Normally I document these finds on my personal blog, but I thought this recent haul was worth mentioning here. This time around, the stuff I’m about to show you will give us some insight into ’90s era PC gaming, as well as a bunch of demo discs with free games on it. Because, hey, who doesn’t like free games? Unless they’re terrible or something.
So I was making my usual thrift store haunts until I stumbled upon one that had a few demo discs. Okay, that’s a lie, it had at least 50 demo discs. For 25 cents each. From the early days of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World to lesser known ones like that PCGAMES.EXE disc up there, which I could find no information on who published these. I only grabbed a few of these since I really didn’t need every demo disc, just ones that seemed appealing. Hell, for 25 cents each, I had to resist from buying all of them. Somebody must have dumped their old PC gaming collection.
The first one on the upper left is from Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 issue. It has demos of games like Freespace 2 and Midtown Madness, but what really caught my eye was that it had a trailer for Halo. Yes, that Halo. Back before it was a first-person shooter title for the Xbox, it was once going to be a third-person shooter that was supposed to be a PC and Mac game before Microsoft snatched it up for the console’s 2001 launch. The trailer on the disc is almost identical to the one featured below, the only difference being a slight changeof the intro. I thought it was an interesting piece of nostalgia, and it seemed even in 1999 the Halo theme was in full force.
The remaining three — PCGAMES.EXE’s July/August 1998 disc, PC Gamer’s July 2000 disc and CGW’s March 2001 disc — all boast having a bunch of free games on them. Each disc had a different collection of games, and some of the games overlapped. Since some of these games are either hard to find or ridiculously expensive, I think I’d made the biggest gaming haul of them all. Here’s a list of what was on each disc:
- PCGAMES.EXE: Battlecruiser: 3000AD, Betrayal at Krondor, Descent, Red Baron, Star Control II, and the first three Zork games.
- PC Gamer: Alone in the Dark, Descent, Duke Nukem II, King’s Quest, Links: The Challenge of Golf, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, The Secret of Monkey Island, Terminal Velocity, Ultima I, Ultima Underworld, and X-COM: UFO Defense.
- Computer Gaming World: Acheton, Alphaman, Alternate Reality: The City, B-17 Flying Fortress, Balance of Power, Betrayal at Krondor, Bunni-flip, Crusader: No Remorse, Elite, Elite Plus, Empire, Kampfgrup, Nethack, Mystery House, Pirates 2, Rogue, Super Dune 2, Tac Ops, X-COM: UFO Defense and Zelda Classic.
Other contents on the discs included the obligatory patches for those who were stuck with 14.4K dialup connections, a few custom levels here and there, including a bunch of Duke Nukem 3D levels and a Quake map by Levelord; and a bunch of demos, including PC Gamer advertising the demo to John Romero’s Daikatana. Thankfully it’s shown as a footnote on the cover, with pixelated Duke Nukem being the focus instead. It’s like even PC Gamer knew Daikatana was shit.
The Wolfenstein 3D disk is just a 3 1/2″ floppy of the game’s shareware version sold by some computer store and had the goofiest cover ever. This is how things looked in the 90s, man. Gradients and mediocre art everywhere for your $5 shareware disk. I bought this one just for the novelty cover, I already have a full copy of the original game thanks to Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Game of the Year Edition. But the discs are just the tip of the iceberg. What I found next was more amazing.
I found these two PC game boxes in the same thrift store for $2 each. Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White is a 5 1/4″ floppy version of the PC game complete with a signed Vanna White poster. I almost didn’t grab this because I thought it was the NES version at first, which has an identical cover. The left box is a non-descript Interplay box, but has more interesting stuff when you look inside…
The first game is The Lost Vikings
, a side-scrolling platformer released on a handful of systems. It was made by a company called Silicon & Synapse, which you know nowadays under a bigger, more popular name
. This is presumably what was in the Interplay box originally, though I’m not sure for certain. The other game is King’s Quest V
, one of the games in the long-standing King’s Quest
series by Sierra. It’s bizarre that a promo booklet and seven floppies from a competing publisher would be shoved into an Interplay box, but I’m not complaining. Oddly, it’s the Macintosh version of King’s Quest V
, which is weird to see in a sea of PC games. Maybe the guy bought that one by accident or something. Even though I lack a floppy drive to even play these on, it’s still a blast from the past. (Speaking of King’s Quest V
, a few friends of mine at Hardcore Gaming 101 recently reminisced about the game in their recent Game Club 199X podcast, which you can find here
All of these discs for a nice sum of $5.25. I honestly think I cannot top this find, not for a long while at least. I like PC gaming, but I didn’t really get into it until I was in my teens, so I missed a lot of the 90s PC gaming greats. Primarily because I was content playing GoldenEye on my friend’s Nintendo 64 at the time. One of these days I’ll give some of these games a shot and see what I missed out on. At least I have two discs that have Descent and Betrayal at Krondor on it in case one version doesn’t work. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, go check Deseret Industries on 82nd Ave. and King Road, that’s where I found all these discs, and there’s still a whole bunch of them there last I checked.
(Updated June 21, 2012: Replaced ugly cameraphone pictures with better quality ones from an actual camera. You can actually read the text now!)