Liked That, Play This: Five Adventure Games You Might Have Missed
Last year was one of the best for adventure gaming in recent memory. While more straight-laced, serious titles like Life Is Strange and SOMA gave players something to think about, lighthearted romps like Broken Age and Tales from the Borderlands harkened back to the humor of the genre’s LucasArts-dominated heyday.
A slew of hotly anticipated titles like Telltale’s Batman, the recently released Firewatch, and this Fall’s Tacoma prove adventure games show no sign of slowing down in 2016. The adventure renaissance may be in full swing, but it’s hard for newcomers to sift through the duds and find the genre’s gems. Fear not, weary traveler. Like the wizened old sage you’d encounter in the typical adventure-game tutorial, we have a map to help guide you toward the essential adventure games from the last few years.
Did You Like Tales From The Borderlands?
The exploratory nature of adventure games makes them the perfect home for treasure hunters. Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands tasked players with scouring the planet of Pandora for Vaults packed with unthinkable amounts of loot. Along the way, the game’s heroes, Rhys and Fiona, faced cutthroat betrayal from ruthless antagonists that, despite the game’s light tone, led to some of the most emotional moments in gaming last year.
While Zack and Wiki never reaches the same storytelling high points as Tales, fans of Telltale’s game will still find plenty to love about Zack and Wiki’s cast of cartoony pirates. It’s an over-the-top tale filled with treasure-seeking pirates, cannibalistic goblins and enchanted monkeys, so there’s a little something in there for everybody. The game’s clever implementations of the Wii’s motion control make it a treasure hunt worthy of embarking on. Exploration in Zack and Wiki is handled from a third-person perspective that shifts into first-person when the pirate hero picks up a usable object. Zack then imitates the player’s movement of the Wii remote.
Well-received by critics but criminally underplayed, Zack and Wiki’s simple yet deceptively deep puzzles cement the title as one of the premiere adventure games of the last console generation. If you’re one of the many who missed out on it the first time around, you’ll be happy to know the game’s now on the Wii U eShop.
Did You Like King's Quest?
King’s Quest had one of the most memorable openings in recent history. Graham’s journey down a well into the lair of a slumbering dragon, narrated as a bedtime story by the talented Christopher Lloyd, set the game’s atmosphere up perfectly as a delicate balance between swashbuckling humor and perilous storybook thrills.
The overlooked 2013 adventure game The Cave walks the thin tightrope between haunting and humorous, too. Directed by the legendary Ron Gilbert, The Cave is a 2D side scroller built around the Metriod-esque exploration of (what else?) a cave, with a diverse cast of playable characters to keep the whole thing feeling fresh. The twist here is the Cave itself is, quite literally, a character: Its disembodied voice narrates the journey, and a bizarre series of encounters between the player and various cave-dwellers inject a bit of humor into the atmospheric experience.
The Cave is available across a wide variety of platforms including Steam, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U.
Did You Like Until Dawn?
Until Dawn’s cast of dim-witted teenagers might seem cliché at first, especially to horror fans. But the characters in Until Dawn fit perfectly with the game’s classic grindhouse horror vibe, and as the story progresses they develop into compelling, sympathetic characters who are clearly in way over their heads. It’s slasher-flick fiction at its finest.
The five protagonists in I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream aren’t kids, but their growing pains are far from over. Trapped for eternity by an omniscient supercomputer, each of the five are haunted by some horrific event in their past, some so dark that they breach topics even modern video games won’t touch. It’s only by working through these issues that Gorrister, Nimdok, Ted, Benny, and Ellen can finally be free. In a way, it’s the perfect complement to Until Dawn’s jump-scare driven narrative, as it explores the ramifications of trauma while the latter explores the experience of trauma itself.
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream was recently rereleased for iOS, Steam and GoG. You can read more about the game's development in our GI Classic feature here.
Did You Like Broken Age?
Broken Age’s colorful characters inhabit a world so imaginative it’s hard to describe with words. From Vella’s peaceful little baking-themed hometown of Sugar Bunting to Shay’s cuddly, fabric-themed mothership, the world of Broken Age was rich, bizarre, and unforgettable.
Similarly, 2011’s hidden gem Kentucky Route Zero’s magical realism makes its characters and environment feel like something out of a lucid dream. The cryptic tale of truck driver Conway’s journey down a fictional highway is a fairy tale with a distinctly Southern twang. Instead of simply watching these eccentric characters, Kentucky Route Zero asks you to participate in their story, to mold and shape the motivations for their bizarre actions in a way that makes sense, personally, to you, irreparably connecting you to its eclectic cast in a way other adventure games simply can’t. With no puzzles in the traditional sense, Kentucky Route Zero leans heavily on atmosphere and text-based dialogue to craft a participatory story.
Kentucky Route Zero is split into five acts, and with the fourth chapter being released later this year now’s the perfect time to hop on the highway and catch up with one of the best-kept secrets in adventure games.
Did You Like Life Is Strange?
What is it about time travel that makes it such an interesting backdrop for adventure games? Thematically, time-travel stories usually deal with the vast, unforeseen consequences that our decisions have on the world around us, a concept that’s rich for exploration in a genre that’s focused more on player choice than player action. Life is Strange tasks a high schooler named Maxine with using her time-bending powers to prevent a superstorm from destroying her home – big shoes to fill for anyone, let alone a teenager.
The Silent Age’s unassuming protagonist Joe doesn’t seem up to snuff at first glance, either. Silent Age opens with a montage briefly exploring the temporary odd jobs Joe has occupied in the past before settling on his current career as a janitor at Archon Laboratories. But as fate would have it, tragedy strikes. Soon Joe finds himself in a position where only he can stop the total destruction of the world using a time machine found at Archon. What follows is a point-and-click quest through time, with item-based puzzles fueling most of the game’s touch-based gameplay.
The Silent Age is a relatively short iOS game, but its dark tone and elegantly simple presentation are sure to leave a lasting impression on science fiction fanatics.
If you want to read about our most anticipated adventure games for the upcoming year, head over to our top 10 list here. If you want to hear more about adventure games from one of the most prominent creators in gaming, read our Broken Age Afterwords with Tim Schafer.