Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games feature

 

#5 – Riven

Cyan's Myst may have been a revolutionary game, but the masterful Riven proved its superior in every way, delivering an unrivalled depth of visual realism, puzzle integration, and organic storytelling. In 1997, the sequel once again thrust players into the boots of the stranger, this time to help Atrus by rescuing his wife Catherine from his estranged father Gehn, who has imprisoned her on a dying world. The premise may be thin, but Riven is a far more complex, unified set of islands, and it’s a marvel just to explore its lakes, volcanic cliffs, and beaches, much of which you can reach without ever solving a puzzle. You can sneak up on sea creatures lazily sunbathing on the rocks, or watch an irritable giant fish through an external viewer.  Although largely deserted, you’ll find plenty of evidence of D’ni civilization as well, complete with mechanical lifts and interconnected tram rides. In making your way through these serene but troubled lands, Riven is as much an unguided tourist experience as it is a game.

The Age of Riven is not only bigger and more beautiful than its predecessor’s, it’s also much, much harder.  Puzzles are often multi-layered, requiring several steps to solve completely.  With unique writing and numbering systems and myths to learn, all without any overt assistance, note-taking is essential. Anything can be a clue, requiring the utmost attention to even the smallest of environmental details, both visual and audible.  Those subtle but richly immersive sound effects aren’t just for ambience; they’re an inherent part of the islands that factor into the puzzles as well.  Taken alone, the game’s qualities are exemplary, but it’s the brilliant interweaving of each element that makes it a timeless classic. Striking a near perfect balance of difficulty and design, Riven is definitely not for the puzzle-solving faint of heart, but for anyone who enjoys an engrossing challenge, Riven is an unforgettable work of art.

 

#4 – Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

Few companies were able to go toe-to-toe with LucasArts and Sierra back in their heydays, but Revolution, a tiny British company, not only released a worthy rival in 1996, but one so outstanding that it outshone all of its contemporaries at the time – and most since. Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars was that game, and it did just about everything right, from the memorable European settings to the expansive globetrotting plot to the gorgeous cartoon graphics. In particular, its lead character George Stobbart proved to be a runaway success – a lovable everyman thrown into a situation we’d all secretly love to experience. It's a nice play on the standard Indiana Jones-style story, but George has more in common with Guybrush Threepwood than the bullwhip-slinging adventurer.

George is far from alone, however, as the game features a memorable cast of supporting characters as well, including the perfect foil in Nico, the sassy French photojournalist.  The story builds from a single random event (a coffee shop being blown up by a clown) to a much larger, deadly plot involving conspiracies, secret orders, and the Knights Templar.  Add in some brilliant voice acting, a touch of humour, and a host of clever puzzles and you’ve got adventure gaming gold. It put Revolution on the map and made gaming royalty out of its designer Charles Cecil, a man who now holds a royal honour for his work in the British Gaming Industry. The game has spawned three sequels and has stood the test of time so beautifully, it’s still being ported to console and mobile platforms.  There are few games on this list that can match such achievements, making Broken Sword thoroughly deserving of its top-five placement here.

 

#3 – Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within

The unabashed reverence held for The Beast Within is all about the story. The streamlined gameplay – at least in comparison to the other two chapters of the Gabriel Knight trilogy – may not be everyone's cup of tea, and the full-motion video presentation is a divisive one amongst adventurers. But there's ample reason why the 1995 sequel is still considered an essential landmark of the genre. Jane Jensen, widely considered the best writer and game designer of the acclaimed Sierra stable, once again penned a rich, riveting script that tackled some deeply thought-provoking themes head-on, like Gabriel’s struggle to accept himself and evolve from the egotism of childhood into the conscious acceptance of adult responsibilities. He also suffers a philosophical dichotomy between the two halves of his soul; the Apollonian reason, order, and progress vs. Dionysian irrationality, chaos, destruction, embodied in the story by the polar opposites of Grace and Von Glower, respectively.

These inspiring themes emerge organically from a spellbinding plot that spans almost three centuries, encompassing the early history of the Ritter family and King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the long-lost opera of Richard Wagner, and the political machinations of Otto Von Bismark. The rich tale masterfully infuses a supernatural element as well – werewolves in this case – to illuminate human nature. The story is further deepened by some of the most fascinating characters ever to grace the genre, like the eminently charismatic Baron Friedrich Von Glower, brought to life by the talented Peter J. Lucas. It's an enthralling tale, and even if you don't usually like FMV, this game can't help but grab you by the throat from the very beginning to its sublime and heart-wrenching finale.  The Beast Within certainly brought the best of Jane Jensen out, and to this day her script remains arguably the best the genre has ever seen.

 

#2 – The Longest Journey

The new millennium kicked off in fine fashion, as Funcom's Ragnar Tørnquist crafted a vivid tale of two worlds in The Longest Journey: a world of fantasy and a world of science, each tied together by an unforgettable protagonist, April Ryan. A budding artist, April’s just an ordinary girl just trying to live her life – an ordinary girl who happens to have the ability to “shift” between magical Arcadia and scientific Stark. With no knowledge of these powers at first, or even the existence of another world, April begins both a personal journey to discover who she really is and a literal journey as she attempts to understand her role in the increasing imbalance between chaos and order. The game takes time to tell its story and establish rich characterizations, with long, edgy, and at times very adult dialogues with a vast cast of characters, from the mysterious Cortez to April’s lesbian landlady to the nefarious wizard Roper Klacks. And when you’re not immersed in deep conversation, you’ll be grappling with nearly Rube Goldberg-esque inventory puzzles.

It all adds up to an epic tale, the likes of which we really haven’t seen since. But there’s much more to this game than writing.  More than a decade after release, Arcadia is still as magical as ever with its sprawling sea ports and lush forests filled with strange characters; scientific Stark, in its faded glory, is just as gritty, full of personality and paranoia. Even now, the cinematic cutscenes and beautifully artistic environments manage to inspire awe with swooping camera shots and majestic vistas, and the voice work is pitch-perfect in bringing such a diverse cast to life.  In fact, it’s hard to believe it’s been around as long as it has.  Back in the day, many considered the story-driven adventure a dying breed, unceremoniously swept aside by fast-paced action and console gaming. With The Longest Journey, Tørnquist’s storytelling prowess and vision not only created a quintessential point-and-click adventure that remains among the best the genre has ever seen, the game also brought some much needed inspiration back that helped show the way for those who followed.

 

#1 – Grim Fandango

There is a long-standing idea that no game should receive a perfect score because no game is perfect. There are those who might nitpick and say that Grim Fandango's wonky controls or blocky character models should prevent it from being considered perfect. Well, fine. Tim Schafer’s magnum opus may not be perfect, but it's as close as any game in the genre has ever come. Landing at the tail-end of the Golden Age of adventure gaming (by 1998 adventure games were far, far away from the limelight), this epic tale of skeletal travel agent Manny Calavera's four-year journey through the Land of the Dead infuses the mythos of the Mexican Día de Muertos with film noir atmosphere and archetypes, bebop and jazz, beat culture, and even hot-rod fetishism, all glued together with the best of the best of LucasArts' trademark wit and humour. It sounds absurd, and it sometimes is, but it works beautifully, as if there were no more natural mash-up of influences.

The game's memorable characters are nearly overshadowed by breathtaking environments full of clever ideas and devious puzzles. The Land of the Dead is home to unforgettable characters like Glottis the lovable gearhead demon, sleazy fellow travel agent/con-man Domino Hurley, and zealous revolutionary Sal Limones. You'll visit magical places like the seedy Casablanca-inspired Rubacava and a coral mining plant at the Edge of the World. And all of this is set to Peter McConnell's classic score that is a masterpiece in its own right, mixing jazz, mariachi, and classical film score influences. Despite selling poorly at the time, Grim Fandango's star has risen over time, and it now holds a place of hushed reverence (or gushing praise) in the hearts of adventure gamers. It may not have the most incredible graphics, the funniest lines, or the cleverest puzzles, but it has an utterly unique alchemy of those elements that leads to something sublime. Seriously – being dead has never been so enjoyable.

 


 

And there it is!  Adventure Gamers' Top 100 All-Time Adventures.  Now there's nothing left but the tears, and a recap of the full list to come...

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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