Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, is arguably one of the best dark detective games ever created. It crafts a world of murder and deception as the main character, a struggling novelist, explores a series of gruesome killings known as the ‘Voodoo murders’. This is a game that has influenced the landscape of gaming so much that we are still talking about it 20 years later. With this in mind, we thought it would be the perfect time to look back on some of the best dark and mysterious adventure games and see what you should dive into as you wait for more from Gabriel Knight.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995)
Get ready for a twisted journey into the darkness of the human soul as you enter the world of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. Based on the book of the same name originally written by Harlan Ellison, the game takes you to a post-apocalyptic future where all of humanity is dead except for five survivors. The world is ruled over by a computer named AM, who constantly torments the survivors. Each person has a fatal flaw and in an attempt to break all that remains of their spirits, AM has built scenarios designed to expose that flaw and show how machines are superior.
I Have No Mouth is a game that stays with you long after you finish it. The dark and often unsettling atmosphere make some segments to finish. Touching on themes such as insanity, genocide and paranoia, I Have No Mouth presented itself as a truly adult story. Even today, when sitting down with the game, I still find some scenes completely unnerving. That being said, it was a masterwork of storytelling and character development. Employing Ellison himself for the script, the game pushes the boundaries on stories in games and really shows how interactive fiction can have an impact on people well after leaving the keyboard behind. It is a game that must be experienced by anyone who loves deep storytelling and complex narrative, although as I said, it is not for the faint of heart.
Beneath a Steel Sky (1994)
Taking the player to an earth ravaged by pollution and neglect, Beneath A Steel Sky was a point and click adventure game originally released in 1994. Featuring the art of Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen fame), the game paints a stunning visual landscape that carries you though its intricate story. The only remnants civilization are being destroyed by a corrupt society and it is up to you to uncover what lies at the heart of this crumbling metropolis.
Beneath a Steel Sky is one of the titles that I find myself going back to every few years. There is something about the visuals and the way the story unfolds that captivates me every time I play it. With the recent re-release on iOS and the fact the game has been released as freeware to be used on ScumVM, it one of the more accessible games on this list. Really there is no reason to not boot up your computer get your mouse ready and dive into Beneath a Steel Sky. With any luck it will envelope you as much as it did me!
Blade Runner (1997)
Released in 1997, Blade Runner was a 3D Voxel based game built as companion story to the movie. Rather than retell the events of the Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner tells the story of Ray McCoy as he hunts down replicants in a noir style mystery. The events of the game take place concurrently with the movie with many characters from the film reprising their roles for the game.
I have always been a fan of narrative choice in games, and I am happy to say Blade Runner took this idea and ran with it. There were a total of 18 possible endings varying anywhere from just hunting down the replicants to fleeing the city. These endings are all based on how you interact with people in a cyberpunk infused Los Angeles. The way you choose to interact will ultimately decide your outcome. It allows for a plethora of gameplay options, something that was truly remarkable for a game hitting store shelves in the late 1990’s.
In my view Blade Runner still holds its own against the pantheon of adventure games. Blade Runner is a fun game that can be enjoyed over and over because of its revolutionary approach to story progression. If you can look past the slightly dated 3D look, Blade Runner makes for an engaging experience for anyone looking to dive into the role of a blade runner.
Dark Seed (1992)
If there were one game that I still look back on with a sense of unease, it would be the original Dark Seed. Released in 1992, Dark Seed is a horror adventure game featuring the twisted world of H.R. Giger. Rather unique in the adventure game genre, Dark Seed featured time based game play that would lead to the player reaching unwinnable states if they did not have very precise timing in the way they go through the puzzles in the game. For this reason, Dark Seed was a game that was needlessly frustrating without the use of a walkthrough or countless restarts of the game.
The story focuses on Mike Dawson, an advertising executive and part time writer, who has made the unfortunate decision to buy an old mansion in the town of Woodland Hills. As he explores his house and the local town of township, he slowly comes to realise something is not right. The lines of reality and madness are starting to blur and the creatures of nightmares are seeping into his reality. The beauty and horror of Dark Seed are what makes this experience so memorable. Although it is one of the most aggravating games on this list, it is also something I cannot recommend enough. Dive into Dark Seed and see why this is considered one of the most horrific games ever created.
Do you like film noir? What about skeletons? Well if you answered yes to both questions, do I have a game for you! Originally released in 1998, Grim Fandango was a film noir style detective story set in the land of the dead. It is notable for being the first 3D adventure experience from the folks at Lucasarts and featured the writing from Tim Schafer.
The story takes cues from classic film noir stories such as The Maltese Falcon. It takes place over four acts, and follows a travel agent named Manuel “Manny” Calavera as he tries to help Mercedes “Meche” Colomar on her journey through the afterlife. This game really is a treat, receiving critical acclaim at the time of release; Grim Fandango is a title that I have gone back to countless times. The best part about this game is it will be re-mastered for the modern generation of consoles as was announced at E3 2014. If you have not experienced this game, jump on in once the game is released for Sony consoles sometime in 2015.
Now that you have a selection, dive in and experience what the adventure game genre has to offer. And this is just the beginning; there are games that fit all types and tastes. If you feel we missed something please sound off below. We would love to hear what your favorite dark adventure game is!
Want to learn more about dark games? Pick up the Horror Issue of CGM.