These games from the 80s also run on your PC

Those who lack the computing power for current computer games can resort to classics from the 80s. The games of our selection are guaranteed to run on old PCs – and indulge in nostalgia.

The first computer games appeared about 50 years ago. Back then dismissed as a hobby for nerds, games have now become mainstream. According to the industry association game, almost 34 million people in Germany should play video games.

Current AAA titles often try to impress with photo-realistic graphics. But those who do not have the necessary hardware are left out. We present a selection of ten classic computer games from the 80s that still run on almost every computer today. Nostalgia factor included.

“Zork I: The Great Underground Empire” (1980)

In the text adventure “Zork: The Great Underground Empire”, players have to explore the ruins of an earlier civilization, find 20 artifacts – and be careful not to be eaten by the Grue. The game is without graphics and sound, instead there is a lot of text to read. To interact with the world, players must type commands on the keyboard.

MIT students programmed “Zork” in 1977 on a mainframe. It only came onto the market in 1980. It is considered the second adventure game ever and had to be divided into three parts due to its size for home computers. In a historical review, the “Happy Computer” (3/85) described all the parts of the “Zork” series released at the time as the “best adventure games that exist, although they are ancient for software market conditions and have no graphics or sound. “

Tales of the Unknown: The Bard’s Tale (1985)

  (Source: screenshot via MobyGames /

(Source: screenshot via MobyGames /

In the dungeon crawler you have to save the city of Skara Brae from the magician Mangar. Create a group of up to six adventurers, with classes such as bard, warrior or magician to choose from. With the group you will explore underground mazes, solve puzzles and fight monsters. This gives the group experience points and gold can buy new items.

“The Bard’s Tale” is considered a milestone in the development of role-playing games. If you try the original version today, you should note: The game does not create a map of the area, in 1985 players had to map themselves on a block. In the meantime, a graphically improved version with automapping is also available online.

You can find screenshots of all the games in this list in this photo show.

Ultima IV: Quest Of The Avatar (1985)

In Ultima IV: Quest Of The Avatar, the goal is to achieve Avatar status – a kind of good idol. To do this, users need to find certain items, recruit followers, and upgrade their karma using the newly introduced virtue system. For example, anyone who donates alms or blood, stays honest when trading or fights monsters gets positive points.

Also new in “Ultima IV”: Players can engage non-player characters (NPCs) in conversations and also collect virtue points with the right choice of words. After the publication in 1985, the trade press advised to buy – despite the high price of 200 deutschmarks. So summed up the “Happy Computer” (5/86): “For advanced role-players ‘Ultima IV’ is truly the ‘ultimate’ game.”

Space Quest: Chapter I – The Sarien Encounter (1986)

Roger Wilco is the caretaker on the Arcada space station – and the last survivor after an attack by the space pirates Sariener. They stole the star generator, a device that can be used to convert planets into suns. Now it is up to Wilco to retrieve the equipment from the pirates.

The graphic adventure was particularly convincing in 1986 with its humor. Wilco is controlled by keyboard, players have to type commands. Those who are familiar with the science fiction world can also enjoy references to well-known templates such as “Star Wars” or “Star Trek”. The test ratings were different. Among other things, critics criticized that users end up in dead ends due to wrong decisions and could not end the game later. Nevertheless, the first part of the “Space Quest” series sold more than 100,000 copies – a great success for 1986. Five more games followed until 1995.

Defender of the Crown (1986)

  (Source: screenshot via MobyGames / (Source: screenshot via MobyGames /

Anyone who has always wanted to live the life of a knight in medieval England can do so in “Defender of the Crown”. The story: The English king is dead and the crown stolen. The player takes on the role of an Anglo-Saxon feudal lord and must fight for dominance against the Norman knights in the south – but also against other Anglo-Saxon knights.

In “Defender of the Crown” players have to build armies, conquer castles, take part in tournaments and also fight for a virgin’s hand. The game first appeared for Amiga and was able to score on the system with its graphics. The presentation impressed contemporaries so much that the “ASM” (3/87) even awarded the “dream grade 12 for graphics”.

Maniac Mansion (1987)

“Maniac Mansion” is considered pioneering in the genre of point-and-click adventure. In the game, Dr. kidnaps Fred the friend of the protagonist Dave. Dr. Fred and his family are under the influence of the radiation from a meteorite. Dave is now going to the house of Dr. To invade Fred and save Sandy.

The player must choose between two characters at the start of “Maniac Mansion”. Each character has different abilities, which means that different puzzles can be solved during the game. Players can give orders using the action verbs at the bottom of the game. “Maniac Mansion” received good to very good reviews from the trade press: In addition to the story, testers praised the humor in particular.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987)

  (Source: screenshot via MobyGames / (Source: screenshot via MobyGames /

“Pirates!” puts players in the role of a pirate captain in the Caribbean from the 16th to 18th centuries. Initially only equipped with a small ship and a letter of caper, it is important to collect as many points as possible until the end of the game and, in the best case, to become the king’s adviser. Players should also find their missing family members.

“Pirates!” was particularly impressive in 1987 with its diversity: in one moment you control your ship from the sea with a bird’s eye view, in the next you have to fight a sword fight against the enemy captain with your character. You can also loot cities, do business, visit pubs, buy titles, search for treasures – and woo women. The game also made it possible to replay historical missions. In 2004 “Pirates!” a new edition with 3D optics.

Zac Mckraken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988)

In the humorous point-and-click adventure, players take on the role of Zak McKracken, a tabloid reporter. McKracken appear in the dream of extraterrestrials and it quickly becomes clear that they want to dumb the earth. McKracken sets out to save the world and gets help from archaeologist Annie and her friends Melissa and Leslie.

Players can control all four characters and trade items between them. To interact with the world, users must use text commands that appear at the bottom of the game. The game has generally received good ratings from the trade press. The “Happy Computer” (9/88) called it a “funny graphic adventure (…) suitable for beginners as well as experienced gamers.”

Sim City (1989)

As mayor of a city, you have to take care of the needs of your population in “Sim City”: Build buildings such as factories or houses, set streets and also pay attention to factors such as the environment or electricity and water supply. But there are also dangers: such as tornadoes or godzilla-like monsters.

The source code of the game was released in 2008. If you want to play “Sim City” today, you can download it online under the names “Micropolis” or “SimCity Classic”.

Populous (1989)

  (Source: screenshot via MobyGames / (Source: screenshot via MobyGames /

Have you always wanted to play a deity? This is possible in “Populous”, the game is considered to be one of the first god simulations. Players can use their skills to change the landscape, helping their followers to settle in a world. The goal is to defeat the followers of the enemy deity. To do this, players can either send one of their heroes to a holy war or use their abilities to fight their opponents themselves – such as creating a volcano or flooding lands.

The game contains 500 worlds and was one of the first games in multiplayer mode to be played via modem. The “Power Play” (5/89) summarized “Populous” as: “A program that will not only delight gods and demons. It is just great.”

Where can I still get such old games?

If you still have the old titles in the basement, you can try to play them on modern systems using an emulator. In addition, the “” site offers a collection of old games that are emulated in the browser. More on this read here. You can also find other sites online that emulate old software such as games. However, this is rarely legal.

Game platforms like Steam, Origin or offer a legal alternative to buying old games in digital form. in particular had focused on retro games when it was released in 2008 and is still recommended as a point of contact for retro games. The games are prepared for current systems such as Windows 10 and are usually available for less than ten euros. You can find almost all of the games in the list above on one of the platforms – either in the original in English or often in German. In some cases, users receive a (graphically) improved version of the original version as well as the successors of the respective title.


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