Wolfenstein 3D runs on a 1979 processor now – yes, seriously

A new CGA graphics "demake" version of Wolfenstein 3D runs on an Intel 8088, a microprocessor made in 1979 that helped kick off the phenomenon of home PCs.

Wolfenstein 3D CGA mod: A German soldier appears in a version of Wolfenstein 3D rendered in chunky composite CGA graphics

There’s now a version of the groundbreaking FPS game Wolfenstein 3D that runs on a computer processor first produced in 1979. A game developer has created a version of Wolfenstein 3D that works with IBM’s first colour graphics card, and all the processing power it needs is an Intel 8088 chip.

Game developer James Howard, co-founder of Little Cities studio Purple Yonder, has adapted Wolfenstein 3D for CGA-era graphics cards. ‘Wolfenstein 3D CGA’ renders the landmark shooter in video modes available in the early 1980s, such as four-colour RGB, composite CGA, and Tandy 160×200 16-colour. There’s also a black and white dithered version, for use on monochrome LCD screens.

The mod renders every element of Wolfenstein 3D in simpler colours, using dithering to create shade effects with the limited number of pixels and colours these ’80s video adapters could produce. This strips out much of the detail in the original game, but a side effect of this is to reduce the amount of memory required – and that means you no longer need a state-of-the-art 286 processor, first produced in 1982, to run Wolfenstein 3D. This version runs on the even older 8088 microprocessor, which Intel first introduced in 1979.

The 8088 is an important piece of computing history: it was a modified version of Intel’s first 16-bit chip, the 8086, that used an 8-bit bus. That meant it was compatible with the cheaper 8-bit supporting chips that were available at the time, and allowed IBM to produce a home PC, the Model 5150, that fell just in the price range of home consumers – although still eye-wateringly expensive at $3,000 US in 1980. Adjusting for 40 years of inflation, that works out to $10,805.72 (about £8,734.80) today, but it nonetheless managed to jump-start the era of the home PC.

This also means that Wolfenstein has, temporally speaking, overlapped its own storyline – you can now play the original game on a chip that would have been available during the events of Wolfenstein Youngblood, which takes place in 1980 – although, given the events of the Wolfenstein universe, processor production probably looks a lot different in that world than it did in our 1980.

Howard has uploaded the project to Github, where you can download all the files necessary to run these modes, which require a registered copy of Wolfenstein 3D version 1.4.

If you want to run Doom, of course, all you need are 16 billion crabs.

There are plenty more old games you can play on PC now, so have a look at our list if you’re keen to experience the classics.