(Guest post by Gnome of Gnome's Lair)
1. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
The magnum opus of Ron Gilbert featuring the combined powers of Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, Monkey Island 2 truly is a masterpiece. It is funny, smart, vast, at times difficult, always challenging, beautiful to look at, masterfully designed and wildly innovative. What's more, Monkey Island 2 comes with the impressive and still unsurpassed iMuse system that lends it its superb and dynamic soundtrack, an easier Lite option and one of the most controversial game endings ever devised. If you haven't played it you are not an adventure gamer, and if you are not one, well, its recently released Special Edition is what you should be interested in. Expect many pirates, used coffin salesmen, elaborate puzzles, outrageous governors and quite a bit of voodoo.
Released: 1991, Developer: Lucasfilm Games, Publisher: Lucasfilm Games
2. Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned
The 3D visuals of GK3 haven't aged that gracefully, though -truth be said- they never were that hot either. They did, on the other hand, manage to lend the game a visual air of, err, oddity that suited it just fine, as the final installment in the Gabriel Knight trilogy was after all both odd and dark, and also the greatest game Jane Jensen has designed to this very day. Its plot stands easily above that mediocre-at-best Dan Brown novel, features Vampires, Holy Grails, Templars, mysteries, tourists and real-life locations with a lick of fantasy, the characters and voice-actors are some of the best in any game ever (Tim Curry anyone?) and you really have to encounter the Serpent Rouge puzzle. Its originality, depth, complexity and innovation make it one of the most satisfying I for one have ever solved. A definite must-play filled with myriad little touches of brilliance.
Released: 1999, Developer: Sierra On-Line, Publisher: Sierra On-Line
3. Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango could easily be remembered for its audio-visual charms alone, but, happily, this is not the case. If you manage to look past the incredibly stylish 3D characters (inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead) and the mostly jazz soundtrack, you'll find a huge, taxing and pretty much unique game, that was the first adventure to successfully do away with the traditional point-and-click interface and -possibly- the first adventure to cast you as a travel agent for the dead in an otherworldly version of Casablanca. Add some excellent puzzles, a beat poetry competition, top quality humour, noir characters and the design talents of Tim Schafer and you got a truly excellent adventure.
Released: 1998, Developer: Lucasarts, Publisher: Lucasarts
4. Day of the Tentacle
Another one by Tim Schaffer, though this time created with the help of fellow Lucasarts master Dave Grossman. Day of the Tentacle, the loose sequel to the ground-breaking Maniac Mansion, sports top quality cartoon graphics, three simultaneously playable characters, time travelling, innovative puzzles, quality voice acting and some properly catchy tunes. Oh, yes and it does feature a menagerie of mutated tentacles, though not all of them evil. If that's not enough, well, guess you should learn that pop culture references live with historical jokes in harmony and that DotT even includes the complete Maniac Mansion as a game within a game. Mind you, this game requires you to beautify a not-quite-living mummy and change the American flag in order to progress.
Released: 1993, Developer: Lucasarts, Publisher: Lucasarts
5. Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
And finally, the first non-Lucasarts or Sierra game to hit the list. Revolution's Broken Sword I (a.k.a. The Circle of Blood) was released during the apex of the dreaded interactive movie era and billed itself an interactive cartoon, only to be revealed as a fantastic, properly point-and-click adventure with cartoon quality 2D graphics. Its Knight's Templar plot was experienced via two quirky and fully fleshed out characters and spiced up with more than a few humorous bits, and was further enriched in the Director's Cut updates the game received. Those can be played on the Wii, the DS and them Apple's iDevices.
Released: 1996, Developer: Revolution Software, Publisher: Virgin Interactive
6. The Secret of Monkey Island
Yes, well, this list does feature its sequel, but the original Monkey Island is such a ground-breaking little thing and such a great adventure game, that it just couldn't be absent. Besides introducing Guybrush, LeChuck and the dark and humorous world of everyone's favourite pirate-infested, re-imagined Caribbean, Monkey Island was the game that cemented Lucasfilm's gaming credentials and defined the form of its adventures. Players can neither die nor get stuck and are free to explore and puzzle solve at will. Newcomers should both enjoy the now classic insult-swordfighting and using a chicken with a pulley. And do keep in mind that The Secret of Monkey Island is a textbook example of brilliant game design; indie developers can learn a lot here.
Released: 1990, Developer: Lucasfilm Games, Publisher: Lucasfilm Games
A commercial text adventure by Infocom. Remember them? Well, you really should. Especially the original and pioneering Zork, the very first in the Zork trilogy, that appeared at a time when an intelligent parser, lush descriptions and a decently-sized vocabulary were considered cutting edge technology for a home micro game, whereas wondering in deadly yet humorously depicted dungeons was the apex of fantasy entertainment. Now, as Zork was -still is- an incredibly well-written game with great prose and equally great puzzles, any adventurer worth his or her salt has to play it and endure its tough puzzles. Just make sure you don't get eaten by a Grue. Also avoid dark places. Oh, and do use your imagination. You’ll find the experience most invigorating. The sensation, after all, just like the written word itself, hasn't aged a day.
Released: 1980, Developer: Infocom, Publisher: Infocom
What we have here is one of the darkest and most surreal games ever designed. Also a rare adventure that impressively succeeded in being deeply atmospheric. Beautiful 2D graphics, weird and imaginative worlds, a wealth of horror elements and a slowly evolving plot, will definitely hook any player, while providing one of the strangest adventure gaming experiences ever. If you haven't played this, expect -roughly- everything, including a trip to your character's distorted past and some shocking revelations. Now, go grab a copy, as this blog will neither spoil Sanitarium, nor your gaming pleasure.
Released: 1998, Developer: Dreamforge, Publisher: ASC Games
9. King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
The original King's Quest was the first graphic adventure, and an offering that defined the modern shape of the genre, though it admittedly wasn't really a particularly good game. Thankfully, the series evolved beyond that and finally reached the heights its sixth installment achieved. Co-designed by Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen, KQ VI is a behemoth of a game and a grimoire of all things fantasy and fairy tale, including everything from dwarves and wizards to huge chessboards and heroes. Might not have been a particularly easy game mind, but it was fair (by Sierra standards), sported smart and quite varied puzzles and its production values still show. As for the game's introduction, well, it was the PCs graphical power showcase for quite some time.
Released: 1992, Developer: Sierra On-Line, Publisher: Sierra On-Line
10. The Longest Journey
This one is either the last of the great classic adventures or the first of the new breed of point-and-clickers that are still making their comeback, but let's not rush to categorize. What matters is the simple fact that The Longest Journey is an excellent game. It sports an interesting female lead in a truly epic quest spanning two vastly different worlds; the first one being a modestly sci-fi version of earth in a relatively near future and the second being a place of pure magic and fantasy.
Released: 1999, Developer: Funcom, Publisher: IQ Media Nordic
Maniac Mansion, Leisure Suit Larry I, The Lurking Horror, The Pawn, Scratches, Space Quest IV, Tales of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Knight Orc, The Dig, Beneath a Steel Sky, Zork: Grand Inquisitor, Planetfall, Sam & Max and Simon the Sorcerer