Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

#90 – Spycraft: The Great Game

 

In a medium where spy stories are mostly inspired by the adventures of James Bond, Activision’s Spycraft: The Great Game offers a more traditional take on the espionage genre, where agents do more thinking than shooting and spend more time at a computer than flirting with femme fatales. As a CIA case officer, your mission is to track down a terrorist organization made up of former spies who are planning to assassinate the US president. The result is one of the few games in which FMV really, really works, featuring well-written dialogue performed by professional actors. The authenticity of the story is further enhanced by the input of a former CIA member and former KGB operative, both of whom make cameo appearances in the game.


Despite not being a 007 game there is a gunfight or two, but the somewhat simplistic fights take a back seat to the puzzles, which are in a category all their own. Trace a bullet trajectory back to its origin to catch a glimpse of an assassin’s face. Doctor a fake photograph to convince a prisoner you’ve captured her boyfriend. Isolate ambient sound effects in the background of a phone conversation to pinpoint where the caller was phoning from. The list goes on. Almost every puzzle is unique; completely different from the challenges of most other adventure games made before or since. And because most of the puzzles take place on your avatar’s computer interface, it’s easy to feel fully immersed in the game, as if YOU are the CIA agent sitting in an office at Langley trying to research and track down enemy spies. While other games simply recycle formulas from the past, this 1996 spy thriller stands on its own as an adventure completely unlike any other.

You might also like: Traitors Gate, The Messenger

#89 – The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time

 

A man being accused of a crime he didn’t commit and trying to prove his innocence is a staple of thriller fiction. Far less common in Presto Studio’s 1995 The Journeyman Project: Buried in Time, the accused man and the one trying to prove his innocence are separate versions of the same man, as time agent Gage Blackwood enlists his younger self to investigate. As in the first game of the series, players end up time-hopping, though now you can travel into our own history as well as the future history of the 2318 setting. Hunting around the lovingly rendered historical settings, from a Mayan pyramid to a besieged castle in medieval France to a studio of Leonardo da Vinci, adds to the fun of time travel, even if direct contact with the inhabitants is still forbidden. The truth behind the events leading to Gage’s arrest build into a solid story with a dramatic conclusion.

For all that, there is one thing that everyone who has played this game will remember most: the artificial intelligence known as Arthur. Once you have found him, Arthur integrates himself into your suit and serves as a companion for your journey. It would have been all too easy to become irritating, but a combination of good casting and well-written, witty dialogue make him a joy to have around. With a love of 20th century culture, his banter is full of clever references and parodies of the player’s own era. Arthur is also much more than a comedy sidekick. His complex computer brain and database storage help him serve as both a hint system and a reference for your historical adventures. Add in a slick soundtrack, and this is one adventure that definitely shouldn’t stay buried in the past.

You might also like: The Journeyman Project Turbo, The Arrival

#88 – Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe

 

After the success of Simon the Sorcerer, it was only a matter of time before AdventureSoft took us on another trip in the magic closet. Sure enough, two years later we were treated to The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe. In a lot of ways, Simon the Sorcerer II is a far more accomplished game than its predecessor. The setting was drastically expanded, as Simon’s adventure branches to all sorts of locations: cities, dungeons and steampunk castles are all there to be explored. A wider cast of characters was incorporated, like Goldilocks, Um Bongo and the three witches, plus many returning favourites like the swampling. The humour is even sharper as well, worked into a story that flows far better than the original – Simon has much clearer directives than stumbling from one scenario to another on his quest to rid the world of the evil Sordid again.

For all its enhancements, the sequel wisely didn’t reinvent what had been so successful the first time, retaining a similar high quality cartoon look and sound. Unfortunately, this also translated to some questionable puzzle design, which again met with mixed reactions for its obscurity. Simon himself underwent some changes – such a blatantly abrasive character took a lot of getting used to in the first game, and took even more the second time around. The dialogue is still well written, but a new voiceover gave birth to an even more snide delivery of the lines that didn’t sit well with all gamers. Thankfully, the diverse supporting characters proved more than capable of elevating the script to a more palatable level, ensuring that Simon II is generally a hoot to play through, foibles be damned.

You might also like: The Legend of Kyrandia series

#87 – Penumbra: Black Plague

 

In science, a penumbra refers to the softer, hazy region around the edge of a shadow. But in Penumbra: Black Plague, Swedish horror specialists Frictional Games brought their emerging formula sharply into focus. Rejoining the hero from Penumbra: Overture, the improved sequel charts Philip’s quest through an abandoned Antarctic research base in search of his father. Of course, being a horror title, he's far from being alone, but Black Plague wisely ditched the clumsy combat from the first installment in favour of a powerless Philip running away or hiding from threats. Being defenseless makes for an intensely terrifying, anxious experience that is guaranteed to raise your pulse without requiring twitch reflexes to succeed.

In the puzzle department, Black Plague didn't disappoint either, using a realistic physics engine for some ingenious but natural environmental conundrums. The game is played in first-person and controlled like a shooter, so even simply searching for items feels like a more tactile, engrossing experience than simple pixel hunting. The gameplay and story work well together, but top billing nevertheless goes to the astonishing atmosphere behind them – behind, above, around, everywhere. “Immersiveness” is an overused word when it comes to games, but here it really does apply. The you-are-there perspective, the dark, stylish graphics, and the unnerving audio help create a horror experience that's a dream – or maybe a nightmare – for fans of scary adventuring.

You might also like: Penumbra: Overture, Darkness Within series

#86 – Dark Fall

 

It’s a rare designer who is instantly recognizable by name, but Jonathan Boakes is just such a man. Before 2002, he was a complete unknown in the industry, but that all changed with the release of Dark Fall. Self-financed, created largely on his own, and originally self-published, Boakes’s debut supernatural mystery sent players alone into an abandoned English hotel and train station, where people have been disappearing for decades. Except you’re not alone at all, as restless spirits of those who vanished on the premises still linger there, seeking help defeating the undefined darkness that took them. Though the ghosts themselves are benevolent, the game is still dripping with eerie atmosphere. The phone in reception rings with messages from the other side whenever you walk in. Light orbs zoom through the halls as the lights blink out. There are constant reminders that something is out there in the darkness, watching, though you may never see what it is.

The Dowerton train station and hotel are like characters of their own, reflecting the many different time periods they have seen, from WWII posters plastered in the bathrooms to high-tech ghost-hunting gadgets left behind by the most recent victims. Each room reflects the personality of its final occupant, and the events surrounding their disappearances are glimpsed through the many journals and letters lying around. The sound is superb, from the creak of stairs to the sporadic whispers around you, and the many puzzles fit well into the story, several of which require observant note-taking elsewhere to solve. It’s a little rough around the edges and clearly a low-budget endeavour, but the craftsmanship that went into this self-proclaimed “labour of love” is abundantly evident. Not long after its enthusiastic reception, it was snatched up by a publisher and subtitled The Journal, and the series has since gone on to inspire not only two sequels by Boakes, but numerous other indie horrors as well. Dark Fall is an impressive achievement for one man, and its legacy demands its inclusion on the list.

You might also like: Dark Fall: Lights Out and Dark Fall: Lost Souls, The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure


Next up: #85-81...

Continued on the next page...




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Comments

diego diego
Dec 19, 2011

Great idea, i loved the Top 20 list. Though, I’m already sad to see Toonstruck go this high, but oh well.. that’s the thing with the lists.

This would also be a good reminder for the games still to play, i’ve already got my eye on Faust from Day 1.

Kurufinwe Kurufinwe
Dec 19, 2011

I Already Hate[TM] this list… Tongue

Seriously, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I can’t help but see how inherently silly it is to try to rank things as wildly different as Faust and Toonstruck on the same scale—- and no amount of handwaving in the introduction is going to change that. But on the other hand, I’m already getting caught up in the horse race, glad to see that the Runaway series ended up with the dregs where it belongs, hoping that Day of the Tentacle will join it soon (rather than being at the very top of the list as it was last time), hating that The Dig is at such a low spot, wondering what I would put on the top spot (I guess Monkey Island 1 is, for better or worse, the quintessential adventure game), etc.

In any case, this list has already given me ideas for good games I haven’t played yet and that I should give a chance to, and I’m sure there will be many more in the coming days, and for that I am grateful. Smile

Cellardoor
Dec 19, 2011

Awesome, this’ll be something to look forward to each day! :-) Nice to see that Gold Rush! made the list.

ghettodoghammer
Dec 19, 2011

Why don’t you review some of these games, like Space Bar and Gold Rush? I would love to read your take on them, but they’re conspiciously absent from the review boards.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 19, 2011

We reviewed Gold Rush, but yes, there are some we haven’t, and revisiting these older games for the list has motivated us to get those covered. Really it’s as much a matter of availability and compatibility at this point. We don’t all still have 20-year old games on hand anymore, or have success getting them to run. But we’ll try! Kurufinwe, that’s the spirit! Grin

Arial Type Arial Type
Dec 19, 2011

Finally, the TOP 100! Every thematic website should have one of those) I remember earlier TOP 20s on AG, but they weren’t that fulfilling, and they were really only one man’s point of view.

So far I’ve only got one big complaint - The Dig. It is not only a great adventure game on its own, but it is also one of the best sci-fi games, with an original, developed story and universe. It is one of the earliest and most organic adventure/puzzle mixes that overshadow Myst. And I’m not even talking about the music, which is arguably one of the best scores in gaming history. The game is at least TOP 50 material.

And I’m also with Kurufinwe with hopes for DoTT. It has seen enough first places already Smile

dekaneas297 dekaneas297
Dec 19, 2011

Won’t there be a vote for top 2011 adventure games?

Jackal Jackal
Dec 19, 2011

That’s the Aggie Awards Totally different animal. And yes, that’ll happen in February, as usual, including the reader vote.

inm8#2 inm8#2
Dec 19, 2011

I think the last Top 20 list was in April 2004, so this Top 100 list is long overdue. There have been some great games in the last 7 years so it’s natural to expand the list. Plus, it helps people like me who like to organize lists of games they’ve played, plan to play, etc.

ncf1
Dec 19, 2011

already have to disagree, strongly. Toonstruck is far better than The Dig, for starters, yet precedes it. Runaway is just tripe not worth revisiting.. not sure I will bother with the rest to be honest.

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 20, 2011

Bugger the fact you allready went through the ***1/2 section probably means no BS3, SF: Tunguska or Lost Horizon on the list. I never expected them to end up very high but not at all? Shame. Also imo: Runaway 2 wipes the floor with Runaway 3 whom I consider to be the least good of all installments.

Oscar Oscar
Dec 20, 2011

I’m not looking at the rankings at all. Already half the games posted are ones I haven’t played, and that’s why I read these lists. I don’t really care whether my favorite game is at #1 or #100 if it’s on the list.

zane
Dec 20, 2011

Looks good so far. Iv played half of these first 10 games and i agree with their positions. Iv never been a big fan of the dig, despite its nice production values. The puzzles are boring and tedious and the story goes real flat imo. The atmosphere is nice though and its certainly worth a look for anyone who considers themself an adventure-gamer.

Rolandesch Rolandesch
Dec 20, 2011

The first snow fell yesterday and now THIS! I cant believe that 2 of my wishes became true on the same day! I have to quote the great Homer on this because I am at a loss for words. “Tramampoline! Trampopoline!”
I have to put this list on my Top 100 things that happened this year Smile

tsa tsa
Dec 20, 2011

Woot, this is so much fun! I can’t wait to see how many of the games in the list I have played! And it’s a perfect opportunity to find out what games I missed but really must play. And yes, of course I already hate this list but of course when composing a list like this you are like a politician in the sense that you never do it right. One request: when everything is published, can you then make a list of links to the descriptions of all the games?

Jackal Jackal
Dec 20, 2011

Oh yes, there will be a complete list of all the games at the end, with links to their respective article pages, if that’s what you mean.

Agustín Cordes Agustín Cordes
Dec 20, 2011

Kudos for giving respect to The Dark Eye! That said, I will very disappointed if there are no Legend Entertainment titles featured.

sordy-wordy sordy-wordy
Dec 20, 2011

It would be nice to have the year of release next to each title.

But nice work! , i love these lists although you can never agree 100% with them.

Interplay Interplay
Dec 20, 2011

Some great choices on Day 2!  Good to see Laura Bow.  Also, very pleased to see Dark Fall 1 - a classic I only recently played.  The 7th Guest absolutely had to be included on this list.  It’s hard to overstate how exciting it was when my brother and I got a CD-ROM drive and loaded up this game.  It was so different and exciting.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 20, 2011

Sordy-wordy, the release year is listed in each and every write-up. Have to give people some incentive to actually read them. Grin

rtrooney rtrooney
Dec 21, 2011

So far I can’t agree or disagree with any selection. When it gets closer to the top ten or twenty is where my hackles might rise.

Arial Type Arial Type
Dec 21, 2011

It’s nice to see Spycraft and The Dark Eye made it to the top. While not mainstream or well-known, they fully deserve it.

Focused
Dec 21, 2011

What a fun feature! Several of these games bring back fond memories. I also see quite a few classics I haven’t played, some of which I had completely forgotten. I’m enjoying those informative write-ups as well.

I’m very excited to discover the remaining 80!

zane
Dec 21, 2011

List continues to look very good. Quest for glory 2 is a favorite of mine and would definitely rank better on my list (especially if you count the drastic improvement by the agd remake), but still a solid write-up of the game.

Fien Fien
Dec 21, 2011

I already love AG’s top hundred! I’m surprised and delighted to see The Space Bar and Spycraft included. So what if nobody agrees with the ranking. I bet not even the staff members themselves agree with it. Smile And this is undoubtedly the most interesting part. When we’ve reached 35-40, the territory will become all-too familiar: Syberia, Still Life, MI, more LucasArts, the Gabriel Knights, more Sierra, TLE, TLJ, etcetera

Emin
Dec 21, 2011

Awesome list, I’ll save it for future reference!

subbi subbi
Dec 21, 2011

Should the Quest for Glory series even be nominated for the TOP100 Adventure game?
These games are clearly RPG’s in essence. If these are featured on the list, then also “The Elder Scrolls” series (and maybe others) should be featured aswel…

Jackal Jackal
Dec 21, 2011

In our books, they should. QFG is a breed all its own, but clearly as much adventures as RPG, unlike Elder Scrolls or any other RPG series.

diego diego
Dec 21, 2011

QFG is definitely “adventure” with “RPG” elements more than the other way around. It also helps they come from Sierra.  Wink

Vel
Dec 21, 2011

I just hope Day of the Tentacle does not retain its #1. =)

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 21, 2011

Yay SH: The Awakened made it to the list! You might wanna review that review though considering you placed right in the middle of 4 star territory. Plus I think it deserves that extra star.

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 21, 2011

Oops, actually that’s not correct. The further I get the more the ratings drop. That can’t be right, can it?

Jackal Jackal
Dec 21, 2011

Review scores have nothing to do with this list. Obviously most will be highly rated in both, but not all. For one thing, a review is ultimately just one person’s opinion, and this is a full staff effort, and a review is also frozen in time. It doesn’t factor in legacy, subsequent enhancements, etc. The Awakened, for example, was considered at least in part because of its remastered version, which did something no other game has ever done.

smulan smulan
Dec 21, 2011

Steam just now has an excellent offer of the Frogware Sherlock series including Awakened. Bargain prices.

aimless
Dec 21, 2011

I’m really enjoying this list, too.  I know the greatest game of all time probably won’t make the pinnacle but I can live with that…I guess.  It’s entertaining to read what seem to be well considered opinions about so many games I haven’t played and might like to one day.

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 21, 2011

@Jackal: I see, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying that.

headbanger
Dec 22, 2011

Maniac Mansion should be in the top 20 the least…

cashif
Dec 22, 2011

IMHO it’s very dangerous to make all-time lists. But i think this list is very successful and useful so far. or was until #64, The Book of Unwritten Tales. it musn’t be in top 100 (imho again.)

rottford
Dec 22, 2011

Loom is No. 61??? It would be a sin to not include it in the top 25.

Arial Type Arial Type
Dec 22, 2011

Agreed, Loom is one of the most unique and wonderful adventure experiences, way ahead of its time. And BoUT, Drawn, The Awakened might belong to the “Top decent adventure games of the last 5 years”, but Top 100… Well, at least Shadow of the Comet made it. Now my soul can rest in peace.

inm8#2 inm8#2
Dec 23, 2011

I like Black Dahlia’s inclusion. It’s a great game, apart from some extremely difficult puzzles and a silly ending. The first 2/3 or so of the game are fantastic AG storytelling.

It’s funny that this site’s review is 2/5 stars, but the game made it onto this list. Huzzah!

Xsiah
Dec 23, 2011

I would have liked to see Toonstruck and Loom a little higher. They’re both very charming. I’m hoping to see The Curse of Monkey Island near the top.

cygma
Dec 23, 2011

from other comments here too, i see that the Loom is the first miss in this nonetheless great list..keep on giving them!as you may say the list depends on the staffs views on each game but still the readers show otherwise. i didnt expect it to reach #1 as it is in my own list (And yes im playing adventure games for 20+ years now) but it should be among t he 25 best titles based on story, MUSIC, interface ,g raphics (For its age)...

markerr
Dec 23, 2011

I just recently started playing Black Dahlia again so I’m really happy to see that it made it into the top 100.  It’s a wonderful game!

I found an installer that extracts all 8 cd’s into one neat bundle on your HD so you can play if from there with no cd swapping.  Also had an option to remove those lines from the FMV sequences and to slow it down on dual core machines so it runs really well on XP.

So it’s like playing for the first time…all over again :-)

JanaBanana JanaBanana
Dec 23, 2011

Nice idea I can’t wait to see top games. My favorite games so far are not on the list Smile)) Also this list is going to help me find out about games I missed to play.

MoonBird MoonBird
Dec 23, 2011

Syberia II: you might also like: “A New Beginning” *tries to clean up coffee that slpashed around the screen*

gray pierce gray pierce
Dec 23, 2011

You guys did tremendous work here so one really shouldn’t complain but…Dreamfall on #51? I mean in terms of gameplay it might not be perfect but storywise it’s by far the best game ever made! Imo it deserves a place in the top 20 but then again it’s not my call. Still I think not even in the top50 is very harsh on such a magnificent and awe inspiring game.

aimless
Dec 23, 2011

Hand me that rag, moonbird.  My monitor’s dripping, too.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 23, 2011

Sharing one’s lack of motor control doesn’t tell us anything contructive. I stand by the Syberia 2/ANB recommendation 100%.

MoonBird MoonBird
Dec 23, 2011

The only linking thing between the two is that they are 3rd person adventures. Even if I think my brain to breakpoint, I can’t see anything else in common. Even the gameplay is totally different. Syberia is uninteractive, ascetic and includes a lot of running, while on the other hand ANB is a crystal clear oppisite: Rich in hotspots, detailed and no running at all. I really would like to hear an explanation for this recommendation. I’m not trying to brag, i’m really just curious, because I can’t find the point there.


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