Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

 

#40 – Myst IV: Revelation

The Myst franchise changed hands once again after the release of Exile, as Ubisoft took over the reins for 2004's Myst IV: Revelation.  Thankfully, the result was an exceptional game that combined all the elements that made its predecessors so great while adding a few dynamic qualities of its own. Not only does it tell a fantastic story, but in sending players to the worlds where Atrus’s sons are imprisoned (along with two others), the artists created what is arguably the best looking Myst game ever created. The new Ages are incredibly diverse, from the fog-enshrouded tower peaks of the dreary Spire to the prehistory-tinged land of Haven, and each is filled with little animations that bring them to vivid life.  To capture it all, Myst IV shipped only on DVD, helping pioneer the shift to a new medium just like the original Myst did more than a decade earlier. 


Revelation isn’t all beauty without brains, of course.  After the relative ease of Myst III, the puzzles here are extremely complex and challenging, yet always fair and nicely integrated.  To help keep track of clues, for the first time in the series a camera was provided to photograph important details for later reference, and a personal journal allowed for in-game note taking.  The interface was updated with additional interactivity as well, requiring you to physically pull levers or turn pages in a book.  This was mainly a cosmetic addition, but it added to the overall sense of immersion.  And by returning the storyline to its original roots, players were once again given a choice between the two brothers, offering another chance to determine their fates once and for all.  Though the genre’s heyday was long gone by the time of its release, Myst IV proved that the franchise still had the power to deliver a compelling puzzle-adventure experience that few others have ever surpassed.

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#39 – Last Window: The Secret of Cape West

As the sequel to Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Cing’s Last Window: The Secret of Cape West had its work cut out for it, but it was clearly up to the challenge and then some. In the ongoing story of ex-cop Kyle Hyde, now door-to-door salesman and finder of things that don’t always want to be found, Kyle is without a job and soon to be without a home. But his life takes an even more unexpected turn when he is offered a chance to find out what happened to his father 25 years ago, right there in the same apartment building that’s about to be demolished. Before long, you’ve become fully immersed in yet another gritty interactive story, with its hand-drawn graphics and film noir-like atmosphere that make the game very hard to put down. Not when there’s so much to do, as exploring the Cape West apartment building involves visiting and interrogating fascinating characters and solving well-integrated, multi-solution puzzles, all while discovering plenty of dark secrets along the way.

As with the first game, the Nintendo DS is held sideways like a book while playing, and the shoulder buttons, microphone, and folding platform itself are put to good use in situations where the player’s actions perfectly mimic in-game activity. The game also introduces several new improvements over its predecessor, and even includes a full novelized version of your exploits in detail at the end of each chapter. This is a great refresher if you’ve been away from the game (it’s so long you’ll have to put it down once in a while), though you’ll likely be eager to dive right back into the game, if only to access the impressive jazz soundtrack from the in-game jukebox.  You need to love reading to enjoy games like this, but if you do, Last Window is a masterpiece of interactive fiction brilliantly blended with graphic novel sensibilities.  It may have been the swan song for its talented Japanese developers, but they certainly went out on a high note.

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#38 – Full Throttle

The words "effortlessly cool" are not normally attached to point-and-click games, but Full Throttle is precisely that.  The epic opening sequence of a lone biker’s inner monologue as he drives along a highway sets a riveting stage for the high-octane adventure to come. Written and designed by Tim Schafer, the 1995 motorcycle-themed release offered lavish graphics, a brilliantly voice-acted cast of characters, and a rockin' soundtrack. If there’s one teensy little flaw, it’s that it’s short – really short. So short you’ll think you’ve done something wrong when the credits roll.  It’s perhaps the only real reason (and maybe a few ill-conceived action sequences) it doesn’t occupy a more elevated position on our list. But being left wanting more isn’t just a testament to its abbreviated length, but also the quality of the adventure to that point.

Full Throttle represented a big step forward both graphically and technically for LucasArts in 1995. The soundtrack featured biker band The Gone Jackals, the first time commercial music had been used in one of their games, while the SCUMM engine was overhauled entirely and the superb voice cast sported names like Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons) and Mark Hamill (Star Wars) on the roster. The cast is first-rate, with the late Roy Conrad's grizzled anti-hero Ben providing a completely new take on the point-and-click protagonist; a guy you can never quite understand and would certainly never want to meet in a dark alley. The art direction was unparalleled at the time, and its bleak, dystopian setting was brought vividly to life with some gorgeous backdrops and cutting edge animation thrown in to round it all off. It may have ended too soon, but Full Throttle was one game that fired on all cylinders while it lasted.

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#37 – Stacking

A game where every character is a Russian nesting doll can be easy to dismiss as child’s play, but Double Fine's 2011 downloadable Stacking has a charming appeal as broad as its humour. Set in 1930s America, the game stars Charlie Blackmore, the smallest matryoshka doll in the world whose family has been abducted by a cruel captain of industry and forced to work under horrible conditions to advance the tycoon’s vague-yet-diabolical plot. Overlooked because of his size, Charlie uses his diminutive stature to – in true stacking doll fashion – jump into a series of incrementally larger dolls in order to solve puzzles, free his family, and ultimately stem the tide of greed and corruption that threatens the working class. In another compelling touch, all the action is displayed in a stylish period vision, complete with cinematic silent film dioramas.

What makes jumping into other dolls so much fun isn't just their often funny reactions to the sudden invasion, but the fact that each dolls boasts a special ability. Some, such as headbutting people or performing a pantomime, are simply for colour or to accomplish one of the game's many sub-goals, but many of them, such as attracting the attention of lusty men, are integral to solving puzzles. Deep down, Stacking uses the same tried-and-true “find the key to open the door” gameplay employed by countless other adventures, but here the “key” is another doll or sequence of dolls and the “door” ranges from a staggered piano concert to an absurd dog race, which is what makes the game so engaging and utterly unique. Simple in design, Stacking turns the basic elements of adventure gaming on their ear – not by obfuscating puzzles through layers of absurdity but by iterating on one simple change. This not only makes the game eminently entertaining but elevates it to a high shelf in gaming history.

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#36 – Sanitarium

Sanitarium may start with a clichéd premise – horrible car accident, man wakes up unable to recall his own identity – but from the moment you discover the protagonist wrapped in heavy bandages in a decrepit mental hospital, every detail becomes suspect as you begin a surreal journey through the patient's psyche to discover the truth about his condition and his past. Throughout the game, the story alternates between the “real world” of the sanitarium and the twisted depths of the protagonist's mind, which manifest as a variety of disparate locales, from a mutant plant-infested farm to an Aztec civilization to a weird alien bug world. Not only does the landscape change, the character does as well in reaction to the “reality” he is currently facing. While you are Max Laughton in the hospital, once you enter his mind's eye, you will transform into characters such as a tribal god, a multi-armed Cyclops, and a little girl. While the transitions may seem nonsensical at first, they all come together in the end, and along the way you experience a truly affecting and horrific story of love and loss.

Initially marred by some technical issues upon its release in 1998, including a game-stopping bug in the second area, Dreamforge’s magnum opus marched on and eventually received critical recognition for the creativity of its settings, the strength of its narrative and the quality of its puzzle design. Like a David Lynch movie, it’s impossible to tell fantasy from reality, though you’ll constantly try to piece together each tantalizingly cryptic piece of the memory puzzle as you encounter them.  While not a “horror” game per se, the ever-changing but consistently creepy atmosphere is among the best the genre has had to offer before or since. Along with its rotating world mechanic and switching protagonists, it also has one of the most sincere and genuinely moving moments in gaming history. While the game failed to set the sales charts aflame, Sanitarium has rightly come to be considered a cult classic among adventure gamers, and is a worthy addition both to this list and any gamer's library.

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Next up: #35-31...

Continued on the next page...




About the Author

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 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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