A Tribute To Old School Adventure Games and Sierra On-Line


These days, most games are all about shooting and killing things. Don’t get me wrong; I love doing these things! But there was actually a time when I really played games where it was necessary to kill waves and waves of monsters. No, there was a time when most of the games I played where about going to different lands, collecting items and solving puzzles. These were adventure games and I loved… no, scratch that… I love (present tense) playing these games. Especially the adventure games made by Sierra On-Line.

Adventure games were actually one of the earliest forms of computer games because you didn’t really need graphics to play them. If you’re familiar with classic text adventures like Zork, then you already have a good idea on how to play them. But, of course, while the early text adventures were popular for their time, adventure games only really hit their stride when they actually started inserting pictures to go with their wordy descriptions.

This is where the initial entry of the King’s Quest series comes in and my very first introduction to the world of adventure games. You control Sir Graham, a knight of the kingdom of Daventry. The current king and ruler of Daventry is old and doesn’t have an heir to the throne. However, he does see a goodness in Sir Graham and sends him on a quest to find the 3 magical treasures of the kingdom and, if he does, he will bequeath his kingdom to Sir Graham.

King's Quest I VGA

After that, I started collecting all of the Quest games Sierra On-Line produced. The great thing about them was that they tackled very diverse genres. The King’s Quest series had a medieval fantasy setting and usually had a member of the Daventry royal family as the protagonist. In Space Quest, you’re put in the shoes of Roger Wilco, space janitor (or sanitation engineer, as he calls himself). Police Quest has you solving a major crime with each game while having to follow the proper police procedures. There was also Quest for Glory, which follows an RPG route, and you get to pick from three classes (Fighter, Wizard and Thief) and use a combination of puzzle solving and stat building to finish the game.

However, my favorite series definitely has to be the Leisure Suit Larry games. I remember playing the first game when I was 13. Yes, I know the game was supposed to be only for adults… but that never really stopped me from playing them! Was it was the raunchy humor that got me hooked? Maybe it was the thought that I was playing I shouldn’t be playing? Or was it because I just loved the Larry Laffer’s ridiculous main goal of getting laid? No, it wasn’t one single thing. it was definitely the combination of all of those things!

Leisure Suit Larry

That’s not to say that the other Quest games weren’t great in their own right. Far from it! I loved how the King’s Quest games drew a lot of inspiration from fairy tales and myths. It was fun to see how Space Quest would draw from popular science fiction movies and television shows and how Police Quest actually showed how police protocols and rules actually help the police solve crimes.

Besides the settings and the stories, another thing that made adventure games so popular were the puzzles.Besides the settings and the stories, another thing that made adventure games so popular were the puzzles. Most of the time, finding the solution to the puzzles involve the main character using the right item or items in your inventory at the right location. While it may seem pretty straightforward, they can be challenging to figure out, especially if the game wants you to use the items in non-traditional ways. One example that comes to mind would be in Space Quest II; you have to use your jockstrap as a slingshot to take out a guard. I remember getting stuck on that screen for around a week!

Getting stuck was actually a big part of the adventure game experience. I played these games way before the Internet was made public so I couldn’t just go online and look for a walkthrough. No, I had to wrack my brain and figure out how to move on. This actually led to a lot of camaraderie between the people who enjoyed Quest games. There was a corkboard at the computer store where I would get my games with a slew of questions tacked on it, such as, for King’s Quest IV, “Where do I find the bridle?” or, for Leisure Suit Larry III, “How do I get out of the bamboo forest?” I did post a couple of questions on the board and someone actually put the answer! It was pretty nice to see total strangers actually trying to help others out.

I guess one of the problems with this genre is it’s not as fun to replay the game once you solved all the puzzles and finished the game.Sadly, adventure games’ popularity waned after some time. I’m not sure why it happened. I guess one of the problems with this genre is  it’s not as fun to replay the game once you solved all the puzzles and finished the game. I actually replayed Police Quest II, a game that took me around a month to finish. But, since I still remember practically everything about the game, where the items are and how to solve the puzzles, I finished it in around 2 hours. And, with the Internet, it’s just so tempting to look for an FAQ that has the walkthrough…

Still, I’m pretty glad that I played these games. They were a big part of my childhood and, I guess, a big part of the childhood of others as well. I’ve seen groups such as Infamous Games create their own pseudo-sequels and remakes to King’s Quest and Space Quest (they’re free, by the way). The first Leisure Suit Larry had a successful Kickstarter campaign and the official remake is now available for new generations to enjoy.

Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded

All of the games are actually available from GOG.com at extremely low prices now. In fact, I think I’ll let nostalgia get the better of me and purchase some of them right now and get transported back to a time when shooting bad guys wasn’t as important as finding a magical bowl that could fill up with stew indefinitely with a single command.

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About Victor de la Cruz

Most of my childhood (and adult life) was spent doing a lot of geeky stuff: watching TV, playing video games and going to the movies. To some, it may have been a waste of time. Well, to me, it has made me what I am today... a geeky adult. I actually write for a couple of blogs, namely: geekwisdom.wordpress.com 3rdworldgeeks.com gamemoir.com Please check them out!

There are 8 comments

  1. stephenwrhodes

    The only Sierra games that I played were the King’s Quest games. My favorite was definitely KQ VI. It was one of the first games I had ever played and it never really got old to me. What a classic! “Alexander pulls out his magic map…”

  2. stephenwrhodes

    I was really excited when I heard that Telltale Games was making a new King’s Quest game, but I guess they gave the rights back to Activision. Hopefully Activision will find a dev who can make a good game with the rights, but I think that Telltale would have been a perfect fit.

  3. Stefan Persson (@Imphenzia)

    I found this article as I searched to find if there is any interest in old style text input graphical adventures. I sure miss them and I even though the logical step was to move on to point and click, for me figuring out how to type and learning English in the process was a fun part. My favorite series was Space Quest and I remember re-completing Space Quest 3 in its entirety at a computer expo where they had a Roland MT32 sound card – the music was so amazing compared to the AdLib board I had.

    Thanks for the article – a fun read. I’ll now resume my quest to find out the level of interest for new (non-remakes) of text input graphical adventures =)

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