Top 100 All-Time Adventure Games feature

 

#65 – Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Cing’s Hotel Dusk: Room 215 became one of the rare modern day adventures to capture the attention of both genre fans and mainstream gamers alike.  Billed as an "interactive novel" (presumably to avoid scaring off anyone off with the unflattering term “adventure game”), this 2007 title helped establish the Nintendo DS as a viable platform for text-heavy offerings by  taking typical noir themes and turning them into an intimate, personal experience. It’s a very unassuming affair, full of gentle jazz music, light puzzling, lots of low-key dialogue, and a muted graphic novel-style aesthetic, but beneath its cool, mellow tone and relaxed pace is a gripping, complex mystery tale. It’s even held sideways like a good book.

Taking place entirely over the course of one night in 1979, ex-New York cop Kyle Hyde is seeking information about the former partner who betrayed him, and his investigation  curiously intersects with the secrets of his ten fellow hotel guests.  It’s presented in a unique visual style, featuring expressive hand-sketched black and white characters. Some clever puzzles use the DS to mimic in-game situations, but where this game really shines is in its gradually-unfolding mystery, pieced together by wandering the lonely halls of the hotel, chatting with its eclectic guests, and casually poking about for clues at your leisure. Dialogue-heavy and light on puzzling, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is comfort gaming for those who love story-driven mysteries, and it remains one of the most memorable examples of modern day interactive fiction, portable or otherwise.

You might also like: Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past, 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

 

#64 – The Book of Unwritten Tales

We thought we’d never see an English translation of The Book of Unwritten Tales, but KING Art’s inspired homage to classic fantasy adventures and RPGs finally arrived in 2011, and lived up to every bit of its advanced hype.  Its four mismatched characters – elf, gnome, human and critter – embark on an epic journey to save their realm from the clutches of a megalomaniac witch, and en route manage to return adventure gaming to its idealistic, irreverent, inventory-laden, action-packed heyday. Filled with affectionate tributes to pop culture icons like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and World of WarCraft, the game also charts its own engaging course in the eternal battle of good versus evil. While it ribs the genre and laughs at itself, it's sharp and serious about its business, treating players to a rare depth and intricacy of gameplay. The numerous quests flow seamlessly and intuitively, and even seemingly offhand comments neatly tie up sub-plots hours later.

The action is set in an exquisitely detailed, multi-dimensional world enlivened by outstanding animation, a nostalgia-inducing background score, and exemplary voice acting. The diverse, memorable supporting cast holds its own against the charismatic leads and adds considerable emotional depth to the story. Its deceptively sophisticated script is at once straightforward and wickedly clever:  dialogues are crisp and witty, exposition is kept to an essential minimum, and no time is ever wasted in getting to the point. Though the unlikely swashbucklers have a grand, all-encompassing mission, the game focuses on tracing their tiny, wobbly steps as they visit places they've never heard of and collaborate with people they don't like, eventually discovering strengths of character they never imagined they had. In doing so, The Book of Unwritten Tales reveals a great heart of its own, which will most likely melt that of any adventure gamer who plays it.

You might also like: Ceville, Torin’s Passage, Rent a Hero

 

#63 – Black Dahlia

The real-life 1946 murder of Elizabeth Short, dubbed “Black Dahlia” for her dyed hair and all-black wardrobe, is an unsolved mystery ripe for a fictional solution. The equally unresolved Cleveland Torso Murders, a series of 12 dismemberments in the 1930s, has similar possibilities. In Black Dahlia, Take 2 took these two genuine cases and built an intriguing narrative around them that goes well beyond the basic details of the cases themselves. The tale of rookie COI (later to become the CIA) agent Jim Pearson’s investigations merge FMV and computer-generated backgrounds seamlessly, and the look of the game catches the period setting perfectly. In an especially welcome feature, Jim also takes notes of important information, saving players from having to do it themselves.

But what really makes this 1998 adventure a classic for the hardcore adventurer is its significant challenge. This is a game that rarely yields to trial-and-error solutions, and actually has Jim mock using that approach when it is possible.  Instead, a keen mind is needed to make any sort of progress through its numerous puzzles, especially in the latter parts of the game where the difficulty becomes even more brutal. This can lead to frustration, but it also means that reaching the solution yourself becomes immensely satisfying. While hard, the game doesn’t resort to illogical leaps, though it is not above laying deadly traps for those who don’t think things through properly. This may not make it one for the casual adventurer’s collection, but in a genre that prides itself on requiring brainpower, this is definitely the thinking player’s must-have.

You might also like: Ripper, The X-Files

 

#62 – Obsidian

On the surface, Obsidian may resemble Myst for its first-person, puzzle-centric gameplay.  But players entering this wildly imaginative 1997 adventure had best leave all such expectations at the door.  As the game itself warns, “your rules do not apply”, and any preconceptions are quickly turned upside down – literally.  Biochemical engineer Lilah Kerlin and her husband Max Powers invent a new satellite designed to clean the atmosphere with nanobots, but as happens all too often with advanced technology, the satellite evolves into a sentient being whose nanobots create a giant black crystalline object that sucks the scientists into a bizarre world inspired by their own nightmares.  Populated by mechanical vidbots with televised faces, there are several realms to explore in sequence, each with its own unique setting and theme, most notably the memorable Escher-like bureaucratic hell that extends from floor to walls to ceiling. 

Obsidian is also filled with puzzles – lots and lots of puzzles, many of them quite difficult. This seems fitting from a developer named Rocket Science Games, whose boast of 60 hours of gameplay may be an exaggeration, but probably isn’t far off.  The puzzles are always creative and never unfair, but they do require diligence and careful observation to succeed.  Equally challenging (if not more so) are the handful of minigames that require a fair amount of hand-eye coordination, including a randomized one right near the end, but any who persevere will be amply rewarded with a final choice leading to two different outcomes.  No matter which you choose, you’ll feel both exhilarated and exhausted by the memorable journey to arrive at that point.  And you won’t regret a minute of it.  Despite its serious premise, it’s got a touch of subtle humour throughout, and it’s all so deliciously surreal that you’ll never forget the experience. If Terry Gilliam ever made an adventure game, this would be it, though only if he’s a big fan of puzzles.

You might also like: Morpheus, Lighthouse: The Dark Being

 

#61 – Loom

If you didn’t know who made it, you’d never guess that Lucasfilm Games was behind the unique Loom in 1990.  Developed by Brian Moriarty of Infocom fame, this unusual fairy tale tells the story of Bobbin Threadbare, a hooded member of a guild whose members control the mysterious powers of music weaving.  Bobbin is different from the other members of his guild, however, and his story begins as an outsider, forced to secretly learn a few a basic spell chords through the use of a distaff, a magical rod that reads the sounds of different objects in the physical world. With the right combination of sounds, a Weaver is able to produce spells so powerful that they can alter the fabric of the universe. In a shocking turn of events on Bobbin’s seventeenth birthday, the entire guild is cursed, starting Bobbin on an unforgettable journey that will lead him on a collision course with Chaos itself.

Loom originally appeared across several platforms, including the PC, Amiga, Atari St, TurboGrafx-16 and FM Towns. For its time it offered some incredibly polished pixel art visuals. But what makes the game so endearing is the quality of its story and detailed background; the original release even included an audio tape that recounted the rich backstory. The most memorable feature, of course, is its unique control method, which relies on learning new spells and playing their notes on the distaff to trigger different in-game reactions. With no inventory to collect, playing your staff and a single interaction button are the only controls available to the player. Despite its ease and short game length, this boldly creative approach is fondly remembered to this day, and with its haunting coming-of-age story capped off by a bittersweet ending, Loom is as much a work of art as a traditional adventure game, yet fully enjoyable as both.

You might also like: Lure of the Temptress

 


 

Next up: #60-56...

Continued on the next page...







Latest Reviews
The Last Door
24 | Jul 28, 2014
Bik
2 | Jul 23, 2014
Lifeless Planet
2 | Jul 18, 2014
The Fall
2 | Jul 15, 2014
Black Rainbow
3 | Jul 8, 2014

About the Author

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.


Page 1 of 5  1 2 3 >  Last ›


Post a comment

You need to be logged in to post comments. Not a member? Register now!

Also check out...

The Wolf Among Us: Episode Four - In Sheep’s Clothing review

PC Mac iPhone iPad PS3 Xbox 360

The Fall review

PC Mac Linux