Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

#95 – Ripley's Believe it or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu

 

Before there was Indiana Jones, there was Robert Ripley. Believe it or not, there might not even be an Indy if not for Ripley, a real-world cartoonist and explorer who travelled the world in the 1930s to report incredible feats on his radio show and collect unique antiquities for his Odditorium museums. The whip- and fedora-clad one may be better known today, even in adventure gaming circles, but Sanctuary Woods’ 1995 Ripley's Believe it or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu gave the bow-tied, pith-helmeted hero his own chance to shine, and he didn’t disappoint. Although based on the real man, Ripley’s interactive adventure is entirely fictional, sending him around the world in pursuit of information about the tomb of the First Emperor of China, which was built and protected with traps by the ingenious architect Master Lu. Ripley’s not the only one seeking the tomb, however, as it’s said to house the legendary Imperial Seal, an emerald that can bestow mystical powers on whomever possesses it. With enemies ever nipping at his heels, along the way Ripley must also gather oddities to send back home to keep his ailing American museum afloat.


Your travels take you to such exotic locations as China, India, Peru, and Easter Island, which can be visited in any order, even coming and going as you please. Blending live-action characters and nicely pre-rendered backgrounds, each scene is jam-packed with detailed hotspot descriptions, many of them purely optional. The non-linearity and high degree of interactivity make this a fairly difficult game, and there’s some pixel hunting involved in overcoming the many inventory obstacles. Puzzles are cleverly integrated, however, including three timed challenges, such as rescuing Ripley’s friend Feng Li from a king cobra. You can die in this game, as befits the sometimes deadly nature of the opposition, but an auto-save wisely restores to a point just before your demise to try again. All told, The Riddle of Master Lu is a game with everything: diverse locations, engaging characters, and substantial gameplay. But don’t take our word for it: playing is believing.

You might also like: Secret Files series, Flight of the Amazon Queen

#94 – Faust (aka Seven Games of the Soul)

 

Suicide... Sexuality... Child slavery... Abuse... These aren’t your normal adventure game themes. Then again, Arxel Tribe’s Faust (or Seven Games of the Soul in North America) is anything but your normal adventure game. Exploring many mature, complex psychological themes, the game is loosely based on the 19th century poem by Goethe about a man who sold his soul to the devil. Here Marcellus Faust, an elderly black man, arrives at an abandoned amusement park called Dreamland, where a suave demon named Mephisto tasks him with helping settle a dispute with God. By travelling back in time through seven overlapping episodes, you must investigate the troubled lives of Dreamland’s bizarre inhabitants through their eyes to determine the fate of their souls and unravel the macabre history of the park. From the freakshow exhibits like the Siamese sisters and 550-pound woman to employees like the costume seamstress and tiger tamer, each harbours dark and painful secrets, and it’s up to you to find material evidence that will either implicate or absolve them of complicity with the devil.

Sound deep? It is, and its relentlessly disturbing focus on the seven deadly sins is only scratching the surface. The fragmented storyline is intrinsically multi-layered, offering mystery within mystery, puzzle within puzzle, and subplot within plot as each carnie’s intertwining history slowly weaves together to form a larger picture. The gameplay can be as challenging as the narrative, making this a true thinking gamer's adventure in every respect. The artwork is merely average, but musically the game is a triumph, with a wonderful blend of old jazz, blues, and classical vocals and instrumentals alike, and Mephisto is perfectly voiced as the debonair tempter who genuinely believes in his cause. The bulk of the game is spent raising more questions than it answers, which is what makes it partly intriguing, partly frustrating, but exploring the complexities of the human soul and the ambiguities of good and evil are what give the game its value. It is easily one of the more original adventures available, so play it for yourself if you won't take our word for it, oh ye of little faith.

You might also like: Of Light and Darkness: The Prophecy, Salammbô: Peril in Carthage

#93 – Toonstruck

 

It may well be remembered as one of the straws that broke the back of the genre's Golden Age, but the commercial failure of Toonstruck has unfairly followed the game around for too long. Burst’s 1996 adventure features Christopher Lloyd as a depressed cartoonist who finds himself sucked into the cartoon world he created. The game, unfortunately, could never recoup its huge budget, but it deserves to be admired on its own merits, not its retail failings. The production values from film industry professionals are incredibly high, displaying quality drawings and animation, and there’s a huge cast of famous voice actors, including Dan Castellaneta of Homer Simpson fame. Compared to other titles at the time, the graphics were top-notch, and sound production was way above the average – no expenses were spared, whether that was a wise move or not.

Although the game makes use of a live-action protagonist inserted into an animated world – an obvious stylistic clash – the writing is so good that you really feel like you have entered a Looney Tunes cartoon, where bizarre logic rules and you have to be aware of comic conventions to solve some of the complex puzzles. The adventure is substantial, too. You complete your main objective halfway through the game, only for the plot to skew off in another direction and unlock a whole new series of locations and characters to find. The story, which plays on the stereotypes created by popular cartoons, is genuinely funny and cleverly combines the sarcastic wit of Lloyd's Drew Blanc (an outsider looking in) with the wacky sense of humour of the toons. The balancing act it walks is very fine, but the script manages to take knowing pot-shots at its influences while still paying homage to the medium that inspired it. A sequel was planned, but the numbers just never added up, leaving only this final reminder of a time when Hollywood, big budgets, and adventure games were once a reality.

You might also like: The Next BIG Thing, Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World

#92 – The Dig

 

The Dig is often regarded as the runt of the LucasArts litter, never quite resonating the same way as its more famous brethren. Perhaps that’s because it’s a purely dramatic sci-fi adventure and people didn’t know what to make of it back in 1995. And while it’s a traditional point-and-click adventure similar to its comic contemporaries, the game’s puzzle design has more in common with the likes of Myst than any of LucasArts’ other franchises – something that didn’t sit well with all players. Strip away the preconceptions, however, and what’s left is a very good game in its own right, with a mature storyline based on an idea by Steven Spielberg and written by author Orson Scott Card, boasting a stellar production crew with contributions from Industrial Light & Magic.

The story focuses on a group of astronauts tasked with destroying an asteroid, only to be helplessly transported to an alien world in the process. It’s a serious affair that should appeal to sci-fi aficionados thanks to its otherworldly setting and excellent soundtrack, and it wisely (if unexpectedly) avoids any attempts at the developer’s trademark humour. Given its pedigree, it’s no surprise the CGI is flawless, and while the puzzle design is markedly different from the usual zany inventory fare, there are plenty who embrace such mysterious conundrums with open arms. It may never measure up to the widespread appeal of its comedic LucasArts counterparts, but it’s a compelling standalone adventure and a great addition to any serious gamer’s collection.

You might also like: The Immortals of Terra: A Perry Rhodan Adventure, Frederik Pohl's Gateway series

#91 – The Feeble Files

 

Hell hath no fury like the puzzle designers of The Feeble Files. This offbeat sci-fi adventure should have come with a warning about possible injuries from fist/screen incidents when it was released by AdventureSoft back in 1997. Whether that’s a good thing is for you to decide. Following hot on the heels of Simon the Sorcerer II, this game introduced us to a whole new world of memorable characters. Headlining the case was Feeble, the titular mild-mannered alien lovingly voiced by Red Dwarf’s Robert Llewelyn, who unwittingly embroils himself in corporate espionage and anti-governmental shenanigans after a bad day at the office. An eclectic, entirely non-human cast was a novel take on the point-and-click adventure, and the game represented a step forward in presentation for the acclaimed British developer, while still managing to carry over the humour from the Simon series.

The Feeble Files is a treat for the eyes and ears. Its brilliant mix of pre-rendered backdrops and animated characters look great, it's skillfully acted by some stand-up British comedy talent, and Feeble proves to be a lovable loser-turned-hero that is easy to embrace. However, to truly enjoy this game you’ll need a masochistic bent, as the puzzles have few rivals in their difficulty. They vary from obscure inventory-based tasks to outright horrific minigames and math problems. The Arcade section in particular was so cruel it forced AdventureSoft to release a save file set right after the event so some players could carry on the story. For those who lament the loss of complex, challenging puzzles in the genre, it’s a dream come true. For everyone else… well, there’s always a walkthrough. It’s absolutely worth it, but you’ve been warned. Enjoy immensely at your peril.

You might also like: Rex Nebular and the Comic Gender Bender, The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble


Next up: #90-86...

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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