The 10 best Adventure games of all time

The adventure games we’d point-and-click purchase on.

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

Top 10 Adventure Games of All-Time

  1. Day of the Tentacle
  2. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
  3. Grim Fandango
  4. The Last Express
  5. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within
  6. The Longest Journey
  7. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
  8. Full Throttle
  9. The Walking Dead: Season One
  10. Life is Strange

How did we pick this list?

Our editorial team selected the games in this list based on our own professional reviews and personal game playing experience. This accumulated data was used to determine the overall best adventure games in the history of the medium. We carefully selected parameters based on our research and identified the products with the highest review score within those parameters.

Read more detail on our methodology below.

10. Life is Strange

Pros

  • Has an addictive little multi-verse of possibilities
  • Exceptional voice acting and great plot twists

Cons

  • Pacing is a little slow in spots
  • It's shifting tones of mystery v drama feel a little incongruous

PLATFORMS: PC, PS, XO
RELEASE DATE: January 2015
DEVELOPER: Dontnod
PUBLISHER: Square-Enix

Amazon Price: Check site for current pricing
Buy at Amazon

Why we chose it

Small confession: when I originally laid out this list, I had King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow in mind for this spot. But then I figured: this entire list need not be completely bogged down in out-of-print, Amiga-era titles. Truth be told, there have been one or two modern Adventure titles that are deserving of a shoulder-tap as an all-time entry.

Dontnod's Life is Strange series (season one in particular) is worthy of such an honour. What we have here is an episodic epic of a thing that allows the player to rewind time and affect the past, present and future of one Max Caulfield, an otherwise ordinary highschooler.

For reasons we'll not go into here, Max has been imbued with the ability to rewind time within a strict window of opportunity. Initially, she uses it to right some murderous wrongs in her local town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. All that being said, as the Butterfly Effect kicks in, our heroine realises that there's a range of yet darker things happening in this sleepy little burg.

Gameplay-wise, you can expect a modern approach to adventuring -- full 3D environments that can be snooped through with a third-person camera approach. Delving into branching dialogues, rewinding and then using the knowledge is key. But be warned: short-term positive outcomes can snowball into huge catastrophes later on. Such is the unique, highly-replayable magic of Life is Strange.


9. The Walking Dead: Season One

Pros

  • Captures the feel of the comic wonderfully
  • Plenty of heart-in-mouth moments

Cons

  • Clunky control scheme
  • The player's choices often feel artificial

PLATFORMS: PC, PS4, XO
RELEASE DATE: April 2012
DEVELOPER: Telltale Games
PUBLISHER: Telltale Games

Amazon Price: From $39.95
Buy at Amazon

Why we chose it

Here it is: the game that triggered a second renaissance of the Adventure genre for a new, modern audience. How could it not have? Reviewers like myself got hooked early on the harsh emotional tone of this rollicking zombie survive-a-thon and also the surrogate father-daughter relationship of Lee and Clementine.

Unlike many graphic adventure games, The Walking Dead doesn't go hard on item kleptomania and puzzle solving, but instead focuses on branching dialogue decisions that typically lock in catastrophic destiny shifts.

If you're slow on the ol' reflexes, be aware that the odd quick time event can determine which characters escape a tense jam, and which of them will end up on the lunch menu. As you'd expect, a great many times these consequences and conversations will carry across from one episode to the next.

Obviously, replayability is through the roof on this one, as you desperately try to find a way to appease and extend the life of your favourite survivors. You can opt to enable a "choice notification" HUD element, or shoot from the hip and try to spot Telltale's attempts to feed you dodgy intel. Whatever your style, this is edge-of-your-seat adventuring.


8. Full Throttle

Pros

  • Super cool protagonist and dystopian world
  • Streamlined single-cycle icon interface

Cons

  • A bit on the short side
  • Too much "bike combat"

PLATFORMS: PC, iOS, PS4, PSV, XO
RELEASE DATE: April 1995
DEVELOPER: LucasArts
PUBLISHER: LucasArts

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Arguably gaming's biggest Les Grossman moment – i.e. when you finish Tropic Thunder, watch the end credits and go "holy CRAP, that was Tom Cruise in a fat-suit?! – is learning the antagonist is Mark Hamill. At least, that was how it was back then. Hamill has since gone on to become quite the seasoned vocal chameleon (case in point: his Joker work).

In Full Throttle he's Adrian Ripburger, a be-suited sleaze out to Macbeth his way into the CEO position of Corley Motors. The only thing standing firmly in his way is Ben (aka you,) the gravel voiced, lantern-jawed leader of a biker gang called The Polecats.

In a chance encounter, you witness a dodgy deed, get knocked out and get separated from your hard-hittin' homies. Worse, Ripburgers do a number on your all-important hog – a lot of your adventuring involves sourcing parts and patching up this the two-wheeled equivalent of Mad Max's V8 Interceptor. It's that bad-ass.

The only real criticism I'd level at Full Throttle is that it's shorter than a junkyard dog's temper. A classic case of exceptional quality over quantity. While it lasts, however, this is just about the coolest ride ever produced by the adventure genre.


7. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Pros

  • Captures the essence of Indy's character perfectly
  • Great villain and cool MacGuffin

Cons

  • The odd technical issue when run on newer systems

RELEASE DATE: June 1992
DEVELOPER: LucasArts
PUBLISHER: LucasArts

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Personally, my love affair with Indy games began with Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, a thoroughly excellent movie-tie that expanded an already wonderful film in cool ways. That said, this original story Indy instantly dethroned it, and I don't think I can ever watch Kingdom of the Crystal Skull without uttering the phrase "why didn't these idiots just remake Fate of Atlantis?" to anybody who'll listen.

Few do.

Featuring "full talkie" VO and a more than decent stand-in Harrison Ford, FoA involves the titular "acquirer of rare antiquities" searching for sunken fortune and glory. Also, forget Marion Ravenwood and (the incessant shrieking of) Willie Scott, Indy is flanked by Sophia Hapgood, a former archaeological contemporary who has turned psychic.

Unlike Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, game director Hal Barwood had the good sense to keep Nazis as the main antagonists as opposed to commies. Another great design decision was to appeal to a broader audience by offering three different modes to play. 'Team' has Sophia providing more hints, 'Wits' keeps the puzzles complex, and 'Fists' includes those arcadey action sequences that many adventure game connoisseurs turn their noses up at.


6. The Longest Journey

Pros

  • Captures the essence of Indy's character perfectly
  • Great villain and cool MacGuffin

Cons

  • The odd technical issue when run on newer systems

PLATFORMS: PC, iOS
RELEASE DATE: November 1999
DEVELOPER: Funcom
PUBLISHER: Empire Interactive

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Though many of them would never admit this, GoldenEye was the first console shooter to make PC gaming elitists look over the fence and take notice. For starters, movie tie-in companion titles were never meant to be this desirable. For seconds, this wasn't just a mindless trigger yank-fest – Rare added stealth as an option and wove in complex objectives that scaled with the difficulty selected.

Excuse my lazy reviewer cliché, but here was a game that made you feel like you'd slipped into 007's tuxedo (or possibly a dry martini). It was a suave simulator. Because along with a vast array of pistols, power weapons and the pimp-est slap in gaming, Rare let us "do it for England" with some sweet Q-tech.

Even better, when the flick faithful solo campaign wrapped, you and four frenemies could have a blast – literally, with remote mines and rocket launchers – in a multiplayer mode that's still world class. Scenario matches like Licence to Kill, Man with the Golden Gun and You Only Live Twice basically never get old.

All this being said, the N64's graphics (and controllers) have aged like milk. One day, a hundred or so lawyers will sort out the licensing issues needed to bring this back (uh...officially). When they do, someone's gonna make some serious money-penny.


5. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within

Pros

  • Some of the best writing and character development in the genre
  • Anchored to a fascinating time period / monarch

Cons

  • Climactic moment requires timed response
  • The odd logic-adverse puzzle

PLATFORMS: PC
RELEASE DATE: 1995
DEVELOPER: Sierra On-Line
PUBLISHER: Sierra On-Line

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Chock full of full-motion video, as was all the rage in 1995, Gabriel 2 was quite a different, uh, beast from its predecessor. For starters, the technology used shaped the gameplay and design focus in interesting ways – when the director realised that FMV graphics was limiting to the interactivity, more intrigue had to be baked into the plot. End result: one of the most gripping tales this genre ever saw

Here's the basic gist: The Beast Within takes place within a world where supernatural forces, both good and evil, try to shape the course of human history and have to be brought to heel by specialised individuals. For this tale, Sierra took a lycan to werewolf mythology, liberally mixed with the actual histories of King Ludwig II and Richard Wagner. Your job is to conduct a fairly non-linear investigation into a spate of animalistic killings.

Essentially, you'll need to point, click, and get your kleptomania as either the titular novelist or Grace, his sardonic assistant. And though I'd never thought I'd say this about an FMV game, this title holds up remarkably well today, thanks to some top-notch writing from "the interactive Ann Rice" of gaming.


4. The Last Express

Pros

  • Huge variations with plot branching
  • Tons of replayability

Cons

  • Clunky animations here and there
  • Timed sequences can end you too easily

PLATFORMS: PC, iOS
RELEASE DATE: March 1997
DEVELOPER: Smoking Car Productions
PUBLISHER: DotEmu

Amazon Price: From $4.44
Buy at Amazon

Why we chose it

Brought into being by gaming visionary (and father of the Prince of Persia series) Jordan Mechner, The Last Express is both a triumph and a tragedy. Let's get the bad out of the way first. Despite highly positive reviews, the absolutely dismal sales of The Last Express was heard as a major death knell for the commercial viability of the adventure genre.

Frankly, I find that state of affairs to be as criminal as the subject matter of this enthralling murder mystery. Picture this: you're an American investigator who's snagged a train ticket for the Orient Express in the days before WW1 erupts. Next stop, a black-hole of betrayal, shadow games, political conspiracies, secret love affairs and, of course, some poor soul getting their ticket punched earlier than intended.

Even better, your investigation is concurring in real-time (times a factor of 6) and involves 30 odd characters who effectively have their own AI and motivations that will alter depending on your interference. Revolutionary stuff for a mid-Nineties adventure.

Honestly, this adventure holds up remarkably well in terms of its (over 800 pages long) script and voice work. Graphics, less so. But if you can look beyond skin depth, you can happily spend hours and hours trying to see all 30 awful endings, four alternate endings and that elusive one true ending.


3. Grim Fandango

Pros

  • Slickly designed characters who are often hilarious
  • Striking, timeless visual design

Cons

  • Remastered versions don't teach you the unorthodox interface
  • Land of the Dead logic makes for weird puzzles

PLATFORMS: PC, PS4, iOS,XO, NS
RELEASE DATE: October 1998
DEVELOPER: LucasArts
PUBLISHER: LucasArts

Amazon Price: Check site for current pricing
Buy at Amazon

Why we chose it

Remastered in 2014, Grim Fandango is a deadset amazing adventure that represents 12 hours spent in puzzle solving, point-and-click heaven. Actually, scratch that. Let's call it purgatory, because that's going to be your rough cosmic position when you enter the sorry shoes of Manny Calavera, penance serving travel agent in the Land of the Dead.

Though he's technically be a skeleton, Manny becomes a wonderfully fleshed out protagonist who remains incredibly sarcastic and quick-witted throughout this weird and a wacky journey across the eighth underworld. All that being said, he's frequently upstaged by Glottis a well written demon sidekick who's obsessed with getting you places in absurdly overpowered vehicles.

Oozing with film noir influences and smooth jazz, this four-year journey feels remarkably timeless, thanks to the original games unique, Tim Burtonesque art style. Last but not least, Grim Fandango wins points for having puzzle designs that challenge your thinkin' machine and force you to mull a problem in Dia de los Muertos terms. So, yeah, maybe watch Pixar's Coco beforehand as a primer.


2. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

Pros

  • Remaster editions come with great special features
  • Snappy dialogue and kooky characters

Cons

  • HD reimaginings of some things look just...odd
  • Tough puzzles for beginners

PLATFORMS: PC, Amiga, iOS, PS3, X360
RELEASE DATE: December 1991
DEVELOPER: LucasArts
PUBLISHER: LucasArts

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Remastered into a Special Edition in 2010, Monkey Island 2 is basically the Terminator 2 of adventure game sequels. Yep, the first one was mind-blowing, but with way more budget, the original team went bigger in every, single way. It's just a shame that it didn't see a similar cost-to-profit return as James Cameron's epic.

Commercial failure status aside, what's here picks up months after buccaneer wannabe, Mancomb Seepgood – sorry, Guybrush Threepwood – finally achieves pirate status. We're reintroduced to him, in media res, in a cliffhanger of a jam and at the end of his rope, literally. From there, we're whisked back in time to Scabb Island, in order to point and click our way toward his unfortunate predicament.

Gameplay-wise, not at lot changed. Monkey Island 2 is just prettier and the comedic writings of Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer are sharper. In no time you'll be drawn into the wonderfully weird and anachronistic adventure involving rigged gambling, booty chasing, awkward attempts at love, drinking contests, necromancy and hocking arguably the most impressive loogie to ever be spat in gaming.


1. Day of the Tentacle

Pros

  • Tim Schafer's best writing on display
  • Looney Tunes-style animation and cartoony physics

Cons

  • Cartoon hijinks aren't for every taste

PLATFORMS: PC, iOS, XO, PS4, PSV
RELEASE DATE: June 25, 1993
DEVELOPER: LucasArts
PUBLISHER: LucasArts

Buy at eBay

Why we chose it

Gloriously remastered in 2016, Day of the Tentacle is essentially a classic borne of a classic (she's a direct sequel to 1987's Maniac Mansion, LucasArts' pioneering SCUMM title). As far as premises go, it's just about the weirdest thing ever. When a sentient, disembodied tentacle drinks toxic runoff, grows two unimpressive arms and gains aspirations of world domination, three misfits have to travel through time to thwart him.

Basically, this was a fledgling co-lead Tim Schafer at his madcap best. Thanks to DOTT's slick, Chuck Jonesesque approach to art an animation, it's also remarkably timeless, both in terms of visuals and slapstick comedic appeal. The triple protagonists of poindexter Bernard, Metal aficionado Hoagie and Laverne, the deranged medical student, are highly quotable weirdos.

Why does DOTT take the coveted top spot? Because it's art that's utterly genre-defining, decades after release. Get it for an addictive adventure where cartoon logic feel coherent to make the puzzle solutions as unique as they are satisfying and hilarious. It's also got the probably the punchiest dialogue scripting in gaming – and hey, as if you needed an extra incentive to click 'Pick Up' on it, the redux version comes with Maniac Mansion as a freebie.


About Adventure Games

Picture not described

One of the saddest things I've watched in 40+ years of gaming is the slow decline of the adventure genre. Expertly crafted storylines, rich characters and mind-bending puzzles have been pushed aside in favour of twitch action, the carrot lure of loot tables and the Groundhog Day repetition of deathmatches.

It wasn't always like this. I hail from a time when one's imagination, not the latest in graphics card technology, had to do 95% of the heavy lifting in terms of immersion. The first keyboard I ever touched was used to awkwardly hunt and peck my way into a text adventure like The Oregon Trail (1971), Zork (1977) and The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984).

From the early 80's onwards, ardent adventurers like myself were given the gift of sight, though the ol' grey matter still had to fill in the gaps. This was the glorious, pixelated age when Sierra Online's graphical adventures came to dominate store shelves and our sub-10MB hard disks. I'm talking multi-sequel moneymakers that started with Kings Quest (1984), Space Quest (1986) and Police Quest (1987).

Also, I'm pretty sure I learned the facts of life (and the importance of avoiding an early "game over" via unprotected sex) from Leisure Suit Larry (1987).

All good reigns must come to an end, and due course Sierra's genre crown would be passed to a new upstart. The new age of adventuring – point-and-click – quickly became the standard, and the engine of choice was SCUMM, a Lucasfilm Games innovation. No longer would you have to make a guess as to what actions your hero was capable – every function was on display, right alongside a scroll-able icon representation of the fruits of your kleptomania.

It's at this point where innovation in this genre begins to wind down. Yes, the advent of CD-ROMs allowed for fully-voiced characters, fancy pre-rendered cutscenes and richer landscapes, but there wasn't a great leap in adventures when 3D gaming came along. There was a stumble.

As players were given greater access to their digital worlds, they naturally demanded greater agency. Typically this came in the form of acrobatics and combat – the former being a solution to most cerebral challenges out there. Adventure games increasingly became action-adventures. Likewise, complex conversation trees and multi-branching plots were exported off into RPGs.

That's why this list is largely comprised of titles from a time when parachute pants were worn non-ironically (or earlier). Adventures aren't completely dead in a modern sense, but they don't make 'em like they used to. They do, however, remaster 'em for reissuing on places like GOG.



Methodology

11
Platforms considered
300+
Games compared
10
Best products chosen
  • We considered more than 620 FPS games across 30 gaming platforms.
  • We then whittled down this exhaustive list to a top 10 based on our own hand-on experience testing games.
  • The products on this list are chosen by our editorial team and are not selected based on commercial relationships.

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.
Go to site