Thanks to both triple-A companies noticing its potential with the players and indie developers looking to make a name for themselves in the big world of gaming industry, adventure games have been having a little bit of a renaissance for these past few years.
More and more titles draw inspiration from the genre that saw its peak in the early 1990s, when the games like the Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and more ruled the imaginations of players across the globe. Equipped with better tools and fueled by gamers’ nostalgia, developers bring to the table more and more games that could rival their noble ancestors in terms of gameplay and graphics.
The Best Adventure Games for PC
|Life is Strange||2015||adventure, sci-fi, teen drama||Dontnod Entertainment, Square Enix||Buy now!|
|Myst V: End of Ages||2005||adventure, fantasy, FPP||Cyan Worlds/Ubisoft||Buy now!|
|Night in the Woods||2017||drama, adventure, single-player||Infinite Fall, Finji||Buy now!|
|Syberia||2002||adventure, single-player||Microids||Buy now!|
|Firewatch||2016||adventure, single-player||Campo Santo, Panic||Buy now!|
|Oxenfree||2016||adventure, mystery single-player||Night School Studio||Buy now!|
|Broken Age||2015||point-and-click adventure, single-player||Double Fine Productions||Buy now!|
|Tales from the Borderlands||2014-2015||adventure, single-player||Telltale Games, Gearbox||Buy now!|
|Valiant Hearts: The Great War||2014||puzzle, adventure, single-player||Ubisoft Montpellier, Ubisoft||Buy now!|
|Telltale’s Sam & Max series||2007-2010||adventure, puzzle, single-player||Telltale Games||Buy now!|
|Beyond: Two Souls||2013||interactive drama, adventure, single-player, multiplayer||Quantic Dream||Buy now!|
|Penumbra: Overture||2007-2008||survival horror, adventure, single-player||Frictional Games/Paradox Interactive||Buy now!|
|Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons||2013||puzzle, adventure, single-player||Starbreeze Studios, 505 Games||Buy now!|
|L.A. Noire||2011||action-adventure, single-player||Team Bondi, Rockstar Games||Buy now!|
|Portal||2007||puzzle, platform, single-player, multiplayer||Valve||Buy now!|
|Detroit: Become Human||2019||interactive drama, adventure, single-player||Quantic Dream||Buy now!|
|Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers||1993, 2014||puzzle, point-and-click adventure, single-player||Sierra On-Line, Pinkerton Road Studio, Phoenix Online Publishing||Buy now!|
|Telltale’s The Walking Dead series||2012-2019||interactive drama, adventure, single-player||Telltale Games, Skybound Games||Buy now!|
|Dreamfall: The Longest Journey||2006||adventure, single-player||Funcom, Aspyr||Buy now!|
|Heavy Rain||2010||interactive drama, adventure, single-player||Quantic Dream||Buy now!|
Let’s take a look at the best of the adventure games available for PCs. In order of being fair, we’ll discuss both modern titles and the ones that paved the way to their success two decades ago.
Life is Strange
|Genre:||adventure, sci-fi, teen drama|
|Developer/Publisher:||Dontnod Entertainment, Square Enix|
Life is Strange story and gameplay could not be truer to its title. The game, developed by the French studio known for an excellent action-adventure title Remember Me, tells the story of Max Caufield, an awkward high school student from Arcadia Bay, Oregon. Her life changes when she discovers that she can reverse time and uses her newfound power to save her friend, Chloe, from being killed. What ensues is a series of events involving a serial killer case, a storm that threatens the town and, you guessed it – a lot of time travel shenanigans.
LiS features mechanics typical to the adventure genre – exploration, interacting with items and characters, dialogue trees, etc. However, Max’s time-reversing powers are the real gamechanger and add a unique twist to the gameplay of what would’ve been a competent but otherwise unremarkable adventure game.
Myst V: End of Ages
|Genre:||adventure, fantasy, FPP|
The first classic on our list, Myst V: End of Ages is the fifth installment of the Myst series, released in for the first time in 1994. This 2005 adventure title has the two most important elements the player could want from the genre – a fantastical world filled with magic and wonder, and a great story that lets the player explore the world of the game. In End of Ages the player is tasked with recovering tablets that in the wrong hands could spell trouble for the many worlds of Myst universe, known as the Ages.
Myst V’s gameplay has the player do all the adventure game stuff, like travel across various environments, interacting with NPCs and objects, as well as solving puzzles. The game reaches out to the player with the latter, offering various helpful mechanics. Less hardship with riddles means more time for exploration and taking in the exciting story.
Night in the Woods
|Genre:||drama, adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Infinite Fall, Finji|
Night in the Woods introduces the player to Mae Borowski, a college dropout suffering from mental issues, who returns to her hometown of Possum Falls. Mae, use the time back home to figure out her problems, notices that the town has changed. Her friends are distant, everyone is acting strange, and townsfolk warn about not venturing into the woods at night. Mae will soon realize that her return might not have been such a good idea.
Much less than on gameplay mechanics, NitW focuses on the story and themes surrounding the protagonist’s mental struggles. Of course, the player still has something to do – walking around town and talking to the people, trying to solve the mystery behind a series of disappearances. All this is only the backdrop to the story of a young woman, struggling to connect with others. For those who find themselves in a situation similar to Mae’s, Night in the Woods might turn out to be a cathartic experience.
By the time Syberia came out, good adventure game releases could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Despite not having much of a competition on the market, Benoit Sokal’s turned out to be a massive hit. The adventure of Kate Walker, an American Lawyer sent to Europe to oversee the takeover of toy company, and her subsequent odyssey from France to Russian tundra won the hearts of the player selling in over 500.000 copies.
The game also received stellar reviews from the industry press as well as numerous awards and nominations, including the Best Adventure Game of 2002 from PC Gamer US magazine. Thanks to the game’s critical and commercial success, two sequels of Syberia were made.
|Developer/Publisher:||Campo Santo, Panic|
Set against the beautiful landscapes of Wyoming, Firewatch is one of those games you really want to look at – not only because there isn’t really much to do in it. Is that bad? Not necessarily. The game tells a decent story of a widowed man named Henry, who after the loss of his wife takes up a job of a fire lookout in Shoshone National Park. Throughout the game, the only person Henry interacts with is Delilah, his supervisor and a lookout in another tower.
The player can explore the park, more of which open as the game progresses, cleaning up after tourists and putting out small fires with an extinguisher, as well as looking for clues of mysterious activity in the area. The game received solid reviews for its story and voice-acting and won several awards.
|Genre:||adventure, mystery single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Night School Studio|
Developed by the veterans of Telltale Games, Oxenfree is a title for all the fans of sci-fi-tinted mystery. The game takes place on a fictional Edwards Island, where five friends, Alex, Jonas, Ren, Nona and Clarissa, meet up for a weekend of drinking and partying. When Alex uses her radio to tune in to a mysterious frequency, she unleashes a mysterious power that traps the gang on the island.
Oxenfree features multiple elements that the fans of Telltale Games’ titles will be quite familiar with – exploration, interaction with characters and objects, dialogue choices, various endings, etc. The game’s graphics design is simple but perfect for conveying the creepy atmosphere of the haunted island. If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks and coming-of-age movies, this game is for you!
|Genre:||point-and-click adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Double Fine Productions|
Broken Age is another indie title that emphasizes storytelling over gameplay. The player controls two characters – Vella and Shay – who seem inhabit two completely different worlds. Vella lives in sugar Bunting, a town located in wasteland-like Badlands. Shay is the lone passenger of a spaceship Bossa Nostra. Both of them seek change in their lives and the player’s job will be t to guide them towards better futures.
Usual gameplay mechanics aside, the game tells an excellent story of young people fighting the status-quo they find themselves in. It should resonate well with the teenage rebel living inside you!
Tales from the Borderlands
|Developer/Publisher:||Telltale Games, Gearbox|
Tales from the Borderlands is a proof that in the hands of right people even the most gung-ho action game can be turned into an adventure game. Based on Gearbox’s FPS, TftB tells a story set on the planet Pandora, where small-time crooks, big time corporations and everything in between fight for the access to the Vaults – said to hold unbelievable riches. The game follows Fiona, a Pandorian con artist and Rhys, a low-level drone of Hyperion Corporation, whose paths cross in search of the Vault of the Traveler.
Tales from the Borderlands made a swift transition from FPS to the adventure genre, at the same time retaining the series’ absurd humor and well-written characters. It is a rare example of a game that manages to mix the best of both worlds, without alienating fans of either the original games and the TTG productions.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
|Genre:||puzzle, adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Ubisoft Montpellier, Ubisoft|
For an adventure game Valiant Hearts: The Great War offers a lot of variety in terms of gameplay. Obviously, the staple mechanics of finding items, interacting with NPCs and solving puzzles make the core of the gameplay mechanics, but VH is more than that. As one of four characters the player will explore the 2D environments of World War I, participate in stealth segments, avoid heavy fire and much more. However, the “heart” of VH lies in its story – a tale of four individuals thrown into the chaos of war.
The excellent writing is the reason the game was so well received by the critics and player alike and received several awards – including the Game Awards 2014 for the Best Narrative and an Annie for the Best Game.
Telltale’s Sam & Max series
|Genre:||adventure, puzzle, single-player|
The tales of two inseparable, crime-solving partners have a long history in the adventure gaming genre. Created by Steve Purcell, behind many of LucasArts’ adventure games, the pair made their game debut in 1993’s Sam & Max: Hit the Road. After years of struggling to return to our computer screens, the police duo managed to find a new home thanks to Telltale Games.
Sam and Max’s adventures in Save the World, Beyond Time and Space and The Devil’s Playhouse bring the ridiculousness of the comic book series they were based on to the interactive media. The games received favorable reviews and were one of the key components of making Telltale Games a studio to be reckoned with.
Beyond: Two Souls
|Genre:||interactive drama, adventure, single-player, multiplayer|
The first game from Quantic Dream on our least and quite possibly not the last, Beyond: Two Souls combines the cinematic aesthetic with adventure gameplay. As Jodie Holmes, the player will interact with objects and characters, choosing dialogue options and unlocking new scenarios in the process. As Aiden, Jodie’s poltergeist companion, the player will be able to perform contextual actions – knocking over a cup, passing through walls, possessing an NPC and many more.
B:TS was one of those highly divisive titles where the line between gaming and movies really started to blur. Some people loved it, some didn’t. Critics thought the game was fine. Play the game and see for yourself where you land on this spectrum.
|Genre:||survival horror, adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Frictional Games/Paradox Interactive|
Penumbra combines the elements of survival horror and adventure game, creating a truly unique gameplay experience. Thanks to Newton Game Dynamics engine, the game allows the player to solve complex puzzles based on physics.
The series emphasizes stealth – the enemies that pursue the player in the game can kill the player within seconds so evading and hiding is a preferable route to take if one wants to avoid a premature death.
Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons
|Genre:||puzzle, adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Starbreeze Studios, 505 Games|
Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons tells a story of two boys – Naiee and Naia – and their epic quest to save their father from illness. Guided by the village physician, the boys travel to find the water from the Tree of life – along they will face many threats and meet new friends in a colorful world full of magic.
The gameplay consists of interacting with objects and solving environmental puzzles. Certain puzzles will require cooperation between the boys, whom the player can control individually using the analog sticks of the controller. The game received critical acclaim from the critics and was considered one of the best downloadable games.
|Developer/Publisher:||Team Bondi, Rockstar Games|
If you ever wants to feel like a real cop, examining crime scenes, questioning witnesses, chasing suspects down alleyways – then L.A. Noire is a game just for you. Set in the 1940’s Los Angeles, the game tells the story of a rookie cop Cole Phelps, a veteran of WWII, who stumbles upon the case which can send him either up the promotion ladder or six feet under.
Among the staples of the genre, L.A. Noire features some unique gameplay mechanics, such as determining the truth of an NPCs testimony from the subtle changes in their expression. Have fun figuring out the meaning behind the permanent scowl on the witness’s face. The game was lauded by the critics for its graphics and received recognition for the score during the 2012 BAFTA ceremony.
|Genre:||puzzle, platform, single-player, multiplayer|
Portal is one of those games that tested is better when you play it with a friend in one room. As you traverse the empty corridors of Aperture Industries facility and complete a series of challenges involving the creative use of a portal gun, it’s good to have someone by your side.
Unless they mess up the timing for the THIRD TIME IN THE ROW ANS SEND YOU BACK TO THE LAST CHECKPOINT!
Detroit: Become Human
|Genre:||interactive drama, adventure, single-player|
The master storytellers of Quantic Dream take on the subject of A.I. personhood in their newest release – Detroit: Become Human. In a not too distant future, androids have revolutionized the American society, taking menial work off the hands of the humans. Soon, androids started showing signs of rebelling against their programming. With a confrontation between humans and androids all but inevitable, a story of three androids unfolds.
The gameplay follows similar beats as other Quantic Dreams’ games: the player makes choices that decide on the outcome of the entire story. A new feature in D: BH is that at certain points, the player character can die permanently, erasing their part in the story as a whole. This time failing a QTE has consequences, so be careful what you press!
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
|Release year:||1993, 2014|
|Genre:||puzzle, point-and-click adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Sierra On-Line, Pinkerton Road Studio, Phoenix Online Publishing|
If your name sounds like it could belong to a heavy-metal band, you know that people will remember you well. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the /fathers was developed in 1993 by Sierra On-Line, which at the time specialized in point-and-click-adventure games. The gameplay was based on typical genre mechanics. but instead of written commands, the player had to select specific cursors to interact with objects and NPCs.
Sins of the Fathers boasted a star-studded cast, led by Tim Curry as the main protagonist, a bookstore owner and an aspiring writer who investigates a series of murders for the purpose of his new novel. The game came out to solid reviews, and in 2014 a remaster with improved graphics and new puzzles, was released.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead series
|Genre:||interactive drama, adventure, single-player|
|Developer/Publisher:||Telltale Games, Skybound Games|
The series that revitalized the adventure genre. The Walking Dead is based on the popular graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman. Set at the beginning and during a zombie apocalypse, the series tells the story of Clementine, a young girl left alone in the collapsed world. Throughout four “seasons” the player observes her growth from a hapless child, relying on others to look after her, into a capable survivor. Along the way, the player will meet a cast of memorable characters who influence Clem’s character – including Lee Everett, a convicted murderer who looks after her in the early days of the apocalypse and teaches her how to survive on her own.
Unlike many adventure games, The Walking Dead series focuses on the narrative, foregoing the typical gameplay mechanics. The player still can interact with the characters to push the story forward, but that’s about it – especially in the later seasons. The game received positive reviews for its writing, memorable characters, and has become a cult classic among the fans of the genre.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Dreamfall is the continuation of the 1999 classic The Longest Journey. The game is once again set in parallel worlds of Stark and Arcadia, and April Ryan – the protagonist of the previous game – makes a return as a playable character, alongside two newcomers, Zoe and Kian. The gameplay mechanics remain unchanged, only now the player controls three protagonists instead of one.
The game’s plot follows Zoe, a Starkian journalist, whose investigation into her brother’s death leads her to Arcadia, and April, who must defend her new homeland from Azadi Empire, while an elite assassin Kian tries to kill her. Dreamfall received solid reviews in which critics praised the story and characters of the game.
|Genre:||interactive drama, adventure, single-player|
The opus magnum of Quantic Dream and the title that set the standard for the interactive drama adventure games. Driven by a compelling story of three protagonists investigating a case of serial murderer calling himself Origami Killer.
The game features mechanics based on interacting with items and characters, fast-paced quick-time events and branching storylines with certain events and endings depending on the player’s choices throughout the gameplay. Heavy Rain was met with solid reviews, and while not free of flaws, is still a great example of the far reaches of genre experimentation.