Dos Space Games
Dos was the PC platform before Windows came along. Many games for Dos fall into a grey area, where somebody somewhere probably still owns the copyright, but it’s most likely either been forgotten about, or there is no commercial incentive for enforcing it.
Getting them to run is slightly more complicated than double-clicking on an icon. First you are going to need something like DosBox, so that your computer can pretend to be 30 years old. You will then need to do a web search for the games - but they should be fairly easy to find. A YouTube video is available here that explains the process of running a game.
The first thing that you notice might be the simpler graphics, but a common characteristic for games in this era is that they were short and difficult. You can probably finish each of these games in half an hour; but you’re going to need to get nearly everything perfect in order to win.
Apollo 18 is best described as a series of mini-games. You have to complete one after the other in order to land a man on the moon (and grab some satellites on the way back). It will take you some trial and error, and a couple of missions seem impossible in DosBox, but it’s interesting none the less.
Apollo 18 isn’t afraid to make you do the boring stuff. You won’t even be able to attempt each of the games until you’ve visited the telemetry panel (‘T’ on the keyboard), and ensured that the ship is in full working order.
The instruction book for the Commodore 64 explains the rest – although there are some differences. For the Dos version, when you are making the corrective burns, you just press Enter to start and stop – don’t hold it down. Also, if you’re using the keyboard, press down on the arrow keys in order to fire the lander’s thruster.
You can press Ctrl+F11 to slow down (and Ctrl+F12 to speed up) DosBox; but don’t make it too easy for yourself.
Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space
You play as the head of either the US or Russian space programmes. Each turn you choose which equipment to invest in, and what missions to undertake. Do you fully research your equipment and run unmanned flights to gain experience, or risk the lives of astronauts in untested technology.
There is a patch available that claims to also make the game easier – and you’ll need it. Your opponent is "surprisingly successful", so as well as a solid strategy, you're going to need to a good bit of luck.
There is copy protection included, where you have to enter the number of days that various astronauts and cosmonauts have spent in space. You can find a listing of all the values, but Wikipedia is just as useful.
Shuttle: The Space Flight Simulator
As the name suggests, this is an early space shuttle flight simulator. It was renowned for its accurate recreation of the entire set of control panels – even if most of them don’t actually do anything. There is also a mini-encyclopaedia included, describing various technical details about the shuttle.
As for the flight simulator itself, you’re going to need some practice. In all honesty you might want to try Orbiter 2010 instead; but if you are a flight simulator veteran, or have already tried Orbiter, then you might want to take on the challenge.
Moonbase is set in the distant future of 2014, and sets you the challenge of establishing a viable moonbase. It may be taking a step towards the fictional, but it is included in this list because it tries to be a serious simulation (i.e. fun isn't high on the agenda).
You'll need colonists to do the work, and various factories to produce the resources that you'll need. There's also the supply of heat and electricity to worry about, so in short it's not an easy task.
To keep your colonists alive you'll need to buy in all of the materials that you haven't been able to produce enough of yourself, so make sure that you keep a decent reserve of money.