Some of the most beloved and fondly remembered games on PC are graphic adventures. They come in many forms, and vary wildly in quality, but storytelling, puzzle-solving, and a sense of humour are almost always at the forefront. The following games are great examples of all three, whether you’re solving a sinister occult murder in New Orleans or chasing a killer clown through Paris.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
George Stobbart, an American tourist in Paris, is almost killed in a cafe bombing. He takes it upon himself to catch the culprit and, along with journalist Nicole Collard, gets caught up in a conspiracy involving an ancient cult. This atmospheric adventure brilliantly weaves fascinating real-world history into its compelling story, with smart puzzles, a likeable hero, and a genuinely funny script. Broken Sword is an ideal entry point for the genre.
The Secret of Monkey Island
Guybrush Threepwood is a charming, eager, and slightly foolish young lad who wants to become a pirate, a dream you’ll help him realise. This classic adventure from Lucasfilm Games is full of colourful characters, absurd puzzles, and quotable dialogue, and is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of the genre. The insult swordfighting minigame, which sees you exchanging ludicrous insults with rival pirates, is a particular highlight.
Solve a mystery
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
While there is some humour in this, the first Gabriel Knight adventure, it’s more serious than the other games I’ve mentioned so far. Playing as the titular Knight, voiced by Tim Curry, you investigate a series of sinister occult-like murders in New Orleans. It has a wonderfully dark neo-noir atmosphere, and the deeper Knight digs, the stranger things get. Just avoid the remake and play the original.
Day of the Tentacle
This adventure is set across three distinct time periods—colonial America, the ‘present’ day (circa 1993), and a far future ruled by evil tentacles—which factors into the puzzle design. The three playable characters can change things in the past to alter the future and trade items across time. But be warned: the game can be maddeningly difficult, and will have you reaching for a guide. But the humour does a good job of keeping the rage at bay.
Take your time
Developed by adventure game veteran Ron Gilbert, this multi-character epic is set entirely in the fictional town of Thimbleweed Park. Its open structure means you can easily drift away from a puzzle that’s causing you trouble and try another one, which gives it an enjoyably leisurely pace. And the puzzles are incredibly satisfying to solve, avoiding the infuriating leaps of logic that plague many early adventure games—even the good ones.
Life is Strange
This adventure is light on puzzles, but tells one of the best videogame stories of recent years. It follows a girl with the ability to rewind time, which she uses for simple things, like reversing an embarrassing mistake, to bigger things, like saving her town from annihilation.
The purist's choice
The Last Express
Set on the Orient Express in 1914, days before the beginning of WW1, this adventure is like stepping back in time. It captures the political and social issues of the period and also provides you with an intriguing mystery to solve. The interface and the way you navigate the train are a little confusing, and the real-time structure occasionally makes it feel a little too stressful, so this is one for seasoned adventurers.
Police Quest: Open Season
There’s some gold in Sierra’s Police Quest series, which cleverly places you in the shoes of a cop, but Open Season is the one to avoid. Despite having an interesting premise—you’re a LA detective investigating a series of murders in the city—it’s ponderous, badly designed, and horribly written. The idea of following police procedure is fun at first, but quickly forgotten about. Not worth it, even as a novelty.