The Internet Archive put nearly 2400 MS-DOS games online, and they're playable in nearly any browser. Prepare to travel back in time to when you were just a kid with a clunky computer, and kiss your free time goodbye.
Within moments of firing up this classic, my boyfriend died, my cat came down with dysentery, I tried to ford a river and failed, and then I lost 780 pounds of food in a wagon fire. (Good thing I'm an excellent hunter.) Life on the trail has not gotten easier since elementary school.
As a kid, I'd go over to my friend Melissa's house and we'd play this brain-centric sequel to Life & Death (which focused on the abdominal region and, for some reason, isn't available to play). In the game, we were studying to be brain surgeons—going to class, examining patients and performing tests to diagnose them (where I learned a very valuable lesson: Never send someone with a pacemaker to get an MRI), and then, if the diagnoses warranted it, cracking open their skulls in the operating room. Only one of us went on to study neuroscience (it wasn't me!), and if the game I played tonight is any indication, I was much better at being a surgeon when I was a kid: I left the spinal tap open too long and, according to my instructor, the patient "expired when all of the cerebrospinal fluid leaked out." Oops!
This first-person shooter is another game I played as a kid (this time at my buddy Alana's house) that I'm not nearly as good at now. Even on level "Can I Play, Daddy?" Allied spy B.J. Blazkowicz, who in the game is captured by Nazis but manages to escape, was dead in under a minute (so quickly that I couldn't even get a good screenshot!). It's going to take a lot of practice to get to the final level and face Hitler in his mech suit.
Here's a game that I didn't have as kid, but one I would have loved to play had I known it existed. (It's weird how much I adored ALF, cat-eating alien, given how much I love cats.) In this Pac-Man-esque game, players must collect four cats, two spaceship parts, and a key from each level, depositing everything in a garage, while also trying to avoid Willie Tanner and the dog catcher. They also have to eat pizza, which makes ALF strong enough to catch the cats (who have hidden the spaceship parts). All four levels have to be completed before the clock reaches 24 hours. The cats are very fast, and ALF—who is just a disembodied head—is pretty slow, making this a tough game to win.
Also Available: ALF's Thinking Skills
I remember playing at least the first part of this game on my Mac; it came on a sampler disc bundled with another game called The Playroom (I think). Inspired by Oregon Trail, this game featured many of the same elements: Choosing guides, managing supplies, and navigation. But its premise was a bit more magical. A black jaguar, sent by the Inca king, visits the main character in a dream, explaining that the Inca are sick with a fever and hiding from conquistadors in a secret city. The mission: Travel back in time and explore the Amazon and its tributaries; find a certain plant and deliver it to the Inca king.
Lovers of the 1990 movie who are also terrible at video games (like me) will appreciate this simple game, which incorporates a number of elements from the film. Players join the ranks of Delbert McClintock's exterminating company and roam the homes of Canamia using spray and bug bombs to kill the poisonous spiders, which either stalk on the ground, use web to hover in the air, or leap through the air at you. Three bites and you're dead—which leads to the video game interpretation of a death scene from the movie that fans will definitely recognize.
I have to thank the Internet Archive for uploading this game, which I played in my elementary school library from time to time and could not, for the life of me, figure out the name of. As soon as I saw the screenshot, I knew I'd found what I was looking for. Anyway! In this game, players help twin kid crimesolvers, Jake and Jennifer Eagle of the Eagle Eye Detective Agency, investigate mysteries while they're on holiday in London. The mysteries focus on English history, geography, and literature, which might explain why I thought this game was about kids investigating Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Also Available: Eagle Eye Mysteries
Kids who were obsessed with the Inspector Gadget cartoon and longed to be as cool as Penny will love this game, where they control Gadget's niece (and dog Brain!) to help the clueless cyborg detective rescue UN members kidnapped by Dr. Claw—but first, they have to rescue Gadget himself.
Finally—a game I played as a kid that I'm still kinda good at! (Though to be fair, the game and the ability to Google make it kind of easy.) The goal: Track and apprehend Carmen's henchmen, who are stealing priceless artifacts. Eventually, capture the lady herself. Now, enjoy Rockapella singing the theme to the Carmen Sandiego game show.
Another game I played with my friend Melissa. This time, instead of being a surgeon, we were an ant running a simulated colony in a suburban backyard. We built burrows, fought humans and red ants, and tried to spread through the backyard and even the house, driving out all of our enemies. The game's creator, Will Wright—who created SimCity, the Sims, and a ton of other Sim games—based the game on biologist E.O. Wilson's The Ants.
Also Available: SimCity.