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The 25 Best Adventure Games Ever Made

Point, Click, Agree

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5: Grim Fandango

Developer: LucasArts/Double Fine

Publisher: LucasArts/Double Fine

Tim Schafer’s great labour of love, the early proof that adventure games could be more than either horror or comedy, and a complete clusterfuck of an engine.

As LucasArts was beginning to wind down its adventure development, and making mad demands that everything be in 3D, what could have been the best 2D point and click the world had seen was ludicrously hampered by an engine that simply didn’t work. Everyone struggled through anyway, because wow, it was an amazing story – the lovely reaper Manny and his attempts to uncover a conspiracy in the world of the dead – but dammit, you couldn’t walk through doors.

The recent remake has done incredible things for the game, making it properly fun to play for the first time, except for leaving in the utterly abysmal inventory screen.

And yet, readers in throngs will be furious that this isn’t #1 – testament to how wonderful a story it tells, and the charm with which it tells it.

Notes:
The engine behind Grim was based on (so appropriately) Sith, created for running the Jedi Knight games. Oddly not ideal for adventuring.

Where can I buy it:

GOG

Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Take a look at Schafer’s wonderful platformer, Pyschonauts.

Read more:

An interview with Tim Schafer on adventures.

4: Indiana Jones: The Fate Of Atlantis

Developer: LucasArts

Publisher: LucasArts

Oh my goodness, higher than Grim Fandango?! HANG HIM! HANG THEM ALL! PEOPLE MUST PAY!!!

Except, well, give each game a play. Look, both are incredible, both deserve to be the near the tops of all-genre gaming lists, but I believe this one is better than the other one. And I believe that because I think it’s actually more fun to play.

Fate Of Atlantis is an Indiana Jones story so good that there were perpetual rumours of its forming the plot for a fourth Indy movie from the moment the game came out. Sadly it proved far too good to have ever been adopted. Indy is, of course, racing the Nazis to find the lost city of Atlantis before they get their evilly gloved hands on it.

During the game you play as both Indy and Sophia Hapgood – a surrogate Marion Ravenwood – in one of the most smartly constructed and superbly written adventures. And of course, there are three different ways to play! Wits, Team or Combat, letting you choose if you want puzzle heavy play, a one-player co-op experience (pick this!), or adding in fisticuffs where brains might otherwise work.

It even changes the solution to some puzzles each time you play. It really is quite the most remarkable game, and it’s also extremely funny.

Notes:

Fate Of Atlantis was made at the same time as LucasArts was developing The Secret Of Monkey Island and The Dig. Flipping heck.

Where can I buy it:

Steam

GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Take a look at LA’s other Indy adventure, the pithily titled, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure.

Read more:

John’s EG retrospective.

Cara’s take on Indy and Sophia’s relationship.

3: Sam & Max: Hit The Road

Developer: LucasArts

Publisher: LucasArts

Is Sam & Max really so great, twenty-two years on? Can we, with the passing of time, give it a fresh look and really maintain that… oh yes of course we flipping can. It’s amazing!

From the combined minds of Mike Stemmle, Sean Clarke, Collette Michaud, and Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell, Hit The Road saw LucasArts make the biggest technical step forward in LA’s games: full screen, the verbs finally hidden behind mouse cursors. (Sierra had managed this in 1991.) It also saw them create something that rivalled its television contemporaries like Ren & Stimpy by offering a hilarious, slapstick cartoon, that you controlled.

The titular heroes are dog and rabbit (respectively) freelance police (a phrase that’s since been repeated so often that you can errantly stop noticing how funny it is), on a mission to recover a stolen bigfoot called Bruno. The investigation takes them all over the United States, and most importantly, features songs.

Each location is so wonderfully drawn and coloured, and packed with daft details. There’s immeasurable pleasure to be found in deliberately trying incorrect inventory items on things, especially when that item is Max. And all the characters are superbly realised and very silly.

It remains an enormous treat.

Notes:

Sam & Max began as characters designed for testing animation software within LucasArts, then as a strip comic in the company’s quarterly newsletter.

There was intended to be an Xbox exclusive sequel from former LA devs called Sam & Max Plunge Through Space, but they were divinely punished for their console hubris and went bust before it was finished.

Where can I buy it:

GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Clearly Day Of The Tentacle, but also take a look at the third season of Telltale’s Sam & Max reboot, when it was finally not awful.

Read more:

A “preview” written for 2010’s April 1st silliness.

2: The Longest Journey

Developer: Funcom

Publisher: Empire Interactive

April Ryan, an 18 year old who can shift between the mundane world of future Earth, and the magical fantasy realms of Arcadia, sets out to restore the Balance in the universe. And does so in an utterly enormous and phenomenally verbose adventure game.

There’s no question that the puzzles in TLJ are often, well, not so great. The policeman’s glass eyeball, anyone? Which is perhaps an even greater indication of how strong the writing and world are, that it rises above this to be one of the best adventure games ever made.

Its twin worlds are limited to sections of cities, and yet you walk away with a sense of understanding two entire civilisations. It’s packed with so many memorable characters, from your fabulous landlady Fiona to the sarcastic and adorable crow, Crow, via the mysterious Cortez, the extraordinarily foul-mouthed Burns Flipper, and moustache-twirling alchemist, Roper Klacks. And that soundtrack!

While it earned notoriety for the prolific swearing and the appearance of a blue winky, it gained a massive following and two sequels because of its massive heart. TLJ was a game that changed my life when I first played it, and I’m not alone. It’s thoughts on imagination, magic, modernity, and faith are deep and challenging, all while being a nonchalantly progressive game in the late 90s.

Oh, and there’s so much bloody talking.

Notes:

Quick declaration of interests: I’ve worked with creator Ragnar Tørnquist on some stuff. But my mind was made up about TLJ years and years before.

Ragnar Tørnquist just really wants to be Joss Whedon, and kisses a poster of him on the lips every night before he goes to bed.

Where can I buy it:

GOG

Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this:

There’s its sequel, Dreamfall, and the currently in-progress episodic Dreamfall Chapters.

Read more:

An interview with Ragnar Tørnquist about the game.

A making of by Kieron.

A retro by John.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founding robots of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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