[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen it comes to gaming, my genre of choice has always been adventures. These types of games have always held a special place in my heart and have given me the most joy when sitting in front of a computer. So, it should come as no surprise that when I was asked to do a “best of” list for released titles I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
In the three years, and some change, since I signed up for a Kickstarter account adventures have been my main focus. And I’ve backed a lot of them. I’ve also played most that have been released so far, so I think it’s fair to say that I’m a good judge of character when it comes to this genre. This is by far not an exhaustive list, but just the ten best in the field.
And it was hard to narrow it down to just these and quite a few that didn’t make it only missed it by a hair. For one reason or another, these ten have a certain something that makes it stand out amongst the crowd. In order to be considered the adventure game had to be fully released. This means that if it’s an episodic game every episode needs to be playable.
This is the one that started it all. Tim Schafer busted onto the Kickstarter scene in 2012 and made the site practically a household name overnight. Only asking for $400,000 Double Fine made over $3 million before the campaign ended. Very rarely do you see a crowdfunded adventure game reach seven digits. Especially with the “I have an idea for a game, I’m not sure what we’re gonna do, but it’ll be awesome because I’m Tim Schafer” attitude.
When Charles Cecil announced that he was returning to the Broken Sword franchise by making a fifth game in the series backers flocked to the Kickstarter and proved that there was still plenty of interest in the continuing saga between George Stobbart and Nico Collard. Quite a number of fan favorite characters made cameos at some point, including Duane and Pearl as well as the infamous goat, and Revolution paid homage to their previous works in other ways. They even took the “Order of the Goat” fan group and put nods to it in the game. Plus, it’s got one of the catchiest tunes I’ve heard in recent adventure games: “Jasmine”.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller ran on Kickstarter before the big boom hit with Broken Age. It’s also the title that put Phoenix Online Studios on the map. While the studio was known for its King’s Quest fan game The Silver Lining, Erica Reed’s adventures made it a company worth looking at. Between the use of psionic powers and having a very dark tone it’s worth playing just for the subject matter alone. And few games made me scared of going to the optometrist as the second episode of the series did.
When one thinks of post-apocalyptic wasteland scenarios Fallout almost always immediately comes to mind. And Fictiorama’s Dead Synchronicity isn’t an adventure game that deviates far from the mold set forth by other games in this genre. What it does well, though, is in its use of incredibly dark and morally ambiguous narratives. While its use of “time ripples” is one aspect that makes it unique and interesting, it’s what Michael has to do to survive that makes this one worth playing. Some decisions are disturbing, but I dare you to find another game that has you desecrate a corpse in order to further your goals of regaining your memory and does it in a way that makes you feel oh so dirty afterwards.
Very few adventure games go to IndieGogo and even fewer actually make funding. CBE Software’s J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars is one of those lucky enough to be on that list. As far as I know it’s also the first successfully funded one on that platform. And it’s unique in that most of the time you’re controlling a character controlling what essentially amounts to a drone as it feeds you information about various planets in the solar system you find yourself in as you try to figure out the mystery behind what happened to the rest of your crew. The final act alone is worth playing the game just for the plot reveals.
Okay, this one can be up for debate. I’ve seen both the pros and cons for Moebius but it deserves to be on this list, warts and all. It’s not a perfect game and there are some plot holes, but it’s worth a play just for the fact that this was written by Jane Jensen and developed by Phoenix Online Studios. As far as I know, aside from Gray Matter Moebius is the first true adventure game Jane’s done since Gabriel Knight 3. The writing is still excellent and proves that she’s still got it. Of the Sierra On-Line alums that went the crowdfunding route, Moebius and Al Lowe’s Leisure Suit Larry remake are the only ones to be released to date (and the less said about Larry the better).
Quest for Infamy is a great adventure game not because it invokes memories of playing old-school Sierrra games but rather in its subject matter. In Quest for Glory (which this game is inspired by) you play as a hero, but in QFI you’re playing basically an asshole who’s only out for himself. Infamous Quests did a great job in making this one not just a fun ride but also proves that passion projects by indie studios are worth playing. They did so well that IQ ran two more campaigns, one for a companion book and another for a prequel and two other (unrelated) adventures. I also have to give points to Steven Alexander for listening to our sadistic pleas to eat Marmite not once, but twice. Now that’s dedication to your fanbase.
The “MacVenture” series of games have been a fan favorite amongst first-person adventure games and when Zojoi decided to give their biggest property a facelift the backers spoke with their wallets. Shadowgate may be the most well known of their titles and their love of the IP shows throughout the crowdfunded masterpiece. It’s an extended excursion through the castle and while still holds true to the source material it’s been expanded to include more lore. As an added bonus, players can use built-in classic “overlays” to give the retro experience asked for during the campaign. As far as I know only the Monkey Island remakes have this functionality built in.
When it comes to FMV (“Full Motion Video”) games few franchises did it as well as Big Finish Game’s Tex Murphy series. Combining a post-apocalyptic San Francisco with traditional film noir detective work, along with a healthy dose of comedy, Tex’s adventures has withstood the test of time. Tesla Effect, “Project Fedora” at the time, proved that not only is FMV still a viable way to develop a game but Chris Jones’ titular gumshoe is as witty as ever. In my opinion, this is the best entry in the series to date.
King Art is known for its series of comedic fantasy adventure games, so why not make a direct sequel to the original Book of Unwritten Tales? For fans of their previous two titles in the series, you’ll find plenty of the same satirical jokes and groan inducing puns as we see what Ivo, Wilbur, Nate, and Critter have been up to since they saved the world from the forces of darkness in the first game. Plus, there are plenty of nods to other gaming genres and fantasy tropes as you would expect.
Honorable Mention: Dreamfall Chapters
This one would have easily made the top ten except for one thing. It’s still in development. I’m including it as an “honorable mention” because the first two “books”, which have already been released to everyone who bought the game, are amazing. Ragnar Tørnquist has proven once again that his melding of fantastical Arcadia and Cyberpunk-themed Stark works on so many levels. There are still three “books” left and if the first two are any indication, fans of the previous titles in the series will be treated with an epic storyline fit for an adventure game.
Honorable Mention: Tormentum
Tormentum just barely missed the top ten but I felt that it deserves to be on this list as another “honorable mention”. Along with J.U.L.I.A. above it was also funded on IndieGogo. Which as I stated is a very rare occurrence for a video game. Of all the games on this list, Tormentum is the most dark and disturbing adventure game that I’ve played in a good while. The artwork is amazingly macabre and the story, particularly the ending, can have one depressed for days on end. That alone makes this one worthwhile.
These twelve titles are barely the tip of the adventure game iceberg. I could easily double or even triple the number of games worth playing but for the reasons above these are among the best of the best. If your favorites aren’t on the list, or you just think that I’m blowing smoke out of my ass, don’t hesitate to say so below in the comments.