ASCII Gaming on SDF...

Who says you need to shell out $500US for a video card to play a decent game?



Long before today's multi-million color pallets and 3d rendering engines there was one color and a TTY.

That is not to say, however, that text games are “old” or “outdated” or that games that were created decades ago cannot still be fun. Not only are some of the older ASCII games still incredibly playable and enjoyable today but there are many ASCII games still in active development with new ones being created all the time.

SDF has a good selection of text based games for your enjoyment with many genres from which to choose. Within those categories you'll also find a diverse selection of games. Maybe you are looking for a quick hit of space invaders while your code compiles. Perhaps you'd like to start a game of nethack which could take you many session over many months to complete. If you'd like to sit and play a game of tetris by yourself SDF can accommodate you but if you'd rather interact with other SDFers in a game of mazewar or netris those options are also available. No matter what your preferences are, no matter what your current mood is, odds are good that SDF will have something for you.

General Tips

All games are started by typing the game's name at the command line on the appropriate system. You may be able to get information on command line options and game play by typing man gamename on SDF or help gamename on

Please keep in mind that many of these games utilize the “vi” keys for directional movement.

       k (up)
h (left)   l (right)
      j (down)

Also, most games contain some sort of in game help. To get the most out of your ASCII gaming experience, it is advised that you consult this during your first time playing a particular game. This is especially useful for text adventure and RPG/Dungeon games as the author has frequently written a back-story which is typically both entertaining and useful during game play.

Did you play a game on SDF and loved it? Hated it? Then use the “game-review” command at the SDF shell to submit a review for Your reviews will help others find a game that suits their gaming tastes.

Games by Category

Here is a rough categorization of the games available on SDF and SDF's TOPS-20 system. A complete list of games on SDF can always be found by typing “games” at the shell prompt. TOPS-20 games can be listed by typing “help games” on Please visit for user submitted reviews of these games.

Text Adventure

Text adventure games are interactive fiction adventures where the user must navigate the game based on the text based description of the player's in-game surroundings. The lack of graphics helps to keep text based adventure games feeling fresh even decades after their initial release.

  • SDFmud - SDFmud makes its triumphant return!
  • phantasia - An interterminal fantasy game. Gain experience killing monsters and other players!
  • advent - 430 pt. Colossal Cave (Version II). (TOPS-20)
  • dinkum - Adventure in Australia.
  • tess - Beyond the tesseract, an abstract adventure.
  • crime -A CRiME based adventure game. (TOPS-20)
  • haunt - Can you solve the mystery of Chez Moose? BONG! (TOPS-20)
  • mdl105 - Write your own adventure games! (TOPS-20)
  • zork - The classic underground maze/puzzle. (TOPS-20)

RPG / Dungeon

These games involve navigating some sort of dungeon or maze. Unlike text adventures, these games often (though not always) contain some sort of ASCII-graphical interface. These games are usually a bit more free-flowing than their text-based counterparts as well. Many of these games allow multiplayer interactive play. These games are marked with an (M).

  • dopewars - multi-user virtual urban life. (M)[see note below]
  • mdg - John Gonnerman's MultiUser Dungeon Game. (M)
  • nethack - Can you find the Amulet of Yendor and survive?
  • rogue - Before there was nethack, there was rogue.
  • thxmoo - SDF's very own MOO!(M)
  • hunt - multi-user maze/shoot.
  • mazewar - A System V UNIX version of the classic. (M)[see note below]
  • cave - Multiplayer Dungeon Game. (TOPS-20)(M)


Puzzle games rely on the player's critical thinking and problem solving skills to complete.

  • greed - How far will your greed take you?
  • c4 - Connect Four.
  • life - jpf's life simulator for SDF.
  • othello - Strategy game similar to GO.
  • tetris - A timed 2 dimensional puzzle
  • netris - Head to Head tetris.(M)[see note below]
  • tttt - tic-tac-toc-toe with wraparound edges.
  • robots - The robots are programmed to get you.
  • torus - Faster, more intelligent robots are programmed to get you.
  • zombies - The zombies are programmed to get you.
  • manhunt - Can you escape from the LUGIMEN cops of ARCTURUS IV? (TOPS-20)
  • wumpus - Can you slay the suckerfooted WUMPUS? (TOPS-20)
  • sst - Super Star Trek. Can you protect the Federation from total annihilation?

Arcade / Action

Arcade type games involve real-time interaction. You'll have to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge your way to victory in these games.

  • atc - Air Traffic Controller, not really arcade, but real real-time!
  • invaders - Space Invaders.
  • lander - Can you land the lunar module (LEM)?
  • ski - Dodge trees and a snowman while you ski.
  • snake - Collect $ while avoiding a ferocious snake.
  • worm - You are a worm that eats numbers and becomes unwieldy.
  • moon - Jochen Voss's moon-buggy.
  • packman - Very cool ASCII packman for true VT100. (TOPS-20)

Board / Card Games

Just what the title says.

  • bj - Black Jack
  • knight - Knight's tour matrix.
  • bkg - CMU's Multi-player/spectator Backgammon(TOPS-20)
  • checkers - Checkers, you vs. computer. (TOPS-20)
  • gin - The card game GIN. (TOPS-20)
  • tech - TECH Chess. (TOPS-20)
  • tech2 - TECH2 Chess. (TOPS-20)

ASCII Animation

Short ASCII movies.

  • aybabtu - sdf's ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!
  • linux - Linux massacre simulator.
  • suicide - Animated suicide trio.

Jokes / Random Text

These “games” output random jokes, one-liners, quotes, or other information. Please be advised that some of these might output text that some would consider offensive. These programs have been labeled (R).

  • oneliner - SDF one-liners .. since 1987
  • smj - Display quips and commentary by your sysadmin.
  • fortune - Print a random, hopefully interesting, adage.
  • cookie - Fortune Cookies. (TOPS-20)
  • crude - Random text Generator. (TOPS-20)(R)
  • doit - Subject 'do it' Adverb. (TOPS-20)(R)
  • fortune - yet another fortune cookie. (TOPS-20)
  • kanji - Not quite kanji, but MRC thinks so.
  • limerick - Very lewd limericks. (TOPS-20)(R)
  • limrck - More lewd limericks. (TOPS-20)(R)
  • moon - Phase of the moon. (TOPS-20)
  • tingle - Nearly lewd, but requires imagination. (TOPS-20)
  • today - A history lesson. (TOPS-20)

Dopewars, Mazewars, and Netris

A special note for Dopewars, Mazewars, and Netris:

These games are fairly popular. They represent a good way to have fun and interact with fellow SDFers. Though they can be started from the command line, the best way to start a multiplayer game of dopewars, mazewars, or netris is to hop into SDF's COMMODE by typing com at the shell. You can then find other's to play with and launch those games directly from com.


Much information contained herein was gleaned from “games”, “help games”(TOPS-20), and Much thanks to the maintainer(s) of those resources.

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