Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

#85 – The Dark Eye

 

Expectations are a dangerous thing. InSCAPE’s surreal 1995 The Dark Eye was originally released to mediocre reviews and frustrated gamers who didn’t know what to make of it. It’s so much easier to appreciate now, experiencing it not so much as an adventure game as an art installation – a thoughtful fever dream that stands as an utterly unique companion to the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a game about exploring (and getting chills from doing so) rather than conquering. An eerie, empty mansion sets the stage for three of Poe’s stories to come to nightmarish life, each populated by stop-motion puppets with jerky movements, ornate clothing, and cold eyes of clay. The scenery is bleak and unwelcoming, and the situations you find yourself in are equally unnerving as you ask yourself: How do I make it through this story, knowing it doesn’t have a happy ending? The vignettes can be completed twice each as both victim and perpetrator, offering a disturbing dual perspective of the same tragic scenarios.


Like the most compelling dreams, you can’t exactly trust where the game’s going, particularly if you aren’t familiar with Poe’s original works. Still, the accounts are beautifully told, the soundtrack by Thomas Dolby is richly atmospheric, and the voice acting is wonderful done (William S. Burroughs plays the house's owner, as well as providing readings of Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" and "Annabel Lee"). There are wonderful twists of narrative, portions where the standard first-person view is warped by visual oddities, and places where the standard interface is turned on its head to better serve the story. Much like the works of Edgar Allen Poe himself, the sum total is a collection of stunningly beautiful but frighteningly macabre tales. It certainly isn’t cohesive. It’s hardly even an adventure game. But for its ability to immerse you in the twisted, horrific visions of its esteemed author, The Dark Eye does just about everything right.

You might also like: Bad Day on the Midway, Gadget: Past as Future

#84 – Colonel's Bequest: A Laura Bow Mystery

 

After reinventing the interactive fairy tale with King’s Quest, legendary designer Roberta Williams turned her attention to a new type of game with Sierra’s 1989 mystery adventure The Colonel’s Bequest. The story centers around 1920s-era Louisiana and young journalism student Laura Bow, who is invited by her flapper friend Lillian to visit her family’s plantation island – but all is not well when the Colonel’s will is read, and what starts as simple family bickering soon leads to murder. Of course, Lillian’s family is a cast of scoundrels and reprobates who cheat, lie, and steal, and thankfully reveal as much in conversations that can be spied on by the intrepid Laura. Like a classic Agatha Christie whodunit, one murder leads to another and discovering secrets becomes secondary to staying alive.

The Colonel’s Bequest displays a remarkable commitment to its time period, as the art deco, flapper dialogue, and vintage wardrobes all show reverence to the Roaring ‘20s. Similarly, the deviant and nefarious behavior of the rogues’ plantation host is perfectly suited to this type of murder mystery, and Williams writes it with flair and enthusiasm. The game shows incredible attention to detail in trailing the actions of the characters, and even features remarkable replay value, as the ending gives you an indication of all the secrets you did not learn (which will be many on the first playthrough). Along with its slightly-less successful sequel, The Dagger of Amon Ra, this game established Laura Bow as an adventure heroine whose time came and went too quickly.

You might also like: The Daggor of Amon Ra, Agatha Christie series

#83 – The Black Mirror

 

Coming virtually out of nowhere from the aptly named (at the time) Unknown Identity, The Black Mirror became a cult hit when it arrived in 2003. With its grisly subject matter and relentlessly dark atmosphere, the game oozed tension and delivered plenty of perverse thrills, including your own death in disgusting fashion over and over again. It also ended with one of the most shocking finales of all time, which seemed to bring full closure to the saga of the Gordon family curse, though its surprise popularity ensured a pair of sequels would come nearly a decade later. Both are probably better, more polished games than the original, but for laying the bloody groundwork in such compelling fashion, the first will always be the most memorable.

With its gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds, The Black Mirror paints a vivid, if grim, picture of the Black Mirror manor and the quaint, slightly sinister English village of Willow Creek. The game chronicles the story of Samuel Gordon, a man haunted by an evil force that has attached itself to his ancestors and has now passed down to him. The tale takes time to build up the horror and insanity that Samuel must eventually confront, during which time you’ll spend a large amount of time hunting for inventory items and speaking with distinctive characters like the sleazy pawn shop owner and the strange doctor working in the town’s morgue. Its appeal is tainted somewhat by wooden voice acting and a protagonist that can rub people the wrong way, but even with all the rough edges, this game carved out an unforgettable legacy that kept people clamouring for more even years after its release.

You might also like: Black Mirror II and III

#82 – The 7th Guest

 

Welcome to my… house.” In 1993, psychopathic toymaker Henry Stauf invited players to his creepy mansion for a night of intrigue, puzzle solving, and murder in Trilobyte’s The 7th Guest. A new type of adventure at the time, the game lacked an inventory, dialogue options, or even a visible player character; its gameplay was entirely comprised of standalone logic puzzles, brainteasers, chessboards, and mazes. With one or two puzzles hidden in each of the mansion’s many rooms, the objective is simply to gradually gain access to the entire house and solve them all. Meanwhile, the grisly fates of Stauf’s other unfortunate dinner guests are revealed via full-motion video scenes that flicker in and out over the 3D environmental art.

These days the graphics are passé, the acting beyond cheesy, and the puzzles very familiar—all factors that make The 7th Guest easy to dismiss. But compared to what was on the market at the time, it was a bold vision of the future of gaming, and its many innovations helped secure its spot here. As the first computer game to ship exclusively on CDs, The 7th Guest played an important part (along with Myst) in ushering in the rapid adoption of CD-ROM drives. Its groundbreaking use of live actors, at a time when few adventure games even had voice acting, also opened the floodgates for a torrent of FMV adventure games in the years that followed. And nearly two decades later, its puzzle-based format lives on in series like Professor Layton. Its own success may have been short-lived, but it left an indelible mark on the genre all the same.

You might also like: The 11th Hour, Clandestiny

#81 – Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire

 

When Hero's Quest (later renamed Quest for Glory: So You Want To Be A Hero?) came out, its skillful blending of traditional adventure gameplay and RPG elements was, if not unprecedented, certainly original and refreshing in its presentation. The second game in the series, Trial by Fire, took that formula and improved it in every single respect in 1990, starting with a setting and story that moved away from the usual fantasy tropes to embrace Arabian culture and mythology. This proved to be the right choice, because even decades after the game’s release, its backdrop inspires a distinct sense of wonder and discovery. Sierra also made refinements to the combat system to make it more responsive and challenging. But fret not: even if you don't like action in your adventures, the battles are almost always optional and the game is literally packed with other features any adventurer will enjoy.

For starters, there’s the option to import your character from the previous game and see him continue to grow throughout the sequel, creating a sense of ongoing attachment few adventures have managed before or since. Dozens of little nods to the first title enhance this feeling of continuity, and by the end of the game your newly-crowned Prince of Shapeir will certainly have claimed a permanent spot in your adventurer's heart. This time around, each playable class (Fighter, Wizard and Thief) gets something special out of the adventure, whether the Wizards' Institute of Technocery, the Eternal Order of Fighters or even stealing the famous Maltese Falcon. And if that isn’t enough, there are tons of tough puzzles, optional activities that help shape your character the way you want, a cast of endearing characters, and a game world that feels vividly alive and coherent. When you add everything up, it’s not hard to see why Trial by Fire is a definite step up from its predecessor and a must-play for every would-be Hero.

You might also like: Superhero League of Hoboken, Shannara


Next up: #80-76...

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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