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How to play MS-Dos games on Linux with DOSBox

Back in the 1980s, enjoying a computer game meant you had to use MS-DOS. If you want to re-live that old-school experience, you can use DOSBox to play MS-Dos games on Linux.

What is DOSBox? It’s a sophisticated emulation environment that works on Mac, Linux, Windows, and other platforms. The app allows users to enjoy MS-DOS, play MS-DOS video games and even run software too! Here’s how to use it.

Install DOSBox

Before we get into how to use the DOSBox app to play classic MS-DOS games on Linux, you’ll need to install the program to your computer. Fortunately, DOSBox has been around for quite a long time on Linux, and nearly every Linux OS currently in circulation can download and use this tool through a variety of different package formats, including DEB, RPM, or via Snap package, Flatpak, the source code, and others.

To start the installation process, launch a terminal window on your Linux PC using the Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T keyboard combination. Then, look below to the command-line instructions that correspond with the Linux operating system you currently use.

Ubuntu

To get the DOSBox emulator on Ubuntu, use the Apt package manager and install the “DOSBox” package.

sudo apt install dosbox

Debian

Need the DOSBox emulator on Debian Linux? Try out the following Apt-get command. Though, keep in mind that the version of DOSBox in the Debian package repository may be out of date, compared to other operating systems.

sudo apt-get install dosbox

Want a newer version of DOSBox on your Debian Linux system? Consider skipping this installation method in favor of the Snap or Flatpak release, as they get updated with new features far quicker than the native Debian one does.

Arch Linux

The latest release of DOSBox is up on the official Arch Linux software servers. To get it working on your system, use the following Pacman package command in a terminal window.

sudo pacman -S dosbox

Fedora

Fedora Linux users that would like to use DOSBox can install it quickly, as the Fedora project carries it in their software sources. To set up the app on your Fedora system, use the DNF command below.

sudo dnf install dosbox -y

OpenSUSE

On OpenSUSE, DOSBox is installable from the OSS All software repository. Ensure it’s enabled on your system. Then, launch a terminal window and use the Zypper command to get it going.

sudo zypper install dosbox -y

Snap

DOSBox is in the Snap store, which means if you’re a fan of Snaps, you’re in luck! To start the installation, use the snap install command below.

Note: to install DOSBox from the Snap store, you must have the SnapD runtime working. For more information, check out our post on the subject.

sudo snap install dosbox-x

Flatpak

Like many programs these days, DOSBox is on Flathub as a Flatpak. To get it working, use the terminal commands below.

Note: using Flatpaks on Linux requires the Flatpak runtime. Head over to this post and learn how to get it set up before continuing.

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
sudo flatpak install flathub com.dosbox.DOSBox

Set up DOSBox

DOSBox requires a little configuration before it’s possible to play games on it. Start the configuration by launching a terminal window (Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T). Then, use the mkdir command to create a new folder for MS-DOS games.

mkdir -p ~/dos-games

With the folder made, feel free to close the terminal window. Then, head over to the DOSGames website and grab yourself a game to play (or 2). Don’t worry! They’re free and legal to download! Many of the games on the website are in the public domain, due to copy-write expiration!

Playing a game with DOSBox

After you’ve set up the ~/dos-games folder on your Linux PC and finished downloading an MS-DOS game from DOSGames.com, it’s time to start up the game. To do this, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Step 1: Launch the Linux file manager and unzip the downloaded DOS game from the ZIP archive.

Step 2: Place the unzipped DOS game files into /home/username/dos-games/.

Step 3: Open up the DOSBox application on your Linux desktop. Or, start it from the terminal with the dosbox command.

Step 4: In DOSBox, run the MOUNT command to access the ~/dos-games folder.

MOUNT c ~/dos-games

Step 5: Use the CD command to change DOS to the C:/ drive which holds all of your MS-DOS video game files.

C:

Step 6: Run the dir command to view the contents of the ~/dos-games directory. Then use CD to move DOS into the video game sub-folder.

dir
cd ms-dos-game-folder

Step 7: Run dir once again to view the contents of the directory. Then, run SETUP.EXE, or whatever file you need to execute to play the game you’ve downloaded!

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