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Play Zork on the Raspberry Pi

If you’re looking for a bit of old-school text adventure nostalgia, you can play Zork (and many other classic text adventures) on the Raspberry Pi. Some of my earliest memories were of playing text adventure games on the clicky-clacky keyboard of the BBC Micro – in particular Twin Kingdom which featured early AI characters who would come and annoy you.

Zork was one of the original adventure games, written back in the 70s by a team who went on to form a company called Infocom, creator of numerous computer game hits of the 80s and 90s. It was an extension of the crystal cave adventure game, written for the colossal PDP10 computer.

Zork spawned numerous sequels, and arguably inspired a whole genre of ‘interactive fiction’. Today there are many interactive fiction titles you can download and play, and it’s even possible to create your own using the Inform programming language.

You can play Zork using a piece of software called Frotz – this is a ‘Z-Machine’  (the Z referring to Zork) which compiles and plays Z-code or story files. The beauty of the Z-machine approach is that the same story files can be played on almost any computer.

To get started you can download Zork 1-3 for free from the Infocom site here. Just download the zip files and extract them to a directory on your home folder.

And to play on the Raspberry Pi, enter the terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install frotz

To download Frotz, then once you’ve downloaded some inform files you can start them with the command:

frotz ZORK1.DAT

and that’s it!

Frotz is fairly self explanatory, you can save and restore game files, and use all the usual ‘look at mailbox’ ‘talk to dwarf’ ‘take key’ type commands.

Tip: if you’re using the X desktop you can navigate to the folder containing the Zork1.dat file by using the file manager and selecting open this folder in the terminal from the menu. This saves typing the cd/long/directory/structure stuff.

If you get stuck there’s a map of the Zork empire from 1979 here.

Next step is to create a Raspberry Pi text adventure game, perhaps along the lines of ‘Waiting for Pi?’


18 Responses to Play Zork on the Raspberry Pi

  1. Ben O'Steen June 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Great of you to point this out! “gargoyle-free” also works for those who prefer something to run in its own window in LXDE (and has nicer fonts, IMO ;))

    There is some cracking new IF to be played too, is a great archive for it – Emily Short, Adam Cadre, Plotkin, Aaron Reed are good names to get going with.

    Also, for beginners, this list of games is particularly helpful:

  2. andyl June 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Can I recommend BrandX the adventure that went on to be adapted as Philospher’s Quest. It is downloadable from and playable in Frotz.

    Also there is a much expanded Countdown to Doom (and the two other Doom games which I don’t think were published on the Beeb).

    Plus of course if you poke around you will find a whole heap of games new and old. Some of which are very fine indeed.

    If you want to write your own games for Frotz I can recommend Inform by Graham Nelson.

  3. Keith Gaughan June 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    These days, you’d be better off with Gargoyle rather than Frotz. I’m not sure if it’s in the APT repos for the Raspberry PI’s Debian repo (it’s not in Arch Linux ARM), but if it is, it’s *very* much worth it as it can play not only Z-code games, but glk and virtually all of the other major IF formats.

  4. Pete June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Thanks andyl – Graham Nelson also wrote Curses, which is a beautiful game in itself – highlights including a magical slide projector that allows you to travel in time, and a bit where you have to alter the fundamental laws of the universe to get past a puzzle.

    Keith – am definitely going to try out Gargoyle – even if it’s just to try playing !Fish again – I remember playing this on an Archimedes A310 and it being a struggle just to get it to load!

  5. Jeremy F June 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Keith, it is.

  6. Sue Hewson June 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Tanks for this – I used to spend hours in my lunchtime and after work playing text adventures on a Vt100 (I think it was). Nowadays I play games such as Assassin’s Creed but I hate graphic adventure games.

    All I need now is green text – must be able to, does anyone know the command? – to make my retro experience complete.


  7. Ian Hodgetts June 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Surely it would have to be “Pimania” (from the Speccy)!

  8. Jimmy Smith June 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm #


    xterm -fg green -bg black &

    Will produce the desired affect. You can also substitute gold for green for an amber terminal.

  9. Susie June 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Infocom only seem to be offering Zork for Windows and Mac so there’s no .DAT file. Advice please!


  10. Susie June 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Infocom only seem to be offering Zork for Windows and Mac so there’s no .DAT file. Advice please!


    • Pete June 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      hi – the DAT file you need is included in the windows / mac version just download the link extract the folder and look for a folder called DATA – in the case of Zork it’s called ZORK1.DAT – you can run this using Frotz (and can ignore all the other stuff)

  11. Sue Hewson June 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Infocom only seem to be offering Zork for Windows and Mac so there’s no .DAT file. Advice please!


  12. Sue June 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    So sorry for duplicate posting – on the iPad hitting submit has no visible effect!

  13. Sue June 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Oh dear, clearly my week for being a total idiot. I was certain I’d checked in the data folder. Sorry about that, thanks Pete – and Jimmy for the green text command.


  14. [email protected] September 3, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    i can’t find the story file anybody help please

  15. Pete September 10, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    hi – see the above post – it’s the ZORK1.DAT file you need – ignore everything else.


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