Classic Text Adventures

This is a list of text adventures which I've played, and which I have something to say about, but which were popular enough that I don't think I'll worry much about them being forgotten, thus they don't qualify for being included in Text Adventures of Note. (Which you should also read, anyway.)

It also may help to read Perspective on Text Adventures, especially if you find yourself having trouble following my perspective on text adventures.

Do I recommend playing these, if you have the opportunity? Almost always yes, because they are classics. At any rate, I do recommend knowing about them.

Also, if a text adventure was published by Infocom, it's probably not bad and you should probably try it. The same goes for if it was written by Andrew Plotkin or Graham Nelson.

These are presented in roughly the order I encountered them in.

Zork I

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I first encountered Zork I on the Commodore 64. I think it might have been the first text adventure I played, but I'm actually not certain. It was a slightly magical experience, anyway, fiddling with the stuff in the control room on the dam and being told "What a concept."

For the whole story, see Dungeon.


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Like Zork I, I first encountered this on a Commodore 64, but only finished it (with help from the Invisiclues booklet) many years later.

The writing is remarkable. If you play the entire trilogy (Enchanter, Sorcerer, Spellbreaker), you can really feel the difference — Sorcerer was written by Steve Meretzky, and it comes off very differently from the other two.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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Like Zork I and Enchanter, I first played this on a Commodore 64.

I was stuck on this one for a long time, because I couldn't seem to remove common sense from my brain. Whether I had gotten the game stuck in an unsolvable state, or I just didn't notice that it worked, I don't know. When I picked it up again years later, I finished it, but I did get a fair number of hints from other people who had played it, in between.

Why is it a classic? It's a genuinely good piece of interactive fiction. It was written by Douglas Adams. HHGttG was realised for radio, as books, as television, and as a movie, so it is fitting that it was realised as a text adventure as well.


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The best thing to ever come out of MIT. (You think I'm joking, don't you?)

It captured some of the hacker culture of the time and foisted it on a general audience when it was repackaged as the Zork trilogy. (The Invisiclues booklet explains some of it, too.)

Zork I has already been mentioned, and I had earlier encountered Zork III on an Apple //e at school. (It wasn't until much later that I saw Zork II.)

But I first played Dungeon on an Amiga 500. I actually played it in tandem with a friend. I was running a BBS at the time, and I set it up as a "door" — an external program that could be run on the computer while you were logged in on the BBS. So my friend dialed up and connected to the BBS, started Dungeon, and we could both type into it — me locally, she remotely.

We actually solved most of the main game, but we never got to the point where we could start the endgame. (Although she might've later on playing it alone, as I seem to recall talking about it.)

I have never gotten to that point since then either, but I have worked through the various Zorks. Zork II is probably my least favourite of those.

Why is it a classic? It's not just that it introduced a parser which was miles ahead of every other parser at the time, the descriptions are also extremely well-written. There's a certain economy of prose that I think is due to Lebling's writing — you can see it in Enchanter and Spellbreaker too.

Colossal Cave

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I don't think I played Colossal Cave until sometime after I tried playing Dungeon, but I don't remember exactly.

I never found it very engaging, tbh. But it's a classic, obviously, because it was long considered the first text adventure (but that is apparently not strictly true anymore).

The description of one of the locations is "Hall of the Mountain King" and I always thought that the magic word GRIEG should do something there, but it doesn't.