Do you remember the original SimCity games? How about Golden Axe, The Oregon Trail, or Wolfenstein? Debuting in 1981, MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) saw thousands of games released across every genre. If you miss the games in the DOS era, you’ll learn here how to install DOSBox on Raspberry Pi to enjoy all of those classic DOS games.
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have transformed your Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming rig.
Once your MS-DOS emulator is up and running, you’ll need some games, so you’ll learn how to access thousands of free MS-DOS games, including classics such as Lemmings, Street Fighter, and the 90s Aladdin and Lion King games.
What you’ll need
To complete this tutorial, you’ll need:
- Raspberry Pi that’s running Raspberry Pi OS
- Power cable that’s compatible with your Raspberry Pi
- External keyboard and a way to attach it to your Raspberry Pi
- HDMI or micro HDMI cable, depending on model of Raspberry Pi
- External monitor
- Gaming controller, preferably
Once you’ve assembled your tools, you’re ready to build your gaming rig.
Update your Pi
If you haven’t already, attach your external keyboard, monitor, controller and any other peripherals to your Raspberry Pi, and then attach your Pi to a power source.
Before you build your rig, check that your Raspberry Pi is fully up to date. Open a terminal and type the following command:
sudo apt update && sudo apt -y upgrade
DOSBox: installing MS-DOS emulator
DOSBox is an emulator that mimics a computer running the DOS operating system, which makes it possible to run DOS games on your Raspberry Pi.
DOSBox is popular with retro-gaming enthusiasts and video game publishers alike, with a number of big names using DOSBox to re-release classic titles, such as Bethesda Softworks, who used DOSBox to re-release some of its Elder Scrolls games.
To install DOSBox, run the following command on your Raspberry Pi:
sudo apt install dosbox
And that’s it! DOSBox is now installed on your Pi.
Before you can enjoy any DOS games on the Raspberry Pi, you need to configure your DOSBox setup.
To start, create a directory where all of your DOS games will be stored. A directory named “dos-games” was created fr this tutorial in the Raspberry Pi’s home directory.
To create a directory, run the following command:
DOSBox’s configuration file isn’t created until DOSBox runs for the first time, so do this now. In the Terminal, simply type the following:
Don’t forget to press the Enter key on your keyboard.
Playing DOSBox games with a controller
Now that DOSBox is up and running, the next step is configuring your gaming controller. If you haven’t already, attach the controller that you want to use.
Next, press the Ctrl + F1 keys on your keyboard, and the keymapper window should appear onscreen.
Note that if the keymapper doesn’t launch, then DOSBox may not be running. You should be able to solve this problem by entering
dosbox into the Terminal, pressing Enter and then repeating the keyboard shortcut.
Depending on your model of gaming controller, DOSBox may detect and map your controller automatically. If DOSBox doesn’t recognize your controller, you’ll need to configure it manually by following the onscreen instructions.
Once you’ve set up your controller, DOSBox is ready to go. You just need to decide which game you want to play.
Finding free DOS games: SimCity, Golden Axe, Street Fighter
There’s a few places where you can download DOSBox games. Abandonia has thousands of free DOS games for you to choose from.
Abandonia is an abandonware website that specializes in software and games that are unsupported by the original owner, publisher, developer or manufacturer and aren’t currently available on the retail market. Unsurprisingly, lots of DOS games meet this criteria!
To download one or more games for your DOSBox rig, open your Raspberry Pi’s web browser and spend some time browsing Abandonia’s selection of free DOS games.
When you find a game that you want to try, simply click “Get it” to download that game as a zip file. The free Apollo 18 game is included in all of this tutorial’s screenshots.
Create a directory of DOS games
Once you’ve downloaded one or more games, you’ll need to extract the compressed files into the “dos-games” directory you created in the previous step.
Once done, your DOS games are now ready to play!
Enjoy your DOSBox gaming rig
To play a game, open the unzipped game file and look for the game’s executable .exe file. The exact file will vary between games. for example, the Apollo 18 game this file was “apollo.exe.”
Right-click the “.exe” file and select “Open With … “
In the subsequent window, select “Games -> DOSBox Emulator.”
This game will now launch in DOSBox, ready for you to enjoy.
After installing the DOSBox on Raspberry Pi, you should now have a gaming rig that’s capable of playing all of the classic DOS games.
If you are more into retro gaming, you can also turn your Raspberry Pi into a Retro Gaming Console or a simple Minecraft server on Raspberry Pi. What are your favorite DOS games?
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