to go on and make ‘The Sims’. Hunt food, explore the overworld, and manage your little ant needs while avoiding the hostile creatures (including humans) who don’t take too kindly to you.
This one hardly needs explanation, since it’s the most popular game in the entire archive, but the DOS version of ‘Oregon Trail’ will tickle your nostalgia sensors like no other. So yoke up your oxen and try not to die from dysentery as you make it from Independence, Missouri all the way out west to your new life in Oregon. And don’t forget to bring a ton of bullets!
As a grown woman, this educational game still scares the crap out of me. As a youth detective trying to solve the wily doings of the Master of Mischief, ‘Midnight Rescue’ is equal parts reading comprehension and horrifying paintbrush robots charging at you with a deadly look in their eyes. Although the reading materials are designed for younger kids, the game is still full of a good challenge to stay entertaining. Just don’t underestimate those robots.
So, the DOS port of everyone’s favorite ravenous yellow circle isn’t exactly the prettiest version of the game. People who are used to the arcade version or console ports, even on the Atari, might need to adjust expectations in both the visual and controls department. But sometimes, when you want to play ‘Pac-Man,’ this free version will really get the job done.
Unlike most children’s educational game, ‘Number Munchers’ actually remains a challenge well into adulthood. Thanks to scaled difficulty that allows you to challenge yourself with “8th Grade and Above” math, and the unpredictability of the insanely tough Troggles, hopping around from one block to another while trying to solve simple math problems can turn into a real brainteaser. If you still like your games with a side of learning or puzzles, then this game is easy to pick up casually and very addictive.
Let the spice flow in this landmark real-time strategy game based in the ‘Dune’ universe. Pledge your allegiance to the noble House Atreides, the merchant-minded House Ordos, or the ruthless House Harkonnen in battling for control of the planet Arrakis. Harvest that special spice to gain favor with the emperor, and fight off the other houses who seek to destroy you. The game is structured via mission objectives, so you can take a break and do them in pieces. But be careful: it’ll will completely suck you in.
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