After thinking about my list for over a month, I finally got it done today! Most of the games were included in the previous Top 50, though I tried to mix and mash it up a little. I apologise for the lack of Infocom games as I’ve only started playing during the last 2 years and really had no time to try completing any of them, except for Zork 1. I also happen to have a tiny love for horror, so there might be more of these type of games in my list.
So here’s my list!
My top 20 IF games:
Anchorhead: What can we say about this game? It’s probably what horror stands for in Interactive Fiction. With a huge, open world full of plot and puzzles, this is the one game that has to played, though you might not be able to make the game winnable if you leave some items untaken in certain buildings.
Photopia: The first ever successful experiment in puzzleless IF’s leaves judges and players stunned with it’s brilliant and moving story. In a way, it shows that life brings you happiness whenever you go look for it.
The King of Shreds and Patches: Another Anchorhead-like game, bringing us a classic Lovecraft tale in the 1800’s. The plot, which is told in manuscripts and letters written by the NPC’s, is very interesting to observe and experience. Puzzles are a strong point in this game and is simplified with a great in-game hint menu.
Little Blue Men: The game is not what it looks like in the beginning. As explained by the numerous game genres (Satire/Horror/Science Fiction), it starts pretty normal in a typical man’s office, but quickly changes into a disturbing and strange world that tests our trust in each other.
The Warbler’s Nest: Just like Little Blue Men, this game starts out slow and quiet. But after your 10 moves, you realize that something is very, very wrong with your little hut. A great tale of psychology and how your mind perceives what is real and what is not. Has good horror elements too.
I-O: The thing that will probably attract players to try this game out is its minor pornographic material, but if you can look beyond that (which is a little difficult to do), you will find a unique world which brings out hopelessness within ourselves. It has plenty of endings too, which increases its replay value.
Curses: The first ever game created in Inform, Curses manages to show Inform’s efficiency to create a great game as long as you have a good plot and puzzles. One problem with this game is that its puzzles were complained to be too difficult, but I guess that’s also its strength too. With it’s long gameplay length, you will be spending a long time trying to finish this game. It will give you plenty of chances to discover it’s interesting story too.
Slouching Towards Bedlam: This game won the 2002 IF Comp in a landslide. It isn’t too much of a surprise as this game has a brilliant setting in an Victorian world, where machines overflow the streets like rats in a sewer… From the word ‘Bedlam’ in the title, you can guess that this game’s location is in an asylum. Expect less-than-pleasant events to happen there. Puzzles are a strong point in this game, though I had some trouble solving them, but the plot you get while attempting to solve them will make your efforts worthwhile.
Ad Verbum: No nick Nanny’s nappy! Ad Verbum, as you can guess from it’s name, is a homage to Nord and Bert, which features huge amounts of wordplay. Basically, there is very little plot in this story, but its interesting puzzles are enough to keep players playing this game. Every room has its obstacles to overcome. And just remember to keep your thesaurus next to you.
Galatea: I have never seen such a beautiful game in a very, very long time. Don’t worry about exploring all the rooms in a game and trying to complete all of its puzzles in a day; this game has none. Galatea features a very deep NPC for you to communicate with, to understand with. The amount of topics that you can bring up with Galatea is high, and the quality of writing is preserved though there is a lot for the author to keep track of.
Taco Fiction: Few games star you as the bad guy. And fewer games star you as a bad guy who doesn’t want to be a bad guy. Add a hilarious story into it together with challenging puzzles and you get a great result. Something not related to crime altogether. A walkthrough is recommended if you aren’t too good at solving there puzzles.
Lost Pig: The IF that kicked the entire genre back to live, Lost Pig is a amazing game which is perfect for newcomers to IF and is basically made by an author whose name ends with Humour. The entire story is full of comedy and has great dialog which tells the tale of you, a giant, trying to rescue a pig that has fallen into a gnome hole. Puzzles are simple and fair, though some thought is needed to find out what you have to do next.
Spider and Web: This game enjoyed by players so much until it was actually reviewed by PC Gamer themselves during its release in 1998. The beginning of the game hints nothing amazing or special, until you progress and find that you are actually a spy who was captured by your enemy and is forced to relive your previous hours during an interrogation. The main highlight of this game is its puzzles, which seem difficult at first, but after getting hints from the interrogator whenever you mess up and progressing through them, you will only appreciate how good the puzzles are.
Shrapnel: A very strange game released by Adam Cadre himself, it starts you out in a twisted and disturbing version of Zork’s White House. Things start becoming stranger after a few moves and then you will see that it’s no normal IF game. Somehow, Cadre manages to program a game in such a way that ‘Restarting’ the game won’t actually restart it and will bring you back to where you were and continues the game. Gore included.
Shade: There are some games which try to give you a good scare. Some tries to make you feel as if you are in danger during every moment. Well, Shade doesn’t give you any of that. It just messes around with your head, in your tiny motel room. This game starts out normal, like any other game, but slowly changes and breaks down into a completely different area. Being puzzles, it shouldn’t be much of a trouble to complete, as you only need to complete the tasks on your to-do list. Just remember to check the potted plant carefully.
Babel: The winner of the 1997 IF Comp, Babel pulls off a gold medal with it’s dark and gloomy atmosphere. The setting of this game is in a lab-like building, which really reminds me of Sevastapol in Alien 1. Exploring the rooms in the building are satisfying and interesting. Puzzles are not too difficult, as long as you explore thoroughly.
Rameses: This is the true meaning of puzzleless games. Basically a novel made to look like an IF game, Rameses tells your story as a guy who hates life and is a little insane, because too many unlucky things happen to you. Including the ‘Burn’ feeling too. There is very little interaction in this game, so expect to press ‘Z’ during most of your time playing this. Don’t worry, the plot is very well-done and makes it feel as though you are living in Rameses’ shoes. His pain shall be felt.
Losing Your Grip: Another great combination of story and puzzles, this is Losing Your Grip, a game where you explore a delusional world after eating an experimental drug in a nicotine rehab. Moving and exploring the world proves an interesting experience, though the puzzles are difficult, but solving them on your own will really bring the feeling of success and victory.
Theatre: One of the earliest Lovecraftian IF games released by someone other than Infocom, Theatre has the elements of a great horror story: a huge and empty theatre, strange apparations and mannequins, and the unsettling writing. Although it has its flaws (released in 1995, a time where parsers aren’t exactly as smooth as today), the story and history of the theatre will hook you until the end.
De Baron: This game starts as a typical fantasy tale, where you attempt to rescue your daughter from the evil baron. Only then as you play on, you will realize that this game is much, much more than it looks like. The truth about your world, as explained by the all-seeing-gargoyle, will turn this game around from a simple rescue attempt to something much deeper than that, something that you yourself are trapped in and is extremely difficult to escape from. The story is the best thing about this game. Remember to brace yourself for the end.