The point and click adventure game is a genre that has waxed and waned several times since their golden age in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They first went away due to increasing interest in FPS and RTS games, but then experienced a resurgence with Telltale Games bring increased attention to the genre. But when the quality of their games declined and resulted in them shuttering, the genre again declined in popularity. More recently, they are making another comeback thanks to a slew of remasters and new titles from a reformed Telltale. Now is a great time to get started with this classic genre and there’s no better place to start than here on our list of the ten best point and click adventure games from the 90s.
Most of these games have been remastered for modern hardware and consoles, so the barrier to entry for them is quite low. Gone are the days of having to tweak with DOS emulators like ScummVM just to get these games running. So, let’s get to the list!
10. The Dig (1995)
Not many video games can claim to have had a famous Hollywood director as a writer. Conceived by Steven Spielberg in the 80s for the Amazing Stories TV show, it was later shelved and then brought back as a game. The Dig was developed by LucasArts and released in 1995, after a succession of four different project leads. The game featured a capable cast, which included Robert Patrick as the main protagonist.
The Dig takes place in the not-so-distant future, where an asteroid headed towards the Earth and a team of astronauts are sent to divert it using explosives. Thankfully, the plot is closer to Rendezvous with Rama instead of Armageddon. The scientists head inside the asteroid, which then traps them and takes them to an alien world. Over the course of the game, players unravel the planet’s mysteries amid beautiful surreal and alien backdrops. Unlike most LucasArts adventure titles of the time, The Dig stands out as being slightly more serious in tone with a nonetheless fascinating story.
9. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992)
One of the best Indiana Jones titles ever made was in fact not a movie, but instead a point and click adventure game. The game finds Indy wearing for the lost sunken city across the globe, accompanied by a fellow archaeologist turned psychic. The game was originally released on floppy disk with any voice acting, but the later CD release was fully voiced. While Indy isn’t voiced by Harrison Ford, his replacement is more than adequate.
In total there are approximately 8000 lines of voiced dialogue, in a campaign that should take most players eight hours to complete. When it was released, the fully voiced version of the game was one of the best adventure titles ever released. New players wanting to experience this game can find a slightly remastered version of it on Steam.
8. Blade Runner (1997)
Westwood Studios, the minds behind the Command & Conquer games, also happened to make one of the best adventure games of all time: Blade Runner. The story takes places more or less during the events of the original movie, after Rick Deckard is assigned to track down the rogue replicants. Players take control of Ray McCoy, an original character who works on the same police force as Deckard. Unlike most typical adventure games, there’s a great deal of randomness in the game and who is or isn’t a replicant can change from one playthrough to another.
Playing the game nowadays is thankfully much easier than in years past. You can play either the 2019 ScummVM release that makes the original game compatible on modern systems, or Nightdive Studio’s 2022 Enhanced Edition. The latter received many complaints about the new and improved graphics actually being worse than the original. Thankfully, later patches make the Enhanced Edition much better.
7. Day of the Tentacle (1993)
This LucasArts classic from 1993 is actually a sequel to the 1987 game Maniac Mansion. Playing that game is by no means necessary to enjoy Day of the Tentacle, but it does provide some backstory to the characters. In this game, players control a cast of characters across several hundred years in a zany time travel adventure. If you couldn’t already tell by the name of the game, Day of the Tentacle swims in irreverent humor and the plot never takes itself too seriously.
Newcomers can most easily enjoy the game through the 2016 remaster by Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions. The original pixelated look was completely redrawn, though it keeps its unique feel despite looking 20 years newer. For fans of the original, switching between the old and new art styles is an easy button press away.
6. Full Throttle (1995)
The Tim Schafer hits keep on coming with this gem that meshes motorcycle gangs and corporate espionage together in an intriguing story. By this time in the ‘90s, most LucasArts point and click adventure games were fully voice acted, and Full Throttle is no exception. Mark Hamill is featured prominently as one of the major characters in the game. On the gameplay side, Full Throttle includes your standard point and click faire, but also includes motorcycle combat mechanics that serve as a nice diversion.
A remaster of the game with updated graphics, audio, and improved controls was developed by Double Fine Productions and released in 2017. Players can experience this new and improved version on Steam, PlayStation 4, OS X, and Xbox One.
5. Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993)
This 1993 adventure game classic is based on the Sam & Max comic book series about an anthropomorphized dog and rabbit duo dubbed the Freelance Police. Sam & Max Hit the Road is based on their 1989 comic On the Road and tells the story of a missing bigfoot, which turns into a country-spanning road trip. The game parodies plenty of Americana, including Graceland, bigfoots, and Mount Rushmore.
Getting into this game may be a little bit tougher for players unfamiliar with 90s adventure games however. While Sam & Max Hit the Road can be purchased on more platforms including Steam, the game is by no means remastered and the clunky UI remains unchanged from 90s release. Gamers willing to brave the interface will be treated to a fully voice acted game bursting at the seams with humor.
4. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (1993)
While this list so far has been seemingly dominated by LucasArts, we can’t forget the other big player in the point and click adventure genre during the 90s: Sierra On-Line (Later renamed Sierra Entertainment). And among their extensive list of adventure game hits, the original Gabriel Knight is by far one of their biggest hits—if not their best. Players take control of the titular character, Gabriel Knight, who is a novelist and owner of a failing book store in New Orleans. The game interweaves voodoo magic, secret societies, and spiritual folklore in a globetrotting adventure.
The game was remade in 2014 as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition and features overhauled visuals with 3D models, remastered soundtrack, updated gameplay, and new puzzles. The game received two sequels, but unfortunately those have yet to be remastered and can be quite hard to get into for players unfamiliar with 90s adventure game control schemes.
3. The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
The Secret of Monkey Island holds up quite well for its age. At the center of the story is wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood, who through the course of the game must rescue his girlfriend, recruit a motley crew of pirates, and defeat the ghost pirate LeChuck. This is game went on to spawn five sequels, with the last one Return to Monkey Island just released in 2022. The 1990 graphics and lack of voiceover may be hard for some players to get into, but thankfully the 2009 remake eases players in the franchise.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Specia Edition completely redoes the graphics, modernizes the audio, and includes the voice cast from the sequels. Not everyone will be a fan of the new art style for the characters, but it makes enjoying the story much easier than playing the 1990 original.
2. The Longest Journey (1999)
This classic title mixes magic and science fiction in a tale about parallel universes. Players take on the role of April Ryan, an art student in the technological world of Stark who discovers the alternate world of Arcadia, where magic is ever present. The Longest Journey is part of a trilogy of games, with the direct sequel Dreamfall in 2006, and the finale Dreamfall: Chapters released in episodes from 2014 to 2016.
The Longest Journey can be played on PC in its original glory, or as a remaster on iOS. Like most other point and click adventure games from the late 90s to early 2000s, the graphics feature 3D models over 2D backgrounds. Thankfully, the amazing art direction helps keep the game look only just a little bit dated on modern resolutions.
1. Grim Fandango (1998)
Grim Fandango is often voted as one of the best point and click adventure games for good reason, as it features an amazing soundtrack, captivating visuals, and a story and setting that borrows heavily from Latin American culture. The game takes place in the land of the dead, with players taking on the role of Manny Calavera, a travel agent for recently the recently deceased.
The puzzles in Grim Fandango are never too obtuse, save for a small few, which take some stretches in logic. A remaster was released in 2015, which updates the character models but leaves the original backgrounds intact. Some complain that these new models do not match the untouched backgrounds, but the remaster is also the easiest way to play the game.
The Zork Series
While the Zork series started as a text-only adventure game, there were three graphical titles: Return to Zork, Zork Nemesis, and Zork: Grand Inquisitor. These sequels finally gave players the ability to see the great Underground in their own eyes rather than in their imagination only. Getting into these graphical entries today may be a bit of a challenge as they were never remastered. However, they are available on Steam in their original state.
Myst & Riven
Myst and its sequel Riven were a phenomenon when they were originally released. They were full of mystery, which encouraged players to explore their locales and backstory. However, they have not aged too well and gamers may be taken aback by the dearth of interactable characters and slideshow visuals. Thankfully, several remakes of the games exist, with the latest realMyst being released in 2014.
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Wallace is a long-time PC gaming nerd that is slowly being pulled into the world of consoles. His genres of choice are fighting games, immersive open worlds, platformers, and turn-based strategy games.