LaunchBox is a gorgeous game database and launcher


First revealed back in Windows Vista, the Games folder was supposed to be the starting point for all your games, with shortcuts, cover art, updates, news and more. But no-one cared, unfortunately, and although it’s still there, most gamers pay no attention to the Games folder at all.

If you’re happy with a service like Steam then this won’t be a problem. But if you’d like something simpler, more lightweight, then you might be interested in LaunchBox, a free games database and launcher for Windows Vista+.

Despite the "setup" name in the download, LaunchBox is actually portable, and installation just unpacks it to the folder of your choice. The program is designed to work with DOSBox (which is included in the download), but can also handle PC games, emulators, even import your games from Steam.

There’s a lot of functionality here, but a splash screen helps out by providing links to video tutorials, and there are wizards to walk you through the process of importing DOS games, ROMs and more.

If you prefer to take full manual control, then that’s also relatively straightforward. Click Game > Add, and enter part of a game name (try "Meier"). LaunchBox quickly searches Wikipedia and displays a list of matches. Choose the one you need and the program automatically finds all the associated metadata (title, release date, genre, platform, description etc).

There’s also an option to download associated images, and not just the usual box art: there might be logos, banners, fan art, screenshots and more.

Next you must point LaunchBox at the game itself. There’s nothing particularly difficult here, either: it’s just a matter of pointing the program at the executable files/ folders, and (if necessary) telling it to run the game via DOSBox, ScummVM, or an emulator.

Repeat this process a few times and LaunchBox presents your games via their cover art. You’re able to organize and filter your collection by genre, platform, ESRB rating, developer, and publisher. Clicking any of them displays all the metadata you downloaded earlier, including a rating and description, and you can launch your favorite with a click.

The end result looks great, is configurable and easy to use. If you regularly play a mix of games -- the latest PC releases, old DOS classics, emulators and so on -- then LaunchBox is a great way to bring them all together.

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