Top Adventure Games
Recommendations from the Adventure Gamers staff
The adventure genre has often been home to ambitious indie developers, but without widescale distribution, it can be hard for these games to get the exposure they deserve. Since you won't find them on regular store shelves, don't forget about these self-published titles.
In Gone Home, you don’t solve puzzles. There are no action sequences, no dialogues between characters, no use-this-on-that inventory, no cutscenes. This game’s sole pastime is exploration, its singular focus on a teenage girl’s high school experience. Many people read books for the opportunity to see life through someone else’s eyes, but it’s rare for a game to do it as well as this one does.
With their first commercial game, the indie developers behind subAtomic and Plan M have engineered a delightfully surreal retro sci-fi comic adventure. In an era where trains rules the galaxy, space piracy and alien invasion are a very real danger, and it's up to an unlikely pair of protagonists to stop them using only their wits, a few tools, and a joke every minute. You can set your watch by it, as the laughs are delivered right on time.
When the fate of the universe's space-time continuum is at stake, you might hope for someone a little more reliable than a former small-time rocker with a drinking problem. But Bob Marshall surprisingly proved his chops in the first Quantumnauts, and now he's back in Midian Design's bigger and better pop culture-laden sci-fi sequel. This time around, Bob finds himself worshiped as a god on a planet of robots, but all he really wants is to get back home.
For most developers, a game about a gender-ambiguous film-noir private eye with rudimentary black-and-white claymation figures and cardboard sets, virtually self-solving puzzles, and a story that plays out largely through song would be utterly unthinkable. But from indie developer Deirdra Kiai, anything other than a thought-provoking and utterly eccentric adventure that thumbs its nose at conventions would be a surprise. And somehow she manages to make it all work with whimsy, audacity, and a lot of brass polka.
In terms of worldwide attention, the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 may not rank right up there with the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, but in Sweden it remains the country's most famous unsolved case. Now it's Carol Reed's turn to take a crack at this decades-old mystery, and the ninth adventure for the amateur sleuth provides another scenic photography tour and the same entertaining detective work series fans have come to expect.
It's not really named after aspirin, but with all the brain-straining puzzles in ASA, maybe it should be! We mean that in the very best way, of course, as this solitary indie adventure is a classic first-person puzzler with photorealistic environments, node-based navigation, challenging puzzles with no hand-holding (you'll need your hands for all the note-taking you'll be doing), and an intriguing sci-fi backstory to discover.
Route Zero is a lonely highway in an isolated area of Kentucky. Or maybe it isn't. It doesn't seem to be on the map, but the locals all tell you that's the way to your destination. Except the locals might not really be there either. Such mysteries are at the heart of one man's beautiful, minimalist journey through the Bluegrass State. Like an interactive poem with a David Lynch influence, what this episodic series lacks in gameplay it more than makes up in immersive, melancholy atmosphere.
If you looked up the term "independent adventure" in the dictionary, you might just see a picture of Kairo – a stark, minimalist, monochromatic screenshot of basic geometrical shapes. With no real story, characters, or even inventory, this is the kind of game only an indie creator could make. It's bold, it's daring, and it works. A bit like a surreal Myst puzzler made out of LEGO, there's really nothing else out there quite like it.
Cats may have nine lives, but we humans only have one, and how we lead it is an essential theme in this brutally raw and deeply emotional indie adventure. When a woman's suicide attempt fails, she faces a life-altering journey of self-discovery in which she never quite knows what is real and what is fantasy. Either way, the path is fraught with peril, as in seeking redemption there are those who'd seek to do the "cat lady" harm. This game is definitely not for children or the squeamish.
If you thought the world would be better off without mankind, think again. In Primordia's bleak, post-apocalyptic future, only robots remain to roam the barren desert wastelands or inhabit the burned-out debris of fallen cities. Among them are Horatio Nullbuilt and his wisecracking sidekick Crispin, whose quest to retrieve their stolen power core lands them in the midst of a political power struggle in this thoughtful retro sci-fi adventure.
If Little Red Riding Hood had ESP, she probably would have spotted the Big Bad Wolf a lot sooner than she did. That's not a problem for the titular heroine of Krams Design's charmingly offbeat Anna's Quest trilogy. Young Anna has telekinetic powers, and she'll need to make full use of them if she's to escape a witch's tower and find a cure for her ailing grandfather.
You didn’t need to be psychic to have a feeling that Phoenix Online’s first commercial adventure series was going to be something special. With Jane Jensen acting as story consultant to the team behind the fan-made Silver Lining freeware epic, the tale of troubled FBI agent Erica Reed and her unique post-cognitive abilities began with a strong foundation and didn’t let us down. This gritty paranormal story grabbed us from the start and promised to continue occupying our thoughts between each of the season’s four episodes.
Midian Design's Danilo Cagliari seems to be most at home in a haunted house. After honing his craft in sci-fi, now the indie Italian developer takes players to the not-at-all merry old land of Oz Orwell. A paranormal investigative fraud, Oz makes his living faking otherworldly encounters with the dead. But at Angst Mansion, his worst nightmare is about to come true – literally. Knocked out and trapped inside with a houseful of horrors and ghosts, players must help Oz uncover the mystery that binds them all there.
Who says great adventures need good graphics? In fact, who says they need graphics at all? Certainly not indie developer epicycle, who have created a unique audio horror adventure that's not to be missed. Awakened in the middle of crisis with no eyesight at all, with monsters now lurking in the all-encompassing shadows, can you listen and feel your way to safety?
Usually when a game spends five years in development, it means that something's gone wrong along the way. But occasionally, especially with small indie teams, it simply takes that long to get everything juuuust right. Fortunately, the latter is true of Vince Twelve's impressive sci-fi thriller. With a complex story, challenging puzzles, and high quality (retro-styled) production values, this game has it all, and with its unique short- and long-term memory mechanics, it's sure to stick with you long after you finish.
Jonas Kyratzes's unique freeware adventures have taken players to the fabled Lands of Dream three times before. This time around, he's charging for the visit, but his debut commercial offering comes with a marked improvement in graphic quality (though still in the same hand-drawn, storybook style of its predecessors), a rich cultural backdrop to discover, and a thoroughly engaging fantasy setting to explore. There's a lot of reading to be done, but it's a journey that's well worth booking passage to take.
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