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Every old PC game listed on Abandonware DOS is defined by one or more keywords or themes describing an aspect or a feature of the game. A few examples: "cyberpunk", "fantasy", "turn-based" or "dungeon crawler". Keywords change from time to time. Sometimes I delete or rename a keyword or, more often, I add new ones. To find the games you're looking for just click on a keyword.

The number inside the blue circle shows the number of games related to that keyword.

keyword description game count
advergame What is an advergame? Simply put, it's a promotional video game software, nothing more, nothing less. Advertising a popular brand is the main purpose of an advergame, fun is usually - not always - comes second. 15
alternate history What if the nazi won World War 2? What if nuclear weapons brought humanity to a post-apocalyptical nightmare in the 50s? Alternate history video games deal exactly with that: history that took a turn into a different direction (usually for the worse) than the timeline we know. 26
amusement park Unsurprisingly, amusement parks were a source of inspiration for a few good games in the past (and in the present). Perhaps, the most popular amusement park themed games are Roller Coaster Tycoon and Theme Park. 7
anime, manga In the 80s and 90s the Japan influence on western culture started to grow exponentially. Publishers and designers noticed that trend and produced some of the earliest anime (animation) / manga (comics) video games for DOS and Windows. 21
arcade classic Back in the day, when going to the "arcades" was a thing, before the first video game crash, a few games made history. Titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong are known both to video game fans and people who never touched a joystick in their lives. These games spawned official conversions, sequels, fangames and clones. 56
based on a board game Abandoned games based on a board game. Classics like Backgammon, Othello, Checkers and modern board games like Diplomacy, Risk, Monopoly or Scrabble all fall in the board games category. 56
based on a cartoon Old PC games based on a cartoon often get inspiration or direct licenses from classics by Disney or Warner Bros cartoons, but there are a few exceptions based on more recent cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Krusty's Super Funhouse. 23
based on a movie In the 80s and the 90s we all saw a lot of good blockbuster movies come out. Some of them were good, some of them were bad. Unfortunately, most of video games based on movies (called 'tie-in') were really bad. Developers tried to put everything they could in those games and divided gameplay in different parts, each of them with a different gameplay: platform, driving sim, puzzle, etc. The best games based on a movie are those that focus on a single genre: Indiana Jones games, Star Wars games etc. 74
based on a novel A lot of old games were based on a book, being it a novel or even a short story. Some novels that inspired developers to create video games are The Lords of the Rings (by J. R. R. Tolkien, Rendez Vous with Rama (by Arthur Clarke), The Mist (by Stephen King). 67
based on a tabletop RPG Video games and tabletop RPGs (TRPG) players often share an affinity. Video gaming companies took advantage of that and the result is quite some games based on pen and paper RPG systems. The most popular of them all is Dungeons & Dragons, but it's not the only one. Megatraveller, Space 1889 and Realms of Arkania are just some of the licensed games based on a non D&D TRPG. 39
based on a TV game show Games based on TV game shows were popular in the early days of DOS video gaming on older PCs. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that every major game show of the eighties was translated into a video game: Family Feud, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and more. 8
based on a TV series The 70s and the 80's were the silver age of TV series. It was inevitable that the early game companies decided to make games out of them. Let's forget a moment about Star Trek, which received a huge amount of adaptations and think about other TV series: Mission Impossible, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues. Even Beavis and Butthead got their own videogame. 23
based on comic books Comics aren't always about superheroes. Think about classics like Tin Tin, Asterix or even comic strips like Dilbert or Peanuts. There are mangas and, in general, comic books created in different countries than the superhero-centric USA. 36
based on toys Surprisingly, given the similarities, video games based on toys are not that many. Popular toylines that made it into the digital entertainment world are, as you can expect, well known to everyone: Barbie, Trolls, toy soldiers, Micro Machines and even Tamagotchi. 8
canceled game Developing a video game is a difficult and long process. There's no guarantee that the final product will be successful. It's even possible that a project won't be completed. Companies go bankrupt, designers come and go, games can end up in a developement hell and it's possible that a game may not see nor reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Canceled games happened even in the DOS era. 3
Christmas Christmas is a time of joy, snow-coverd trees, people dressed as Santa and, of course, gifts. The games listed here are related to Christmas in someway. A few of them are special editions of games already published, which was a common practice in the 90s, apparently. 7
coin-op conversion Arcades were extremely popular in the 80s and the 90s. Before poker machines and things like that, people used to go to pubs or arcades to play video games called coin ops (coin operated machines). Almost all of them were converted to consoles or home computers. 105
crime and mystery A murder to solve! A criminal to apprehend! Crime and mistery games have the recipe for a perfect crime story. Police investigations, organized crime, mysterious killings, a noir atmosphere are all ingredients that makes a good crime and mystery game worth playing. The Police Quest series, the Tex Murphy series, games based on Sherlock Holmes are just some of the most popular crime and mystery games. 79
cyberpunk Cyberpunk was born as a literary genre in the 80s from the pens of writers like Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Cyberpunk is science fiction bathed in a pessimistic vision of the future: drugs, violence, the cyberspace. 24
dark fantasy A subgenre of Fantasy, Dark Fantasy is a grim version of the popular genre. Dark Fantasy games usually involve one or more of the following: a darker scenery like a serious medieval Germany (Darklands), evil antagonists and mobs like demons or zombies (think about Diablo), gruesome deaths and serious themes, sometimes bordering horror. 12
detective Part adventure and part simulation, a detective sim is, in its core, an adventure game. Gameplay involves explore location to find clues, interrogating suspects, take notes and solve one or more mysteries. It's something different than the classic adventure, with less story and more "detective management". 22
dystopia Dystopia is the lesser known opposite of utopia. Dystopian societies are undesirable environments under one or more aspects: pollution, despotism, social decline, etc.
Cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic games are both a good example of dystopian themes.
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ecology / environment Ecology is a them not often considered in videogames, much less in older games from a different, more polluted, era. Some of them did try to put the environment on the front seat and managed to get published, liked and sometimes even be a little successful. Most of ecology-themed games were simulations or adventures, like Balance of the Planet or EcoQuest. 8
Engine: AGI The AGI (an acronym for Adventure Game Interpreter) engine was an adventure game engine developed by Sierra, used for their earlier games. 12
Engine: AGOS The AGOS engine was used by HorrorSoft (and AdventureSoft) to develop their adventure games. The AGOS engine is based on AberMUD V. 4
Engine: Build engine The Build engine was a game engine created by 3D Realms and used for first-person shooters. The Build engine is not a true 3D engine because the geometry is 2-dimensional with an added height parameter. 8
Engine: Delphine Cinematique The Delphine Cinematique engine was created by Delphine Software to develop some of their finest point and click adventure games. 3
Engine: DGDS The DGDS engine was developed by Dynamix and stands for Dynamix Game Development System. Dynamix used the DGDS engine for their point and click adventure games. 1
Engine: Doom engine (id Tech 1) The Doom Engine is the graphic engine used for the first time for the game Doom, by id Software. It was later used by a number of similar shooters. 4
Engine: Freescape The Freescape engine, developed by Incentive Software, was one of the first 3D game engines. Incentive used Freescape in games such as Driller, Total Eclipse, Castle Master. The earliest game created using Freescape is Driller, in 1987. 6
Engine: Genie The Genie engine was developed by Ensemble Studios and mainly for the Age of Empires series and Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds. 3
Engine: Gold Box SSI The Gold Box engine was used in a series of role-playing video games, all of them produced by S.S.I. and based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The "Gold Box" name comes from the gold colored boxes in which the games of the series were sold. 2
Engine: ICOM MacVenture The MacVenture adventure games are a series of peculiar adventure games developed by ICOM Simulations. MacVenture games were notable for introducing a menu-based point-and-click interface that allowed the player to manipulate items dragging and dropping them directly from the environment to the inventory. Deja Vu and Shadowgame were perhaps two of the most popular ICOM adventures. 4
Engine: Infinity Engine The Infinity Engine was a game engine developed by BioWare for Baldur's Gate and later used for Baldur's Gate 2, the Icewind Dale series and Planescape Torment. 1
Engine: Infocom InfoComics InfoComics was a game engine developed by Infocom, used for a series of video games that today would be defined as visual novels, very similar to non-interactive comics. InfoComics weren't much popular and, apparently, were one of the causes that lead to Infocom demise. 4
Engine: M.A.D.S. The M.A.D.S. engine was developed by Microprose and stands for Microprose Adventure Development System. 3
Engine: Pie in the Sky Pie in the Sky engine was a game engine developed by Pie in the Sky Software. Pie in the Sky was also used by independent developers. 7
Engine: SCI The SCI (an acronym for Sierra's Creative Interpreter) engine was an adventure game engine developed by Sierra, used for their latest games. 22
Engine: SCUMM SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) is an engine developed by Lucasfilm Games for their point and click adventure games. SCUMM was first used in Maniac Mansion and later evolved. 12
Engine: Synergistic Software's World Builder World Builder engine was a game engine developed by Synergistic Software and used mainly for their strategy and adventure games. 6
Engine: Virtual Theatre The Virtual Theatre engine is a video game engine designed by Revolution Software for a few point and click adventure games. The Virtual Theatre engine allowed non-static NPCs that could wander the gameworld and interact with the environment. 4
Engine: Wolfenstein 3D engine id Software developed 3D engines for several games before Doom: the first one was the "Wolfenstein 3D engine" that became popular with Wolfenstein 3D. 9
Engine: XnGine XnGine engine was developed by Bethesda Softworks and used for FPSs and RPGS such as Terminator: Future Shock and The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. 2
Engine: Z-machine The Z-machine was developed by Infocom and used in its interactive fiction games. Z-machine is a virtual machine that allows a developer to easily develop text-adventures for multiple platforms without much hassle. A number of interpreters exists so you can play both old and new text adventures on dead platforms as well as recent ones: Glulx, Inform, TADS, etc. 33
epoch: 19th century The 19th century was the age of steam, railroads and remarkable discoveries. It was the age of literary masterpieces like the Sherlock Holmes novels and Jules Verne's sci-fi stories. It's easy to see why some developers chose the 19th century as the setting for their games. 40
epoch: american civil war The American Civil War took place in the 19th century and saw the United States of America fight against the Confederate States of America. As you can probably imagine, US based developers that were into historical strategy games created more than one game based on the American Civil War. 9
epoch: ancient China China's history is full of mysticism, wonder and folklore. In the 80s and the 90s China wasn't exactly an open country and videogaming wasn't the main attraction for the chinese population. It was a japanese company that took advantage of ancient China's history to develop some interesting games (i.e. the Romance of the Three Kingdom series). 6
epoch: ancient Egypt Pharaohs, pyramids, gods with animal heads, the Nile. These games are all set in ancient Egypt in one way or another: realistic simulations or strategy games, platformers loosely based on Egyptian mythology, etc. 10
epoch: ancient Greece Zeus, Apollo, Eros and the other olympian gods are perhaps part of the most popular ancient pantheon among video gamers. Just think about one of the most successful video games ever made for PC: Populous 2. 10
epoch: ancient Rome The mighty Roman Empire and the Roman Republic are known to everyone, even to people who aren't interested in ancient history. These games are all set at the time when the ancient Romans were known (almost) in every corner of Europe and beyond. 11
epoch: cold war There was a time when the two major political superpowers were at war, but nobody knew. U.S.A. and the former U.S.S.R. used spies, subterfuge, blockades, political and military influence all over the world. The so called "Cold War" era lasted decades and ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall. 29
epoch: medieval These games are not of the fantasy kind: no dragons, no elves, no dwarves and absolutely no magic. These are all games set in medieval times. This means castles and villages, alchemy and saints, kings and queens, monks and abbeys, knights and tourneys. 48
epoch: modern world Games taking place in the modern era of humankind: from the early years of 1900 until today. Every game genre could be set in the modern era: from sport simulations to turn based strategy. 417
epoch: prehistory Dinosaurs and cavemen are featured in a number of prehistoric themed games. The prehistoric age is almost never depicted in a realistic way, but we don't care much... because we all like to fight against a giant t-rex or to time travel back at the dawn of civilization, don't we? 16
epoch: Vietnam war Surprisingly enough, there are quite a few old games set during a very specific conflict like the Vietnam war. Games set in Vietnam are mainly combat flight simulators and strategy wargames of some kind. 10
epoch: western Surprisingly, western is not a common theme in video games. Sure, there are good games set in the old west of the United States, but not as many as fantasy games, horror, sci fi, even cyberpunk games. The first "wild west" game that comes to mind is Gun Smoke, but it never developed for a PC. 14
epoch: World War I World War I (also known as The Great War) was the first of the two world conficts of the modern era. Quite a few video games are set during those years: combat flight simulations, naval simulations and even shoot'em ups. 9
epoch: World War II World War II was one of deadliest wars in history and one of the most well known: everyone knows about Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill and the horrors that happened during that conflict. A lot of games are set during that time and in the areas of the world where World War II took place, mainly combat flight simulators, wargames and strategy games in general. 80
erotic, adult WARNING: the contents in this section and the games in this list are not suitable for a younger audience. If you're not 18 years old, please consider leaving this section. 47
espionage James Bond is the iconic embodiment of the spy genre (or 'espionage'), but he is not alone in the colorful world of old video games, there are plenty of spies still around on AbandonwareDOS: Apogee's Secret Agent, Spy vs Spy and Mission: Impossible and more! 37
fables and fairy tales Before fantasy, stories involving magic mirrors, evil orcs and witches from every corner of the world were simply called fairy tales. After Tolkien, every fairy tale suddenly became "fantasy". There are still a few video games true to the fables and fairy tales spirit. 17
fantasy Dwarves and elves, trolls and gnolls, dragons and wyverns, arcane magic, ancient deities, sword and sorcery! It's not just medieval, it's a soup of imagination and reality in equal parts, mixed in a bubbling cauldron, ready to be served in your favourite old tavern. 391
female protagonist Before Tomb Raider, not many games involved main female characters. Carmen Sandiego, Laura Bow, Elvira, Jill of the Jungle and eve Ms. Pac-Man were exceptions to the "male" rule followed by early video games. 51
for kids Video games in the 80s and the 90s were mainly aimed at teens (or a young audience anyway). Educational games were sometimes designed with a younger audience in mind: kids. Those games were simpler, often involved some kind of educational purpose and were specifically marketed for kids. 22
gameplay: auto mapping Some games (usually the less older ones) include an auto mapping system that helps the player by showing parts of the map already discovered. Auto mapping systems are usually found in role playing games like the Might and Magic series, or first person shooters like Doom or Duke Nukem 3D. 91
gameplay: class-based A class based system forces the player to choose a specific "class" during the character generation and customization process. It's obviously used in games based on RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, where the classes can be warrior, mage, thief, and so on. 117
gameplay: collection of games There are a few games that, in fact, are a collection of many mini-video games made into one single entertainment product. There's no better way to put it. The Fool's Errand, for example, is a collection of brain teasers with little or no relation between them. Many casino games are just a collection of card and chance games. Sports games based on olympic events include one mini-game for each different sport. 48
gameplay: educational Educational games (sometimes called edutainment) are a peculiar kind of video games of various genres. Gameplay, graphics and sound are still important aspects of educationals, but the mail goal of the developer is to teach the player something: math, history, ecology, anything! Some educationals are created with a young audience in mind, other games are aimed to a broader audience and appeal to adult gamers too: The Oregon Trail, Mario Teaches Typing and the Carmen Sandiego series are perfect examples of educational games. 58
gameplay: open world In an open world game, the player is free to explore the environment and go wherever he/she wants and set his own goals. There's not a one-way progression and freedom is what makes the game stand out. Traditionally, open world scenarios are a prerogative of RPGs and space simulation games. 120
gameplay: party-based A party based system allows the player to create, customize and play with a party of adventurers at the beginning or during the game. The vast majority of old RPGs were party based: Ultima, Eye of the Beholder, The Magic Candle are just a few. 136
gameplay: stealth In games involving stealth, the player has a chance to avoid enemies instead of fighting them. This is accomplished by actions such as hiding in the shadows, using a disguise, carefully planning routes. Commandos is a game series notable for the large amount of gameplay requiring stealth to go on. 14
gameplay: team management Some games - especially strategy games involving tactical movement and sports management games - task the player with the management of a team or squad composed by different characters. As the manager, you can usually hire new team members, equip each character with various items, choose which of them will be on the field. Squad management is heavily featured in Syndicate, the X-COM series, the Jagged Alliance series. Team management is a fundamental part of every team sports management game. 26
gameplay: trading If buying and selling goods is your thing, give these games a try. Every one of them involve trading in some form: buying and selling goods and moving them by sea (Ports of Call), stock exchange (Acquire, Black Monday), smuggling items in deep space (Elite, Frontier). 43
gameplay: turn based In direct contrast with real-time games, turn-based games gameplay is based on the players taking turns to do what needs to be done: move in a dungeon, play cards, attack enemy units. 397
genre: 4x 4x stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. Players of these games control a whole empire by managing resources and technical developments (eXploit), expanding their domains (eXplore and eXpand), and fighting against the computer or other players (eXterminate). Among the most popular 4x games are Civilization and Master of Orion. 24
genre: action puzzle Action puzzle games require the player to manipulate game pieces in a real-time environment. Action puzzle games show features of both action games and puzzle games; it's a broad definition that can be applied to a lot of puzzle games. 46
genre: action RPG Action RPGs borrow gameplay elements from action games and mix them with real-time gameplay still retaining core RPG concepts. Combat is often dependent on the players' own reflexes while combat tactics usually play a minor role. 36
genre: american football American Football is a sport that received much attention from developers in the past decades, expecially from american ones. There are american football games of every kind: realistic sports simulations, management strategic games and of course action games. Licensed american football games were not uncommon: think about Joe Montana, Mike Ditka, NFL. 10
genre: artillery Artillery is a specific subgenre of strategy games. Artillery games involve aiming and shooting at other players in a turn based static environment. To better understand what I'm talking about just think at Worms: that's an artillery game. 7
genre: baseball Baseball was one of the sports genres that gave us a lot of games to play with, both sports sims and action-oriented games. The Hardball series and the MicroLeague Baseball series are just two of the many games that saw the light of day back in the 90s. 14
genre: basketball Basketball videogames came in many flavors: basketball simulations, arcade games, from a side-view, top-down or even third-person 3D perspective. Some of the most popular basket videogames were the licensed Lakers vs. Celtics and TV Sports Basketball by Cinemaware. 10
genre: beat 'em up Beat 'em ups are fighing games where you have to fight hordes of enemies, usually in an horizontal scrolling levels populated by progressively stronger enemies. The most common and defining features for this kind of games are boss fights at the end of each level, temporary weapons, and power-ups. Some of the most popular beat 'em up games are: Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Renegade. 25
genre: boxing Boxing games: for sports fan that like some violence on screen, possibly without blood. Boxing games range from somewhat accurate simulations to relatively funny arcade games. 7
genre: business simulation Business simulations (also called tycoon simulations or management simulations) are video games that focus on the economic and the management side of running a business. In tycoon games the player can be in charge of any kind of business: a company, a sports team, an hospital, an amusement park, even a drug cartel. 74
genre: cards Whether you like poker, blackjack or other casino-like card games, if you like strip poker or if you fancy collectible card games, there are quite a lot of cards video games for both DOS and Windows. 25
genre: casino Long before betting sites, gamers could have fun with a non so popular subgenre of video games: casino games. There's not much to tell, in a casino game the player can... well... play games typically found in casinos: card games, slot machines, etc. 7
genre: chess One of the most ancient tabletop games in the world was the inspiration for a plethora of PC games. There are literally tons of classic chess strategy games as well as less serious titles, based on fantasy settings (like the Battle chess series) or born from the marriage of strategy and action (like the popular Archon series). 18
genre: city building City building games are simulation games in which the player is in charge of planning a whole city. The player can manage a city by developing different areas and infrastructure, tweaking the economy and paying attention to the citizens need. Some of the most popular city-building simulations are the SimCity series, The Settlers and Caesar. 16
genre: civilian flight simulation Civilian flight simulator games are very different from their combat counterpart. In Civilian flight games, as the name suggests, the player have to fly airliners, manage traffic, take offs and landings. No combat is involved. The most popular civilian flight simulators are the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. 11
genre: database Databases are one of the most important bricks needed to build a management application. Database management systems back in the DOS era weren't much user friendly and finding the right software was often not an easy task. Nonetheless, companies big and small developed a number of database management software. 2
genre: dungeon crawl Dungeon crawlers are RPGs in which the player has to explore one or more dungeons, fight monsters one after another, looting treasure, advance to higher levels and so on. Usually, dungeon crawlers have simple storylines and linear progression. A lot of roguelikes can be described as dungeon crawlers.
Popular dungeon crawlers are Diablo, Legend of Grimrock, Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder.
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genre: emulator Old games are not easy to run on modern systems. To make life easier for retro gaming fans, there's a plethora of software available, often for free. The DOS games available on Abandonware need an DOS emulator to run and DOSBOX is by far the most popular of them all. Front-ends are programs that help with emulators that don't include a graphical interface. 3
genre: falling blocks Falling blocks puzzle games means just one thing: Tetris. Everyone knows Tetris, but not everyone knows about the countless clones and original games that took the Tetris concept and built something new. Anyway, this kind of puzzles involve using falling blocks to complete patterns of some kind. 18
genre: fighting Fighting games involve hand-to-hand combat against a single opponent for the whole duration of a match. A distinctive trait of fighting games are the special attacks, i.e. combinations of graphically striking moves which enhance the intensity of the fight. Some of the soundest fighting games of all times are Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. 29
genre: file management Back in the DOS days, copying, moving, deleting and compressing files wasn't an easy task. File management software was widely available, but sometimes it was a collection of command line executables: not for the casual PC user. Some of the most popular file management programs were: PKzip, Arj, Lha (for file compression), Norton Commander, DOS Zip Commander (for file management). 9
genre: first-person action-adventure First-person action-adventure games became more popular in recent years, but the first ones can be dated back a few decades ago (Castle Master, Total Eclipse, Driller). Like every action-adventure game, they can include features of both action and adventure elements: an inventory system, action sequences, a story, etc. 10
genre: first-person party-based RPG Party-based role-playing games with a first person perspective became popular after the release of Dungeon Master in 1989. Before Dungeon Master only a handful RPGs used first person, the Bard's Tale and Wizardry series among others. Dungeon Master managed to create a very neat user interface without sacrificing the gameplay. Some of the most popular first person perspective series are: Eye of the Beholder, the Wizardry series, Might and Magic. 54
genre: first-person shooter First-person shooters (FPS for short) are shoot'em all action video games in which the player shoots its way from level to level through a first-person perspective. The most popular FPS series are Doom, Half-life, and Quake. 64
genre: fishing Fishing is not the most exciting of sports, but it's loved by many. Nonetheless, a few developers were inspired by this relaxing activity and created fishing games of various genres. 6
genre: flight simulation The most common kind of vehicle simulation is without doubt flight simulation involving planes or helicopters of any kind. There are two distinct types of flight simulation games: the ones focused on aerial combat (often involving historical scenarios, missions, etc.) and the ones based on civilian flight. 73
genre: game development Back in the 80s and in the 90s, game design wasn't something for the common gamer. There were a few programs with a decent user interface, aimed at the non-developers, but to be honest there weren't that many. In addition to those programs, there were also a few utilities to support gaming activities like role-playing. 3
genre: god game In the so called god games, the player takes the role of a divine entity (or something similar). Gameplay involves controlling people, units or even the environment on a large scale. God games usually show some artificial intelligence in the form of autonomous NPCs. 11
genre: golf Golf was one of the most simulated sports in the DOS era. There were also a few licensed games, such as Jack Nicklaus' Unlimited Golf or PGA Tour Golf. Even Sid Meier (and Will Wright) designed a game based on golf: Sid Meier's SimGolf. 10
genre: graphic adventure with text parser There's a fine line between a "text adventure" (now called interactive fiction) and a graphic adventure. Before point and click adventure games such as Monkey Island, Gabriel Knight, Day of the Tentacle, companies first attempted to create adventure games with lots of graphics, but with a text-based interface. The one company that took advantage of this kind of adventure was Sierra On-Line with it's King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest series. 30
genre: graphics editor Today, everybody knows what Photoshop is and means. It wasn't always like this. In times when not every home had a computer, graphics editors weren't exactly well known to the public. Some of the most popular graphics editor where: Deluxe Paint, AutoCad, 3D Studio. 4
genre: helicopter simulation The most simulated vehicles are by far combat planes of any kind and from every time period: secondo world war, cold war, modern times. Planes are followed by tanks, ships and submarines. Helicopter simulations aren't many, but some of them really deserve to be played. 10
genre: hockey Surprisingly, hockey was one of the most emulated sports in the 90s. There were both more or less accurate hockey simulations and hockey action games. Some hockey games included aspects of both simulation and action genres. 8
genre: interactive fiction Interactive fiction games (or text adventures) are adventure games in which the player gives textual commands in order to act within the given story. The story itself is told both using text and static pictures or with no graphics of any kind, just text. The genre's stepping stones are Adventure (developed in 1975) and the Zork series. Infocom, Legend Entertainment and Magnetic scrolls were some of the most popular interactive fiction developers of the 80s. 125
genre: interactive movie Interactive movies are adventure games that feature lots of cinematic scenes and heavy scripted gameplay. The most popular adventure interactive movie series for PC is perhaps Dragon's Lair, developed by ReadySoft. 10
genre: interpreter Old games are not easy to run on modern systems. To make life easier for retro gaming fans, there's a plethora of software available, often for free. Interpreters are programs that execute other programs without really emulating the system they were intended to run on. Interactive fiction interpreters, for example, are a must-have for text-adventure fans. 4
genre: isometric action-adventure In isometric action-adventure games the action (and the adventure too...) takes place in an isometric environment. Isometric perspective allow the player to walk around in a 3D environment in a third-person view without the need of real 3D graphics. Like every action-adventure game, isometric action-adventure games can include features of both adventure and action elements: action mini-games, inventory, a story, etc. 14
genre: JRPG JRPG is a common name for Japanese (or, generally speaking, far Eastern) RPGs. JRPGs have distinguishing features which tell them apart from traditional Western role-playing games: anime visuals, characters of a very young age (small children, teenagers), faster gameplays, streamlined plots and minimal characterizations. Among the most popular JRPG series are Final Fantasy, Ys, and Dragon Slayer. 13
genre: life simulation In life simulations players control one or more artificial life-forms, from animals to virtual alter egos. Gameplay can be differente from game to game and can include social or biological themes. Some of the most populare simulations are Alter Ego and the Princess Maker series. 11
genre: math puzzle Mathematics is usually not a very appreciated theme for gaming. Nonetheless, there are puzzle games that include maths as a main gameplay element in explicit form (Super Solvers: Outnumbered!) or in a less obvious way (Minesweeper). 5
genre: maze Maze action games takes place in a maze and have different goals, from killing monsters along the way to just finding a way out - which in itself is often a hard enough challenge to keep you well entertained. Some examples of maze games are: the Kroz series, the ZZT series, Gauntlet. 48
genre: mech simulation Giant robots deserve their vehicle simulation category. When one talks about "mechs" the first thing that comes to mind are anime series like Macross or tabletop games like Battletech. The awesomeness of Mechs found its way in the video game world with games like the very popular Mechwarrior series. 6
genre: metroidvania Metroidvania is a made up word born from the merge of two game series titles: Metroid and Castlevania. Both games share gameplay and design elements that defines the genre. Metroidvania games are platform games featuring a game world that is freely explorable. Certain areas can be accessed only with player upgrades or equipment. Action is somewhat less intense than the usual platform game. 8
genre: miniature golf Golf games are abuntant in video game history. Miniature golf didn't receive the same attention in terms of quality and, obviously, quantity. However, with miniature golf, designers didn't have to stick to a realistic simulation. The result are these weird games. 4
genre: multisport Some sports games are not focused on a single sport. Games about winter or summer olympics are an example, but the list goes on to encompass any kind of "collection" of sports, no matter how weird they are: California Games, Bar Games, Knight Games, American Gladiators, etc. 18
genre: naval simulation Naval simulations are vehicle simulation games where you take command of one or more ships, boats or other similar watercraft. Usually, gameplay involves some kind of strategic aspect, but they are all vehicle simulations at the core. 16
genre: olympic sports Olympic sports were the subject of a lot of video games for a variety of platforms. The thing with olympic sports - for both summer olympics and winter olympics - is that a developer must come up with more than one mini-game for every one of them. 9
genre: physics puzzle Physics puzzle games are a type of puzzle games wherein the player must use the game's somewhat realistic physics to complete each puzzle. One of the most popular physics puzzle games series ever published is The Incredible Machine. 5
genre: pinball A small subset of action video games, pinball games are the digital counterpart of the classic pinball machines of the analogic era. Some of them include only one board, others, more recent games, offer to the player a variety of boards to play on. Popular pinball video games series include: Pinball Dreams, Epic Pinball, etc. 15
genre: platform In platform games characters walk, run and jump on platforms through levels and sceneries. Among the most famous platform games are the Mario Bros series, Sonic the Hedgehog and the very classic Donkey Kong. 176
genre: point and click adventure Point & Click Adventure games are typically mouse-oriented games. The player uses the cursor to guide characters, pick up items, and manage the items inventory. Among the most popular point and click adventure games are: The Secret of Monkey Island series, the Indiana Jones series, the Leisure suit Larry, King's Quest and Space Quest series. 157
genre: poker Considering every classic card game ever invented by the human mind, poker is the only one that perhaps comes close to perfection. The rules are simple, luck is balanced by strategy and the human element is prominent (bluffing, poker faces, etc.). Video games developers tried to simulate poker in many ways, sometimes succesfully, sometimes not. 16
genre: political simulation Political simulation games put the player at the political helm of a government. Political simulations emphasizes political activities such as: win an election campaign, run a whole government, scheme behind the curtains of a political party, etc.. Some of the most popular political simulations are Shadow President, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Balance of Power. 15
genre: pool / snooker Hitting balls with a stick is not the most popular of sports. Nonetheless, there are quite a few fans that love pool, snooker or other green-table variants. Pool and snooker found their way on many computer platforms of the past. 6
genre: programming Back in the 80s, programmers didn't have software with a visual interface like Eclipse or Visual C# to help them writing code. Programming software ran in DOS and the user had to get used to a text-only interface and a black screen. No Windows and almost no aid of any kind. The Borland Turbo series was one of the most popular suite of programming software. 9
genre: puzzle adventure Puzzle adventures are adventure games that put a strong emphasis on logic puzzles. They often lack the inventory and the story is usually less important than other adventure games. One of the most popular puzzle adventure series is Myst. 12
genre: racing: boat Racing games of any kind (action, simulation, shooters) involving boats, ships, submarines and similar vehicles. 5
genre: racing: car Racing games of any kind (action games, simulations, shooters) involving any kind of racing vehicle on four wheels: Formula 1 cars, Micro Machines, futuristic vehicles, sports cars, etc. 68
genre: racing: Formula 1 Racing games of any kind (action, simulation, shooters) involving cars and a particular kind of racing competition: Formula 1. 8
genre: racing: futuristic Racing games of any kind (action, simulation, shooters) involving futuristic vehicles: supersonic cars, jumping spaceships, armored sci-fi cars, etc. 10
genre: racing: motorcycle Racing games of any kind, from action to simulations, involving all kinds of two-wheeled vehicle (well... motorcycles): superbikes, Harleys, Micro Machines, etc. 11
genre: racing: off-road Racing games of any kind (action packed, simulation-focused, shooters) involving any kind of vehicle racing on off-road tracks. If you enjoy racing on dirt, sand, water, etc, these are the games you want to download. 6
genre: rail shooter Rail shooters (as in... railroad) are shooter games in which the player movement is limited in some way to a specific route. In rail shooters you don't experience the freedom of walking/running/driving anywhere you like on the screen. 8
genre: real-time strategy Real-time strategy games (RTS for short) are strategy games in which actions do not happen in turns, but are free to happen continuously, thus players can issue commands, like moving or assembling combat units, at any time. Some of the most well-known RTS series are Warcraft, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, and Age of Empires. 48
genre: real-time tactics Real-time tactics games are an hybrid between real-time strategy (RTS) and turn-base tactics. Real-time tactics are played in real-time, like RTSs, but lack the resource management and base and unit building elements. Real-time tactics games focus much more on individual units and tactics on the battlefield. Some of the most popular real-time tactics games are: the Syndicate series, Cannon Fodder. 34
genre: realistic space simulation Like civilian flight sims, realistic space simulator games (as Wikipedia calls them) allow the player to pilot a space vehicle in a realistic way, with no science fiction involved in any way: no aliens, no star wars ships. Realistic space sims usully obey the (simulated) laws of physics in a scrict way. 5
genre: reveal the picture Reveal the picture puzzles are games in which you have to compose or expose a whole picture starting on a board with mixed pieces or a blank board. 9
genre: roguelike Roguelike games are role-playing games (RPGs) in which randomness has a major role (first and foremost in the creation of the RPG world). They are usually defined by a turn-based gameplay and, quite often, by the permanent death of the character controlled by the player. These factors together greatly raise the game's replayability. Traditional roguelikes are dungeon crawl games in ASCII display. Legendary roguelikes are Rogue, ADOM, Nethack, and Angband. 21
genre: run and gun Run and gun games - sometimes called scrolling shooters - are a mix of platform games and shoot 'em ups. The player is in control of a character - usually a soldier loaded with guns - who walks and shoots in real gravity environments. Contra, Rambo 3, Alien Breed are three of the most popular run and gun games. 43
genre: sandbox RPG In sandbox RPGs, the player has a huge amount of freedom in terms of gameplay. Sandbox RPGs are open world: you can go anywhere anytime, there are no or little to the freedom of movement. The typical world of a sandbox RPG is very large and full of different locations (cities, planets, etc.) and a variety of encounters (random monsters, NPCs, etc.). 21
genre: sandbox strategy There's something magical in sandbox strategy games. You can do literally what you want without the typical constraints of games that tell you what to do. SimCity is the perfect example: play at your own pace, set your own goals and just play. On Abandonware DOS games are listed as sandbox even if the sandbox gameplay is just a small part of the whole (i.e. "play in sandbox mode"). 26
genre: shoot 'em up Shoot 'em ups were extremely popular in the '80s and '90s. Players control a vehicle or an aircraft with the only goal of destroying the largest number of enemies while dodging their bullets as long as they can. Through the years, shoot 'em ups evolved to include features like end level bosses, multiple weapons and power-ups. Some of the most popular DOS shoot 'em ups were: Raptor, Tyrian 2000, Xenon 2. 113
genre: shooting gallery In shooting gallery games, the player have to shoot at targets using an on-screen cursor (usually a crosshair) to take aim. Older shooting gallery games were first person shooters; later that changed and the player came to be represented by an avatar who could move to avoid enemy attacks. 12
genre: soccer Football/soccer is one of the most successfully simulated sports on PCs and consoles since the dawn of 8-bit video gaming. There's a plethora of soccer games of various genres: simulations (Fifa), arcade/action games (Kick Off, Sensible Soccer), team management sims (Championship Manager, Premier Manager), etc. 28
genre: sokoban Sokoban is a very specific subgenre of puzzle games in which the player pushes boxes around in a warehouse, trying to get them to predefined locations. 10
genre: sound editor If you were trying to make music using an home computer in the 90s, there's a chance that you used one or more of the following sound editors and "tracker" is not an unknown word for you. 1
genre: space combat In space combat games flying a starship is not enough, you have to be a good fighter to kill enemies and survive in space. The gameplay involves space combat (obviously) and, sometimes, exploration, trading, dialogues, etc. Two of the most popular space combat game series are Wing Commander and X-Wing / Tie Fighter. 23
genre: space exploration Space exploration is one of the most unique genres and the first games ever published dates back a few decades. Space exploration games are a mix of simulation and action. The gameplay is all about piloting a starship in the vastness of space and having fun with activities such as space exploration, trading commodities, space combat, asteroid mining, pirate hunting, etc. The most popular space exploration games are Elite and Frontier, both designed by David Braben. 18
genre: space simulation Space simulation games, as the name suggests, are all about flying a starship in the vastness of space. The gameplay usually involves one or more of the following activities: space combat, space exploration, trading commodities, taking missions, piracy, crafting, mining asteroids, etc. Some of the most popular space sim series are Wing Commander, Elite and X-Wing / Tie Fighter. 39
genre: spreadsheet Today everyone knows what Excel is and most of you probably used a spreadsheet software at least once in your life. In the 80s (and perhaps in the 90s as well) spreadsheets were moving their first steps and weren't much user friendly. See for yourself. 2
genre: submarine simulation Submarine simulations are vehicle simulation games in which you take command of one or more submarines. Submarine sims are usually set in a time of war and are quite realistic. 11
genre: tank simulation Long before the more recent World of Tanks, armored vehicles like tanks or trains were the protagonists of quite a few simulation games. Tanks had their share of vehicle sims. 11
genre: tennis Tennis sports games are usually action-oriented, with the player controlling a single athlete. Management tennis games or accurate tennis simulations were not really considered by developers back in the day. 7
genre: third-person action-adventure Third-person action-adventure games is the niche genre where the popular Alone in the Dark series sits on its throne. Quite a few survival horror games took advantage of the 3D third-person perspective, but the genre is not limited to scary video games. Games like Outcast or Tomb Raider are usually action-oriented more than other action-adventures. 17
genre: third-person shooter Third-person shooters (TPS) are action video games in which the player, visible on screen, shoots its way in a 3D environment (real 3D, false 3D, isometric, etc.) through a third-person perspective. Some of the most popular third-person shooters games are the Tomb Raider series, Space Harrier, Fade to Black. 8
genre: tile-matching A tile-matching puzzle video game is a type of game where the player arranges tiles in order to make them disappear according to a matching criterion. Some of the most popular tile-matching puzzle games are Puzznic, Atomino, Pipe Dream. 27
genre: top-down party-based RPG Party-based role-playing games played in a top down perspective were perhaps the first CRPGs to get some attention by fans of pen & paper RPGs. After all, a top down view is the ideal way to convey the feeling of looking at a map, and it's the perfect way to show every member of the party in a turn-based combat. The most fondly remembered top-down CRPGs of the golden age of gaming were perhaps the ones designed by the immortal Richard Garriott: the Ultima series. Let's not forget classics such as The Magic Candle, Dark Sun, Wasteland. 38
genre: traffic and transportation Some business simulations - and even some flight sims - are more focused on traffic networks and transport management than anything else. This happens in games that simulate train networks, air traffic control, goods transportation. Some of the most popular traffic and transportation simulations are Railroad Tycoon and Transport Tycoon. 10
genre: trivia / quiz Trivia is one of the most basic forms of entertainment and perhaps one of the easiest to simulate on a computer. One of the most popular game series that involves some kind of trivia is the Where is Carmen Sandiego? 13
genre: turn-based strategy In turn-based strategy games players take turns to make their moves. This marks a clear distinction from the otherwise similar category of Real-time Strategy (RTS) games. 154
genre: turn-based tactics Turn-based tactical games have military-like scenarios whose ultimate goal is to win a confrontation by moving different field units (mainly soldiers). This genre differs from the wargame genre in that battle are usually much smaller in scale and have a different point of view. Some popular turn-based tactics games are Battle Isle, Heroes of Might and Magic, X-COM Ufo defense. 76
genre: unconventional sports The mix between sports, video games and eccentric game designers sometimes lead to weird results. If a sports video game it's not usually played in real life (or not at all), you can find it on this page: futuristic sports, fantasy sports, even satirical sports. 30
genre: vehicular combat A few racing games give you a different mean to deal with other players: weapons. Since Spy Hunter, one of the first coin-ops featuring car combat, the genre evolved to 3D graphics and new levels of violence. The Carmageddon series, Fire and Forget and Death Rally are perfect examples of vehicular combat games. 15
genre: visual novel Visual novels are adventure video games with a very limited interactivity. Most visual novels are interactive stories, with the player reduced to a passive reader clicking to go on with the story. The vast majority of visual novels graphics is 2D and anime-styled. 10
genre: volleyball Volleyball is a sport that seldom gets any attention or media coverage. In the DOS era there were a handful of games that tried to simulate volleyball, thet were mainly action/arcade oriented games. 4
genre: wargame Wargames are tactical, strategy-based games in which the player controls a number of units on a map (usually subdivided into regular hexagons - a hex map) in order to win a battle or a war. Wargames are often historically accurate, but they can also be based on fantasy or sci-fi worlds. Among the most popular wargames are Panzer General and the Close Combat series. 62
genre: word processor Today we're used to modern interfaces and mouse driven controls (Word, Google Documets, etc.), but it wasn't always like this. There was a time when Word Processors for Personal Computers were built around a text-based interface. 4
genre: word puzzle Word puzzle games were fairly common when internet wasn't "worldwide", back in the 80s and, to some extent, even in the 90s. Word games weren't that popular, but were easy to develop and a kids loved them. Some word games were inspired by tv shows: Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are two examples. 15
genre: wrestling Hulk Hogan, André The Giant, The Million Dollar Man, Ultimate Warrior. I'm sure many of you recognized these names immediately. You know what I'm talking about: the kind of wresting that mixed the real deal with drama. Games developers couldn't ignore a sport like wrestling. 6
graphics: false 3D Before the first real 3D techniques started to become popular in RPGs, some developers used to "mimic" a 3D perspective without 3D technology. The RPG that popularized that kind of "false 3D" was Dungeon Master. Fake 3D environments were also widely used in SSI Goldbox RPGs and a few others. 76
graphics: first person 3D Games with first person 3D perspective represent the environment using all three spatial dimensions. The action is seen from a first-person point of view. FPS (First-person shooters) make extensive use of first-person 3D. 267
graphics: fixed 3D Games with fixed 3D perspective represent the game world in fully three dimensional way, from a fixed third-person point of view and do not let the player change the camera. Alone in the Dark is a perfect example of this tecnique. 12
graphics: fixed screen In a fixed screen game there is no scrolling, neither vertical nor horizontal. In a fixed screen video game, the screen doesn't move in any way. Anything but the screen can usually move anyway, but gameplay is restricted to the fixed screen. Early arcade games where typically fixed screen games: scrolling was harder to obtain in the early age of video gaming. 242
graphics: full motion video In the 90s the CD slowly became the main support for the distribution of video games. Floppy disks faded into nothingness and developer could stop trying to fit games into 20 disks, forcing gamers to disk swap. How to take advantage of the huge capacity of CDs? With lots of video, of course... and lots of less than good video games that used full motion video (or cartoons) as much as they could. 21
graphics: hex based Many old turn-based wargames took place on a map represented with identical hexagons. These hex-based games are not common these days (Civilization V is a rare exception), but were well known to C64, DOS PC and Spectrum owners. 59
graphics: isometric Games with isometric perspective represent the game world in an isometric three dimensional way, from a third-person point of view. Alone in the Dark is a perfect example of this tecnique. Usually, when referring to a game perspective as "isometric", we also mean some kind of parallel projection different from isometric perspective. 163
graphics: multi-directional scroller A multi-directional scroller is a video game in which the action is shown in a top-down or isometric perspective and the player can scroll the screen in any direction (vertical, horizontal, diagonal). 159
graphics: rotoscoping Rotoscoping is an animation process used to "draw" over a motion picture footage, frame by frame, to obtain a realistic animated scene. Rotoscoping was extensively used by Jordan Mechner for Prince of Persia and other games. 16
graphics: side-scroller A side-scroller (or horizontal scrolling) is a video game in which the action is shown in a side perspective and the environment scrolls mainly on an horizontal axis. Characters usually have to move from the left to the right side of the screen to go on in the game. 216
graphics: text-based In the past, lots of games used ASCII characters (text) to represent the game world. These text-only video games may seem primitive and outdated and, in fact, the genre almost died with the fast evolving graphics of modern games.
A few genres traditionally linked to the beautiful world of ascii characters still survives: roguelikes (nethack, angband, etc.) and interactive fiction, for example.
206
graphics: third person 3D Games with third person 3D perspective represent environment in a full three dimensional way, from a third-person point of view, usually from behind. 86
graphics: top down Top down games were very popular in the 80s and the 90s, when graphic cards were not capable of supporting 3D, and even when 3D started to become popular, 2D games continued to be easier to develop, at least in the infancy of 3D gaming. 2D game offered the player a viewpoint that helped keeping things easily under control (think about top down RPGs or strategy games). 592
graphics: vector graphics Games that use vector graphics use geometrical shapes such as points, lines and curves instead of bitmap graphics. The point of view in vector graphics games can be either first-person or third-person. 11
graphics: vertical-scroller A vertical-scroller is a video game in which the action is shown in a top down perspective and the environment scrolls from top to bottom. Characters usually don't have to move to scroll the screen (expecially in shoot'em ups). 43
hacking There's a unique kind of simulation games that can be described only as "hacking simulations". The gameplay of hacking sims is centered around some kind of computer hacking, but can involve other types of activites usually part of different genres (adventure, strategy, etc.). Hacking is usually an activity part of the cyberpunk genre and usually it's not prominent in gameplay. Hacking is often implemented in games as a mini-game or a subset of non-mandatory skills (take, for example, Deus Ex, or System Shock). A few developers chose hacking as a main theme for their games, for example Hacker 1 and 2 and the Uplink series.There's a unique kind of simulation games that can be described only as "hacking simulations". The gameplay of hacking sims is centered around some kind of computer hacking, but can involve other types of activites usually part of different genres (adventure, strategy, etc.). 11
haunted house Haunted houses may be an old theme for horror movies and books nowadays, but it was used as a theme for quite a few games in the DOS era. 15
health There aren't many games focused on medicine, hospitals or health. The few ones developed in the 90s and the 80s were mainly hospital management games or surgeon simulations (Life & Death). Theme Hospital is perhaps the most popular among them. Also Alter Ego, written by a psychologist, can be considered a "health" game. 8
historical Some games are set in a specific historical period, usually a period of time particularly enjoyable for gamers such as the midde ages, the discovery of the Americas or the second world war. Historical games take a step further and try to be more faithful to the time period they are set. 116
horror Anything even remotely connected to horror: all things splatter, Cthulhu and Lovecraft, vampires, zombies, ghosts, mummies, hideous creatures from outer space. 73
humor What makes you laugh? The LucasArts humor of Monkey Island or the crass jokes of Leisure Suit Larry? Are you a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld? Do you prefer the clumsiness of the hero of the Dragon's Lair series? Humor in video games has always been something that gamers appreciated. 113
law enforcement Law enforcement video games are somewhat the equivalent of detective fiction TV series, no wonder that a Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues each have their video game. If a game involves the police, SWAT or some kind of futuristic law enforcement (think about Blade Runner), it's listed here. 33
martial arts Karate, Jujutsu, Kung Fu, samurais, ninjas, we have it all. Martial arts was a major source of inspiration for classic video games like Double Dragon, Dragon Ninja, the beautiful Karateka, Last Ninja and Ninja Gaiden series and much more. 31
military The navy, the army, the air force, were all an inspiration for a number of games belonging to many different genres, from run and gun action games to flight simulations. Whether or not you like military themes, the top quality of these games was often enough to attract lots of players. 123
multiplayer: co-op Co-op (which stands for co-operative) multiplayer mode allow more than one player to play together to achieve common goals. 77
multiplayer: hotseat Games supporting hotseat multiplayer mode can be played by more than one player (usually two) on the same PC taking turns playing the game. Many strategy games offer an hotseat multiplayer mode. 191
multiplayer: Internet Games supporting Internet play can be played by multiple players on PCs connected to... guess what?... the Internet. 72
multiplayer: LAN Games supporting LAN (Local Area Network) play can be played by multiple players on PCs connected to a local network. 104
multiplayer: modem Games supporting modem play can be played by multiple players on PCs connected using... guess what?... a modem. Back in the day, being able to play via modem didn't involve Internet at all. 136
multiplayer: PBEM (play by e-mail) PBEM stands for Play By E-Mail. PBEM games allow a peculiar multiplayer option; players can play turns in an asyncronous way and send the result of their completed turn via e-mail to all opponents. As the Internet evolved, PBEM in recent games ceased to exist and quickly became a thing of the past. 19
multiplayer: PvP (player VS player) Of all the multiplayer modes available for a game, PvP (Player VS Player) is one of the most appreciated. The thrill of competing in some way against a human opponent is something that changes the way you're playing and is often completely different than fighting a computer opponent. In fact, the first games in history lacked a computer opponent (it needed more resources, more code, etc.), there was PvP before everything else. 179
multiplayer: split screen Games supporting split screen multiplayer mode can be played by more than one player (usually no more than 2) on the same screen, at the same time. The screen is divided in two independent areas (horizontally or vertically) and each player plays in its portion of the screen. 42
mythology Every nation has its myths. Some are more popular than others. Egyptian gods, the greek pantheon, the norse gods are all part of mythologies that cinema, literature and games exploited whenever they could. Even DOS games developers took inspiration from some kind of mythology, from time to time. 25
nudity WARNING: the contents in this section and the games in this list are not suitable for a younger audience. If you're not 18 years old, please consider leaving this section. 38
pirates Pirate-themed games are not many, but a few of them were very popular and are fondly remembered by retro-gamers all over the world. Here's a couple of games you should know (if you don't: shame on you!): The Secret of Monkey Island and Sid Meier's Pirates! 11
post-apocalyptic After the next cataclysm (war, meteor, whatever), we will live in a world where the word "civilization" will mean something completely different. Radiations everywhere? No more state and police force? Cities burnt to the ground? That's what we call a post-apocalyptic world. 33
religion Religion is a theme usually avoided by publishers and designers for obvious reasons (it's a very sensitive theme anyway). Very few developers ventured in that area and games based on real-world religion are often based on christian belief. 8
robots / mechs Since Isaac Asimov's books, robots have been very popular among science fiction readers. Much later, robots (and the so called "mech", popularized by pen and paper RPGs and anime cartoons) began to appear in early video games: think about Robotron. DOS machines saw some robot action expecially thanks to video game series like Mechwarrior, BattleTech or Mega Man. 39
romance Romance is not a common theme in video games. Sex is, as in movies and other media, but romance? It's prominently part of a few visual novels and is one of the main themes of the Leisure Suit Larry series. Not much else. 12
science fantasy As the name suggest, science fantasy is an hybrid between... well... science fiction and fantasy. It's a very vague definition and can potentially comprehend a broad variety of games. Surprisingly, it doesn't... there are not many titles with strong elements of both science and fantasy. 14
science fiction Time travel, space wars, alien empires, alternate universe, cyberpunk anti-heroes, space invaders, post-apocalyptic worlds, dystopian societies, mad scientists, galaxies far far away, strange new worlds, mech battles, deep space exploration, evil robots... should I go on? 529
setting: Africa Old PC games set in Africa are not that many. The majority of African-themed games are set in the World Wars periods of history or during ancient times (for example, ancient Egypt). 18
setting: China Old PC games set in China are often set in ancient or medieval times. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is perhaps the most popular old game series set in China, but it's not the only one. 13
setting: Europe Old PC games set in Europe are mainly strategy games set in medieval times or during World War 1, World War 2 or the Cold War. Italy, Germany, Great Britain are perhaps the most represented nations in Europe-themed games. 85
setting: Japan Old PC games set in Japan, as you can imagine, are mainly set during the medieval era and often involve sword wielding samurais, ninjas or martial artists of some kind. 12
setting: Mars The Red Planet is gathering the attention of every astronomy fan these days. Mars was also the setting for a few video games in the past, not many, I know, but some of them are well known and were well received. 8
setting: Middle East Video games set in the Middle East (Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Syria, etc.) usually involve an esotic ethnic setting (like Prince of Persia or Al-Qadim, or Magic Carpet). A few flight simulations are also set in the modern day Middle East. 25
setting: North America There are many games set in North America, mainly in the United States, but also in Canada. Games set in North America include a lot of wargames and other historical strategy games set during the Civil War. 63
setting: South America Video games set in South America usually involve Inca or Aztec cultures and mythology. Typical South American settings and cliches are: the jungle, the Amazon, ancient temples, guerrilla warfare, petty dictators, etc. 22
setting: Southeast Asia Old PC games set in Southeast Asia are set in that regions located southeast of China and northwest of Australia. Perhaps, the best known southeastern asian country is Vietnam. 12
space Science fiction doesn't always means space battles, space exploration, exploding stars, etc. In some games, though, the "space" element is heavily present. Space simulations, shoot 'em ups, RPGs are some of the genres where science fiction "space" games are abundant. 118
sports license Sports games, in the DOS era, were often sponsored by popular sports personalities (John Madden, Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, to name a few) or, in some cases, even by institutions (FIFA, NHL, NCAA, NFL). Such a name on the game box was a sure way to boost sales even for low quality games. 41
steampunk If you love cyberpunk, there's a chance that you will like steampunk. Steampunk is a niche genre that translates cyberpunk themes in the past, usually during the industrial revolution, when technology was mainly steam-based. Sometimes steampunk games also involve magic and fantasy races (elves, dwarves, etc). 9
stock exchange Stock exchange is not the most stimulating theme for a video game. Apparently, a few developers in the 80s and the 90s thought differently. These games include a stock exchange theme to various degrees: some are entirely based on it, others are loosely based on it. 10
superheroes Since the first wave of Marvel and DC superhero movies a few years ago, superheroes grew from a nerd-thing to a world phenomenon. In the 80s and the early 90s Superman, Batman and co. were almost exclusively confined to comics and a few video games. Some developers also tried to create games using original superheroes: no Marvel, no DC, no big comics company licenses. 15
time travel Time travel is a recurring theme in science fiction and speculative fiction. Movies, books, comics used extensively time travel in every imaginable way. Video games followed with original - often twisted - plots or games licensed from popular movies (Back to the Future). 17
trains Miniature trains were a very popular toy and a serious hobby for some. It's not surprising that quite a few developers turned trains into video games. Railroad Tycoon by Sid Meier is perhaps the most popular game about trains. 15
universe: Arthurian legends King Arthur, Merlin, the sword Excalibur, the knights of the round table and the kingdom of Camelot are known to almost everyone. The so called Arthurian legends tell the story of king Arthur and his court in the fictional kingdom of Camelot. By today standards, arthurian legends could be categorized as "medieval fantasy". 6
universe: BattleTech As many wargaming fans know, BattleTech is a franchise of board games (and later, video games) created by FASA corporation a long time ago: in 1984. BattleTech is known for the iconic "mechs", giant robotic armored machines, fighting in a sci-fi setting. 5
universe: Disney Once upon a time, Disney didn't mean Star Wars and Marvel. There was a time when Disney was the company that produced classic cartoons and wonderful animated movies. Everyone knows about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, right? A few of them were the protagonist of now abandoned games. 12
universe: Dune The Dune universe was carefully crafted by the science fiction writer Frank Herbert and became available to the public when he published in 1965 the first novel of a long series. The Dune saga has become a franchise comprising books, movies, TV series, toys, comics, board games and, of course, video games. 4
universe: Dungeons & Dragons Dungeons & Dragons is a pen and paper role playing game designed by Gary Gygax e Dave Arneson in 1974. It's perhaps the most popular RPG system of all time and spawned a plethora of video games based on one of the many fantasy campaigns available: Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, etc. 38
universe: Elite The very first Elite was the kind of game that starts a whole genre. Space sims - I'm talking about the trade-fight-explore kind of sims - started with the creation of David Braben and Ian Bell. Games like Freelancer and EVE Online owe Elite a great deal. The Elite series was so popular that Braben, decades later, gifted us with a new sequel to the very first masterpiece: Elite Dangerous. 4
universe: Indiana Jones The popular archeologist and adventurer created by George Lucas was the protagonist of some of the best point and click adventures. Unfortunately, Indiana Jones was also the main character of some of the worst action games. 6
universe: Mario Bros The beloved Italian plumber is the protagonist of many of the best Nintendo games. I don't think I need to explain who Mario is and the importance of the Mario franchise in the video gaming world. On Windows and DOS, Mario is seldom seen; he appears almost exclusively in fan-made games or indie remakes of Nintendo games. 5
universe: Sherlock Holmes The famous fictional english detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his good friend John Watson are the protagonists of a number of old adventures and even puzzle games. 8
universe: Star Trek The first Star Trek game probably dates back to the early 80s. After that, the beloved sci-fi series spawned a good number of different games, mainly space simulations and point & click adventures. The Interplay adventures are among the finest Star Trek games ever released. The Starfleet Command series is a must for every fan wishing to pilot one of the many ships of the Star Trek universe. 13
universe: Star Wars I believe that anyone already knows what Star Wars is: one of the most successful science fiction franchises ever produced. That kind of success spawned a lot of video games for the early personal computers and consoles, to the modern PCs. Early developers made quite a few DOS and Windows Star Wars games. 11
universe: The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings is perhaps the most read fantasy novel of all time and the most important one. I dare to say that Tolkien, who also wrote The Hobbit and other novels, was the most influential fantasy writer ever. Even before the Peter Jackson movies, there were quite a few The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) licensed games, published for more than a few platforms, including DOS of course. 10
universe: Ultima Ultima is perhaps the most popular old-school RPG series of all time. The whole series was designed by Richard Garriott, head of Origin, who redefined the genre more than one time with moral choices, cutting edge graphics, state of the art interface. It's a shame that Ultima lasted only 9 chapters (we want Ultima X!), but I have to admit that it's a pretty high number if you compare it to other series born in the 80s. 16
universe: Warhammer Before Warhammer Total War and the recent plethora of Warhammer games set either in the fantasy universe or in the 40000 universe, there wasn't much. It took some time for Games Workshop to invest more effort and money in one of the most popular board/war games franchises in the hisotry of gaming. 3
universe: Zork Zork is one of the most popular text-adventures and one of the first interactive fiction games ever created. The first Zork was developed in the seventies (yes, whole decades ago) and ported on various platform in the early 80s. The developer - Infocom - was one of the most prolific of the 80s and created memorable interactive fiction games, but Zork was perhaps their most popular one. 13
urban setting There are a lot of games that take place in urban environments from any era and theme: think about medieval towns, modern metropolis, futuristic megalopolis or even cyberpunk cities. 138
vampires Vampire and vampirism are one of the most recurring themes in horror (and not only horror) movies, tv series, books and, of course, video games. Just think about Ravenloft and Castlevania, not to mention the omnipresent Dracula. 14
variant: Asteroids clones Asteroids is a unique video game. It's a fixed-screen arcade shooter different from shoot'em ups that we are used to play these days. Its simplicity lead to a huge success. Like other classic arcades, Asteroids spawned quite a few sequels. 6
variant: Breakout clones Breakout was a thing in the mid 70s. Not many of you remember the ancestor of modern brick-destroying arcade games. The genre (a very niche genre) saw a resurgence in popularity when Arkanoid was published in the 90s; that's why you see lots of "noid" titled games here on Abandonware DOS. 10
variant: BurgerTime clones Classic arcade games often came in strange forms. The theme of Burger Time is... a fast food. The goal of Burder Time is to prepare burgers in a platformer style, while avoiding enemies. It's wierd, but it worked: the game is a classic. 3
variant: Donkey Kong clones Donkey Kong was a landmark in the history of videogames. It still inspires clones, sequels and even movies (think about Wreck-It Ralph). It's no surprise that Donkey Kong clones and games "inspired by" were quite a few even in the 80s and the 90s. 7
variant: Pac-Man clones Pac-Man is so well-known that it barely needs any presentation at all. It is one of the most iconic games ever developed. Pac-Man spawned sequels, spin-offs, variants, cartoons, comics, and even a live-action movie. It's no wonder that there were a lot of clones even for DOS. 14
variant: Q*Bert clones Sometimes, classic arcade games of the golden age of coin-ops are really weird. Q*Bert (yes, with an asterisc, and I still don't know how to pronounce it) is a strange creature that jumps up and down a pyramid made of cubes in order to avoid being caught by even stranger enemies. Really weird. 5
variant: Qix clones Qix is that very old arcade game in which you have to draw rectangles in order to claim portions of the screen. Like other classic arcade games of the time, Qix was later ported on quite a few platforms. A few developers took inspiration from the original Qix and created new games with the same gameplay mechanics (like Volfied). 9
variant: Space Invaders clones Space Invaders was a milestone in video gaming history. As one might expect, the Space Invaders franchise received lots of attention by developers all over the world. A number of sequels, remakes, fan games were published across the last decades and are still being released, some of them good, some not and some plain awful. 9
variant: Tetris clones I think I can safely say that Tetris is the single most popular computer puzzle game of all time. Countless variants were developed for every imaginable system year after year. Tetris was developed by a russian engineer called Alexey Pajitnov and published for the first time in 1984.  9
zombies Lately, zombie movies, games, TV series and books are a theme that gets lots of attention. In the 80s and 90s there were a few horror zombie themed games, but not that many, and those games weren't exactly horror. Zombies were often portrayed as cartoons. 8
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