Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

 

#25 – Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon

The first two Tex Murphy games had their fair share of problems, from the dreadful speeder sequences in Mean Streets to the lacklustre story of Martian Memorandum. Then in 1994, Under a Killing Moon became the first installment (and first adventure of any kind) to introduce what would become the hallmark of the series: free exploration through pseudo-3D environments, interspersed with tons of full-motion video sequences. With a host of Hollywood acting talent, branching dialogues, a context-sensitive hint system, substantial puzzles to solve, and Aaron Conners on board to help Chris Jones author its engaging sci-fi mystery story about a dangerous cult seeking to bring forth the Apocalypse, the combination proved to be a winning formula that was far ahead of its time. (In fact, it’s still far ahead of most games today!)


Of course, being a pioneer meant that Under a Killing Moon is not perfect, and indeed many sequences can be a bit frustrating, especially when fast reflexes and hand-eye coordination come into play. Still, the puzzles are nicely integrated into an intriguingly layered detective story, with dozens of interesting characters, ranging from disfigured mutants treated as pariahs by the rest of the population to treacherous femmes fatales dressed in black, always with a cigarette between their red lips. The 3D environments have not stood the test of time particularly well, but the atmosphere has lost none of its appeal, paving the way for this game’s inclusion on the list of all-time greats. Playing Under a Killing Moon is like reading a sci-fi version of the best Raymond Chandler novel, and Tex himself (played superbly by Jones) is such a lovable, charismatic lead that he deserves a rightful spot amongst the greatest heroes of the adventure genre.

You might also like: Tex Murphy: Overseer, Dark Side of the Moon

 

#24 – Police Quest 2: The Vengeance

At a time when cartoon comedies and light fantasy adventures ruled the genre, the gritty realism and intrigue of Sonny Bonds and the Lytton Police Department provided a captivating change of pace that was never more perfectly realized than in the brilliant Police Quest 2: The Vengeance in 1988. The story takes a direct cue from the conclusion of the first game in the series, continuing the tale of the “Death Angel” Jesse Bains one year after his capture. The sequel takes no time at all to ratchet up the intensity and never lets up on the suspense through pursuit, multiple murders, and a violent final confrontation in the underground sewers of a fictional New Mexico city.

The other Police Quest adventures suffered from thin plotting and weak writing, but this gem has no such issues, with a great script and a very balanced level of difficulty. Sierra really set a new standard of drama for the time, with some surprising turns and the violent integration of elements of Sonny’s personal life. The game is colourful and diverse in its locations, offered a sparse but cool soundtrack in the earliest stages of the sound card, and in all areas it boasts a remarkable attention to detail that makes the game a wonderful detective mystery. As one of the top games – serious or otherwise – of its era, The Vengeance is still an entertaining and intense adventure more than two decades after its release, standing not only as the best of its series but one of the very best of the genre all-time.

You might also like: Police Quest series

 

#23 – Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness

Arguably the best chapter in the Quest for Glory series (we know, because we argued), Shadows of Darkness overcame a huge array of bugs that plagued the initial release to stand alone atop this unique RPG-adventure hybrid series.  As a bonus, most of the bugs have since been resolved by fan-made patches, providing a better experience all around.  But even back in 1993, its gorgeous VGA backgrounds literally oozed atmosphere from every pixel, and an outstanding soundtrack accompanied every moment of the game with haunting, memorable instrumental pieces. Then there’s the usual series trademark, that exquisite mix of adventure gameplay and RPG features, like character-building, side-quests and – gasp! – even combat (though here you can let the computer A.I fight for you if you wish).

Most notable of all, however, is the deeply touching story about regret and redemption, whose Gothic elements perfectly fit with the Transylvanian setting and mythology, and the many endearing characters – some solemn, some zany, but all of them vibrant and charming in their own ways. This includes not only one of the greatest all-time "villains" of the genre, but also minor characters like Tanya and Toby, whose tale is bound to bring at least a little tear to the eye. Then, of course, honourable mention must go to Jonathan Rhys-Davies, who did a mesmerizing job as the voice of the narrator, delivering an ominous tone to every description, making the experience all the more exhilarating. The sum total of these superb elements make Shadows of Darkness the most memorable installment in the one-of-a-kind Quest for Glory series and one of Sierra’s finest achievements overall.

You might also like: Quest for Glory III-V

 

#22 – The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel

Ask anyone about good detective mysteries, and the name Sherlock Holmes springs immediately to mind, and for longtime adventure gamers, The Serrated Scalpel usually stands out as his greatest triumph.  Mythos Software’s 1992 Lost Files game tells a brilliant, original tale in which Holmes is confronted by a murder that appears to be the work of Jack the Ripper. He knows better, however, and this certainty sets him and his ever-faithful partner Dr. Watson on a chase across London to find the real culprit. The ambitious plot twists and turns in unexpected ways, cleverly involving a cast of over a hundred across more than twenty different locations, from the morgue to the London Zoo. There is so much to investigate and so many people to interrogate, the plot feels incredibly meaty and will keep you hooked for quite some time.

The faithfulness to the Sherlock Holmes canon is also evident, with many familiar characters making appearances, plus nice little references to other cases that only fans of the books may notice. But even Sherlock neophytes have found themselves completely engrossed by continually uncovering clues that create new leads that point to new places with still more clues to find. The plot progression feels very organic, and though challenging, it is a lot of fun piecing together the evidence to work out the truth. The sound design and graphics were nothing special at the time of release, and there are technical limitations that prevent it from holding up well two decades later. But if you can find a copy and get it running, even now you’ll feel like you’re actually in an authentic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery, which raises it above even the slicker, newer Sherlock Holmes adventures of today.

You might also like: The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: Case of the Rose Tattoo

 

#21 – Blade Runner

Though history may remember them best as the creators of the critically-acclaimed strategy series Command & Conquer, Westwood Studios made a fair number of adventure games in its time, including the brilliant 1997 companion to Ridley Scott's 1982 dark future masterpiece, Blade Runner. Taking place parallel to Rick Deckard's investigation, the game stars rookie Blade Runner Ray McCoy, who explores many of the film's signature environments and interacts with familiar characters as you hunt down a group of replicants who are suspected of killing real animals. Given their scarcity in this grim, neon-obsessed metropolis of 21st century Los Angeles, this is a crime on par with murdering humans. The storyline twists and turns continually, and you’ll come to suspect virtually everyone of being a “skin job”.  Even your own authenticity comes into question. 

The game was originally billed as a “real-time adventure game” and employs a variety of sequences that test your reflexes against other characters and environmental hazards along the way. You will dodge a screaming maniac, examine crime scene photos with the ESPER, and administer Voight-Kampff tests to suspected replicants you encounter. The story boasts a large number of branches, both in the final moments and in multiple steps along the way. If you like, you can mimic the plot of the movie or take the investigation in a vastly different direction. No matter which of the many narrative alleys you venture down, the game manages an engaging story with well-realized characters and subplots that build on, never break, the reality established in the classic film. As a bold movie tie-in (albeit 15 years after the fact), Westwood gave players both the world they were familiar with and the personal agency to explore it as they saw fit, securing Blade Runner its rightful place among adventure gaming's best.

You might also like: Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy, DreamWeb

 


 

That’s day eight in the books.  Tune in tomorrow for #’s 30-21 as our top 100 all-time adventure countdown continues!

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
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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