Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games

#75 – Kings Quest: Quest for the Crown

 

In the early eighties, a young company named Sierra On-Line took a chance with a brand new type of game that introduced animated “3D” graphics to the already-popular text adventure format. Created by Roberta Williams, the game was King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown, and at the time there was nothing else like it. As in a text adventure, players communicated with the game by typing in two-word commands, but King’s Quest’s 16-color graphics created a full visual world where before there had only been words. Using the arrow keys, players could move the protagonist Sir Graham across the screen, behind rocks and in front of trees. The unassuming hero with the feathered cap could jump, swim, and tumble to his death. And, with skillful input from the player, he could recover the three lost treasures of Daventry and become king.


By modern standards, the first King’s Quest is incredibly simplistic. Its storyline is little more than a mish-mash of fairy tale themes and its gameplay is riddled with dead-end scenarios and potential fatalities. But even if the pixelated graphics, finicky text parser, and often-frustrating gameplay haven’t aged gracefully, Quest for the Crown will forever be remembered as groundbreaking for its time. Its success jumpstarted the graphic adventure genre and paved the way for Sierra’s industry dominance in the eighties and nineties. Its historical importance has secured a spot on this all-time classic list, though it’s from a historical perspective that King’s Quest I is best enjoyed today – not necessarily as an adventure gaming masterpiece, but as a glimpse at how it all began.

You might also like: King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne and King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human

#74 – Shadow of the Comet

 

The work of H.P. Lovecraft has inspired a myriad of novels, movies and games over the years. One of the most frightening, Shadow of the Comet, perhaps captures the eerie atmosphere of such tales as The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow over Innsmouth more effectively than all of them. As photographer and journalist John Parker, you are called to a secluded New England town to do a report on Halley's Comet, but you'll soon find yourself investigating the strange events that occurred there during its previous passage in 1834, when an astronomer came to the village and went mysteriously insane. The original interface of this 1993 Infogrames adventure is quite cumbersome by today’s standards (at least before being updated in a CD-ROM re-release), making segments requiring quick reflexes incredibly taxing, and some solutions like the infamous Icarus-like escape device are a bit silly, but the otherwise gripping story and fear-filled atmosphere are what make this adventure an unheralded classic that every horror fan should play.

Like any good Lovecraft adventure, when you walk through the early twentieth century streets of Illsmouth, even in the comforting light of day, the atmosphere is so thick and ominous that you constantly feel that something bad is about to happen. The unnerving, disquieting soundtrack feeds this tension beautifully, reinforcing the sense that every corner you turn may conceal one of the unspeakable horrors of the Cthulhu mythos, putting a constant strain on your nerves. The horror isn’t merely implied though, by any means. Something ancient lurks beneath the town, waiting to be reawakened, and you better hope it’s not you. Some sequences, particularly toward the end of the game, are definitely not for the faint of heart and are bound to send a thrilling shiver down your spine. If you're looking for an adventure capable of keeping you on the edge of your seat and then making you jump from it, you still can't go wrong with Shadow of the Comet, even to this day.

You might also like: Prisoner of Ice, Phantasmagoria

#73 – Discworld II

 

It may not have the most cohesive story or the best puzzles of all the adventures on this list, but boy is Discworld II fun. In 1996, Rincewind and his walking luggage trunk were back for yet another round of acerbic British humour, and the young wizard looked awfully good delivering it. A year after the original game brought Terry Pratchett’s imaginative world to PCs, the sequel arrived sporting some pretty standout cartoon graphics. It was a beast to run due to its lavish backdrops and detailed animation, but now that the hardware has caught up (and far surpassed it), the vivid art design still hold up well today. Better yet, this fantastical world is full of interesting sights to see and oddball characters to meet, from the dwarf lothario with a stepladder to Uri Djeller and his strenuous spoons.  The Discworld is a fun place just to be.

In this adventure (subtitled Missing Presumed…!? or Mortality Bytes! depending on where you live), the young Rincewind has to travel the Disc in search of Death, who’s decided it’s time for a holiday. The puzzles marked a vast improvement over its predecessor’s unrelenting difficulty, making far more sense (as much as anything on this world can) in the context of the game, resulting in a much more enjoyable romp. The standout comedy cast returned, with Monty Python’s Eric Idle reprising his lead role. Discworld II is a consistently funny game that knowingly pokes fun at the genre throughout. Not a line seems to goes by without some reference to the decline of adventure games or conventional inventory puzzles. Ironically, it did nothing to remedy these criticisms itself, but its self-deprecating humour went a long way in lifting the game above its less successful contemporaries.

You might also like: Discworld, Time, Gentlemen, Please!

#72 – Maniac Mansion

Before there was Monkey Island, there was Maniac Mansion.  In fact, if not for the first adventure designed by Ron Gilbert (along with Gary Winnick), who knows how the adventure genre might have evolved.  It’s so old now that many gamers may never have played this 1987 title, but it was that important in its day. Produced by Lucasfilm Games (now LucasArts), Maniac Mansion was the first true point-and-click adventure released, pioneering the verb-based SCUMM engine used to power so many of the company’s classic games to follow. The game was much different than its story- and character-driven successors, instead thrusting you into multiple roles on a simple rescue mission, with a choice of protagonists and an open, non-linear means of achieving your goals. 

Twenty years after a large and ominous meteor crash landed on the family lawn of the Edison family, the mansion is now home to bizarre and murderous experiments.  Dave Miller suspects that his cheerleader girlfriend has been kidnapped by Dr. Fred and sets out with two of his chosen friends to find her. After picking two friends to accompany Dave (from six choices), you can switch between your three playable characters at any time in order to use each person's skills to solve puzzles in a number of different ways. Some are more mechanically inclined, while others are strong, more artistic, and so on. The simple premise never involves any more than getting into the house, finding Sandy, and trying to thwart the plans of the evil scientist and his equally deranged family. As one of the earliest LucasArts adventures, Maniac Mansion includes some deaths and dead ends, but its open-ended gameplay and quirky, B-grade horror film parody humour ensure it retains much of its original entertainment value today, quite apart from its significant historical contributions to the genre.

You might also like: Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

 

#71 – Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!

Leisure Suit Larry became an iconic figure in comic adventure circles in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, though the lovable-but-ever-unlucky loser didn’t truly come into his own (so to speak) for the modern era until 1997’s Love for Sail! It’s certainly debatable which game in the series was the best in its time, but the final adventure designed by Al Lowe for Sierra is the only one that really holds up well to this day.  This is due mainly to its technical refinements, but its witty and somewhat bawdy humor, clever puzzle implementation, and colorful cartoon graphics have lost none of their original appeal.  This time out, Larry finds himself on a luxury love boat trying to win a date with the vivacious Captain Thygh.  Unfortunately for Larry, it’s a test of masculinity, a resource in very short supply, so he’ll have to use his big brain to solve tricky puzzles and cheat his way into the captain's bed.

Like its predecessors, Leisure Suit Larry  7 is an unashamedly “adult” game with a Benny Hill-style of humour full of sexual innuendo and risqué scenarios. The interface included a few enhancements over earlier iterations, however, with a fully interactive map to help you get around the PMS Bouncy and a rather distinctively-shaped smart cursor, which brought up a small verb menu that even allowed typing particular commands.  Other fun gimmicks were added as well, like a Scratch-'n'-Sniff card and an ongoing “Where’s Dildo?” take on the Waldo craze. Leisure Suit Larry is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but putting aside any political correctness, the series remains one of the funniest ever.  It’s tough to pass over the original game for its special place in history, but for ongoing accessibility and just plain fun, the seventh and final “real” Larry adventure is the most worthy representative for our top 100.

You might also like: Sierra’s Leisure Suit Larry series (especially #4!)

 


 

Next up: #70-66...

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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