Hello, fellow redditors. In the last months, I have seen many of you coming to this subreddit looking for help in finding the games of your childhood. Here are a couple of suggestions for anyone trying to get into the world of old gaming, regardless of the nostalgia factor.
Let's cut to the chase: even for the most passionate of us, it's incredibly hard to find games based on descriptions such as the following.
"It had a story, I think it may have been about zookeepers or something trying to find some birds who went missing, and each page was a colouring book of sorts."
"it was in the late 2000’s or the early 2010’s that I had this gam but it was kind of a simulation game where there were woodland creatures in a forest that you could kind of interact with by tapping on them"
"Old Diablo Like game. The only thing i can remember is that the icon of the game was the Fleur-de-Lis."
However, there are some websites that might help you find your childhood games.
https://www.myabandonware.com/ is a repository of abandonware (i.e. software for which copyright is not enforced) games from 1978 to 2010. It is possible to search games by name, but also by year, platform, genre, theme, publisher or developer. If you are looking for something running on ms-DOS or from the late Nineties, give it a go! And even if you are not searching for a specific title, I bet you can find some old gems that fit your playstyle or interests.
https://www.gog.com/ is something of a mixed bag: if memory serves me well, it began as an online shop with ports of old games that were supposed to run on modern systems (Wikipedia, however, offers a more nuanced history); nowadays, it resembles more traditional services such as Steam or Epic Games (in the sense that they offer also very modern games: as I write, the website is showing an ad for Cyberpunk 2077).
Searching for games from the 2000s onward is trickier: I am not aware of similar repositories for such "newer" games. Wikipedia categories (such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:2000s_video_games) sometimes help, but it's like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. A further complication is introduced by all those games of dubious quality developed in the early 2000s by a number of stakeholders (publishing houses, encyclopedia sellers, snack manufacturers, who knows how many other enterprises): these are almost impossible to track by someone in a different age bracket or from a different country (I don't envy oldgamers of the 2050s: good luck explaining flash games or itch.io to younggamers!).
Finding your game is often only the beginning of the journey: running it on your machine might prove even more difficult! Once again, DOS games have an advantage in the form of DOSBox (https://www.dosbox.com/), a cross-platform ms-DOS emulator. It runs like a charm on most Linux distros and on Windows (disclaimer: I never tried it on Windows 10 and 11 or on a mac). Newer games for Windows 95 might run on Linux with Wine (https://www.winehq.org/, you can check the support of specific software in the Application Database https://appdb.winehq.org/). Having almost abandoned Linux since 2018 (blame my work, not my heart!), I cannot say anything about PlayOnLinux. On Windows, as far as I know, the compatibility of dated software is down to sheer luck. There is a higher chance of old programs working on Windows 7 rather than 10 or 11, but I am not aware of any reliable tricks or tweaks besides those offered by Windows itself (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/make-older-apps-or-programs-compatible-with-windows-10-783d6dd7-b439-bdb0-0490-54eea0f45938).
For those of you who managed to digest the wall of text, I commend you and wish you a great time with old games! And if I made any mistakes or blunders feel free to correct me in the comments below!