Top Adventure Games
Recommendations from the Adventure Gamers staff
At a time many had written off the genre, along came Funcom and Ragnar Tørnquist’s opus to remind everyone of what a classic point-and-click adventure has to offer. The epic tale of young “shifter” April Ryan, as she learns to embrace her destiny and bring balance back between two worlds of magic and science, remains a fan favourite even today for its gorgeous design and ambitious storytelling.
While Sins of the Fathers made Gabriel Knight a household name among adventure gamers, the sequel is arguably the pinnacle of Jane Jensen’s exceptional series, not to mention the short-lived FMV era in the mid-1990s. The Beast Within delivers brilliant storytelling full of dark, thought-provoking themes, rich settings and memorable characters, all while skillfully avoiding the cheesy live-action pitfalls of so many of its contemparies.
Whether you choose the original or the updated “Director’s Cut”, you don’t want to miss out on one of the genre’s epic greats. Beginning with a bang (literally), the globetrotting conspiracy thriller is smartly written and beautifully designed, aging beautifully over the years. Originally known as Circle of Blood in North America, for reasons known only to the Knights Templar, the debut of George Stobbart and Nico Collard is still the benchmark of the series, and one of the finest adventures ever made.
Very few games have both beauty and brains, but Cyan World’s sequel to Myst is near the top in both categories. An unapologetically challenging game, Riven sends players on a rescue mission to the integrated islands of a dying world. As you marvel at the beauty of the lakes, volcanic cliffs, and beaches, you’ll discover evidence of the lost D’ni civilization and solve a host of complex puzzles in an adventure that strikes a near perfect balance of difficulty and design.
The best many adventures offer is the illusion of freedom, but Smoking Car Productions' The Last Express is one of the few games that let you live and die with the consequences of your actions. As American doctor Robert Cath, players explore a rotoscoped recreation of the famed Orient Express bound from Paris to Constantinople, where you'll interact with an eclectic international cast of characters to uncover an intricate conspiracy plot in real-time. But if you miss your stop, you can always rewind time to continue this tense, immersive, and innovative adventure that few other games have equaled.
The second beloved LucasArts classic to get the “Special Edition” treatment exposes a whole new generation of gamers to Guybrush Threepwood and his search for Big Whoop, in either classic or enhanced versions, with updated graphics, full voiceovers, remastered soundtrack, developer’s commentary, and more!
The last three Tex Murphy games were so far ahead of their time, they're still ahead of the curve more than 15 years later. The best of all is The Pandora Directive, which skillfully blended superb storytelling, engaging characters, a memorable sci-fi setting, branching plot paths, player-driven choice-and-consequence, full 3D control before 3D was popular, varying difficulty levels, and challenging puzzles, not to mention one of the finest examples of live-action video the genre has ever seen. What's not to love?
Argue its genre all you like, but the one thing we’re certain everyone will agree on is just how fantastic this unique physics-based puzzler is. We’d call it one-of-a-kind, though the sequel is much like its own already-impressive predecessor – except double the length, with memorable new characters to meet and obstacles to overcome, plus a two-player co-op mode for twice the gaming pleasure. This is the sort of game that makes you glad you’re “still alive”.
While the name Zork may by synonymous with text adventures, arguably its “grandest” accomplishment is the final graphic adventure released in the venable series. Grand Inquisitor is a combination of superb artistic design, whimsical humour, memorable characters, creative gameplay, and a terrific variety of fun puzzles. In a land where magic is forbidden by the titular megalomaniacal ruler, you’ll wield a variety of off-the-wall spells and be utterly charmed yourself, every step of the way.
If you missed it the first time around, the 1990 LucasArts piratey classic is now back, bigger and better than ever. Available for download only, the new enhanced version includes high definition graphics, full voiceovers, a re-mastered orchestral soundtrack, revamped control scheme, and a multi-tiered hint system. And for those who prefer the game in all its retro glory, the original version is fully intact as well, easily accessed at any time throughout the game. It’s the best of both worlds!
This classic from Benoît Sokal and Microïds is as beautiful as it is moving; a journey of both fantasy and self-discovery; a tale of hope yet touched by melancholic sadness. Players follow the exploits of big city lawyer Kate Walker in her pursuit of a handicapped but brilliant inventor, himself on the trail of the world's last living mammoths. Now six years after release, the game has recently been ported to the Nintendo DS, though the PC original is still the recommended version to play.
At a time when the genre was filled with light fantasy quests and comedy tales, Jane Jensen launched herself into the upper stratosphere of game designers with her dark, grim tale of guilt, horror and loss. An investigation of voodoo-related ritual murders sparks a journey of self-discovery for the titular protagonist, and the game's riveting, mature storyline and compelling characters have lost none of their appeal in the two decades since its release.
How would little independent Amanita Design top its popular Samorost series? Easy – by making Machinarium, the company’s first full-fledged adventure that exudes charm, style, and polish at every turn. Bigger and more complex than its predecessors, the game casts players as a little robot who must make his way back into a towering mechanical city. For a game about robots, it’s got far more heart than most adventures, and it’s a refreshing, imaginative title that’s not to be missed.
Another gem from the now-defunct Microïds Canada casts players in dual playable roles of FBI agent Victoria McPherson in modern day Chicago and her grandfather Gus in 1920s Prague, as each pursues a murderer whose methods and motivations bear striking similarities. The highly-anticipated sequel didn't quite live up to its predecessor's standards, but now's the perfect time to see where it all began if you missed it the first time around.
When one classic adventure just isn’t enough, how about seven? Over the years, the King’s Quest series proved to be one of Sierra’s best, with each sequel achieving new breakthroughs for its time. This collection covers the first seven games created by Roberta Williams and chronicles the adventures of Daventry’s royal family. Now updated to run on modern computers and sold at a bargain price, there’s no reason to skip over this groundbreaking anthology anymore.
In an era dominated by comedy and fantasy, Jim Walls and Sierra defied the odds with a series full of gritty realism and real-life police procedures. Tackling more serious themes like drug abuse and suburban violence, the Police Quest collection presents the first three adventures featuring Sonny Bonds, along with the fourth game created by Daryl F. Gates, the retired Police Chief of Los Angeles. Inexpensive and fully playable on current hardware, it’d be a crime to miss out of this landmark series.
Kafka was wrong; being a cockroach can be fun! But perhaps just as dangerous. After being accursed by a transformation into the disgusting little insect, Roger Samms views the world though whole new compound eyes, and now even regular household elements are life-and-death struggles for survival, especially when you've got no hands. Your skin may not stop crawling along with your avatar's six spindly legs, but Bad Mojo remains one of the most unique, memorable adventures of all time.
The amnesiac premise may be clichéd, but Sanitarium proves just how effective it can be when it's done right. Waking up in heavy bandages with no memory of your past, you begin a surreal psychological journey that alternates between the real world sanitarium and the twisted depths of your mind, and as the scenes change, your identity changes right along with them. It seems nonsensical at first, but it all adds up to a truly affecting and horrific story of love and loss that comes together brilliantly in the end.
Known as Fahrenheit in Europe, Indigo Prophecy may be far from a traditional adventure, but Quantic Dream’s bold “interactive drama” is still one of the most compelling cinematic experiences the genre has ever produced. As the precursor to Heavy Rain, its mix of multi-character exploration, motion controlled interaction, Quick Time action sequences, and player-driven choice-and-consequence gameplay result in a deeply immersive, supernatural crime thriller about a ritualistic murder seen from both the killer and detectives on his trail.
Funcom chose a bold new direction for the sequel to The Longest Journey. Abandoning the classic point-and-click style of its predecessor, Dreamfall returned players to a futuristic Stark and fantastical Arcadia now rendered in vivid 3D glory, this time with three playable characters and enough combat and stealth to spice up the adventure. It's a much different experience that not everyone will embrace, but it remains a cinematic storytelling tour de force with an undeniable touch of magic.
You thought other games were scary? Most horror adventures can’t hold a candle to the unrelenting terror that awaits in the latest game from the creators of Penumbra. And a candle is about all you’ll be holding yourself in this spiritual successor. Amnesia plunges players back into oppressive darkness, this time to navigate a desolate old Prussian castle, with danger lurking everywhere and the darkness both your enemy and your ally.
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