It wasn’t too long ago when the point-and-click adventure genre stole hours upon hours of time from computer gamers everywhere. The mouse and keyboard were perfect for allowing players to select areas and objects on the screen with precision, giving developers the freedom to craft fun puzzles and challenges
They were also far more attractive than the text-based games most people played prior. You could explore all sorts of unique locations made of gorgeous pixel art, including lush island jungles and wacky stylized cities. Better graphics and gameplay also allowed for some enchanting stories to be told that featured memorable casts of characters.
But in our fast-growing gaming industry, adventure games were another illustration of the fact that rarely does one genre stay at the top for very long.
When Adventure Ruled…
In the 80s and early 90s, arguably the golden era of adventure gaming, it was the now-defunct LucasArts that gave us some of the best of the genre. Games like The Secret of Monkey Island, the first title in the acclaimed Monkey Island series, blew gamers away with its humor, impressive audiovisuals, and addicting gameplay.
Also using humor in the form of a story parodying B movie cliches, Maniac Mansion received a positive response and featured an intuitive interface that was adopted by other adventure games. The sequel, Day of the Tentacle, was an even bigger commercial success and continues to appear in “top games” lists to this day.
Full Throttle introduced us to a dystopian future where anti-gravitational hovercrafts have replaced motor vehicles, while Sam & Max took us on a comical adventure in a cartoon version of America.
It was a good time to be an adventure game fan as tons of developers took advantage of their popularity to take a stab at the market. Of course, like any popular genre, it eventually got replaced by something new.
Point-and-Click Makes Way For 3D Shooters
In the mid ’90s a shift from 2D visuals to 3D took the gaming industry by storm. Breathtaking games like Super Mario 64 and Final Fantasy VII stole the hearts of gamers everywhere with their incredible 3D worlds and characters.
As beautiful as the graphic adventure games were at the time, they didn’t stand a chance against the titles boasting 360-degree movement, dynamic camera systems, and more.
When talking specifically about the PC gaming market, the dominance of first-person shooters also began. Doom and Wolfenstein 3D were a breath of fresh air by offering amazing graphics and fast-paced gameplay that felt like a massive step up from the slow adventure games.
Instead of solving puzzles and clicking around a screen, PC gamers embraced the chance to run around in a 3D world while shooting both AI enemies and player opponents.
Unsurprisingly, developers saw the shift in interest and one by one began abandoning adventure game projects.
By the turn of the century there were less than a handful of adventure games in development, signaling the near-demise of a genre.
The Resurgence of Adventure
Here we are more than a decade later and now a new wave of adventure games is returning the beloved genre back to relevance.
In almost every platform, including PC, console, and tablets, there’s a growing audience of adventure gamers thanks to companies like Telltale Games and Phoenix Online Studios using today’s technology to make quality titles.
The reason for the sudden rise in popularity is, of course, arguable. Perhaps it’s fatigue from the current trend of high-budget titles always boasting fast-paced gameplay and brilliant visuals.
Instead, gamers are interested in thought-provoking challenges and puzzles that only adventure games provide.
It could also be that gamers are now more than ever embracing video games as a powerful storytelling medium. Although any genre is capable of providing a rich narrative, such as Bioshock with the FPS genre or action-adventure series Assassin’s Creed, adventure games have always been able to weave captivating stories, characters, and settings like no other genre.
Whatever the reason, it’s once again a pretty good time to be an adventure game enthusiast with titles like The Walking Dead, Broken Age, and Gone Home now available.
Most of today’s adventure games may not be identical to the point-and-click titles of the past, but they’ve done an excellent job of evolving the genre so that it didn’t remain where it found itself a few years ago: lost and forgotten like buried treasure.