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If you are looking to get into the world of video gaming, then there is one genre that can get you instantly hooked; that of action adventure games. The best adventure games are consistently ranked among the favorite genres of seasoned players, proving that the appeal of their classic gameplay never seems to fade. But why are these titles so widely loved in the gaming community? Let’s take a look at this genre and its history to find out.

What are adventure games?

Adventure games are a popular gaming genre that focuses on discovery and lore. When playing action adventure games, you assume control of a protagonist as they navigate an expansive fictional world. You can usually progress by solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles. The element of exploration is a definitive aspect of the genre, and sets the best adventure games apart from others.

Developers of these titles have a tricky task - they need to deliver the best experience possible for players looking to navigate a map with challenges while immersing them into a deep universe full of lore. Usually, adventure games are designed to be played by a single player, meaning that you remain in total control of how it all unfolds. The choices you make, the adventures you choose to undertake, and the puzzles you solve along the way all impact your experience.

Nowadays, there are both offline and online adventure games for PC, console, and, more recently, a variety of mobile devices. Several of the best adventure games are typically released simultaneously across more than one platform in order to reach a large demographic. Partly because of this, the adventure genre is not a niche gaming market and is designed to be widely accessible. This also helps to explain why the genre continues to succeed and evolve.

Why does the genre continue to be popular?

The reason why the best adventure games are so popular is simple: the ability to be in control of your own narrative. Sometimes all you want to do is load an FPS or platformer, and spend a few hours packed with fast-paced action and simple one-click dynamics. But, for those other times, you may be in the mood for a game that will unfold at its own pace, where the tasks you perform along the way will alter the progression of your experience. 

An adventure game can also have plenty of depth since there can be a wide variety of tasks you have to perform in order to progress:

  • Solve puzzles and riddles.
  • Discover and decode messages.
  • Locate and gather items to build your inventory.
  • Craft different tools and use them effectively.
  • Initiate conversations with different characters.
  • Solve a mystery by gathering clues and evidence.
  • Complete quests and adventures.

How do adventure titles differ from games in other genres?

While there are many adventure offerings that combine the classic genre mechanics with your favorite elements from action adventure games, for example, the best titles are not always heavily focussed on combat. Instead, motifs of conflict and action will be organically integrated into a world of lore that is much more expansive compared to traditional action-focused games.

Another important point to make is that adventure games are also distinct from collection RPGs. Popular modern collection RPGs are often not focussed so much on world building and are usually centred around levelling up characters with elements of competitive and cooperative interaction with other players. By contrast, adventure games take you on a personal journey of discovery as you control the protagonist of the story. Plenty of online adventure games do, though, incorporate RPG elements to give a sense of progress during the game.

What makes the best adventure games?

The genre is so inherently discovery-driven that the best adventure games are those that focus on building a deep and complex world full of lore. The key to this is to create an immersive world for the player to roam freely, with expansive open-world maps. So, online adventure games are very often set in an 'endless' fantasy world, complete with mythical creatures, wizards, and heroes.

The attraction comes from this expansiveness, but also due to the personal nature of the games themselves. Adventure games often illustrate a journey of personal growth, as you see your character (or characters) develop and evolve with every step they take through the universe. This development is often marked by levelling up, chapter completion, and achievements.

To produce engaging lore, developers often draw inspiration from pop culture, mainly from literature and films that examine interesting themes and mythologies. Some will also incorporate literary conventions to help propel character growth, with players unveiling new elements of character backstory when they complete tasks or quests. By exploring and piecing together information, players can get a sense of the rich world underpinning the game. So, there is always an urge to explore and complete more side tasks in the best adventure games.

History of the genre

While there are several incredible PC adventure games that have thrived, the first adventure-based titles were released in the form of text-based narrative games in the 70s and 80s. In these, the player answered ‘yes or no’ questions to complete quests and explore the world. These PC adventure games evolved into more complex titles as the millennium progressed, and the genre found its feet during the 1990s and 2000s, with more expansive and detailed titles. 

As technology advanced, adventure games evolved from simple text-based stories, to more elaborate point-and-click titles, and then finally emerged as sophisticated open-world games, where the options for how the player moves and interacts are boundless. The past decade saw the growth of episodic adventure games with the rise of digital distribution giving players new content to look forward to regularly.

This constant evolution has helped the adventure games genre remain one of the most popular genres of all time!