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This article is about the video game genre. For the board game genre, see Adventure board game. For the television series, see The Adventure Game. For games that take place in real life, see Real-life room escape. For games named "Adventure", see Adventure (disambiguation).

An adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving.[1] The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Many adventure games (text and graphic) are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multi-player design difficult.[2]Colossal Cave Adventure is identified as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Myst.

Initial adventure games developed in the 1970s and early 1980s were text-based, using text parsers to translate the player's input into commands. As personal computers became more powerful with the ability to show graphics, the graphic adventure game format became popular, initially by augmenting player's text commands with graphics, but soon moving towards point and click interfaces. Further computer advancements led to adventure games with more immersive graphics using real-time or pre-rendered three-dimensional scenes or full-motion video taken from the first- or third-person perspective.

For markets in the Western hemisphere, the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1980s to mid-1990s when many considered it to be among the most technically advanced genres, but had become a niche genre in the early 2000s due to the popularity of first-person shooters and became difficult to find publishers to support such ventures. Since then, a resurgence in the genre has occurred spurred on by success of independent video game development, particularly from crowdfunding efforts, the wide availability of digital distribution enabling episodic approaches, and the proliferation of new gaming platforms including portable consoles and mobile devices; The Walking Dead is considered to be a key title that rejuvenated the genre.

Within the Asian markets, adventure games continue to be popular in the form of visual novels, which make up nearly 70% of PC games released in Japan.[3] The Asian markets have also found markets for adventure games for portable and mobile gaming devices.


The term "Adventure game" originated from the 1970s text computer game Colossal Cave Adventure, often referred to simply as Adventure,[5][6] which pioneered a style of gameplay that was widely imitated and became a genre in its own right. The video game genre is therefore defined by its gameplay, unlike the literary genre, which is defined by the subject it addresses, the activity of adventure.[4]

Essential elements of the genre include storytelling, exploration, and puzzle solving.[4] Adventure games have been described as puzzles embedded in a narrative framework,[7] where games involve narrative content that a player unlocks piece by piece over time.[13] While the puzzles that players encounter through the story can be arbitrary, those that do not pull the player out of the narrative are considered examples of good design.[14]

Relationship to other genres[edit]

Combat and action challenges are limited or absent in adventure games,[15] thus distinguishing them from action games.[7] In the book Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design, the authors state that "this [reduced emphasis on combat] doesn't mean that there is no conflict in adventure games ... only that combat is not the primary activity."[5] Some adventure games will include a minigame from another video game genre, which are not always appreciated by adventure game purists.[16] Hybrid action-adventure games blend action and adventure games throughout the game experience, incorporating more physical challenges than pure adventure games and at a faster pace.[17] This definition is hard to apply, however, with some debate among designers about which games are action games and which involve enough non-physical challenges to be considered action-adventures.[12]

Adventure games are also distinct from role-playing video games that involve action, team-building, and points management.[7] Adventure games lack the numeric rules or relationships seen in role-playing games, and seldom have an internal economy.[18] These games lack any skill system, combat, or "an opponent to be defeated through strategy and tactics."[5] However, some hybrid games exist here, where role-playing games with strong narrative and puzzle elements are considered RPG-adventures.[19] Finally, adventure games are classified separately from puzzle video games.[7] Although an adventure game may involve puzzle-solving, they typically involve a player-controlled avatar in an interactive story.[20]

Game design[edit]


Adventure games contain a variety of puzzles, decoding messages, finding and using items, opening locked doors, or finding and exploring new locations.[21][22] Solving a puzzle will unlock access to new areas in the game world, and reveal more of the game story.[23] Logic puzzles, where mechanical devices are designed with abstract interfaces to test a player's deductive reasoning skills, are common.[24]

Some puzzles are criticized for the obscurity of their solutions, for example, the combination of a clothes line, clamp, and deflated rubber duck used to gather a key stuck between the subway tracks in The Longest Journey, which exists outside of the game's narrative and serves only as an obstacle to the player.[25] Others have been criticized for requiring players to blindly guess, either by clicking on the right pixel, or by guessing the right verb in games that use a text interface.[26] Games that require players to navigate mazes have also become less popular, although the earliest text-adventure games usually required players to draw a map if they wanted to navigate the abstract space.[27]

Gathering and using items[edit]

Many adventure games make use of an inventory management screen as a distinct gameplay mode.[21] Players are only able to pick up some objects in the game, so the player usually knows that only objects that can be picked up are important.[12] Because it can be difficult for a player to know if they missed an important item, they will often scour every scene for items. For games that utilize a point and click device, players will sometimes engage in a systematic search known as a "pixel hunt", trying to locate the small area on the graphic representation of the location on screen that the developers defined, which may not be obvious or only consist of a few on-screen pixels. A notable example comes from the original Full Throttle by LucasArts, where one puzzle requires instructing the character to kick a wall at a small spot, which Tim Schafer, the game's lead designer, had admitted years later was a brute force measure; in the remastering of the game, Schafer and his team at Double Fine made this puzzle's solution more obvious.[28] More recent adventure games try to avoid pixel hunts by highlighting the item, or by snapping the player's cursor to the item.[29]

Many puzzles in these games involve gathering and using items from their inventory.[22] Players must apply lateral thinking techniques where they apply real-world extrinsic knowledge about objects in unexpected ways. For example, by putting a deflated inner tube on a cactus to create a slingshot, which requires a player to realize that an inner tube is stretchy.[12] They may need to carry items in their inventory for a long duration before they prove useful,[30] and thus it is normal for adventure games to test a player's memory where a challenge can only be overcome by recalling a piece of information from earlier in the game.[12] There is seldom any time pressure for these puzzles, focusing more on the player's ability to reason than on quick-thinking.[31]

Story, setting, and themes[edit]

Adventure games are single-player experiences that are largely story-driven.[32] More than any other genre, adventure games depend upon their story and setting to create a compelling single-player experience.[12] They are typically set in an immersive environment, often a fantasy world,[6][9] and try to vary the setting from chapter to chapter to add novelty and interest to the experience.[12] Comedy is a common theme, and games often script comedic responses when players attempt actions or combinations that are "ridiculous or impossible".

Since adventure games are driven by storytelling, character development usually follows literary conventions of personal and emotional growth, rather than new powers or abilities that affect gameplay.[12] The player often embarks upon a quest,[10] or is required to unravel a mystery or situation about which little is known.[8] These types of mysterious stories allow designers to get around what Ernest W. Adams calls the "Problem of Amnesia", where the player controls the protagonist but must start the game without their knowledge and experience.[34] Story-events typically unfold as the player completes new challenges or puzzles, but in order to make such storytelling less mechanical, new elements in the story may also be triggered by player movement.[12]

Dialogue and conversation trees[edit]

Further information: Dialog tree

Adventure games have strong storylines with significant dialog, and sometimes make effective use of recorded dialog or narration from voice actors.[12] This genre of game is known for representing dialog as a conversation tree.[35] Players are able to engage a non-player character by choosing a line of pre-written dialog from a menu, which triggers a response from the game character.[16] These conversations are often designed as a tree structure, with players deciding between each branch of dialog to pursue.[36] However, there are always a finite number of branches to pursue, and some adventure games devolve into selecting each option one-by-one.[37] Conversing with characters can reveal clues about how to solve puzzles, including hints about what that character would want before they will cooperate with the player.[12] Other conversations will have far-reaching consequences, deciding to disclose a valuable secret that has been entrusted to the player.[12] Characters may also be convinced to reveal their own secrets, either through conversation or by giving them something that will benefit them.[citation needed]

Goals, success and failure[edit]

The primary goal in adventure games is the completion of the assigned quest.[38] Early adventure games often had high scores and some, Zork, also assigned the player a rank, a text description based on their score. High scores provide the player with a secondary goal,[38] and serve as an indicator of progression. While high scores are now less common, external reward systems, Xbox Live's Achievements perform a similar role.[40]

The primary failure condition in adventure games, inherited from more action-oriented games, is player death. Without the clearly identified enemies of other genres, its inclusion in adventure games is controversial, and many developers now either avoid it or take extra steps to foreshadow death.[41] Some early adventure games trapped the players in unwinnable situations without ending the game. Infocom's text adventure The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been criticized for a scenario where failing to pick up a pile of junk mail at the beginning of the game prevented the player, much later, from completing the game.[42] The adventure games developed by LucasArts purposely avoided creating a dead-end situation for the player due to the negative reactions to such situations.[43]


Text adventures and Interactive Fiction[edit]

Main article: Interactive fiction

Text adventures convey the game's story through passages of text, revealed to the player in response to typed instructions.[44] Early text adventures, Colossal Cave Adventure, "Hugo's House of Horrors" and Scott Adams' games, used a simple verb-noun parser to interpret these instructions, allowing the player to interact with objects at a basic level, for example by typing "get key".[45] Later text adventures, and modern interactive fiction, use natural language processing to enable more complex player commands like "take the key from the desk". Notable examples of advanced text adventures include most games developed by Infocom, including Zork and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.[44] With the onset of graphic adventures, the text adventure fell to the wayside, though the medium remains popular as a means of writing Interactive Fiction (IF), which tend to be focused more on the narrative through player exploration and discovery rather than puzzle solving. Interactive fiction may include puzzles, but these tend to be incorporated as part of the narrative in comparison to being specifically added as gameplay that must be solved to continue within adventure games.[46]

Graphic adventure[edit]

Graphic adventures are adventure games that use graphics to convey the environment to the player.[47] Games under the graphic adventure banner may have a variety of input types, from text parsers to touch screen interfaces.[44] Graphic adventure games will vary in how they present the avatar. Some games will utilize a first-person or third-person perspective where the camera follows the player's movements, whereas many adventure games use drawn or pre-rendered backgrounds, or a context-sensitive camera that is positioned to show off each location to the best effect.[48]

Point-and-click adventure games[edit]

Point-and-click adventure games are those where the player typically controls their character through a point-and-click interface using a computer mouse or similar pointing device, though additional control schemes may also be available.[49] The player clicks to move their character around, interact with non-player characters, often initiating conversation trees with them, examine objects in the game's settings or with their character's item inventory. Many point-and-click games would include a list of on-screen verbs to describe specific actions in the manner of a text adventure, but newer games have used more context-sensitive user interface elements to reduce or eliminate this approach. Often, these games come down to collecting items for the character's inventory, and figuring where is the right time to use that item; the player would need to use clues from the visual elements of the game, descriptions of the various items, and dialogue from other characters to figure this out. Later games developed by Sierra On-Line including the King's Quest games, and nearly all of the LucasArts adventure games, are point-and-click based games.

Escape the room games[edit]

Main article: Escape the room

Escape the room games are a further specialization of point-and-click adventure games; these games are typically short and confined to a small space to explore, with almost no interaction with non-player characters. Most games of this type require the player to figure out how to escape a room using the limited resources within it and through the solving of logic puzzles. Other variants include games that require the player to manipulate a complex object to achieve a certain end in the fashion of a puzzle box. These games are often delivered in Adobe Flash format and are also popular on mobile devices. Examples of the subgenre include the Submachine-series, Mystery of Time and Space (MOTAS) and The Room.[50]

Puzzle adventure games[edit]

Puzzle adventure games are adventure games that put a strong emphasis on logic puzzles. They typically emphasize self-contained puzzle challenges with logic puzzle toys or games. Completing each puzzle opens more of the game's world to explore, additional puzzles to solve, and can expand on the game's story.[51] There are often few to none non-playable characters in such games, and lack the type of inventory puzzles that typical point-and-click adventure games have. Puzzle adventure games were popularized by Myst and The 7th Guest. These both used mixed media consisting of pre-rendered images and movie clips,[52] but since then, puzzle adventure games have taken advantage of modern game engines to present the games in full 3D settings, such as The Talos Principle. Myst itself has been recreated in such a fashion in the title realMyst. Other puzzle adventure games are casual adventure games made up series of puzzles used to explore and progress the story, exemplified by The Witness and the Professor Layton series of games.

Narrative games[edit]

Narrative games are those that generally favor narration over gameplay, with gameplay present to help immerse the player into the game's story. Though narrative games are similar to interactive movies in that they present pre-scripted scenes, the advancement of computing power that can render pre-scripted scenes in real-time, thus providing for more depth of gameplay that is reactive to the player. Gameplay in narrative games may include working through conversation trees, solving puzzles, or more recently, the use of quick time events to aid in action sequences to keep the player involved in the story. Frequently, these game allow for branching narratives; choices made by the player influence events throughout the game. While these choices do not alter the overall direction and major plot elements of the game's narration, they are known to help personalize the storm to some degree to the player's desire through the ability to choose these determinants. Most of Telltale Games, such as The Walking Dead, are narrative games, but other examples include Quantic Dream's Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, and Dontnod Entertainment's Life is Strange series.[53]

Exploration games[edit]

Exploration games or exploration narrative games are narrative games that generally eschew any type of gameplay outside of movement and environmental interaction that allow players to experience their story through exploration and discovery. They are story-focused and feature fewer puzzles or even no puzzles at all. They allow players to roam around a garden-like environment freely and often tell their story through discovering elements like books, journals, or clues rather than through dialog and cutscenes as in more traditional adventure games. As win/lose conditions are de-emphasized, story and atmosphere are placed at the forefront. These may also be called walking simulators, although some people consider the latter a pejorative term.[54] Some examples of exploration games include Gone Home, Dear Esther, Firewatch, The Stanley Parable, Jazzpunk, and Thirty Flights of Loving.[55][56][57]

Visual novel[edit]

Main article: Visual novel

A visual novel (ビジュアルノベル,bijuaru noberu) is a hybrid of text and graphical adventure games, typically featuring text-based story and interactivity aided by static or sprite-based visuals. They resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays. The format has its primary origins in Japanese and other Asian video game markets, typically for personal computers and more recently on handheld consoles or mobile devices. The format has not gained much traction in Western markets.[3] A common type of visual novel are dating sims, which has the player attempt to improve a relationship with one or more other characters, such as Hatoful Boyfriend.

Interactive movie[edit]

Main article: Interactive movie

Some adventure games have been presented as interactive movies; these are games where most of the graphics are either fully pre-rendered or use full motion video from live actors on a set, stored on a media that allows fast random access such as laserdisc or CD-ROM. The arcade versions of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace are canonical examples of such works. The game's software would present a scene and then display options for the player to continue on, the choice leading to the game playing a new scene from the media. The video may be augmented by additional computer graphics; Under a Killing Moon used a combination of full motion video and 3D graphics. Because these games are limited by what has been pre-rendered or recorded, there is a lack of player interactivity in these titles, with wrong choices or decisions leading quickly to an ending scene.


There are a number of hybrid graphical adventure games, borrowing from two or more of the above classifications. For example, the Ace Attorney series of games, while presenting itself as a visual novel, includes elements of point-and-click adventure games. The Zero Escape series wraps several escape-the-room puzzles within the context of a visual novel.[58] The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series has the player use point-and-click type interfaces to locate clues, and minigame-type mechanics to manipulate those clues to find more relevant information.[59]

Main article: Action-adventure game

While most adventure games typically do not include any time-based interactivity by the player, action-adventure games are a hybrid of action games with adventure games that often require to the player to react quickly to events as they occur on screen.[16] The action-adventure genre is broad, spanning many different subgenres, but typically these games utilize strong storytelling and puzzle-solving mechanics of adventure games among the action-oriented gameplay concepts. The foremost title in this genre was Adventure, a graphic home console game developed based on the text-based Colossal Cave Adventure,[15] while the first The Legend of Zelda brought the action-adventure concept to a broader audience.

History of Western adventure games[edit]

Text adventures (1976–1989)[edit]

The origins of text adventure games is difficult to trace as records of computing around the 1970s were not as well documented. Text-based games had existed prior to 1976 that featured elements of exploring maps or solving puzzles, such as Hunt the Wumpus (1975), but lacked a narrative element, a feature essential for adventure games.[60]Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), written by William Crowther and Don Woods, is widely considered to be the first game in the adventure genre, and a significant influence on the genre's early development, as well as influencing core games in other genres such as Adventure (1979) for the action-adventure video game and Rogue (1980) for roguelikes. Crowther was an employee at Bolt, Beranek and Newman, a Boston company involved with ARPANETrouters, in the mid-1970s.[61] As an avid caver and role-playing game enthusiast, he wrote a text adventure based on his own knowledge of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky.[61] The program, which he named Adventure, was written on the company's PDP-10 and used 300 kilobytes of memory.[62][63] The program was disseminated through ARPANET, which led to Woods, working at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford at the time, to modify and expand the game, eventually becoming Colossal Cave Adventure.[61]

Colossal Cave Adventure set concepts and gameplay approaches that would become staples of text adventures and interactive fiction.[64] Following its release on ARPANET, numerous variations of Colossal Cave Adventure appeared throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, with some of these later versions being re-christened Colossal Adventure or Colossal Caves. These variations were enabled by the increase in microcomputing that allowed programmers to work on home computers rather than mainframe systems.[62][65][66] The genre gained commercial success with titles designed for home computers. Scott Adams launched Adventure International to publish text adventures including an adaptation of Colossal Cave Adventure, while a number of MIT students formed Infocom to bring their game Zork from mainframe to home computers and was a commercial success. [67] Other companies in this field included Level 9 Computing, Magnetic Scrolls and Melbourne House.

When personal computers gained the ability to display graphics, the text adventure genre began to wane, and by 1990 there were few if any commercial releases. Non-commercial text adventure games are still developed today, as the genre of interactive fiction.

Graphical development (1980–1990)[edit]

The first known graphical adventure game was Mystery House (1980), by Sierra On-Line, then at the time known as On-Line Systems.[68] The game featured static vector graphics atop a simple command line interface, building on the text adventure model. Sierra would continue to produce similar games under the title Hi-Res Adventure.[69][70] Vector graphics would give way to bitmap graphics which also enabled for simple animations to show the player-character moving in response to typed commands. Here, Sierra's King's Quest (1984), though not the first game of its type, is recognized as a commercially successful graphical adventure game, enabling Sierra to expand on more titles.[71] Other examples of early games include Koei's Night Life and Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku (1982), Sherwood Forest (1982), Yuji Horii's Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983), The Return of Heracles (which faithfully portrayed Greek mythology) by Stuart Smith (1983), Dale Johnson's Masquerade (1983), Antonio Antiochia's Transylvania (1982, re-released in 1984), and Adventure Construction Set (1985), one of the early hits of Electronic Arts.

As computers gained the ability to use pointing devices and point-and-click interfaces, graphical adventure games moved away from including the text interface and simply provided appropriate commands the player could interact with on-screen. The first known game with such an interface was Enchanted Scepters (1984) from Silicon Beach Software, which used drop-down menus for the player to select actions from while using a text window to describe results of those actions.[71] In 1985, ICOM Simulations released Déjà Vu, the first of its MacVenture series, utilized a more complete point-and-click interface, including the ability to drag objects around on the current scene, and was a commercial success.[71]LucasArts' Maniac Mansion, released in 1987, used a novel "verb-object" interface, showing all possible commands the player could use to interact with the game along with the player's inventory, which became a staple of LucasArts' own adventure games and in the genre overall.[71][72][73] The point-and-click system also worked well for game consoles, with games like Chunsoft's Portopia Serial Murder Case (1985) and Square's Suishō no Dragon (1986), both on the Nintendo Entertainment System using the controller input instead of text-based actions.[74][75]

Graphical adventure games were considered to have spurred the gaming market for personal computers from 1985 through the next decade, as they were able to offer narratives and storytelling that could not readily be told by the state of graphical hardware at the time.[76]

Expansion (1990–2000)[edit]

Graphical adventure games would continue to improve with advances in graphic systems for home computers, providing more detailed and colorful scenes and characters. With the adoption of CD-ROM in the early 1990s, it became possible to include higher quality graphics, video, and audio in adventure games. [52] This saw the addition of voice acting to adventure games, the rise of Interactive movies, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, and the gradual adoption of three-dimensional graphics in adventure games, the critically acclaimed Grim Fandango, Lucasarts' first 3D adventure.[71]

Myst, released in 1993 by Cyan Worlds, is considered one of the genre's more influential titles. Myst included pre-rendered 3D graphics, video, and audio.[77]Myst was an atypical game for the time, with no clear goals, little personal or object interaction, and a greater emphasis on exploration, and on scientific and mechanical puzzles. Part of the game's success was because it did not appear to be aimed at an adolescent male audience, but instead a mainstream adult audience. Myst held the record for computer game sales for seven years—it sold over nine million copies on all platforms, a feat not surpassed until the release of The Sims in 2000.[78] In addition, Myst is considered to be the "killer app" that drove mainstream adoption of CD-ROM drives, as the game was one of the first to be distributed solely on CD-ROM, forgoing the option of floppy disks.[79][80]Myst's successful use of mixed-media would lead to its own sequels, and other puzzle-based adventure games using mixed-media such as The 7th Guest. With many companies attempting to capitalize on the success of Myst, a glut of similar games followed its release, which contributed towards the start of the decline of the adventure game market in 2000.[71]

Decline (2000–2010)[edit]

Whereas once adventure games were one of the most popular genres for computer games, by the mid-1990s the market share started to drastically decline. The forementioned saturation of Myst-like games on the market led to little innovation in the field and a drop in consumer confidence in the genre.[71]Computer Gaming World reported that a "respected designer" felt it was impossible to design new and more difficult adventure puzzles as fans demanded, because Scott Adams had already created them all in his early games.[81] Another factor that led to the decline of the adventure game market was the advent of first person shooters, Doom and Half-Life.[82][83][84] These games, taking further advantage of computer advancement, were able to offer strong, story-driven games within an action setting.[71]

This slump in popularity led many publishers and developers to see adventure games as financially unfeasible in comparison. Notably, Sierra was sold to CUC International in 1998, and while still a separate studio, attempted to recreate an adventure game using 3D graphics, King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, as well as Gabriel Knight 3, both of which fared poorly; the studio was subsequently closed in 1999. Similarly, LucasArts released Grim Fandango to many positive reviews but poor sales; it released one more title, Escape from Monkey Island in 2000, but subsequently stopped development of Sam & Max: Freelance Police and had no further plans for adventure games.[85] Many of those developers for LucasArts, including Grossman and Schafer, left the company during this time.[71] Sierra developer Lori Ann Cole stated in 2003 her belief that the high cost of development hurt adventure games: "They are just too art intensive, and art is expensive to produce and to show. Some of the best of the Adventure Games were criticized they were just too short. Action-adventure or Adventure Role-playing games can get away with re-using a lot of the art, and stretching the game play."[86]

Traditional adventure games became difficult to propose as new commercial titles. Gilbert wrote in 2005, "From first-hand experience, I can tell you that if you even utter the words 'adventure game' in a meeting with a publisher you can just pack up your spiffy concept art and leave. You'd get a better reaction by announcing that you have the plague."[87] In 2012 Schaefer said "If I were to go to a publisher right now and pitch an adventure game, they'd laugh in my face."[88] Though most commercial adventure game publication had stopped in the United States by the early 2000s, the genre was still popular in Europe.[71] Games such as The Longest Journey by Funcom as well as Amerzone and Syberia, both conceived by Benoît Sokal and developed by Microïds, with rich classical elements of the genre still garnered high critical acclaims.[71]

Similar to the fate of interactive fiction, conventional graphical adventure games have continued to thrive in the amateur scene. This has been most prolific with the tool Adventure Game Studio (AGS). Some notable AGS games include those by Ben Croshaw (namely the Chzo Mythos), Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator, Time Gentlemen, Please!, Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, Metal Dead, and AGD Interactive's Sierra adventure remakes. Adobe Flash is also a popular tool known for adventures such as MOTAS and the escape the room genre entries.

New platforms and rebirth (2005–onward)[edit]

Following the demise of the adventure genre in the early 2000s, a number of events have occurred that have led to a revitalization of the adventure game genre as commercially viable: the introduction of new computing and gaming hardware and software delivery formats, and the use of crowdfunding as a means of achieving funding.

The 2000s saw the growth of digital distribution and the arrival of smart phones and tablet computers, with touch-screen interfaces well-suited to point-and-click adventure games. The introduction of larger and more powerful touch screen devices like the iPad allowed for more detailed graphics, more precise controls, and a better sense of immersion and interactivity compared to personal computer or console versions.[89][90] In gaming hardware, the handheld Nintendo DS and subsequent units included a touch-screen, and the Nintendo Wii console with its Wii Remote allowed players to control a cursor through motion control. These new platforms helped decrease the cost of bringing an adventure game to market,[91] providing an avenue to re-release older, less graphically advanced games The Secret of Monkey Island,[92]King's Quest and Space Quest[93] and attracting a new audience to adventure games.[94]

Further, the improvements in digital distribution led to the concept of episodic adventure games, delivering between three and five "chapters" of a full game over a course of several months via online storefronts, Steam, Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and Nintendo eShop. Modeled off the idea of televisions episodes, episodic adventure games break the story into several parts, giving players a chance to digest and discuss the current story with others before the next episode is available, and further can enhance the narrative by creating cliffhangers or other dramatic elements to be resolved in later episodes.[95] The first major successful episodic adventure games were those of Telltale Games, a developer founded by former LucasArts employees following the cancellation of Sam & Max: Freelance Police. Telltale found critical success in The Walking Dead

A computer terminal running Zork (1977), one of the first commercially successful text adventure games.
The Whispered World (2009) is an example of a context-based point-and-click adventure game using high-definition graphics and animation.
Telechrome^type output of Will Crowther's original version of Colossal Cave Adventure.
Myst used high-quality 3D rendered graphics to deliver images that were unparalleled at the time of its release.

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