Lucasarts Adventure Games, Ranked

Image: Lucasarts

Kicking off in 1986, Lucasarts presided over an era (running until around the year 2000) in which they were the adventure game Kings, releasing a string of titles that remain all-time classics even decades later.

This post originally appeared January 2016.

The Eye-Popping Background Art Of Lucasarts Adventure Games

Like movies and comics, games almost force you to constantly look in the foreground, at the characters and moving parts whizzing past your face.

Read more

Their games were made famous for their innovative use of a graphic interface based on mouse clicks (previous adventure games, including those from competitor Sierra, relied on cumbersome text input), but have endured in people’s hearts thanks to timeless pixel art and—rare for video games — a genuine sense of humour.

It was a time of perfect storms, where some of the best technology (the SCUMM engine and iMuse adaptive music system) was married to some of video gaming’s smartest (and funniest) designers, from Ron Gilbert to Tim Schafer to Sean Clark.

How LucasArts Fell Apart

In June of 2011, then-LucasArts president Paul Meegan spoke publicly about his plans for turning the company around. 'In recent years, LucasArts hasn't always done a good job of making games,' he said. 'We should be making games that define our medium, that are competitive with the best of our industry, but we're not. That has to change.'

Read more

The studio, now no more, released its last new adventure game in 2000. In the 16 years since we’ve seen re-releases, remasters and new games based on Lucasarts titles from third party developers, but for the purposes of a ranking like this, I’m going to keep things simple by only including adventure games released under the banner of Lucasarts (or, when it came to earlier games before the name change, Lucasfilm).

15. Labyrinth

14. Escape From Monkey Island

13. Zak McKracken

12. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade

11. Loom

10. The Curse of Monkey Island

9. Maniac Mansion

8. The Dig

7. Grim Fandango

6. The Secret Of Monkey Island

5. Sam & Max Hit The Road

4. Full Throttle

3. Day Of The Tentacle

2. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge

1. Indiana Jones & The Fate Of Atlantis

It’s funny, looking up at this list, how little thought I gave to the game when weighing each of these up. I’ve noticed over the years that folks rarely remember the hours of frustration spent with bullshit illogical puzzles, clicking every pixel on a screen to try and force their way through an impasse or enduring busted action sequences that shouldn’t have passed QA.

Yet so many of these games have roadblocks like that! Sam & Max, Full Throttle, Indiana Jones, all riddled with awful arcade sections. And Monkey Island’s puzzles were designed by the only humans who thought their solutions made sense.

What we remember about each game then, and what tends to dominate discussions about them, are their worlds and their stories. It’s like Lucasarts invented all these bizarre locations and memorable locations and just... needed something to propel them. And adventure games, with their slow pace and penchant for loads of dialogue, were the perfect fit.

If you’re after some kind of insight into my approach here, know that I’m not that big a fan of Labyrinth (the only game on this which had any kind of serious text interface), and could never stand Zak McKracken’s brand of humour or Monkey Island 4's complete absence of it.

Indeed, take a look at the top half of this list and you can see a pattern emerging, a “golden age” for Lucasarts that kicks off with the first Monkey Island and runs through to Grim Fandango, in which pretty much everything the company released was just solid gold and the games released before (or after) just couldn’t hit the same heights.

It wasn’t pleasant pitting many of my fondest childhood memories against each other, but there’s solace in the fact that like some other rankings I’ve tried over the years, just because a game comes last (or close to it) doesn’t always mean it’s bad. It just means that the stuff above it is even better.


Comments

    The Dig at #8? You son of a bitch, what the hell do you even know about games? You're a disgrace.

    *looks at 1-7*

    Oh. Fair enough.

    Last edited 05/02/16 11:10 am

    Grim Fandango should be higher, but other than that I think it's pretty fair. :)

    Loved The Dig

    Why rank them? especially when Sam and Max doesn't come top 3 :(

    THE CURSE OF MONKEY ISLAND WAS A MASTERPIECE YOU SON OF A -

    Whew. Ok. Only an opinion. Only an opinion...

      Yep. Loved Curse of Monkeys. Actually think about it often when I'm work. I'm a 36 year old male but there was something about the atmosphere of that game... just great.

        I know! Like, a perfect game...

        Oh, I'm a thirty-four year old male, but I'm pretty sure that entire era of Lucasarts was universal :)

          The start where you meet Wally in the ship was so great. Music, graphics, voice acting... cut scenes. So well done.

          I've preordered full throttle of my PS4. It unlocks tomorrow. Can't wait! The last time I played it I was 15.

            Forgot about that. Finished it twice. Mark Hamill as the villain is just gold :)

      Totally! I'm a Monkey Island nut (got / finished all 5 of them) and I've gotta say, "Curse" is my favourite.

    "X" is only placed at number "X"?

    *looks at rest of list*

    Oh, right. Carry on then.

    15 childhood feels right there, Monkey island is still always gonna be No.1 on my list. Funny story: I had the lucas arts collection that had Loom, indy and monkey island, but it was shipped without the key to unlock the full Loom (monkey had its Dial-Pirate, Indy had a weird red over blue number finder).
    Took me another 15 years before I got to finally play the full thing :')

    Interesting, don't think I would have rated MI2 over 1&3

    Always thought it weaker then the others

    Really does show that the LucasArts peak was the period with Secret of Monkey Island at one end and Grim Fandango at the other. During that period they also released X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Dark Forces, X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, Shadows of the Empire & Jedi Knight. They high point was 1995 - The Dig, Full Throttle and Dark Forces. And also Rebel Assault II but the less said about that the better.

      Actual dialogue from rebel assault 2: "Rookie One, is that you?"

    I can't believe how wrong the ranking of this list is. Everything except Labyrinth is in completely the wrong place. My opinion is 100% objective.

    Zak Mckracken and Curse of Monkey Island are both great games, though. They desperately need to be higher. At the very least they need to be higher than The Dig, which manages to be frustrating as hell even when you're following a walkthrough.

    Oooh yeah Fate of Atlantis number one! That's my childhood right there, game is absolutely legendary. That reminds me, I should probably download it from Steam and fire it up again, nostalgia is a strong thing.

    Dig should be #1
    Grim Fandango Should be #2
    DotT should be #3

    It's a shame more people didn't play Loom. Such an amazing adventure game. Probably my favourite after Monkey Island 1-2.

    So, Grim Fandango...
    For decades, I'd heard people gush about how it was LucasArts's greatest achievement.
    So I was SO excited to get the remastered edition last year and dive in, since many of the above games are among my all-time favourites.
    My take on it... Not that good. One of LucasArts's weakest games, in my opinion.
    The interface is horrible (whatever happened to good ol' point-and-click??), the story seemed like it couldn't even bother telling itself (very odd / non-existent character motivations) and the puzzles are so, SO obscure, I fail to see how anyone could possibly finish it without a walkthrough.
    Usually when I get frustrated enough at an adventure game, I look up the solution to a puzzle and say, "Ohhhhh, of COURSE. How could I not have worked that out?"
    With this game, I'd look at the solution and say, "There is no WAY I could ever have worked that out!"
    It's a cool setting, but apart from that, I honestly have no idea why it gets so much praise.
    Now Day of the Tentacle... (another game I came to very late to the party) That game is brilliant.

      I love the game but it was entirely for the story and the characters. The interface was crap.

      Some games just don't click for people. I thought the witness was a pile of pretentious garbage but people talk about it being an amazing experience.

    Good times. Probably the only one I'd bump higher is Last Crusade. That was probably the most masterful film adaptation game of all time for my money. Favourite moment? Using the hard copy manual as piracy protection as an integral part of the finale, when you had to identify the true grail using in-game clues with Henry Jones' notes in the manual.

    THIS is the cup of a carpenter!

    Maybe I'm a little older, or maybe people are just looking back with rose-coloured glasses with a tinge of nostalgia, but Sierra were the kings of the adventure game for a significant period of time, before I'd be comfortable saying that Lucasarts took that mantle.

    I have very fond memories of many Lucasarts titles, but they weren't nearly as dynamic as many Sierra titles.

    Sierra definitely dropped the ball around the King's Quest 5 time, but previous to that, they were comfortably on top when it come to the adventure game.

    another vote for curse of monkey island here. definitely my favourite game of the bunch, probably becasue it was the first one i played. but the humour was amazing, just the right amount of animation. and the pirate dueling game. aw man i gotta go back and play this again.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now