Modern gamers have an unrivaled bounty of free video games. There are free games on Steam. There are free games on the internet. You’ll find a bunch of free games on your smartphone. We’re very well catered-to!
However, you don’t always want the latest AAA game. You want to scratch the nostalgia itch. Luckily for you, there are a host of websites dedicated to exactly this. Sometimes, developers choose to re-release their games as freeware, or sometimes they simply neglect to support their creations and let the support dwindle away. Whatever the reason, a lot of commercial games – which, admittedly, often work with a bigger team on a bigger budget – become free over time.
Today we’ll take a look at four of the best sites to download old PC games for free.
Abandonia is an index of abandonware, “dedicated to classic DOS games”. Abandonware titles are games (or software) with expired copyright, or games which are no longer supported by the publisher.
The site was founded in 1999, when the concept of abandonware was merely two years old. After a few inactive years, it blossomed and has continued to grow, with new ‘abandoned’ games added nearly every day. At the time of writing, the Abandonia database hosts 1,177 downloadable games and counts a total of more than 100,000 members.
Most games get a thorough review, screenshots, an editor rating as well as a user rating. You can browse and download old PC games by name, year, rating and category. As the site is focused on DOS games, you won’t find any of the ‘newer’ abandonware games here, but the vast DOS archive should satisfy most of your gaming needs — at least for a while.
Abandonware Dos is another abandonware site focusing on – you guessed it – DOS games. It also features a reasonable repertoire of Windows titles, though nothing too recent. Abandonware Dos is a very active site, too. Each title comes with its own site rating, title specification (e.g. abandonware, protected status, freeware), release date, screenshots, as well as a recent(ish) video play-through and snippets of game-related facts. You’ll also find handy articles and lists to aide your search for the best old games.
What I really like about Abandonware Dos is its open approach to its abandonware site status. The site owner clearly states their compliance with take-down notices. Furthermore, the site features direct links to GOG.com. These are found on the direct game page, as well as featured titles on the site homepage.
RGB Classic Games features a wide range of classic DOS games, previously unreleased titles, and even some “modern” DOS titles. The entire site is “dedicated to preserving classic games for defunct PC operating systems” such as DOS, CP/M-86, OS/2, Win16, and Win9x, as well as making them easier to play on modern systems.
You can search for games using genre and/or operating system, as well as the company name, legal status, year released, and interestingly, video mode. Furthermore, testament to RGB Classic Games mission, you can play a significant number of titles on a site-hosted emulator, including Keen Dreams, Hexen, and one of my all-time favorites, Transport Tycoon.
Another site that takes on a wider array of (also non-DOS) games is Remain In Play. This site refuses to take in abandonware and games that were free from the start. They only focus on commercial games that were deliberately released as freeware.
Even though site navigation is not optimal, they host plenty of great games – both new and old. If you don’t want to search, you might want to consider their ‘top 10 games’ in the sidebar. It is the only way of sorting titles by rating. Otherwise, you can search their database by name, data (type), genre, or OS.
Honorable Mention: The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving one of the core tenets of the internet: universal access to all knowledge. Old video games certainly require protection, and The Internet Archive agrees. In 2014, The Internet Archive brought 900 classic arcade games to our browsers, preserving and promoting some of the best. A year later, in 2015, The Internet Archive announced it would preserve over 2,300 classic DOS games.
Unfortunately, you cannot actually download the classic titles. However, The Internet Archive has an integrated version of DOSBox, meaning you can play each game within your browser. Found a title you love? Bookmark it! Alternatively, add the page to your desktop where it will be available with a single click.
Now, Go and Play
I hope you’ve found some great new sites today. Go and discover cool free games to waste your precious time. Struggling to find a particular title? Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of commercial games released as freeware. There are so many amazing old games out there!
What are you favorite old games? What are you views on abandonware? Let us know your thoughts below!
Image Credit: Africa Studio via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Simon Slangen on 11 September 2009.