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Why The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the greatest games ever made

Who would have thought that a pirate-themed Disneyland ride could inspire so much more than just the desire to go on the same ride again? Designing a pirate-y adventure game was idea that creator Ron Gilbert had since 1988, and together with now-industry veterans Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, The Secret of Monkey Island was born. While there were plenty of fantastic point-and-click adventure games that came out during the “golden era” of adventure gaming, The Secret of Monkey Island stands above the rest as a timeless classic because of its witty humor, accessible gameplay, and several other reasons that we’ll get into.

You play as Guybrush Threepwood, a young man with one thing on his to-do list--to become mighty pirate. Your first order of business when you begin the game is to tackle the three trials, which must be completed before you can officially become a buccaneer. One of the more involved trials is to train Guybrush in the arts of swordfighting so that he can challenge the legendary swordmaster of Melee Island. Rest assured, there is still some stabbing and dodging going on, but to hone your skills to face the most revered swordmaster on the island, you must sharpen your wits more than your sword, and face pirates from all over the island in battle to see who can hurl the best insults. Not only is this a great way for point-and-click adventures to do combat, but it spawned some of the best video game quotes.

Guybrush Threepwood may not be the kind of pirate-wannabe you’d identify with, but you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him. He’s young, eager, and not very good with the ladies, but his heart is in the right place. What the governor Elaine Marley sees in him, we’ll never know, but he certainly beats the ghost pirate LeChuck in terms of looks and...the being alive part. Guybrush doesn’t exactly have a ton of competition when it comes to winning Elaine’s heart, but he will have to rescue her from the clutches of LeChuck if he wants to be with her. And that’s where we get to the good part: find Monkey Island and try to uncover its secrets—while avoid being eaten by vegetarian cannibals.

The game doesn’t just set you up to do a rescue mission from the get go, it gives you time to get to know the lovable protagonist and the cast of quirky characters around the island. You’ll have to recruit some them to join your crew later, but the first part of the game is really about exploration, solving puzzles, and ultimately becoming a true, honest-to-goodness, swashbuckling pirate. What made The Secret of Monkey Island stand out at the time it was originally released was that you didn’t have to worry about taking a wrong turn or saying the wrong thing, it’s not going to get you killed. And you wouldn’t be screwed if you didn’t save 10 seconds beforehand. There’s only one way to die in Monkey Island and it requires a bit of patience--10 minutes of patience to be exact, while you wait for Guybrush to drown.

14 comments

  • TanookiMan - October 5, 2012 4:56 p.m.

    Is there still going to be a Game Club Feature on Secret of Monkey Island?
  • ChristopherDalley - October 4, 2012 9:33 a.m.

    Also, it was the first game to feature monkeys, thus widening acceptance of the species throughout the medium.
  • crazor89 - October 4, 2012 2:06 a.m.

    Love this game! Played it so much when I was younger. And I agree with a lot of the other people on here, the music is fantastic, takes me back to a simpler time :)
  • sbisset - October 4, 2012 1:34 a.m.

    "Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!" Also why is it people cant read an article about "The best games made" without bringing up Ocarina of Time or FF7. There are more games out there than just those 2, and Monkey Island was definitely in the top 10 of all time. Maybe just appreciate the effort taken to write the review and learn something. Everyone already knows about Zelda games, no-one cares.
  • el_kazzanova - October 3, 2012 6:57 p.m.

    how do u guys choose what game is "one of the greatest games of all time"? and also... i havent seen a legend of zelda: ocarina of time one.
  • bash street kid - October 3, 2012 6:55 p.m.

    Aye, you'll hear no dissent from me on this one. Just hearing the music makes again makes me go all fuzzy and nostalgic. I daren't try the remake though.
  • GR_SophiaTong - October 3, 2012 9:59 p.m.

    remake is great, and you can swap back and forth from the old look to the new one with a button. The intro music is the best.
  • KidKatana - October 4, 2012 2:36 a.m.

    I feel I'd be doing the rest of the game a disservice if I said the theme music was the best thing about it, but it totally is.
  • Mooshon - October 3, 2012 2:54 p.m.

    Definitely one of the greatest. Back in the day I used to share time on the ol' Amiga 500 with my brother. An hour each on rotation, (stopped the scraps) during which Monkey Island was the game of choice. Competing to complete first holds some of my best gaming memories.
  • pin316 - October 4, 2012 12:14 a.m.

    Hells yes - all about the amiga version...4 x 748kb floppy discs (which was nothing compared to the epicness of the 12 x 748kb floppy discs that MI2 came on!), and just brilliant in every way. I loved the fact that it was also before internet guides became commonplace - when you solved a particularly difficult puzzle you damn well earned it! I love the remake - the amiga soundtrack was brilliant, and then years later I picked up a pc version and was horrified at the sheer awfulness of the music in comparison.
  • Redeater - October 3, 2012 1:10 p.m.

    "That's the second biggest monkey head I've ever seen!
  • dlam - October 3, 2012 6:03 p.m.

    "I am rubber, you are glue"
  • Bawheidbob - October 3, 2012 11:06 a.m.

    Got to agree with every word. One of my favourite games ever - The entire series was good. Will always remember getting Curse and just hearing that music again play at the start filled me with happiness. As for the first game i will always remember me and a mate completed it twice back to back in one sitting. Loved my point n clicks it is a shame we do not see them much any more - Many a time i wish i could erase the walkthroughs from my brain so i could play them again.
  • GR_SophiaTong - October 3, 2012 12:34 p.m.

    I blew through this game again in under 3 hours. I played it so much as a kid I could write a walkthrough off the top of my head.

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