How to Play Classic PC Games

PCs have been around for decades, but changes in Windows versions and CPU architectures mean today’s PCs can’t easily run games made for ’80s and ’90s machines. Sure, it’s simple to install and run games now thanks to widespread and fairly universal graphics accelerators, extensive multimedia support, and automatic driver setup, but those benefits only apply to games that can take advantage of them. Back when mice and keyboards used PS2 and serial connectors, and sound cards and optical drives were considered high-end gaming hardware, you had to wrestle to get games running. Now, with hardware so advanced those games might as well be cavemen staring at UFOs, it’s even harder to get them running.

Fortunately, you have several choices for playing older PC games. Some have been remade or remastered and can simply be installed easily on your modern PC. Some require a bit of a workaround. Some require an extensive workaround. Here are your options for playing classic PC games. And if you want to play classic console games, we have a guide for that, too.

The Internet Archive remains one of the greatest collections of digital media on the internet, and that extends to software. The site catalogs and stores thousands upon thousands of classic games for DOS, early Windows, and even older computers like the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. Many of these games can be played right on the web, thanks to browser-based emulation. Best of all, everything’s free as part of the vital effort to archive software as part of our cultural and digital heritage.

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