The classic "Doom" logo with a hand holding a gun.

Some games never go out of style. Over two decades after its release, Doom still enthralls players with its fluid, first-person shooter action. Thanks to a range of modern ports, you can now play the game with enhanced graphics and controls.

Why “Doom” Is Still Fun

Released in 1993, Doom made waves due to its fast-paced action (for a PC title in an era before graphics acceleration). Its enthralling atmosphere, violence, dark themes, and innovative network support made it popular. Critics hailed Doom as an expertly crafted experience that delivered top-notch graphics, sound, and gameplay. Every first-person shooter that followed built off of its success.

Despite dramatic advances in graphics technology since then—just take a look at 2020’s Doom Eternai—the original Doom is still fun to play. This id Software classic feels more accessible than most current first-person shooters. This is due to its relatively simple controls. With no jumping, or looking up and down to deal with, the game retains a snappy, arcade feel that’s largely been abandoned.

With a free, updated version of the game engine, you can easily experience this seminal game for yourself via your PC or Mac, complete with a modern game controller and networking support. Best of all, you can play it in high resolution, even on an ultrawide 21:9 monitor, if you have one.

The Magic Comes from the New Doom Engines

GZDoom on a Widescreen monitor behind a desktop keyboard and mouse.

In 1997, id Software released the Doom game engine’s source code as open-source software. The company invited developers worldwide to adapt it to new platforms and extend its capabilities. Since then, hundreds of new versions of the Doom engine (known as “source ports”) have appeared to enhance the original “vanilla” Doom experience.

ZDoom is one of the most popular source ports of Doom, and we’ll use it to play the game on a modern widescreen display. It supports Windows, Mac, and even Linux.

Where to Get Episode Files (WADs)

With modern Doom source ports, there’s a catch. Most of them don’t come with any game data files or “WADs.” The original Doom maps, graphics, and sounds are all still under copyright and not open source. You have to find your own WADs to use with source ports like GZDoom.

Luckily, there are many options for getting Doom WADs out there, including the following:

  • Shareware Doom: Originally, Doom shipped as a shareware title with one free episode. You can still legally download and use that episode. The file you need is usually called DOOM1.WAD.
  • Freedoom: This internet fan project is working on a free, open-source set of graphics, sounds, and maps for Doom engines. You can download it for free, and it works well with GZDoom.
  • Freedoom + other WADs: Freedoom makes it possible for you to use many other fan-made WADs, many of which are their own distinct gaming experiences. Freedoom replaces the need for the original Doom or Doom II WADs these player-made maps require for graphics and sound resources.
  • Commercial Doom: If you want to purchase the original Doom on GOG, you can install it on Windows. Just visit the game directory, and copy the DOOM.WAD file to use with a source port, like GZDoom. You can do the same with other games, including Doom II and Final Doom. If you own original physical copies of the game on floppy disk or CD-ROM, you can copy the DOOM.WAD files from the original media. You might also find these WAD files floating around online. However, just like downloading retro video game ROMs, downloading the original WAD files from unauthorized websites is copyright infringement.

RELATED: Is Downloading Retro Video Game ROMs Ever Legal?

How to Install GZDoom on a Windows PC

A scene from "Doom" on an ultrawide screen.

To get started on Windows, download GZDoom from its official website. It’s available in both 32- and 64-bit versions and works on Windows 10, 7, or even Vista. If you don’t know which version you should download, try the 32-bit.

Find the file GZDoom ZIP file you just downloaded and extract it into its own folder. You can put this folder wherever you like, including your desktop.

Now, it’s time to place the WAD files. If you have the shareware or commercial Doom WAD files, copy them into the GZDoom folder you just created. If you don’t have these, download the ZIP file containing the Freedoom WAD, and then extract its contents into the GZDoom folder.

The Freedoom WAD files in the GZDoom folder on File Explorer.

Double-click GZDoom.exe to run it. On Windows 10, a pop-up that says “Windows Protected Your PC,” might appear; click “More Info,” and then click “Run Anyway” to bypass the warning. On Windows 7, UAC might prompt you for permission to run the program; allow it to do so.

If you have more than one WAD in the GZDoom folder when you run GZDoom, you’ll see a list of WADs from which you can choose. Select the one you want to play, and then click “Play GZDoom.”

Select the WADs you want in GZDoom.

By default, GZDoom should run in full screen using your desktop screen’s resolution. To change the graphics settings, press Escape. Then, using the Arrow keys, select Options > Display Options, or Options > Set Video Mode, and then press Enter.

Start the game and have fun playing!

How to Install GZDoom on a Mac

A scene from "Doom" in widescreen.
Playing the Freedoom WAD in widescreen.

GZDoom works on Macs too. Once you set it up, it works just like the Windows version. First, download GZDoom from the official website. Grab the file called “Macintosh (Intel).” Open the DMG file you just downloaded and drag the GZDoom.app icon to the Applications folder shortcut.

If you don’t have any other WADs, download the ZIP file containing the Freedoom WAD, and then extract its contents to a temporary folder.

You’ll need to make a special folder for the Doom WAD files so GZDoom can find them. They’ll live in ~/Library/Application Support/gzdoom.

In Finder, press Shift+Command+G, paste ~/Library/Application Support/, and then click “Go.”

The "Go to Folder" dialog box on macOS.

Create a folder called “gzdoom” in ~/Library/Application Support/, and then copy all the WAD files into it.

Two freedoom WAD files in the "GZDoom" folder on a Mac.

After you copy the WADs, close the Finder window and navigate to your Applications folder. Double click the GZDoom.app icon to run it.

If your Mac gives you a warning about running GZDoom, you’ll have to give it special permission to run. GZDoom isn’t malicious software. However, because it’s a free hobbyist project, it isn’t registered with Apple, and macOS blocks all unknown software by default.

To get GZDoom working, head to System Preferences > Security and Privacy > General. Near the bottom of the window, you’ll see “‘GZDoom.app’ was blocked from use because it is not from an identified developer”; click “Open Anyway.” If you get another pop-up, just click “Open.”

Click "Open Anyway."

If you have more than one WAD in the GZDoom folder when you run GZDoom, it will present you with a list of WADs from which you can choose. Select the one you want to play, and then click “OK.”

By default, GZDoom should run in full screen using your desktop screen’s resolution. To change the graphics settings, press Escape. Then, use the Arrow keys to select Options > Display Options, or Options > Set Video Mode, and then press Enter.

Start the game and have fun playing.

A New World of “Doom” to Explore

A scene from "PirateDoom."
Pirate Doom in action.

Once you have GZDoom running, you can experiment with gamepad support, and even multiplayer co-op or deathmatch using its networking features. A special Doom source port worth checking out that’s tuned for multiplayer is ZDaemon. It makes it easy to find and join multiplayer Doom servers run by fans.

If you run out of levels to play, check out the amazing Doom mods and conversions at ModsDB. A few fan favorites include Brutal Doom, Evernity, and Pirate Doom.

Obviously, most player-made WADs, along with Doom itself, are very violent and not appropriate for kids. But, if you’re tucked away from prying little eyes, happy demon-hunting!

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a Staff Writer for How-To Geek. For over 14 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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