10 Adventure Games (as
I grew up playing computer games - from the early days of the Amstrad CPC (where you'd have to wait an age for games to load via cassette), on to the Amiga, the Game Boy (which I still own) and the Master System (which my sister owned), plus through to the more modern consoles like the PlayStation and Wii. Granted, I'm not a big enough gamer to have kept up with the consoles - I have a Wii and a PS2, but that's as modern as I get. I've considered upgrading, but I actually play more games on my PC than any other platform anyway. Part of the reason for this is that my favourite games are adventure games (as in the point-and-click genre), which I think work best on a computer with a mouse. This type of game had a real heyday in the '90s, but then seemed to decline in popularity somewhat, much to my dismay. It's therefore been incredibly exciting to have had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, with platforms like Steam and Gog making both new games and old games more readily accessible.
Below is a list of my top 10 adventure games, as they stand in early 2018. There's unsurprisingly a '90s slant to them, but pleasingly some more recent titles too.
Thimbleweed Park (2017)
Although this is a modern game, it is very firmly rooted in the '90s classics of the genre. Developed by Gilbert and Winnick, who were responsible for Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, this game is as much an homage to those games as it is a game within its own right (one with obvious nods to Twin Peaks and The X-Files). This is largely why I helped crowdfund it. Although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the originals that inspired it, it's still worthy of a placing here - I really enjoyed the nostalgia of it, plus the meta elements to it. I think the ending divided people, but I personally loved it. It's a good length too, plus has a pleasing openness about it, so you've got some freedom as to what order you solve a lot of the puzzles in. I've actually just started re-playing it - largely inspired by writing this list - and am enjoying it even more on a second playing.
The X-Files Game (1998)
This is quite a difficult one to rank, as I haven't played it in years. My memories of it are really positive, but as it's an adventure game based on my favourite TV show, that's hardly surprising! I've still got the CD-Rom, so maybe I should try and re-play it (assuming I can get my computer to recognise it). I've always been a little disappointed that there haven't been any follow-ups to this, or at least similar X-Files games. There was the PS2 game Resist Or Serve, released in 2004 (which is why and when I bought a PS2), but that was more of a zombie-shooting thing and not an adventure game (still good, but not my preferred genre). Recently there's been another new X-Files game (Deep State), but again it's of a different genre - mostly a hidden objects game (again enjoyable, but still not an adventure game). I've actually started working on creating my own X-Files adventure game (hey, if no-one else is going to do it...) but I'm not sure if and when I'll manage to complete this (or if it'll be any good!).
I didn't discover this game until about 2007 / 2008, but it was a really exciting discovery. It was during the period when a new and decent adventure game seemed to be a rarity. Unsurprisingly it's the only game on the list that was released in the '00s. I played both the first game and the sequel incredibly quickly, as was totally hooked. They're set in a beautiful steampunk world and are really captivating both visually and in terms of the storytelling. I got briefly excited when I discovered a third game had been released in 2017, but the reviews are pretty disappointing and so I've refrained from buying it. If I know anyone who's played it, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.
Maniac Mansion (1987)
The oldest game on the chart, as it's also one of the earliest point-and-click adventure games. We had it on the Amstrad and my sister and I used to play it for hours. Foolishly we believed there was some timed element to the game and that new things would happen if we just waited long enough (we didn't realise the cut scenes were only activated when you reach certain points in the game play, though to be fair, there is definitely a timed element with the early appearance of Edna in the kitchen). We did fairly well with it but didn't get close to completing it (these were of course the days before the internet and being able to look up the walkthrough!). There are some pretty tricky puzzles in it - even now if I re-play it, having played it multiple times with a walkthrough, I still get stuck and have to check the walkthrough again. It'll always be a favourite though, as it's where my love for the genre came from. Plus I still find it genuinely creepy - the ticking grandfather clock in the hallway of the mansion and the constant fear you're going to run into one of the family members and get put in jail. Just the thought of seeing Edna by the fridge makes me a little bit tense. Forget all the modern games with their ultra-realistic gore - I'm freaked out by 8-bit animation.
Grim Fandango (1998)
When I previously did this chart, in 2013, I'd only played Grim Fandango once, back in the '90s, so my memory of it wasn't brilliant. However, thanks to the remastered version being released in 2015, I've now gotten to revisit it. Happily it was just as good as I'd remembered it and it's maintained its position on the chart. Stylistically it's very memorable, with the Mexican Day of the Dead style and the film noir qualities, which are also translated well into an intriguing storyline. The gameplay can be a little awkward at times, as is often the case with 3D adventure games (particularly early ones), but it doesn't detract from the enjoyment too much. There's a reason why it still tends to rank highly on a lot of adventure game charts.
The Longest Journey (1999)
Despite being released in 1999, this totally passed me by at the time - possibly because I'd just started university. Anyway, I played it not that long ago - some time within the past couple of years - and I loved it. I get why it tends to feature on most lists of the best point-and-click adventure games. The story and the whole world it's set in is really interesting, plus the characters are great. It's also decently long (as you can possibly guess from the title), which I personally really like - it feels like more of an experience when you lose whole days to a game! As soon as I finished, I contemplated buying the sequel, but I got a bit wary after reading some of the reviews, as it sounds like quite a different game. There was mention of fighting and sneaking sequences, which put me off. Sneaking sequences are a particular pet peeve of mine in adventure games - they're just annoying. Does anyone genuinely like them, and if so, why?? The reviews for it are still good though, so maybe I will give it a go at some point (probably when it's on sale!).
The Secret Of Monkey Island (1990)
Last time I kinda cheated and included all of the Monkey Island games, but this time I limited myself to choosing just one. There's an argument to be made that the second one is better, but the first one's so iconic that it wins out for me. I remember a friend introducing me to it (particularly the insult sword fighting) and I was just hooked. I've re-played it multiple times over the years and it doesn't get old. I've played the 3rd and 4th games a lot less than the first 2, though just realised I still haven't played Tales of Monkey Island! Unless it was really forgettable, or my memory's really bad - both of which are possible. It's currently cheap on Gog though, so I might need to remedy this.
Life Is Strange (2015)
The highest new entry and easily my favourite game of the past 15 years. Initially I just bought the first episode on Steam, as it was free/cheap and sounded really interesting, but I then had no hesitation in paying for all subsequent episodes. I think episode 3 was released just after/during my completion of episode 2, but I then had to wait for the last 2 episodes, which felt slightly agonising at times - especially the 3 month wait for the last one. It was worth it though - the characters, storyline and setting are so compelling and involving - plus I love the choice element and seeing how your decisions affect the story. This also makes multiple playthroughs far more interesting and rewarding. I think I've played through the entire game either 3 or 4 times - probably 4. Plus the music's so good too! I have to mention that. In fact my only criticism is that it includes some sneaking elements, which I already mentioned I hate. The one in the locker room isn't too bad, as it's quite brief and easy, but the one towards the end of the game is so annoying! Like totally unnecessarily annoying. But hey, I forgive it that as the rest of the game's so good. Some of the story elements are properly shocking and creepy. It really stays with you. There's also been a prequel released (Before The Storm), which I enjoyed, but not as much as the original. It's got some really fun elements, plus I loved getting to re-visit that whole world, but it doesn't have the intrigue and intensity of the original game, possibly due to having different developers and writers. There's supposedly a sequel to the original game in development (by the original developers), so I'm cautiously excited by that.
Day Of The Tentacle (1993)
Technically a sequel to Maniac Mansion, though they're very different games. Where 'Maniac Mansion' can be quite tense and creepy, 'Day Of The Tentacle' is full-on technicolour cartoon silliness. It's really clever too though - making perfect use of the time travelling concept. You basically have 3 different characters in the same place, but during different periods of time (one past, one present, one future). This means that characters can leave objects in the past (or present) and the other characters in the present (or future) can discover them in a different state (for example, wine can be left to turn to vinegar, or you can cryogenically freeze a hamster (obviously)). The characters can also exchange objects with each other in a more direct way via their Chron-o-Johns (time-travelling toilets, but of course). This expansive gameplay makes this quite a complex but incredibly fun game to play. I've no idea how many times I've played it over the years, but it's a lot. As an added bonus, it's also got the entire 'Maniac Mansion' game included within it!
Broken Sword: The Shadow Of The Templars (1996)
This is another game where I previously cheated and included the entire series, but am now limiting to just the first game. I also have a lot of love for the 2nd game, but the nostalgic element of the first game tends to win out. I discovered Broken Sword through a demo version on one of those CD-roms you get free with computing magazines. I was totally taken with it, just from the small amount you got to play in the demo - I needed more! It felt like an age before the game was released and I got it, though it was probably just a few months. Needless to say, I loved it. It's beautiful, it's funny, it's gripping, the puzzles are fun (with the possible exception of The Goat, which infuriated me for hours and is somewhat notorious), it has great characters (including one from Hemel Hempstead and another from Newcastle! Could it be any more written for me?) and the love story sub-plot's a nice bonus. The 2nd game came out just a year later and I loved it just as much. I then eagerly awaited the third, as I'd read it was planned to be a trilogy. The wait for the 3rd game seemed torturous and I started to wonder if it would ever happen. When it finally did become a reality, I had mixed feelings - of course I was excited for a new Broken Sword game, but it was no longer going to be a 2D affair, it would now be a 3D game. It was released in 2003 and I did really enjoy it, but I missed the feel of the 2D games, it just wasn't quite the same - plus there were too many parts where you had to sneak around, which I already expressed my rage for. As a final part to the trilogy I was a little dissatisfied, but I figured that was that. But no, in 2006 a 4th game was released! I guess it was a trilogy in the same way that Star Wars was a trilogy! I seem to remember enjoying it more than the 3rd game, though still nowhere near as much as the first 2 games. I've never actually felt the urge to re-play either the 3rd or 4th game, which says a lot. A 5th game was then released in 2013/2014 (in two parts), which I helped crowdfund (but of course). Happily that was a return to 2D and it was designed to be more like the first two games. It was good fun and I should definitely re-play it at some point, but it wasn't quite up there with the first 2 games for me. Not sure if that was partly because my expectations were too high, but I felt like the gameplay and puzzles weren't as good as in the first 2 games (it felt more linear and less open) and that it was maybe trying a little too hard in some ways. I might have been overly critical though - I should definitely play it again. I feel like I should also mention the Director's Cut of the first game, which was released on Nintendo DS and Wii in 2009 (then subsequently on other platforms). I bought it in 2009 and played it on the DS, which was a new experience in itself - I quite enjoyed the novelty of that, plus it was fun to have all the new scenes and puzzles and a chance to revisit the game from a new perspective - especially as this was before the 5th game had been created. More recently I bought the Director's Cut PC version and re-played it, which again I enjoyed - I particularly like that you get more of an insight into Nico as a character, but it does make it feel like quite a different game - you lose something from the original. If you've never played it before, I'd definitely recommend playing the original version first, then only playing the Director's Cut at a future point, as more of a bonus feature (happily Gog have bundled the original version in with the Director's Cut, so you have got that option). Will we get a sixth game at some point? I've not heard any plans for one, but I'd never pass up the chance for more George and Nico.