Who said that an adventure game can only be great if action and spectacular moves are involved? Brilliant games like Monkey Island have demonstrated that a graphic adventure game can achieve a huge success even if all you need to do is follow a story and give directions to your character so that it moves around the screen. Actually, early adventures games are not that trivial as one might think. Indeed, they require concentration, attention to details, and a great ability to reason since their main objective is to solve complex puzzles in order to go on with the story. Furthermore, exploration of the environment surrounding characters is absolutely necessary to understand what kind of action is required for an enigma to be cleared; it is by interacting with objects and people that the player collects information, items, and hints which will help him/her moving forward.
Classic games such as Mystery House (1980) – which started the genre – and Wizard and the Princess (1980) – which added color graphics to the black and white screen – were precisely designed to scramble players’ brain. Monkey Island did pretty much the same, but in its own way. Indeed, its creators Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman of LucasArts believed in a more player-friendly kind of adventure game, in which the player can’t find him/herself trapped in a no-win scenario. Also, the character can’t die but, on the contrary, they can find themselves involved in very funny situations. Monkey Island’s creators decided to avoid any kind of drama, preferring a more humor-oriented story which aimed to avoid stressful or frustrating scenarios as much as possible. In other words, Monkey Island was realized to be an “easygoing” game for player to experience as less anxiety as possible. Thus, the ridiculousness of the puzzles and its cast of quirky characters became part of the game's charm, as its internal logic was based on silliness and clever wordplay. All elements which earned Monkey Island the label of “cult game”.
Now, is it possible for a cult game of this magnitude to be emulated or even overcome by other games? The answer is yes, and the following list contains all those works which share the same greatness as these are six games like Monkey Island.
Similar Games to Monkey Island
- System/Platform: JCD, PC, PS, MAC, SAT, 3DO, AMI, PSP, CDI, DS, IOS, 3DS
- Publisher: Panasonic, Micro Cabin, Funbox Media, Maximum Family Games, Maximum Games, PXL Computers, Philips Media, Midway, Storm City Games, Empire Interactive, Cyan Worlds, Atari Corporation, Broderbund, Red Orb Entertainment,
- SunSoft, Soft Bank, Psygnosis, SCEA, Hoplite Research, Sega, Tec Toy, Acclaim, Wooyoung System
- Developer: Micro Cabin, Hoplite Research, Cyan Worlds, Alfa System, SunSoft
- Release Date: Sep 24, 1993
If you are searching for a revolutionary graphic adventure puzzle games, you wouldn’t look any further than Myst. Designed by the brothers Robyn and Rand Miller from Cyan and published by Brøderbund, Myst was released in 1993 on the Macintosh platform and soon became one of the most best-selling PC games of the Nineties and the first years of the 2000. Myst’s plot is quite complicated and follows the adventures of an unnamed person known as the Stranger that the player will never be able to see in the face. Indeed, Myst is a first-person journey through an interactive world, and the player him/herself is its protagonist. The story starts with the Stranger who finds a mysterious book titled “Myst”, which is also the name of the island the book tells about. The Stranger reads the book until its very end, but by placing his hand on the last page he gets whisked away to the world described in the book. To be able to escape the island the Stranger has no other choice but to explore the unknown world.
Differently from Monkey Island, Myst displayed a different conception of what an “enjoyable experience” for a player should be. If Monkey Island purposely meant to be a hilarious and sometimes even senseless game based on fantasy, Myst intentionally aims to be an intense and hyper realistic title based on a human dilemma magisterially portrayed by each book the Stranger will find on his journey. This antithetical conception of gaming is probably what makes the the two works different from each other; while Monkey Island tries to be more relaxing as possible, Myst wants to actively involve the player in the puzzle the protagonist needs to set up in order to solve an intricate mystery. Also, while Monkey Island was conceived to prevent situations which could lead to the character’s death or obstacle the player, Myst was made for the player to actually engage in the game and pay attention to all the details hidden in the character’s surroundings. However, Monkey Island and Myst have a point in common, that is the fact of belonging to the same genre; indeed, as in Monkey Island, also in Myst the player can move around the area by clicking on a precise point, or can observe things, and collect items. The whole location can be explored and it is possible to interact with all existing characters and objects.
- System/Platform: IOS
- Publisher: Big Fish Games
- Developer: Big Fish Games
- PRelease Date: Jun 5, 2013
Another great graphical adventure game which made history and achieved a great success is Syberia, which is somewhere in between Monkey Island and Myst. In fact, Syberia also talks about a traveler on a journey to solve a mystery. This time, the player must assume the role of the American lawyer Kate Walker, whose firm has given her the mission of purchasing a toy factory in a remote French village located in a strange and dreamlike fictional Europe. In order to fulfill her task, Kate must locate a character named Hans Voralberg, a brilliant but also bizarre inventor who driven by a passion for mammoths, he long ago left his village to find the legendary creatures.
Points which Syberia share with Monkey Island mostly relate to their gameplay. Indeed, exactly like its predecessor, Syberia is a classical point-and-click graphical adventure in third person in which the player has to make the character move around environments by clicking on the screen in search for useful for items, clues and information. Then, the player must solve various puzzles and follow certain logical steps in order for the story to proceed. However, differently for Monkey Island which is a comic-like 2D adventure, Syberia’s graphic is better realized and based on a more realistic 3D world.
3. King’s Quest
- System/Platform: APL2, ST
- Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
- Developer: Sierra Entertainment
- PRelease Date: May 10, 1984
Before Monkey Island, there was King’s Quest, which defined the graphic adventure genre. King’s Quest was born from an idea of Roberta Williams – who designed all the titles belonging to the series until 2015 – of the American software company Sierra Entertainment, and it was first released in 1983. Its plot was very simple and initially sees the Kingdom of Daventry suffering from disasters and hardship. In order to fight famine and diseases suffered by his people, the Kingdom’s sovereign, King Edward, calls his bravest knight, Sir Grahame, and tells him to search for three legendary treasures hidden throughout the land he has heard of that would end Daventry's problems. If Grahame succeeds he will become king in place of the sovereign.
What King’s Quest shares with Monkey Island is simplicity. Being one of the first games falling into the graphic adventure category, the plot’s structure and content are quite childish, but King’s Quest was a revolutionary game at the time. King’s Quest is, in fact, the absolute first game which used a 16 color EGA standard, as its creators focused more on the graphic quality of the work than on puzzles to solve, dialogues, and plot development. Both Monkey Island and King’s Quest sacrifice the difficulty of the gameplay to focus on different purposes; while Monkey Island wanted to make people feel funny, King’s Quest wanted to dazzle players with its innovative gaming technology rather than offering them an unforgettable story. The graphics are actually another point King’s Quest and Monkey Island has in common. Indeed, King’s Quest has been the first puzzle adventure game to introduce the “interactive cartoon” style and a pseudo-3D environment explored on a third-person perspective. That is an element which will be taken and further developed by Monkey Island few years later.
King's Quest Gameplay Trailer
Any Games Like Monkey Island ?
4. Echo: Secret of the Lost Cavern
- System/Platform: PC, MAC, WINM
- Publisher: Coladia, The Adventure Shop, The Adventure Company, Tetraedge
- Developer: Kheops Studio, Tetraedge
- PRelease Date: Jul 5, 2005
Another original work that couldn’t be missing in our list of games like Monkey Island is Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern, which was able to intrigue many graphic adventure games’ lovers thanks to its particular setting, plot, and unique characteristics. Developed by Kheops Studio and published by Adventure Company, Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern is a third-person survival in which the player takes the role of Arok, a 15-year-old European Homo sapiens from the Paleolithic period. While hunting for food, he finds out a cavern covered in strange symbols which reminds him of Klem, a charismatic painter and sorcerer able to speak with spirits through his drawings. Fascinated by Klem’s art and powers since long time before when he met Klem for the first time, Arok decides to investigate on the symbols in the hope to find his mentor
We can’t say that Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern is set in a fantasy world like Monkey Island is, but we certainly can tell that the two games share the same natural environment. Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern also takes place in a savage land through which the player needs to move the character in search for useful information and objects to make the story progress. Of course, being a game released in 2005, when puzzle adventures were already considered outdated, Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern pointed on the graphics and difficulty to catch the attention of the new generation players; indeed, the graphic is very realistic and detailed to the point that it looks like the character is moving around pictures of real landscapes. The puzzles are also quite thought provoking, while the inventory system is innovative and allows to combine one or more objects to create new tools the character can use to stay alive.
Thanks to its uniqueness in the setting and gameplay, Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern shares another great common point with Monkey Island. Indeed, when Monkey Island came out for the first time, it was considered a revolutionary game due to technologies involved in its creation and the philosophy behind the game. Also Echo: Secrets of the Lost Caverns was jaw-dropping when it was released, since it offered an exciting and interesting journey into the past.
5. Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
- System/Platform: PS, PC, GBA, MOBI, WII, DS, LNX, IOS, MAC, AND
- Publisher: Revolution Software, Ubisoft, Bam Entertainment, Astraware, Virgin Interactive, Sold Out Software, Kalypso, SCEE, THQ
- Developer: Revolution Software, Astraware
- PRelease Date: Sep 30, 1996
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars was released on the eve of the graphic adventure genre's precipitous decline and was able to temporarily restore this genre’s former glory. What made Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars a great game was the fact it was intelligently-written and that featured a well-structured, catchy plot which completely took distance from the previous games of the same category. Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is about an American tourist, George Stobbart, who witnesses a terrorist attack at a cafe in Paris, during which a clown steals a briefcase and detonates a bomb. Soon after detonation, George meets Nicole Collard, a journalist who is photographing the scene, and George helps her gather information by investigating the area. Finally, he finds some of the clown’s belongings around the area learns that a man was seen escaping with a briefcase. After Nicole discovers the address of a costume shop found among the clown’s lost items, George pays the shop a visit and gets informed that those things had been purchased by a man named Khan.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars is the game that inspired many of the graphic adventures games that were going to be published later, including Syberia. But it also took elements and was inspired by classic games of the same genre which defined its basic characteristics. Indeed, similarly to previous games like Monkey Island, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars has a cartoon-like graphic style which makes the game seem like an interactive visual and audio comic book. This is one of the elements which Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars shares with Monkey Island in particular. However, there is actually another common point that make both games look very similar, that is the dialogues. One of the best things in Monkey Island is always been said to be the humorous, hilarious, and often senseless conversations between the characters. Discourses in Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars are not that weird or amusing, but were still able to leave the fans amazed due to their unique style, known as “conversation icon” system. Basically, this system would not reveal to the player what the protagonist was about to say, an imitation of interactive movies of that time. Thus, what really links the two games is the uniqueness of the discourse.
6. The Longest Journey
- System/Platform: PC
- Publisher: Funcom, Empire Interactive
- Developer: Funcom
- PRelease Date: Nov 16, 2000
In 1999, the Norwegian studio Funcom released The Longest Journey. This game has also been a great success, even though some game experts think it is worth even greater popularity than the achieved one. In fact, The Longest Journey is a very special game which features a meaningful and deep plot. It takes place in the parallel universes of magic-dominated Arcadia and industrial Stark. The main character is April Ryan, an 18-year-old art student with a troubled past living in Stark. She is a 'Shifter',someone capable of moving between the parallel worlds, and who has the task to restore Balance, a powerful force which enables the two worlds to exist. Through her nightmares, April comes to know about strange events happening in her neighborhood which are becoming harder to ignore. Guided by the mysterious Cortez, April discovers that the Balance is in danger of failing and will have to find out what is going on.
What was revolutionary about The Longest Journey is the protagonist, April Ryan. In a gaming universe populated by sex-appealing and good-looking female characters, April was a rare breed due to her character’s personality which displayed a great strength, maturity, and intelligence she used in order to overcome obstacles. The world across which April moves also is special, being a manifestation of April’s inner universe, which represents the phases of her own personal growth she is asked to deal with. The title of the work itself is a reference to the quote by the Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld: "The longest journey is the journey inward, for he who has chosen his destiny has started upon his quest for the source of his being." So, what has this game meant for grown-ups to do with Monkey Island? Well, we could say that The Longest Journey’s gameplay, concept, and development is a summary of all classic graphic adventure games, but that was realized with a particular focus on Monkey Island’s. Evidence of that is the references to Monkey Island possible to find while playing, as for example April’s animatronic toy monkey that she calls "Constable Guybrush", namely Monkey Island’s protagonist.
Graphic adventure genre has driven technology adoption and touched the lives of millions of people. However, after Monkey Island and some works from the Nineties, this genre has rapidly fallen off, with only a few exceptions, such as Echo or The Longest Journey. Still, even if adventure games’ popularity won’t rise again, these masterpieces will remain untouched in the history of video games, and all the innovations they brought to gaming market will always be recognized for the contribution they gave to later titles. That is why you shouldn’t miss any of them.
If you have already played to one of these games, let us know with a comment below!