6. Full Throttle
Seeing as how other biker-themed video games these days are...well, not exactly of the highest quality, maybe we should look back to a time when a video game built around biker culture ended up being more acclaimed. And said game was Full Throttle, the first wholly original project from the god we mortals call Tim Schafer. And while it was the completely flawless masterpiece one might come to expect from Schafer the Almighty, it is still indeed a terrific adventure with a great sense of humor, a great story, some damn good semi-post-apocalyptic aesthetics, a great rock soundtrack (including some stuff from The Gone Jackals), and Mark Hamill in one of the best villainous performances seen in a graphic adventure game. At the very least, it's a damn unique and fun experience that might be a bit overlooked in favor of LucasArts' more cartoony titles, but still worth checking out just to experience the work of the master himself.
5. Sam & Max Hit the Road
By now I think you probably should've gotten the point that LucasArts made a lot of really, really, really freaking good adventure games, as if that wasn't common knowledge already. But Sam & Max Hit the Road just might be their defining adventure, at least based on the sheer amount of cameos Max makes in other titles. Honestly, I don't know if I can offer much insight on why this game is a slice of pure awesomeness aside from "It's really damn funny, has vivid and incredible graphics, puts up a nice challenge," etc. So instead, I'll just say that in this adventure of a six-foot anthropomorphic dog and a hyperkinetic rabbity thing traversing America and all its glorious tourist traps in search of a missing bigfoot, you have to bungee jump from Mount Rushmore in order to steal tar from the Dinosaur Tarpit so you glue your mammoth hair together to help form a bigfoot costume to help you blend in.
If nothing in the previous sentence sounded awesome to you at all, I hate you.
4. Day of the Tentacle
First off, no, it's not what you think it is. What Day of the Tentacle is is a sequel to the also-great adventure game Maniac Mansion, this time focusing on the character of the evil Purple Tentacle and his diabolical plans to create a world where tentacles rule over humanity and again no, it's not what you think it is. Honestly, pretty much everything I've said about Sam & Max could apply here (humor, graphics, challenge, all awesome, etc.), but what gives DotT the extra kick is this game's take on the original's feature of having three different protagonists you can switch between on the fly...except this time, the three are each exploring the mansion, but in different time periods ranging from colonial America to the tentacle-filled bad future (again, NO), allowing for a nice variety of creative puzzles where you essentially get to screw around with the fabric of time, be it screwing with the Constitution or freezing hamsters. In the end, it's just a truly excellent adventure game that crams a ton of pure awesomeness and cartoonish comedy into a few floppy disks to create pure joy.
3. The Curse of Monkey Island
Oh, this what not an easy decision for me...deciding to abide by the "one entry per franchise" rule meant I had to choose which of Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate's chronicles to use here, and between Secret, Revenge, Curse, and Tales, there were four games' worth of sheer swashbuckling awesomeness that made it quite difficult to pick the best. But in the end I decided to go with The Curse of Monkey Island, which takes everything that makes each game terrific - sharp wit, great puzzles, colorful atmosphere - but throws in the addition of absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn artwork and terrific voice acting along with the return of the second game's hard mode, a cavalcade of colorful new characters ranging from Murray the Demonic Talking Skull to Gary Coleman, rhyming insult swordfights mixed in with high-seas cannon battles, and of course, jaunty musical numbers and fried chicken. So needless to say, it's a piece of brilliance worth faking your death over twicefold, to say the very least.
2. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
You, a friend, and some water pistols versus an army of zombies, werewolves, chainsaw maniacs, evil dolls, vampires, mummies, giant ants, snakeoids and the occasional Frankenstein monster, all unleashed upon your town by the evil Dr. Tongue because why the hell not, he's got nothing better to do. Thus goes the premise of one of the greatest hidden gems of the '90s, Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Inspired by old-school creature features, a bit of Gauntlet, and even a touch of Big Trouble in Little China (seriously, more on that here), ZAMN is a top-down action game where the goal is - as the title rightfully suggests - to save your neighbors from the giant horde of monsters by fending them off with various unorthodox weapons, such as soda cans, footballs, fire extinguishers, the occasional bazooka, etc., all while traversing various maze-like levels. Again, this one pretty much falls into the category of "simple yet brilliant", though again, the colorful aesthetics and sense of humor help out again. Plus, you get to meet George Lucas at the end, so that's something...
1. Grim Fandango
Let me just put it like this: Grim Fandango is one of my Top Five Greatest Freaking Games of All Time. And considering how many other games I've praised before, hopefully that's saying something. The story of Manny Calavera is one that should be experienced by all, a Dia de Muertos-inspired film noir masterpiece taking place throughout a four-year journey in the Land of the Dead as Manny sets out to right a wrong he made as a travel agent and winds up uncovering a grand conspiracy with the help of his speed-crazed demon friend.
Schafer, The Supreme Being of Light again strikes one out of the park, and even if one tries to make accusations of wonky controls (to which I will reply with a brick upside your head), everything else on display more than makes up for any supposed flaws...there's the unique mix of art deco and Mexican iconography to create some truly outstanding and jaw-dropping worlds, the extremely clever mythology the game sets up concerning its universe, some of the wittiest and best dialogue ever seen in an adventure game, a colorful and diverse cast with some terrific voice acting, some truly challenging puzzles, some genuinely tear-jerking moments...I could go on forever here, but I honestly don't want to go into specific and give anything way here (I think I'll save that for the 15th anniversary this year...).
Indeed, Grim Fandango was the high point of LucasArts' history, and even the high point for the adventure genre as a whole...and alas, the low point as well. While it was a critical darling and award-winner in several cases, it was supposedly the only LucasArts game to have never turned a profit (can't even blame the consumer on this one, the competition was Half-Life and StarCraft, which ended up being two high points in their genres). As such, LucasArts sadly ceased production on their graphic adventure games, as did several other companies soon, and all of the whimsy and joy that marked LucasArts' early days was phased out in favor of Star Wars, Star Wars, and Star Wars. Thus ended one of the greatest runs a video game company ever had.
...But god damn, did they go out on a high note.
Previously by Kyle LeClair: