Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games feature

 

#15 – Syberia

Microïds’ Syberia introduced gamers to a stark wonderland of mechanized beings and childlike wonder in the 2002 release from acclaimed designer Benoît Sokal. Representing her employer's takeover of a toy factory in a remote French village, corporate lawyer Kate Walker discovers the person she was sent to find has passed away and that only a single heir can sign off on the deal. The simple task of locating him turns into an adventure of epic proportions when she discovers the man she's after has abandoned his former life in order to seek out the titular realm where mammoths are rumoured to still exist. As Kate follows the eccentric but brilliant inventor’s obsession, she enters a magical world of talking robots, an elaborate wind-up train, an oppressed opera singer, and a slew of fantastic creations. The most important discovery on her journey through a world of wonder and dreams, however, is herself.

Noted for its lush visuals, colourfully eccentric characters, and immersive character-driven story – all of which are qualities that stand up to this day – the game's lasting impression was ensured right out of the gate. Everything from the jaw-dropping art direction to the rich sound design bring the world of Syberia to life, building a sense of wonder and hand-painted beauty that hadn't been seen before, and arguably hasn’t been matched to this day. Though criticized for its ease and lack of interactivity, the melancholic atmosphere enveloping these living postcards was almost palpable for those who took the time to absorb it.  Initially released for PC only, the game was ported to the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and later to iOS and Nintendo DS, though the PC remains the best platform for truly admiring its incredible graphics. Benoît Sokal crafted a true masterpiece in Syberia, showing the emotional power adventure games can have, setting the bar so high that few (including its own sequel) will ever be able to equal.

You might also like: Amerzone, The Whispered World

 

#14 – The Secret of Monkey Island

LucasArts’ Monkey Island franchise is perhaps the brightest shining star of the comic adventure genre, with Guybrush Threepwood its poster pin-up. Many players’ love of adventure games began with The Secret of Monkey Island, though it’s hard to believe it was released way back in 1990 when the SCUMM engine was in its infancy. Ron Gilbert’s brainchild helped kick-start the Golden Age of adventure games that would happily continue until the late ‘90s, including several sequels of its own. The public lapped up the hapless Guybrush's bumbling attempts to become a mighty pirate and oppose the ghostly villain LeChuck, which set the mould for other LucasArts adventures to come and gave the Monkey Island franchise a rock-solid foundation to build on.

What resonates most with players even today is the hilarity of the game – who can forget insult swordfighting, Stan the used-ship salesman or the piranha poodles?  But it is so much more than that. Its puzzles are challenging, the tale is a surprisingly touching love story across the high seas, and Guybrush is an eminently likeable dreamer that we all relate to inside. And that’s not even probing the game's technical prowess, like the revolutionary facial art implemented during conversation or the complete overhaul of the SCUMM engine from its clunky beginnings to something far more intuitive and user-friendly. Everything felt like a breath of fresh sea air for the genre at the time, and even two decades later, the recent Special Edition makeover and episodic revival prove there’s still life in the old sea dog yet.

You might also like: Tales of Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island

 

#13 – King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow

The original King’s Quest may have made the list mainly due to its historical importance, but King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is an excellent game that deserves a much higher placement on quality alone. A collaboration between series creator Roberta Williams and fledging designer Jane Jensen (who went on to dream up Gabriel Knight), King’s Quest VI retains the familiar fairy tale feel while introducing gameplay that’s better integrated with the storyline and more complex, personal stakes for the characters. Upon its 1992 release, the game showcased Sierra at its best – after a decade of innovation and evolution – and the company’s subsequent floundering and ultimate downfall over the following decade makes the magic of Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow all the more bittersweet.

Perhaps the most striking innovation at the time was its branching storyline. Partway through the game, the player makes a simple choice that determines whether Prince Alexander will reach the ending via a shorter, simpler path, or if he’ll experience the longer, more satisfying conclusion. This isn’t simply a matter of swapping out cutscenes; the puzzles and story progression are completely different after the branch point. King’s Quest VI was also one of the first so-called “multimedia” games, making good use of newly-available CD-ROM drives with a cinematic opening movie, high-resolution character portraits, and voiceovers that included Hollywood actor Robby Benson in the role of Alexander. When it came out, this game didn’t just exceed expectations, it set a new quality standard both for storytelling and production values. And thanks to its timeless love story, lush hand-painted graphics, and solid point-and-click gameplay, it’s still every bit as enjoyable twenty years later.

You might also like: King’s Quest IV, V and VII

 

#12 – Zork Grand Inquisitor

While Zork may be best known for helping pioneer the genre with its early text adventures, the franchise’s best actual game was saved for last. After a brief foray into darker themes in Nemesis, the series wisely returned to its more oddball Zorkian roots for its swan song.  And this 1997 adventure is a treat from start to finish.  And by “start” we mean even the creative Frobozz Electric Installer that delightfully sets the stage for the zaniness to come.  As you attempt to topple the megalomaniac Grand Inquisitor, who has forbidden all use of magic in his iron-fisted rule, you’ll see classic locations in living colour for the first time, from the little white house to GUE Tech to Flood Control Dam #3. Along the way you’ll encounter a bearded fish with a unicorn horn, a be-bop-singing home security vine, flickering and bickering torches, and an inflatable sea captain.  And you can always count on being eaten by a Grue. It’s a rich, imaginative fantasy world unlike any other, the likes of which we arguably haven’t seen since.

Although played in first-person as the infamous AFGNCAAP, the Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person, Grand Inquisitor is anything but a lonely game.  You’re accompanied throughout by the wisecracking former Dungeon Master Dalboz, now trapped inside a lantern, and you’ll briefly get to control three helpers with unique gifts: Griff, the harmless pint-sized green dragon; Brog, the dim-witted but lovable blue troll-thing; and Lucy Flathead, a human female with lots of spunk, a funky hairdo, and an impressive heritage.  Despite being outlawed, magic plays a major role in the puzzle design, as you must master a variety of off-the-wall spells like turning purple things invisible and making yourself more attractive. It may have marked the tragic end of Zork when it was done, but with the finale's combination of superb artistic design, whimsical humour, memorable characters, creative gameplay, and a terrific variety of fun puzzles, the venerable series certainly went out on top.

You might also like: Return to Zork, Death Gate

 

#11 – Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Creating a game based on a beloved film franchise is a risky proposition, as evidenced by then-Lucasfilm’s varying level of success with the Indiana Jones movie tie-ins prior to 1992.  But with no more silver screen releases on the horizon, the company branched out further with an entirely original story in The Fate of Atlantis, and the result still stands up as one of the finest adventure titles ever made. The tale sees Indy and associate Sophia Hapgood searching for the mystical lost city of Atlantis on a globe-trotting quest through dangerous situations, meeting a variety of dubious characters along the way. The game is much more dramatic than other LucasArts games of that era, but it's still sprinkled with humour and even creates some real romantic tension between the two leads.

Without the restrictions of a movie plot, the designers let their creative juices run wild, to great effect. It isn’t only the writing that stands out though, as the action sequences are truly exciting without ever straying from their point-and-click genre foundation. There is no Harrison Ford, but the title features an excellent voice cast and a rousing musical score that backs up the impressive visuals and groundbreaking cutscene animation for the time. Better yet, the game can be completed in three separate ways, using teamwork, wits or fists. The chosen paths are so different, it is almost like three full games in one, making this one of the most replayable adventure games ever. And with all the snappy dialogue, compelling puzzles and fun action to experience, most players are more than happy to start the epic journey again. Alas, The Fate of Atlantis was the last pure adventure for Indy, but it's a whip-cracking good time even today.

You might also like: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lost Horizon

 


 

Next up: #10-6...

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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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