Point and click adventures were once the ruling class of video games. In a time when PC gaming was at its peak, these adventures entertained an entire generation of kids. While advances in technology and a move towards more complex games meant the point and click genre was quickly phased out, it still left us with some incredible tales. From The Secret of Monkey Island to Grim Fandango, many of these games remain iconic and important parts of gaming history.
But that’s not to say the genre is entirely dead. While many of the best point and click games were born in the 1990s, there’s also an impressive array of modern indies helping to keep the genre alive. There’s so many great adventures out there, and they rarely get the love they deserve.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best point and click adventure games around, and count down the best titles of the genre. If you’re looking for your next big adventure or just something nostalgic to dive in with, you can’t go past these games.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
The Secret of Monkey Island
The Secret of Monkey Island arguably created the modern Point & Click genre. It was a game that pioneered dense (and obscure) puzzling, quick wit and great adventures, all in one sleek-looking package. And while it wasn’t the first game LucasArts created, it was the one that kick-started their profile and popularity in the mainstream. With clever writing and great mechanics, it was a game often copied but rarely replicated.
Monkey Island is self-referential and very silly, but always a bunch of fun. There’s puzzles that’ll challenge even the toughest adults, but through it all the game remains a total delight.
The Darkside Detective
The Darkside Detective is likely one of the least known games on this list — and that’s a massive shame because the game is absolutely incredible. If you’ve never played it, here’s what you should know: in the game, you play as a detective solving a variety of supernaturally-inclined mysteries. This includes destroying ritual summonings and charting ghostly train stations, but it also involves befriending body-building werewolves who talk like Ric Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, amongst other oddities.
It’s a clever and well-written little game, and one of the best modern point and click adventures out there. A Fumble In The Dark, the game’s sequel, is just as good.
Grim Fandango is a video game epic that begins in the Land of the Dead and ends on a train heading towards Heaven. The journey between is filled with incredible moments including stopovers in seedy Underworld cities and gang-controlled territories. At the heart of this tale is Manny, a Grim Reaper in a whole lot of trouble — but it’s the entire cast that makes this game sing.
As you travel through the Underworld and attempt to rescue a woman from a horrible fate, Manny’s story unfolds in tragic and beautiful fashion. What follows is a daring noir tale of espionage and deceit as the Underworld begins to unravel. It’s a fantastic story, and one currently unmatched in gaming.
Thimbleweed Park is a modern love letter to Point & Click games, and there’s a reason why its release was followed by such a loud kerfuffle. The game really is spectacular, and brings back so much of what made the genre great in the first place. Memorable characters, fantastic puzzles and a great story put Thimbleweed Park in the same breath as the best Point & Click classics of old.
There’s shades of The X-Files, but also IT and Twin Peaks, making the entire journey a brilliant, pop culture-filled romp. If you’re longing to feel like a kid again, Thimbleweed Park is the Point & Click adventure you want to grab.
Beneath A Steel Sky
Beneath A Steel Sky is a beautiful cyberpunk adventure through the ruins of a dying city. It’s also one of the few games to be set in Australia, and explores a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic landscape. But even while it spins a tale of corruption and strained political alliances, Beneath A Steel Sky is a story that balances quick-witted humour with more beautiful, quiet moments.
It really is a stunning game, and one that remains poignant and important in the modern era. While it’s often forgotten as one of the great point-and-clickers, it absolutely deserves any smidge of attention it gets.
Discworld Noir is a rare detective adventure where you actually feel like you’re doing some real detecting. But beyond the game’s great Point & Click puzzles, it’s the title’s balls-to-the-wall ridiculousness that makes it such a fun time. There’s talking dogs, guilty parrots, cultists and werewolves in this noir — but that’s Discworld for you. If you’re in the mood for a weird romp, this is the game you want.
While it’s not based on any particular novels in the franchise, it does crib from the series’ sense of humour and absurdity. It’s what makes Discworld Noir so special and memorable. Unlike other games in this list, it’s yet to receive a re-release, so you’ll have to seek the internet’s help to rediscover this one.
The Humongous Games Catalogue
Humongous Entertainment is responsible for a gigantic catalogue of Point & Click adventures, each of them more iconic than the last. If you grew up playing PC games, it’s likely you spent time with Spy Fox, Pajama Sam, Freddi Fish or Putt-Putt. They all deserve a spot in this list as much as the next great LucasArts adventure. While they were made for kids, these titles were just as fun, clever and interesting as their Point & Click predecessors.
These games lacked the difficulty of titles like Monkey Island or Maniac Mansion but as a kid, the balance was just right. If you dive in with these games in the modern day, they’re still an incredible time.
It’s hard to imagine a game like ToonStruck coming out today, mostly because it sounds too whacky to work. Plonking a live-action Christopher Lloyd in a cartoon world isn’t exactly an original idea (he did play the infamous Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? after all) but ToonStruck managed to pull it off spectacularly. Sure, it looks a bit janky by today’s standards but this game and its concept is still incredible.
ToonStruck is packed with an all-star voice cast, a hearty number of Point & Click puzzles and a great plot that involves a cartoon animator being sucked into his own worlds. If you’re looking for a wild adventure and you’ve never checked out ToonStruck, now’s the time to dive in. While it was ridiculously hard to get a hold on for a little while, a release on GOG means the game will live on forever in our hearts.
Full Throttle is another sleek LucasArts adventure that built on the classic Point & Click formula. Here players embodied Ben, a bikie caught in the middle of a power war during the death of the motorbike manufacturing industry in the United States. But it’s not really about that. Instead, it’s a tale about love and loyalty, and how absolute power can corrupt. Like other titles on the list, Full Throttle recently received a remaster to polish up the visuals — but arguably, the game didn’t really need this.
Even today, it holds up. Full Throttle is a gorgeous game, and it tells an important tale about capitalism and gang warfare. Also, Mark Hamill voices the main bad guy, so you know you’re in for a good time. It’s just one of the reasons why Full Throttle is such an enduring hit.
Hey look, it’s the game where you can put a hamster in a microwave and explode it! But if that’s everything you know about Maniac Mansion, you’re missing out on a whole lot of fun. The actual plot is all a bit Cthulian: you play as Dave, who’s attempting to rescue his girlfriend from a mad scientist being controlled by a sentient meteor. So yes, it’s all a bit Color Out Of Space, but its humour and heart make the game a real gem.
If you’re looking for a silly horror adventure where you can wreak havoc in a creepy mansion and do (basically) whatever you want, Maniac Mansion has you covered. Sadly, there’s no remaster for this gem just yet but if you purchase its sequel, Day of the Tentacle Remastered, you’ll gain access to the original (lightly enhanced) version of this game.
Myst may be the more iconic game in this franchise, but it’s Riven that really deserves attention. This sequel built on everything great about Myst and expanded on the game’s strange fantasy world. In Riven, players are tasked with rescuing a family from the destructive reign of their father. But what actually unfolds is a gorgeous first person adventure through beautiful, surreal landscapes and a world filled with complex puzzles.
It’s a beautiful experience, and one buoyed by a great soundtrack and excellent visuals that pushed the bounds of what video games could be in the 1990s. While the entire series is talked about often, to the point where it’s easy to consider them overrated, Riven is a game worthy of this praise. If you check out any of the games in the series, make it this one.
Sam & Max: Hit The Road
In creating a list like this, it’s always important to focus on balance. But really, every entry could’ve been a LucasArts game. The company essentially pioneered the genre in the 1990s, and paved the way for a new generation of Point & Click adventures. The Sam & Max series is just another in a long line of LucasArts hits, and when you play Hit The Road, you’ll understand why the pair have experienced such popularity over the last few decades.
The banter between Sam and Max really drives the wacky adventures of the pair through Hit The Road, but when you combine that with clever puzzles, gorgeous, pixel-heavy backdrops and a really fun story, you’ve got a recipe for an iconic hit. Sam & Max has stuck around for a very long time, and the franchise has earned its place in the Point & Click Hall of Fame.
Did we miss out on your favourite point and click adventure? Have any memories you’d love to share from the era? Pop on down to the comments below and share it with your fellow Kotaku Australia readers.