The best classic adventures you can have without going outside (and one honorary modern inclusion)
Many claim that point & click adventures died on the last day of the previous century, but is that really true? Adventure games show signs of life with many fresh new releases every year, so perhaps it’s time to celebrate the genre’s glorious origins as well as the best current carriers of the torch.
Honorable Mention: Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)
While Return of the Obra Dinn isn’t a classic point & click adventure from the olden days, it’s a game about pointing at and clicking stuff that became an instant classic. It deserves a spot here. Obra Dinn merges the perspective of Myst with the mystery of Broken Sword and imbues it all with movement and mechanics that make it into a completely new thing.
Instead of tasking players with resolving a mystery that’ll save the world, Obra Dinn just asks players to find out whatever the hell happened to the missing crew of the titular ship. It’s a lot of people, so players might predict they’re up for a repetitive challenge, but there are always twists and turns that keep the narrative fresh. You should play this one whether you’re a classic adventure game veteran or a new gamer.
Strengths: A gorgeous and completely unique take on detective stories.
Weaknesses: The visual style can cause dizziness in rare cases.
09. Myst (1993)
Myst changed the world back in ’93 by doing away with forcing players to guide a poor character all over the map in search of hidden items. This adventure puts players in first-person perspective, an iconic choice that greatly impacted not just player immersion but storytelling in general. The people behind the Half-Life series cite Myst as a great inspiration for Valve’s storytelling.
Its puzzles have been redone to death by many other games, so the experience as a whole won’t feel brand new for many, but we still recommend experiencing it to anyone who cares about video games. It’ll make a lot of things clear.
Strengths: It remains an invaluable piece of video game history that inspired more than just the point & click adventure genre.
Weaknesses: It only gains replay value about once in a decade when you’ve forgotten the solution to its puzzles or when you want to show off to your friends how quickly you can finish it.
08. Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars / Circle Of Blood (1996)
Who’ll ever forget an intro where a killer clown blows up a peaceful Parisian bistro? The reason why it will forever stay in the minds of whoever saw it back in the day might have to do with the innate scariness of clowns, yeah, but also because of the game’s art direction. How many games that are nearly 30 years old remain beautiful to this day? Well, this one does. Don’t find it pretty enough? No problem! You can even play its equally awesome remaster.
An intriguing plot (yes, there’s more to the killer clown than meets the eye), a great duo of main characters, and a beautiful collection of puzzles exist within Broken Sword. This is Revolution Software’s third point & click adventure, after Lure Of The Temptress and Beneath A Steel Sky, and definitely its best. The series would keep its gorgeous art style for the sequel, The Smoking Mirror, but would go for different looks in every single one of its sequels. We still like those and any adventure gaming enthusiast should check them out, but this is prime Broken Sword.
Strengths: Beautiful artwork and clever puzzles that demonstrated the classic point & click adventure genre at the height of its power.
Weaknesses: Everyone is pretty tired of having a cult of Templars as the villains by now, but they felt pretty fresh for the time.
07. Monkey Island 2: Lechuck’s Revenge (1991)
People often associate classic point & click games with serious puzzle-solving, but the genre can get hilarious sometimes. LucasArts dominated when it come to comedy in adventure games, and Monkey Island 2 is one of their best works. Do you still find Captain Jack Sparrow funny? Well, the Monkey Island series of games inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and guess what.
Unlike the series of films that begins to suck right at the beginning of the first sequel, Monkey Island only ever gets better in its second game. One thing we need to say, however, is that the original’s control and interaction scheme might feel outdated by now. Luckily, you can easily overcome that problem by getting the game’s much-upgraded special edition from 2010 instead.
If that doesn’t sound fresh enough for you, then don’t worry. Just get 2022’s Return to Monkey Island, which also owns.
Strengths: Clever puzzles that are also fun. An endearing cast of characters. This series is the reason we have Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. We’re guessing that the only reason why the only reason Jack Sparrow is more popular than Guybrush Threepwood is that the latter’s name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Weaknesses: It’s also the reason we have the remaining Pirates Of The Caribbean films.
06. The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery (Gabriel Knight 2, 1995)
Most people scoff at the thought of Full Motion Video-based games. They can either play the original Gabriel Knight, a classic-looking point & click adventure game that could very well be on this list, or, just give the superior sequel a chance.
We’d like to believe that the reason FMV games failed is that most of them looked goofy, like Night Trap, or because both looked and played goofy, like Sewer Shark. Gabriel Knight 2 was none of those things. We’re talking about a high-production value gothic horror tale that deserves a place among the greats.
We sure hope history vindicates this visual style as bangers such as Her Story and Immortality have been casting a whole new spotlight onto the genre.
Strengths: By far the best full-motion video game in existence. Also, are we crazy it is that the best video game cover art of all time?
Weaknesses: full-motion video gameplay isn’t for everyone, but you should give it a shot!
05. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992)
We’re sorry to break it to the people who still haven’t read the reviews of Indiana Jones and The Dial Of Destiny, but they all amount to something like “maybe they should’ve seen the signs and kept quiet after Crystal Skull”. Not to worry, though, as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is right here for any fan who feels like they haven’t had their fill of Indiana Jones in a while.
Yes, movie-to-game adaptations tend to suck, but this isn’t that. This is an entirely original adventure featuring the titular archaeologist that features everything you’d want — exploration and awesome puzzles — and none of the foils of the later sequels.
Strengths: It takes on average 10 hours to beat. That’s a longer and more fun time with Indiana Jones than we’ll get from all of the Raiders Of The Lost Ark sequels combined.
Weaknesses: LucasArt’s environmental interaction HUD might feel pretty dated by today’s standards. Unlike most other LucasArts classics, this one is still to receive the remaster treatment.
04. Kentucky Route Zero (2013)
Some works of art benefit a lot from looking like they could’ve come from any point in time. We don’t know whether the developers of Kentucky Route Zero were going for a mysteriously timeless aesthetic, but the final result greatly elevates their work.
Though it came out in 2013, over a decade after the “death of all adventure games”, the only thing separating the look and feel of KRZ and some of the best point & click titles in history are some very welcomed quality-of-life improvements. The only less-than-stellar aspect of KRZ was the fact that we had to wait a long while to complete it (the episodic release model was not one of the good things it added to the genre), but that’s over. You can and should just buy the whole thing right now and embark on one of the best journeys in the history of video games.
Strengths: A one-of-a-kind narrative experience that you won’t forget.
Weaknesses: It might feel too modern at first, but it sure does belong with the greats of old.
03. Day of the Tentacle (1993)
Day of the Tentacle is the sequel of sorts to the also awesome Maniac Mansion. It follows a team of three different characters as they attempt to prevent a tentacle —yes, just a sentient octopus-less tentacle — from taking over the world
When people think of hilarious adventure games, chances are they’ll be talking about a game from LucasArts. Many consider the Monkey Island series to be the funniest of the bunch, but we actually rank it at number three. That’s how funny we think Day of the Tentacle is. Though it doesn’t star a main character as famous as Guybrush Threepwood, one shouldn’t underestimate its main cast and villain.
The most important aspect of all, however, is how most of its puzzles are very well crafted and never feel boring. In fact, despite all of the witty writing, most of the game’s hilarity comes from the game’s puzzles themselves.
Strengths: Some of the cleverest and funniest puzzles of all time.
Weaknesses: It features the same-old Scumm HUD as other Lucasarts games. If that turns you off, then consider playing the awesome remaster with revamped interactions.
02. The Longest Journey (1999)
The great point & click war of the ’90s saw mostly Revolution, Sierra, and LucasArts fighting for the crown. It’s kind of weird that a latecomer from a newbie Norwegian company managed to mostly outdo them all. The Longest Journey seems to have taken all the important notes from the adventure game playbook and still managed to come up with one of the most original and engrossing experiences of all time. While most of its puzzles are very good (and one is very bad), what makes this one shine is its beautiful story, world-building, and voice acting.
Whereas Broken Sword showed how well you could do with hand-drawn artwork and Gabriel Knight 2 showed us the unexpected beauty of FMV gameplay, The Longest Journey showed us the peak of gorgeous pre-rendered 3d art. It might not enjoy as much popularity as the other games on this list outside of genre aficionados, but this is easily a contender for the top spot.
Strengths: This is the classic point & click adventure genre’s swansong.
Weaknesses: It features one of the dumbest puzzles in video game history, but everything else is solid gold, so we just can’t complain.
01. Grim Fandango (1998)
At the time of its release, Grim Fandango got almost as many glowing reviews as it got copies sold. Don’t misread that. Pretty much every review that the game got was highly positive, it’s just that there aren’t enough critics out there buying games to make a release commercially successful. Grim Fandango deserves all the praise and deserved huge commercial success as well.
Tim Schafer’s masterpiece combines both old and (then) new elements of classic adventure games and took players on likely the most hilariously unforgettable journey in the history of video games.
Some purists will say it’s not technically a point & click game because of its 3d environment interaction system. Still, a lot of people already wanted the point & click style of LucasArts games to evolve back then, so.
Strengths: Likely the funniest game of all time. The art direction and soundtrack also rule.
Weaknesses: As with even the best adventure gamers, there are always these one or two puzzles that fail to measure up to the rest.