It was a time before the overly graphic hack-and-slash horror games and over-the-top shooters dominate the game world. Not that there is anything wrong with these successors—I too like a good digital shotgun in my hands blasting a zombie into oblivion. But there was just something so completely enthralling and innocent about these point-and-click adventure games that will always hold a special place in our hearts. They offer something very different—engaging stories with identifiable heroes, and puzzles to solve.
They were so accessible that anyone could pick up and jump into a totally new, fantastic world.
Here are our Top 10!
This series of adventure games was produced in the ’90s by Sierra On-Line. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery and Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned.
I was in grade school when the first of these games came out so I guess it’s safe to admit I was a full fledged member of the Gabriel Knight fan club.
The games follow Gabe, a New Orleans author and bookstore owner, on his journey to become the “Shadow Hunter.” Grace Nakamura (semi-love interest) accompanied him on his adventures. These games had it all: love story, murder, ghosts, voodoo, werewolves, lost religious artifacts—everything but a 4th game. So sad.
I clearly remember driving home from the store with the first game firmly clutched in my hands. You cannot call yourself a veteran gamer without playing one (or all) of the titles in the King’s Quest legacy. It was released in 1984 by Sierra Online and 8 games later—after a long and glorious run—finally ended.
This puzzle-based fantasy follows two generations of the great King Graham.
While adventuring through the fantastical world of Daventry, you meet several famous fictional fairytale characters. So brush up on your lore, as the quests follow many of those traditional stories.
Unlike games nowadays, you could actually be perma-killed or hit a dead end (which I did often).
If you’ve never played, the good news is Telltale games is rebooting the series. Huzzah!
Back in 1987 Lucasfilm games released this point and click, text based adventure. You follow Dan Miller as he valiantly searches for his cheerleader girlfriend, believed to be kidnapped by an evil scientist. You guide Dan, along with his friends, through wacky puzzles while, most importantly, avoiding the crazies who live there. Your snooping quickly reveals that the very odd family living in this spooky mansion has been controlled by a sentient meteor. Yeah that’s right, a sentient meteor.
This classic hilarious venture gives a nod to horror movies of its time and had five different endings depending on interaction and character deaths. And let’s not forget, there was also a plant named Chuck.
Guybrush Threepwood (Say that fast five times) fends off the evil LeChuck ghost pirate, girlfriend-napper, destroyer of worlds. Guybrush dashes and sometimes fumbles his way to pirate stardom as well as winning the heart of his beloved Elaine in this swashbuckling adventure.
It is also full of useful knowledge like what Ipecac can do to a Boa constrictor or how to romance a huge Manatee. Word play and red herrings abound in these clever pirate adventures.
The series is still going strong today thanks to Telltale Games.
Plays like a Noir genre murder mystery. The story takes place in the Land of the Dead, and follows Manuel “Manny” Calavera. Manny is a travel agent to the dearly departed, tasked with ensuring the deceased are set on their proper mode of final transportation.
This land of the dead serves as a purgatory for souls as they journey to the “Ninth Underworld.” Manny falls for, and helps, Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, one of the few virtuous souls there.
The game follows scandals and a string of mysterious deaths. Who knew you could get deader than dead?
LucasArts released this all-time favorite in 1998. Here’s looking at you… death.
Released in 1998 by ASC Games, Sanitarium follows Max Laughton. Our hero wakes up in a hospital after being involved in a horrible car accident with amnesia. But this isn’t just any hospital, it’s a Sanitarium! Max soon realizes his memory is gone and he’s surrounded by screams and masochistic fellow patients. Each chapter is played in flashbacks and immersed in worlds created by Max’s nightmares.
By far one of the more terrifying and disturbing games that was ahead of its time.
This dramatic sci-fi was released by LucasArts in 1995.
An asteroid is headed straight toward earth (before it was cool) and it’s your task to divert the crash.
After halting the doom of Earth, your collection of characters do the only intelligent thing on a soon to be exploding rock—Explore! Your group of 5 scientific geniuses are accidentally transported to an alternate universe when they find a strange artifact hidden near the asteroids core.
Explore alien technology and meet with intelligent lifeforms in this sci-fi classic, based on an idea by Steven Spielberg.
It’s a space odyssey so expect at least one crew member to go crazy and a few to die before you can find a way to get home… if there is a way home.
Infocom started its series in 1980. Zork was one of the very first adventure games ever made. Finding treasure by solving puzzles and wandering mazes was your task. It was a text adventure which later evolved into video capture of real actors.
The game forced you to use your imagination rather that hurling horrific creatures at you and it did its job well. Grue’s with their “slavering fangs,” “razor-sharp claws” and “horrible gurgling noises” were why I was afraid of the dark as a child.
Fun fact: Zork Grand Inquisitor was one of the first computer games to include true closed captioning so that the hearing impaired could play without missing any of the sound effects or spoken dialog.
This cult classic was made by LucasArts in 1995, designed and co-written by Tim Schafer ( hmmm I see a trend on this list).
Ben, a cynical biker and leader of the Polecats, is one of the greatest characters in adventure gaming.
After being framed for the murder of a the last domestic motorcycle manufacturer, Ben is forced to clear his name.
Murder, mayhem, and revenge follow in this action adventure.
First released in 1987 by Sierra Online. Police Quest 1, 2, and 3 follow the life and work of Sonny Bonds super cop.
Sonny works his way up from patrol cop to detective.
My favorite part was his romance with his high school sweetheart, Marie, who also happened to be a prostitute… huh, back then it seem so much more romantic.
Sonny also hunts down his arch nemesis and evil drug lord Jessie Bain. From shoot outs to questioning witnesses, you did it all. The game came with a list of actual police procedures. I had the dispatch codes memorized at one point. One of the very first adventure games that followed more realistic mature storylines.
Day of the Tentacle
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
The Longest Journey
Leisure Suit Larry
Did I miss one? Have a beef with my picks? Let me know.