Modern gamers have an unrivaled bounty of free games. Many of the most popular online games use the free-to-play model to entice users. There are free games on Steam, in your browser, and on your smartphone.
However, you don’t always want the latest AAA title or free battle royale. You want to scratch the nostalgia itch. Luckily, there are a host of websites dedicated to precisely this. Here are the best sites where you 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. (What is abandonware, anyway?)
Abandonia was founded in 1999 when the concept of abandonware was merely two years old. After a few inactive years, Abandonia blossomed into one of the leading sites where you can grab your favorite old games. At the time of writing, Abandonia features over 1,100 downloadable games with over 800,000 members.
Abandonia give each game a thorough review, screenshots, and an editor and 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 old gaming needs.
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. (It cuts off at 2002, meaning you can grab all-time greats Sid Meier’s SimGolf and Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds!)
Abandonware Dos is a very active site, too. Each title comes with a 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 aid your search for the best old games.
What I 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 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 in a broader 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.
Our trip through your childhood ends with Games Nostalgia. Games Nostalgia features hundreds of amazing games that hit the market between 1985 and 1995. The Games Nostalgia site is easy to use, allowing you to peruse games by genres, tags, new arrivals, popularity, and more.
Games Nostalgia also goes the extra mile by packaging each game in its own emulator, available for both Windows (and in many cases, macOS, too). In that, Games Nostalgia removes any additional steps to playing your favorite old games. Just download, unzip, and start playing!
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.
What Are the Best Old PC Games?
There are a lot of fantastic old games. The problem is finding time to play them all. Retro gaming and abandonware titles keep the old gems alive and kicking. Part of the resurgence is the ease with which you can access and play old games. Why not take a look at how you can play classic PC games on your Raspberry Pi using DOSBox?