Adventure games have a very special place in my heart. The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle were two of the first games I had ever played (the former being the first I ever grew totally obsessed with), and I still feel a twinkle of nostalgia every time I fire up a new entry in the genre. So, I'm sure you can imagine how excited I am to share what we at Gamezebo consider to be the best adventure games the year had to offer.
But before we jump into our favorite games, let's talk about some of the crazy things that happened in the genre this year. Double Fine took to Kickstarter to see how many people were interested in a new adventure game from the creator of some of adventure gaming's finest moments, and they received well beyond the amount they requested. Additionally, Ron Gilbert (also of Double Fine) announced a little game called The Cave, an adventure game that's based on an idea he had back during the days of Maniac Mansion. And, lastly, Disney acquired LucasFilm, whose LucasArts branch owns classic adventure IPs like Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, and Full Throttle. Here's to hoping Disney's receptive to selling them to the likes of Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, or at the very least re-releasing those classics to a modern audience.
But enough about what the future holds! Here are our picks for the Best Adventure Games of 2012;
#5 - The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles (PC, Mac)
The first The Book of Unwritten Tales was nothing short of a triumph for the adventure genre, simultaneously skewering other video games and offering up a steady stream of laughs and offbeat puzzles. Problem was, it didn’t feature the Critter character nearly enough. With The Critter Chronicles, a prequel to the game, developer King Art has finally righted that wrong and delivered a fun, witty game in the process.
#4 - Yesterday (PC, iPhone, iPad)
While the genre has a tendency to showcase humor, adventure games don’t always have a comedic slant. Yesterday, though it has its share of funny moments, is by and large a gritty game, featuring murder scenes, torture, and a dictionary’s worth of swear words. But, man, is it ever a gripping experience. You play as John Yesterday, a fellow who wakes up with amnesia after trying to kill himself during a murder investigation. Once Yesterday has recovered physically, he tries to continue with his investigation and put an end to the murders happening around New York. Disturbing though it may be, it's easily one of the best stories you'll see in a game this year.
That’s right: we’re featuring two games for this one. The Deponia series borrows a page or two from the book of classic LucasArts, featuring beautiful drawn visuals, witty dialogue, and frequently insane puzzles. The first game established the world and its many crazy characters, the second progressed the strange story and took the player to even more interesting places, and the third—arriving sometime next year—is shaping up to be a brilliant swan song to the series. It's going to be sad to see it go, but what an incredible ride it's been.
#2 - Botanicula (PC, Mac)
There’s a whole lot to love about Botanicula. First of all, it’s a well-designed adventure game teeming with puzzles reminiscent of the genre’s glory years. But, perhaps more importantly, it’s the rare game that dares to be optimistic, constantly providing players with new reasons to smile.
Excluding those of us who lack souls, I'm convinced it's impossible to finish this game without goosebumps cropping up on your arms.
#1 - The Walking Dead (PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad)
Let’s face it: storytelling is not exactly a strength of this medium. Many games prioritize gameplay over narrative, and that’s perfectly fine. But as Telltale has reminded us all with The Walking Dead, video games can be home to some amazing stories.
Every episode of the game’s five-episode run was more intense than the last, to the point where I had trouble seeing just how they’d manage to keep the momentum going. But they pulled it off, and ended up delivering a story arc that rivals that of the show or comic, arguably even trumping the two in some ways.
With another year come and gone, Gamezebo is looking back at the best games that 2012 had to offer. Our month-long retrospective will touch on just about every type of game you can imagine - so be sure not to miss any of it! Check out our full collection of Best of 2012 articles, and vote for your favorite games in our 2012 Reader’s Choice awards.