Running old games on a modern computer - list of methods

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In this post, I decided to collect all the methods I know for launching old games on a modern computer. This is not a step-by-step instruction, but a list of ways, utilities and links to understand where to dig and what to do. For each specific method, detailed documentation already exists written by other people, so my goal is simply to bring all this stuff together.

Games of the genre Quest (Quests)

If you like old quests from Sierra , LucasArts and not only, I recommend that you first go and see if there is a game you need in the list of supported ScummVM or ResidualVM .

If there is a mark “ Good ” or “ Excellent ”, then download it without problems, but keep in mind that pirated Russification of the game is not always supported (for fans of licensed purity I will explain that there are no official localizations for many old games, and pirated ones were sometimes at their best).

These programs are a kind of alternative interpreters for game quest engines.

ScummVM originally tailored for quests from LucasArts, but later support for other quests, such as The Neverhood , Toonstruck, and many others, was added to it . ResidualVM was originally written to run Grim Fandango.

The implementation of both ports is for different OSs, including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android and others. The source code is open.

ScummVM website .
Website ResidualVM .

Games for MS-DOS

Source ports

First of all, for the game you have chosen, I recommend looking for source-port . These include two types of projects:

  1. The author of the game opened the source code of the game, and fans ported it to other OSs, often improving it along the way, for example, adding support for high resolutions, polygonal models, more convenient controls, etc. An example is Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, etc.
  2. Game programmers-fans independently sorted the executable file and game resources, having recreated the game engine from scratch, no one gave them anything. Such products cannot be formally called a source port, as in fact, “source” (source code) of the original does not appear in them. But in practice they are still called so, because it’s easier. Example: OpenXcom .

Where to look for them? I would recommend two ways.

  1. Games Revival website - periodically updated by the community, it collects information about 300+ ports for almost 150 games.
  2. In any search engine, type “[game name] source port” and hope for a positive outcome.


The most universal option is a DOS emulator called DosBox . It is better than just a virtual machine, because it usually works faster and is geared specifically for emulating games. But I do not recommend taking the official version 0.74 - it was updated last time in 2010.

Better use DOSBox SVN Daum - the latest build with the latest patches. It works more stable, noticeably faster (if you want to launch shooters from 1995 and older - you will feel a huge difference), it is better with compatibility, it has the ability to control emulation through menus, it supports emulation of the Voodoo 3D accelerator (Glide API emulation), network card emulation, MIDI synthesizer Roland MT-32 ... In short, this version is the right choice.

Instructions for setting up DosBox.

Games for Windows 3.1

If the game is 16-bit, it will not start under the 64-bit version of the OS. But you can run Windows 3.1 in DosBox ! There are also ready-made assemblies of this stuff, for example, from the old-games team . Surely there are others, but I have not met.

Games for Windows 95 and higher

Here I believe that you have Windows 7 or later installed on your computer . If you are the proud owner of Mac OS X or Linux , then the following tips are unlikely to help you. But still I recommend to see if you can.

Only Glide Supported (Voodoo)

The biggest problem situation is to meet a game that only runs on the Voodoo / Voodoo 2 graphics card , or only shows a normal picture with them. There are two options:

  1. Use Glide-wrapper - translator of Glide instructions for a video card in OpenGL / Direct3D . Support is far from 100% of games, it can affect performance. Nevertheless, far from the worst option. Instructions for emulators Glide.
  2. Buy Voodoo / Voodoo 2 ! Today it is quite possible to buy these cards, and not only at auctions - they can be found in specialized stores at a price of 300-500 rubles . To do this, of course, you need a computer with a PCI slot (or even two if you want to use two Voodoo 2 in SLI mode), but it's worth it. There are fan drivers for Windows XP that are suitable for Windows 7 (maybe 8, I haven’t tested it). Website with drivers.

No need to use Glide (Voodoo)

There is hope that the game will just start, which happens quite often. If not ...

Source ports

See above.

Patches from fans

The most remarkable situation is that one of the fans was able to make a patch for the game with closed sources. The first thing I recommend is to search on the site , then - your favorite search engine.

Compatibility Mode

Right click on the shortcut to the program -> properties -> “ compatibility ” tab . Next, select the old OS and / or try to play with the checkboxes like “disable desktop composition”. Many ignore this opportunity, but in fact a number of games can be launched in this way. The same Drakan: Order of the Flame in compatibility mode under Windows 7 works more stable for me than under Windows XP.


A utility that solves many problems by replacing DirectX-calls with your own. Can help toys written under Direct X version 1 through 7. It can work as a slow-motion mode, solves the problem with games working in 256-color mode (for example, StarCraft or Diablo 2), allows you to run in the window games that work only in full screen mode, etc. But it can also be nice to squander performance, so it's worth experimenting with the settings. There are open source.

Original version.
The version with patches from old-games - for some games it may work better, for some worse, so try both versions.

Patches to support widescreen modes

A number of old games work on modern PCs without problems, but do not support screen modes with proportions other than 4: 3 - or simply do not allow them to be set, or distort the proportions of the picture in these modes (for example, characters turn into plump dwarfs). As a rule, this problem can be solved by digging into the executable file of the game, even without the source code. I recommend the Widescreen Gaming Forum website here , it never let me down when I looked for such patches.

Virtual machines

The most universal and at the same time problematic (IMHO!) Way is to use a full-fledged virtual machine, for example, Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 . We install the virtual machine, on the virtual hard disk we install the necessary OS ... theoretical idyll. Main problems:
  1. Serious performance loss.
  2. Lack of normal 3D acceleration when installing OS below Windows XP

You can also recall that in Windows 7 and above (but not in all editions) there is already a built-in “virtual Windows XP” mode, in fact - the same Virtual PC with the image already installed. But usually problems arise with games that do not start normally in XP, and emulation of Windows 95 or 98 is required. Therefore, I gave the link to the 2004 edition above - later versions from version to version deteriorate support for older OSs. But as an extreme option for a certain number of games, he will go.

Windows XP

If you are a happy owner of this OS, then, firstly, you will not get problems with old games using 256-mode, and a number of old games under Windows will start without problems.

And secondly, you can directly run DOS games (if you have a 32-bit version of the OS). In this case, I recommend installing the VDMSound Project utility . It improves sound card emulation and is generally an extremely useful alternative for DosBox. But for later OS is not suitable.

Console games and games from IBM-PC-INCOMPATIBLE computers

Everything is usually simple and pleasant here: download the emulator, the image of the cartridge / diskette with the game, launch the first and load the second into it. Sometimes you also have to download the BIOS (bypassing copyright restrictions by developers) and plugins (when the emulator is the core, and for video / audio / IO subsystems the code is written separately).

Most consoles up to 4th generation inclusive (up to Sega Mega Drive inclusive) And early 8/16 bit PCs are emulated almost perfectly. So if you are a fan of Famicom , Atari 2600 or ZX Spectrum - everything will go just fine.

5th generation consoles (e.g. Sony PlayStation or Nintendo 64) are emulated as a rule well, but not without exceptions.

Emulation of consoles 6 and subsequent generations is more an exception than a rule ( Sony PlayStation 2 , for example, emulates more or less decently, only a computer needs a powerful one; Xbox - almost nothing ).

Most emulators and plugins can be found here .
Separately, it is worth noting the all-in-one emulator RetroArch , which contains a bunch of emulators under one shell. True, for my taste, it is more complicated to configure than other highly specialized emulators. But at the moment it is the fastest and most compatible PS1 emulator for Android.

Found a mistake in the tips or instructions? Do you know any other way? Write in a personal or in a comment, the post will be supplemented.

PS Dear UFO! If you find any of the links advertising (although I didn’t set such goals) - just delete it, regret the post.

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