10 Adventure Games which barely missed the Top-10
I’ve been recently slaving away on a new Top-10 or rather a remake of an older one. The long overdue remake of my Top-10 Adventure Games has now been finished and will go online on March 16. Before the Top-10 goes online though, I wanted to give shout-outs to some other excellent games which very nearly missed out being on the up-coming Top-10.
In the interest of not spoiling the Top-10, I won’t mention which games are on it, but I will link to the Top-10 eventually, once the list goes on YouTube.
Update: The Top-10 is now online! Go check it out!
But for now, let’s get on with the list…
The FMV heavy adventure titles are a bit of a touchy subject and I didn’t include many. However, I do have great deals of love for these types of games, especially for their cheesiness. The 7th Guest was one of the few games released by Trilobyte, a big-budget FMV extravaganza and quite an unusual adventure title over-all. The game is definitely filled with creepy atmosphere with the 3D rendered mansion looking quite impressive and the soundtrack in particular being very quirky and memorable.
The 7th Guest breaks away from established point-and-click adventure traditions by not having dialogue sequences or an inventory. Instead, cutscenes of the dead guests serve as the main outlet for the plot and the ghostly voice of Stauf, the demonic host, serves as the guardian of clues within the game. Instead of gathering items to be used for puzzles, each room in the game contains a puzzle which can be solved through logical deduction. This focused approach may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s quite nice as it allows you to focus on that one task.
There are some real annoyances with this game though. You can’t walk anywhere without being treated to a cutscene of your character/the camera gliding across the room and if you take long to solve a certain puzzle, you’re probably going to get sick of Stauf’s comments. These flaws were enough to make me not want to feature this game on the Top-10. However, I think it’s a game worth trying out, even if you only want to watch the silly cutscenes and listen to that spooky music.
The very first adventure game I ever played. Alien Incident tells the story of a boy named Ben, whose crazy inventor uncle manages to pull a group of hostile aliens to Earth through a wormhole. Ben’s uncle is abducted by the aliens who want him to reopen the doorway while they also look for a mysterious entity who came through the wormhole and is hiding somewhere on the planet.
This game is filled with a spooky atmosphere and great music. It’s very simple and straight-forward which may also help explain why I was able to beat this game at age 11 without the use of a walkthrough. Despite the childish difficulty and the admittedly cliché plot-setting, the game has a unique charm with goofy characters helping Ben along on his adventure to thwart the aliens’ plans.
At the same time, I didn’t really want to include this little gem from Housemarque (indeed, the company’s one and only adventure game). Alien Incident is a fun little title, but the English language version suffers from a slightly dodgy translation and, simply put, the dialogue is nowhere near as funny as in the original Finnish version. I love this game dearly and I kinda hope that it would get a re-release on GOG, but fact of the matter is that in its current state it’s no surprise why its fallen to obscurity.
This little gem comes from the quirky Scottish developer Gremlin. Normality is set in a dystopic future, where the sun is never seen due to a constant cloud of pollution and an oppressive government tries to force people to stay at home watching television in an effort to keep society “normal”. As the rebellious Kent, you join an underground movement in order to overthrow the government, clear the skies and re-introduce rock music to peoples’ lives.
Normality may not have a particularly deep plot, but it has a great comedic atmosphere and goofy look. The pre-rendered cut-scenes, though crude, have a lot of energy. Corey Feldman gives a memorably annoying voice-performance as Kent and the game just has a great tongue-in-cheek feeling to it. The puzzles have quite a range from ridiculously easy to cryptically difficult. At least the requires some creative thought.
Normality’s biggest problems have to do with its technology. Being a first-person point-and-click adventure game in a time when the technology for such games was still very crude brings with it a lot of unnecessary annoyances. Gremlin did push the design to its limits and deserve credit for it, but some may be put off by the game’s Doom-esque pseudo-3D look. Also, some things could have been indicated more clearly, such as how you can look up or down.
Normality is a diamond in the rough, a really fun game but one which may frustrate some people with its technical lack of refinement.
TellTale’s episodic adventure games really deserve a huge thanks from the community that loves these games for keeping the genre alive. The company was formed by former LucasArts employees and one of their first projects involved bringing back the hilarious dog and rabbit cop duo created by Steve Purcell. Sam & Max Save the World sees the Freelance Police come back for a set of assignments each more ludicrous than the last.
These episodic instalments are admittedly a lot more straight-forward and easy than the original Sam & Max Hit the Road, but I don’t think that’s actually a bad thing. The more leisurely puzzle logic makes it easier to enjoy the hilarious writing and I especially love the little variations to all the locations, especially Bosco’s store which has its own special flavour in each episode.
Sam & Max missed out on the Top-10 fun because I included another TellTale title instead, but I still highly recommend this game for fans of comedic adventure games. I haven’t played the two other TellTale Sam & Max instalments yet but I do look forward to them.
Sierra’s adventure game are notorious for their difficulty, so it’s no surprise why Leisure Suit Larry stands out amongst their game library. The humorous adventures of this short, sympathetic loser looking for the right woman are filled with juvenile comedy and lots of naughty fun. Larry is just lovable no matter what the task.
The very first Larry actually stands out as one of my personal favourite instalments of the series. I actually first played the VGA remake of the title (which dispenses with the annoying text-parser system) but despite its short length and brutal difficulty, I really enjoyed the game. Larry’s deaths are actually fairly humorous and the puzzles mostly quite logical. Also, the new Reloaded HD-remake version adds whole new puzzles as well as voice-acting to further liven up what was already a really hilarious game.
There’s only one other Larry game I like more than the original. I also highly recommend Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out, but generally if you like yourself some dirty jokes and beautiful women, you’ll enjoy the Larry games.
The Broken Sword series from Revolution Software is one of my all-time favourite adventure game series around. The Sleeping Dragon is an almost direct sequel to the first title of this series and brings George Stobbart back to Paris on the trail of the former Neo-Templar order. This time he is taking on Senor Susarro and his Dragon Cult, while Nico becomes wrapped up in the same conspiracy while investigating the murder of a decoder for the cult.
The Sleeping Dragon jumped from 2D to full-on 3D and I believe this was one of the few times the genre made the jump successfully. This aspect is used a lot in spacial puzzle solving as well as with sneaking segments. Unfortunately, this game’s console-roots show in the PC version with slightly badly mapped controls for the keyboard – but after a little practice it’s not really that bad. This is by far the most kinetic and action-packed instalment of the series but still contains the razor-sharp wit and comedy of the series.
Once again, there’s one other game from the series which I actually like better and the Sleeping Dragon does have some unrefined aspects to it. Some animations play a little awkwardly, some of the voice-acting is a little dodgy and there are definitely way too many box-moving puzzles. Regardless, I consider this an absolute must-play from the series.
Adventure Soft’s Simon the Sorcerer series is a bit of a fringe classic as far as this genre is concerned. However, I really like the second instalment of the series which has great comedic writing and some very clever parodies of classic fairytales. The star of this game is the rude and foul-mouthed Simon, who doesn’t particularly care to be the hero of a magical adventure and never misses a chance to insult others.
This game has a rare charm about it. It’s one of the few adventure games where you genuinely hate the main protagonist and actually laugh at his misfortune, because at the end of the day, Simon can be a real bag of dicks. This turns the whole setup of a traditional comedic adventure on its ear and I really think it’s what makes this game quite unique in the otherwise over-crowded fantasy adventure sub-genre.
Simon 2 just barely missed the Top-10. There really isn’t anything too badly wrong with the game. The low-res graphics actually look pretty awesome with the high level of detail in the animations. The voice-acting is hilarious (reminding me somewhat of Conker’s Bad Fur Day). The interface is admittedly a bit of a clusterfuck with way too many options but apart from one example none of the puzzles in the game are overtly cryptic. I didn’t particularly care for the other two main instalments but this one is a really fun title and highly recommended.
#8 Gabriel Knight 1+2
The Gabriel Knight trilogy of games is one of the most high quality adventure game series ever made. The games mix real historical elements to mythology and create interesting private dick style narratives.
Sins of the Fathers has New Orleans author and Shadow Hunter Gabriel Knight investigating a series of Voodoo related murders. He gets wrapped up in a romance with a descendant of the cult’s leader and has to also resolve his own family curse by the end of the game. A classic Sierra style game, the first Gabriel Knight is filled with tricky puzzles and has a dark story and Tim Curry giving a memorable performance as the main hero.
The Beast Within contains heavy amounts of hilarious FMV with Dean Erickson taking over Gabe’s role. In this game, Gabriel traverses Germany on the hunt for a werewolf and the game also has the player control Gabe’s assistant Grace. As Grace, you track down the werewolf’s connection to the last Bavarian king and try to solve the mystery of a lost Wagner opera. Despite its FMV heaviness, The Beast Within is a full-fledged point-and-clicker but thankfully a lot more forgiving than the first game.
With these two being featured here, it’s probably no surprise why they didn’t make the list. However, the entire Gabriel Knight series is worth a try.
This is a game that seriously should have made the Top-10 and the only reason it didn’t was that it completely slipped my mind when I started making it. L.A. Noire follows the exploits of Cole Phelps, a Los Angeles Police officer whose career is on the rise in the 1950s. You start off as a lowly street cop, rise up to homicide and even investigate the Black Dahlia serial killings. However, the game focuses on Phelps and his rise and fall in the police force.
L.A. Noire definitely features a lot more action than your dime-a-dozen adventure game with chase sequences and gun-fights. However, the real meat of the game is the investigation of the crime-scenes, where Cole has to pick up every important clue and eventually get a confession from someone. You can even replay cases as much as you like to get different outcomes depending on what clues you discover. Despite not having a traditional dialogue tree, the interrogation scenes work similarly where you have to make choices to either believe the interviewee, show doubt or to accuse them of lying (and backing it with the proper clues). The mechanic is surprisingly deep despite seeming deceptively simple.
L.A. Noire is another example of a 3D adventure game which also benefits from being 3D with the player required to pay close attention to crime scenes in order to find all the necessary clues. This is all-around a top-notch game from the near photo-realistic facial renders to the music, acting and story.
The Monkey Island series is another adventure game series I love dearly. The very first title in the series isn’t just an awesome title which has aged surprisingly well, it was a genre-defining classic which changed the way people looked at adventure games. As the young pirate wanna-be, Guybrush Threepwood you set off to complete the three trials of becoming a pirate, fall in love with Mêlée Island’s governor Elaine Marley and cross the path of the murderous Ghost pirate LeChuck.
The requires a lot of heavy thinking but the non-linear puzzle solving gives you the freedom to think about puzzles and solve them at your leisure. The game has great atmosphere and a brilliant soundtrack. Characters like the Voodoo Lady, Stan and Herman Toothrot became series mainstays. You encounter many great characters from the flower-stealing Otis to the surprisingly cowardly muscle-man Meathook. And of course, there’s insult sword fighting.
The Secret of Monkey Island is just a fantastic game and the perfect introductory title to the world of adventure games. I highly recommend the title and especially the excellent Special Edition with the redone graphics and added voice-acting. There’s of course one other game from the series which I like the better and I also highly recommend Tales, the fifth instalment of the series made by TellTale games.