Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games feature

#80 – Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

 

With a couple Sherlock Holmes games already under its belt, Frogwares finally found the winning formula in 2006 with The Awakened. A melding of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, the game puts Holmes and Watson on the trail of a cult who have kidnapped various people for use in one of their dark rituals. Ever the realist, Sherlock may not believe in the supernatural, but the cult poses a legitimate threat, so it’s up to him to stop them from killing more innocent people. His search leads him all across the world, from an asylum in Switzerland to a steamboat in New Orleans, giving the game a welcome scope. It's all presented in free-roaming 3D, making this one of the rare adventures of its time to modernize the genre with current technology. Ironically, a later “remastered” version offered the option to switch the game to a more traditional third-person, point-and-click adventure, making it far and away the most user-adaptable adventure of all time.

While the influence of Lovecraft is fairly minimal in anything other than name, The Awakened is nevertheless committed to its dark horror themes. With plenty of blood, dead bodies, and evidence of evil practices, the game does an excellent job of creating a creepy, ominous atmosphere. Though the animations leave something to be desired, the character designs and voice acting go a long way to bringing the iconic characters of Holmes and Watson to life. There’s lots for them to do as well, with crime scenes to investigate with Sherlock’s signature magnifying glass, lab work to perform at 221b Baker Street, and numerous puzzles to solve, including quiz questions that must be correctly answered, creating a varied and well-rounded adventure experience. There have been several cross-franchise mysteries since The Awakened, each further refining the visuals and pushing the series’ technology forward, but they all owe a great deal to the progressive design overhaul established here. It was this game that made the great detective relevant again to a new generation of gamers, and for that it earns its place among the genre’s best.

You might also like: Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis, Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper

#79 – Gemini Rue

 

The impressive Gemini Rue is a 2011 neo-noir science fiction tale with an incredible human element and a mind-blowing plot twist in the third act, but it’s also a stirring example of how one young game designer’s dream can find great success in reinventing the classic Golden Age adventure. UCLA Media Arts student Joshua Nuernberger likely couldn’t have imagined when he entered Gemini Rue into the 2010 Independent Games Festival that just one year later it would be recognized as one of the greatest adventures in the modern era. But that’s exactly what happened, and it’s all done in a very nostalgia-friendly retro format, complete with a classic Sierra-style interface, 320x200 backgrounds and relatively confined areas with mostly simple puzzles.

The story is the game’s most outstanding feature, telling the parallel tales of Azriel Odin, a rogue police officer with a dark past searching for a close friend who has disappeared; and Delta-Six, a resident of the mysterious Center 7 facility who, as part of a rehabilitation process, has had his memory wiped and is undergoing weapons training. While seemingly disconnected at first, their fates are destined to collide in dramatic and dark fashion in the game's final hours in one of the better story twists that any adventure game has ever featured. The game even implements some gentle action scenes to bump up the intensity of the gunfights. But it's the emotional weight in its storytelling that makes this game a must-play for any fan of neo-noir stories, or retro-style adventures, and within its bleak and impactful story, it points the way to a very bright future for independently developed adventures.

You might also like: Rise of the Dragon, Snatcher

#78 – Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist

 

Spoofs are always fun, especially if you're a fan of the genre they mock. And if you happen to be a Western buff who can hum the theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by heart, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is definitely the game for you. Co-written by Josh Mandel and Al Lowe, the latter of Leisure Suit Larry fame, this little Wild West gem trades the raunchy jokes of that series for tons of tongue-in-cheek puns that satirize every major cliché of the Western genre. Midday duels with blazing guns? Check. Moustache-twirling villain who manages to make fun of Sierra's president? Check. Crowded saloon full of prospectors, gamblers, cowboys and prostitutes? Check. And the list goes on. Mel Brooks would be proud.

But there's so much more. Underneath the layers of humour is a pretty solid adventure in its own right, with inventive puzzles, entertaining characters (including Srini, Freddy's Indian helper, who is one of the greatest sidekicks ever created), outstanding production values and a script that will both amuse you and fill you with genuine appreciation for a truly fascinating period of American history. You’ll get the chance to employ your pharmaceutical skills with help from the hilarious instruction manual/reference guide. And let’s not forget the jaw-dropping final twist that you can't possibly see coming, which is absolutely guaranteed to put a large smile on your face. The game is difficult, and perhaps a bit too unforgiving at times, but Freddy Pharkas is worth the effort. It’s a fun time for all, and if you haven’t yet played it for yourself, go ahead and give it a shot. Just don’t blow your ear off.

You might also like: Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure (aka Fenimore Fillmore: The Westerner), Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

#77 – Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

 

The original Silent Hill, released in 1999 for the PlayStation, helped cement the blueprint for the burgeoning survival horror genre – tight corridors, scarce ammo and health, pervasive darkness, and nonsensical puzzles. Each successive game hewed close to the same formula, until American developer Climax Studios decided to mix things up with a reimagining of the original game, sans combat. When Harry Mason wakes up from a car crash just outside the quiet resort town of Silent Hill, his daughter Cheryl is missing. Setting out to find her, he ends up meeting some of the town’s off-kilter residents, fending off surreal, horrific creatures, and exploring nightmarish mirror-versions of the town. It’s a less splatter-happy, quieter and more psychological adventure than the original, and the lack of combat encourages more exploration than its more frantic predecessors, making for a welcome change of pace and direction for the series.

Silent Hill’s initially mundane town locations feel all the creepier because of how familiar they seem. Who expects freakish horrors to lurk in an elementary school or mall? The town looks and feels like a real place, and the play of light and shadow makes even walking around feel tense and enjoyable. Characters feel similarly real and have complex personalities and motivations that go beyond typical NPCs, brought to life with excellent animation and voice acting. The distinct “Nightmare” sequences, during which Harry has to flee and hide from the grotesque monsters inhabiting the city, are occasionally frustrating but add a definite jolt of terrifying adrenaline to the gloriously creepy, Lynch-ian atmosphere of the rest of the game. You'll want to push beyond your fears to discover the secrets hidden both in the city and in Harry himself in this deep, intriguing character study that plumbs the effects of psychological trauma with haunting truth. There’s more action than a traditional adventure, but far less than traditional survival horrors. Whatever you call it, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories manages to be one of the best games in one of most acclaimed franchises ever, earning it a deserving spot on our list.

You might also like: Echo Night: Beyond, Inherent Evil

#76 – Drawn: The Painted Tower

 

You may think casual games are all about crazy locking puzzles, hidden object scenes, and generic storylines, but in 2009 Big Fish Games proved that notion completely wrong by releasing Drawn: The Painted Tower. There are no hidden object scenes in this breathtaking “lite” adventure, where you attempt to save a young girl who has the ability to create living works of art. The gorgeous hand-painted fantasy backgrounds, off-kilter architecture and vibrant use of colors are inspired. The majority of the game takes place in a dusky, tarnished tower, where blue and grey hues make for a sombre and subdued atmosphere that explodes into bursts of brilliant red and luxuriant green, warm yellow and peaceful azure as soon as you step directly into a painting. These paintings create windows into picturesque worlds full of enchanted trees, talking scarecrows, quirky witch doctors, and fire-breathing dragons.

The game also takes its “Drawn” title seriously; when you pick up a piece of chalk, you’re not just acquiring a simple inventory item; you’ll use that chalk to actually draw changes in your environment, such as altering a scene to make it rain. These drawing challenges are interspersed with more traditional inventory puzzles and logic puzzles that are gloriously integrated and wonderful to look at. A mechanical clockwork, as merely one of many imaginative examples, is a highly detailed painted wood cutout where you have to match the correct weapon against the appropriate beast. All this and a powerful musical score make this game a giant artistic leap forward in the world of casual adventuring. It has since spawned two additional sequels that have arguably outshone their predecessor, but Drawn: The Painted Tower was the first to lay its bold brushstrokes to canvas.

You might also like: Drawn: Dark Flight and Drawn: Trail of Shadows


Next up: #75-71...

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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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