Best Adventure Games
Recommendations from the Adventure Gamers staff
The line between what we’ve come to know as full-fledged adventures and casual games is gradually disappearing. Traditional “hidden object” games are increasing story and exploration elements, and integrating puzzles in recognizably adventure-like fashion. Adventure games, meanwhile, are beginning to embrace the more accessible pick-up-and-play appeal of casual games, becoming more streamlined than ever. Here are some of the best examples of games that have successfully bridged the gap between the two.
Papers, Please is anything but a standard adventure, but beneath the seemingly unappealing premise of bureaucratic drudgery and human misery lies a fascinating game of choices, surprises, and intrigue. As the newly appointed immigration officer in the fictional country of Arstotzka, your job goes far beyond paperwork to an intricate balancing act of character relationships, government decrees, your family’s needs, and your own personal judgements.
If you embrace the silly side in between the scares, this sequel to The Witch’s Prison offers a fun, puzzle-filled romp through a tale about twisted family bloodlines and paranormal exploration. Though held back by simplistic graphics and animations and jumbled storylines, a large variety of engaging puzzles and copious amounts of exploration and witty observations make this lite adventure series worth checking out.
While most casual developers continue to pad out gameplay with a host of hidden object searches, ERS Studios is one of the few daring to venture into straight adventure gameplay. Reality Show is still a fairly lite experience overall, but it's all exploration and puzzling fun as you attempt to bring to justice the culprits behind the death of a man caught on film for the next thrill-seeking television show.
The popular Azada series took a bold step in moving toward a more fully integrated adventure, but the third time proved equally charming in a whole different way. With ERS Game Studios taking over the reins, the new game sends players into three disturbingly beautiful, puzzle-filled fantastical worlds now suffering under the machinations of a power-hungry madman. With no hidden objects to scavenge, this trip to Azada is lite but pure adventuring, thin on story but with just the right touch of magic.
Alfred Hitchcok obviously taught us nothing. Decades afer Psycho, we're still wandering into solitary rural inns off midwestern highways. Sure enough, a young girl is kidnapped under our watch, but this time getting her back turns out to be a whole lot of creepy fun. There are plenty of varied puzzles to solve along the way but no hidden object searches, and several eccentric characters to meet, but none named Norman Bates. Whew!
After a middling first season of BBC-produced lite adventures, the fifth episode sees the series return with a bang, offering a much better balance of adventure, stealth, and minigame activities. Stranded in 17th century London on the night of the attempted destruction of the Houses of Parliament, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory must allow history to run its course without interference, all while preventing an interplanetary war between feuding alien races.
With the story of Princess Iris concluded, it was back to the drawing board (both literally and figuratively) for Big Fish Games, who reached back in time for a prequel in the third installment of the popular series. Freed from the stone tower walls and goth-tinged town of Stonebriar, the world they’ve created has lost none of its magic, taking players on a creative, artistic adventure through lush gardens, living mountains, and crystalline caves, removing the vile taint of an evil wizard who’s kidnapped a very special young painter for his own wicked purposes.
You wouldn’t normally associate a serene Japanese garden, tropical pirate island, medieval monastery, ancient Incan ruins, and the depths of hell itself with a haunted house ghost story (okay, maybe hell), but this entertainingly varied lite adventure sends a psychic deep into the memories of its tortured spirits to help them restore the wrongs that bind them, solving a host of puzzles along the way.
Once one of the more prolific adventure game developers, Kheops Studio has turned its attention to more casual fare in recent years, but the French Studio hasn’t lost its touch. After finding its way in a surreal but uneven first installment, this three-part lite adventure series soon hit its stride. Though he just wants to get home, the amnesiac protagonist keeps awakening from mysterious falls to find himself in a new time and place, facing a nice balance of exploration, puzzle-solving, and item collection along the way.
Mix a dose of Graham Annable’s Grickle cartoon with a pinch of David Lynch, a dash of Fargo, a sprinkling of Professor Layton, and a healthy heap of puzzle filling, and you’ve got the unusual new concoction called Puzzle Agent. Quite unlike Telltale’s other offerings, this puzzler serves up a steady diet of brainteasers wrapped up in the eerie mystery of Scoggins, Minnesota. Only Nelson Tethers, one-man Department of Puzzle Research for the FBI, can solve the curious case of the local factory closure and the “hidden people” that are somehow connected to the whole sordid affair.
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