Today I want to talk about bizarre DOS games. I didn’t actually own a computer until I was in my teens, so the DOS generation passed me by. In fact, most computer games did. Admittedly, there are tons of bizarre games out there, not just in DOS, but DOS games did provide a certain unintentional humor. That being said, here are 10 bizarre DOS that you absolutely have to try.
10. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Based on a short story by Harlin Ellison with the same name, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream takes a more serious tone for an DOS adventure game. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream centers around 5 individuals that are being tortured by a sentient A.I. The player is able to choose from any of the 5 characters to play their scene. There are 3 different endings: the good, the bad, and the worst. I remember reading that Harlan Ellison originally wanted the game to have 1 ending (which I believe was the bad ending), but the people at Cyber Dreams talked him out of it. It would have made for an interesting twist in an already depressing game if Ellison had actually gotten his way.
Speaking of depressing, while I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream isn’t as funny as other games on this list, most of the character’s scenes are pretty noteworthy for being weird. There are a lot of nonsensical things that happen throughout each of the character’s stories. Some noteworthy examples include: During Benny’s scene, he might eat a child if you don’t play his scenario correctly. Ted scene has the player avoid being a hit with the ladies. No, seriously, you have to avoid being a womanizer to win Ted’s scenario.
While there are some humorous scenes, there are also a lot of dark situations within the game itself. In fact, the story itself is one big dark, depressing, situation. There are depictions of Nazi Germany as well as rape. This game has a ton weird scenarios and weird graphics. It’s a must see. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is available for purchase on Steam for those that are interested in playing it. It’s definitely a unique game with a unique subject matter and is the only game on this list that takes a very serious tone.
9. Zombie Dinos From Planet Zeltoid
Zombie Dinos From Planet Zeltoid could make it on any list of bizarre games just based on the name alone. It was originally released for the Philips CD-i in 1992, but a DOS port was released in 1995. I hear you ask, what could Zombie Dinos From Planet Zeltoid possibly be about? Well, it’s an edutainment adventure game for one thing. I know edutainment games have a negative stigma about them, because who likes learning? Am I right? But seriously, Zombie Dinos From Planet Zeltoid is a point and click game where you take control of “Rocket Scientist…” No really, that’s what you’re called when you play the game… and attempt to save the Earth from Zombie Dinosaurs. Time traveling zombie dinosaurs!
You’re also aided by Dexter, or Dex for short, the Dinotroid. Dex is voiced by Cam Clarke, a voice actor whom you may know from things such as Rachel and the TreeSchoolers and Monster High. Oh, and also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) and Akira. That’s right, Cam Clarke went from playing Leonardo to Dex the Dinotroid. Now the gameplay and voice acting isn’t what makes this bizarre in my mind. Heck, voice actors tend to have a wide range of roles. The weirdness from this game comes from the main antagonist, Harry the Harrier, and his evil henchmen, the Brain Blobs. I mean, just look at that face. That’s a face that only mothers could love and it might haunt my dreams tonight. I apologize if this keeps any of you up at night.
Voyeur was also originally released for the Philips CD-i in 1993; however, a DOS version also hit the market in 1993. The main goal, as the title of the game suggests, is to be a voyeur. Bizarre enough, I know. What that really means is that you play a private investigator that is hired by a member of the Hawke family to spy on Reed Hawke. You see, Reed Hawke is as corrupt as they come and the family member that hires the P.I. wants to bring him down. The family member is selected randomly at the beginning of each game and the story itself may change depending on what you do as you play. The story is relatively short as well and requires a few playthroughs to really learn the backstories of every character.
The Hawke family gathers at the Hawke mansion for a family get-together and to prepare for a major announcement. He’s going to run for the president of the United States. The player has the option to spy through various windows of the Hawke Mansion in order to gather enough evidence/dirt to end Reed Hawke’s career. The windows you can peek through change during every playthrough. You can get a glimpse into most of the family’s personal lives. The game was actually inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s film, “Rear Window” and it does have a similar feel. You ultimately have to watch a family member of the Hawke family murdering someone in order to win the game.
The bizarre aspects of Voyeur lie within each of the scenes the player has a chance to view. They are all FMV, the acting is overly dramatic, and most of the scenes are mostly oversexualized. These oversexualized scenes feature bondage and even incest-ual relationships. The acting alone could get this game a spot on anyone’s top 10 bizarre/weird lists, but the FMV scenes definitely put it over-the-top for me.
7. Night Trap
I feel like Night Trap needs no introduction. It’s one of two games that were presented in front of Congress to push for the ESRB rating system. It was originally released for the Sega CD in 1992 and later for DOS in 1994. Night Trap was released for various other systems as well throughout the years, including the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. This is the quintessential FMV game that everyone should try out. If you have not seen, or even heard about this game, then you’re in for a treat. The plot of Night Trap is absolutely ridiculous and the cheesy acting is the icing on the cake.
At its core, this game is a B-movie and it is amazing. In fact, I believe there was a movie version of this floating around somewhere, but it may have been some type of a bootleg. The game takes place within the Martin winery estate. You play as a member of the S.C.A.T. team… obligatory poop joke… And we’re walking, we’re walking. S.C.A.T. actually stands for different things depending on which version of the game. It’s either the Sega Control Attack Team, if you’re playing on the Sega CD, or the Special Control Attack Team, if you’re playing it anywhere else. As if it wasn’t bizarre enough that you are working for the poop team, your main job is to spy on a group of females as they have a slumber party. It’s kind of disturbing when you write the plot out, isn’t it?
The main reason that you’re spying on the party is because there are missing girls, 5 to be exact. All of the missing girls were at a different sleep over that occurred at the Martin estate prior to the game. A S.C.A.T. agent has infiltrated the current sleep over as one of the girls. Throughout the night you have to click on the various cameras to find, and trap, augers. For all intents and purposes, augers are vampires. They drink the blood of their victims and you can catch them hobbling all over the house. There’s the iconic scenes where the girls dance around and sing the Night Trap theme song and the shower scene that caused the uproar and led to the ESRB rating system. If those don’t sell you on this is a bizarre game, then the overacting of the main antagonists will. When they reveal themselves to be monsters they really ham it up. Night Trap is ridiculous and I love every minute of it. You can find the DOS version, but I would suggest checking out the PS4 or Switch version. There’s are multiple game modes and an additional unlockable game.
6 Psychic Detective
Psychic Detective was another title that saw releases on a wide variety of systems, but this one started out on DOS. Like Voyeur, Psychic Detective is pretty short and requires multiple playthroughs to learn the entire story. The plot is rather simple; you play as Eric Fox, a psychic that performs magic in a dingy club in San Francisco. Eric soon learns that he has untapped potential and learns how to “hitch hike” into other people’s minds. The player then spends the rest of the game choosing to jump into other characters or remain as Eric.
Nothing bizarre about the plot, it actually sounds like a pretty interesting game. Well… Psychic Detective is another FMV game, so that means overacting and zany antics. One cool thing to note about Psychic Detective is that it is told from the first person perspective, with the exception of cutscenes. The user interface is definitely within the bizarre realm. The video is encapsulated in a multi-colored swirling vortex. It starts out empty, but quickly fills up as Eric encounters more and more people. It’s honestly a jumbled mess as you interact with more and more people. The main screen is also very tiny in comparison to the rest of the screen. They really shrink the game-screen down and I’m not entirely sure where they were going with that.
Also, since you’re diving into people’s minds, there are lots of video effects and strange colors added to scenes. There are also a lot of random clips added to scenes, like a cat meowing when Eric develops his power. Hell, the intro to Psychic Detective is a hodgepodge of random scenes as well. You know, as soon as you turn this bad boy on, that you’re in for a treat. You can find the DOS version of this game on the myAbandonware site.
5. The Town with No Name
Okay, I know this was originally a CDTV game… but a DOS version was released as well. The Town With No Name is made on a shoestring budget and looks like it was made in MS Paint. I wrote an entire review on this game where I focus on some of my favorite things. I contend that the creators had a lot of fun when coming up with the dialogue for this game (although they apparently hate it).
To me though, the dialogue is hilarious, the scenes featuring random townsfolk are comical, and the game is very short, so it doesn’t wear out its welcome. The Town With No Name is a game that is so bad it’s good. It has terrible voice acting, ridiculous graphics and an odd story, but that’s what gives it its charm. The Town With No Name is completely nonsensical from the beginning to the ending itself. The humor resonates with me and I think it’s absolutely hilarious. I mean, I can’t think of many games where the player is given a choice to end the game immediately and then sees the protagonist taking a train into space.
If you want to try The Town With No Name out for yourself, I have a tutorial on how to get it running in DOSBOX. If you don’t feel like putting in any effort in to getting the game to run then you can head over to my Town with No Name playlist and give all of the scenes a watch. The list should have every scene from The Town With No Name if you’re interested in watching instead of playing… and that ends my shameless plugs. Let’s move on.
Phantasmagoria is another game that falls in to that “so bad it’s good” genre. Not necessarily due to its gameplay or overselling of gore, but due to the overacting on part of the main cast. It starts out as the main lead actor is taking photographs of a lovely green screen… I mean landscape. You then get a glimpse of a mansion. Here come some of the most bizarre things on this list. Crappy CGI objects inbound!
The story follows Adrienne Delaney, a writer that has been plagued by nightmares of gruesome images and various gore and violence. Adrienne is also plagued by writer’s block and is searching for inspiration to help her write a new book. Apparently, the mansion she and her husband, Don, live in once belonged to a famous 19th-century magician by the name of Zoltan “Carno” Carnovasch. Carno had 5 wives that all mysteriously died. Carno apparently was a practitioner of black magic, and had summoned a demon while he was alive. Guess that explains what happened to his wives.
While Adrienne explores the house, she accidentally releases the demon that Carno summoned. The demon soon possesses Don and that’s where things start to get crazy. Don goes from a loving and supportive husband to a raging douche really quick. Possessed Don is really what makes this game stand out… with the exception of one of his actions. Don does rape his wife shortly after becoming possessed, and that’s a terrible thing. The scene isn’t really needed in the game, but it does show how the possession has taken over Don’s mind. With all of that being said, with the exception of the rape scene, possessed Don’s mannerisms are pretty hilarious.
Like most games that feature live-action characters, Phantasmagoria provides a lot of memorable and hilarious scenes. The music is top notch and the violence and gore is over-the-top. Phantasmagoria is available for purchase on Steam for those of you that are interested in it.
Here’s a recipe for an bizarre game: 1 part point and click, digitized actors, artwork from H. R. Giger, ridiculous deaths, nonsensical puzzles, terrible voice acting, and killer headaches. Darkseed is one of my favorite DOS games. It’s really short if you know what to do, but don’t get cocky. Darkseed borders on unfair with almost all of its puzzles as most are linked to an instant death. If you’re like me, and forget to save frequently, you’ll find yourself getting killed by, almost, everything when you enter the Dark World and having to start completely over. The Dark World is a mirror image of our world. So, while most people are good in our world, the Dark World inhabitants are mostly evil. Things in our world also affect things in the Dark World as well.
Darkseed is actually considered to be a good horror game. It is even ranked above games like Clock Tower, System Shock 2, and Eternal Darkness on some lists. That being said, this list is about the bizarre, so let’s get to it. If you’re playing Darkseed for the very first time, you won’t know that you need to grab aspirin from the medicine cabinet to stop the mustachioed machismo himself, Mike Dawson, from repeatedly saying “My head is killing me!” Gee… I wonder why his head is hurting.
You also won’t know to seek out a hidden room in Mike’s house. You need to open the secret room in order to find the rope. Once you have the rope, you head to the attic and tie it to a gargoyle on his balcony so you have an escape route later in the game. Sure! Why wouldn’t you do that? Did I forget to mention that Mike also bought the house without looking at it first? I mean, it sure seems like it anyway. He seems to say, “this came with the house.” when you examine most things throughout his house.
I’m just scratching the surface on the absurdity. Would the player think to look for a 1 pixel by 1 pixel bobby pin to add to their inventory? Probably not, but you won’t be able to finish the game if you don’t. You definitely wouldn’t think to look for it in the library. You think Get Out of Jail Free cards are just in Monopoly? Guess again, Darkseed has them and they work like a charm. The most bizarre thing, in my opinion: Why would anyone in their right mind fill the car in Mike’s garage…the broken car… the broken car that came with the house…why would anyone think to fill it with scotch? Oh, we fill the car with Scotch so it will power an alien spaceship in the Dark World? I mean… sure… why not?
I also have a playlist for Darkseed on my channel as well as most, if not all, of the death scenes. Check it out if you want to see some of the hilarity that is Darkseed.
Harvester is what happens when a video game company hears that violent video games are the topic du jour and decides to cash in. The plot… makes no sense. You play Steve, a young man that has amnesia who apparently woke up in the past. He’s such a kidder. He’s also apparently engaged to Stephanie, another person with amnesia. The main goal is to figure out who you are and why you’re in Harvest. Speaking of, the town of Harvest is bizarre to say the least. There are normal places that you would expect in any town, such as a school or diner, and then there are weird places that don’t belong such as a missile silo and the Lodge. The characters are pretty extreme. They are either overtly sexualized or are violent in some way… or both! And then there is Mr. Pottsdam…
Steve has to perform a series of tasks in order to gain access to the Lodge. The Lodge is where the game really takes a turn. Each room has a different theme that is meant to test Steve, except that the player doesn’t have to do any of the tests and has the ability to kill everything in their path. Steve also has the option to kill the townsfolk of Harvest, but that will land Steve in jail. On the surface, Harvester is just another point and click game. Deep down… Well it’s still just a point and click game, but, it features wonky combat elements as well.
The dialogue is insane in Harvester, in a funny way, and it is highly quotable. One interesting tidbit for the game, some character voices are played by different people than their digitized actor counterpart. It’s an odd choice, but for a game full of odd choices, it’s fine. Harvester is also available on Steam for those that are interested in playing this hodgepodge of game designs.
1. Darkseed 2
Ok, hear me out on this one. I know it isn’t technically a DOS game… but I did manage to play it in DOSBOX and it is the most absurd computer adventure game I’ve ever played. Honestly, there’s only 1 thing I need to show you to explain everything about why Darkseed 2 is my top choice for this list… Spoilers!
Honestly, the clip I just show you does not make much more sense in context so we’re all on a level playing field here.
Darkseed 2 sees the return of our mustachioed hero: Mike Dawson, although, this time he is played by a different actor. Mike is the main suspect for a recent murder case, the murder of Miss Rita Scanlon. Did Mike kill Rita? He pleads his innocence and does what any person would do in his shoes… He decides to play detective and find the murderer himself.
We follow Mike on his journey as he rekindles relationships with the various townsfolk… Spoilers, they don’t like him much. Some notable locations in Darkseed 2 include: a hobo’s shack, a carnival, and the morgue. Oh, the Dark World makes a return as well. The Dark World still features the work of H. R. Giger, which is pretty cool, but the quality of everything else does not hold up.
While Darkseed 1 was seen as being a good horror game, Darkseed 2 wasn’t. There were a lot of plot holes littered throughout the game and the it did drag in certain areas. However, even though it has boring segments and a nonsensical story, the ridiculousness of the scene I showed at the beginning of this section makes this game the most bizarre DOS/computer game I’ve ever played.