Over the last thirty years, adventure games have presented players with some of the most unique concepts, the most creative storytelling methods, and the most varied gameplay of any genre. After fading into obscurity in the late 1990's, adventure games made a comeback in recent years, and are poised to become as dominant as ever.
In honor of this fine genre, I humbly submit my favorite adventure games of all time.
Adventure (Atari 2600, 1980)
A true classic. This was the first video game with multiple rooms, which greatly increased its resale value among real estate agents. I believe it was also the first game to include a title screen reading "Space Is Where Dragons Make Out All Day *tongue noises* Smooch Smooch", a feature that is still imitated - but never surpassed.
Adventure Island (NES, 1988)
This adventure game has so much adventure that they had to create an island to contain it. Introduced many concepts which people associate with adventure games, like faces and skateboards.
The Adventures Of Bayou Billy (NES, 1989)
A harrowing character study filled with logic puzzles. For instance, should you shoot that guy with your Zapper or shoot a random patch of swampland instead? A dilemna such as this can tear a man's mind asunder.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (NES, 1990)
I know, I know. This title always pops up when people write about the best adventure games - with good reason. It deserves all the praise it receives.
Bonk's Adventure (TurboGrafx-16, 1993)
The first video game that allowed players to combine items. For instance, Bonk's head and an enemy. Or perhaps Bonk's head and flowers that contain powerups. Maybe even Bonk's head and a dinosaur miniboss.
Kirby's Adventure (NES, 1993)
An excellent adventure game that was marred in controversy due to the gruesome nature of Kirby's prolonged, surprisingly graphic disembowelment at the end.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (Arcade, 1998)
This fighting game is an adventure game for the ages. Punch, kick, and do special moves. Figuring out the right combination will allow you to progress. Do that some more until a guy falls down, then do it to another guy.
Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast, 1999)
When most people think "story in games", they think Sonic Adventure. By expanding the series' cast of characters to include some sort of giant cat and setting the game in the real world, Sega struck magic gold. There is literally nothing more compelling than Sonic the Hedgehog expressing a lot of emotions around humans for reasons that don't make any sense.
Star Fox Adventures (GameCube, 2002)
Much like Sonic Adventure, Star Fox Adventures improves the franchise by removing nearly everything people loved about the previous games. Who can forget the time when you carried a stick and then it glowed? Or how about the time that you saw a bunch of dinosaurs instead of shooting in outer space? Or the overtly sexualized female fox whose parents were murdered? Hell yeah!
Penny Arcade Adventures (PC, 2008)
Honestly, I'm on the fence with this one. There was a little bit too much dialog, environmental detail, and item usage, but it's still a good game.
Age Of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC, 2008)
Just as the intellect of Robert E. Howard's brutish rogue was constantly underestimated by his enemies, so too was the sophistication of Hyborian Adventures. Players were required to locate items in the world (typically from slain creatures) and place them in an inventory. They were also faced with puzzles such as "What the heck do I do to get to the endgame when the developers forgot to put in thirty levels worth of content?"
Kinect Adventures (Xbox 360, 2010)
I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but this Kinect title certainly earns its stripes as an adventure game by featuring a tube that you can tube in. If you don't believe me, just look at the models that are playing it in the advertisements. They look happier than I've felt in years.
You can employ all the clever tricks and gadgets that the military has to offer, but they can't really help when you tell a unit to hide in a forest and several minutes later he decides to walk into the open to gawk at a passing column of enemy tanks. 6/10
Still the same terrible story, clumsy "badass" cinematics, slow movement, genuinely cool setting, occasionally interesting AI, and impressive multiplayer options that have kept Microsoft and Bungie clinging in place for the past ten years. 7/10
A soulless, but mechanically improved version of Wii Sports in HD that could have been much better if its athletes were replaced with Kevin Butler and Sony executives laughing about how rich they were about to become by copying a technology they made fun of months earlier. 7/10
You have the most precise motion controller on the market, capable of nearly 1:1 movement mapping, so your game focuses on... waggling to activate canned animations. 2/10
Professor Layton And The Unwound Future
Time travel is introduced to the series, and although introducing such a lofty concept to the player seems like a bad idea given my struggles in figuring out a pile of matchsticks, it works out for the best. 8/10
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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