The lights are on
I love text adventures. I’m probably the biggest dork at GI when it comes them, seeing as I used to have a column about them over at Playboy and even wrote a couple myself. It’s been fascinating to watch the genre bounce back after laying dormant for many years, thanks to the rise of digital distribution, basic programs like Twine, and growing mobile games market.
If you’re curious about the genre but have never dived in, this guide will serve as a pretty good starting point, with 10 great recent text adventures that are definitely worth your time.
80 Days80 Days is an interactive, steampunky take on Jules Vernes’ classic novel Around The World In 80 Days. The game is massive and its branching paths give it a lot of replay value, as two adventures will hardly ever be the same. Though the game is available on mobile and PC, I recommend playing the mobile version when you’re on the go for a more thematically immersive experience.
Sun DogsSun Dogs is billed as a “transhumanist adventure” where you explore the solar system. To say too much about Sun Dogs would spoil the fun, but it’s definitely a heady type of game, and a unique experience worth playing if you’re into sci-fi.
Sun Dogs is available on PC.
LifelineLifeline is a game with a fascinating concept: you’re communicating with an astronaut named Taylor who’s become stranded on a mysterious planet. Taylor needs your instructions to stay alive. The game plays out in conversation form: you choose where they go and what choices they end up making. It’s a tense experience, one worth playing if you like suspenseful scenarios and making tough decisions.
Lifeline is available on iOS and Android.
The House AbandonThe House Abandon is a short horror game where you play a text adventure on an old CRT monitor in a spooky house, with the environment changing depending on your actions. It’s spooky, it’s meta, oh, and it’s free. Play this one without the lights on, kids.
You can grab The House Abandon here.
Device 6Device 6 straddles the line between interactive novel and text adventure but it’s so good we’re going to make an exception and include it on here anyway because wow. Simogo’s mobile title takes full advantage of the platform, dropping you into a scenario dripping with espionage and wordplay, forcing you to examine things from every angle and use your mind to uncover the game’s mysteries.
Device 6 is available on iOS.
Horse Master: The Game Of Horse MasteryAre you a fan of the strange and the grotesque? Love beautiful prose? Do you like horses? Tom McHenry is billed as a horse raising simulator but it dives headlong into the absurd soon after presenting its initial concept.
You can play Horse Master here for free.
A Dark RoomA Dark Room is a minimalist game about surviving in the post-apocalypse at all costs. It starts in a small dark room. And then a fire is lit. And then there’s a village, and then there’s a forest, and then there’s a world. It’s a game all about expansion and it’s a fascinating, well-crafted experience that does so much with so little.
You can buy ADR on iOS/Android or you can play the prototype browser version for free here. You can also read my Virtual Life column on the game and its theme of recovering from loss here.
Creatures Such As WeIt’s hard to pin down Creatures Such As We to a single genre. It’s goofy and occasionally heartbreaking. It’s a dating sim at first glance but also something much more. Play it here and try not to shed any tears.
Fallen LondonBefore they took to the high zees with Sunless Sea, Failbetter crafted a massive text adventure taking place in the same universe called Fallen London. Choose your identity. Choose your skills. Survive the dark, fantastical streets of this underworld and make a name for yourself.
Fallen London’s a great time, especially for fans of dark fantasy. You can play it in your browser or on your phone.
Digital: A Love StoryDigital: A Love Story is a text adventure from 2010 by Christine Love, who would later go on to develop Ladykiller In A Bind. Digital is a linear, interactive short story that takes place “five minutes into the future of 1988,” and has you playing around with bulletin board systems to try and solve a mystery.
It’s a good time, and it’s free. You can play it here.
Want to read more about text adventures? Check out this history of the adventure game genre I wrote.
Email the author Javy Gwaltney, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.