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9 Generation-Defining PC Games That You Can (And Should) Play For Free In Your Browser

Back in the late 90s my tweenage self threw away his future playing MS-DOS games on the PC, losing hours in the classic titles that made me the uber-nerd I am today. Even the shareware version of Doom alone would have likely ruined me for life, but that era was full of really great games that kickstarted franchises still alive on next-gen consoles today. I regret nothing.

Technology moved on and these classic games fell by the wayside, unsupported by newer operating systems. That is, until things came full circle. On modern hardware, these games are now so lightweight that they can run in a web browser. They may look dated, but the gameplay is still rock-solid, which makes them perfect for low-end notebooks and work laptops that might not be able to run the latest memory-guzzling titles.

Whether you’re a veteran looking to have another go on and old favorite, a n00b looking to try out some gaming history, or just a cheapskate looking for hours of free gameplay, here’s my rundown of the best classic games available on your web browser. No smut this time, just solid games.

Doom

God, I hate these guys [id Software]
  • Developer: id Software
  • Publisher: GT Interactive
  • Genre: FPS
  • Release: 1993
  • Play here: Xgenstudios

The first-person gorefest that defined a genre, Doom spawned many imitators but never lost its legendary status as the iconic FPS. 2016’s reboot proved id Software is still at the top of their game, but the original still holds up. Games geek and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker once remarked that he actually rarely played modern games, preferring instead to kill time re-playing the original Doom. Check it out and find out why.

Dungeon Keeper

Slap ’em ’til they learn [Electronic Arts]
  • Developer: Bullfrog Productions
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Genre: God sim
  • Release: 1997
  • Play here: archive.org

Veteran game designer Peter Molyneux may have sullied his reputation in recent years, but back in the day he earned it by knocking out stone-cold classics, one after another. Dungeon Keeper is one of my favorites. In a reversal of the typical roles, you play an evil overlord who bullies a host of monsters into building a dungeon and defending against invasions from pesky do-gooders.

WarCraft II: Tides Of Darkness

Zug-zug! [Blizzard Entertainment]
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Release: 1995
  • Play here: playdosgamesonline

I actually started my love affair with Azeroth right at the beginning, with the original WarCraft: Orcs and Humans, but to be honest the first game felt clunky even at the time and my modern fingers can barely manage it now. WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness, on the other hand, is where the franchise really found its footing.

The colorful characters and unit quips are burned into my mind to this day. Start with this one and if you and really can’t get enough free WarCraft RTS, then check out the original on the same site, and see where it all began.

The intro to WarCraft II still gets my blood pumping for battle:

Tomb Raider

Step aside, Indy [Eidos Interactive]
  • Developer: Core Design
  • Publisher: Eidos Interactive
  • Genre: Action
  • Release: 1996
  • Play here: playdosgamesonline

The rather angular-looking first incarnation of Lara Croft may seem an unlikely sex symbol, but in the late 90s this posh gun-toting archaeologist was the video game world’s breakout star, as millions of fans embraced her either as an object of lust, girl-power icon, or both. But beauty is only skin deep, and Tomb Raider wouldn’t have succeeded if it wasn’t also a great game.

Combat is few and far between in Lara’s first adventure, where she mainly defends herself from animals. The meat of the game is platforming and puzzle solving in ancient ruins. That, and torturing your poor invincible butler in your starting mansion.

Command And Conquer: Red Alert

For Mother Russia! [Virgin Interactive]
  • Developer: Westwood Studios
  • Publisher: Virgin Interactive
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Release: 1996
  • Play here: playdosgamesonline

Command and Conquer: Red Alert is the game that kicked off one of the craziest RTS narratives in video games, in which Albert Einstein goes back in time to kill Hitler. Things spiral out of control from there and end in a new world war between the western allies and the Soviet Union. Although known for its hammy FMV cutscenes, Red Alert‘s gameplay was really deep for its time with distinct factions and the ability to queue orders and complete missions in multiple ways. Note: this one can take a LONG time to load.

Descent

Whoah, I feel dizzy [Interplay]
  • Developer: Parallax Software
  • Publisher: Interplay
  • Genre: 3D Shooter
  • Release: 1995
  • Play here: playdosgamesonline

Space shooter Descent was revolutionary for the time because it featured a fully 3D environment with 360 degree motion. Many early players found the game so disorienting that they suffered from nausea. This freedom of motion plus large, complex sprawling levels make the game difficult to navigate, but very satisfying once you master its controls and outmaneuver your enemies. Descent spawned a small scene of challenge gamers, who competed in speedruns and trick runs, such as completing the game flying upside down the whole time.

Darklands

Sneaking in full plate, oh yeah [MicroProse]
  • Developer: MPS Labs
  • Publisher: MicroProse
  • Genre: RPG
  • Release: 1992
  • Play here: playdosgamesonline

Darklands might not boast the same fame as some of the others on this list but it holds a special place in my heart. Set in an alternate version of medieval Europe with some fantasy elements thrown in, Darklands is a truly deep, complex open world RPG with a huge amount of freedom. You create a party of adventurers and fine-tune their stats, from their age to preferred weapons and armor types. You can then wander the world adventuring as you wish, while occasionally getting hints of the dark fantasy storyline hidden in clues throughout the game world. To this day, I’ve never completed Darklands, despite returning to it every now and then. It’s just so damn big. Bethesda, play Darklands again and take notes.

Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders

Eat green lightning, imp scum! [id Software]
  • Developer: Raven Software
  • Publisher: id Software
  • Genre: FPS
  • Release: 1994
  • Play here: Xgenstudios

Heretic is basically a reworking of Doom in a dark fantasy world, but with some more sophisticated gameplay elements. As the last of your kind in a world overrun by monsters, our hero Corvus takes on the big baddie with an array of magic weaponry and special items, which can unleash powerful secondary abilities to turn your enemies into harmless animals, or summon allies. If the rather basic shoot ’em up formula is a little to repetitive for you, or you feel like continuing your shooting rampage in a different environment, give Heretic a spin.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

This ain’t Monkey Island. [Sierra]
  • Developer: Sierra
  • Publisher: Sierra
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Release: 1993
  • Play here: Playdosgamesonline

Adventure, atmosphere, horror, inventory management, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers has it all. Developer Sierra made their name with point-and-click adventure games, and Gabriel Knight was one of their most original and involving stories. you play the titular character, a fledgeling writer troubled by freaky dreams who investigates a series of murders to gain inspiration for his novel. He soon finds out that there’s more to the murders and his own strange visions than meets the eye. Gabriel Knight‘s story is genuinely intriguing and creepy without resorting to cheap scares. If you like your adventure with a dark edge, this comes highly recommended.

Oldies But Goodies

To this day I’m amazed at how firing up one of these classics can distract me from getting on with the shinier, newer titles in my Steam library. And of course, they’re a godsend when I’m traveling far from my gaming rig with only a little notebook for entertainment. Maybe one of these days I’ll even get to the end of Darklands.

This article originally appeared on video games magazine site NowLoading.co. The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a few articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.

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