Play DOS Games In Chrome With NaClBox and Google Native Client

Tim Brookes 30-08-2012

There are a lot of exciting new Web technologies Play, Learn & Experience New Web Technologies With Chrome Experiments The Chrome Experiments website is a showcase for all things new and exciting when it comes to web technologies and browser advancements, with a focus on JavaScript. HTML5, canvas, SVG and the 3D WebGL engine... Read More emerging at the moment, with Google’s Native Client joining HTML5 5+ Impressive Free HTML5 Games You Can Play In Your Browser HTML5 signifies the evolution of markup language as we know it. Flash games were once the norm when it came to browser-based entertainment, but now thanks to the powerful nature of HTML5 many web applications,... Read More and CSS3 5 Cool CSS3 Effects You'll Be Seeing More Of CSS3 (combined with the power of HTML5) is rapidly being supported by all the major browsers (read - anything except Internet Explorer), so I thought now would be a good time to see some of... Read More in paving the way to a more versatile and interactive Internet. It’s not ActiveX and it’s not Java, though much like those two dinosaurs Native Client is designed to allow for the execution of native code in a browser, within the safety of a sandbox How To Isolate & Test Unsafe Applications On Your PC Read More .


Robert Isaacs has put this technology to good use with NaClBox, a version of DOSBox How To Get Old DOS Computer Games To Run On Windows 7 Read More that runs in Google’s Chrome browser. The project is a little over a year old and has recently launched a closed beta for the site’s most exciting feature – the ability to upload your own DOS games and store them in the cloud.

Today we’ll be looking at what NaClBox can already do and grabbing a sneak peek of the closed beta that will be expanding “very soon”, according to Robert.

Playing DOS Games in Chrome

While Google has not yet enabled Native Client by default in the stable release of Chrome, you can still try it out without installing the experimental builds. Applications hosted in the Chrome Web Store are able to use it without any tweaking, so the easiest way to get started with the emulator is to add the NaClBox application from the store.

dos games in chrome

The other way to do it is by enabling Native Client in your browser:

  1. In Chrome’s address bar type about:flags and hit Enter.
  2. Find “Native Client” and click Enable.
  3. Restart your browser.

play dos games in chrome

Once you have done this, head over to the NaClBox Gallery to peruse available games. At the time of writing, there are 18 DOS applications ready to run including full games, shareware titles and the AdLib tracker Making 8bit Music: An Introduction to Free Chiptune Music Trackers Here are all the tools you need to create your own chiptune music. Read More for composing music. Titles in the gallery require virtually no input from you in order to run, simply click the “play” button, approve the app and watch the magic unfold. If you run into trouble, you probably haven’t installed the NaClBox application or enabled NaCl in your browser above.

Depending on your operating system, you may want to customise the controls based on your game of choice – on Mac OS X, I found games that use the Control key a lot to be problematic as the combination of Ctrl + arrow keys switch between spaces (virtual desktops) on OS X. Controls are customised on a per-game basis, from within each app’s preferences.

play dos games in chrome


Some great titles include Duke Nukem I and II, Epic Pinball and the first game Robert uploaded, a demo version of The Secret of Monkey Island. Be aware that while playing the games in the gallery that save data will not be there should you return to the site at a later date, a limitation that is overcome with My NaClBox.

Playing Your Own Games

“My NaClBox” is the name of the site’s most exciting (and long awaited) feature – your own cloud-based DOS emulator that retains the games you upload, your preferences and most importantly save games. At the moment, this portion of the site is in closed beta, with Robert hard at work on “dynamic recompilation for playing more CPU intensive games”. I’ve been told he hopes to expand it soon, which means you might want to register your interest if you like emulators and contributing feedback to exciting projects. If this sounds like you head over to the My NaClBox homepage for more information.

play dos games in chrome

I’ve been lucky to gain access to the beta and I’ve tested it out with a few of my favourite Apogee titles, Terminal Velocity and Rise of the Triad as well as Frontier, the sequel to Elite. It’s basically one big DOSBox in the cloud, albeit with a fairly smooth upload process. New applications are added by clicking Add Application in the left-hand menu, entering a name and clicking Create. From here’s it’s a case of clicking Add Files which opens an upload interface, choosing your game’s folder and uploading. I’d recommend you choose a suitably short filename – this is DOS after all – so for Terminal Velocity I chose “terminal” and Rise of the Triad I chose “rott”.


play old dos games

Once you’ve uploaded your folder then you can hit Play Game (or Configuration to adjust CPU speed, frame-skipping and other performance tools) which launches a rather plain looking DOSBox window. Unlike the desktop version of DOSBox which requires that you map a drive (e.g. C:\) to a location, NaClBox uses your current application as the C:\ drive, and any folders you uploaded are available using standard DOS commands. So to launch Rise of the Triad I typed “cd rott” and hit enter followed by “setup” to select a sound card (remember: it’s always a Sound Blaster on DOSBox) then type “rott” to launch the game.

play old dos games

Performance on the few titles I tried was – on the whole – very good indeed. All titles in the gallery (playable by all visitors of the site) worked flawlessly, with only aforementioned button mapping causing any problems. Terminal Velocity worked well, though the sound was somewhat garbled – and the seminal old-school FPS Rise of the Triad ran so smoothly I wasted half an hour “thoroughly researching” before deciding it was time to do some work.


play old dos games

Saved games were still there after leaving the application, as were my button mappings and high scores. In my opinion, this is marvellous use of cloud technology.

dos games in chrome


My NaClBox isn’t quite ready yet, though be sure to register for beta access if you’re salivating at the thought of cloud-based DOS classics you can access from anywhere with a recent version of Google Chrome. Native Client is an exciting and emerging technology which fits right in with Google’s vision for Chrome OS – allowing applications to run at full speed in the cloud. For the rest of us it might be somewhat of a novelty at the moment, but eventually the open source technology will be used in many of our favourite web apps.

Coincidentally, Justin wrote an interesting article on how to run DOS games on a Wii with DOSbox Run Classic DOS Games On Your Wii With DOSbox Run DOS software on your Wii, just because you can. DOSbox for Wii puts the complete DOS experience – command prompt and all – on your Wii. DOSbox isn't just for Windows, though: it works... Read More , which you might want to check out.

Let us know what you think of NaClBox as well as Google’s Native Client in the comments, below.

Explore more about: Emulation, Google Chrome, MS-DOS.

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  1. Eike H
    September 6, 2012 at 7:22 am

    This i pretty neat, Saves a lot of time working with win7 compatibility layers!

  2. Ahmed Khalil
    September 4, 2012 at 11:00 am

    i like it, it is not depending on the system (MAC OSX, PC, ...)

  3. rama moorthy
    September 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Good article .. I am going to try this..

  4. Greg Miernicki
    August 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    "While Google has not yet enabled Native Client by default in the stable release of Chrome, you can still try it out without installing the experimental builds." You need to correct your article, this is wrong. Native Client has been enabled by default on the stable channel since around v17 or v18. However, the plugin can only be used on applications and extensions that are installed via the Chrome Web Store. Other sites cannot use the plugin. "This" is where you need to enable a flag currently, to enable NaCl to run on non-webstore apps. Check about:flags if you don't believe me.

    • Tim Brookes
      September 4, 2012 at 8:40 am

      I'm fairly sure I explained this correctly...

      "Google has not yet enabled Native Client by default in the stable release of Chrome, you can still try it out without installing the experimental builds. Applications hosted in the Chrome Web Store are able to use it without any tweaking, so the easiest way to get started with the emulator is to add the NaClBox application from the store."

      And then:

      "The other way to do it is by enabling Native Client in your browser"

      It's not enabled by default, in fact it's off. I checked when I wrote the article, and it also states this in the NaClBox documentation. Sure, it's been included with Chrome for a while now, but by default it is not enabled - only Chrome Web Store apps can use it without tweaking about:flags.

      On a virgin install of Chrome it will be marked as disabled in about:flags, but if you add a Chrome Web App that uses it then it will work. If you don't want to add the NaClBox web app then you must enabled NaCl in flags.

  5. Fayz
    August 31, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Woah! The Secret of Monkey Island! Brings back memories! :D

  6. MUO Fan
    August 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Still a fan of Basilisk, the freeware classic Mac OS emulator. Haven't found a browser-based one yet, and probably won't, because Basilisk requires that you have a readily available Mac ROM to use with it. You can't emulate another system's hardware in a browser, at least not yet.

    There are some floating around the Internet and BitTorrent for use with classic Mac emulators, but as always, when downloading ANYTHING from the Internet, caveat downloader and YMMV. Worth taking a chance in a VM or Sandboxie if you don't have an old beige Macintosh lying around in your garage and can't extract the ROM file, which is probably the case for 99% of people. But I've managed to find a safe one and love to play around with Oregon Trail and Midnight Rescue. :-)

    • Tim Brookes
      August 31, 2012 at 12:06 am

      Thanks for your comment, Basilisk is a great emu and one we've featured before (as I'm sure you're aware). Seeing as you mentioned Oregon Trail I felt I had to tell you about "Organ Trail" a remake of the game that was funded through Kickstarter and runs on iOS and Android. You can find out more: [Broken Link Removed]

      It describes itself as "a teaching tool to prepare children for the impending zombie apocolypse and dysentery" in the style of Oregon Trail of course. Enjoy!

  7. Stephen Graves
    August 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Well, I'm excited. I hate having to remind my kids how to use DOSBox everytime they use a new computer.

    • Tim Brookes
      August 31, 2012 at 12:02 am

      Yep, once you've set up an account (when the project is out of beta) you will be able to upload all your games and let your kids run riot (so to speak).