I love putting lists like this together, knowing my tastes are likely to change over time I’m making this the 2021 edition. Actually it’s pretty funny that I’d make a list of games for an operating system that for most was only used by most to launch Windows 3.1 or 95 long ago. There are so many gems on MS-DOS that it’s hard to distill into just five but I’ll try. Before flaming me for not mentioning your favorite remember it’s subjective! We might not have played the same games. The list is in no particular order, let’s begin.
Anything from id Software
I know it’s a bit of a cop-out to list an entire company but really this list would just be first person shooters if I didn’t lump them together, and rightly so. It seemed like id could do no wrong with their polished titles including Wolfenstein 3D which had the player single-handedly take down a Nazi castle, Doom which had the player blast through Hell fighting demons and Quake which marked the transition to proper 3D FPS games. Besides the original titles the modding community around these games was insane with many mods stepping out to become their own titles including Team Fortress or Heretic/Hexen.
You’re responsible for a transport company starting from the 1930s where you’ll use steam powered vehicles to build a transport empire, moving passengers and cargo by plane, ship, bus, truck and rail). My favorite strategy is to go after the offered subsidies to increase profits and create complex rail networks. You’ll encounter competing companies which you can eventually buy out if you’re successful enough. As time progresses you’ll get new technology including monorail (the way of the future) and magnetic levitation (the actual way of the future). There are two versions of the game, a Deluxe edition with four different world types including Snow, Dessert, Toyland and another edition which features Mars.
This is one of the most hilarious games even today. Being the director of a hospital it’s your job to manage your employees who have their own personalities, provide facilities to cure patients and provide them with care (including pharmacies and specialized equipment). You get to build out the rooms of the hospital as you see fit even considering things like vending machines, bins for the patients to put their rubbish, hiring a cleaner/maintenance personnel and more.
Command and Conquer/Warcraft
It was either Command and Conquer or Warcraft which was my first experience with the RTS genre, either way I loved the simplicity involved – gather resources, build up an army and beat the opposing army (I liked to build up a strong offense which could also defend). These RTS games were hard to play on DOS with the low resolution afforded but they set their respective companies on track for some highs and lows (RIP Westwood) and one of my favorite games of all time (Command and Conquer Generals).
This gem has you buying cars from the local paper, doing them up by pulling apart various components from the engine and rebuilding it for performance. You get to do undo the bolts, tune them and work out which parts are compatible with which cars. I found the racing to be pretty boring, I enjoyed building the cars more.