There is something magical about playing video games that are rendered purely with text (ASCII) characters.
Let's take a moment to completely ignore all the 3D, fancy-shmancy games... and look at a couple of my current favorite games rendered entirely in ASCII art.
Like Elite, Wing Commander Privateer, EVE Online or Vendetta Online? Enjoy flying around in space, blowing up other ships, trading goods, etc.? Then Ascii Sector is for you.
This game is one of my current favorites. The game is, quite simply, huge. Thanks in part to the ease of expanding it with new missions via its own scripting language.
The gameplay itself is extremely addictive, and the ASCII art gives the whole experience a great retro/sci-fi feel. What's more, it is currently supported and developed.
You may have already seen this glorious game around the intertubes. ASCIIpOrtal is a, very well made, 2D-Side-Scroller re-imagining of Valve's Portal.
The game plays a little differently than the 3D game it is based on... but the game-play mechanics work very well in the side scroller style. Lots of fun. Great for picking up and playing a few levels here and there.
Plus... it's highly portable. You can even grab it on some of the nicer cell phones out there.
How to explain Dwarf Fortress...
The gist is this: You build a Dwarf city in a huge, detailed world.
The game is hard. The game is complex (which is a nice change of pace in the age of Bird-Flingingly-Simple games that make your brains rot). And the game is incredibly enjoyable.
It's not, strictly, 100% ASCII. You can use graphic sets that replace the ASCII style with different looks. But I like the original, text-y look and feel myself.
There are many other great ASCII games out there. Theres are three truly fantastic ones that are sitting on my drive right now... but I'd love to hear from you what ASCII-based games you currently enjoy. Feel free to comment on this post with any recommendations.
And, of course, I'd be wrong to not at least mention multiplayer BBS gaming -- including some great RPG's (including DoorMUD and L.O.R.D.), space trading sim's (like TradeWars) and strategy games (like Barren Realms Elite). Some great ASCII (ANSI) games in there. If you want to check any of those out, they're up and running at my BBS.