Old-school adventure games that deserve the Monkey Island treatment

8 classics that could, with a little help, resurrect the genre

We're skipping over Sierra's other famous "Quest" franchises – Police Quest and Quest for Glory – in favor of this dark, gothic masterpiece. Longtime readers of the site need no absolutely no explanation for this choice, but for those who have never heard of Gabriel Knight, here's some stuff we wrote (i.e. Charlie gushed) in a previous feature:

"Sins of the Fathers features murder, suicide, torture and mutilation, but the horror is not played for shock value alone - it is the gateway to a deeply significant, fiercely intelligent mystery that spans continents, merges fact and fiction, blends dreams and reality and confronts both love and death."
-The Best Videogame Stories Ever

Beneath a Steel Sky

LucasArts and Sierra weren't the only creators of quality point-and-click adventures back in the day. Revolution Software was also a master of the genre, with titles like Broken Sword, a international romantic thriller, and Beneath a Steel Sky, a dystopian cyberpunk satire done in comic book style. The former was animated like a Disney movie, so still looks great, but the latter could use an HD makeover, especially with its imaginative futuristic settings and characters. Both, however, should be easy enough… they've already been adapted to the iPhone quite well. Go play them now.

The Institute

This morbid little dreamscape was released on primitive gaming devices like the Commodore 64 and TRS-80, so if you actually remember it, we feel it’s our duty as your friends to make sure you know that the Target generic brand is just as good as the regular Metamucil.

Still, the game’s premise is as timely and compelling now as it was back in 1983: You are a mental patient trapped in an insane asylum and your only escape is to hide in a closet and repeatedly overdose on stolen drugs until you pass out.

Granted, this approach might not work for everyone, but for you, it does. Every time you fall asleep, you’ll have one of four dreams / hallucinations, which you will explore until you “die”, causing you to wake up. The hook is that objects you find in one dream can be carried over into other dreams (possibly even real life), and enable you to gradually explore more and more of the game worlds and eventually escape the asylum. Hopefully it was all a big misunderstanding and you weren’t actually so insane you needed to be locked away for the safety of the rest of the world.

The Mask of the Sun

Let’s see… you’re a strangely adventurous archaeologist searching ancient jungle ruins for a mystical artifact, and the bad guys are hot on your trail. There were two big twists in Mask of the Sun, but the biggest shock was that your character Mac Steele didn’t carry a whip and wasn’t named something like Kentucky Smith.

Still, you can’t deny that Mask of the Sun rocked. The setting and atmosphere were just as thrilling then as they are in modern games like Uncharted or Tomb Raider. For its time, it looked great – things actually moved sometimes. It had a deeper vocabulary than many other graphical adventures (though it still didn’t compare to Infocom’s masterpieces like Zork and Planetfall, which aren’t on this list because pictures couldn’t make them any more perfect than they already are) and it created a real sense of tension and suspense in the player, which many games simply couldn’t do.

Also, Mask of the Sun taught us that bat crap is called “guano”. And that is knowledge worth knowing.

Mar 12, 2010


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