Recommend adventure games from the last 5 years
August 1, 2006 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Recommend some cool adventure games from the last 5 years to me.

I've never been interested in computer games, but recently I played Discworld Noir (being a Pratchett fan) and really enjoyed it, to my surprise. Now I'm looking for other games of a similar nature. Things that I particularly liked about it:
  • It had an advancing plot, and interesting characters
  • Plot wasn't a rather generic D&Dish fantasy plot (eg, anything with the phrase "restore the kingdom/crown...")
  • It wasn't based on obscure, irrelevant puzzles ("tie the octopus with the string, pour the custard in the toilet and put the octopus in it...")
  • There was little skill involved... eg fighting, lightning reflexes and such.
  • You can't lose the game, or die, and you're allowed to repeat events if you "fail" the first time
  • The graphics! They actually impressed me, given that I think the last games I played were Wolfenstein 3D and Day Of The Tentacle, 10+ years ago. I have low standards.
  • It runs in Windows XP (hence the "last 5 years" stipulation, as a guideline). I do have a little old laptop running Win98 on 16MB RAM if there's a really good game that needs it, but would prefer not to.
Pretty much all of these are negotiable, except the first and last. Last week I played the Blade Runner game which was wonderful, just what I had wanted. I've also started with The Longest Journey, which is a bit dull so far but I'm working through it.

What else?
posted by bent back tulips to Computers & Internet (37 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't from the last five years, but Planescape Torment is the best RPG I've ever played. In fact, there are times in the plot when you _have_ to die in order to move forward. Most situations have a choice where you can either talk or fight your way through it, depending on your preferences.

And the plot is amazing: you wake up, heavily scarred and tattooed, on a slab in the mortuary. You don't know who you are. You have to find out what you're doing there and why you can't seem to die.

It's also got voiceover work from Mitch Pileggi, Dan Castellaneta, and Sheena Easton.

Since it's an older game, the graphics probably won't wow you, but I bet the gameplay will.
posted by Addlepated at 11:37 AM on August 1, 2006

Missing was pretty good, but the web search based clues may have been basically ruined by online walkthroughs showing higher in the results by now.

Sanitarium was incredible, though it fails the "last five years" test.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:42 AM on August 1, 2006

Again, not from the last 5 years, but there is a range of Lucasarts games post-DOTT that I've really enjoyed - The Dig, and the Monkey Island games are two to mention. The first has a massively absorving plot and great characters and gorgeously drawn backdrops, the second is incredibly funny and has fiendish but not impossible puzzles. Plus Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis kept me occupied for an entire school holiday - long, hard but not too tricky, a great script and pretty epic plot (stop the Nazis from using ancient Atlantean technology and taking over the world). They will all play in ScummVM, which is an emulator that will run on XP. You need the original game files to use it but you can get them cheap on ebay. Alternatively I have been told you can find them on the internet (ahem). As a first step you could try Flight of the Amazon Queen which is in a similar vein to Indy, or Beneath a Steel Sky, both of which are free downloads on the ScummVM site.
posted by greycap at 11:43 AM on August 1, 2006

The Longest Journey.

The "adventure game" genre has died off quite a bit in recent years, but the occasional gem pops up.

(And while Planescape Torment is a great game, it's an RPG, not an adventure game. Different animal.)
posted by solid-one-love at 11:44 AM on August 1, 2006

Oh, my god. I can't read, can I?
posted by solid-one-love at 11:45 AM on August 1, 2006

OK, there's Dreamfall, the semi-sequel to TLJ. Not as involving, but still a pretty decent game.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:46 AM on August 1, 2006

Not from the last five years, but Grim Fandango is one of the best adventure games of all time: great story line, original concept, brilliant voice acting, and runs on XP. It's not fantasy in the D&D sense-- it's set in an afterlife based on a hybred of Mexican folklore and film noir.
posted by justkevin at 11:47 AM on August 1, 2006

Damn, I was going to recommend Blade Runner. What an amazing game!

The Broken Sword series is excellent. In the first game you play an American tourist in Paris who gets caught up in a plot involving the Knights Templar and other "ancient European secret society" stuff. It's like The Da Vinci Code minus the self-seriousness. The first two games are traditional 2D, while the third is 3D.

The most memorable adventure game I ever played is Harvester. From Wikipedia:

The game stars Steve Mason, who awakes with a case of amnesia in a strange town in 1953 called Harvest. He can’t remember anything from his past and when he tells the people that claim to be his family, as well as townsfolk, they all tell him what a kidder he is. All of the town inhabitants are extremely over eccentric and many appear to be more a satire or stereotype than real people. They all continuously stress to Steve that he should join the Lodge, which is a large building located at the center of town that serves as the headquarters of the Order of the Harvest Moon. Steve visits the Sergeant at Arms at the Lodge, who tells him that all of his questions will be answered inside the building, but in order to enter, he must first join the Order of the Harvest Moon. But in order to join, he must perform a series of tasks that range from simple vandalism to arson for his initiation.

Like Blade Runner there were some poignant moments near the end, which caught me off guard given the game's extremely bizarre nature. The reviews on the 'net don't do it justice. It doesn't fit your 5 year timeline, but if you have $5 and are curious, snatch a copy on eBay.
posted by Khalad at 11:54 AM on August 1, 2006

I too love The Longest Journey. Probably one of my favorite games ever. Yes, Grim Fandago is GREAT too. I also like the Monkey Island games. If you like these, I would add the Syberia games to the list. Man, I love adventure games.
posted by theantikitty at 12:01 PM on August 1, 2006

posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2006

(Yeah...stick with the Longest Journey. It seems slow at first, but really, it's so so good. just do it.)
posted by theantikitty at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2006

I'm probably one of the few adventure game players who didn't like The Longest Journey.

Gamespot has a list of their top rated games of all time broken down by category. Here they are for Adventure Games.
posted by justkevin at 12:05 PM on August 1, 2006

I think KOTOR, while not strictly an adventure game, is one of the most fun games I have ever played, ever.
posted by ch1x0r at 12:12 PM on August 1, 2006

There have really only been a few adventure games IMO over the past 5 or 6 years that have been worth playing. And actually it's two series of games, each with a sequel.

And now that I've actually read your whole question, The Longest Journey is the one I was going to recommend first. Believe me, as much as it may seem dull in parts, it is an absolutely incredible game. Great characters, epic story, you just have to get past the graphics, as they are a bit outdated by today's standards.

It's sequel, Dreamfall, is also equally enganging, although the biggest complaint of it is that it's too short. I haven't even made it all the way through it, but I'm enjoying it thoroughly and making it last.

My third recommendation is Syberia. It too had a wonderful cast of characters, a great story, good music, beautiful scenery, all the makings of a grand adventure.

Its sequel, Syberia II, again, while not quite as good as the original, was still worth it by far to play all the way through.

All right, and on preview, I'm fifthing(?) Longest Journey and seconding Dreamfall.

Also, justkevin made a good recommendation in Grim Fandango. Of course, if you'regoing back to the heyday of LucasArts, there's always Sam & Max and Full Throttle too.
posted by mrhaydel at 12:14 PM on August 1, 2006

OK so, I also seconded Syberia in my previous comment. Gotta read more carefully next time...
posted by mrhaydel at 12:18 PM on August 1, 2006

The Splinter Cell series, while technically in the action genre, is open-ended enough in most of its gameplay to let you really get creative with how you want to sneak into buildings past guards and such.

The action (run here! shoot this! gogogo!) is usually scripted for whenever you enter a certain area, so you come to it in your own time instead of being bombarded with things to do.

You can get pretty clever with the situations given to you, as long as you have the dicipline not to try and brute force your way through baddies.

There are PC and Xbox (I) versions.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:24 PM on August 1, 2006

Why are KOTOR and Splinter Cell being recommended? These are good games, I'm sure you like them a lot, but they're not adventure games.

Peasant's Quest is a wonderful throwback to and gentle parody of old school adventure games, King's Quest in particular. Anybody who played Sierra games back in the day has to fire that up.
posted by Khalad at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2006

Dreamfall does require "some" stealth and combat, although the combat is badly done, and the stealth is mostly easy. Otherwise, it's one amazing game.

I absolutely loved Broken Sword 3 - it was gorgeous, had a good story, and ran like a dream.

if you want to take a look at more obscure adventure games, here are a couple of links: (not all adventure games, but basically the kinds of games you've asked for.)
Quandary Games

If you don't mind a BIT of sneaking about, Farenheit/Indigo Prophecy was the coolest adventure game I've played in a while. Get the european uncensored version.
posted by Sallysings at 12:45 PM on August 1, 2006

Wow, is it really that long since Grim Fandango (1998, apparently -- crazy). Still, Grim Fandango is the answer to all these "which adventure game should I play" questions. Play Grim Fandango.

While you're at it, give Curse of Monkey Island a go too.
posted by reklaw at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2006

a couple more: Runaway, a road adventure has cartoon style graphics and quirky characters. I throughly enjoyed it.

Grim Fandango ran like a dream on XP. I was surprised.
posted by Sallysings at 12:55 PM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the suggestions so far - at first glance, some of them sound really good, I'll check them all out properly later. Keep them coming though, please :-)

To clarify some of my requirements:

I guess the 5 year thing isn't really necessary after all. So let's throw that out.

When I say I was impressed by Discworld Noir's graphics, it was a bit tongue-in-cheek. I'll pretty much be impressed by anything after 1995 or so, given my huge lack of gaming experience.

A small amount of sneaking/combat is fine, as long as there's a good plot to back it up. I'm not really looking for anything classed as an action game.
posted by bent back tulips at 1:03 PM on August 1, 2006

Check out 5 Days a Stranger and it's sequel, 7 Days a Skeptic. They're both free, run in Windows XP, and from the last 5 years, although the graphics and sound are super old-school. I found them both quite entertaining, though.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:31 PM on August 1, 2006

Nearly Departed is a recent adventure game in the old LucasArts style (there are a few more projects in the works with the same engine). I got stuck in the demo, but it might be worth checking out, since there are so few in the genre.
posted by Sibrax at 1:43 PM on August 1, 2006

OK, if five years is no longer an issue, I heartily recommend "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", but you'll have a hard time finding a legal copy for a decent price.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2006

Since being impressed by graphics was negotiable, there are bazillions of free text adventures that can be played on pretty much any platform. Many are puzzle-based; many are not.

Baf's Guide to the IF archive
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2006

You'll enjoy the free online games Samorost and Samorost 2.
posted by teleskiving at 1:57 PM on August 1, 2006

Dreamfall bored me silly. I really, really wanted to like it, but...meh. Pretty game, good voice acting, decent plot, but the puzzles were too contrived and whole thing moved at the pace of frozen molasses.

I know Planescape:Torment isn't an adventure game, as mentioned above, but if you like smart games (that will run in XP) please try it. It's truly a high-water mark of storytelling in videogames. OTOH, if you never played D&D, you may not care for it.

Syberia and its sequel were fun, if you like mouse-over adventures (and they were beautiful, too).

But the number one recommendation in this category has already been mentioned: Grim Fandango. It's GREAT. Absorbing gameplay, laugh-out-loud moments, and inspired art direction. Buy it, play it, love it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:45 PM on August 1, 2006

To tag along on the question.. Anyone know a game like this for a Mac? I loved 'em when I had a PC, but now I can't find any.
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on August 1, 2006

Perhaps Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh, if you like crazy. Though it's probably hard to find now, it is quite unique and entertaining plot-wise.
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:32 PM on August 1, 2006

I wouldn't recommend Syberia or Syberia II. Both were mind-numbingly boring and filled with useless and easy puzzles that were there for their own sake, rather than to advance the storyline, which was tedious and empty itself. They broke nearly every cardinal rule of adventure gaming, including the most important one: It has to be fun to play. Sweeping music and pretty graphics do not a good game make.

Dreamfall is also lousy, mostly because the puzzles are reminicent of those on the back of children's menus. However, the one good thing is that the fighting sequences are so painful they really bring you into the action.

I would also recommend Grim Fandango, as it's easily one of the best games ever made. If you still want to play Syberia, play it right before Grim Fandango. And Broken Sword is a good suggestion too, and may be one of the last remnants of the true Adventure Game genre, though be warned that the third one borrows heavily from platformers like Tomb Raider (e.g. a lot of jumping on things and some sneaking). Finally, Curse of and Escape From Monkey Island are less likely to turn you off in terms of graphics and sound than the first two, and might be better choices.

(Don't mean to offend those who liked the games I pooh-poohed, just wanted to give my opinion.)
posted by hoborg at 3:41 PM on August 1, 2006

To tag along on the question.. Anyone know a game like this for a Mac? I loved 'em when I had a PC, but now I can't find any.

I was just wondering the same thing, so I checked and you can download a binary of ScummVM for the Mac! Tonight it's DOTT and Monkey Island on my mac for sure! :)
posted by ranglin at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2006

Some of the old Sierra games are supposed to be re-released this year for XP. They're listed on Amazon but the release date keeps slipping. I think it's King's Quest, Police Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry. You're looking for the compilations - the collections are the earlier re-releases that sometimes have trouble running in XP. Here's the KQ.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:42 PM on August 1, 2006

What about Toonstruck? Sure it's old and done almost completely with cartoon graphics, but it's got good voice acting and a sense of humor. Plus you've got Christopher Lloyd.
posted by keep the aspidistra flying at 7:50 PM on August 1, 2006

OK, if five years is no longer an issue, I heartily recommend "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", but you'll have a hard time finding a legal copy for a decent price.

also be prepared to fiddle about with it to get it running (dosbox maybe? don't remember if it's dos or not)...I could never get it to run properly in xp or win2k natively regardless of what "compatibility mode" toggling I did.

I'll echo recommendations of:
longest journey
grim fandango
syberia I (but not II)

and tentatively (because I'm only near the beginning of it), dreamfall. the fighting and stealth bits are really not difficult at all so far. if there's a knock on it it's that everything seems on the easy side. the storytelling and production values are top notch though.
posted by juv3nal at 9:49 PM on August 1, 2006

The Neverhood has some of the best graphics ever, plus an amazing jazzy twangy soundtrack, and easily some of the funniest cutscenes ever. Like rolling off my chair unable to breathe funny, and stuff like Goatse barely gets a chuckle out of me.

But be warned, it's REALLY hard. Some of those puzzles are just evil, and it's not always clear even what you are trying to accomplish.
posted by spatula at 10:42 PM on August 1, 2006

Oh yeah, and I definitely second Beneath a Steel Sky.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:52 PM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: So it looks like I'll definitely be persevering with The Longest Journey, and also playing Grim Fandango. Plus another dozen or so games that have been added to my list...

Thanks everyone!
posted by bent back tulips at 2:30 AM on August 2, 2006

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