Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

Adventure games have been around for over thirty years! Hard to believe, isn’t it? We’ve seen plenty of classics over the decades, and new gems are still being produced today. With such a rich history, just how many deserve to make a list of all-time greats? Our previous compilation of top adventures had 20 games listed, but that was nearly ten years old itself. So what would it be this time? 25? You’d be amazed how quickly those slots filled. 50? That leaves far fewer casualties, but some series alone can easily stake a claim to three or four slots.

Why not 100?

While much of the world probably couldn’t even name 100 adventure games, those of us who cut our teeth on the groundbreaking early text titles, basked in the Golden Age of graphic adventures, suffered through the dark times and lived to see the modern-day (relative) renaissance know better. It’s not only possible to think of 100 quality adventures, it still leaves some painful omissions.


With a number in mind, that left one important consideration. What constitutes “the best”? How do you compare games spanning decades of styles and technology? Is a now-antiquated genre pioneer from 1985 still a classic today? Does it need to be? Do new games have any right to stand alongside their forebears that paved the way and have stood the test of time? What’s really important? Longevity, innovation, production values, historical relevance? What’s more crucial? Story, exploration, puzzles?

The answer is: all of the above – or none! There’s no scientific formula. It’s a combination of factors that depends entirely on the context for each individual game. You can debate each choice, each placement, and we hope you will! The beauty of opinion lists is that there’s no right or wrong, and we argued long and hard among ourselves just to arrive at ours. Sometimes we even contradicted the site's own reviews. But we’re completely confident that our final selections are deserving candidates and a wonderfully diverse representation of the genre’s best to date. Not every game will suit every taste, but there’s plenty of must-play gaming for all in our top 100 all-time adventure games.

Can’t be bothered reading the whole article? Or just can’t handle the suspense? Click here for the complete, full-spoiler list. (But you don’t know what you’re missing!)

Agree with our choices? Disagree? A little of both, somewhere in between? Have your say in the reader comments below.

And now, let's get started!


Table of Contents

 

Page 2: #100-96

Page 3: #95-91

Page 4: #90-86

Page 5: #85-81

Page 6: #80-76

Page 7: #75-71

Page 8: #70-66

Page 9: #65-61

Page 10: #60-56

Page 11: #55-51

Page 12: #50-46

Page 13: #45-41

Page 14: #40-36

Page 15: #35-31

Page 16: #30-26

Page 17: #25-21

Page 18: #20-16

Page 19: #15-11

Page 20: #10-6

Page 21: #5-1


First up: #100-96...

Continued on the next page...




About the Author

Comments

Lintu
Jan 19, 2012

syberia is underrated… naah anyway good to see unknown interesting games

dazsin
Jan 21, 2012

Nice list, but The Longest Journey higher than Broken Sword and The Secret of Monkey Island?!??!!?

And where is Broken Sword 2??

Toonstruck should be in the top 20.

cbman
Feb 2, 2012

As a huge Myst fan I was pleased that you ranked the series, for me, in the right order. Revelation is actually a much better game than original Myst in all departments but of course the original deserves to be second best because of its legacy. But there is no disputing Riven as the best game, and indeed as the best first person adventure ever, which it is on your list. It was unexpected but nice to see Exile make the list, and placed pretty highly too. It’s not the best of Myst but it still beats most first person AGs comfortably. So with Myst V coming in by default (and rightly not making the list, even speaking as an ardent Myst lover) as the worst game I think the order is completely correct. Riven is better than No 5 but I was still pleasantly surprised to see it that high. With 1st person puzzled-driven adventures terribly out of fashion nowadays I always expect them to get very short thrift in these lists.

I would say kudos on your list generally. You’ve tried to cover all the bases, haven’t shyed away from listing unconventional or untraditional adventure games, tried to cover a variety of platforms and give equal time to more modern games as well as the old ‘classics’ etc. A list like this should celebrate the genre and its diversity, not just one style of game from one time period (Sierra and Lucas Arts) so thank you for resisting the urge to just list every single Lucas Arts and Sierra game; the genre really does have a hell of a lot more to offer than just that one idiom - I just wish that some of these old nostalgics could see it too…

LunaMorgan
Feb 21, 2012

Hello!
Just two questions:
1) Runaway deserves more than the 97th place.
2) Where is Phantasmagoria (by Roberta Williams)?

tempestmichael
Feb 24, 2012

Gabriel knight has racist undertones.
Every antagonist is the game is black and protagonist in the game is white. It also has a very ethnocentric portrayal of voodoo culture.
That’s incredibly racist by today’s standards so I don’t think it should rank so high on the list.
Also, games like police quest support an unconstitutional law called prohibition that puts people who suffer from addictions in jail
and that is currently a huge human rights issue that over million people are joining together to stop right now
so considering the fact that at least half of the people out there don’t support prohibition,
I don’t think that where it’s ranked on the list accurately reflects the majority opinion especially since space quest did way better in it’s day anyways.
That’s my opinion.
You don’t have to like it,
but please respect my right to make it.

zane
Feb 24, 2012

@tempestmichael Anyone whos played gabriel knight can see through the giant holes in your accusations (accusations that youve been making on multiple pages). Malia is a major protagonist and love interest of the hero. And the game makes it very clear that there are many many different forms of voodoo and that the villains are not the voodoo “norm”.

ozzie ozzie
Feb 25, 2012

@tempestmichael: People generally don’t judge games by their political leanings, and why should they? Not everything has to be politicized these days! Certainly, you wouldn’t consider Shakespeare to be all that great if you judged him based on the expression of certain political ideas…
If I would only enjoy art that expresses similar political views to mine, then I would certainly miss a lot, like pretty much the whole genre of western movies! Sure, a racist slant is quite uncomfortable to experience (consider the movie “Birth of a Nation”). But you’re simply wrong concerning Gabriel Knight anyway.
While Malia is part of the hoodoo cult, she is so unwillingly and is definitely a protagonist in the story. And well, voodoo is mostly practiced by black people, considering its origins from Africa, so what you’re basically requesting is changing the skin color of some of the antagonists for the sake of political correctness!

And don’t be so defensive. No one wants to take your right away to express your opinions, even if they are totally wrong…

subbi
Feb 25, 2012

Tempestmichael is just trying to shake things up with his politically correct brainfarts. I don’t think he is even serious about them, probably just curious on how others response.
Let’s not give this any further attention.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 25, 2012

I’m sure he’s quite serious. I’m equally sure the rest of us see it for the absurdity it is, so yes, let’s return the comments to the much more interesting and important topic: the list! Grin

moonbucket
Mar 1, 2012

Really enjoyed this list. It’s often nice to have your own thoughts on a game reflected in it’s placing - or challenged.

And, of course, to discover missed gems or overlooked titles to add to the “to play” list - which, naturally, is a whole lot bigger having digested this amazingly in-depth list over a few evenings.

I didn’t spot any Delphine offerings - is it just nostalgia for the many hours I and my friend spent hunched over my Atari ST slaving away at Operation Stealth then, or is it an omission? Maybe it’s time to dust off the ST or a decent emulator and find out.

I was, on the other hand, chuffed and amazed to see the epic The Longest Journey place so highly as this was the game, along with the port to iOS of Beneath A Steel Sky, that drew me back into adventure games and I see no way I’ll escape this amazing genre anytime soon.  Besides, as they once said in Urban Upstart, you can never leave…

Sefir Sefir
Mar 9, 2012

Very impressive list. I’m glad that Riven & Grim Fandango, my two favorites, came that high. Other great adventures could have been in the list as well (for example The Whispered World or Scratches), meaning that some titles that didn’t make it in the top 100, need to be mentioned (mostly for new adventure players).

Goldeneye
Jun 17, 2012

You can add me to the lengthy list of folks who feel that Portal/Portal 2 don’t belong on a list of the top ADVENTURE games.

Vesko
Jul 20, 2012

Thank you for this list. I can see great games I hadn’t heard before.

Calahan
Oct 15, 2012

I missed out on playing Broken Sword (SotT) when it first came out. Something which I had regreted until this weekend. But having just spent this weekend playing it, I can safely say that I no longer regret missing out on it the first time around, and that Broken Sword (SotT) is way too high on this list.

I’ve played a good number of adventure games in the past 25 years, and there are loads better than this very average game.

DiderotsGhost
Nov 9, 2012

Great list.  Any time a list like this is made, it has the potential to subject the authors to a lot of criticism, because people have such different opinions on what should be ranked where, but I think the authors did about as good of a job as possible.  Obviously, I don’t agree with everything, but this is about as happy with a ranked game list I can say I’ve ever been.  Great to see Grim Fandango, the Longest Journey, Gabriel Knight II, the Last Express, Broken Sword I, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island 2, and Beneath a Steel Sky in the top 20. 

Of course, I have my own opinions.  If there was any great omission in my view, it was “Rise of the Dragon.” With some of the filler on the bottom end of the list, I’m not sure how Rise did not make the list.  It’s a great game and one of the first truly great adventure games.

What was underrated in my view:  Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes.  I’m actually very happy to see it at #22 given that most people would completely neglect this gem, but I might put it in my top 10.  The storyline is long and complex enough so that it has more replay value than the average adventure game.  I’ve probably played it through four or five times and have been aching to play it again.

Mixed feelings?:  Pandora Directive.  I’ve been replaying it this week, and the game is so revolutionary in some ways, but not that great in others.  The interface is horrid and clunky.  You’re constantly changing CDs which gets to be a real drag after awhile.  And the characters themselves are generally uninteresting, with Tex Murphy really being a sort of derivative third rate Sam Spade / Philip Marlowe.  But at the same time, it has a long, complex storyline, the diverging paths were revolutionary, the hint system is actually a great feature, and the locales are very fun to explore.  I have a hard time deciding where it should fit in, but I know I haven’t enjoyed it as much as most of the other games in the top 20.

Manuel Manuel
Nov 10, 2012

This was really fun to read, and a really good idea. I am pleased to see my 3 favourite adventure games ( GK 2, Grim Fandango and Shadow of the templars) in the top 5.

Thrust
Dec 30, 2012

There are at least two games that should be on the TOP 100 list. Veil of Darkness and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

Foreropa
May 21, 2013

Great list but I think you forgot Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail, that game was very very good, I think more than the Conquest of the longbow. Anyway, great list, they are many games I didn’t know.

Foreropa
May 25, 2013

“You might also like Sierra’s Leisure Suit Larry series (especially #4!)”

You are bad, very very bad, ha ha ha. For those who doesn´t know, there is no Larry 4.

blackrob183
Aug 14, 2013

This is awesome! While reading the top 100 I found about 30 games that I want to play and haven’t played and most I’ve never heard of. I can’t wait to start on these!

To bad I missed out on most adventure games growing up, once consoles started getting big I didn’t bother much with PC. The only PC games I would play usually would be big name games. I have only played a few true adventure games back in the day.

Sucks but it’s hard to get into a lot of the older games because they are so dated and aren’t as exciting as they were at the time. Mostly I only want to play games with voice, but back in the day the adventure games without voice were fun. I just can’t handle those nowadays so I have to skip a lot because of that as well, oh well still got a nice list!

TheGRiM
Dec 26, 2013

I’m sorry but this list lost all credibility as having any sort of ranking logic when I saw Toonstruck in 93 instead of top 10.

That aside its a great list to get some ideas of what to play next Smile

Lintu
Jan 5, 2014

Grim Fandango? really? Grim f*ckin’ Fandango?..

RockNFknRoll
Jan 17, 2014

Rise Of The Dragon, Willy Beamish and Heart Of China should be on here. Dynamix left us far too soon.

subbi
Jun 22, 2014

Is there an update planned to the Top100 any time soon?
There’s a couple of updates that are due to the list, since the last inclusions were from end 2011.

Jackal Jackal
Jun 22, 2014

Planned, yes. On the imminent horizon? Probably not. It was always my intention to keep it somewhat up to date, but finding the time is a whole other story.

humbertthehorse
Aug 3, 2014

Phantasmagoria not being on the list is a felony in adventure land.

shyplayer
Aug 18, 2014

Hi, I just signed in, as an Adventure games lover,  I want to thank you for all your effort to make and bring this useful & very good list to us, there are some I never played yet.
Jackal, I loved your avatar, it’s really cute.


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