Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games feature

 

#50 – Infocom text adventures

Okay, so we cheated.  But really, how can we not?  The wealth of text adventures in the genre’s early days could fill up a best-of list all on their own, many of them supplied by Infocom. The company who helped catapult the genre (and computer games in general) to the forefront with the original Zork went on to produce a prolific lineup of successful adventures for the better part of a decade. Founded in 1979 by several MIT staffers, Infocom was the name in interactive fiction until it was bought out by Activision in 1986 (though new games continued to appear under the Infocom label for some time after that).  Infocom text adventures eschewed the rudimentary graphics emerging at the time to create rich virtual worlds filled in as much by the player’s imagination as the extensive descriptions offered on-screen.  The text parser, while certainly limited in scope, nevertheless offered an unparalleled level of immersion in directing your own adventure. Such freedom to experiment has since been sacrificed in the name of point-and-click accessibility – a loss that many lament to this day.


But who can pick just one?  Written by co-founders Dave Lebling and Marc Blank, plus other noted “Implementors” like Steve Meretzky, Brian Moriarty, and Bob Bates, the choice of favourite Infocom games ultimately came down to preferred genres.  Fantasy lovers were rewarded with the Zork and Enchanter series; sci-fi fans were treated to classics like Planetfall, A Mind Forever Voyaging, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Not your cup of tea?  There were mysteries like Suspect, The Witness, and Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels; and comedies such as Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Bureaucracy, and Hollywood Hijinx.  Many still think that The Lurking Horror is the most terrifying adventure to date. The list goes on.  Often sold in bookstores, the games even included notable “feelies” to serve as copy protection, though most were treasured as bonus extras in their own right.  It was a different era then, and a magical time to live through for those who were a part of it.  The text adventure lives on today in a thriving Interactive Fiction community, but the adventure genre itself owes much to the undisputed early brilliance of Infocom.

You might also like: Magnetic Scrolls and Scott Adams adventures, 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery, Photopia

 

#49 – Sam & Max: Season Two  (aka Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space)

It may seem unusual to treat five separate releases as one entry, but the five installments of Sam & Max: Season Two combine to form an exceptional work when taken as a whole. Unlike the first season of Telltale’s episodic revival of everyone’s favorite canine shamus and hyperkinetic rabbity thing, where the episodes were knitted together only by a thin thread, there was a real connected story the second time around – an absurdly bizarre and unspeakably insane one, of course, which begins with gunfire and demonic possession as a backdrop for the Christmas holiday, continues through trips to Easter Island, the undead city of Stuttgart and its vampire raves, takes a diabolically hilarious time travel sojourn, and ultimately winds up with an infiltration of the nefarious corporation known only as Hell, LLC. And yet none of that description even hints at the hilarity of the brilliant writing and puzzle design on display.

Throughout the season (which came to be known as Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space in console ports), the humour is top-notch absurdism, with perfect references to past events in the series and nearly ideal use of supporting characters to maximum comedic effect. Telltale wisely extricated themselves from the need to make each episode standalone, as they did in Season One, and instead went all-in for the cliffhanger approach. At the time we described the series as “completely, certifiably nutso” and therein was the incredible magic and charm of the experience, the full realization of what Steve Purcell’s beloved characters were meant to be. Thanks to those infamous “marketplace realties”, a Freelance Police sequel once seemed never meant to be, but in Telltale’s hands, Season Two became a modern classic exploding with the ambition and lunacy of the best Golden Age comedy adventures.

You might also like: Sam & Max: Season One and Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse

 

#48 – Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers

Any of Sierra’s Space Quest games could rightfully stake a claim as the series’ best, but there are mainly two words for why Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers gets the nod.  No, not “Scott Murphy” or “Mark Crowe”, though the self-proclaimed Two Guys from Andromeda penned consistently hilarious scripts.  Rather, it’s “Gary Owens”, the Laugh-In announcer who was nabbed to voice the narrator in the 1992 CD-ROM release a year after the original floppy disk version. Owens delivered a masterfully sarcastic, over-the-top performance that raised an already funny franchise to otherworldly heights.  He even made dying hilarious, which is a good thing, as you’re likely to do so many, many times. Those aren’t the only laughs, of course. Though there are more pop-culture references and less sci-fi parody here than in other games, the superfluous “Taste” and “Smell” interactive options offer plenty of amusing responses as well.

The time-travel plot is a predictably zany hodgepodge of events, as Roger unwittingly (does he know any other way?) finds himself transported back and forth through time, from his original adventure in Space Quest I to a fictional future sequel in Space Quest XII.  The game itself was entirely modern for its day, however.  This was the first game in the series to move from text parsers and EGA graphics to the brave new world of point-and-click, VGA graphics, and the upgrade was significant.  And when the CD “talkie” version was introduced, it came at a time when few other games were yet making use of the new medium, making this game one of the more progressive adventures of its era.  Yes, there are dead ends and the puzzles can be unintuitive, but as the funniest game in one of the most storied adventure series ever, it’s Space Quest IV that stands above the rest.

You might also like: Space Quest series

 

#47 – Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Level-5’s Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game full of puzzles – lots and lots of logic puzzles.  Sound boring? It’s not!  Already popular in Japan but virtually unknown around the world before its 2008 release, the game is ideally suited to the portable Nintendo DS and brief rounds of on-the-go gaming. And yet it’s addictively easy to become obsessed with overcoming  devious wordplay, deceptive riddles, and puzzles that have you manically (or strategically, if you’re patient enough) sliding pieces around. There are even puzzles that convince you that you’re doing math when you’re really not. The challenges are confounding, surprising, and full of “aha!” moments – the kind that fill you with elation because you were sure you’d never be able to solve that one on your own… though there are always hints if you really can’t.

But this isn’t just a puzzle game by any means.  These brainteasers are wrapped in a beautiful, charming, and cozy cartoon-like presentation.  Plentiful cinematics fill the tiny DS screen with rich, lively animation and crisp dialogue. And when you’re not knee-deep in a puzzle, the game has you out adventuring with top-hatted English gentleman Professor Layton and his plucky sidekick Luke as they attempt to locate a secret artifact. All around them are quirky, eccentric townsfolk to chat with, and a myriad of collectibles and minigames to discover. Other Layton games have continued to carry the torch, but Curious Village was the first to capture our hearts and strain our brains. Who knew a collection of a hundred-odd puzzles could make for such a wonderful, cohesive adventure? 

You might also like: Professor Layton series, Puzzle Agent series, Safecracker series

 

#46 – The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time

Sequels can all too often be lacklustre retreads of their predecessors, but such was not the case with Presto Studio’s Legacy of Time in 1998. The final installment of The Journeyman Project took new paths to form a memorable conclusion to the trilogy, while still being mindful of its roots. With Earth under pressure to dismantle its time travel technology, the agency tasked with protecting time is unprepared when a massive disturbance hits, so returning hero Gage Blackwood is sent back in a prototype suit to investigate. There he meets old foes and friends (including fan favourite, Arthur the A.I.), and thwarts a conspiracy that could destroy the world. The story rounds off the overall arc skillfully, providing better insight into the motivations of the villains and showing things weren’t quite as black and white as we thought, which makes for a particularly satisfying conclusion.

The lush historical scenes, from warm Mediterranean waters to the snowy Himalayas, get a much bigger share of the screen this time, a deserving increase given the loving detail lavished on them. They also smoothly incorporate FMV characters into their computer-generated backgrounds. The controls have also been streamlined, making for a much smoother interface than before. For the first time in the series, you even get to interact with people in the past. Through the chameleon ability of the prototype suit, you can copy the appearance of natives, allowing you to subsequently wander around and chat with others undetected. The different reactions you get based on who you are impersonating keep things interesting, and are also integral to the puzzles. With Arthur as witty and informative a companion as in the previous installment, the sum total is a triumphant sequel that offers an enduring legacy of entertainment.

You might also like: Atlantis series, AGON series

 


 

Next up: #45-41...

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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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