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Big, non-linear adventure games with score system

Recommendations by MathBrush

These are classic-style games, where you have to collect a large variety of objects while exploring a cave or building. My favorite way to play these games is to start playing without hints, mapping out the world and seeing what all I can do. Once I get at least half the points in the game, I start looking at walkthroughs when I get stuck, which becomes more and more common as the game progresses.

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1. Adventure
by William Crowther and Donald Woods
(1976)
Average member rating: (73 ratings)

MathBrush says:

The very first text adventure of all. This was the last game I had played on this list, and I wish it had been the first. This game is fresh and exciting. It is modeled after the real-life Mammoth caves, and this makes the mazes in the game, the inventory limits, and the light dying 100% justified and fun, as opposed to so many later games.

2. Zork, by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling (1979)
Average member rating: (24 ratings)
MathBrush says:

The MIT version of Zork contains a large portion of the three later Infocom Zork games. This game is larger and more polished than Adventure, but suffers from a sort of smugness that I find annoying. Many of my favorite portions of the game I later discovered were taken from Adventure. However, when I finally got to the later portions of the game, I found them really exciting (like the area up the well, the Royal puzzle, and the Volcano).

3. Curses!
by Graham Nelson
(1993)
Average member rating: (94 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This is, in my mind, the best interactive fiction game of all time. The unfolding of past and present, the slow realizations of what is going on, the gentle introduction of mystical and mythical elements, combine for an unforgettable experience. I play this game every year or so for fun.

4. Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina
by Jim Aikin
(1999)
Average member rating: (25 ratings)

MathBrush says:

The name of the game and the fact that it is Christmas-themed may drive off some players, but it shouldn't. This is a fun and ultimately kind of creepy adventure game spent exploring an abandoned mall on Christmas Eve. Some puzzles are obscure, but the scope of the game and the easy layout made it fun to explore even when completely stuck. Probably my second-favorite game on the list.

5. Building
by Poster
(2005)
Average member rating: (12 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A largely neglected classic. This game is set in an abandoned office building and deals with the dark aspects of office life and conformity. The writing threw me off at first, but I spent two months playing the game, eventually using a decompiler due to the lack of a walkthrough.

6. Theatre, by Brendon Wyber (1995)
Average member rating: (65 ratings)
MathBrush says:

This is another game whose writing is a bit off at time, but which provided one of the most enjoyable playing experiences I've had in years. It is shorter than the other games, but I felt compelled to keep playing, especially with the journal pages revealing an ancient history. This game explores an old theatre, and is based on a short story about a theatre in California, which is included in the game.

7. The Mulldoon Legacy, by Jon Ingold (1999)
Average member rating: (33 ratings)
MathBrush says:

By far the largest and most complex game in the list An insane amount of puzzles of great difficulty. I gave up early on and used walkthroughs, and it was still hard just to type that much. The hologram room provided one of the best scenes in all of interactive fiction. This game involves exploring an old museum, looking for your grandfather.

8. Savoir-Faire
by Emily Short
(2002)
Average member rating: (93 ratings)

MathBrush says:

I added this game to the list later. Playing it again after a five-year break was a very different experience than I remembered. Just like the other games, you collect a lot of objects and try to get 150 points. The feel is very different, with a wistful rapscallion feel that doesn't make as big an impact on me as the others.

9. Zork I
by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling
(1980)
Average member rating: (152 ratings)

MathBrush says:

I was skeptical at first, but this is a big improvement over the corresponding parts of MIT Zork/Dungeon. Especially the redesigned map layout. If you don't mind paying for an app or an anthology, this is the better version of a classic game.

10. Zork II
by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
(1981)
Average member rating: (69 ratings)

MathBrush says:

My favorite Zork game (also Lebling's favorite Zork game, from an interview he gave). Incredible NPCs, wonder-inducing descriptions, lots of "side content". Don't miss this one, despite the cost.

11. Lydia's Heart
by Jim Aikin
(2007)
Average member rating: (20 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A massive horror game with very hard puzzles in a southern swamp setting. Like Anchorhead in Louisiana with Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina's puzzles (they have the same author). Very enjoyable.

12. Spellbreaker
by Dave Lebling
(1985)
Average member rating: (40 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A game I only recently completed. After thinking back on it more and more, I've realized that I just love this game. This is such an incredibly well-written and thought out game, though hard. Probably my first or second favorite game of all time.

13. Infidel
by Michael Berlyn
(1983)
Average member rating: (41 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Info com game (available on iPad in 2015). Explore a mysterious pyramid. Interesting non-sympathetic PC.

14. Ballyhoo
by Jeff O'Neill
(1985)
Average member rating: (29 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Great creepy circus game (detective genre, not horror). An Infocom game.

15. Lost New York, by Neil deMause (1996)
Average member rating: (15 ratings)
MathBrush says:

Excellent historical/sci fi game travelling through historical versions of New York.

16. A Bear's Night Out
by David Dyte
(1997)
Average member rating: (49 ratings)

MathBrush says:

You, a teddy bear, need to get your owner ready for the next day. The last half of the game has some great moments, especially as you interact with your owner's old IF games.

17. First Things First
by J. Robinson Wheeler
(2001)
Average member rating: (15 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Big exploration game involving time travel over 5 decades. Plenty to do and see. Won Best Puzzles XYZZY award.

18. Starcross
by Dave Lebling
(1982)
Average member rating: (34 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Before Planetfall, there was Starcross. Collect a dozen or so colored rods in a big space station and use them to unlock various things. Plenty of cool creatures and technology.

19. A Day for Soft Food
by Tod Levi
(1999)
Average member rating: (24 ratings)

MathBrush says:

As a cat, explore the woods around your cabin, and the cabin itself, to get some soft food. Clever NPC's, including a vicious rival.

20. Goldilocks is a FOX!
by J. J. Guest
(2002)
Average member rating: (4 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A huge fairytale game with occasional twisted humor. Pretty smooth, but a lot of searching puzzles and bad hints. Club Floyd transcript is available as of 2016.

21. Adventurer's Consumer Guide
by Řyvind Thorsby
(2007)
Average member rating: (25 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Test magic objects while seeking treasure. A comedy game.

22. Perdition's Flames
by Michael J. Roberts
(1993)
Average member rating: (13 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Giant game set in the afterlife. Return to earth, play some games, and find something fun to do.

23. Unnkulian Underworld: The Unknown Unventure, by D. A. Leary (1990)
Average member rating: (8 ratings)
MathBrush says:

The next 5 games are all by the same company, Adventions, a small operation that made shareware right after Infocom tanked. They are characterized by bad puns and juvenile humor, except for the last two. The first game has your master Kuulest sending you against the demons of Unnkulia.

24. Unnkulian Unventure II: The Secret of Acme, by David Baggett (1991)
Average member rating: (6 ratings)
MathBrush says:

Corner than the first game somehow, in this game you learn more about the mysterious Acme corporation and it's cheez products.

25. Unnkulia Zero: The Search for Amanda, by D. A. Leary (1993)
Average member rating: (5 ratings)
MathBrush says:

Better than the first two, in this prequel you explore the underworld and set up the first game. You are looking for a missing woman named Amanda.

26. The Legend Lives!, by David Baggett (1994)
Average member rating: (6 ratings)
MathBrush says:

Much better than the other Unnkulia games, and very high quality. 500 years in the future, Unnkulia is a legend, but you find that it's danger is not over.

27. The Horror of Rylvania, by D. A. Leary (1993)
Average member rating: (9 ratings)
MathBrush says:

An excellent Vampire horror game by the Unnkulia crew. Has a hunger timer, and some obscure puzzles, but otherwise on of the better horror games.

28. Save Princeton, by Jacob Weinstein and Karine Schaefer (1991)
Average member rating: (5 ratings)
MathBrush says:

A game that came out right around the time of Unnkulia 1. An author made a big, polished game that modeled Princeton campus and his friends and had a silly plot about people taking over the campus.


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