Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

 

#55 – Syberia II

The direct sequel to Microïds’ acclaimed 2002 title, Syberia II came out two years after the original to continue Kate Walker's journey through the frozen Russian wilderness to discover once and for all if mammoths still exist. Now travelling alongside an eccentric aged inventor and the automaton Oscar (plus an adorably furry youki), Kate’s ongoing adventure is a direct extension of the first story, creating a seamless artistic connection between the two. Beautifully serene, hand-painted worlds remain at the forefront of the experience, paired with top-notch writing and sound to create a memorable melancholy atmosphere that few games can rival.  Where the game does change things up is by taking a jumping off the wind-up train tracks for treks through the tundra, a run-in with a friendly pilot, a harrowing encounter with a bear, and crossing paths with a couple ivory poachers intent on finding Syberia and its mammoths for themselves. Time is of the essence as well, as her sickly companion may miss out on his only goal in life if Kate cannot find a way to heal him and deliver him safely to the land of his dreams.


The more adventurous storyline is matched by an increased emphasis on puzzle variety and challenge, making Syberia II a more substantial gameplay experience.  This new focus does come at the expense of some character development, though having made her life-altering decision the first time around, Kate’s singleminded purpose is understandable.  While its predecessor was sometimes criticized for its cliffhanger ending, Syberia II's final sequence is a moving finale, and there are several powerful emotional moments along the way, including a heart-rending sacrifice made by one character in particular. Together with its predecessor, Syberia II is half of a defining work by a true adventure game visionary. Sure, there may still be lots of scenery with little interaction, but the two parts form a classic unlike any other, and the final moments are a worthy reward for seeing the journey through to the end.

You might also like: Paradise, Sinking Island, A New Beginning

 

#54 – Samorost 2

The celebration of “Samorost Day” has been a running gag around Adventure Gamers for years, but not without cause.  The original browser-based Samorost by indie Czech studio Amanita Design took the site by storm in 2004, and its successor upped the ante in every conceivable way.  Yet on the surface, it would seem the sequel has no business being so good.  It’s very short and has no story to speak of, as a little gnome attempts to retrieve his stolen dog from spacefaring aliens, then find his way home again from an unfamiliar planet.  There is no dialogue or inventory, or even much exploration, as you’re usually confined to just a single screen at a time. So why the heck is Samorost 2 so great?  Simple: its stunning artwork, enchanting levels with charm oozing out of every pore, and inventive puzzles that use the streamlined Flash interface to wonderful effect.  Oh, and did we mention half of it was free?

Like its predecessor, Samorost 2 presents a fabulous game world made up of photorealistic nature images blended with hand-drawn animations.  As you journey through forests, sewers, underground networks, and alien homes, you’re traversing utterly foreign lands that still manage to feel strangely familiar, as if you’re a tiny character in the wilds of Earth, now surreal and imposing in their grandeur.  The background music only heightens this bizarre atmosphere with its orchestral, occasionally jazzy score.  Most puzzles ultimately amount to simply clicking the right sequence of hotpots in order, but their brilliant integration makes them feel like organic environmental obstacles to overcome, whether it’s distracting a snail from fixing its shell so you can borrow its hammer or waking up a snoozing robot.  You’re alone on an alien world, with no idea what anything does.  What would YOU do?  Experiment!  As a shareware offering, some may have balked at paying for only half of a two-hour game, but others were more than happy to double the time spent in this creative, wonderful world, counting the cost as an investment in Amanita to see what they could do with a full-fledged adventure…

You might also like: Samorost, Axel & Pixel, Alchemia

 

#53 – Return to Mysterious Island

Usually you can separate adventures into two camps: solitary first-person adventures with obtuse logic puzzles, and third-person adventures with a heavy emphasis on inventory puzzles.  Kheops Studio’s Return to Mysterious Island pitched those distinctions out the window in 2004, with delightfully surprising results.  After a shipwreck, a young woman named Mina washes up on a deserted island, where she needs to survive on whatever the island offers her before she can even begin thinking about finding a way off. While thoroughly exploring to find crucial items, you will traverse beautifully rendered coastal shorelines, tropical jungles and underground caves. You’ll also discover this island is the one Captain Nemo's submarine “The Nautilus” was stranded on ages ago. Remnants of the surviving crew’s habitation are everywhere, including equipment and notes on how to use them.  

So far, so very standard first-person.  Where Return to Mysterious Island really veers off the beaten path is in its brilliant inventory use.  Collectable items abound, most of them needing to be combined or disassembled to create complex new objects, often with multiple solutions leading to the same goal. While most games treat combinations as simple “Use X on Y” exercises, here each construction is an actual recipe.  Connect two compatible items and a formula appears telling you how many items are needed to succeed, without actually telling you exactly what those items are. It’s an inventory puzzler’s dream, and great fun to tinker with dozens of ingredients until you get it right.  You’re not entirely alone, either, as you’ll nurse a cute little monkey back to health, who then pitches in as a functional inventory item himself.  The endgame includes a deluge of logic puzzles and complex riddles for a little variety, but the true joy of the game is its unbridled MacGyverism, with a welcome sense of sense of realism, immediacy and tangible consequence that most adventures lack.

You might also like: Return to Mysterious Island 2, VOYAGE (aka Journey to the Center of the Moon)

 

#52 – Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

It took seven years, but fans of Funcom's The Longest Journey saw their dreams of a sequel realized in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Yet it is a much different game than its classic predecessor, in every conceivable way. April Ryan, the intrepid ingénue from the first game, is battle-scarred and world-weary, and this time around she’s joined by the mysterious assassin Kian and the rudderless but loyal Zoë Castillo. All three are playable characters, and as you follow the metaphysical and literal journeys of each, you begin to unearth the secret world that connect dreams to reality. Ragnar Tørnquist once again proves himself a master storyteller with enough imagination to fill two worlds: the futuristic Stark and the fantastic Arcadia. As you shuttle between the two, you begin to catch glimpses of how these worlds are tied together even as you occasionally stumble upon a vague in-between realm that may hold the answers to the strange forces that threaten to unravel both worlds.

Complementing the fabulous voice acting and immersive sound work, the game’s move to a full 3D environment gives the complex story room to breathe. The world you explore is gorgeously cinematic and totally immersive, at least once you get used to the keyboard and mouse (or gamepad) to move and control camera angles. Adventure gamers may hesitate over a game that includes brief fighting and stealth sequences (none requiring fast reflexes, and many of them avoidable to begin with). However, these elements are brief and help bring tension and a sense of urgency to a story that still includes its fair share of inventory puzzles and long dialogues with a variety of characters like Wonkers the Watilla, a robotic toy gorilla that has been with Zoë since she was a child. Don’t let the less traditional adventure elements scare you away; with its complex tale of three characters struggling to find balance between loyalty and love, between honor and morality, Dreamfall achieves just the right balance between wonderful storytelling and immersive gameplay. 

You might also like: 80 Days

 

#51 – Zork Nemesis

If this game were simply called Nemesis, it would be widely acclaimed as one of the best puzzle-adventures ever made.  It still is, of course (as evidenced by its presence here), but there are some who just can’t reconcile its dark, at times disturbing atmosphere with the wacky world of Zork.  And indeed, beyond a few subtle references, Activision’s 1996 game has nothing in common with its predecessors, making it more a spin-off adventure than genuine sequel.  Taken purely on its own terms, however, it’s an excellent example of what can be done by pushing the solitary, puzzle-centric Myst formula in new and interesting ways. The Great Underground Empire’s four top alchemists have all disappeared in the Forbidden Lands, and it’s your job to seek them out.  Unfortunately, you soon discover that they’re dead, or at least trapped in a sort of undead captivity by an evil entity called the Nemesis. Guided by their spirits, now only you can complete their work by retrieving the items needed to resurrect them, though the more you follow in their footsteps, the more you come to question their motives as well. 

Your travels take you through four distinct realms representing the natural elements, including such locations as an asylum, castle, monastery, and a musical conservatory. These aren’t whimsical fantasy settings, however.  Evidence of torture and cruelty is everywhere, and you’ll be required to behead a corpse with a guillotine yourself.  (But hey, is that worse than being eaten by a Grue?)  All this is observed using the game’s proprietary Z-Vision Surround engine, which in its day helped pioneer the now-common 360-degree, node-based camera panning, with over an hour of full-motion video sprinkled in between.  A haunting musical score rounds out the ominous mood and provides the backdrop for the many challenging puzzles that await. Some of the game’s 65 challenges are quite difficult, making for a lengthy, substantial adventure before reaching the stunning conclusion, by which point you’ll be questioning everything you thought you knew. It may not be very Zorkian, but when games are this good, does it really matter what they’re called?

You might also like: 9: The Last Resort, Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon

 


 

Next up: #50-46...

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Comments

diego diego
Dec 19, 2011

Great idea, i loved the Top 20 list. Though, I’m already sad to see Toonstruck go this high, but oh well.. that’s the thing with the lists.

This would also be a good reminder for the games still to play, i’ve already got my eye on Faust from Day 1.

Kurufinwe Kurufinwe
Dec 19, 2011

I Already Hate[TM] this list… Tongue

Seriously, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I can’t help but see how inherently silly it is to try to rank things as wildly different as Faust and Toonstruck on the same scale—- and no amount of handwaving in the introduction is going to change that. But on the other hand, I’m already getting caught up in the horse race, glad to see that the Runaway series ended up with the dregs where it belongs, hoping that Day of the Tentacle will join it soon (rather than being at the very top of the list as it was last time), hating that The Dig is at such a low spot, wondering what I would put on the top spot (I guess Monkey Island 1 is, for better or worse, the quintessential adventure game), etc.

In any case, this list has already given me ideas for good games I haven’t played yet and that I should give a chance to, and I’m sure there will be many more in the coming days, and for that I am grateful. Smile

Cellardoor
Dec 19, 2011

Awesome, this’ll be something to look forward to each day! :-) Nice to see that Gold Rush! made the list.

ghettodoghammer
Dec 19, 2011

Why don’t you review some of these games, like Space Bar and Gold Rush? I would love to read your take on them, but they’re conspiciously absent from the review boards.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 19, 2011

We reviewed Gold Rush, but yes, there are some we haven’t, and revisiting these older games for the list has motivated us to get those covered. Really it’s as much a matter of availability and compatibility at this point. We don’t all still have 20-year old games on hand anymore, or have success getting them to run. But we’ll try! Kurufinwe, that’s the spirit! Grin

Arial Type Arial Type
Dec 19, 2011

Finally, the TOP 100! Every thematic website should have one of those) I remember earlier TOP 20s on AG, but they weren’t that fulfilling, and they were really only one man’s point of view.

So far I’ve only got one big complaint - The Dig. It is not only a great adventure game on its own, but it is also one of the best sci-fi games, with an original, developed story and universe. It is one of the earliest and most organic adventure/puzzle mixes that overshadow Myst. And I’m not even talking about the music, which is arguably one of the best scores in gaming history. The game is at least TOP 50 material.

And I’m also with Kurufinwe with hopes for DoTT. It has seen enough first places already Smile

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Dec 19, 2011

Won’t there be a vote for top 2011 adventure games?

Jackal Jackal
Dec 19, 2011

That’s the Aggie Awards Totally different animal. And yes, that’ll happen in February, as usual, including the reader vote.

inm8#2 inm8#2
Dec 19, 2011

I think the last Top 20 list was in April 2004, so this Top 100 list is long overdue. There have been some great games in the last 7 years so it’s natural to expand the list. Plus, it helps people like me who like to organize lists of games they’ve played, plan to play, etc.

ncf1
Dec 19, 2011

already have to disagree, strongly. Toonstruck is far better than The Dig, for starters, yet precedes it. Runaway is just tripe not worth revisiting.. not sure I will bother with the rest to be honest.

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 20, 2011

Bugger the fact you allready went through the ***1/2 section probably means no BS3, SF: Tunguska or Lost Horizon on the list. I never expected them to end up very high but not at all? Shame. Also imo: Runaway 2 wipes the floor with Runaway 3 whom I consider to be the least good of all installments.

Oscar Oscar
Dec 20, 2011

I’m not looking at the rankings at all. Already half the games posted are ones I haven’t played, and that’s why I read these lists. I don’t really care whether my favorite game is at #1 or #100 if it’s on the list.

zane
Dec 20, 2011

Looks good so far. Iv played half of these first 10 games and i agree with their positions. Iv never been a big fan of the dig, despite its nice production values. The puzzles are boring and tedious and the story goes real flat imo. The atmosphere is nice though and its certainly worth a look for anyone who considers themself an adventure-gamer.

Rolandesch Rolandesch
Dec 20, 2011

The first snow fell yesterday and now THIS! I cant believe that 2 of my wishes became true on the same day! I have to quote the great Homer on this because I am at a loss for words. “Tramampoline! Trampopoline!”
I have to put this list on my Top 100 things that happened this year Smile

tsa tsa
Dec 20, 2011

Woot, this is so much fun! I can’t wait to see how many of the games in the list I have played! And it’s a perfect opportunity to find out what games I missed but really must play. And yes, of course I already hate this list but of course when composing a list like this you are like a politician in the sense that you never do it right. One request: when everything is published, can you then make a list of links to the descriptions of all the games?

Jackal Jackal
Dec 20, 2011

Oh yes, there will be a complete list of all the games at the end, with links to their respective article pages, if that’s what you mean.

Agustín Cordes Agustín Cordes
Dec 20, 2011

Kudos for giving respect to The Dark Eye! That said, I will very disappointed if there are no Legend Entertainment titles featured.

sordy-wordy sordy-wordy
Dec 20, 2011

It would be nice to have the year of release next to each title.

But nice work! , i love these lists although you can never agree 100% with them.

Interplay Interplay
Dec 20, 2011

Some great choices on Day 2!  Good to see Laura Bow.  Also, very pleased to see Dark Fall 1 - a classic I only recently played.  The 7th Guest absolutely had to be included on this list.  It’s hard to overstate how exciting it was when my brother and I got a CD-ROM drive and loaded up this game.  It was so different and exciting.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 20, 2011

Sordy-wordy, the release year is listed in each and every write-up. Have to give people some incentive to actually read them. Grin

rtrooney rtrooney
Dec 21, 2011

So far I can’t agree or disagree with any selection. When it gets closer to the top ten or twenty is where my hackles might rise.

Arial Type Arial Type
Dec 21, 2011

It’s nice to see Spycraft and The Dark Eye made it to the top. While not mainstream or well-known, they fully deserve it.

Focused
Dec 21, 2011

What a fun feature! Several of these games bring back fond memories. I also see quite a few classics I haven’t played, some of which I had completely forgotten. I’m enjoying those informative write-ups as well.

I’m very excited to discover the remaining 80!

zane
Dec 21, 2011

List continues to look very good. Quest for glory 2 is a favorite of mine and would definitely rank better on my list (especially if you count the drastic improvement by the agd remake), but still a solid write-up of the game.

Fien Fien
Dec 21, 2011

I already love AG’s top hundred! I’m surprised and delighted to see The Space Bar and Spycraft included. So what if nobody agrees with the ranking. I bet not even the staff members themselves agree with it. Smile And this is undoubtedly the most interesting part. When we’ve reached 35-40, the territory will become all-too familiar: Syberia, Still Life, MI, more LucasArts, the Gabriel Knights, more Sierra, TLE, TLJ, etcetera

Emin
Dec 21, 2011

Awesome list, I’ll save it for future reference!

subbi
Dec 21, 2011

Should the Quest for Glory series even be nominated for the TOP100 Adventure game?
These games are clearly RPG’s in essence. If these are featured on the list, then also “The Elder Scrolls” series (and maybe others) should be featured aswel…

Jackal Jackal
Dec 21, 2011

In our books, they should. QFG is a breed all its own, but clearly as much adventures as RPG, unlike Elder Scrolls or any other RPG series.

diego diego
Dec 21, 2011

QFG is definitely “adventure” with “RPG” elements more than the other way around. It also helps they come from Sierra.  Wink

Vel
Dec 21, 2011

I just hope Day of the Tentacle does not retain its #1. =)

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 21, 2011

Yay SH: The Awakened made it to the list! You might wanna review that review though considering you placed right in the middle of 4 star territory. Plus I think it deserves that extra star.

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 21, 2011

Oops, actually that’s not correct. The further I get the more the ratings drop. That can’t be right, can it?

Jackal Jackal
Dec 21, 2011

Review scores have nothing to do with this list. Obviously most will be highly rated in both, but not all. For one thing, a review is ultimately just one person’s opinion, and this is a full staff effort, and a review is also frozen in time. It doesn’t factor in legacy, subsequent enhancements, etc. The Awakened, for example, was considered at least in part because of its remastered version, which did something no other game has ever done.

smulan smulan
Dec 21, 2011

Steam just now has an excellent offer of the Frogware Sherlock series including Awakened. Bargain prices.

aimless
Dec 21, 2011

I’m really enjoying this list, too.  I know the greatest game of all time probably won’t make the pinnacle but I can live with that…I guess.  It’s entertaining to read what seem to be well considered opinions about so many games I haven’t played and might like to one day.

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 21, 2011

@Jackal: I see, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying that.

headbanger
Dec 22, 2011

Maniac Mansion should be in the top 20 the least…

cashif
Dec 22, 2011

IMHO it’s very dangerous to make all-time lists. But i think this list is very successful and useful so far. or was until #64, The Book of Unwritten Tales. it musn’t be in top 100 (imho again.)

rottford
Dec 22, 2011

Loom is No. 61??? It would be a sin to not include it in the top 25.

Arial Type Arial Type
Dec 22, 2011

Agreed, Loom is one of the most unique and wonderful adventure experiences, way ahead of its time. And BoUT, Drawn, The Awakened might belong to the “Top decent adventure games of the last 5 years”, but Top 100… Well, at least Shadow of the Comet made it. Now my soul can rest in peace.

inm8#2 inm8#2
Dec 23, 2011

I like Black Dahlia’s inclusion. It’s a great game, apart from some extremely difficult puzzles and a silly ending. The first 2/3 or so of the game are fantastic AG storytelling.

It’s funny that this site’s review is 2/5 stars, but the game made it onto this list. Huzzah!

Xsiah
Dec 23, 2011

I would have liked to see Toonstruck and Loom a little higher. They’re both very charming. I’m hoping to see The Curse of Monkey Island near the top.

cygma
Dec 23, 2011

from other comments here too, i see that the Loom is the first miss in this nonetheless great list..keep on giving them!as you may say the list depends on the staffs views on each game but still the readers show otherwise. i didnt expect it to reach #1 as it is in my own list (And yes im playing adventure games for 20+ years now) but it should be among t he 25 best titles based on story, MUSIC, interface ,g raphics (For its age)...

markerr
Dec 23, 2011

I just recently started playing Black Dahlia again so I’m really happy to see that it made it into the top 100.  It’s a wonderful game!

I found an installer that extracts all 8 cd’s into one neat bundle on your HD so you can play if from there with no cd swapping.  Also had an option to remove those lines from the FMV sequences and to slow it down on dual core machines so it runs really well on XP.

So it’s like playing for the first time…all over again :-)

JanaBanana JanaBanana
Dec 23, 2011

Nice idea I can’t wait to see top games. My favorite games so far are not on the list Smile)) Also this list is going to help me find out about games I missed to play.

MoonBird MoonBird
Dec 23, 2011

Syberia II: you might also like: “A New Beginning” *tries to clean up coffee that slpashed around the screen*

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 23, 2011

You guys did tremendous work here so one really shouldn’t complain but…Dreamfall on #51? I mean in terms of gameplay it might not be perfect but storywise it’s by far the best game ever made! Imo it deserves a place in the top 20 but then again it’s not my call. Still I think not even in the top50 is very harsh on such a magnificent and awe inspiring game.

aimless
Dec 23, 2011

Hand me that rag, moonbird.  My monitor’s dripping, too.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 23, 2011

Sharing one’s lack of motor control doesn’t tell us anything contructive. I stand by the Syberia 2/ANB recommendation 100%.

MoonBird MoonBird
Dec 23, 2011

The only linking thing between the two is that they are 3rd person adventures. Even if I think my brain to breakpoint, I can’t see anything else in common. Even the gameplay is totally different. Syberia is uninteractive, ascetic and includes a lot of running, while on the other hand ANB is a crystal clear oppisite: Rich in hotspots, detailed and no running at all. I really would like to hear an explanation for this recommendation. I’m not trying to brag, i’m really just curious, because I can’t find the point there.


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