What made these games so enjoyable wasn't cutting edge graphics or multi-million dollar budgets, but instead the excellent writing, engaging puzzles, colorful characters, and the unique approach to story-telling which many of them featured. It's for this reason perhaps that so many of them still hold up so well today.
Updated March 11, 2022 by Tom Bowen: With the recent resurgence in the popularity and prevalence of point-and-click video games, plenty of people are now beginning to turn their attention to some of the genre's earlier offerings. Despite decades having passed, these games still have a surprising amount to offer and can hold their own against many of the genre's more modern offerings. For as enjoyable as the likes of Thimbleweed Park and Kentucky Route Zero are, they owe much of their success to these amazing adventures, which defined not just a single genre, but, in many ways, an entire era of gaming. These are the best point-and-click games that still hold up well today.
Many people consider Blade Runner to be one of the most important and most influential sci-fi movies ever made. It really is a work of art, and so a video game adaptation was always likely to happen. That it took 15 years after the movie's release for the game to come out is a tad surprising, but, when it did finally arrive, it did so with an emphatic bang.
The game perfectly captures the cyberpunk aesthetic from the movie and still looks pretty decent today all things considered. The gameplay has held up equally well, and, while the plot isn't quite as enthralling as the one from the movie, it still offers a vast improvement over the recently released anime series, Blade Runner: Black Lotus.
ToonStruck is a little bit like a reverse Roger Rabbit, with a live-action protagonist placed into a magical world inhabited almost exclusively by cartoon characters. The art style still holds up pretty well today as a result, as too do the voice performances from Christopher Lloyd, who needs no introduction, and Dan Castellaneta of The Simpsons fame.
Sadly, the game sold relatively poorly when it was first released, particularly given its $8 million budget. It has since garnered something of a cult following, however, which, given just how unique it is, is easy to understand. Those hoping to check it out in 2022 can do so quite easily, as ToonStruck is now available on both Steam and GOG.
Visually, Maniac Mansion hasn't held up quite as well as some of the other great point-and-click games from the eighties and nineties, which, given its age and the limitations of the era, shouldn't be all that surprising. What it lacks in graphical fidelity and polish though, it more than makes up for in charm and humor and so is still a lot of fun to play even to this day.
Written and directed by Ron Gilbert, who would later go on to create the Monkey Island series, Maniac Mansion is one of the most influential point-and-click games ever made. It is to Gilbert what Day of the Tentacle is to Schafer: a breakthrough release that lays all of the groundwork for future excellence in game design. For that reason alone, it deserves to be experienced by fans of the genre.
Sierra's King's Quest series is one of the longest-running in gaming, with its first entry having now arrived more than four decades ago. While there have been plenty of great games to choose from during that time, the pick of the bunch is definitely King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow; which to many marks the high point of the series.
Released in 1992, the game improves upon just about everything that made earlier King's Quest titles so enjoyable. The voice acting is fantastic, the animation is smoother than ever and there's much more emphasis placed on player choice than in earlier games. In total, there are more than a dozen different endings; making it one of the most replayable point-and-click games of the era.
With its stunning visuals and wonderful animation, The Neverhood is one of the most memorable point-and-click adventure games to come out of the nineties. It was the first game in which all of the animation was done using claymation and features some of the best and most humorous writing of the era.
Some of the game's puzzles can at times be a little confusing, but they can typically be figured out with a little bit of trial and error. The story has one or two problems as well, although Klaymen himself is one of the most unique protagonists to ever grace a video game and his personality is just as charming as his appearance. Sadly, the PlayStation port of the game never left Japan, although the game was and continues to be available on Windows in the west.
With games like Clock Tower having already laid much of the groundwork for point-and-click horror games, Sanitarium was far from groundbreaking when it was released back in 1998. That's not to say that it isn't still a great game though. It's so good, in fact, that it tied with Grim Fandango to win Computer Gaming World's Best Adventure Game award that year and was nominated for numerous other top industry prizes.
The game still looks great considering its era and there are plenty of perplexing puzzles for players to solve. But where it really shines is in the story department, both in terms of the narrative itself and the methods by which the developers opt to unveil it. Max's wavering sanity serves as the perfect vehicle with which to explore the wonderfully crafted stages and is ultimately what makes the experience so terrifying at times.
The Longest Journey is one of the last point-and-click adventure games to come out of the twentieth century, and it really shows in the game's advanced visuals. And thanks to some talented modders, there are several HD texture packs available which help to bring the game closer still to modern-day standards. Visual fidelity is just one of many things that the game has going for it though.
The story is surprisingly complex for a point-and-click game and remains incredibly compelling throughout. The main protagonist is just as impressive and the puzzles that she's faced with are challenging yet fair. Several spin-off titles have been released in the years since, although fans are still waiting for news about the direct sequel that was first announced back in 2013.
Plenty of developers tried to incorporate FMV elements into their games during the nineties, but few managed to pull it off quite as successfully as Sierra. The implementation of the technology in the studio's 1995 title The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery was groundbreaking for the era and stands as a testament to the skill of those working for the company at that time.
The game takes place around one year on from the events of the first Gabriel Knight title and once again places players in the shoes of the Belmont-like author. This time, however, players also take control of Grace for certain sections of the game and there are some noticeable improvements to the way that players interact with the objects and items around them. The story is strong, and the overall experience is one that's not to be missed.
LucasArts being a subsidiary of LucasFilm gave the team access to some of the best movie licenses of all time. What's more, unlike many of the other licensed titles being made in that era, LucasArts' games based on movies were actually good. Really good. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis serves as the perfect example of the right way to adapt a movie franchise into a video game.
Every element of the game is lovingly crafted, with great attention to detail being paid to ensure excellence in every area. The game's original story feels like a genuine part of the Indy universe, and the excellent writing perfectly captures the title character's wit and cynicism. It really is a great title and one that fans of Indiana Jones would be fools to miss out on.
At first glance, it might not be obvious that Loom is a LucasArts game due to the drastic differences in tone and gameplay when compared with their other titles. In many ways, it feels more like a creator experimenting with a range of conflicting ideas than it does a genuine attempt at making a video game.
These elements come together surprisingly well, though, and form an enjoyable and unique experience that's unlike any other from that era. With a deep narrative and some unusual gameplay mechanics, Loom is a title that's definitely worth the price of admission. Fans of the Zelda franchise, in particular, would do well to check it out.
Full Throttle's story and gameplay are excellent, but it is the game's main protagonist that really makes it stand out. Ben Throttle is the very definition of badass, and the late, great Roy Conrad did a fantastic job of bringing the character to life. He's incredibly well-written, and his creative problem-solving techniques are sure to bring a smile to players' faces.
Anybody who's played the game will likely have fond memories of sending cute battery-powered bunnies to clear an active minefield and engaging in some sweet road-rash style combat. Anybody who hasn't is seriously missing out. Although a planned sequel to the title never saw the light of day, a remastered version of the original game was released in 2017, so there are no excuses not to see what the game has to offer.
Sam & Max Hit the Road was one of the first video games to feature fully-voiced protagonists, and the LucasArts team spared no expense when it came to hiring talent. The decision to splash out on professional voice actors really paid off, as well, with many critics singling out the voice acting as one of the game's biggest strengths.
Although the sequels may hold up a little better due to the large gap between their release and the original, they don't quite have the same charm as Hit the Road. Its zany plot and lovable characters make it a must-play for fans of point-and-click adventures.
Tim Schafer is often credited as being the one responsible for popularizing video game crowdfunding, but it could be argued that he's also the one responsible for the recent revival of point-and-click adventure games. He's worked on some of the best titles that the genre has to offer, but his first lead role came on 1993's Day of the Tentacle.
The game tells the story of three friends trying to save the world from an evil sentient tentacle. That might sound bizarre—and, in truth, much of the game could be described that way—but the result is a charming game that's beautifully animated and is equally pleasing on the ears. It might be short, but it's incredibly sweet.
It would take brothers Rand and Robyn Miller just two years to turn their idea of an adult-oriented adventure game into a reality, which was an impressive feat considering the scale and ambition of the project. There were no half-measures taken, either, with the end result proving to be a hit with both players and critics.
The game would go on to become the best-selling PC game of the era and would hold that title until 2002 when it was finally overtaken by The Sims. It was one hell of a run, which is quite fitting because, simply put, Myst is one hell of a game. The visuals aren't as impressive as they once were, but the gameplay and story remain as enjoyable as ever.
Like many of the titles from this era, Beneath a Steel Sky is starting to show its age in the graphical department. That takes nothing away though from its fantastic story and wonderful voice acting, nor does it make the slapstick comedy moments found throughout the game any less funny. If anything, it only serves to emphasize their brilliance.
The remastered edition released in 2009 helps to paper over some of the cracks, and the recently-released sequel provides a great reason to go back and check out this fantastic game. The future that Beneath a Steel Sky paints is bleak and loveless, but there is still plenty of love for this classic title.
Grim Fandango is probably the most well-known of the point-and-click classics from the 90s, and for good reason. Manny's adventures through the land of the dead are heavily inspired by a number of real-world influences, and it is these influences that make for an experience that feels truly genuine. Well... as genuine as a story about skeleton people can be, anyway.
By the time of its release, Tim Schafer had mastered the art of storytelling and his understanding of the genre and its audience allowed him to create the perfect point-and-click title. It's one of the highest-rated point-and-click games ever made and will surprise a lot of players with its depth.
That Revolution Software was able to raise nearly $1m through crowdfunding for Broken Sword 5 just goes to show how much love there is for the franchise. It might seem like a rather modest amount when compared with some of the other games that have found success through crowdfunding, but, considering the age of the series and the state of the genre, it's an impressive feat.
Shadow of the Templars was the title that started it all, and, to many, it is the series' best entry. George Stobart's adventures in Europe make for an engaging story that's seasoned with just the right amount of humor. It's smart, it's funny, and it's the perfect starting point for anybody interested in exploring the point-and-click genre.
The Monkey Island series is arguably LucasArts' crowning achievement and its second entry is the pick of the bunch. The game once again puts players in the shoes of wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood and provides an experience that is as charming as it is challenging. The series remains hugely popular even to this day, with many fans still hoping that a new entry in the series will someday arrive.
While the story and puzzles are certainly enjoyable, it's the series' wicked sense of humor that really sets it apart. The graphics might look a little dated by modern standards, but the writing is still just as on point today as it was way back in 1991. Those who haven't played Monkey Island 2 owe it to themselves to check it out. There's treasure buried beneath those dated visuals.