MobyGames: “Adventure” the Best Game Genre of All Time?

August 13th, 2006 by Benj Edwards

MobyGames Top 25 ListJust yesterday I was browsing through the wonderful video and computer game resource that is, and I noticed something very peculiar. All of the top 25 most highly rated games of all time on MobyGames were adventure or RPG games, and many of them were just straight up adventure games. All of the RPGs on the list are typically considered “adventure/RPG games” — in other words, RPGs with strong adventure elements. Upon checking again earlier today, a lone exception — Super Mario Bros. — had creeped into 25th place (see screenshot to the side), and as of this writing, it’s risen to rank 22, so the list is fairly dynamic. Still, the clear dominance of adventure/RPGs remains.

Conspicuously absent from the list are the usual game pundit “all time” favorites like Tetris, Super Metroid, Castlevania: SOTN, and Super Mario 64. Adventure, a genre that is supposedly “dead” in modern PC gaming, reigns supreme. So what gives?

Computer-Centric Game Community…

Complex Computer GameThe first factor you have to look at when interpreting the results of any poll is who makes up the sample. In this case, it could be argued that, while MobyGames covers both console and computer games, perhaps the MobyGames community (those doing the voting on this list) heavily favors computer, rather than console, games. So where do adventure games come into all of this? Well, adventure games have typically been, and are still largely, a computer-based phenomenon. Unlike those on the early consoles, games created for computer systems (pre-Doom, anyway) were rarely well-known for their action elements. In fact, computer games long ago attained a reputation of being ridiculously complex compared to their console counterparts, due primarily to the presence of a keyboard, a hard drive, and lots of nerds. The lack of a decent joystick standard also prevented most action-oriented games from mainstream success on IBM PC-compatible machines until recently (and until somebody invented the mouse/keyboard control combo for Quake). The end result is that adventure, strategy, and role-playing games thrived in this low reflex, cognitive-rich environment. And boy are those games plentiful. So if MobyGames voters are mostly computer game fans, then the result should be obvious…right?

But wait! There are plenty of non-adventure, non-RPG computer games out there. Strategy favorites like Civilization, MULE, and Sim City aren’t on the list. And I don’t see any puzzle, card, board, flight simulator, driving, sports, or FPS games either.

…or the Power of Story-Driven Games?

Story-Driven GamesComputer-bias aside, there could be a much deeper meaning to the results of this list, one that lies directly in the human psyche. If you glance over the that list again, you’ll notice that most (if not all) of the Adventure/RPG games are heavily story-driven. They have central themes and strong plots, and they stick to them. Like a good novel, these games pull the player deeply into the game, enveloping him and involving him in the outcome of characters or worlds he grows attached to through the course of playing.

So, ten years after playing a bunch of computer games, which ones are you going to remember the most? Which games had the most impact on you? I’m willing to bet that they are the ones that really made you feel “in the game” — the ones that engaged all your emotions, sparked your curiosity, and really made you think. And I’d argue that the types of games that most often make you feel that way are adventure and adventure/RPG games.

Cosmo's Shallow AdventureDazzling games that depend solely on the latest bells and whistles (i.e. graphics and sound) almost always age poorly because the technology behind them changes so rapidly. Twitch-heavy action games tend to be high on action and low on plot. Puzzle and sports games typically have no story whatsoever. But an adventure game has depth and substance that transcends graphics and sound: while it’s engaging you, a large part of the action plays out in your mind’s eye, not always explicitly on a screen. You feel as if you’re an actor in a digital interactive play. And if it’s a good game, you’ll remember the experience vividly for years to come.

Secret of Monkey IslandAs a result of all this, adventure games rank high on the nostalgia scale and inspire people to come back looking for them years later. I think that’s exactly what has happened at MobyGames. The people there are looking to revisit their past — to recall and possibly reread the great gaming novels of their youth. They vote most highly (and most frequently among the larger group) on the games that affected them, as people, most.

So that’s my take on it. What’s your explanation for adventure game dominance on the list? Please leave us a comment with your thoughts!

9 Responses to “MobyGames: “Adventure” the Best Game Genre of All Time?”

  1. FlightDreamz Says:

    Hey if story-driven games didn’t have appeal, Infocom and the text adventure (like Zork – anyone remember those?) never would have existed! 😉

  2. flipkin Says:

    MobyGames started out as a PC only website. Probably our biggest mistake was not supporting consoles earlier if not right off the bat. Unfortunately when it all started PC games were what we knew so PC games were where we focused. A lot of what you see is an artifact of that early decision.

    Also unlike a lot of other website MobyGames requires the contributor to upload cover images and screenshots taken by the individual and not boosted off some other website. The advantage is that you will find a lot of different images on MobyGames and not just the retreaded one distributed by the PR dept of the publisher. However grabbing screens from console games is quite difficult ( unless you have an emulator ). This policy however has the adverse effect of favoring PC games and PC game contributors.

    We understand this is a great challenge for MobyGames and are working hard to overcoming it. Great article FYI.

  3. RedWolf Says:

    flipkin, thanks for the great comment. That clears things up quite a bit, and it’s somewhat as I suspected. The cool thing is that, even within the realm of computer games, I think my analysis of adventure’s high standing on the site remains valid.

    Mobygames is quite simply the best gaming resource site out there, and it will continue to be so as long as it’s high on information and low on commercial BS. Thanks for all your contributions and keep up the excellent work. Perhaps I should contribute some myself. Thanks again.

  4. MrSneeze Says:

    Good article, but I’d like to be pendantic for a split second by saying that the first FPS which incorporated the mouse/keys combination was the groundbraking Terminator: Future Shock (great game. There was an expansion pack where you could play against other players, and you could use an HKs and cars; things that weren’t used again in FPSs until 8 years later or so with the arrival of Halo).

  5. MrSneeze Says:

    spelling correction: “…could use HKs…” (I was going to type something else initially *embarrassed*).

  6. RedWolf Says:

    Being pedantic is quite alright, MrSneeze. 🙂 After all, when people started playing Quake, I don’t seem to recall anyone playing via the now-traditional keyboard-mouse combo method on that game for at least a year or so into its release. I seem to remember my friends and I trying to play it as if it were exactly like Doom (no wonder why we didn’t do very well)! I personally hated the keyboard/mouse control combo for years because I was used to Doom, etc.. but I got used to it long ago and I like it now, of course. Thanks for the comment!

  7. MrSneeze Says:

    heh, keep the articles rolling, please!

  8. WildKard Says:

    I’ll tell you right now that I played Wolfenstein 3-D with a gamepad, I played Catacomb 3-D with a gamepad, I played Dark Forces with a gamepad, I played System Shock with a gamepad, I played Quake with a gamepad, I played Jedi Knight with a gamepad and a mouse. It was somewhere during Quake II that I finally gave it up entirely in favor of the keyboard+mouse combination.

    I had a very similar experience with flight sims. Basically I found myself a diehard joystick/gamepad user up until the games assaulted me with too many functions to map to my controller. Having said all that, I don’t recall ever doing well with a joystick/gamepad and an adventure game.

    Of course now I’ve bought myself a fancier game controller for the PC, and with more buttons, I find myself once again trying to use it in gaming whenever I get the chance… Though I still use the mouse for precision aiming.

  9. Mat$kaT Says:

    My TOP 10:

    10. Monkey Island

    9. King’s Quest 4

    8. Adventure in Serenia

    7. Space Quest 2

    6. Oregon Trail

    5. Gold Rush

    4. Police Quest

    3. Space Quest

    2. Quest for Glory EGA

    1. King’s Quest (still have the IBM Branded hard-plastic case)

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