February 1996: CUC International buys out Sierra Entertainment (previously Sierra On-Line), restructures the company and switches their focus away from game design to publishing. It is the equivalent of Apple buying Ferrari and turning them into a supermarket.
As *the* pioneers of the adventure game genre throughout the ’80s, with acclaimed text-based titles, history would reflect on this as a watershed moment for the genre, signalling the beginning of its fall from grace.
At the dawn of the ’90s, Sierra — along with the likes of LucasArts, Revolution Software, and Virgin Interactive, to name a few — would all battle for dominance, releasing adventure games that had massive budgets and production values for the time. Many featured Hollywood talent attached, and these games were very much the AAA titles of their day and at the forefront of video game technology, developing and perfecting techniques such as full motion video (FMV) sequences.
The result? An unrivalled golden age of point-and-click adventure games.
Sierra Entertainment’s demise coincided with id Software launching their brand new Quake engine, which offered true 3D rendering in video games for the first time, leaving the classic 2D point-and-click adventures looking dated. With this ground-breaking new engine, first-person shooters (FPS) became the new game in town, offering fast-paced, immersive gameplay that adventure games simply couldn’t compete with. The boom in popularity of the games console in the mid-’90s also meant the home computers — Amiga’s, Spectrums and PC’s — were no longer the only avenue to gaming. An inevitable barren spell for the genre followed, with leading studio LucasArts’ adventure game division being taken off life support in 2000, bringing this golden age to an end.
Over the following decade, very few titles of note appeared as the once flagship video game genre sank into a stagnant, underground movement.
Forming in 2004, Californian based Telltale games turned their attention to the forgotten genre, pioneering a new “episodic” style of video games. Initially revisiting classic franchises such as Monkey Island and Sam & Max, along with beloved film franchises such as Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, they had moderate success. However, with the launch of The Walking Dead in 2012, Telltale Games exploded and thrust adventure games back into the mainstream with a vengeance. They would go on to release critically acclaimed titles over the following six years — such as Wolf Among Us, Batman, Guardian of the Galaxy, Game of Thrones and a string of Walking Dead games.
While I was delighted to see a genre I loved back in vogue, the Telltale adventures — while beautiful, atmospheric and engaging — just seemed to be lacking what the games from the golden age had.
Tragically, their bubble burst in October 2018 when the company was declared bankrupt. While they had certainly made their mark in resurrecting the popularity of the genre, their end again put question marks over the future of adventure game.
Maybe now is the time to get propel the old titles from the golden age back to the forefront? Maybe these 20 year old games still stood up today?
Mainly through the wonders of GOG (and an inherent nature to hoard old video games), I have many of the old classic ’90s adventure titles. So I decided to revisit them to see if my opinion of old versus new held up. Was it just nostalgia driving my thoughts? Would I find that these games had aged worse than the fashionable level of shell-suit?
In a word…no!
They are still absolutely magic! They remain exactly what they always were; beacons of brilliance from a golden age. They are not only still fresh and relevant, they stand head and shoulders above anything we have seen since. Sure, they don’t have the cutting edge graphics we are accustomed to today, but they ooze charm, with many absolutely beautiful in their own retro way.
So in celebration of the golden age of point ‘n’ click, here is my Top 25 Point-and-click Adventure Games from the 90’s that are still very much worth playing today!
25 – Myst (1993, Cyan / Brøderbund)
Kicking off our list is the brainchild of brothers Robyn and Rand Miller. Myst was a surprise hit upon release and became the best selling PC game of all time — not surpassed until 2002 by The Sims. Playing the role of “The Stranger”, you explore the mysterious and deserted island of Myst in FPS view. With no backstory, part of the allure is the confusion and mystery of discovering the goal of the game which presented a real challenge to gamers. Myst was visually groundbreaking for its time and while the graphics of the original certainly haven’t aged well at all, two remastered versions have been released; firstly the Masterpiece Edition in 2000 and then realMyst in 2014. Four years later — the first of five eventual sequels — Riven was released. While retrospective critiques of the game point out it was actually quite boring, it is still worthy of its place on this list for being such a game-changer upon release.
Myst: Masterpiece Edition and all its sequels are available to buy at GOG.com
24 – Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender (1992, MPS Labs / MicroPose)
Kicking off our list is this most outrageously random adventure, which follows the titular Rex Nebular on a galactic mission to recover a vase from a planet entirely populated by woman. The “cosmic gender bender” comes from the machine the women have invented, allowing them to temporarily change genders with the sole purpose of repopulating. Naturally, the whole plot is littered with classic levels of innuendo. One of its great selling points is the character deaths scenes, with countless ways the player can meet his demise. They are immediately re-spawned in the same room, so the frustration levels of repeated death don’t toll, with many of the animations superbly amusing. A fairly short, straight forward example of early 90’s point-and-click that still provide laughs a quarter of a century later!
Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender is available to buy at GOG.com
23 – Torin’s Passage (1995, Sierra On-Line)
Even to this day it still amazes me that Al Lowe (designer of heavily adult orientated games Leisure Suit Larry and Freddy Pharkas) brought us such a family-friendly fantasy adventure. Playing as farmer Torin, the player embarks on a campaign to free his parents from an evil sorceress. Assisted by Boogle, his shape-shifting dog, this is a coming-of-age adventure littered with cameos from iconic characters, such as Yoda and Darth Vader. This was, and still is, a delight on the eyes — with three of the animators having gone on to work for Disney Pixar. While not the most engrossing story, Torin’s Passage still merits your attention with a fun-for-all-ages adventure.
Torin’s Passage is available to buy at GOG.com
22 – Star Trek: 25th Anniversary/Star Trek: Judgment Rites (1992-93, Interplay)
OK, technically I’m cheating listing two titles as one, but these gems were released a year apart with Judgment Rites being a direct sequel to 25th Anniversary. Taking control of Captain Kirk and co. as they boldly go where no one has gone before, the game features two distinct styles of gameplay. Action taking place on the bridge, including ship-to-ship combat, has RTS elements, while controlling the away team exploring planets falls into classic point-and-click territory. Broken into six or seven episodes, missions are received from Starfleet Command as stand-alone quests. Even if you are not a fan of the series, this game still stands up exceedingly well for its simple, multi-layered interface. For me, these are best Star Trek games ever made, even if they are both rather short.
21 – The Legend of Kyrandia (1992-94, Westwood Studios / Virgin Interactive)
Released in three separate ‘books’, each a year apart, I’ve always regarded The Legend of Kyrandia as one multi-chapter game as I didn’t discover them until 1997 when I played them back-to-back. Renowned for its incredibly simple interface and innovative inventory system, Kyrandia cherry picked from the best games in the genre to create the full package. Set in the fantasy Kingdom of Kyrandia, the player plays as well meaning, yet simple, Brandon (voiced by C&C’s Kane, Joseph D. Kucan) in Book One, who must bring the murderous royal court jester Malcolm to justice. In the second part, Book Two: The Hand of Fate, confident and smart mystic Zanthia is the player character who must journey to the centre of the world so she can break a curse destroying the land. Finally, in Book Three: Malcolm’s Revenge, the player takes control of antagonists Malcolm as he sets about proving his innocence for the murders in Book One. While it is at times very funny and challenging in places, the somewhat predictable plot lacks the originality to propel it up this list.
20 – The Neverhood (1996, The Neverhood, Inc. / Dreamworks Interactive)
This game is over 20 years old yet still looks absolutely amazing! This claymation interactive adventure game was in development from 1988, even involving Steven Spielberg, and it is an absolutely perfect! As Klaymen, the player sets off on an adventure to discover his purpose in the entirely clay world of Neverhood, having to overcome the warped baddie Klogg on his way. With a truly absorbing soundtrack, a surreal setting and quirky dialogue, The Neverhood is an incredibly unique game. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is because it has never been ported to modern systems, has never been given a digital release (second hand physical copies go for over £200) and is notoriously awkward to run, with SummVM only adding support for this timeless classic in 2014. Its spiritual successor, Armikrog was released across multiple platforms in September 2015, but while featuring the same claymation, it is a disappointingly poor imitation of a masterpiece
The Neverhood is not available digitally, a physical copy is required. Armikrog is available to buy on GOG.com
19 – Simon the Sorcerer (1993, Adventure Soft)
The biggest compliment I can pay Simon the Sorcerer is that only Monkey Island does what it does better. Adventure Soft’s first venture into the point-and-click genre is a funny, engaging parody of all things fantasy. The player controls the calamitous teen Simon who finds a magic book in his loft and is transported into a world of wizards and goblins. He must try and find his way home by overcoming some truly bizarre situations. Voiced by Arnold Rimmer himself (Chris Barrie), this is a cult classic, and was recently given the mobile treatment with a HD remastered version available on Apple and Android. Simon the Sorcerer spawned four sequels, each incarnation a drop in quality from the previous version. Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe from 1995 is worth checking out too, but falls short of this classic. One could argue the negative marks is that it lacks the originality of Monkey Island, copying the mould just a little too closely.
Simon the Sorcerer and the first two sequels are available to buy at GOG.com
18 – The Dig (1995, LucasArts)
Our first entry from big hitters LucasArts is an idea conceived by Stephen Spielberg for his 80’s TV series Amazing Stories that was ultimately deemed far too expressive to film. Finally released in 1995, The Dig was in development for six years with Spielberg being joined by George Lucas and Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert in bringing the game to life. In what would basically become the plot of Armageddon, the player takes control of Boston Low (voiced by Robert Patrick) and is faced with the challenge of stopping the asteroid “Attila” from colliding with Earth. Naturally, it doesn’t go exactly to plan. Even 21 years on, this game is very special, with one of the best soundtracks ever featured in an adventure game and an engrossing narrative sprinkled with some excellent nods to classic sci-fi films. Its downside is it is a very short game and without doubt one of the overly hard adventures games out there.
The Dig is available to buy at GOG.com
17 – Beneath a Steel Sky (1994, Revolution Software / Virgin Interactive)
Set in a dystopian cyberpunk future, players control Robert Foster, an orphan raised in isolation that becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving a rogue AI. Revolutionary for its time, it provided a very mature and deep narrative that was uncommon in the genre. For me it was the first point-and-click game that mastered player deaths in adventure games to great effect. With a heavy reliance on investigation, Beneath a Steel Sky holds up superbly as an immersive story. A remastered version is available for iOS and following Revolution Software’s successful Kickstarter campaign for Broken Sword 5, hopes of a sequel have grown.
A game that won’t be appearing on this list despite being worthy in its own right is Lure of the Temptress. Released in 1992 also by Revolution Software, it introduced the Virtual Theatre engine that Beneath a Steel Sky (and latterly Broken Sword) used. Where Beneath a Steel Sky is iconic and timeless for its story, Lure of the Temptress hasn’t aged as well. More humorous in narrative, it’s an important origin point for what would follow, hence the nod. If this was a top 26, it would have kicked off the list. Worth checking out.
16 – Space Quest IV, V & V (1991-95, Sierra On-Line)
Really cheating the rules here, but Space Quest is unique in that the first three games and later three games are now widely regarded as two trilogies, very similar in ways to Star Wars — a franchise that is very heavily lampooned in Space Quest. The trilogy was actually sold as a package upon release of Space Quest VI in 1995, which is the copy I have of the game. Following on from the original trilogy in the ’80s, “The Time Rippers”, “The Next Mutation” and “The Spinal Frontier” continued the adventures of Roger Wilco, a useless janitor who repeatedly manages to save the galaxy by complete accident. Being three games, you can clearly see the evolution of design, yet they all maintain a stylish comic book presentation. The humour, parody and pop-references are still blindingly fresh to this day. It inspiring a cult following, with many fan-made sequels readily available. A successful Kickstarter campaign by the original designers arrived in 2012 for a spiritual successor called SpaceVenture. However, it has been a notoriously plagued campaign with no sign of the games release as yet, even though it’s six years behind schedule!
Space Quest 4+5+6 is available to buy on GOG.com as one game, as is the original trilogy.
15 – Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail (1996, Sierra On-Line)
Released a month after the CUC takeover of Sierra, this was their final fully designed game and the 6th adventure of Al Lowe’s sex starved, potty mouthed, sleazy, anti-hero. It stands up as the best in the whole series for me. Set aboard a cruise ship populated with countless celebrity parodies, the game follows Larry’s campaign to cheat and fluke his way to winning a competition to spend an extra week on the ship, this time sharing the captain’s quarters (who is of course a blonde bombshell). Much more risqué than previous instalments (it was the first to receive a mature MSRB rating), this was the first in the series with full voice acting and new cartoon style graphics.
Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail is available to buy at GOG.com, along with other games from the Leisure Suite Larry series.
14 – Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993, LucasArts)
One of the first games to feature a fully voiced cast, Sam & Max Hit the Road was another smash hit of the ’90s. Based on the comic book series from Steve Purcell, the video game adventure follows the “freelance police” force of Sam the dog and Max the rabbit and their investigation to track down missing Bigfoot Bruno and return him to the carnival. In typical LucasArts fashion, severe randomness and hilarity ensue. Even 23 years later, Sam & Max Hit the Road looks superb. It is great fun, with a littering of fantastically bizarre puzzles along the way.
Sam & Max Hit the Road is available to buy at GOG.com
13 – Starship Titanic (1998, The Digital Village / Simon & Schuster)
Ironic that the unlucky 13th place goes to a game with “Titanic” in its title. Introducing a game by none other than Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, this adventure told the story of the unlucky human (not Arthur Dent) who has just had the titular craft crash into his house following a “Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure” on its maiden voyage. Investigating the giant ship in first-person mode, the player interacts with robot crew using the igneous “spookitalk” system that allows the player to type questions which the robots will respond to with the best matched pre-recorded message from a database of over 10,000 phrases. If that doesn’t sound awesome enough, the voice cast included Monty Python’s Terry Jones and John Cleese, along with Adams himself. While by no means best game or story, this is more a gamin experience overflowing with Adams’ electrifyingly witty dialogue delivered through its ingenious text to talk system.
Starship Titanic is available to buy at GOG.com
12 – Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon (1994, Access Software / U.S. Gold)
The third Tex Murphy game, this one raised the bar and then some. Developed with a massive budget for the time of $2 million, Under a Killing Moon was the first in the series to conform to modern point-and-click practises, dropping the text heavy interface of the previous games. As a hallmark of the franchise, the game was essentially an interactive movie, with mixture of motion capture, FMV and 3D rendered environments. Set in the rebuilt New San Francisco following the nuclear World War III, private detective Tex Murphy tries to get his life together following his divorce and is hired to recover a stolen statue, setting him on a collision course with a deadly doomsday cult. It was dark, it was edgy, it was griping and it was like nothing ever seen in the genre before. The Pandora Directive followed in 1996 and then Overseer in 1998, but while both were excellent games, they couldn’t surpass Under a Killing Moon. Tesla Effect became the sixth in the series in 2014.
Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon along with the rest of the Tex Murphy adventures are available to buy from GOG.com
11 – Blade Runner (1997, Westwood Studios / Virgin Interactive)
At the time of its release this was one of the most expensive games ever imagined. Fresh from taking over the world with Command & Conquer, Westwood Studios set their sights on presenting a “sidequel” to Ridley Scott’s iconic Blade Runner. The first adventure game to use the latest 3D character rendering process, it recaptured the style of the films dystopian L.A perfectly. Many of the cast (Harrison Ford aside) returned to voice their characters as the player took on the role of elite detective Ray McCoy. Structured around detective work of examining and questioning NPC’s rather than solving puzzles, the game was a fully immersive experience. While by no means the best adventure game ever, you will struggle to find one as atmospheric, as engaging or as good to look at, even more than two decades years later. Despite selling over a million units and winning countless awards, the sheer costs involved made a sequel infeasible. Brutally, this essential gaming experience is now condemned to history as the source code has been lost, leaving any hope of a digital version futile. Of all 25 games on the list, this is the hardest to get hands on with — but there is absolutely no way it would be left off my list.
Blade Runner is not available digitally, a physical copy is required.
10 – Full Throttle (1995, LucasArts)
Kicking of the top 10 is an absolute cult classic! Once again refining and tweaking the SCUMM game engine and interface, Full Throttle is set in a futuristic world where the last motor bike factory in the country is facing closure following the invention of anti-gravitational transport. Enter the player character, leader of the Polecats biker gang Ben, who gets caught up in a hilarious corporate espionage scheme orchestrated by the conniving Adrian Ripburger (voiced superbly by Mark Hamill). More than 20 years on it is still a fresh, deliciously funny game with pop-references galore. It evolved the genre by introducing cut-scenes and externally recorded music and was another a smash hit for LucasArts. Work began in earnest for a sequel which sadly got lost in development hell. However, following the success of Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Production work on remastered versions of Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle, a Full Throttle remaster was launched in 2017, polishing the graphics where needed but maintaining the delightful charm.
Full Throttle Remastered is available to buy from GOG.com.
9 – Grim Fandango (1998, LucasArts)
No doubt the number nine spot will cause some degree of outrage — and actually leaves me greatly conflicted. Point-and-click godfather Tim Schafer‘s wonderful tale of department of death travel agent Manny Calavera is simply spectacular. Using classic film noir themes and the sharp Schafer dialogue, this adventure sees the player control the hero on a hapless mission to uncover the corruption in the Land of the Dead and be the knight-in-shining-armour to femme fatale Meche Colomar. Styled and inspired by Aztec beliefs of the afterlife, Grim Fandango was the game that Monkey Island devotees had craved for so long. So why is it only in 9th place? Well, when the game was released it was overcome with issues that took years and years to rectify. The new GrimE engine that was supposed to supersede the trusty SCUMM engine wasn’t as polished and created unimaginable issues. It was also a notoriously difficult game that led the many players abandoning it before completion, if they were lucky/brave enough to navigate all the game breaking bugs. The remastered version released in 2015 is the game I wish we had got in 1998 — and if I was listing the top point-and-click games ever, it would have a solid case for a the top spot. But this is not — it’s a list of games from the ’90s that stand up today, and the original Grim Fandango simply doesn’t.
Grim Fandango Remastered is available to buy from GOG.com
8 – Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (1996, Revolution Software / Virigin Interactive)
The debut entry from one of the most iconic adventure game series of all time finds its way to the number eight spot. To this day, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars is beautiful. Supported by solid voice acting, challenging but logical puzzles and a thrilling plot filled with drama and conspiracy, it ticks all the boxes. The game revolves around American tourist George Stobbart who, after witnessing a terrorist attack while in Paris, is pulled into a conspiracy dating back to the age of the Templars. He is left to unravel the mystery with the assistance of journalist Nicole Collard. The fact that this isn’t higher on the list is because of one gaping issue; a director’s cut was released in 2009 an is a much better version of the game. It introduces Nicole as a playable character, morphing the narrative into a two pronged attack on solving the mystery. It is so much more game than the original and therefore, the ’90s game doesn’t hold up as well now simply because there is a more complete and better version available. Still, if it’s a choice between the original and nothing, there is only one winner. The first of four sequels arrived in 1997 (Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror) and was really the only worthy successor until the 5th (The Serpent’s Curse) launched in 2014 via a successful Kickstarter campaign. The second game also received a director’s cut.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars Directors Cut and all sequels are available to buy at GOG.com
7 – Gabriel Knight: Sins of Our Fathers (1993, Sierra On-Line)
Arguably the flagship series from Sierra, this gritty and intriguing tale was the first part in the Gabriel Knight Trilogy. A classic third person perspective, it follows Gabriel Knight as he sets out to gather materials for his new book. Unwittingly, he is dragged into the sinister world of the recent voodoo murders where he discovers the secret of his heritage. One of the first “full-talkies” featuring the voices of Tim Curry, Mark Hamill and Michael Dorn, Sins of our Fathers perfectly blends fact and fiction in a deep, engrossing narrative. In a time flooded with such great adventure titles, it stands out as some of the very best writing of the genre. The downside here? For me, the original version is one on this list that hasn’t aged all that well, which stops it from being higher on the list. However, a fully remastered 20th Anniversary Edition was released in 2014 — albeit it with a less effective voice cast and a few plot changes; visually much better, but also somehow weaker. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within that followed in 1995 used FMV to mesmerising effect, and the final part, Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned, released in 1999 implemented a 3D engine. It is a trilogy of games renowned for exceedingly strong stories, all offering very different gameplay, and all still worthy of playing today, with Sin’s of Our Fathers the pick of the bunch.
6 – Toonstruck (1996, Burst Studio / Virgin Interactive)
Man, I just love absolutely everything about Toonstruck! The visuals are a reversal of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where a player-controlled Christopher Lloyd explores a completely animated world. Drew Blanc, the animator and creator of the Fluffy Fluffy Bun Fun Show, has grown to hate his hugely successful creation. He is magically sucked into the world and in order to return home he must hunt down and destroy Count Nefarious (voiced by Tim Curry) who is destroying Blanc’s world and turning all his characters into mirrored versions of their gleeful selves. The end result is just a sheer pleasure! I remember the visuals and style blowing me away when I first played it in 1997, and I still get giddy when I play it today. If the perfect recipe of funny, wacky and a suspenseful adventure wasn’t enough, the way Lloyd acts out your digital commands are legendary!
Toonstruck is available to buy at GOG.com
5 – Discworld II: Missing Presumed…!? (1997, Perfect Entertainment / Psygnosis)
Disclaimer: this is my personal favourite point-and-click adventure game ever! All three video game adaptations of Terry Prachett‘s world are superb, but in the spirit of fairness, I decided to only list one — and it’s the 2nd in the series I’ve opted for. As with original game in 1995, the sequel again features Eric Idle voicing the hapless wizard Rincewind. Loosely based on the novels Reaper Man and Moving Pictures, the people of Ankh-Morpork are no longer dying, so the Unseen University charge Rincewind with investigating what has happened to Death. Armed with his trusty luggage companion, players are treated to a whirlwind tour in the stunningly animated Discworld. Littered with downright absurd puzzles, this is a hilarious, parody-fuelled adventure driven by some of the best writing the genre has ever seen, delivered by an all-star cast. I particularly adore the way the game constantly breaks the fourth wall, which while common in point-and-click games, is used to absolute perfection here. Two decades on, and it probably stands up better than any other ’90s game due to the visuals alone. The catch? This game is tragically difficult to run on modern systems, and in my heart, I know that’s why I could never justify this game on top of the pile. Complications with the IP’s suggest a modern port is very unlikely, which is genuinely heartbreaking.
Discworld Noir followed in 1999 with an original story written for the game, breaking away from Rincewind in favour of a private detective Lewton. All three are gems.
Dicworld II: Missing Presumed is not available digitally, physical copies are required. Neither is Discowrld or Discowrld Noir.
4 – Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis (1992, LucasArts)
An Indiana Jones point-and-click was the stuff dreams were made off for 10-year-old me, and this game did not disappoint. A year after the game was first released, an enhanced edition upgraded the game from floppy disk to CD-ROM and made it a “full-talkie”. In a unique twist to the classic formula, the player was presented with a choice early in the game that resulted in three very different gaming experiences, including supporting cut-scenes and a points system based on the way puzzles were solved. It gave the adventure game something new — replayability. In this adventure, Indy gets caught up in a race against the Third Reich to find the fabled lost city of Atlantis. While by no means the best story, puzzles or adventure out there, the theme of being an Indiana Jones game enhanced the experience so much that it became an instant classic. The only point-and-click game I have played through more than ten times, to me this was really the fourth Indy film, written in the same way as the movies. And coincidentally, out of all the ’90s adventure games listed on GOG.com, this is highest rated by users; 18th overall from over 1800+ games.
Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis is available to buy at GOG.com
3 – The Longest Journey (1999, Funcom / Empire Interactive)
The most recently released title on the list, just scrapping into 90’s (it never actually arrived in the UK until January 2000) and arguably one of the greatest point-and-click games ever made. While Lara Croft was dominating action games, The Longest Journey introduced another iconic female lead in April Ryan, a student from the magical world of Stark. As a shifter, she can jump between the parallel universe of Stark and Arcadia, where she is tasked with helping restore the ‘balance’ that protects both worlds by finding a new ‘guardian’. Heavily influenced by the works of Neil Gaiman, with edgy dialogue that could have been lifted straight out a Joss Whedon project, The Longest Journey is simply faultless. Built completely from scratch — game engine and all — the end product had outstanding production values for the time, a mature and complex narrative and challenging and enigmatic puzzles littered throughout. Two sequels would follow, first in 2006 and then in 2014, but neither would match the sheer awe of The Longest Journey, which even to this day, is perfect.
The Longest Journey is available to buy from GOG.com
2 – Day of the Tentacle (1993, LucasArts)
The origin story of Day of the Tentacle alone makes it worthy of its spot at the upper echelons of this list. Inspired by cliché-riddled B movie horrors, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick devised a comedic tale of teenager Dave having to save his girlfriend from a mad scientist. However, they disliked the text command input of previous adventure games, so in 1987 they built a new graphic based engine, called SCUMM, that allowed the player to literally “point” and “click” where they wanted the character to go. The game was Maniac Mansion — and a revolution was born. LucasArts (known then as Lucasfilm Games) backed the duo by making this their first self-published title. It even inspired “Jim’s dad” Eugene Levy to adapt it to a TV sitcom.
Fast forward six years and a hotly anticipated sequel was released under the stewardship of Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer, simply called Day of the Tentacle. And it was the greatest sequel ever released, period!
It follows Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne as they try to stop the evil Purple Tentacle from achieving world domination in a battle fought through the ages. Being able to switch between three separate time periods, the player could use actions in the past to influence the future — ultimately creating a depth to gaming that had never been seen before. An incredibly funny script was enriched with superb in-jokes, that still shine brightly to this day. The game received acclaim for its comic art style reminiscent of the 1940’s Looney Tunes along with its wonderful soundtrack and voice-acting. The only complaint that ever surfaced was that it was too short as people wanted more! While the original game (and Maniac Mansion) had been freeware for a while, a remastered version was released in 2016 by Schafer’s Double Fine Productions, redrawing the whole game step by step in spectacular HD.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered is available to buy at GOG.com
1 – Monkey Island Series (1990-97 , LucasArts)
“My name is Guybrush Threepwood, and I am a mighty Pirate!”
And yes, I can have all of them! Having to pick a favourite Monkey Island is like trying to select your favourite child! You can’t speak about the golden age of point-and-click without mentioning the game that set the benchmark and defined the very genre. The brainchild of Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, Monkey Island burst onto the scene in October 1990 and laid down LucasArts’ marker for their ambition to dominate the 90’s like rivals Sierra had in the ’80s. Not only was the first game, The Secret of Monkey Island, a real game-changer, even to this day it stands up for its incredible delicious dialogue, hilarious parody-rich characters and the countless extravagant situations (insult sword fighting anyone?). A year later, LeChuck’s Revenge launched and maintained the stellar precedent set with The Secret of Monkey Island – it can be argued it even enhanced it, tweaking and polishing where required. Even though it took five years for the trilogy to be completed, The Curse of Monkey Island (the final game to use the SCUMM engine) was totally worth the wait; it was as iconic as ever, maybe even more so. Updating the interface and the graphics to modern standards, it demonstrated that the genre was still very much a force. So impressive was it that if a gun was held to my head and I was forced make a Sophie’s Choice, the 3rd one would probably just edge out. I just hope I never get put into that position…!
Two more entries in the series followed in the 00’s, albeit weaker games, before the first two were given the remastered treatment.
They all follow the misadventures of the deluded, yet resourceful, Guybrush Threepwood on his campaign to become the world’s most fearsome pirate. Over the three games he battles against the terrifying ghost/zombie/demon pirate LeChuck, usually having to save (or be saved) by his love Elaine along the way. No other point-and-click game has made such an imprint on the larger world, with a legacy that can claim to be the starting inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.
Credited with inventing the in game Easter-egg, mastering the pop-culture references and breaking the fourth wall, it paved the way for every other point-and-click game that followed. There is no way that I could have anything else as number one! It’s not only the best adventure game series of all time, its one of the best games franchise of all time.
The dialogue, the silliness, the imagination, the wit, the characters, the theme and the puzzles are all examples of how it should be done. If Monty Python were a computer game – they would have been this…
And that, is that. Probably the most fun I will ever have writing and article; a joyous nostalgia-fest down memory lane!
Some will argue they may not be current, but there is no denying that the titles from the golden age of point-and-click are as awesome today as they were then. What they lack in cutting edge graphics and complex gameplay they make up for in wonderfully crafted stories, mind boggling puzzles and crisp humour.
The adventure game genre has been resurrected over the past decade thanks to Telltale Games and a whole host of independent studios and it is genuinely great to see. Despite the new breed offering many excellent games, they simply cannot compare to the golden generation which is the benchmarks. Many of the new generation that get close do so because they are using the ’90s games as a benchmark. The fact that the remastered releases of these classics are lauded in such a positive manner is case and point.
While there are voices against the spate of HD upgrades, I’m very much in favour, and not because they are being polished up. No, it’s more that a remaster not only keeps the iconic games alive by making them compatible and accessible, they are bringing them to the next generation of gamers – who have been warped by endless Call of Duty games. They recreate the magic that the vast majority of today’s AAA titles don’t even get close to.
There is so many titles listed in this article that have not yet been given their shot at the HD upgrade treatment so there is definately scope for this to remastering trend to continue for some time and keep a genre I adore alive while also celebrating such a special time in video game history.