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What’s the Best Retro Laptop For Playing Early MS-DOS Games?

Rachel Pick
New York, US

Dedicated YouTuber The 8-Bit Guy is back, this time with a video taking us on a tour of laptop history, and showing us how to pick the best one for playing old MS-DOS games.

The 8-Bit Guy, real name David, is a retro hardware and vintage gaming expert—but he realizes how difficult it is to get old technology to work with retro gaming systems nowadays. So if you want to get into retro gaming, David says the best way to do it is through old MS-DOS systems.

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"It's still easy and cheap to find modern peripherals that will connect to these things," David says.

David breaks the 15-year reign of MS-DOS into three different gaming eras; the kind of laptop you want to find depends on what era the games you want to play came from. He advocates for laptops over PCs to save yourself the space—since old PCs can be enormous.

A lot of the time, using this old hardware means you have to make some sacrifices. For example, the Compaq 386/486 series comes close to being the ideal choice, except it lacks a sound card. So you would have to look at the games you have and figure out whether a sound card is truly integral to the gaming experience.

The holy grail for MS-DOS games, David says, is an early Pentium machine. It can handle games from all three time periods and includes an internal sound card.

Even if you're not a hardcore collector of vintage technology, it's fun to look at the blocky, modular laptops of the 80s and 90s, and admire how well David still gets them to work.