Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

 

#30 – Bad Mojo

Most adventure games whisk you through gorgeous, fantastical worlds full of dashing heroes and heroines. Not Bad Mojo. Pulse Entertainment’s 1996 adventure turns that notion on its beady, antennaed head, starring an ugly little cockroach that takes you for (hopefully) the most disgusting ride of your life. In this terrifically unique game, you “play” as Roger Samms, a weirdo with a bowl haircut living in a dingy little apartment above a dive bar. He seems to have stumbled across quite a bit of money and is ready to start the good life and get out of dodge. Only before doing so, he tries to pack up his mother's strange locket, and all of a sudden he's zapped into a cockroach. Yuck!  Not a Kafka-esque, man-sized bug, either. You’re the real deal, and now even normal household elements are life-and-death struggles for survival – especially with no hands!


The arrow keys are used to maneuver poor roach Roger through different hazards like roach motels and hot stove burners to get to the bottom of what happened to him. It takes some getting used to, but you’ll soon be immersed in a world filled with hot bubbling dangers just waiting to extinguish you. You won’t gather inventory or solve traditional puzzles; rather, you’ll have to carefully determine how to make it across each dangerous landscape unscathed. But be forewarned: your skin may not stop crawling as you watch yourself skitter past dead rats and across a leftover TV dinner. Bad Mojo is definitely not for the squeamish, but if you can stomach the grotesqueries, exploring this suddenly imposing everyday world and solving puzzles is utterly fascinating from a roach’s point of view. Whether playing the original or the “Redux” version with updated video, you may not emerge from Bad Mojo with a newfound love of roaches, but the next time you see one, you may just have some grudging respect for its perilous adventure, having lived through a memorable one yourself.

You might also like: Dogday

 

#29 – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Capcom’s quirky Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney took the adventure community by storm when it was released in 2005. Originally launched in Japan on the Game Boy Advance, the enhanced remake for the Nintendo DS introduced the endearingly nervous, spiky-haired defense attorney and made common household expressions out of his patented catch-phrases “Hold It!” and “Take That!”  The rookie’s five cases involve investigating crime scenes personally before defending the accused against seemingly impossible odds in court against the brilliantly flamboyant prosecutor Miles Edgeworth.  But real-world laws do not apply in a courtroom ruled by a clueless, gavel-happy judge, with compulsively lying witnesses allowed to change their testimonies at will.  It’s all very strange, surreal, and utterly charming, with a brilliant new gameplay dynamic as well.

The investigative portions involve examining locations for clues and interviewing people to acquire evidence you can take to court. There it must be presented at just the right moment to support your theories or catch a witness fibbing.  These court scenes essentially become complex dialogue puzzles as you sift through testimonies line by line, looking for weaknesses.  You can press for more, call them on a suspected lie, or let the statement slide.  But be careful!  Mistakes have consequences – make enough and you can be sure a guilty verdict will come down.  The backdrop to all this bizarre action is a delightful anime-style graphical presentation, with wonderfully exaggerated character gestures and expressions. The final case, exclusive to the DS remake, even makes clever use of the handheld’s unique features, which none of its sequels have matched.  With its strong script, oddball characters and creative gameplay, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney can stake a claim as one of the genre’s best on any platform.  Surely there is no objection.

You might also like: Ace Attorney series

 

#28 – Sam & Max Hit the Road

The world is a better place with Sam & Max in it. In this politically correct era of Disney ideals, we NEED a canine shamus and a hyperkinetic rabbity thing who don’t think twice about gutting a cat just to move the investigation on (in a totally comedic way, of course). The Freelance Police may have been internally assimilated in the company’s early days (starting life as test sprites for the SCUMM engine), but LucasArts took a big gamble in giving cartoonist Steve Purcell’s creations a full game all their own – quaint family hijinx these were not. It was a risk that paid off brilliantly, however, as the outcome was an amusingly surreal road adventure across the tourist back alleys of the US of A.

Released in 1993, the game looked similar to other titles of the time, but the humour was an entirely different beast. Purcell based the story on some of his early Sam & Max comics, fully expecting them to get toned down during production. Not so, thankfully, as Hit the Road is hilariously edgy from beginning to end. Complementing the excellent jazz-inspired score is some brilliantly bizarre dialogue brought to life by inspired voice acting. Rounding it all off was a big overhaul for the SCUMM engine, replacing the standard verb input method with a set of icons selectable by right-clicking – a feature still used in some adventures today. All these factors combined to make Sam & Max Hit the Road a riot, which is exactly how they’d like it. The pair have remained immensely popular over the years, with multiple sequels and even a cartoon television series, but for most of us, this is where it all began and it’s proven very hard to top.

You might also like: Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People

 

#27 – Discworld Noir

After two successful comic adventures based on Terry Prachett’s fantasy Discworld franchise, Perfect 10 Productions took the series in an unusual direction, with even better results. Discworld Noir is what you’d get if you mix a parody of classic film noir elements and a sprinkle of pure dark whimsy, set on this bizarre flat disc on the back of four elephants, who in turn ride on the back of a giant cosmic turtle. The Discworld’s first-ever detective is the hard-boiled, down-on-his-luck Lewton, whose life takes a turn for the crazy when he encounters the mysterious, seductive Carlotta Von Uberwald. As you help Lewton investigate an increasingly complex case, you’ll get to interact with some old Discworld favorites like Nobby, a corporal on the city watch who never gave up his old habit of stealing things when no one was looking, and new characters created specifically for this game, like Al Khali, a murderous dwarf who eschews the typical fine-toothed comb for an axe when searching Lewton’s office.

Surrounding these oddball characters are fantastic pre-rendered backgrounds that capture the dark, dreary city of Ankh-Morpork perfectly. You’ll explore the city’s seedy underbelly (well, as the Discworld’s largest city, it’s all seedy underbelly, so that’s a lot of exploring) for clues, which is another of the game’s strong points. Your tasks focus on detective work rather than typical inventory puzzles (though there are a few of those), and it’s a blast interviewing suspects, exploring a variety of locations, and gathering information. The game provides you with a handy notebook that doesn’t just keep track of clues, it lets you actually use them much like regular inventory. It's a common feature in adventures today, but this game was blazing that trail long before others caught on. Working as a private eye focused on gathering and manipulating clues to come to a solution is a perfect integration of gameplay and story. Whether you like detective stories, film noir, comedic fantasy, incessant rain, or blackmailing singing trolls, you can’t help but enjoy investigating the zany universe of Discworld Noir.

You might also like: Culpa Innata, Emerald City Confidential

 

#26 – Heavy Rain

It all started with a tech demo, showing a teary-eyed woman berating the player with accusations of infidelity and abuse. Quantic Dream showed they had come nearer to leapfrogging the Uncanny Valley as anyone could have imagined in 2005. Four years later, it came to fruition in Heavy Rain, an innovative, experimental adventure game on a console dominated by shooters and RPGs. Building on the work begun in Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, the French developer pushed the envelope in visual fidelity, cinematic presentation, and branching story paths where the player’s actions truly matter. Freedom of choice is hardly a new concept, but rarely (if ever) has it been pushed to these extremes with such impressive results. Heavy Rain even managed the unthinkable: it made Quick Time Events fun. Now that is an accomplishment.

There are four storylines in Heavy Rain, each involving a different main character, including a father grieving over the loss of one son and driven to action by the kidnapping of another, an FBI profiler with  sci-fi sunglasses to analyze clues at crime scenes, a private eye, and an investigative journalist, all pursuing individual leads into the identity of the serial Origami Killer. Rarely do the characters interact with each other, but their narratives cleverly interlock to provide an intriguing whole.  Each protagonist is given real depth of character that allows you to identify with them, making you all the more invested in their fates. Their stories all depend heavily on the player's choices, successes, and failures, and results can vary wildly, making one playthrough truly unique from another. If one of them dies, the story even plows forward without them. At times it feels more like a movie than game, but when it comes to taut, emotionally-charged, player-directed thrillers, Heavy Rain is better than perhaps any game ever made.

You might also like: Voyeur series, Tender Loving Care

 


 

Next up: #35-31...

Continued on the next page...




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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 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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