For a certain generation, failing at The Oregon Trail was a rite of passage. Walk up to anyone of a particular age and mutter, "you have died of dysentery," and they'll nod in solemn understanding. The Learning Company's ubiquitous edu-tainment title might seem quaint by today's standards, but The Trail's brutal legacy lives on in other resource-focused, semi-random adventure titles, including FTL and Day Z.
Now, gamers who want to revisit classics like The Oregon Trail can do so whenever they want, thanks to archivist Jason Scott and The Internet Archive's MS-DOS Game Library, which launched earlier this week. The MS-DOS Game Library hosts almost 2,400 classic games, each of which is playable in users' web browsers.
Many of today's most popular games and franchises owe a huge debt to the MS-DOS titles of the past, and the MS-DOS Game Library acts as both museum and virtual arcade. Without Dune II, which codified the real-time strategy genre, gamers probably wouldn't have Warcraft. Wolfenstein 3D provided the base for the modern first-person shooter, in addition to last year's well-regarded spin-off. Prince of Persia and Sim City both got their start on MS-DOS PCs. The Game Library even includes Mario Teaches Typing, a third-party Super Mario spin-off that's about as fun as it sounds.
Even better, the MS-DOS Game Library is completely legal. In 2003, the Copyright Office granted the Internet Archive an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, allowing the site to host computer programs that rely on dated hardware and obsolete distribution formats. This exemption was renewed in 2006; presumably, the law hasn't changed since then.
Of course, not every title is available in the Game Library. Notably, classic LucasArts games are missing, meaning that gamers are going to have to head to Good Old Games for copies of X-Wing, or wait until Double Fine releases the Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle remasters later this year. The MS-DOS Game Library originally hosted some of the original Sierra King's Quest titles, but they've since been removed, likely in anticipation of the upcoming remake.
The library also has some technical problems. The MS-DOS emulator is still in beta, so not every game works perfectly. There's no way to save games, limiting the functionality of many titles. Still, with the MS-DOS Game Library joining the Internet Archive's Console Living Room and Internet Arcade, the site's becoming one of the best places on the Internet to revisit past classics, get a comprehensive history lesson regarding gaming's roots, or just waste a few (or hundreds of) hours.
Source: The Internet Archive