‘Look at this’. ‘Pick this up’. ‘Do as you’re told’. A lot of fun can be had ordering your poor protagonist on your screen to follow your command. The 1980’s and 1990’s were the text-interface graphic adventures’ golden era, thanks, in the main, to the efforts of Sierra and their various Quest titles. Here’s our pick of the best titles released during that period.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and let us know!
A future oil shortage is perhaps not the most exciting premise for a video game, but Sierra ran with it all the way with a globe-trotting submarine-based quest in this 1989 adventure.
There are frustrating elements to the gameplay, including a lot of dead ends, but there’s fun to be had in its dice and diving sub-games.
Poor old PJ Barrett. This normal, innocent man finds himself swapping spending time as a couch potato with saving the galaxy, having been summoned by interstellar aliens following a rather unfortunate mix-up at the TV repair shop.
Accolade’s 1990 attempt to break into Sierra-dominated genre did have mixed results – the interface, for example, is slow – but the game’s weird storyline and alien landscapes do make it a curio that’s worth checking out.
Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail
This 1990 title was the start of Sierra’s short-lived ‘Conquests’ series, with King Arthur exploring southern England– and beyond – for the grail of the title. Taking the situation slightly more seriously than Monty Pythons knights of the round table, designer Christy Marx did still pack the game with a healthy dose of wit in among the riddles.
Space Quest 2: Vohaul’s Revenge
OK, so perhaps Two Guys from Andromeda made it a little too easy for our space-faring hero Roger to die – particularly by that tentacled creature whose maze-like arms you have to navigate near the start – but the 1987 story of the battle against evil cloned insurance salesman is perhaps the most captivating of Sierra’s space-bound adventures. There’s not much here in the way of sub-quests, but sometimes basic is best.
The Adventures of Maddog Williams in the Dungeons of Duridian
Unlike its title, a short and sweet game this might be, but there was something endearing about the setting of Maddog’s tale, the seaside, fairy-tale village of Marinor. The inventor’s adventure starts off at home before exploring the far reaches of the kingdom, seeing him get engaged in pub brawls and swinging. There’s also a nice-but simple-combat system that breaks up ‘look around’ and ‘pick up’ commands.
This mid-19th century tale might often be viewed as one of Sierra’s best, but there’s plenty in this epic story going for it. Jerrod Williams must set his sights beyond his Brooklyn home and travel across the US to meet his long-lost brother and seek his fortune.
Exploring Jerrod’s home town in the early stages is a joy, before the game’s second section opens up several potential paths to get to your goal, whether on land, through Panama or even round Cape Horn. The first option is the only point that the game really lags but aside from that its scope and sense of peril makes the game a winner.
Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood
Building on the legendary tales of Camelot and featuring beautiful graphics for its time, the outlaw and his merry men form the basis of one of Sierra’s best titles. With a medieval Nottingham and its forest surroundings to explore, designer Christy Marx packed the game with riddles and side-games, including Nine Men’s Morris and archery to enhance the legendary tale.
With the game play spread across days and the gamer’s actions impacting on how the adventure progresses, this 1991 release was one of the few early text-based graphical adventures to feature multiple potential endings.
King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
Designer Roberta Williams upped the stakes in this 1988 classic. For one, series protagonist King Graham is placed on his death bed at the start of the game. This results in his daughter, Rosella, taking on the adventuring mantle and in doing so becoming one of video adventure gaming’s first female lead characters.
A total of 75 musical tracks – huge for the time – make up the score, while the scope of the tale is vast – far larger than previous Sierra editions, featuring multiple potential endings. It’s probably the publisher’s masterpiece. And certainly a game changer.