The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

The unpredictable popularity of games

This is a topic that never ceases to fascinate me. I’ve given a few examples here and here. Here’s a list of the games that, in the five years or so that I’ve been offering downloads, have surprised me the most.

Same Game for Windows

Same Game for Windows was the biggest surprise of all. When I added it, I already had a page about SameGame in general, which didn’t get that many hits. I had a few Sokoban implementations up, which weren’t exceedingly popular either. But Same Game quickly rose to the top and stayed there. It has always remained the most downloaded game, sometimes by an incredible margin.

Color linez

Back on the old site, Color linez was usually the second most downloaded 32-bit Windows game after XTET, and somewhere in the top ten in general. On Download Central, it has been the overall number two right from the beginning.

Tank Wars

The popularity not only of Tank Wars, but of the artillery genre in general surprised me. I had considered it half forgotten. It turned out that while little was written about, little known about its history, while the Wikipedia articles contained glaring mistake and there was a constant confusion about Cory Snider’s Tank Wars and Kenneth Morse’s Tank Wars, it nevertheless was and is a very popular genre. The popularity of the specific games is rather surprising as well. Tank Wars is usually the most downloaded DOS game and far more popular than Scorched Earth and Howitzer, which both support better resolutions. Bang! Bang! is rather popular too, while Fractal Fighters, the only artillery game for 32-bit Windows on Download Central, gets very little interest.

Wolfenstein 3D

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubt that Wolfenstein 3D was a milestone of computer gaming history, and it’s not in the least surprising that it’s popular. What is surprising is the extent. It is usually the second most downloaded DOS game, and downloaded four times as often as Doom, and ten times as often as any other first-person shooter.

Update 2013-01-07: Some time in the first half of 2012, Wolfenstein 3D dropped from the top twelve. In December, it was downloaded only half as often as Doom. I don’t know what caused this drop any more than what caused its original popularity.


I’ve written about GobMan before. It’s so far the only new game (i.e. the only game I uploaded to Download Central first) that has managed to get a permanent place among the top twelve. What surprises me is that I never heard of it before. If it’s such a popular Pac-Man clone you’d expect it to be mentioned more often.


Again: Why this one? Xonix32 is downloaded five times as often as its DOS equivalent, ten times as often as the very similar CutOut. This month it has even been downloaded more often than SeXoniX, but I think this is part of a trend that would warrant a seperate blog entry.

Bow and Arrow

[Update 2011-06-20] This is the latest surprise: Bow and Arrow. I added this game on April 16, and two months later it is one of the ten most downloaded Windows 3.1 games. It’s been rising only recently. At the moment it’s #6 of the new downloads. This isn’t a game I’ve ever read anything about either, but it seems mighty popular.


9 responses to “The unpredictable popularity of games

  1. Laurel Merrick May 1, 2011 at 09:57

    Dear Sir,
    Please tell me how I can download THE SAME GAME as shown on this page. I have Windows 7.
    Thank you.
    Laurel Merrick.

  2. FS November 20, 2011 at 09:19

    I downloaded 7 zip from the CNET site, but I still can’t open your version of Same Game in my Windows 7 64 bit. 😦

    • Gonnagan November 21, 2011 at 15:21

      64-bit Windows no longer runs 16-bit programs. There’s no really simple solution for this, but you can install Windows 3.1 on DOSBox. That’s how I take my screenshots.

  3. John A. Morgan April 24, 2012 at 19:43

    I have same game version1.11 on my computer Microsoft Vista BUT it doesn’t show the complete frame. You can’t see the totals below the frame and I have tried everything to download it again. What am I doing wrong?

    • Gonnagan April 24, 2012 at 20:41

      No idea, I’ve never used Vista. I guess it just hasn’t very good support for 16-bit programs. A genuine 3.1 installation on DOSBox is nowadays best to run these games.

  4. Aoshi Kearun August 30, 2012 at 02:41

    Tried the DOSBox with bow and arrow, It won’t run. Can I run it on a 64 bits OS?

    • Gonnagan September 1, 2012 at 21:42

      I played it on a Windows 3.1 install in DOSBox, and it ran fine. It runs on XP too, I don’t have anything newer I can test it on. Note that it always goes fullscreen, which changes gameplay a bit on a high screen resolution.

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