Being able to emulate old DOS games is amazing, but even more so if it’s on the go. There are a few Android DOSBox versions that will play all your favorite retro games just the way you remember them. You can use onscreen controls, or connect a keyboard + mouse, which is the preferred way of playing if you’re at home.
To help you get started, here are the 15 best DOS games to play on Android. Some are old-school shooter games that control surprisingly well on a phone, others are platformers that seem like they were made for this type of handheld gaming. So without further ado, let’s get the list started-
It’s an evolution of the Doom formula, with real-time 3D rendering and hardware acceleration support via OpenGL. The Quake engine was designed from the ground up to facilitate an entirely new generation of FPS games. Quake had a unique aesthetic, inspired by medieval and gothic culture, with a darker tone compared to Doom which felt like an action game.
While Doom initially had just local co-op and deathmatch, Quake featured online multiplayer from the start. It revolutionized competitive shooters in the same way that Starcraft 1 revolutionized the competitive RTS scene. Some of the world’s first “pro” gamers on PC were in fact, Quake players.
It’s a medieval wizard fantasy version of Doom, with a slightly more developed plot and new gameplay features. You can look up and down, which lets you scan the environment much better for traps and enemies. Speaking of the environment, some parts of it are interactable, unlike Doom where the environment is a static mesh.
In Heretic, you’ve also got an inventory system to manage all your potions and power-ups. If you get the morph-ovum, it can be used on nearby enemies to transform them into harmless critters. There are weapons modifiers like the Tome of Power which adds a secondary firing mode to your weapon, one that’s often more powerful while also adding a new visual effect.
John Romero created Dangerous Dave in 1988 as a practical example to accompany his article about GraBASIC (an Applesoft BASIC addon) in the UpTime disc magazine. Yes, disc magazines were a thing back then and they were awesome. More to the point, this game has no right to be as good as it is, considering that’s a glorified tech demo.
For Dangerous Dave, Romero took heavy inspiration from Mario. You have a simple 2D side-scroller, going from left to right, and your main character can jump. There are gold cups to collect, monsters to defeat, and secret rooms to find.
Albion is a late-stage DOS game that arrived in North America in 1996, after its initial German release just one year prior. What makes it unique is the sci-fi setting that incorporates elements of magical fantasy. Originally intended for the Amiga, it had to be reworked for MS-DOS because Commodore went bankrupt.
For a simplistic DOS game with a relatively low budget, Albion’s story and world are quite richly detailed with several interesting characters and memorable locations. It’s a party-based RPG, and you have a total of 6 members per party, each with unique abilities. Gameplay centers around exploration, dialogue, trading, and puzzle-solving.
Possibly one of the most fun games you can play on your Android phone, Commander Keen is a side-scrolling action platformer. Its titular character is the alter ego of Billy Blaze, an 8-year-old genius who travels through space to fight evil and solve mysteries. There are 6 episodes, separated into 4 games.
Gameplay involves jumping across platforms and using your pogo stick in strategic locations to jump even higher with proper timing. You aren’t defenseless, like the protagonists of some other platformers. Commander Keen is armed with a raygun, which comes in handy if your pogo jump doesn’t work on an enemy.
X-COM: UFO Defense
A turn-based tactics game with some real-time management elements mixed in. UFO Defense puts you in charge of a secret global paramilitary org called X-COM, its task is to defend planet Earth from an alien invasion. You build teams of operatives to carry out missions around the world.
In addition to the turn-based tactics, this also plays like a 4X grand strategy game. You monitor X-COM bases using a global map, request new technologies be researched, allocate additional fighter jets and military units to hot zones, etc. All the while, you’re also recruiting new personnel and reverse-engineering alien tech (or selling it on the black market).
The Secret Of Monkey Island
Lucasfilm employee Ron Gilbert came up with the idea for Monkey Island in 1988 after he was frustrated with the difficulty of contemporary adventure games. He wanted a game that was primarily about exploration and worldbuilding, solving puzzles, engaging in conversations, etc. So he took the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride as inspiration and collaborated with Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman to create this game in the SCUMM engine.
Fun fact, all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are also based on the same Disney Land ride. It’s the last theme park ride that was built under Walt’s personal supervision. In Secret of Money Island, you move with your mouse and interact with objects by choosing one out of 12 commands (talk, pick up, etc.).
The second Elder Scrolls game, and it’s considered by some to be the best in the series from a pure roleplaying perspective because of how closely it mirrors a pen & paper experience. Daggerfall was one of the earliest games to use random generation, which is why its game world is almost as big as Great Britain in real life. There are 15,000 cities and towns for you to visit within the game, and each one of them contains unique NPCs, quests, items, etc.
Prince of Persia
Based on folk tales from the Arabian Nights, Prince of Persia is an action platformer in which you play a nameless hero trying to rescue the princess. She has been kidnapped by Jaffar, the evil Grand Vizier who took advantage of the Sultan being busy with a war in foreign lands. As the “Prince”, you’re armed with a sword and excellent parkour skills.
You can run, jump, and crawl along ledges. Prince of Persia has the smoothest and most lifelike animations of any platformer from the 1990s because it uses rotoscoping. Jordan Mechner recorded footage of his own brother doing stunts in white garments and digitized the output for his game.
Sid Meier’s Civilization
If you’re a fan of strategy, you might’ve heard of Sid Meier’s Civilization. Well, here’s where it all began- in 1991. Civilization is a 4X turn-based strategy game, and it is both deeply complex and incredibly entertaining at the same time. You are the chief leader of a fledgling civilization, supervising and guiding their growth across millennia through various ages of progress.
By exploring new areas, building alliances with other nations, and securing valuable resources you can improve the strength and status of your civilization. As a leader, you’re also supposed to handle technological advancements, military, science, infrastructure, and education.
Its predecessor, SimCity Classic, showcased everything from a top-down perspective. While good for immediately identifying buildings and locations, it doesn’t provide enough information on the work happening at any given time. To fix this, SimCity 2000 switched to an isometric camera.
Gameplay, music, and controls were also improved to provide players with a more tactile and engaging experience. Some new facilities were added, like schools, prisons, museums, hospitals, etc. You can build highways, bus depots, and nine different types of power stations, and allocate land for airports.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
A prequel to the original, it’s set in an era when the Allies were battling the Soviets for control over Europe. Unlike Total Annihilation or Warcraft, opposite factions don’t have units that look different but ultimately do the same thing with slightly tweaked stats. This means you have to produce units that play to your strengths instead of just relying on overpowering the enemy with numbers.
Master of Magic
A game that combines random generation, roleplaying, high fantasy, and 4X grand strategy. It’s almost overwhelming at first. But once you get a feel for how exploration and resource gathering work, you’ll be laying down new cities with your settlers in no time.
Each time you start, you’re given a new randomly generated world to play with and you can adjust various aspects like size, difficulty, magic, etc. You can customize the appearance and skills of your wizard, and choose from one of 14 races to populate your starting city.
Star Wars: Dark Forces
In Dark Forces, you play Kyle Katarn- a mercenary who works for the Rebels. At the start, you’re tasked with finding the plans for a new Death Star being built by the Empire. Eventually, you find a weakness in the design and exploit this to destroy the giant space station.
For your next mission, you’re hired by the Alliance to investigate a new type of trooper that’s been attacking their space station. These new Imperial soldiers are part of the Dark Trooper project and have significantly improved capabilities compared to regular Stormtroopers.
In the final mission, you infiltrate the ship at the core of the Dark Trooper project and destroy it. For this, you’re awarded the Star of Alderaan.
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Warcraft is one of the OG real-time strategy games, along with Starcraft. What sets Warcraft’s gameplay apart (as compared to Starcraft) is its lowered scale, focusing on skill-based tactical management of relatively few units. You can play as humans or orcs.
I hope this list gives you an idea of what game types work well on Android devices. Ideally, it should be compatible with the mobile versions of DOSBox. So full controller/ keyboard and mouse support, along with zero audio or gameplay glitches.
Most games will be compatible, but they won’t play well on the small screen. Or they won’t adapt to the widescreen format, so you’ll have to mess around in settings. Platformers and adventure games are ideal for gaming on the go, i.e. games like Dangerous Dave and Commander Keen.
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