Kotaku Big Battles: Sierra vs Lucasarts

In honour of the big battles of Total War: Rome 2, and the huge screenshots coming out, we’ve put together a series of the biggest battles in PC history. Today we're ending the ultimate adventure game of death: Sierra versus Lucasarts.

What was the pivotal difference between Sierra adventure games and Lucasarts adventure games? Was it the technology behind them? Was it the fact you could die in Sierra adventures but feel free to 'use', 'walk to', 'look at' anything in the worlds that Lucasarts built without fear of death? Was it quality, was it dialogue?

I don't know what it is precisely but, for some reason, as a collective, we tend to talk about Lucasarts games far more than we talk about Sierra games. I wonder why that is?

When I first discovered adventure games Sierra and Lucasarts were like the Mega Powers. Literally they were the Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage of the adventure game scene.

To extend this ridiculous analogy, Sierra's catalogue was more like the Macho Man of the pairing: more complex, for a more refined taste. Sierra games were less accessible and, to me at least, just felt a lot more difficult to parse. Lucasarts games were crowd pleasers for kids my age back then: funny, visual, clear and direct.

Of the two Sierra seemed far more invested in the idea of a series: King's Quest went all the way up to King's Quest VII by 1994, Police Quest went to number six before expanding into the SWAT series. Space Quest was another pillar of Sierra's work in the adventure gaming sphere.

But even as a youngster it all felt a bit cynical. The simple fact was this: Sierra had been around longer. Their games were from a different time and place and they had longer to build up these established franchises, but when I looked at the Lucasarts games: Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders, The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion. Instantly these games felt like something with a more vibrant soul, games I could fall in love with. I was always more drawn to the Lucasarts games.

Obviously it's a matter of preference. Ben White, who helped design the site you're reading, grew up as a massive fan of Sierra and, to this day, argues that games like Police Quest and Space Quest were more polished, seamless and actually more accessible than any of the Lucasarts games — completely going against everything I've said in this article. I think, more than anything, you love the games you grew up with. You remember them fondly, they become part of your fabric and you'll defend them until death, or some sort of physical pain — possibly a nipple cripple.

I think that's ultimately the difference between the Sierra and Lucasarts: the memories we have and the memories we share. The memories we lionise and reinforce with one another to this day. Were Lucasarts adventure games better than Sierra adventure games? I'd argue they were and so would most of my friends. But maybe that's the point here: the reason these games are so unforgettable is that so many of refuse to forget. We remember them together, we talk about them together and we enjoy them and refine them in our memories until there is absolutely no contest, no discussion: Lucasarts made better games. That's what I think, but your memory might say otherwise.


    I gotta say Sierra for me

    I loved Full Throttle and Sam&Max
    But the Quest for Glory series quite literally ate up my life there for a while

      Trial by Fire was my favourite. I spent months playing that game.

        I have to agree!
        TBF was the best by far, although the original, text based, "So, You Wanna Be a Hero", was a very close second.

        Edit: Hmmm..... I can see a visit to GoG in my very near future

        Last edited 04/09/13 9:10 am

    Um Both? While I loved the straight out whackiness and humour of Maniac Mansion / SOMI, I also appreciated the more realism of Police Quest for example.
    I still remember from police quest 1 that you had to walk around your car before you drive it, else you got a flat tire!
    Ahh the Death Angel.
    If, life or death, I had to choose, I think it would be Sierra, most probably because I played more of their games, PQ1-3, SQ1-3, KQ1-3 in particular. Basically, if it ended in Quest, I was into it :)

    Gabriel Knight is by far Sierra's standout series and has stood the test of time. LucasArts games in general have aged a lot better.

      hehe, i knew you'd have to comment on this one,
      Coincidentally i just played a lot more Sierra than Lucasarts so I have more fond memories attached to them *stares off thinking about The Castle of Dr Brain*

      From my subjective example, I would have to say Gabriel Knight just hasn't stood the test of time at all. I only played it recently and found it completely inaccessible. I think we'd have to do more research to separate out whether your nostalgia is off or my personal opinion though. ;)

    Its a difficult choice and I love both.

    The Quest games where great, but Ill go with Lucasarts just to balance it out.

    They bought us quirky and interesting worlds that didn't have to take itself seriously. Characters that you could have fun with and enjoy them like Saturday morning cartoons.

    Why not both?

      Agreed! Asking me which one I loved more: the Space Quest series or the Monkey Island series is like asking me which one of my children I love more!

      My standouts though: Zak, Day of the Tentacle, Secret of Monkey Island, Space Quest 1, 2 and 3. There ya go: 3 each!

      If only GOG did Lucasarts games........

      Last edited 03/09/13 2:55 pm

    Both were great, but LucasArts were better.

      +1 to this. Loved the Police Quest games though.

    To me, Sierra means The Incredible Machine.


    Grim Fandango. Full Throttle.

    @shane The Dig.

    Grim Fandango is enough on its own to win this.

      I came here to say almost exactly the same thing - if there were three categories of Sierra, LucasArts and Grim Fandango, Grim Fandango would win it.

    I loved both Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games. I loved Police Quest and King's Quest, but Space Quest is where it was really at for me, so that's my main contender in this fight.

    Lucasarts of course gave us Monkey Island and The Dig (amonst others, but I'm most familiar with these ones). If I put either Monkey Island or The Dig up against the entire Space Quest franchise it might be a close battle, but Lucasarts wins. Space Quest had a type of humour, yes, but not the cleverest writing. Monkey Island was far wittier and I felt you could empathise with Guybrush Threepwood's ambitions more than those of Roger Wilco, who was the perpetual butt of the universe's practical jokes. Then there's the visual design: even comparing the original Monkey Island with Space Quest from the same era, Monkey Island had the edge in designing distinct environments and characters.

    Space Quest definitely had more "excitement" starting from 3 onwards and relied slightly less on "click on everything until something happens" type puzzle solving, but Monkey Island had much more personality.

    Then there's the fact that The Dig is the best game of all time, so it's not really a fair contest.

    Edit: forgot to mention Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max Hit the Road. You may commence the tarring and feathering.

    Last edited 03/09/13 2:55 pm

      Madre de Dios! Es El Pollo Diablo!! *Guitar Riff*

      I learned to touch type purely for 'get grenade'



    I enjoyed both growing up, but to me the big difference is now I could (and sometimes do) load up, play and enjoy the lucasarts games, whereas I think I would probably rage quit most sierra games within a few minutes because of the constant deaths (or the forgetting to dive down to get the gem in space quest 2 and not realise until I was in the cave later, or many similar things in larry 2 and 3).

    So, for me, Lucasarts.

    Cant decide, on one side we have greats as the quest series (all of them)

    on the other we have The Dig, Grim fandango, Maniac Mansion

    TIE Fighter.

    The prosecution rests.

      Not technically an adventure game. :P

        USE Concussion Missile ON A-Wing
        USE laser cannon ON Rebel Scum
        TALK TO Emperor
        PICK UP Medal Of Loyalty

        Sounds like an adventure game to me

        Last edited 03/09/13 5:41 pm

      One of my all time favourites. I absolutely loved the adaptive music system in it, used to give me chills when the music played that meant Imperial capital ships were arriving.

      That said, I'd have to go with Sierra for long-term goodness. Quest for Glory, Space Quest and Police Quest are hard to beat.

    I grew up on Hero's Quest (pre-QFG rename) and Monkey Island.
    Child me preferred Hero to Space since the game stopped for you to type. Plus it was a full RPG rather than just a linear story progression adventure game.

    When it comes down to it, Monkey Island has a special place in my heart, but my next tattoo will be HQ/QFG.

    Sierra did Arcanum right? I loved that game.

    Sierra.. Mainly for the Quest for glory series ...
    This was the first real "RPG" that lets you see your character progress from a real nobody to upstanding prince. The only game that lets you span 5 games with the same savegame file ..
    So far I don't there are any games that can say the same thing.

    I think this is still the only game where magic is part of the puzzle solving inherent in all of these adventure games.

    I've played the thief for all 5 games ... becoming a magic wielding acrobatic thief prince...
    Elder brother played the fighter class who managed to progressed to a paladin while my younger brother played magic user becoming a full blown wizard .... With all playthroughs diverging at the 2nd game ... all of them the same puzzle but different in ways the 3 of us accomplished them.

    How many games can you actually do this nowadays ?

    I can't really play any of these games anymore, due to my severely shortened attention span. All types just feel like checklists of things to do.

    But in the 80s to early 90s, it was Sierra. After that, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango and Curse of Monkey Island pushed me over to Lucasarts.

    Also, in 1990 I was 10, so it wasn't like I could get my hands on many games. it just seemed that everyone had sierra games. I think the first game I ever played in my life was the original Police Quest.

    The original leisure suit larry was the first adventure game I ever finished all on my own followed by police quest 1 and 2. (says allot about how attentive my parents were when I was 8.)

    I have a special place in my heart for both of them, as I have obsessed over games from both in the past, but for me, I think Lucasarts would win. I could be a little biased though, given that I know a few people who worked for them ;)

    For me it has to be Lucasarts, the humor was just so clever and witty and the puzzles were tough but achievable. Still remember being stuck on Kings Quest V where i would keep on dying, it just wasn't fun. In a Lucasarts game you never had to worry about that, trying to grab a crocodile in Sam n Max, and just some of the crazy ideas like Day of the Tentacle still make me lauch.

    So its a vote to Lucasarts from me.

    Depends on my mood.
    Lucas Arts did better comedy, Sierra did better serious. So depends what I'm after. This has reminded me to go fire up ScummVM

    Sierra for me, I love the Police Quest, Quest for Glory, Kings Quest, Leisure Suit Larry games.. I have played all of the games in each series.. While I like all of them the earlier ones were the best (for me) and I wish they were still being made lol..

    Or re-made for today.. ah how I miss ye old games :(

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