How To Play Your Old DOS Games In Linux

Old stuff rock again! The Hipster community is growing, Amiga is proposing a new computer (running Linux), vintage cars are trendy, etc. To follow the stream, nothing can beat the emulation of old games. Take a break from the most recent FPS and go back to the origin. What made video games what they are today? Story, game play, graphics, soundtrack? The best way to remember is to play again. And why not start with DOS games?

DOSEMU is not an emulation software. It is more of a virtualization software. It may not be the best for video games, but it is much lighter than real emulation and is more complete in terms of DOS system. Not only the graphic and the sound, but also the network and even the printer emulation are included. Of course, there is a downside to this. As I said, it is not real emulation, in the sense that the processor is not simulated. Your physical processor is used for the instructions and that means only a IBM PC Compatible will do the trick. In other words, your PC has to be equipped with a x86 architecture for DOSEMU to work. Also DOSEMU does not run DOS directly. It creates a proper environment for it to run. By default, it comes with FreeDOS, but you can install MS-DOS if you still have your floppy disks.

To install DOSEMU in Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install dosemu

After the installation, the hidden directory “~/.dosemu/” will be created. Inside of it, you will find the folder “drive_c/” which represents C: in DOS. It contains the autoexec.bat file that you can edit and configure. This can become useful when you want to mount your game on a particular directory. By default, DOSEMU will try to launch /media/cdrom. If you prefer to use a ROM (not everyone still has a floppy disk drive), my personal method is to place its content straight in “~/.dosemu/drive_c/”.

Note: Despite the plethora of website available to download free DOS ROMs, most of them are still under copyright and you cannot use them unless you have the original copy of the game.

dos_games-dosemu_megamanx

You can then launch and setup the game normally. The only problem that I encountered is the lack of sound. DOSEMU is supposed to emulate a SoundBlaster 16, but despite all my tries, I did not succeed in getting any sound while testing Megaman X.

On the other hand, DOSBox is a real emulator, designed specially for gaming. The good thing about an emulator is that it will work on any computer. Since it is an emulator, you can change its speed to fast forward the game. It can also record sound and video from the game, and supports the mouse capture. On the downside, since it is created just for gaming, you will not have any printer emulation like for DOSEMU.

Install it with:

sudo apt-get install dosbox

You can then use it from any directory and it will be mounted as C:. For that, use the command

dosbox ./

To get a short intro and help, simply type “intro” from the command line. It will explain you how to mount a CD, the basic commands, and the necessary shortcuts.

dos_games-dosbox_launch

Before you try anything, I advise you to remember that Ctrl+F10 is the shortcut for releasing the mouse. Without it, you will have no control over the rest of your computer.

dos_games-dosbox_keys

The game worked properly this time, with the sound. The quality and the speed was the same, but it is true that an old computer can experience some lag.

DOSEMU and DOSBox are both very good software for playing old DOS game. Many prefer DOSBox for its gaming experience and the ability to use it on any computer, whereas DOSEMU is good for PCs that are too slow to run a full emulation. DOSBox also encapsulate the IPX protocol in UDP, which means that you can use it to play games over the Internet. In other words, it supports the creation and connection to DOS games servers for multiplayer gaming experience.

Which emulator do you prefer? And what games do you play in DOS? Do you have any questions? Please let us know in the comments.

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