Avast, ye gamers! We’re here to plunder the best and brightest of the ancient-yet-fun adventure games out there. The adventure genre has lost clear definition since the takeover of more action-oriented games (we’re still waiting for Half-Life 3, Gabe!), but that doesn’t stop us from revisiting them. Keep in mind these games aren’t processor-busters so any old machine (within reason) will work just fine, but most of these are only available for the PC. We’ve provided Steam links for each game.
The Secret of Monkey Island
If you mention the adventure genre to anyone born before the 90s, the immediate go-to game is The Secret of Monkey Island. The game spawned a generation of gamers that valued story over frag counts and character above weapons. The game was so successful that it spawned four sequels and even a special edition available on Steam. A game with such off-the-wall humor (the main character’s name is Guybrush Threepwood, if that gives any indication of it’s humor) became the norm for future adventure games—it was such a landmark title that some games reference Monkey Island, especially in the case of…
The Longest Journey
1999 was a huge year for games—the gaming audience had glommed on to first-person shooter fever with games like Unreal Tournament and Half-Life, but the adventure genre was dwindling in comparison. The Longest Journey was praised (and still is) as a milestone in adventure gaming. Developed by Ragnar Tørnquist and a small yet dedicated team, The Longest Journey pulled it’s weight in redefining the genre and brought light to it’s ailing presence. It was a game heavily recognized for featuring strong female protagonists. Two sequels for TLJ sit under Ragnar’s belt, the latter of which is his independent effort under Red Thread Games.
Another gem from Lucasarts, Grim Fandango celebrated the land of the dead like no other. Unfortunately, this game was a key element in LucasArts’ eventual decline and a massive hit to the popularity of the adventure genre. It became a cult classic, however, because of plenty of charm in each of the characters and a compelling story. One could even say that the land of the dead in this game heavily mirrored the living. Manny Calavera fights corruption and corporation in his adventure to send the recently deceased to an eternal resting place. The game was recently remastered and released again on several platforms under Doublefine’s umbrella.
The Indigo Prophecy / Fahrenheit
French developer Quantic Dream took a small departure from the adventure genre, focusing on a cinema approach. It’s control mechanics aren’t the best for the genre as it’s a little cumbersome to navigate through scenes with using a keyboard and mouse combo. However, if you’re looking for powerful thrillers, look no where else than Quantic Dream. Indigo Prophecy (known as Fahrenheit overseas) blends story, action, and cinematic game playing into an interesting bundle. Just be aware—it’s not a light-hearted game and has been banned on some streaming platforms. We’ve linked the remastered version available on Steam.
The Sierra Quest Adventures
Sierra in the 90s knew adventure very well. Any efforts by Roberta and Ken Williams, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, or the development team behind Sierra On-Line had a huge following. Steam has plenty of the collections available for purchase online, along with the rebooted King’s Quest which changed development hands to The Odd Gentlemen. The original series is known for it’s charm and wonderful characters, but at times was too difficult for younger audiences. The newer King’s Quest is targeted towards younger gamers, but it still retains the fun of the original.
If you’re new to the adventure genre, we recommend trying these out as they’re cult classics. Many of the special editions and remastered versions (Monkey Island) have “classic modes” that alter the look of the game back to the original, super-pixelated look. Regardless, these are wonderful games with strong replay value.