Please note: You will likely need a DOS simulator in order to run some Abandonware. Please see the note below about downloading abandonware software. Purchase links for games are provided where possible.
As you can read on my About page, I have been gaming since a pretty young age. I never was big into consoles, despite that I owned a Nintendo, a Sega Genesis and a Nintendo DS. I’ve been toying with the idea of buying an XBox or a PS, but have yet to bite the bullet in that respect. So, as expected, 99% of my gaming experience as an adult has been exclusive to the PC and/or Mac computers.
Life and Death (1988)
One of the first games I remember playing was this amazing gem called Life and Death. I was probably around the age of 5 or 6 when I first played it on my Tandy dinosaur of a computer. It was 1988 and I sat down at the computer to play this game when my dad brought it home, and I remember being instantly excited about the idea of performing surgery on patients. I was never very good at it and never progressed passed the appendectomy, but man I had fun trying. And I didn’t do bad for a five year old, if I do say so myself. Download it at MyAbandonWare – remember, you download Abandonware at your own risk!
I think this game ultimately was what began my fascination with pretty much every medical game I could get my hands on – Legacy Interactive’s line of Emergency Room and Vet Emergency games were games I could play for hours on end.
Leisure Suit Larry and the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987)
Another game I played at an extremely inappropriately young age was Leisure Suit Larry and the Land of the Lounge Lizards. You know – that one where you had to answer 3 or 4 “adult questions” in order to be able to even load up the game? That one. My brother and I eventually got so good at guessing the answers to the questions that we didn’t even have to ask my older brother for help anymore. We felt so accomplished. It was originally released in 1987 by Sierra Online – creators of some of my favorite abandonware. You can still download the original game (at your own risk), but if you want an entirely new experience, I’d recommend springing for the revamp of the classic game, which you can download on Steam.
Police Quest 3: The Kindred (1991)
Moving right along, Police Quest 3: The Kindred easily makes the list for one of the games I’ve played most often in my life. Hell, I played it most recently in 2011! It just never gets old. You play as Detective Sonny Bonds whose wife, very early on in the game, is attacked in a parking lot and ends up in a coma. The game is spent investigating her case and dealing with a drug cartel, a Satanic cult, a corrupted partner, and a variety of other mysteries. It is classic mystery and detective gaming at its best for the time period, in my opinion. Buy the game on Good Old Games.
Now we get into where my heart really lies – the scary stuff.
Anyone who knows me knows that my gaming, tv watching, movie watching, book reading, and pretty much any other genre-based entertainment I can get revolves around Horror. I love to be scared, I love adrenaline and I love to never know what’s going to be around the next corner. I’m one of those people that is dying to spend the night in the Villisca Axe Murder House or spend every possible weekend doing the Great Horror Campout (come to the east coast already!).
This only naturally means that I loved horror games growing up too.
Roberta Williams’s Phantasmagoria (1995)
First, we’ll talk about Roberta Williams’s Phantasmagoria, a game with an extremely rich story line and one of the first games I remember with actual video cutscenes. Released originally in 1995, you play as Adrienne Delaney, an author who recently moved to the classic “abandoned house on the hill” setting with her husband, Don. Throughout the game, you begin to note a variety of strange and spooky occurrences as you wander the house, such as visions, flashbacks, and the discovery of the previous mansion’s owner, illusionist Zoltan Carnovasch, who naturally had many, many secrets (and wives). The house is loads of fun to explore with lots of stuff to see at differing times of the day and night. For example, the room you saw earlier in the game day, may have completely different mysteries to reveal in the game’s night. Ultimately, your objective is to uncover all the secrets the house and its previous owner hold, and survive the repercussions of that knowledge. Remember that if you buy it on Good Old Games!
The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery (1993)
And finally, let’s talk about The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery. This is another game I played for hours as a child, exploring everything I possibly could. The world is beautiful and detailed and actually contains quite a bit of Bavarian historical reference as well. You play both as Gabriel Knight, a mystery book writer, and Grace Nakamura, his assistant. The game begins when Gabriel inherits a castle in Germany and is enlisted to assist in solving the mysterious death of a child, a tragedy that the local villagers believe was caused by a werewolf. As you might guess, a great deal of werewolf lore is present in the game, which only adds to the fascination as it is weaved in and out of the life and times of real locations and people such as King Ludwig II and his famous castle Neuschwanstein as well as the great German composer Richard Wagner. Your objective is ultimately to solve the mystery of Ludwig’s death, discover Wagner’s lost opera, and stay alive while doing so (naturally). I have no doubt you will find yourself engrossed in the enthralling story (with just a touch of reality) should you choose to buy it on Good Old Games. You may also be pleased to hear that a revamped 20th anniversary release of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is planned for October 2014 on Steam! You can bet I’ll be buying that the second it drops.
I could go on about my favorite Abandonware for hours, so I think I’ll wrap it up here for now. Perhaps a part two will be in the future? We shall see. For now, definitely check out the above if you like, and let me know where your favorite abandoned games are in the comments!
Important: The term “abandonware” refers to software for which support has been discontinued or copyright has not been actively enforced. This does *not* mean that the software is public domain or necessarily legal to download in all cases. If you DO choose to download Life and Death or Leisure Suit Larry above, while copyright may not be actively enforced, remember that you do so at your own risk! You are always encouraged to obtain copies of retro and abandoned games by purchasing when possible.