[Results] The Interactive Fiction Top 50

The results of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 are in! No fewer than 35 participants cast a total of 437 votes on 183 different games. Of those games, 48 got three votes or more, and those are the games that will appear in the Top 50 below – so it is actually a top 48. Games which have the same number of votes appear in the same spot, and will be listed in alphabetical order (ignoring “the”, “a” and “an”).

Does this mean we finally have proof that game X is better than game Y? Of course not. But I hope you will be inspired to try some of these games. Or perhaps you will be inspired to tell us about that game you think really deserves a spot in this list but hasn’t received enough attention. Most of all, I would like you to click on the link above and read the reasons that people gave for choosing one game or another. After all, a reason close to your heart may be more important than a large number of votes.

Fuller results, including a list of games which got two or one votes, will follow; but now, without further ado, the top 48!

First place – 17 votes

  • Spider and Web, Andrew Plotkin (1998)

Second place – 14 votes

  • Lost Pig, Admiral Jota (2007)
  • Photopia, Adam Cadre (1998)

Fourth place – 11 votes

  • Anchorhead, Michael Gentry (1998)

Fifth place – 10 votes

  • A Mind Forever Voyaging, Steve Meretzky (1985)

Sixth place – 8 votes

  • The Baron, Victor Gijsbers (2006)
  • Blue Lacuna, Aaron A. Reed (2008)

Eighth place – 7 votes

  • Savoir-Faire, Emily Short (2002)
  • Shrapnel, Adam Cadre (2000)

Tenth place – 6 votes

  • Shade, Andrew Plotkin (2000)
  • Slouching towards Bedlam, Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto (2003)
  • Trinity, Brian Moriarty (1986)
  • Varicella, Adam Cadre (1999)
  • Vespers, Jason Devlin (2005)
  • Violet, Jeremy Freese (2008)

Sixteenth place – 5 votes

  • Galatea, Emily Short (2000)
  • The Gostak, Carl Muckenhoupt (2001)
  • The King of Shreds and Patches, Jimmy Maher (2009)
  • LASH – Local Asynchronous Satellite Hookup, Paul O’Brian (2000)
  • Make it Good, Jon Ingold (2009)
  • Rameses, Stephen Bond (2000)

Twenty-second place – 4 votes

  • Ad Verbum, Nick Montfort (2000)
  • Aisle, Sam Barlow (1999)
  • All things devours, half sick of shadows (2004)
  • City of Secrets, Emily Short (2003)
  • Curses!, Graham Nelson (1994)
  • Fail-safe, Jon Ingold (2000)
  • Gun Mute, C. E. J. Pacian (2008)
  • Sunset over Savannah, Ivan Cockrum (1997)
  • Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom, S. John Ross (2007)
  • Wishbringer, Brian Moriarty (1985)
  • Worlds Apart, Suzanne Britton (1999)
  • Zork I, Marc Blank and Dave Lebling (1980)

Thirty-fourth place – 3 votes

  • 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery, Peter Nepstad (2002)
  • Adventure, William Crowther and Donald Woods (1976)
  • Aotearoa, Matt Wigdahl (2010)
  • Arthur: the Quest for Excalibur, Bob Bates (1989)
  • Blue Chairs, Chris Klimas (2004)
  • Delightful Wallpaper, Andrew Plotkin (2006)
  • Eric the Unready, Bob Bates (1993)
  • Everybody Dies, Jim Munroe (2008)
  • The Guild of Thieves, Rob Steggles (1987)
  • Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home, Andrew Plotkin (2010)
  • Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis, Adam Thornton (2011)
  • Planetfall, Steve Meretzky (1983)
  • So Far, Andrew Plotkin (1996)
  • Suveh Nux, David Fisher (2007)
  • The Warbler’s Nest, Jason McIntosh (2010)

Groovy; thank you. Will you be doing this as an annual just-before-the-comp poll?

Interesting to compare this to the IFDB star-ratings … it feels like a few games (Mulldoon Legacy and Bronze for example) get a lot of love there but didn’t make this list (and for the oldies, not a single member of the Enchanter trilogy made the cut …). I imagine, except at the very tip-top, the results will fluctuate interestingly from year to year (whereas the IFDB accumulates in persistent layers …)

I was thinking about it doing it once every two years, but let’s see.

Bronze got two votes, and probably would have gotten more if Emily hadn’t made so many other good games. Mulldoon Legacy received no votes; Enchanter and Spellbreaker both received one.

Yes, it can fluctuate a lot more than the IFDB can. I also suspect that there are other differences; for instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if on the IFDB, “polished but not really special” games will tend to get higher ratings than “special but not really polished” games, whereas in a top like this it would be the other way around.

Anyone who wants to point newcomers at this list might prefer to use the IFDB page I just made, since it contains links to the IFDB game pages, which in turn contain links to game files or online play possibilities.

It’s not surprising that the results are different from IFDB star ratings.

On the one hand, a star rating system measures quality, while a “choose your favourite(s)” system measures a mixture of quality and popularity, with popularity being a requisite. If a game is really good but hasn’t been played by many, it can get good star ratings but it will never fare well in a “choose your favourite(s)” system.

On the other hand, a star rating computes a mean, while a “choose your favourite(s)” system only takes extremes (good ones) into account. A controversial game that is deemed excellent by some and terrible by others can get high in a “choose your favorite(s)” ranking, but will not do good in star ratings.

In the Spanish community we have always had a “choose your favourite(s)” annual competition, and we now have star ratings as well, and these effects are clearly visible if one compares the rankings.

What’s better? I personally prefer star ratings, because I’m more interested in quality than in popularity, and the issue with controversial games mentioned above can be tackled with a histogram of ratings. But each system provides different information, so to each their own.