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The 25 best adventure games ever made

Point, Click, Agree

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You know that there are adventure games, and you know that some of those adventure games are better than others. But do you know which one is best, and which one is twenty-fifth best? Well, at last you can find out, with our definitive, unimpeachable breakdown of adventure gaming’s best moments.

The joy of the adventure game is that it’s always been alive. There have been heydays, most notably the 1990s, and the present day, with a severe dip in quality during the intervening decade, but the genre has always thrived. And gosh, what gems it contains. Games that are, without doubt, among the best of any genre. Here we celebrate a small number of the finest amongst them.

The list is limited to 25, so there’s a good chance a game you love doesn’t appear and you’ll be furious about that. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, you probably wrong – you know what you’re like – and the game you love isn’t better than the ones on the list. Secondly, make sure to check out the other recommended games mentioned in the “What else should I be playing?” for each entry. A mention there is no snub.

We’ve not included Quest For Glory, because it’s been officially decreed by God himself that it’s an RPG. They were, of course, incredible. Gone Home is also not there, because it just doesn’t comfortably fit in the genre. If you’re about to complain about the lack of Myst, please staple your left eye to your right knee. And yes, wow, it gets a touch LucasArts heavy toward the top. That’s because they made the best adventure games, and while great ones have been released since, few are better than those stunning classics.

However, if you remain livid that you didn’t see Loom, or that Beneath A Steel Sky didn’t make it when Broken Sword did, then don’t just get cross – write a lovely entry of your own, making the case for why it was great, and pop it in the comments. Others will read it and be convinced by your passion. If you’re Richard Cobbett and you’re here to complain about The Last Express not appearing, look Richard, no one but you got it then, or now.

So here it is – the ultimate adventure guide. Plunge in, and then play the ones you missed, and the ones you miss. Or bail, suddenly and inexplicably, by going to read our regularly updated list of the best PC games you can play right now, instead.

Best adventure games

25: Dragonsphere

Developer: MicroProse

Publisher: MicroProse

During the peak of the LucasArts vs. Sierra adventure wars, Microprose decided to pluckily throw some games into the ring, and this one was a doozy. Dragonsphere was, and still is, a beautifully drawn adventure, in which you – as King Callash – must put aside your royal wealth and set off to prevent the evil wizard Sanwe from escaping his prison.

It’s enormously detailed, with swathes of dialogue for the most minor of items on screen, and a pleasingly deep fantasy tale to explore.

Notes:

Microprose also offered the adventuring world the extraordinarily named Rex Nebular And The Cosmic Gender Bender, as well as the far more boringly titled Return Of The Phantom.

Where can I buy it:

Steam
GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Get yourself Westwood’s Kyrandia series.

24: Police Quest III: The Kindred

Developer: Sierra Online

Publisher: Sierra Online

The Police Quest games stood out in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. Where adventure games were either about fairy tales or science fiction, Police Quest was defiantly straight-laced and serious. Procedural, even. And while it would eventually evolve into the SWAT license, in its point-and-click days it peaked with The Kindred.

There are those who will pooh-pooh its inclusion, remembering how it would kill you if you filled in forms incorrectly, or how utterly bloody impossible it was to plot that pentagram of murder sites on the map, but no! The tale of Sergeant Sonny Bonds, investigating the stabbing of his own wife and uncovering a Satanic cult, is a properly good time.

It was a damn site better than all the bloody King’s Quest games everyone delusionally thinks were great, too.

Notes:

Police Quest writer and actual real-life policeman Jim Walls stormed off in a huff during development of The Kindred, which saw SWAT founder Daryl F. Gates taking over his role.

Where can I buy it:

GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Definitely look at the Gabriel Knight games.

Read more:

Eurogamer retrospective by John

23: Under A Killing Moon

Developer: Access Software

Publisher: US Gold

Right, so picking a Tex Murphy game had to happen. The FMV meets sci-fi meets pre-rendered monstrosities meets Chris Jones’s ultro-hamming were a saving grace of the 1990s car crash of FMV releases. But are you furious that it’s Under A Killing Moon, and not The Pandora Directive, or Overseer? Don’t be mad – just write over the text on your monitor with a biro.

This was the game in the series of noir-ish silliness that pulled me in, not just with its mystifying technical wizardry, but also a fun, deeply strange tale of norms vs. mutants, and a doomsday plot from the Brotherhood Of Purity.

Notes:

FOUR CD-ROMS! In 1994! That’s the modern equivalent of releasing your game on two Large Hadron Colliders.

There were two Tex Murphy games previous to UAKM, but their plots were retconned and the whole series reinvented. For good.

Where can I buy it:

GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Devour the whole series, as well as last year’s Tesla Effect.

Read more:

Our interview with Chris Jones about bringing the series back.

22: Spycraft: The Great Game

Developer: Activision

Publisher: Activision

There is admittedly not a lot of FMV in this list. The format has not aged well, nor indeed was most of it any good in the first place. But Spycraft was something completely different, and it’s a proper shame how unknown it remains.

Playing for realism, you are a rookie spy, given materials to uncover a plot to assassinate the President of the United States (1996-style), engaging with the FBI and CIA as you do. Oh, and so much intrigue!

It played like you were at your desk, analysing video and audio footage, using all sorts of tech and contraptions, and coo, it felt so involved. In fact, it still does, as you isolate particular pieces of background sound and run searches, build photo-IDs, and generally be an amazing hero spy person.

Notes:

Actual real-life spy people appear in the game, with former CIA director William Colby and former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin! Also, Charles Napier is in it, so BOOM.

Where can I buy it:

GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Bit of an outlier, but how about EXperience112.

21: Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Telltale ploughed their way through a lot of crap before they finally hit gold with Strong Bad. Two awful series of Sam & Max (woefully overrated by a confused press), the abandoned Bone episodes, and let us never forget their CSI games. But then along came the Brothers Chap, and suddenly their episodic format made sense.

Using the characters from the now sadly mostly dead Homestar Runner site, the five episodes were co-written by the Chaps, along with – among others – adventure guru Mike Stemmle. The result is a collection of truly hilarious adventure games that wholly capture the peculiar wit of the original Flash cartoons.

For fans of H*R it was a wonderful surprise. For fans of adventures, it was a moment of relief that Telltale really could do it. Episode 4 is the series highlight, but all are a great time.

Notes:

There is some hope for H*R. The site has updated twice in the last year, after a four year hiatus, and there is some possibility of more regular updates.

Where can I buy it:

Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this:

There’s Telltale’s Tales Of Monkey Island, and their current Tales From The Borderlands.

Read more:

We interviewed Telltale about the game series.

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