Classic DOS and Windows Games on Linux


Jarret W. Buse

Classic DOS and Windows Games on Linux

For those of us who have been around and played computer games in the eighties and early nineties, we remember the good old DOS games. Of course, they did not have the fancy graphics like now, but those games are still the classics.

Someday you may be sitting around and thinking of the good old days playing Wolfenstein 3D, King's Quest, SimCity, Sid Meier's Civilization, Doom, Prince of Persia, Indiana Jones and many others.

Since DOS is now Abandonware, all the utilities and games can be found for free on the Internet. There are many websites available to download free DOS games:

  • many more, just search for them

So, let's look at how these can be played. First, you need to install a DOS emulator. Choose one of the following two:

  • dosemu
  • dosbox

After installing dosemu, start it and you should see something similar to Figure 1.

Figure 1.jpg


If you know DOS, you can see that you are placed at a c:\ prompt. Drive C is actually '/home/username/.dosemu/drive_c'. Any game you download should be placed into this folder.

NOTE: It is best to go ahead and extract compressed files into the folder as needed. Some games may be uncompressed and playable, while others need to be installed.

Once your game is placed into the dosemu C drive, you go to dosemu and change into the folder you just placed the game files. You can now display a directory listing, using 'dir', and start the program using the main start file. The executable files have an extension of .exe, .com or .bat.

NOTE: An example of a start file is wolf3d.exe for Wolfenstien 3D. Doom has an install.bat file to perform an install of the game.

Once the game is started, you should have options to change the keyboard keys used to perform certain tasks or to use the mouse.

Once you exit a game, you are back at the DOS prompt. To exit dosemu, type 'exitemu'.

As you can see from Figure 1, Drive D: is your home folder and Drive E: is the CD-ROM.

NOTE: Be aware that the version of DOSEmu, Freecom Version 0.84-pre2 XMS_Swap, which I am using may not work as well as a newer one. The one I am using has sound issues, but windows can be maximized to fill the whole screen.


Dosbox is similar to DOSEmu, but I found that the sound works, but unfortunately the active window cannot be maximized to the full screen.

When Dosbox is started, you should see a screen similar to Figure 2. The only change you may see is that I added a mount statement to mount Drive C as the DOSEmu Drive_C.

Figure 2.jpg


To add a mount statement, go to your home folder and go into the folder '.dosbox'. There should be a file which is the configuration file for dosbox. Open the file with a text editior and go to the very bottom of the file. Add a line similar to the following except for the username:

mount c /home/jarret/.dosemu/drive_c/

Restart dosbox and the mount should occur during startup. Switch to Drive C (C:) and you should see all of the DOSEmu games you installed earlier. They should all work the same in dosbox, except with sound.

Dosbox has one feature which does not work on dosemu. You can install and run older versions of Windows (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 3.11) as well as games which run on these versions of Windows.

These files and others can be found at

There are also games here as well as applications and other software. Other Operating Systems also can be downloaded from this website. Another site to download games for older Windows versions can be found here:

You can see in Figure 3 that Windows for Workgroups 3.11 can be run on dosbox.

Figure 3.jpg


Once you have an older version of Windows installed you can then run or install Windows games, applications or utilities.

NOTE: If a program should fail in dosbox and you cannot get control back, press CTRL+F9 to do a hard shutdown of dosbox.

To exit dosbox, type 'exit' at a command prompt.

NOTE: Some newer games, like King's Quest 7 will not work under dosbox, but are compatible on Windows systems and can be found at the Sierra website: Older versions of these games do work, such as King's Quest 1.

It may be worthwhile to note that some games in Windows require 256 colors. Windows only comes with a basic VGA driver and you need to download the SVGA drivers for Windows. The S3 SVGA drivers for dosbox are at Start Windows, go into Windows Setup in the Main Window and select Change System Settings. Here, you select Other Display and then give the location of the S3 display drivers you downloaded and placed into the folder you mount as C:.

NOTE: Even though your local Linux file system does support long file names, when in dosbox all file names are shortened to eight characters and three extension characters.

The older games can be fun and bring back a blast from the past. Happy classic gaming!


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