10 of the best text-based adventure games you didn’t know you needed
The news that old school Roberta and Ken Williams, pioneers of adventure gaming return to gaming after 25 years with a virtual reality version of the classic game colossal cave got me thinking how awesome text adventure games are. Ring of Elden that’s cool and all, but sometimes you want to type “GO NORTH” and enjoy perfectly rendered mental graphics.
If you’ve never played a text game, you should. It’s incredibly easy and free. And you certainly don’t need to worry about a fancy graphics card or your system specs. All 10 games listed here are playable in your browser, and any of them would be a great starting point into the pool of interactive fiction.
The Dream (2004)
Released in 2004, The castle of dreams is one of the newer games on this list, but it’s a great place to start because it offers something old-school text games never care about: a tutorial. The castle of dreams is designed to introduce you to the mechanics, nuances, and tropes of text-based adventures. It’s also a meta commentary on interactive fiction and contains some devilishly clever puzzles. Moreover, it is free on the app storeor you can play it on your browser.
Colossal Cave (1976)
Although not the very first text-based adventure game, colossal cave is the first to be widely played and shared among old computer nerds of the late 1970s. They are the first adventure games to be playable on a personal computer as well. In this direction, colossal cave is perhaps the most influential video game ever made. It immerses you in one of the first virtual worlds ever created for a computer, complete with monsters, a dragon, and a rudimentary combat system with which to slay them. You can play here.
The world of PC gaming was very small in the 1980s, but in this area, Zork was an absolute blockbuster. By 1986, the publisher of the games had sold over 680,000 copies – perhaps a small number by today’s standards, but back then? Huge! Zork expanded the horizons of the text-adventure genre in terms of complexity, possibilities, lore, and puzzles. It’s still an engaging and intriguing game. Check it yourself.
Genesis MUD (1989)
Not all text adventure games were solitary experiences. Players of the past enjoyed playing together as much as players of today, and that’s how the MUD was created. Multi-user dungeons used to share fictional RPG experiences before World of Warcraft was even a glint in someone’s eye. Genesis was not the first MUD, but it is the oldest in continuous operation – this game has the story, male. It’s been working since before normal people even knew the internet existed, and it still works. You can participate whenever you want, by clicking on this link.
Softporn Adventure (1981)
Text adventures don’t have to be about exploring caves and battling dragons. It can be anything, even fucking. This relic from the era of sexual liberation presents the player as a horny guy who wants a woman. Hmmm, I wonder why the game had to deal with a “guys only” rep for so long? Anyway, Softporn Adventure not going to excite you – unless you really like text adventures – but it’s funny and less blatant than you might expect, given the time period it was released and the target market. check it out.
fun fact: Most of the models posing in a hot tub for the game’s cover were On-Line Systems employees, including Roberta Williams, the company’s founder. She is on the right.
AI Dungeon (2019)
I’ve Seen the Future of Text-Adventure Games, and It’s Creepy weird. AI Dungeon is a fully procedurally generated text-based adventure game. You pick a character, setting, and situation and the AI takes over, creating a unique story that you can literally do anything in. The AI isn’t particularly consistent or logical, but sessions of AI Dungeon are always fascinating. They unfold with computer-generated dream logic, as if your PC comes to life, takes too many quaaludes, and starts DMing your J&D Game.
Scott Adams’ Pirate Adventure (1979)
The series of text games created by Scott Adams (but not the Scott Adams who created Dilbert) were designed to be played on personal computers. Despite the incredible limitations of the tiny memories of old PCs, these games still managed to create fantastical worlds that felt real and exciting (until you got stuck and there was no one to turn to). acquire help.) pirate adventure is among Scott Adams’ best games, but all are worthwhile, and all are playable in your browser.
Google’s Text Adventure (2018)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1984)
the Hitchhiker’s Guide stands out for its incredibly difficult puzzles and clever writing. It has an absurd comic style that contrasts nicely with the serious tone of so many text games. Plus, it’s a must-play for fans of the novel – it was co-written by Douglas Adams, and rather than retreading the novel, it’s an entirely separate narrative that expands the Hitchhiker universe in a hilarious way. Check it here.
If you’ve ever heard a game described as “Roguelike,” this fantasy game from 1980 is the source of the term. Whether Thug is actually a “text adventure” depends on how you look at it, though. Unlike the rest of the games on this list, you don’t type stuff like “Go North” and read descriptions of what happens next. Instead, it uses text instead of graphics to create a turn-based dungeon crawler. Once you get used to being a “@” “Z” fighter, you’re rewarded with deep and extremely challenging gameplay – every aspect of the dungeon is randomized and death is permanent, so learning to survive and thrive is a major accomplishment. You can play it here.