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Top 50 IF list 2019

Benjamin Slade

Emily Short wrote a blog post a fortnight ago or so discussing her nominees for Victor Gijsbers’ Top 50 Interactive Fiction Games of All Time list, 2019 edition. The contest closes on the 31st of July 2019 (i.e. in 2 days, as of the day I write this), and I was thinking about what games would be on my list. This has also resulted, perhaps more importantly, with me having a list of games I still need to play.

Both lists below have the games hyperlinked to their Interactive Fiction Database page, which generally includes reviews and game files to download (or links/suggestions of where to get the game).

First, my personal list of favourites/best text adventures/interactive fiction that I’ve completed or at least played most (er, at least half?) of, ordered roughly in the order I encountered them:

Game Year Author Publisher
Zork I 1980 Marc Blank & Dave Lebling Infocom
Zork II 1981 Dave Lebling & Marc Blank Infocom
Enchanter 1983 Marc Blank & Dave Lebling Infocom
Planetfall 1983 Steve Meretzky Infocom
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 1984 Douglas Adams & Steve Meretzky Infocom
Wishbringer 1985 Brian Moriarty Infocom
The Pawn 1985 Rob Steggles et al. Magnetic Scrolls
Spellbreaker 1985 Dave Lebling Infocom
The Guild of Thieves 1987 Rob Steggles Magnetic Scrolls
Knight Orc 1987 Pete Austin Level 9
Dunnet 1982 Ron Schnell
Curses! 1993 Graham Nelson
Spider & Web 1998 Andrew Plotkin
Counterfeit Monkey 2012 Emily Short
Coloratura 2013 Lynnea Glasser
Mentula Mancanus: Apocolocyntosis 2011 Adam Thornton

Some of these may be being boosted by nostalgia, but I think they all pretty much hold up and are interesting/innovative in some fashion.

Looking over the author names, I remember when playing Infocom games back in the 80s suspecting that “Marc Blank” was a pseudonym….i.e. Last Name: [blank].

Dunnet is an interesting entry also in that it was originally written in Maclisp for the DECSYSTEM-20, then ported to Emacs Lisp in 1992, and it is the Emacs version (M-x dunnet) that I’m familiar with.

A list of games I still need to play (never played before) or finish (haven’t made significant progress, though I spent a pretty long time with the Silicon Dreams games, Anchorhead, and Varicella, but don’t think I’ve made much progress (or I’ve forgotten what progress I made)), roughly in order of precedence (i.e. how soon I plan to play):

Game Year Author Publisher
Anchorhead 1998 Michael Gentry
Cragne Manor 2018 [numerous]
Galatea 2000 Emily Short
Savoir-Faire 2002 Emily Short
Hadean Lands 2014 Andrew Plotkin
Varicella 1999 Adam Cadre
Endless, Nameless 2012 Adam Cadre
Bronze 2006 Emily Short
Balances 1994 Graham Nelson
Jigsaw 1995 Graham Nelson
Blue Lacuna 2008 Aaron Reed
A Beauty Cold and Austere 2017 Mike Spivey
Lime Ergot 2014 Caleb Wilson (as Rust Blight)
Suveh Nux 2007 David Fisher
Delusions 1996 C. E. Forman
Slouching Towards Bedlam 2003 Star Foster & Daniel Ravipinto
A Mind Forever Voyaging 1985 Steve Meretzky Infocom
Trinity 1986 Brian Moriarty Infocom
Snowball [Silicon Dreams] 1983 Mike Austin et al. Level 9
Return to Eden [Silicon Dreams] 1984 Nick Austin et al. Level 9
The Worm in Paradise [Silicon Dreams] 1985 Mike Austin et al. Level 9
The Shadow in the Cathedral 2009 Ian Finley & John Ingold
Make It Good 2009 Jon Ingold
1893: A World’s Fair Mystery 2002 Peter Nepstad
Red Moon 1985 David Williamson et al. Level 9
Shade 2000 Andrew Plotkin
Stationfall 1987 Steve Meretzky Infocom
Rameses 2000 Stephen Bond
The Moonlit Tower 2002 Yoon Ha Lee
Bureaucracy 1987 Douglas Adams Infocom

All of the games listed here, in either list, are playable in either Malyon or Gargoyle (with the exception, I think, of Hadean Lands), an admittedly rather arbitrary criterion.