Running DOS Programs on Linux: Duke Nukem Lives!


If I play video games they're usually pretty low tech ones. One of the few games I miss from the old days is Duke Nukem, and I'm talking about the Duke before he went 3D. If you have an old DOS game that you'd like to run, or for that matter any old DOS program, check out DOSBox. Even if you don't have any DOS programs that you'd like to run, you might want to try downloading some of the old DOS games that are now available free online.

DOSBox is a DOS emulator that runs under Linux as well as OS X and Windows. To quote from the website:

DOSBox is a DOS-emulator that uses the SDL-library which makes DOSBox very easy to port to different platforms. DOSBox has already been ported to many different platforms, such as Windows, BeOS, Linux, MacOS X...

DOSBox also emulates CPU:286/386 realmode/protected mode, Directory FileSystem/XMS/EMS, Tandy/Hercules/CGA/EGA/VGA/VESA graphics, a SoundBlaster/Gravis Ultra Sound card for excellent sound compatibility with older games...

DOSBox is fairly easy to use, if it's not included in your distro's repo (openSuSE has it), download it here. Once it's installed just type dosbox. When the DOSBox window appears the first thing you have to do is mount the directory that contains your DOS program as a DOS drive. You do this by typing a mount command in the DOSBox window, for example I did:

  mount c ~/bindirs/dukenukem/DUKE

To start your DOS program change to the drive that you just mounted and type the name of the program:


And now you're playing Duke Nukem, or possibly doing something useful.

If you don't have a copy of Duke Nukem you can download it here. I already had a copy that I had saved years ago but I did download a copy of Duke Nukem 2. This required a few installation steps before I was able to run. Under Linux:

  $ cd ~/bindirs/dukenukem
  $ mkdir DUKE2
  $ cd DUKE2
  $ unzip ~/tar/d/
  $ dosbox

Then in the DOSBox window:

  mount c ~/bindirs/dukenukem/DUKE2

Note that this actually ended up installing it in ~/bindirs/dukenukem/DUKE2/DUKE2 but this is easy enough to move around from Linux to eliminate the extra DUKE2 from the path.

Running on a Quad Core Phenom, DOSBox's performance was good: I encountered no performance problems with video or sound. I also noticed that while running it didn't appear to require any more CPU than any other program I tend to use so I suspect performance should be good on most modern systems.


Mitch Frazier is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal.


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Anonymous's picture

If it's descent you're after, search for the d1xx-rebirth and d2xx-rebirth projects. They allow descent to be played on modern OS (including Linux) with modern hardware.

So good, even Sierra used it.

Grant Wagner's picture

DosBox has been around for quite a while, and has really come to completion at version 0.70. While it does need some manual set up steps, it really is one of the best ways to turn back on the old game.

Recently Sierra released 4 box sets of most of their old adventure games. They used DosBox to make sure all of the older titles ran in XP without issue. It's a small step to move these games into Linux from those sources.

Reliving 90's

tiges's picture

I have found Dosbox valuable to re-playing the Commander Keen series and Secret Agent, which I spent many a hour consuming my time on in the 1990's.

Side effect: my 5 year old son is now obsessed with these games :)

To make life a little easier, I changed the start-up script for Dosbox (after copying the original!) to default to the DOS folder (where I can dump any future games) and to change from Z: to C:

Duke Nukem Forever

Chris Bryant's picture

Yes, but where can I download Duke Nukem Forever?!


Also, have you compared it with DOSEMU?


sigint's picture

Hello All

I am sorta a newbie. However, when i get Dosbox running the controls don't work without some configuring. I am i doing something wrong?


DanDart's picture

DOSEmu is better.
I can play Quake with no lag on that, but DOSBox gives me lag.
DOSEmu is a whole lot easier to set up too.


Dosemu only runs on i386

Anonymous's picture

Dosemu only runs on i386 cpus, it uses the native cpu instead of emulating one. Also, some games with weird sound or graphic programming doesn't work good or even at all. So, dosbox is the more relyable and stable one, but if you own a 386-compatible cpu you can try your game/app with dosemu first


GregE's picture

Lemmings works

Quite a few others, my biggest problem is that floppies fade away over time. I had games on 1.44 mb floppies and had to mount an LS120 drive to use it's superior error correction to recover the files.

Microsoft's finest hour was Return to the Arcade for Windows 95 using directx 3. It runs pretty well under Wine, even has gamepad support.



moose's picture

This is another example of the greatness of the GNU/Linux community! Creativeness, inventiveness, freedom.

Support your local GNU/Linux group!

At the risk of being ostracized..

tananaBrian's picture

This enables so many things! Like, I'll bet that I can run an Apple II emulator within the DOS emulator ...and run the old old Apple II games that I used to love! Ok, so now spank me... I said "Apple"! Yikes! I think I'll go try it... :)



ChrisMason's picture

If I only had a 5 1/4 floppy drive, I could play my old games.

dos games

Anonymous's picture

another good old dos game to try is m.a.x

all the mounting can be automated by editing the dosbox.conf(after you ran the command to create it)

add lines like these to the end of the file

mount c /home/user/dos/c -freesize 800
mount d /media/cdrom0

this mounts a directory in my home folder as the C:\
also mounts the cd drive as D:\

the freesize added to the c:\ line sets amount of free space.

hope people find this info useful.. now go get dos gaming


Randy Noseworthy's picture

Cool. Now everyone is going to Storm Dos Games Archives for old toys to play with. :)

Now if I only had the time, and could find my original disks of this game... I Used Dos Box for playin Zork. - The last time I looked at DosBox, it didn't keep a mounted DIR /Path and I had wished it would have..


Colin Dean's picture

It would be great to get Descent and Descent II running in DOSBox.

The good old days ...

Anonymous's picture

Well, Descent runs perfectly fine in DosBox.

And for all you people now thinking about their good old time favorite - just do a google search on abandonware (e.g. is a great place to start). Nearly all of this stuff runs perfectly fine with DosBox - even without a Quad Core ;-)


Decent woot

alphakamp's picture

Indeed decent is/was awesome. I only ever played the demos though