Before I started this blog, I used to document my thrift store hauls and finds on my more personal blog. Now with a more centralized place to write about my video game-related things, I’ll start writing about them here. The stuff I’m about to show you will show some insight into ’90s era PC gaming, as well as a bunch of demo discs with free games on it. Because, hey, who doesn’t like free games? As my experience with getting one from GameStop earlier this year proved…
More freebies than you can shake a stick at!
25 cents each:
PCGAMES.EXE’s July/August 1998 demo disc
Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 demo disc
PC Gamer’s July 2000 demo disc
Computer Gaming World’s March 2001 demo disc
A shareware copy of Wolfenstein 3D
One place I stumbled upon had a few demo discs. Did I say a few? I mean 50 demo discs. For 25 cents each. From the early days of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World to lesser known ones like that PCGAMES.EXE disc up there, which I could find no information on who published these. I only grabbed a few of these since I really didn’t need every demo disc, just ones that seemed appealing. Hell, for 25 cents each, I had to resist from buying all of them. Somebody must have dumped their old PC gaming collection.
The first one on the upper left is from Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 issue. It has demos of games like Freespace 2 and Midtown Madness, but what really caught my eye was that it had a trailer for Halo. Yes, that Halo. Back before it was a first-person shooter title for the Xbox, it was once going to be a third-person shooter that was supposed to be a PC and Mac game before Microsoft snatched it up for the console’s 2001 launch. The trailer on the disc is almost identical to the one featured below, the only difference being a slight change in the intro. I thought it was an interesting piece of nostalgia, and it seemed even in 1999 that Halo theme was in full force.
The remaining three — PCGAMES.EXE’s July/August 1998 disc, PC Gamer’s July 2000 disc and CGW’s March 2001 disc — all boast having a bunch of free games on them. Each disc had a different collection of games, and some of the games overlapped. Since some of these games are either hard to find or ridiculously expensive, I think I’d made the biggest gaming haul of them all. Here’s a list of what was on each disc:
PCGAMES.EXE: Battlecruiser: 3000AD, Betrayal at Krondor, Descent, Red Baron, Star Control II, and the first three Zork games.
PC Gamer: Alone in the Dark, Descent, Duke Nukem II, King’s Quest, Links: The Challenge of Golf, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, The Secret of Monkey Island, Terminal Velocity, Ultima I, Ultima Underworld, and X-COM: UFO Defense.
Computer Gaming World: Acheton, Alphaman, Alternate Reality: The City, B-17 Flying Fortress, Balance of Power, Betrayal at Krondor, Bunni-flip, Crusader: No Remorse, Elite, Elite Plus, Empire, Kampfgrup, Nethack, Mystery House, Pirates 2, Rogue, Super Dune 2, Tac Ops, X-COM: UFO Defense and Zelda Classic.
Other contents on the discs included the obligatory patches for those who were stuck with 14.4K dialup connections, a few custom levels here and there, including a bunch of Duke Nukem 3D levels and a Quake map by Richard “Levelord” Gray. Of course, being demo discs there’s a bunch of demos, including PC Gamer advertising the demo to John Romero’s Daikatana. Thankfully it’s shown as a footnote on the cover, with pixelated Duke Nukem being the focus instead. Even PC Gamer knew Daikatana wasn’t that great.
The Wolfenstein 3D disk is just a 3 1/2″ floppy of the game’s shareware version sold by some computer store and had the goofiest cover ever. This is how things looked in the 90s, folks: Gradients and average art that loosely resembled the game. $5 for the shareware version of Wolfenstein 3D!
I bought this one just for the novelty cover, I already have a full copy of the original game thanks to Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Game of the Year Edition. But the discs are just the tip of the iceberg. What I found next was more amazing.
Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White (PC DOS)
An unknown Interplay box
I found these two PC game boxes in that same thrift store. Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White is a 5 1/4″ floppy version of the PC game complete with a signed Vanna White poster. I almost didn’t grab this because I thought it was the NES version at first, which I already owned and has an identical cover. The left box is a non-descript Interplay box, but has more interesting stuff when I looked inside…
Holy cow, lots of early 90s PC Nostalgia going on here!
Kings Quest V, on six floppies. The Macintosh version, no less!
The first game is The Lost Vikings, a side-scrolling platformer released on a handful of systems. It was made by a company called Silicon & Synapse, which you know nowadays under a bigger, more popular name. This is presumably what was in the Interplay box originally, though I’m not sure for certain.
The other game is King’s Quest V, one of the games in the long-standing King’s Quest series by Sierra. Presumably the previous owner used the Interplay box as a good storage for other games they might’ve had, so I’ll thank them for that.
Oddly, it’s the Macintosh version of King’s Quest V, which is weird to see in a sea of PC games. Maybe the guy bought that one by accident or something. Even though I lack a floppy drive to even play these on, it’s still a blast from the past. It’s a funny coincidence for this game to pop up, as a few friends talked about Kings Quest V on a podcast after I posted this.
Everything in one convenient picture.
All of these discs for a nice sum of $5.25. I honestly think I cannot top this find, not for a long while at least. I like PC gaming, but I didn’t really get into it until I was in my teens, so I missed a lot of the 90s PC gaming greats. Primarily because I was content playing GoldenEye on my friend’s Nintendo 64 at the time.
One of these days I’ll give some of these games a shot and see what I missed out on. At least I have two discs that have Descent and Betrayal at Krondor on it in case one version doesn’t work. This local thrift store in Portland, Deseret Industries, has been pretty good to me for finding really interesting stuff over the years. A shame I didn’t grab more of the demo discs, now that I think about it…
Updated June 21, 2012: Replaced ugly cameraphone pictures with better quality ones from an actual camera. You can actually read the text now! Updated again on July 5, 2019 for grammar and other changes around the article, for consistency’s sake.
I'm the creator and writer of You Found a Secret Area. Fascinated by obscure pop culture and wanting a place to write about curated stuff, I created the blog in 2012 and have been running it ever since.
Also on Twitter. (Pronouns: she/her, they/them)