Before computers could handle graphical games, there were text adventure games. The games are interactive stories, so playing a text adventure game is like being part of a book in which you affect the story. Text adventure games are also referred to as “interactive fiction.”
Interactive Fiction (IF) is actually a more accurate term for text adventure games, because these games can cover any topics, such as romances or comedies, not just adventures. They can also simulate real life.
Even though computers can now handle intensely graphical games, playing text adventure games can still be fun. It’s like reading a good book and getting lost in the universe of the story, except you become the hero or heroine and affect the ending of the story.
We’ve collected some links to websites where you can download classic and new text adventure games or play them online. There are also some free tools available for creating your own text adventure games. We even found a documentary about the evolution of computer adventure games and some articles about the art and craft of developing the original text adventure games.
Text adventure games are good for developing children’s reading comprehension and imagination. Web-Adventures has a special page listing text adventure games especially good for children.
Adventure Games Live
Adventure Games Live offers new adventure games you can play online for free. Java is not required to play these games, but there is a menu-driven interface and graphics.
Online Games Network – Adventure Games
The Adventure Games page on the Online Games Network site contains a collection of links to sites offering classic and new text adventure and role-playing games.
Fupa offers new, free online text adventure games playing using Flash. They scour the web for the very best games and update their selection daily.
FreeArcade.com offers several text adventure games, including the classic Scott Adams text adventures, such as Adventureland, which now has hints and solutions. Adventureland was Adams’s first program and is a slightly scaled-down version, personal computer version of the original Colossal Cave Adventure program, which was originally written for a mainframe computer.
All Flash games, Shockwave games, and Java games on the site are free to play.
Humbug is a free text adventure game you can download. It was originally a shareware game which required you to register to get maps and online hints. However, it is now available for free in the public domain, and comes complete with the maps and hints. There is also a full step-by-step solution available on the site, as well as two other text adventure games and a Tetris clone, called Blox.
Play Zork Online for Free
Zork is an interactive, text adventure game written in the late 1970’s. It had an interesting story line and the mystery of both the plot and figuring out how to play the game. The about.com site gives you some tips and tricks for playing the game, some commands needed to get through the game, and a walk-through should you get stuck.
Once you’ve read the tips and tricks and commands for use in the game, visit the Zork site and begin playing.
Memoir Text Adventure
Funny-Games.biz offers a text adventure game, called Memoir Text Adventure, which is a simulation of life. The goal of the game is to reach age 130. During the game, you have relationships with virtual people, apply for a cool job, etc. Make decisions about the direction your virtual life will take by clicking colored buttons with your mouse.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Remake
Do you have your towel? If not, you better get one. You can now play a remake of the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure game from 1984, released by Infocom, programmed by Steve Meretzky, and plotted by Douglas Adams himself. This version of the game is a point-and-click game, but the interactivity level is high and there are two levels of difficulty.
The Interactive Fiction Archive
The Interactive Fiction (IF) Archive is home to IF games, development tools, game solutions, and programming examples contributed by the interactive fiction community. You can also access the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction from this site.
iFiction offers text adventure games you can play online. The site itself is set up in the text adventure style. Click “Games” to access the available games and “newspaper” for more information.
Haunted House is an interactive fiction game written for the TRS-80. This site allows you to download TRS-80 emulators for the PC and Mac and the Haunted House TRS-80 game ROM. They also provide instructions for playing the game and a game solution.
Free Text Adventure Software Games
This site offers free text adventure software games for download. These games were written from 1988 to 1992, but were updated in 2006 to run on Windows 98, Windows 2000, or Windows XP. We tested one of the games in Windows 7 and it seemed to work.
The games incorporate some features that were innovative at the time they were written, such as some games being divided into organized windows, an on-screen dictionary list, on-screen help, and auto-mapping, where the computer automatically drew a map for you on the screen in a special map window.
Solutions for the games are also available.
The “Explore” Adventure Games
The “Explore” Adventure Games site offers a suite of text adventure games you can play online. When you start the “Explore” game, you must pick an adventure. Cave, Mine, and Castle are original games written in the “Explore Adventure Language” by the person running the site. Haunt is a clone of the Haunted House games written for the TRS-80, mentioned earlier in this article. Porky’s is a game written by someone else using the same “Explore Adventure Language.” It’s inspired by the movie of the same name and contains adult content and language.
You can also play “Explore” on Android phones.
The Colossal Cave Adventure Game Page
The Colossal Cave Adventure was the first adventure game written for a mainframe computer in the 1970’s and released in as “Adventure” in 1977, a year before Scott Adams wrote his Adventure game for personal computers. The game was based on the real-life Colossal Cave in Kentucky, but was also different. You become part of an ongoing fantasy story, exploring the Colossal Cave.
Different versions are available for download, some requiring special interpreters to play the game.
CASA – The Classic Adventures Solution Archive
The Classic Adventures Solution Archive (CASA) site is all about old, classic text adventure games. The site covers all 8-bit and 16-bit formats, and all games from the earliest titles to modern, current interactive fiction. However, it’s emphasis is on older titles. You can find information about the games, solutions, maps, hints, reviews, and other useful tidbits.
CASA does NOT offer games for download, except for a few in which bugs were fixed.
Creating Text Adventure Games
The following sites contain programs and tools that allow you to create your own text adventure games. Some of the sites also offer downloads of games created with the tool they’re promoting.
Adventure Game Studio (AGS)
Adventure Game Studio (AGS) allows you to create your own text adventure game for free. The AGS Editor is a Windows-based IDE allowing you to import graphics, write game scripts, and test and debug your game in one program. Your game is compiled into a single .exe file for easy distribution.
AGS runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and 7. If you’re still running Windows 2000 or XP, you need to install .NET Framework 2.0 (32-bit or 64-bit), if you don’t already have it installed. However, people don’t need .NET Framework to run the games you write with AGS.
Games created with AGS are also available for free download on the site.
The Text Adventure Development System (TADS)
TADS allows you to add graphics, animations, sound effects, fancy text formatting, among other features, to your games. It is completely free to use and free to distribute the TADS interpreter.
Quest is a free, open source program that allows you to create text adventure games, like Zork or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, without knowledge of programming. You can also create gamebooks (like Choose Your Own Adventure books). Games created with Quest can be played in a web browser, downloaded to your PC, or even turned into an iPhone or Android app. You can download Quest for free and install it on your PC or use it for free in your web browser.
Quest is designed to be easy to use, but powerful and includes a full tutorial. It allows you to easily add pictures, music, and sound effects to your game. You can even add video from YouTube or Vimeo.
Games created in Quest can be in English, French, German, Spanish, or Dutch, or you can create your own translation for another language.
You can also download games created with Quest.
Choice of Games
Choice of Games is a site that produces high-quality, text-based, multiple-choice games. In addition to producing games, they also provide the simple scripting language, called ChoiceScript, they developed for writing text-based games to others for use in their own projects. Games created using ChoiceScript can be hosted on their site and are available for playing online, in Google Chrome, and on iPhones, Android devices, Palm devices, and Kindle devices. Note that not all games are available in all formats.
If you want to create your own game using ChoiceScript, they provide an introductory guide to using the ChoiceScript programming language.
Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary
Now that you’ve discovered where you can play classic and new text adventure games, you can learn about the history of them. Top Documentary Films hosts a documentary, called Get Lamp, that tells the story of the evolution of text, or computer, adventure games in the words of the people who created them.
The Craft of Adventure – Five articles on the design of adventure games
We can’t list all sites containing classic and new text adventure and interactive fiction games, but we hope we’ve given you a good starting point. If you’ve found any good sites for text adventure and interactive fiction games, let us know.
Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.
- Published 09/15/12