Adventure game

Adventure game

An adventure game is a type of video game characterized by investigation, exploration, puzzle-solving, interaction with game characters, and a focus on narrative rather than reflex-based challenges. The term originates from the 1970s game "Adventure",citation | last = Rollings | first = Andrew | last2 = Adams | first2 = Ernest | year = 2003 | title = Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design | publisher = New Riders | isbn = 1592730019 | page = 443 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-10] citation | last=Kent | first=Allen | last2=Williams | first2=James G | title=Encyclopedia of microcomputers | year=1989 | volume=3 | publisher=CRC Press | ISBN=0824727029 | page=143 | url= | accessdate=2008-07-25 ] and retains a narrow definition based on the style of gameplay, and not the theme or subject matter (unlike adventure films and adventure novels).

The adventure genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, such as literature and film. Adventure games encompass a wide variety of literary genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, and comedy. Nearly all adventure games are designed for a single player, since the heavy emphasis on story and character makes multi-player design difficult.

The genre's popularity peaked during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when many considered it to be among the most technically advanced genres, and it is now sometimes considered to be a niche genre. [cite web | url= | title=The Circle of Life: An Analysis of the Game Product Lifecycle | publisher= [] | date=2007-05-15 | accessdate=2008-07-15] According to the Entertainment Software Association, in 2007 Adventure Games comprised 4.3% of "Video Game Super Genres" by units sold in the UScite web | url= | title=2008 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data: Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry | accessdate=2008-10-10 | format=PDF ] (up from 3.4% in 2006cite web | url= | title=2007 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data: Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry | accessdate=2008-10-10 | format=PDF ] ) and 5% of best-selling "Computer Game Super Genres" (down from 5.7% in 2006), although it is not clear how the "Super Genre" was defined.

Games that fuse adventure elements with action gameplay elements are sometimes referred to as adventure games (a popular example is Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda" series). Adventure game purists regard this as incorrect and call such hybrids action-adventures. In Europe, games which fuse action and adventure elements are sometimes called "arcade adventure" games. The term "adventure game" is used with the same meaning in North America, Europe, and Japan, and is regarded as pure genre in all regions.


Early development

The first adventure games to appear were text adventures (later called interactive fiction), which typically use a verb-noun parser to interact with the user. These evolved from early mainframe titles like "Hunt the Wumpus" (Gregory Yob) and "Adventure" (Crowther and Woods) into commercial games which were playable on personal computers, such as Infocom's widely popular "Zork" series. Some companies that were important in bringing out text adventure games were Adventure International, Infocom, Level 9 Computing, Magnetic Scrolls and Melbourne House, with Infocom being the most well known.

Adventure (1975-1977)

In the mid 1970s, programmer, caver, and role-player William Crowther developed a program called "Adventure". Crowther, an employee at Bolt, Beranek and Newmancitation | last = Montfort | first = Nick | author-link = Nick Montfort | year = 2003 | title = Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction | publisher = MIT Press | isbn = 0262633183 | page = 10 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-11] (a Boston company involved with ARPANET routers) used the company's PDP-10 to create the game, which required 300 kilobytes of memory.citation | last = Cameron | first = Keith | year = 1989 | title = Computer Assisted Language Learning: Program Structure and Principles | publisher = Intellect Books | isbn = 0893915602 | page = 40 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-11] cite web | url= | title=Scott Adams Adventureland | accessdate=2008-07-10]

The game used a text interface to create an interactive adventure through an underground cave system, based on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. Crowther's work was later modified and expanded by programmer Don Woods using the SAIL computer at Stanford, and the game became wildly popular among early computer enthusiasts, spreading across the nascent ARPANET throughout the 1970s.

The combination of realistic cave descriptions and fantastical elements proved immensely appealing, and defined the adventure game genre for decades to come. Swords, magic words, puzzles involving objects, and vast underground realms would all become staples of the text adventure genre.

The "Armchair adventure" soon spread beyond college campuses as the microcomputing movement gained steam. Numerous variations of "Adventure" appeared throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, with some of these later versions being re-christened "Colossal Adventure" or "Colossal Caves". [citation | last = Montfort | first = Nick | author-link = Nick Montfort | year = 2003 | title = Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction | publisher = MIT Press | isbn = 0262633183 | page = 88 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-11] [citation | last = Nelson | first = Graham | author-link = Graham Nelson | last2 = Rees | first2 = Gareth | author2-link = Gareth Rees (software developer) | year = 2001 | title = The Inform Designer's Manual | edition = 4th | publisher = Gareth Sanderson | isbn = 0971311900 | page = 349 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-11]

Adventure International (1978-1985)

One of the many fans of the Colossal Cave was programmer Scott Adams. Upon his first introduction to "Adventure", Adams spent almost ten days traversing the game before he achieved "Adventurer Grandmaster" status, the title bestowed on those who scored a perfect 350 in Crowther and Woods' version.citation | title=Pirate Adventure | magazine=Byte: The Small Systems Journal | date=December 1980 | year=1980 | month=December | volume=5 | issue=12 | publisher=Gale Group ] cite web | title=FORTRAN source code for Crowther and Woods' version of Adventure| url= | format=tar.gz | accessdate=2008-07-18]

Once he had completed the game, Adams began to wonder how a game like "Adventure" could be developed on a home computer like his TRS-80.citation | last=Kidd | first=Graeme | magazine=Crash Magazine | title=Great Scott | issue=15 | month=April | year=1985 | url= | accessdate=2008-07-15] The main obstacle was that home computers such as the TRS-80 did not actually have sufficient memory to run a large game like Adventure. Adams worked around this limitation by developing a high-level language and an interpreter written in BASIC, an approach that would also allow code to be reused to develop further adventure games.

In 1978, Adams founded Adventure International with his wife Alexis in order to sell his games. His first game, "Adventureland", was a version of "Adventure" for the TRS-80 that would become the first commercially sold adventure game.citation | last = Montfort | first = Nick | author-link = Nick Montfort | year = 2003 | title = Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction | publisher = MIT Press | isbn = 0262633183 | page = 121 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-16] His second game, "Pirate Adventure", was an original game in a similar style to "Adventure" — its source code, written in BASIC, was published in the December 1980 issue of Byte magazine. It wasn't until his third game, "Mission Impossible", that Adams began programming in assembly language to improve the speed of his software.

Adventure International went on to produce a total of twelve adventure games before a downturn in the industry led to the company's bankruptcy in 1985. [cite web | url= | title=GameSetInterview: Adventure International's Scott Adams | publisher= [ GameSetWatch] | date=2006-07-19 | accessdate=2008-07-16 ]

Infocom (1979-1989)

Dave Lebling and Marc Blank were students at MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science when they discovered Crowther and Woods' "Adventure".citation | last=Sloane | first=Sarah | title=Digital Fictions: Storytelling in a Material World | date=2000 | publisher=Greenwood Publishing Group | page=77 | url= | accessdate=2008-07-18 ] Together with Tim Anderson and Bruce Daniels they began to develop a similar game, "Zork", which also started life on a PDP-10 minicomputer and was distributed across the ARPANET. On graduation the students, together with their professor Albert Vezza, decided to form a company to market "Zork" for home computers, and on 22 June 1979 Tim Anderson, Joel Berez, Marc Blank, Mike Broos, Scott Cutler, Stu Galley, Dave Lebling, J. C. R. Licklider, Chris Reeve, and Albert Vezza created Infocom.citation | last = Montfort | first = Nick | author-link = Nick Montfort | year = 2003 | title = Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction | publisher = MIT Press | isbn = 0262633183 | pages = 125-126 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-11]

The developers faced the same difficulties as Scott Adams in porting "Zork" to microcomputers: The PDP-10 version, which would reach the size of a megabyte, was enormous for the time, and the Apple II and the TRS-80, the potential targets, each had only 16 kb of RAM. They solved this problem by breaking up the game into three episodes, and developing ZIL ("Zork Implementation Language"), which could function on any computer by using Infocom's Z-machine, the first virtual machine used in a commercial product,citation | last = Montfort | first = Nick | author-link = Nick Montfort | year = 2003 | title = Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction | publisher = MIT Press | isbn = 0262633183 | page = 127 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-11] as an intermediary.

In November 1980 the new "Zork I: The Great Underground Empire" was made available for the PDP-11; One month later, it was released for the TRS-80, with more than 1,500 copies sold between that date and September 1981. That same year, Bruce Daniels finalized the Apple II version and more than 6,000 additional copies were sold. "Zork I" would go on to sell over a million copies.

The company continued developing text adventure games even as it opened a department for the development of professional software, a department which would never be profitable. High-quality games, with massive, intelligent plots, unequaled syntax analyzers, and meticulous documentation as integral parts of the game, succeeded in all genres.

The writer Douglas Adams produced two games with Infocom, the first based on his popular "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series and a lesser known adventure game called "Bureaucracy", inspired by the difficulties he encountered in moving house.

With the power of microcomputers increasing and the demand for graphics (which it refused to include in its games until 1987), Infocom saw sales decline and in 1989, having been swallowed up by Activision in 1986, the Infocom division had shrunk to a mere ten employees, compared to 100 at its peak. Although later titles were marketed under the Infocom brand, the Infocom division was shut down, and games developed after 1989 would have no link with the original team.

The demise of Infocom signalled the end of the commercial age of Interactive Fiction, and text parsers were rarely seen in games after 1989. Despite this, the low barrier to entry has ensured that a vibrant and creative community of IF authors continues to thrive on the Internet, using languages such as Inform, which generates files that can be read by Infocom's own Z-machine.

Graphical development

Graphics were introduced in 1980 by a new company called On-Line Systems, which later changed its name to Sierra On-Line. Early graphic adventures, such as Sierra's "Mystery House" (1980), employed basic vector graphics, but these soon gave way to bitmap graphics drawn by professional artists. Examples include "Return of Heracles" by Stuart Smith (1982) (which faithfully portrayed Greek mythology), "Sherwood Forest" (1982), Dale Johnson's "Masquerade" (1983), Antonio Antiochia's "Transylvania" (1982, re-released in 1984), Sierra's "King's Quest" (1984), and Adventure Construction Set (1985), one of the early hits of Electronic Arts.

A number of games were released on 8-bit home computer formats in the 1980s that advanced on the text adventure style originated with games like "Colossal Cave Adventure" and, in a similar manner to Sierra, added moveable (often directly-controllable) characters to a parser or input-system similar to traditional adventures. Examples of this are Gargoyle Games's "Heavy on the Magick" (1986) which has a text-input system with an animated display screen, and the later Magic Knight games such as "Spellbound" (1985) which uses a window-menu system to allow for text-adventure style input.

In 1984 a new kind of adventure games emerged following the launch of the Apple Macintosh with its point-and-click interface. First out was the innovative but relatively unknown Enchanted Scepters the same year, then in 1985 ICOM Simulations released "Deja Vu" that completely banished the text parser for a point-and-click interface. In 1987 the well-known second follow-up "Shadowgate" was released, and LucasArts also entered the field with "Maniac Mansion" - a point-and-click adventure that gained a strong following. A prime example of LucasArts' work is the "Monkey Island" series.

The introduction of such high-quality bitmap graphics required more substantial storage capacity with many adventure games requiring several diskettes for installation, which would be the case until the CD-ROM made its appearance.

ierra (1979-1999)

At the end of the 1970s, Ken Williams sought to set up a company for enterprise software for the market-dominating Apple II computer. One day, he took a teletype terminal to his residence to work on the development of an accounting program. Rummaging through a catalogue, he found a program called "Colossal Cave Adventure". He and his wife Roberta both played it all the way through and their encounter with Crowther's game would have a strong influence on video-gaming history.

Having finished "Colossal Cave Adventure", they began to search for something similar, but found the market underdeveloped. Roberta Williams liked the concept of a textual adventure very much, but she thought that the player would have a more satisfying experience with images and began to think of her own game. She thus conceived "Mystery House", the first graphical adventure game, a detective story inspired by Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None".

Ken spent a few nights developing the game on his Apple II, and in the end they made packets with ziploc bags containing the game's 5¼-inch disk and a photocopied paper describing the game. They sold it via a local software shop and to their great surprise, "Mystery House" was an enormous success. Though Ken believed that the gaming market would be less of a growth market than the professional software market, he persevered with games. Thus, in 1980, the Williamses founded "On-Line Systems" which would become "Sierra On-Line" in 1982. The company would be a major actor in the video-gaming of the 1980s.

Sierra soon took things further. Until this point adventure games were in the first person; images presented the décor as seen through the eyes of the player. Williams's company would introduce a new feature in the "King's Quest" series: a game in the third person. Taking advantage of the techniques developed in action games which had progressed in parallel, Ken introduced an animated character who represented the player in the game and whom the player controlled. With the "3D Animated Adventures", a new standard was born, and nearly all the industry latched onto it. The commands were still entered on the keyboard and analyzed by a syntax interpreter, as with text adventure games.

Soon after, Sierra had multiple successful series of adventure games running, including King's Quest, Police Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and Hero's Quest (Quest for Glory), with each containing numerous games. A few years after these series had started, the classic graphics above the command cursor was fully replaced with "point and click" game-play and VGA graphics. Other notable series include Phantasmagoria and Shivers; Sierra's last and most critically acclaimed series was the Gabriel Knight series, which began in 1993 and ended with Sierra's last adventure game in 1999.

Sierra would develop new games and push the boundaries of adventure gaming until its purchase by Cendant in 1998. Then in 1998, Cendant sold off their entire interactive software branch for $1 billion to Havas Interactive, a subsidiary of Vivendi Universal.

Sierra pursued technologies for their games (such as hand-drawn backgrounds, rotoscoped animation, and in-game video) that were more advanced than most other genres at the time. However, the release of the Sony PlayStation marked the end of the adventure game era; as 3D became the dominant graphics format, the mostly 2D adventure market began to shrink.

Through its almost 20 year involvement with the adventure game business, Sierra employed several notable game designers, including Roberta Williams, Jane Jensen, Al Lowe, Scott Murphy, Jeff Tunnell, and Lori Ann and Corey Cole.

LucasArts (1986-2000)

In 1987, when nobody seemed able to overcome Sierra's power, a programmer named Ron Gilbert working for the company Lucasfilm Games — which has since become LucasArts — created the script-writing system SCUMM which used a point-and-click interface similar to ICOM Simulations' MacVenture games first introduced in 1985. Instead of having to type a command to the syntax analyzer, this system was controlled by means of text icons. To interact with his environment, the player clicked on an order, on an icon representing an object in his inventory, or on a part of the image. This approach was first used by LucasArts for the game "Maniac Mansion" to great effect.

LucasArts would come to differentiate itself from its main competitor, the giant Sierra, by rethinking certain adventure game concepts to improve playability. Gone was the possibility to die during the course of the game and everything was done to ensure that the player was never completely stuck. Finally, LucasArts abandoned the system of points indicating the player's progress in the adventure. Many adventure games from other companies followed LucasArt's lead in these changes.

Gilbert's attempts, "Maniac Mansion" and "Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders", however, remained in 16 colors (though the FM Towns version of Zak was 256 color), and the point-and-click engine still had vestiges of text parsing, since the player would still have to construct sentences using clickable keywords combined with objects in the game. It was "The Secret Of Monkey Island" that was finally a complete work, with 256 colors, a more modern point-and-click engine, a dialogue system with optional responses, puzzles solved with items, original graphics, atmosphere music, and a characteristic sense of humor. Above all, the script was written as for a film (which could be done in-house) and the dialogue and inventory served the needs of the script. The 1993 release of "Day of the Tentacle", a remarkable success, began a line of cartoon-style games, including the very influential "Sam & Max Hit the Road" as well as the acclaimed "Full Throttle", which also heralded the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of adventure games.

Steven Spielberg collaborated with LucasArts in the creation of "The Dig" — a science fiction adventure game that the director had envisioned turning into a film.

Taking advantage of advances in action games and integrating an engine similar to those of first-person shooters, the company took a new turn in 1998 with the game "Grim Fandango", where it abandoned the cartoon style and its SCUMM scripting environment for a new 3D game system named GrimE.

Cyan Worlds (1987-present)

Cyan, later Cyan Worlds, were among the first developers to take advantage of the CD-ROM. Their first game, a simple children's adventure game called "The Manhole", became the first computer game to use the medium in 1989. In 1993, Cyan released "Myst", a first-person adventure that used the extra storage capacity of the CD-ROM to include pre-rendered three-dimensional graphics, video, and audio. Despite being the first game to be published solely on CD-ROM, thereby requiring a CD-ROM drive,cite web|author=Staff|date=2000-08-01|url=|title=RC Retroview: Myst|publisher=IGN|accessdate=2008-04-21] cite web|author=Parrish, Jeremy|url=|title=When SCUMM Ruled the Earth||accessdate=2008-05-02] the game would go on to become highly successful,cite web |url= |title=The Sims overtakes Myst |accessdate=2008-03-17 |author=Walker, Trey |date=2002-03-22 |publisher=GameSpot |publisher=CNET Networks] and to have a profound influence on many adventure games that came after it.

"Myst" was a highly atypical game for the time. It had no clear goals, little personal or object interaction, and a greater emphasis on exploration, and on scientific and mechanical puzzles. Part of the game's success was because it did not appear to be aimed at an adolescent male audience, but instead a mainstream adult audience. "Myst" for many years held the all-time record for computer game sales (it sold over nine million copies on all platforms), a feat not surpassed until the release of "The Sims" in 2000.

There is debate among adventure gamers as to whether or not "Myst" and similar games, such as its contemporary "The Journeyman Project", should be considered at all a part of the adventure genre, as their focus on abstract puzzle solving and exploration in the place of character interaction and development sets them apart from what previously characterized adventure games. It is sometimes categorized as a puzzle adventure.

Japanese adventure games

One of the earliest Japanese adventure games and visual novels was Enix's murder mystery game "Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken" ("The Portpia Serial Murder Case") in 1985. Hideo Kojima's classic "Snatcher" (1988) and "Policenauts" (1994) games were for a long time, the highest regarded Japanese adventure games in the West, and it is only in recent years that visual novels were released in the West in any significant number, particularly on the Nintendo DS console with mystery-solving titles such as the "Ace Attorney" series (which began on the "GameBoy Advance" in 2001) and "" (2007).

Prior to the Nintendo DS, there were also several other Japanese adventure games on the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 which were released in the West, such as Sega's "Shenmue" (1999) and Konami's "Shadow of Memories" (2001). However, these were not visual novels but were instead 3D third-person adventure games, unlike most other adventure games at the time which were either in 2D or in 3D first-person view.

While most Japanese adventure games are graphical, there have also been several text-based ones. One such example is "" (1996), which served as a "gaiden" (side story) to the "Chrono" series of console role-playing games.

Modern era


For much of the 1980s, adventure games were one of the most popular types of computer games produced. However, their US market share drastically declined in the mid-1990s; action games took a greater share of the US market, particularly first person shooters such as "Doom" and "Half-Life" which progressively began featuring strong, story-structured solo games. This slump in popularity led many publishers and developers to see adventure games as financially unfeasible in comparison. Text adventures met the same fate much earlier, but their simplicity has allowed them to thrive as non-commercially developed interactive fiction.

Few recent commercial adventure games have been hits US but still very popular in Europe (95% of all adventures released in US are in fact translated European products). It has been suggested that this is because the "average" gamer today was weaned on console video games and first person shooters rather than the "traditional" computer games cherished by the original crop of adventure gaming enthusiasts. Another explanation offered states that MMORPGs, which offer a persistent multiplayer world, have at least partially supplanted the genre.

Still another possible cause of the genre's downturn may lie with the nature of 3D graphics themselves, which for much of the 90's and early 2000s tended to be more oriented toward fast movement than graphical detail. Conversely, however, if a game were to implement more detailed but static imagery, this could be perceived as technologically regressive. Some question therefore exists of the adventure game making a comeback with recent advances in technology.

Adventure games have ceased to be the flagship titles they once were, and high profile publishers like Sierra Entertainment and LucasArts have either disappeared or shifted towards publishing titles developed by other companies. However, adventure games continue to be made in the 2000s, primarily outside North America where the genre is still popular. Games such as "The Longest Journey" by Funcom and Microïds' "Syberia" with rich classical elements of the genre still garnered high critical acclaims. The "Myst" series came to a close in September 2005 with the release of "" by its original developer, Cyan Worlds. (A possible exception to this is Cyan's Myst Online.) Adventure games based on the Nancy Drew books are published by Her Interactive and comprise a series of over fifteen titles published since 1998.

New directions

Although traditional adventure games are rare today in the US market, action-adventure games that combine elements of adventure games with action games are quite common. There are also similarities between adventure and role-playing games, particularly those in a more modern, story- and character-based mold. Computer role-playing games in this vein have been published more frequently since the success of "Baldur's Gate" in 1998, and console role-playing games have generally been quite focused on plot and story, thanks in part to the success of the "Final Fantasy" series.

In 2005, "Fahrenheit" (titled "Indigo Prophecy" in the US and Canada) was released by Quantic Dream. An adventure game with a highly-original interface, many believe that the game will help renew interest in the adventure game genre. This followed the prior release of their own and Sega's Shenmue games, which were also adventure games with direct character control interfaces.

There is something of a revival of the adventure game online, in both a fairly traditional style, such as "Mystery Of Time And Space", and in 3-dimensional games, such as "Crimson Room".

The Nintendo DS and its unique features have sparked a renewed interest in pure adventure game content, with the release of "Trace Memory" and ' in 2005 and the release of in 2006. IGN has noted that Nintendo's Wii Remote would be well-suited for the genre, and could see some ground-breaking releases in that vein, such as the 2007 release of '.

In October 2006, online game company Telltale Games, made up primarily of ex-employees from LucasArts, released their first installment of . This episodic game series utilized 3D graphics, but was played in the 'point and click' style of older LucasArts titles. It was designed to be exclusively distributed online, and featured characters from the classic game 'Sam & Max Hit the Road.' The series was successful, leading to a retail release of the full season and the development of a second series, . Telltale was also responsible for a based on Jeff Smith's Bone comics.


Adventure games consist of puzzles embedded in a narrative framework.citation | title=What are adventure games? | url=,149 | | date=2002-10-15 | accessdate=2008-07-26] The player navigates through a story, solving puzzles in order to progress and experience more of the story; the puzzles may be integrated into the story or otherwise, but puzzles that do not draw the player out of the narrative are considered examples of good design. [citation | title=Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light | last=Todd | first=Deborah | year=2007 | publisher=A K Peters | page=105 | ISBN=1568813189]

Even early definitions of adventure games highlight the embedding of puzzles, with one describing adventures as "a puzzle wrapped in a maze," evoking such environments as "Adventure"'s "maze of twisty little passages, all alike." Other elements cited in definitions of adventure games include exploration, the collection or manipulation of objects, and an immersive environment.

Almost as much as the elements they include, adventure games are defined by those they do not. The "Adventure Gamers" definition states that "Adventure games are not: role-playing games that involve action, team-building and points management; 3D action-adventure games such as "Tomb Raider"; side-scroller action games such as "Mario" or "Rayman"; puzzle games like "Pandora’s Box" or "Tetris"."

While there are some adventure games with action elements, such as "Full Throttle" and the "Broken Sword" games, these elements remain secondary to the narrative and puzzles. In the book "Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design", the authors state that "this [reduced emphasis on combat] doesn't mean that there is no conflict in adventure games ... only that combat is not the primary activity." Action-adventure games such as the "Tomb Raider" series may contain puzzles, narrative and exploration, but the focus on combat and platforming preclude them from being classified as pure adventures.

Role-playing games with strong narrative and puzzle-solving elements are sometimes classified as RPG-adventures (for example, "Quest for Glory" [citation | url= | title=Hero's Quest: So You Want To Be A Hero | publisher=MobyGames | accessdate=2008-08-05] and "" [citation | url= | title=On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episodic Adventures | accessdate=2008-08-05] ). These games are again distinct from adventures due to their focus on skill systems and combat; as noted by Rollings and Adams, "an adventure game doesn't offer a process to be managed or an opponent to be defeated through stategy and tactics." Puzzles in an RPG-adventure may also require a minimum skill level (for example, requiring a "Climbing" skill above 5 to climb a tree), bringing a non-cognitive element to puzzle solving that is at odds with the ethos of adventure games.

The boundaries of the adventure game genre are not well-defined, and some games inevitably occupy a grey area. "" has a low degree of problem solving and significant combat and stealth sections, but a strong narrative; [citation | url= | title=Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Review | publisher=Eurogamer | date=2006-05-21 | accessdate=2008-08-05] "Insecticide" suffers a different kind of ambiguity, in that it alternates between action levels and adventure sections rather than blending the two together. [citation | url=,903/ | title=Insecticide, Part 1 review | publisher=Adventure Gamers | accessdate=2008-08-05]

Text adventure

Text adventures, also known as Interactive Fiction, convey the game's story through passages of text, revealed to the player in response to typed instructions. Early text adventures, such as "Adventure" and Scott Adams' games, used a simple verb-noun parser to interpret these instructions, allowing the player to interact with objects at a basic level, for example by typing "get key" or "open door". Later text adventures, and modern interactive fiction, can interpret far more complex sentences.

Graphic adventure

Graphic adventures are adventure games that use graphics to convey the environment to the player. Games under the graphic adventure banner may have a variety of input types, from text parsers to touch screen interfaces.

Point-and-click adventures are a common type of graphic adventure in which the player uses a pointer, typically a mouse, to interact with the environment and solve puzzles. This input method remains popular in the genre, and is well-suited to interaction with the environment, as opposed to direct control schemes which emphasize character control.

Puzzle adventure

Puzzle adventures are adventure games that put a strong emphasis on puzzle solving, at the expense of elements such as item gathering, item use, character interaction, or plot. Instead, they typically emphasize exploration and deciphering the proper use of complex mechanisms, often resembling Rube Goldberg machines.

The plot of these games can be obscure, and may be conveyed only through interaction with the puzzles. Many puzzle adventures are played from a first person perspective with the player "moving" between still pre-rendered 3D images, sometimes combined with short animations or video. Examples of the genre include ', ', "Riddle of the Sphinx", "Zack and Wiki", and "Myst", which pioneered this game style.

One kind of puzzle adventure is the Escape the room sub-genre, consisting of short games where the sole object is to find a way to escape from a room. These games are typically implemented in a graphic point-and-click style, which (owing to their popularity on the Internet) are often delivered in Adobe Flash format. Examples of the sub-genre include "Mystery of time and space" and "Crimson room".

Visual novel

A nihongo|visual novel|ビジュアルノベル|bijuaru noberu is an adventure game featuring mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art. As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays. Visual novels are especially prevalent in Japan, where they make up nearly 70% of PC games released. [cite web|date=2006-02-08| url =| title = AMN and Anime Advanced Announce Anime Game Demo Downloads| publisher = Hirameki International Group Inc.| accessdate = 2006-12-01] They are rarely produced for video game consoles, but the more popular games are sometimes ported to systems such as the Sega Dreamcast or the Playstation 2. The market for visual novels outside of Japan, however, is limited.

Visual novels have been a staple of PC software sales in Japan and other East Asian countries for over a decade, so much so that popular titles are open ported to consoles, and some even have manga and anime based upon them; such titles include "Kanon" (1999), "Air" (2000), "Kimi ga Nozomu Eien" (2001), "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni" (2002) and "Fate/stay night" (2004).

Japanese adventure games belonging to the visual novel genre are more of an interactive novel than a conventional game, and as such have a tighter focus on narrative and more limited puzzle features than their Western counterparts. Instead of point-and-click or text parser interfaces, visual novels are characterised by the use of on-screen menus for everything from interaction to navigation, and the story-lines usually have a strong romantic aspect (with "dating sims" often being the main subcategory of the genre).

Visual novels are sometimes called "dating sims" in the West, because many visual novels track statistics that the player must build in order to advance the plot. This is also because many visual novels permit a variety of endings, allowing more dynamic reactions to the player's actions than a typical linear adventure plot. The cultural differences between Western and Japanese adventure games are closely related to those in role-playing games, such as the storyline being more linear and tightly-scripted in the latter.

Games with unique elements

A few adventure games have defined themselves as "original" because they distanced themselves from the main adventure genre and put focus on other elements.

* "Blade Runner": Based on the highly successful Ridley Scott film, the Blade Runner game was the first adventure game (and one of the few ever) to use randomized events and encounters to always change the course of the game. It was also one of the few adventure games that featured drastically different endings.
* "The Prisoner" (Edu-Ware): Designed by David Mullich, this 1980 game, loosely based upon the television series of the same name, purposefully broke all the conventions of text-based adventures with its abstract "text graphics", hypnotic melodies, intellectual themes, conversational language parser, and attempting to trick the player with deceptions such as simulated game errors. Its 1982 high-resolution graphics remake, "Prisoner 2", poked fun at classic adventure games like "Colossal Cave Adventure" and "Mystery House."
* "" (Sierra): Although it could be labeled as an action-adventure, "KQ8" was hard to define because the genre was not popular when it was released. Rather than relying solely on action, it combined many other elements including first-person and over-the-shoulder third-person views (the latter similar to that used in "Tomb Raider"), riddles, dialogue, inventory and RPG elements such as an extensive array of weapons and collecting experience.
* "Hampstead" and "Terrormolinos" (Melbourne House): Written by Trevor Lever and Peter Jones, these games introduced a new element of satirical humor to adventure games in the mid-80s. Although "Hampstead" contained no graphics, it was of its time in lampooning social climbing. "Terrormolinos" required the player to survive a two-week family holiday in Spain, and contained simple Donald McGill-style graphics which imitated Polaroid photographs by 'developing' on-screen.
* "The Colonel's Bequest" (Sierra): "Bequest" contained riddles and interaction with items and objects like an "ordinary" adventure, but the game focused primarily on communication with other characters and obtaining as much information as possible. The game advanced when the player was present at certain times and places that might reveal information on the plot and back-story. The full score would be attained not for only solving riddles, but for perceiving "suspicious" elements like the relationship between the characters, objects that changed position or traces of information about the killer's identity.
* "Loom" (Lucasfilm Games): This game was widely hailed as original and innovative, not only because of the plot, but for the entire concept. Unlike other adventure games, this one did not have an inventory of physical objects and puzzles that relied on combining those objects. Aside from basic movement and object-examining actions, the only interactions the player had with the game world was in casting spells, which was performed by playing musical notes in certain sequences.
* "The Last Express" (Brøderbund): Designed by Jordan Mechner, the designer of Prince of Persia, "Express" differed from an ordinary adventure game in that it took place in almost complete real-time, meaning that the player had to make split second decisions. In addition, the non-player characters were semi-intelligent, and moved around on their own schedules regardless of the player's progress. The game took place within the crowded confines of the Orient Express and featured a few action sequences that did not require much dexterity to complete. As well, the game mostly lacked inventory items and most of the game required the player to advance by talking to the other passengers and learn about their back-stories, rather than solving traditional puzzles.
* "Suspended" (Infocom): Written by Michael Berlyn, "Suspended" differed from most games in that rather than the player's character being free to move about and interact with the game world directly, the player's character spends the entire game in a state of suspended animation (hence the title) and can only interact by controlling the actions of a number of robot surrogates. Each robot has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and describes the same rooms and objects in completely different terms based upon those specializations. The game box also included a map with playing pieces to keep track of where the robots were located in the underground complex.
* "Zack and Wiki", released for the Wii console in 2007 and 2008 in various regions, required the player to use the Wii Remote to directly manipulate the environment in order to solve puzzles. [cite web | url= | title=Nintendo to publish Zack & Wiki, Ace Attorney in Europe | publisher= [] | accessdate=2008-07-08]

Common features

Adventure games, like RPGs, often feature "fetch quests": in order to advance, the player has to help a character in order to gain information or an important item as a reward. In fantasy-themed games, this character is often a healer or magician, and the secondary quest could be to find artifacts or items, such as ingredients for a potion. From a programming point of view, this allows the adventure to be modelled as a finite state machine. Answers to problems in games are not usually plain to see, but the player must use their logic to figure out what to do next. For example, a character is usually not willing to volunteer their information, but must be convinced to talk, or given something that will benefit them.

Adventure games have been criticized because some games adopt the attitude that 'the ends justify the means'. In such cases, the player must obtain an item from someone reluctant to cooperate, and the only way to progress is to distract him or her in order to steal the item. In contrast, however, many adventure games have quests or missions that urge the player to help others; for instance, helping tormented spirits that seek deliverance, freeing a trapped animal, or otherwise performing benevolent, selfless acts. Often these characters will reward the player later in the game, often at a critical juncture....

Early adventure games sometimes trapped the players in unwinnable, dead end situations. For example, if the player overlooked a key (or an important item early in the game), the game cannot be completed if he later finds himself trapped in a cell. Such games frequently did not end at this point since the player was not killed; with no indication that a vital object had been missed, the player was often reduced to trying increasingly outlandish actions until finally restoring to an earlier point or quitting the game altogether. A famous example of a dead end situation is the plant in "Return to Zork". Early in the game a plant can be obtained. Most players just take the plant, but will find out later (much later) in the game their plant has died. Without the plant the game can't be finished. What they should have done is carefully dig out the plant, instead of just grabbing it. (NOTE: In this instance, the player could correct the mistake by eating their plant, causing the plant to regrow in its original location.) Naturally, players rarely found this type of game-play entertaining. Some companies, including LucasArts, deliberately and explicitly avoided dead-end situations in many of their games, such as "Grim Fandango", in which it was impossible to get Manny Calavera killed or stuck in an impossible situation. Although some adventure purists scorned such practices as "dumbing down games for the masses", more games adopted the approach over time; even Sierra, who was infamous for a time for ruthlessly "punishing the player", eventually embraced the concept.

Some items are featured very often in various adventure games, and have many uses. Two examples are a rope and a crowbar. In some games, certain items are used as part of running gags; for example being used in many absurd situations far from their original intended purpose, or items which are seemingly useless for most of the game, such as the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle in "The Secret of Monkey Island", or the combination of a clothesline, a clamp, and a rubber duck with a hole in it, which, when put between the clamp, can make it contract over time, and grab a certain item in "The Longest Journey". Situations like these have been criticized, but such criticisms have only been minor.

Many graphic adventure games depicted or make reference to subject matter that would otherwise been censored or taboo in a video or computer game. Adventure games set in a gritty environment (e.g. "Rise of the Dragon", "Police Quest" and "Snatcher") would contain bits of profanity and include either depictions or allusions to mature sexual themes such as prostitution and illicit drugs. Adventure games that relied heavily on humor (e.g. "Discworld", "Blazing Dragons", "The Adventures of Willy Beamish", "The Secret of Monkey Island" and "Simon the Sorcerer") were often influenced by Monty Python-style satire and comedy.

Many adventure games simulate a conversation through a conversation tree. When the player encounters a non-player character, they are allowed to select a choice of what to say. The NPC gives a scripted response to the player, and the game offers the player several new ways to respond. As with the game itself, it was impossible to reach a 'dead-end' in the conversation tree -- players had to either back out of the conversation willingly, or exhaust all available options.


Many classic adventure games cannot run on modern operating systems. Early adventure games were developed for home computers, most of which are not in use today. There are emulators available for modern computers that allow these old games to be played on the latest operating systems. One Open Source project called ScummVM provides a free engine for the LucasArts adventure games, the SCUMM-derived engine for Humongous Entertainment adventure games, early Sierra titles, Revolution Software 2D adventures, Coktel Vision adventure games and a few more assorted 2D adventures. Another called VDMSound can emulate the old sound-cards which many of the games require.

Text adventure games are more accessible. There are only a small number of standard formats, and nearly all the classics can be played on modern computers. Some modern text adventure games can even be played on very old computer systems. Text adventure games are also suitable for PDAs, because they have very small computer system requirements. Many classic Infocom games are completely playable via web browsers.

Notable adventure games

Graphic adventure games "(games in a series)"

* "Ace Attorney"
* "Broken Sword"
* "Conquests of Camelot" and "Conquests of the Longbow"
* "The Colonel's Bequest" and it's sequel "The Dagger of Amon Ra"
* "Discworld" and its sequels "Discworld 2" and "Discworld Noir"
* "Gabriel Knight"
* "Gobliiins"
* "Harukanaru Toki no Naka de"
* "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni"
* ""
* "The Journeyman Project"
* "King's Quest"
* "The Legend of Kyrandia"
* "Leisure Suit Larry"
* "The Longest Journey" and its sequel "Dreamfall"
* "Maniac Mansion" and its sequel "Day of the Tentacle"
* "Monkey Island"
* "Muv-Luv"
* "Myst"
* "Phantasmagoria"
* "Police Quest"
* ""
* "RHEM" , "RHEM 2" and "RHEM 3"
* ' and its sequel '
* The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series containing "Mystery of the Mummy", ' , ' and "Sherlock Holmes versus Arsène Lupin"
* "Sam & Max Hit the Road" and its sequel(s) "Sam & Max"
* "Shenmue"
* "The 7th Guest" and its sequel "The 11th Hour"
* "The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes" containing "The Case of the Serrated Scalpel" and "The Case of the Rose Tattoo"
* "Shivers" and its sequel ""
* "Simon the Sorcerer"
* "Space Quest"
* ' and its sequel '
* "Syberia" and its sequel "Syberia II"
* "Tex Murphy"
* "Zork (Return to Zork, , )"

Graphic adventure games "(games not in a series)"

* "Air"
* "Beneath a Steel Sky"
* "The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble"
* "The Black Cauldron"
* "Blade Runner"
* "The Dig"
* ""
* ""
* "Fate/stay night"
* ""
* "Full Throttle"
* "Grim Fandango"
* "Gold Rush!"
* "Hopkins FBI"
* ""
* "Kanon"
* "Kimi ga Nozomu Eien" ("Rumbling Hearts")
* "The Last Express"
* "Lighthouse"
* "Loom"
* "The Moment of Silence"
* "The Neverhood"
* "Noctropolis"
* "Policenauts"
* "Portpia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken" ("Portpia Serial Murder")
* "Prisoner of Ice"
* "RAMA"
* "Rent a Hero"
* "Sanitarium"
* "Shadow of Memories"
* "Snatcher"
* ""
* "Toonstruck"
* "Torin's Passage"
* "Total distortion"
* "" ("Trace Memory")
* "Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders"

Text-only adventure games

* "Colossal Cave Adventure"
* "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
* ""
* "Softporn Adventure"
* "Zork"
* "Suspended"

Japanese adventure games

* "Ace Attorney"
* "Air"
* "" ("Trace Memory")
* "Famicom Tantei Club"
* "Fate/stay night"
* "Harukanaru Toki no Naka de"
* "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni"
* ""
* "Kanon"
* "Kimi ga Nozomu Eien" ("Rumbling Hearts")
* "Muv-Luv"
* "Policenauts"
* "Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken" ("The Portopia Serial Murder Case")
* ""
* "Shin Onigashima"
* "Shadow of Memories"
* "Shenmue"
* "Snatcher"


This article was originally translated from the article on the French Wikipedia. [ANFOSSI, Gérald, "La programmation des jeux d'aventure", Editions du PSI, Paris, 1985] [MITCHELL, David, "An Adventure in Programming Techniques", Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., London, 1986]


See also

* Amateur adventure game
* Video games
* List of graphic adventure games
* List of text based games
* Roguelike
* For the Japanese style of adventure games, see visual novel.
* Adventure Gamers news, reviews and discussion relating to the genre of adventure games.

External links

* [ "Creating Adventure Games on Your Computer"] a 1983 programming manual by Tim Hartnell
* [ "Defining the ideal adventure game" article by David Tanguay (1999)]
* [ "Searching under the rug", an article on adventure game puzzles and interfaces]
* [ Massive database of adventure games]
* [ Fantasy Adventures] - Classic adventure computer game museum
* [ SCI Community] - Community based on making adventure games using Sierra's Creative Interpreter
* [ IFReviews Organization] , huge repository for text adventure game reviews written and rated by Interactive Fiction community players and members.
* [ Just Adventure+] , a repository for reviews and walkthroughs
* [ Mystery Manor] - site dedicated to adventure games, with lots content such as walkthroughs, music, screenshots, and more.

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