My Top-5 Adventure Game series
Having just recently beaten the fifth Broken Sword game, I decided it would be fun to list my favourite adventure game series. I’ve previously done a top-10 of my favourite adventure games on YouTube (a list that is due for a make-over), but for now I wanted to focus on series of games from this genre.
Making the list proved surprisingly difficult, however. As I’ve always had a great affinity for the LucasArts adventure games, I haven’t experienced as many serial titles as opposed to one-ofs like Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. I’ve also had singular experiences of certain series where I haven’t, sadly, played more of the games to warrant entry, such as Simon the Sorcerer 2 and the King’s Quest series. So I really had to push to come up with good entries for the list.
I would really want to give an honourable mention to Pendulo Studios’ Runaway trilogy of games, but sadly I still haven’t beaten Twist of Fate (due to technical issues), so I can’t put it on the list. In the end, I decided to stick with these five.
Let’s get on with the list…
5. Strong Bad’s Cool Game 4 Attractive People
I admit that I may be stretching the definition of “game series” with this entry, but out of all of TellTale’s episodic adventure games, Strong Bad’s game perhaps is the only one that really warrants a title of “series”. Each individual episode of SBCG4AP was its own self-contained story with some references to the previous episodes creating a loose sense of continuity, but for intents and purposes Strong Bad’s Cool Game was effectively five mini adventure games.
And they were pretty cool for that. Admittedly, these titles didn’t offer as much brain-teasing challenge as some other titles, but contained a lot of nifty ideas as well as the familiar cast of characters, locations and music from the Homestar Runner flash cartoon series. The adventure game really was the perfect genre to accommodate HR’s characteristic style of comedy and the episodes were unafraid to go wild with their own ideas. My personal favourites were the war and political imprisonment themed Strongbadia the Free as well as the series finale 8-bit is Enough which paid many a cool homage to classic video-games while also having its own excellent brand of comedy.
The series kick-off title Homestar Ruiner was also a pretty good introduction for the series, though I felt lacked that extra punch Episodes 2 and 5 had with their finales. Baddest of the Bands was unfortunately a let-down despite its musical theme and its main issue were the puzzles and the music itself which left me a little underwhelmed. Episode 4, Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective, was also hampered by its linear structure but at least contained a lot of great in-jokes for the fans of the series, not to mention that the linear design was probably intentional due to the nature of the plot.
This series warmed my heart for bringing to game form one of my all time favourite internet cartoons and even if you’re not a Homestar Runner fan, I’d still recommend Episodes 1, 2 and 5 for their sheer comedy and fun-factor. The cut-scenes and graphic look also transferred well in this series and at least the games are accessible and fun, even if a little easy.
Sierra’s Larry-series of course carries with it a reputation for adult comedy, but the Larry games are actually a lot less filthy as their reputation makes them out to be. Now sure, these games are loaded with suggestive and even down-right puerile comedy, but that’s the charm of the series. It’s making fun of everything in a very raunchy way but also tests your brain with puzzles that are anything but simple to tackle.
Larry’s had his ups and downs and I wont lie about the fact that not every single instalment is really my cup of tea. However, the VGA remake of the very first title, Land of the Lounge Lizards, despite its quiant and simple structure still holds up surprisingly well and contains a lot of laughs for its relatively short length. It’s one of the few instalments in the series where Larry’s frequent deaths are actually pretty amusing, even if beating the game requires exhausting amounts of trial and error (you can also try out the HD remake if VGA is a little too low-res for you).
Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out is another gem, once again with the hilarious deaths and the generally pleasant and fun atmosphere it creates. And of course, the Magnum Opus of the franchise, Larry 7: Love for Sail!, is an absolute must-play for its comedy, brain-teasing puzzles and fun writing. Love for Sail is also a title worth trying if you’re the type who doesn’t care for Larry’s frequent deaths as this game for once let’s you explore the game-world without the fear of an unexpected death-trap on every screen.
Despite Larry’s charm, I will confess that I never had the patience for Larry 2 or 3, simply because of the text-parser interface. Larry 5 could be an interesting title if you have the patience for it, but personally I don’t. However, if you really want to enjoy some raunchy fun, Larrys 1, 6 and 7 have you covered (and in all fairness, Magna Cum Laude wasn’t really that bad , but definitely not an adventure game either).
The small British developer Revolution Software keeps on pumping even years after adventure games had their shining moment. You can understand therefore why I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Broken Sword series. Historical mysteries, murderous conspiracies and flippant comedic dialogue, how could you go wrong? Charles Cecil has kept the series alive through re-releases and Director’s Cuts and the adventures of American lawyer George Stobbart and French photojournalist Nicole Collard keep on impressing me.
The very first title of the series, The Shadow of the Templars, is still the crown jewel of the series – a well-written, thrilling mystery which makes finding each piece of the puzzle all the more thrilling. George Stobbart is just a delightful protagonist who has a smart-ass comment for any occasion. Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror may have gone in a more comedic direction, but it also allowed Nico to shine as a playable character and still contained a lot of the charm and great story-telling momentum of the first game. However, The Sleeping Dragon could debatably be the best instalment of the series (barring its somewhat clunky keyboard controls) with an even more energetic and animated approach, great puzzles and interesting characters.
As you can read from my review of the fifth game, The Serpent’s Curse kept up the series traditions well, but it’s definitely a title you’ll enjoy best after having played the first three titles. This series is a top-contender as an adventure game franchise and its shine is only faded by the horrendous, glitchy, badly written and ill-conceived Angel of Death (The Secrets of the Ark). Just skip this terrible instalment and the other four more than make up for it.
Sierra used to be notorious for milking all their adventure game series to an excess, but there’s one series which I wouldn’t have minded to have had a longer life than just three instalments. That’s Gabriel Knight, an excellent series of paranormal adventures where a New Orleans author and Shadow Hunter, Gabriel Knight, solves bizarre and otherworldly mysteries with the help of his history-buff assistant, Grace Nakimura.
The very first instalment, The Sins of the Fathers, immediately whisks the player on a mystery of a Voodoo related serial murder and features a star-studded cast as well as Sierra’s traditional blend of brain-teasing puzzles. This game is definitely not for those who are easily daunted by difficult brain work – but the excellent story-telling and great atmosphere makes it all worth-while.
The gem of the franchise is the third instalment: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned. Gabriel and company made an excellent jump to 3D with a free-moving camera, an interesting cast of characters but still that excellent puzzle solving goodness you come to expect from the franchise. It’s a title that did right what a lot of other 3D adventure games struggled with. Even the FMV heavy second instalment, The Beast Within, despite its uneven story-writing has loads of entertainment value due to the hilarious acting.
Gabriel Knight is a series I can recommend for anyone who likes a well-written story with history and paranormal bound together. Apart from the excellent writing, the acting in each instalment is great featuring the likes of Tim Curry, Mark Hamil, Jim Cummings, Dean Erickson, Kay Kuter, Charity James, Jennifer Hale and John De Lancie. The soundtracks by Robert Holmes are also brilliant with a mysterious atmosphere and excellent production quality.
An HD remake of the first game is under way, so I recommend getting it when you have the chance.
As mentioned before, the late LucasArts Company, despite its many excellent adventure titles, was never a huge sequel factory the same way as their main competitor Sierra. However, the one series in their fold is also one of the key series of the entire genre, the swash-buckling, fun-filled piratey adventure series, Monkey Island. Each instalment follows would-be pirate Guybrush Threepwood’s hapless adventures as he faces off against vegetarian Cannibals, three-headed monkeys, evil Voodoo Talismans and Australian Land Developers. His most constant nemesis is Demon-Zombie-Ghost Pirate LeChuck, a pirate as fierce as his beard is awesome.
Each instalment of the series is loaded with hilarious characters, great writing, logical puzzles and swanky Caribbean-style music from Michael Land. The Secret of Monkey Island was a game-changing title for the whole genre and still holds up well to this day with its logical puzzles and fun-filled atmosphere. The Curse of Monkey Island is, of course, the pinnacle of the franchise in production quality, fun-factor and puzzle-y goodness. The series jump to 3D, even if a rough one, was still very succesful with Escape from Monkey Island, which despite recycling some material from games past was still extremely enjoyable and had its own unique brand of comedy. TellTale Games’ fifth Monkey Island, Tales, also brought the story-writing chops to a new level for the series and told a riveting story while still maintaining the series high standards for comedy and puzzles.
Even the game from the series which I like the least, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, was loaded with memorable characters and great music, if at times very frustrating puzzles. Even so, every single title from this series is a great way to introduce oneself to the adventure game genre since Monkey Island never leaves anyone cold. You all know why: Pirates are cool!