No one really uses MS-DOS any more, but the modern, open-source FreeDOS ships with every copy of DOSBox, and you’ve quite probably used that. Most modern DOS developers use DOSBox and its forks for testing, so they can rapidly spot bugs and iterate solutions.
The year 2023 in DOS also saw the release of Damien “Cyningstan” Walker’s stylish Barren Planet, a turn-based, space exploitation-themed strategy game in which rival mining corporations battle for control of resources, with some of the best four-colour CGA graphics we’ve ever seen. Cyningstan has also released a range of tools and libraries to support DOS games development in C, as well as open-sourcing his older games.
But you don’t have to use C. Tiny DOS city-builder Demografx was developed in Microsoft QuickBasic 4.5, an IDE released in 1990, which you can run on Raspberry Pi in DOSBox if you can find a copy. Microsoft’s more common QBASIC and GW-BASIC languages are no longer available, but PC-BASIC is a fully-compatible GW-BASIC interpreter you can install on Raspberry Pi, and there’s even a GW-BASIC extension for Visual Studio Code if you want an IDE.
There’s an entire community of developers making wildly distinct games based on ZZT, a 1991 game creation system by Tim Sweeny, now CEO of Epic Games. ZZT spawned a vast living ecosystem of DOS games like WiL’s Galactic Foodtruck Simulator, development tools like KevEdit, and modding tools such as Weave.
The DOS renaissance still has a way to go before it catches up to the C64, ZX Spectrum, and Game Boy development scenes, but the sheer range of tools available makes it a very approachable space to experiment in. If you want some inspiration, check out this DOS games we’ve created.