Every few years, someone will sound the death knell for adventure games and then some developer will come along and break up the eulogy.
Most recently, it was Telltale with The Walking Dead,and Quantic Dream with Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy (also known as Fahrenheit).
Adventure games began as some of the earliest attempts at bridging novels and gameplay. The best of them challenge our notions of traditional story-telling and immerse us into the narrative with quirky characters and puzzle-solving we hope won’t require an FAQ. This is our sequel to our Obscure RPG list and this time around, we explore the obscure adventure games that we think deserve sequels. Like last time, any adventure games that already have sequels won’t be considered.
Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher was a masterpiece. Policenauts took it a step further.
Born of Kojima’s dream to be either an astronaut or a murder case detective in Los Angeles if his dreams of being a director didn’t pan out, Policenauts was science fiction at its best.
After an accident in a space colony leaves Jonathan Ingram unconscious for twenty-five years, he wakes up to discover the world has gone on without him. The narrative has Ingram investigating the disappearance of his ex-wife’s husband in a space colony. Its flashes of Lethal Weapon-esque intrigue give way to the deep metaphysical meanderings that makes for the usual Kojima mind meld on top of fantastic production values and mesmerising art.
After a proper English port, we would love a proper sequel.
Blade Runner was the original dystopian film that influenced and shaped the visual flair of every dystopian title after it. This PC adventure game ran parallel to the events in the movie and set the world of Blade Runner in a playground. The sense of mystery, the tense futuristic atmosphere, the cities painted in neon, and the forlorn desires of androids seeking to be human all complemented each other to make a product that in some ways transcended its film roots.
A game based on Blade Runner might not seem obscure, but it doesn’t seem like enough gamers have played this, which amazes us. It deserves a sequel, if only to explore a world where androids can dream of electric sheep.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Five antiheroes, one of the most depressing narratives ever told, and a super computer voiced by Harlan Ellison make for one of the most provocatively disturbing adventures game we’ve experienced.
The computer, AM, punishes humanity forever for its crimes. It’s a harrowing work that will trigger a lot of discomfort in the way it broaches the darkest aspects of life. As with all of Ellison’s work, it is brave, unflinching, and at times offensive. It will also haunt you long after it’s over.
There used to be a tagline somewhere that goes something like: can a video game make you cry? Sanitarium did.
Shadowgate and Déjà Vu on the NES were two of the first adventure games we played. While both intrigued us, it was Uninvited that scared the crap out of us.
Ghosts, monsters, witches, crimson-faced skeletons, and a gigantic mansion that presaged Resident Evil…we’d love a sequel as long as it maintains the original atmosphere and story. Basically, going the road less traveled, veering away from the uninviting Shadowgate 64.
If Kafka made a video game, he probably would have made this roach simulator. Unlike in his stories though, you can alter the ending and actually have a family relationship that doesn’t end in conflicted angst. Even though we’re not big fans of insects, life as a roach made for a fascinating, if disgusting exploration of sewers and souls.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
What happens after you die? You return as a Phantom Detective of course! The Nintendo DS has had a surprisingly high number of great adventure games, from Ace Attorney to Hotel Dusk: Room 215. In Ghost Trick, you can possess inanimate objects and go back in time four minutes before a person is killed to alter their fate.
Wait, did the bedroom door just open by itself? What is that weird sound coming from the kitchen? Did someone just alter our fate?
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
These days we spend our time tracking treasures with the Wii U gamepad. But before the endearing adventures of Captain Toad, we used the Wii remote to search for Barbaros’ treasure in Zack & Wiki. Pointing and clicking was fun with the Wiimote, so were the Wiimote wag abilities that turned our chatty monkey pal into a bell that transformed enemies to tools to help further our quests. When treasure was nearby, nothing could stop us! All we needed was that keen sense of pirating adventure and a bar of chocolate to keep us going.
Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and the Monkey Island games were some of our favourite LucasArts adventure games. The reason we didn’t include Grim Fandango was because it had such a great arc that we don’t know what more they’d be able to explore. But Loom from LucasArts was conceived (or at least retroactively thought of) as part of a trilogy.
A fantasy game taking place in the year 8021, it had an experimental interface revolving around a distaff and drafts as musical tunes (think Link’s ocarina). It was also the first game to incorporate the LucasArts rules of adventure games.
I (Peter) played this back when I was preparing to test Escape From Monkey Island. The company gave us a few months to play all the old adventures game and I was enchanted by how different Loom was, from swans metamorphosis to the Guild of Weavers to a final battle with Chaos.
All these adventure games instilled us with a sense of wonder that had us clicking mouses on the puzzles that were our own lives and made sense in a loose, game-logic sort of way. We hope adventure games loom forever.
N. Ho Sang has made contributions to Entropymag and SF Signal. She is currently a regular contributor to Talk Amongst Yourselves, rambling about life and RPGs under the username Zarnyx. She can also be found on Twitter under the title @Zarnyx.
Peter Tieryas is a VFX artist who just worked on Guardians of the Galaxy and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. His novel, Bald New World, was listed as one of Buzzfeed’s 15 Highly Anticipated Books and Publisher Weekly’s Best Science Fiction Books of Summer 2014. He scribbles about RPGs at tieryas.wordpress.com.