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A Brief History of Adventure Games

Many people still have great fondness for point-and-click adventure games. They were once the mainstay of PC gaming, until the first person shooter and role-playing genres took the helm and steered us out into the darker and more sinister waters. But still, the point-and-click has not died the death that many feared it might. In fact, recent years have seen a significant revival in what was once thought to be an unfashionable, out-of-date and essentially limited way of playing games. With titles such as Zach & Wiki: Quest for Barbados Treasure on the Wii, the extended re-release of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars on the DS and Wii, Ceville on the PC, and new iterations of the irrepressible Monkey Island released (and re-released) on multiple platforms, it is clear that the genre is far from dead.

But what did point-and-clicks have that so many games have missed? The answer is somewhat uncertain. What is clear is that no matter how their subject matters differed, they were always quirky, imaginative and fun, never really taking themselves too seriously, even whilst battling evil zombie pirates or solving fiendish puzzles devised by ancient civilisations. If you were to group a selection of modern first person shooters into a room together, you wouldn't equal even a quarter of the life and character which just one cIassic point-and-click adventure manages to deliver.

Here then, in near enough chronological order, are just some of the adventure games which shaped and influenced the entire genre, and continue to have an impact on gaming today.

List items

  • Released in 1976, this is the first text-adventure ever, as well as the first truly interactive fiction game which we might classify an adventure. It inspired Ken and Roberta Williams to begin making their own games with On-Line Systems.

  • West of House.

    You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.

    There is a small mailbox here.

    If the previous sentences make no sense to you; you haven't lived.

  • Written by "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" author Douglas Adams (who also designed a Hitchhiker's text-adventure), Bureaucracy is a hilarious text-adventure where you must convince your bank that you still exist.

  • One of the most thought-provoking text-adventures, AMFV has very little humour and instead concentrates on telling a deep and highly political story, whilst also abandoning most of the conventional puzzles.

  • The first adventure game to ever have visual, pictoral graphics. Mystery House marks the beginning of On-Line Systems (later Sierra On-Line) domination of the adventure games market.

  • Another first from Sierra and the Williams', with the very first adventure game to use coloured graphics to display information. Commands however were still given through text-parser.

  • The real breadwinner for Sierra and Roberta Williams, King's Quest would go onto to become an extremely long-running series, and is also the first 3D animated adventure title.

  • The point-and-click interface begins on the Mac with Enchanted Scepters, despite the fact that the game did not use a mouse. Instead, the directional arrows were used to point to objects on screen.

  • Although Day of the Tentacle is met with greater critical acclaim these days, Maniac Mansion is LucasArts first foray into adventure games, and invented the SCUMM programming lanuage (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion).

  • "You fight like a dairy farmer!" There is a good reason Monkey Island became so popular, and it is simply because the games were great. Guybrush Thiftweed (sorry, Threepwood) continues to amuse and delight to this day.

  • Hate it or love it, one thing is for sure: Myst changed gaming forever. Its fiendish puzzles and immersive environment struck accord with many, and its pioneering use of detailed graphics is unique.

  • I think it is safe to assume that no other game has ever had the player assume the role of a cockroach. Creepy and mildly disturbing, Bad Mojo is one of a select group of horror adventures, alongside the likes of Sanitarium and Phantasmagoria.

  • Certainly one of, if not the best adventure game ever, Broken Sword is a story of Templar intrigue, mystery and murder written way before Dan Brown even started drafting "The Da Vinci Code".

  • Blade Runner is an anomaly: A licensed game that doesn't try to replicate (pardon the pun) the film that inspired it. Instead, it presents a brand new plotline that runs alongside that of the film. Also noteworthy for being the first real-time 3D adventure game.

  • Where Tim Schafer really made his name (after Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island), inspired by film noir and Aztec mythology, Grim Fandango is still regarded as one of the funniest games ever created.

  • The Longest Journey has never achieved the success is deserves, because when examined closely, you can see that the care and attention to detail that was taken to craft believable, interesting and emotive characters is beyond measure.

  • Known to everyone outside the US and Canada as Fahrenheit, Quantic Dream try to take interactive stories to a new level, with a mixture of police investigation and supernatural thrills. Heavy Rain is the latest fruit of this labour.

  • Sam and Max, crime-fighting partners in crime, have languished behind the likes of Monkey Island long enough. In their first episodic season from Telltale they finally come to the forefront in a rip-roaring saga, full to the brim with off-the-wall humour.

  • Machinarium was when the world finally realized that adventure games hadn't gone away and were hear to stay. With a gorgeous presentation, superb soundtrack and a touching storyline, Machinarium is just sublime.

  • To the Moon may be the least adventurous game of this list, but it is certainly the most emotive. To the Moon's heart-wretching story is one of the best you'll experience in a video game, and if it doesn't leave you sobbing by the end you evidently have no soul.

  • L.A. Noire is, when you think about it, an adventure game through-and-through. Despite the fact that there is the occasional action with the adventure, you spend most time pointing and clicking on items and interrogating people. L.A. Noire has one of the finest stories video games have ever done, and is also a technical triumph.

  • On the face of it, Kentucky Route Zero is just another adventure game; underneath, it's far more than that. With a unique, Lynchian-inspired world, an excellent soundtrack and stunning visuals, you'll be lost on Route Zero for a good long while.

  • Perhaps the best written game of all time, Disco Elysium is a multi-faceted detective noir. True it has many elements of RPG in the mix but the core, which involves a hell of a lot of talking, dialogue options and walking around a world, are adventure game through and through.