We frequently return to our top 10 lists to make sure they are as up-to-date as possible and represent the very best the genre has to offer. This top 10 adventure games list is no exception.
The best Adventure games have prospered thanks to a focus on story and character. That, and a few tricky brain teasers, as opposed to violence set the genre apart. Characters usually get by through talking or thinking instead of resorting to fighting – though, Full Throttle protagonist Ben might have a few things to say about that.
The escapism found in adventure titles feels like a saviour at the best of times so, right now, it feels essential. We might not be able to go outside for much longer than an hour but the entries on this list should be more than enough to sweep us away for days on end. From battles with Norse gods and goddesses to perilous journeys across scorching sands in search of ancient treasures, this is our list of the best adventure games there are to tide you over while we weather the ongoing storm outside.
10. GRIM FANDANGO
Dialogue, character, world, and imagination cement Grim Fandango among the best adventure games. Set in the Mexican Land of the Dead, where everyone’s a skeleton or a demon, the recently deceased have to work off any crimes they may have committed before taking the treacherous four-year journey to get into the Ninth Underworld. It is a cleverly-realised world with film noir influences and a big dollop of crime and corruption.
The game stars some of the finest characters ever written, including protagonist Manny Calavera, who must try to save Mercedes Colomar, the woman he thinks he wronged. Friendly, car-obsessed demon Glottis would not be out of place in the best Disney/Pixar movies, and Manny is one of the most effortlessly cool and likeable player characters in an adventure game.
9. THE WALKING DEAD
Tales From The Borderlands and The Wolf Among Us both come close, but neither have the magnetism of The Walking Dead’s Lee and Clementine. Good-hearted lawbreaker Lee and recently orphaned Clementine establish a fiercely loyal bond as they weather an onslaught of tragedies and disasters. Chief among these is the zombie apocalypse, of course, but the agendas of every survivor they meet both help and hinder the pair, too.
Telltale’s ability to convince the player that they are in charge of the story – despite the whole thing being a smoke and mirrors act – is what makes The Walking Dead: Season One one of the best adventure games on PC.
8. NIGHT IN THE WOODS
It is hard not to fall for Night in the Woods. Developers Infinite Fall packed personal experience, humour, small-town Americana, a creepy conspiracy, stylish visuals, a fantastic soundtrack, and some of the most affectingly real scenes in videogames into one of the best adventure games ever made.
Night in the Woods tackles depression, dysfunctional families, economics, societal pressure, growing up, joblessness, escapism, and death, but in a whimsical and good-natured way that ensures things never become hopeless. Characters gently poke fun at each other and do anything to distract themselves, no matter how stupid or dangerous.
7. Life is Strange
Life is Strange boasts consequential choices, a better-looking and more expressive graphics engine, and, most importantly, an entirely original setting.
Main character Max Caulfield is a photography senior, working with classic Polaroid cameras, while everyone else sports expensive top-of-the-range digital gear. She is immediately endearing, appealingly weird, and… has the ability to rewind time.
It is a testament to Dontnod team’s writing skills that this game-changing superpower is the least impressive thing about Life is Strange; Max’s relationship with former best friend Chloe, and how they reconnect after Max ran out on that life, is the heart of a story that puts the game in the hallowed company of the best adventure games on PC.
6. The Wolf Among Us
This 2014 cult hit from Telltale took classic fairytale characters, reimagined them in a hidden town in 1980s New York and then dropped them all into the mix of a murder investigation that the player leads.
As the reformed Big Bad Wolf, you get to lead the search for the murderer like the kind of gruff detective you’d find in early 2000s TV shows; only in this case, the suspects and aides are all familiar fairytale folk.
In episodic installments, you are tasked with unravelling the mystery of the killings that are taking place in Fabletown and, soon enough, the whole fabric of this strange community starts to fall apart. The Wolf Among Us is an oddity that you won’t forget in a hurry, so head on into Fabletown and enjoy the topsy turvy nature of it all.
5. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
There have been far too many instances in which beloved films have been made into terrible games (anyone remember the Activision version of Quantum of Solace? No? Me neither) and ended up feeling pointless. Luckily in the case of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, developers got it right and did justice to Tolkein’s world by introducing us to non-canon characters and expanding even more on this astonishingly detailed universe.
Famed for its ‘Nemesis’ system - in which Uruks and orcs remember encounters with the game’s protagonist and learn from them, making them more difficult to defeat -, Shadow of Mordor contains hours of gameplay and more deep dives into the complex lore of Tolkein’s Middle-Earth than you can shake a stick (or Gandalf’s staff) at. For anyone with even the slightest affinity for The Lord of the Rings, Shadow of Mordor is a must.
4. Far Cry 5
As with all Far Cry games, there are outposts to be liberated, noble deeds to be done and plenty of sightseeing to do in this fifth installment of the popular Ubisoft flagship. This time, though, you’re thrown right into the middle of a religious cult busy brainwashing the folks of the fictional Hope County, found in the gorgeous mountainsides of Montana.
You might have to confront sadistic cultists and assorted fanatics in Far Cry 5, but you definitely won’t have to do it alone - in Hope County, you are accompanied by dogs, witty NPCs, mountain lions and bears alike.
3. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Did The Rise of Skywalker satisfy all of your Star Wars related quenches? If not, you can once again jump straight into a galaxy far, far away and live out your greatest fantasies of galavanting about as a Jedi right here.
Set years after the infamous Order 66 was carried out, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order introduces players to a Jedi padawan in hiding, whose training was cut short and who soon finds himself working to restore the old Order. In true Star Wars style, you team up with a friendly little droid and end up encountering more than a few familiar faces as you traverse an ever expanding galaxy.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
In one of the most ambitious and sprawling games in recent memory, you can strap on outlaw Arthur Morgan’s stirrups and spend hour after hour journeying through the last days of the Western frontier in the company of your trusty horse and a few old friends.
In this prequel to the much-loved Red Dead Redemption, weirdly named Red Dead Redemption 2, you find yourself playing as a member of Dutch van der Linde’s legendary gang, alongside a younger version of the original, legendary Red Dead protagonist John Marston, and are able to ride freely across a great American landscape.
1. Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The final piece in the puzzle that is Lara Croft’s early years of, well, raiding tombs, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a satisfying and intriguing conclusion to Lara’s origin story.
Since 1996, the character of Lara has remained a constant in the world of adventure gaming and the reboot that began in 2013 only cemented her status as a behemoth of action and historical mystery solving.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is, naturally, dominated by tales of hidden cities, powerful spiritual forces, artefacts and that indomitable strive for accomplishment that we’ve come to associate Lara with over the years. Set largely in the Americas and filled with fantastically detailed local legends, Shadow of the Tomb Raider serves up an adventure for the ages.