Being an old timer and a gaming veteran, it is about time I share my personal view on the best 10 adventure games of all time.
In case you are a noob and have no clue about adventure games, you should know that it is the best genre of games ever created. If you are wondering why it is extinct, you can safely blame it on the new generations’ impatience and inability to spend more time on thinking rather than shooting or punching something.
Many of the current gaming industry gurus started off doing adventure games, and that dates back to DOS days. Games were really simple and command driven; you move your character using keyboard arrows while you type commands for actions such as: Talk, Pick up, Look, etc. – Yes, mouse was not invented then
My favorite gaming company was definitely LucasArts. These guys used to bless us with the best adventure games on all levels: Graphics, plots, puzzles, humor and what have you! Therefore don’t question my rankings below, they were definitely heavily influenced by these guys who actually helped define the category with Sierra.
Don’t get me wrong one can still find adventure games today, yet they have completely gone underground and their audience is mainly mature players and old timers. You can keep up to date with those (many of my friends switched to action, RPG, and shoot em up because they thought no body makes adventure games anymore) by keeping an eye on those two sites:
Another reason for the genre’s decay is the lack of support from gaming consoles like PS and Xbox. Obviously being joypad based makes point and click unideal. That is why you will find adventure games heavily made for PC platform.
For more information about adventure games in general, check the entry on Wikipedia here.
Now back to my top ten; one thing you need to know is that one of the reasons I haven’t made this entry a long time ago is simply because it is super hard to choose and define my personal top 10. Therefore please don’t look at this as guide, it is strictly based on my personal preferences and bias, and those titles I enjoyed most when I played them. It is not necessarily mean that these games are the best made on when compared on proper scale head to head with other titles.
I’ve literally played hundreds of adventure games through the years (started in 1988) and these are the ones that stuck. That must mean something.
P.S. I do not really like adventure games that allow your character to die – Major influencing point.
P.S.2. I try to keep a clear definition between adventure games and puzzle games. Don’t be surprised if you find big titles which are normally categorized under Adventure not included below, it could be because to me they are puzzle games. (e.g. Myst, Lost in Time, etc)
Here we go:
10. “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” Series
There are 4 games in the series so far and they keep getting better with each release. Super strong plots based on the original stories by Doyle (if you read them), very nicely done, great game play and controls, and just about the right length for each title. If you like Sherlock Holmes you would love these games, if you do not they would still be great fun to play. It is worth mentioning that the games are new and were developed in the 2000’s. Thank you Forgwares for keeping them coming in times where adventure games are scarce.
9. “Broken Sword” Series
Again 4 games in the series; An American tourist, a french journalist, and lots of myths in cartoon-styled graphics. If you think the combination is lame, you should know that it is what makes the game great. There is no attempt to make these characters look like real heroes. The boring George Stobbart (the main character) keeps getting himself into trouble time after time. The developers never compromised on quality for these games, always a strong plot touching awesome controversial subjects (Templar knights, ancient powers, mystery civilizations, etc) and always taking their time to release the next title. Again these are new series and they are a must play for every adventure lover. On a side note, I really respect Revolution Software, I loved every single game I played for them. The guys are persistent and are boutique-like, they only have a few titles under their belt despite the fact that they have been around for a while. This goes on to tell you they are quality focused not quantity – I hope it pays the bills Their stories are very well plotted that the first title is being made into a movie already.
8. Simon the Sorcerer Series
Magic, adventure, and comedy! The tales of a boy who becomes a magician out of the blue, then taken from the present into the ancient times of magic and glory. That is actually what makes the game fun, the guy who uses modern logic to live in ancient times and practice what he does not understand. I have not played the 3rd and 4th titles but the first two alone have put these series on my all time favorites list. The games date back to the 90’s and continue into the 2000’s.
7. Leisure Suit Larry Series
Many people’s favorite! None other but Larry Laffer, the short, bald, golden-necklace wearing, extremely pimp-looking, loser/hero. Leisure Suit Larry is prominently funny and is heavily based on sex. Larry’s objective in each title is to simply sleep with every chick he meets in the game. Given his non-seductive character and bad looks it is never an easy task. These games kept getting better with each release, too bad they stopped at 7 only. They go all the way back to the 80’s and continue until the mid 90’s (too titles were released in 2000’s but they were not done by Al Lowe, the original story writer, so they don’t count). There has been remakes for the first two – VGA graphics, point and click style and speech. The real count is 6 titles because the 4th one was never made (or canceled, no one really knows). I love the game’s main musical theme! A must play indeed.
6. Full Throttle
OK, the first non series title in my top 10, I still I wish they made a sequel though. This is one of the best games of all times in the genre. It appeals to almost all gamers. It is basically a Heavy Metal, Harley Davidson (or Corely as it is named in the game) adventure game with a very prominent character of a hero. Ben is an arrogant biker / gang leader who tries to save his gang and the motorcycle industry from a murder frame. A story so good that it is worth being made into a movie, and a production so great that it would still stand out even by today’s standards. The game has an original soundtrack by the band The Gone Jackals. The only con of the game is that it’s relatively short especially for the amount of fun you have playing it. Sequels were planned and canceled which I do not mind since they were not going to be adventure, but action. Hopefully though we will see an adventure sequel one day.
5. The Dig
This game is so great that I could not stop playing it – I finished it in one session that was 36 hours straight. Yep I could not leave my chair! You play a team of astronauts who try to plant a nuclear bomb on a huge asteroid in an attempt to save the earth from a massive collision. Instead they find out it that the asteroid is a star-ship that transfers them immediately to a new, non discovered planet. This new planet of course is highly advanced technologically, yet it’s in a very decayed status. The goal is to explore the planet and try to find a way back home. This game was meant to be a movie by Spielberg, but the production costs were so high it was made into a game instead. Need I say more? It is the only fully-serious LucasArts game I’ve played, and the only one I ever liked in science fiction. The game has an original orchestra score!
4. Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis
Although that game is part of series, this specific title stands out and deserves to be rated on its own. The longest and most versatile adventure game I played. It is based on a true hero: Indiana Jones. In the middle of the game, the plot puts you at a crossroad which leads you to one of three different paths depending on you choose; either carry on in the game with the use of assistance, carry on in the game with use of Indy’s wits, or carry on in the game with the use of Indy’s muscle. That answer will change the gameplay and puzzles all the way until the end. I finished each path twice – Yes, that is how great the game is. If this game was remade with modern graphics and speech, it would be a true nominee for the best game of all times.
3. Maniac Mansion Series
Two masterpieces indeed. The first Maniac Mansion was the game that revolutionized adventure games in every way; the gameplay, length, complexity, plot, and multiple endings all started there! You play a hero who tries to save his girlfriend who was abducted by a crazy professor: Dr Edison. The storyline might sound cheesy but it is very far from that. You choose 3 characters out of six and the game ends in a different way with each combination. I still however like the sequel more: Day of the Tentacle which is by far the funniest and best structured adventure game ever. Very different from the first, almost independent even when referred to (only as Day of the Tentacle), what both share is the set of characters and the great experience! In the sequel, you will actually try to help Dr Edison prevent his tentacles from taking over the world. A time machine is built, and the three characters you play travel in time: one stays in present, one travels to the past (the funniest part), and the last travels to the future. They combine their efforts (and inventory!) to save the world. You really need your brain’s full capacity to finish this game without help. It is so massive and so well done. Sometimes I wonder why it isn’t my favorite game of all time The best part is that it was developed in 1993, it is definitely the game that was ahead of its time most.
2. Grim Fandango
One of the most re-callable plots and characters ever. Again as good as a movie, Grim Fandango is a full experience on its own. Basically, the game is in the land of the dead, the world between life and death, where people are already dead and their souls need to travel to the ultimate underworld where real death awaits. For sinners it is a very long journey, long enough that they need to take jobs and make a living until they reach the end of it. For good people it is swift and easy. You play Manny Calavera, a reaper (or a travel agent as the term goes in the game ) who competes with a rival – another fierce agent. The story is about Manny trying to save a girl which he loved. Amazing gameplay, super strong plot, great length of fun and undisputed sense of humor. It is a late 90’s game that was definitely way ahead of its time. Unfortunately though, it was the last real adventure game LucasArts ever produced.. The less-than-predicted sales performance of this game lead to almost shutting down the adventure gaming unit in LucasArts keeping only Monkey Island series in production.
1. Monkey Island Series
My ultimate all time favorite! I have the whole collection box and I still play them every now and then, it never gets boring. Everything about Monkey Island sets the benchmark for adventure gaming. Don’t be surprised when you find about the numerous fan clubs and fan sites for it! It is a true cult classic. From the soundtrack to the characters looks and names to the humor to the mini games to the dialogues and to the plots, Monkey Island remains at the top! The core is really very simple, a guy called Guybrush Threepwood strives to achieve his dream of becoming a mighty pirate! The dude is too sweet and clean to be taken seriously yet he manages to kick Le Chuck’s ass 4 consecutive times (the real most fearsome pirate ever)! Everytime he does it in a way more bizarre the previous. I have friends who seldom play adventure games (and some don’t even know the genre’s name) yet they played and loved Monkey Island series (or some of them). You have to play all 4 titles to get the maximum experience. I wish LucasArts would ever come back to their senses and launch a concluding 5th sequel. I can write about this game forever really, so I better stop here.
So that’s it for me! There are so many other adventure games which are great and I enjoyed playing, namely:
- Space Quest series (extremely hilarious)
- Blade Runner (as dark as the movie, hence great)
- Touche (very funny game)
- Discworld (great game)
- Sam & Max (one of the best)
- Syberia Series (great game)
- Overclocked (amazing game)
- Ankh Series (moderately fun)
However and at the end of the day I had to choose 10. Yet to be fair, as I said, it is not about just rating or reviews. There are many 5 star rated games that you won’t find on that list, it is just that they don’t stick the same way these titles do. There are many news ones as well, but despite the enhanced graphics and better production quality they don’t introduce anything new to the gameplay, characters, or plots.
Finally, Kudos to Telltale Games, an adventure games company established by the guys who used to work in LucasArts and who are still loyal to the genre and the fans. Keep an eye on their titles and updates. Keep it up folks!