The Internet Archive has been updated with over 2,500 DOS games, which is the most significant addition to the Archive since 2015.
New additions are forgotten classics like Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant† Princess Maker 2and Microsoft Adventurea rebrand of Colossal Cave Adventure† They also contain a lot of strange, early experiments and dead ends that should be fascinating to explore for historians, technologists, game designers and players.
The blog post announcing the additions has some disclaimers: not all games will run as fast as you’d like, not all games have manuals available (although some do), and frankly, not all games from these bygone regions are to modern standards nice.
But since many of the games from this era were distributed via floppy disks in plastic bags, preservation seems both an admirable and necessary undertaking. The fact that these games are hosted in a safe place is just as valuable as the fact that they are playable. As technology advances, it’s important to remember not to permanently throw out the old just because the new is more convenient.
Many of these games were added to the Internet Archive as a result of the eXoDOS game preservation and restoration project. Internet Archive curator Jason Scott had this to say about that project:
What makes the collection more than just a stack of old, now playable games is how it tackles the problems of software preservation and history. Having an old executable file and a scanned copy of the manual represents just the first few steps. DOS has remained consistent in some ways over the past (almost) 40 years, but a lot has changed under the hood, and programs were sometimes written only to run on very specific hardware and a very specific setup. They were released, sold a few copies and then disappeared from the shelves if not everyone’s memories.
It’s all these extra steps, under the hood, of acquisition and configuration, that represent the hardest work of the eXoDOS project, and I recognize that lengthy and huge effort. As a result, the eXoDOS project has over 7,000 titles that have made them work reliably and consistently.
However, as game subscriptions and streaming services become popular, it’s worth asking how we’re going to preserve today’s games for generations to come.
For more information about the project and some insight into the challenges of adapting CD-ROM games for use in, among other things, a browser, visit the Internet Archive and read Scott’s blog post, then play some long-forgotten games.