Maniac Mansion ushered in the golden age of graphic adventure games, most of them created by LucasArts. Mansion was followed by Zak McCracken & The Alien Mindbenders, The Secret of Monkey Island, Loom, Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and Day of the Tentacle, while Grim Fandango closed out the era on a high note.
?While the Star Wars franchise slumbered in geeky obscurity during the late ’80s and early ’90s, George Lucas became interested in the nascent world of videogames. In 1982 he founded LucasFilm Games, which became LucasArts in 1990. Though the company collaborated with Atari to produce a few games in the early-to-mid 1980s, in 1987 it had its first major hit with the graphic adventure game Maniac Mansion.
Unlike other adventure games in those early years, in LucasArts games you couldn’t walk off a cliff accidentally and die, or get to the end of the game only to discover you’d missed picking up a crucial item fifteen overwritten saves ago. But more than that, LucasArts games were marked by quality writing, great dialogue, creative gameplay and perhaps most of all, memorable characters.
Of course, some of LucasArts’s adventure games featured established characters, such as Sam & Max and Indiana Jones. This list celebrates the top ten characters who originated in LucasArts adventure games.
10) Zak McKracken
Zak McKracken (no relation to Phil) was the star of his own 1998 game, Zak McKracken & the Alien Mindbenders, which featured the tabloid reporter and his pals racing to prevent the evil alien Caponians. The aliens had infiltrated the phone company and planned to take over the world with a special telephone tone that makes people dumber (20 years later, the producers of the movie Pulse would try something similar, attempting to make the world dumber by releasing the movie Pulse). The sarcastic and resourceful Zak would serve as a precursor to Guybrush Threepwood, hero of the more successful Monkey Island games.
9) Murray the Demonic Skull
1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island, the third game in the series, introduced one of the franchise’s most memorable characters: Murray the skull. The evil skull. Once a member of the ghost pirate LeChuck’s undead crew, Murray’s vessel was blown apart (by Guybrush) and left without a body. A complete megalomaniac, Murray’s hilarious dialogue and unrelenting threats to Guybrush despite his utter immobility have made him a fan favorite character and won him a cameo in every game since.
8) Bobbin Threadbare
One of the few non-humorous LucasArts graphic adventures, Loom was an epic fantasy. The 1990 game featured a complex mythology centers around the Great Loom, which can actually weave the fabric of reality, and the Guild of Weavers who are responsible for it. When a rebellious Weaver plants a gray thread in the Loom, it results in the creation of a mysterious child. The game’s story follows this boy, named Bobbin, as he attempts to save the world from the legions of Chaos.
7) Adrian Ripburger
While it never achieved the fame of Monkey Island or Maniac Mansion, 1995’s Full Throttle has its own devoted coterie of diehard fans. The game was set in a Mad Max-like dystopian future, where motorcycles are gradually being replaced by hoverbikes. Ben, leader of the biker gang the Polecats, finds himself at odds with Adrian Ripburger, the evil vice-president of Corley Motors.
While protagonist Ben was a typical loner-badass, Adrian Ripburger made for a memorable villain. Not only did he beat the elderly president of Corley Motors to death with his own cane, but upon taking over the company, planned to make minivans instead of motorcycles. The dirty bastard! Perhaps best of all, Ripburger was voiced by Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.
6) Purple Tentacle
A minor threat in 1987’s Maniac Mansion, the Purple Tentacle becomes the primarily antagonist of its 1993 sequel, Day of the Tentacle, after drinking toxic waste spewing from behind the mansion. The sludge causes him to grow arms (of a sort) and develop a sudden thirst for world domination. His intelligence is so great and his plan so flawless that the only way to stop him is for our heroes to go back in time to prevent him from mutating in the first place.
5) Elaine Marley-Threepwood
The heroine of the Monkey Island series and wife to Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine spent much of the early games serving as Governor of the Tri-Island area and attempting to prevent Guybrush from getting killed. While Elaine is often kidnapped by LeChuck — prompting Guybrush’s adventure to rescue her — it usually turns out she could have taken care of everything without Guybrush’s help.
Given how clever, capable and quick-witted Elaine is, part of the character’s charm is her mystifying love for the hapless Guybrush.
The undead antagonist of all the Monkey Island games, LeChuck was a zombie pirate before zombies or pirates were cool. Allegedly inspired by the depiction of Blackbeard in Tim Powers’ novel On Stranger Tides (which was recently adapted for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie), LeChuck also happens to have one of the catchiest theme songs in villain history; it’s the one most associated with the MI games.
Oh, and he might actually be Guybrush’s older brother. Maybe.
3) Bernard Bernoulli
In Maniac Mansion, Bernard was just one of a number of high school stereotypes that included a surfer dude, a goth chick and a clean-cut Michael J. Fox-type guy. Considering who the typical player of a computer game would have been in 1987, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the fan favorite was super-nerd Bernard.
Bernard was given top billing in 1993’s Day of the Tentacle, where he assists the good Green Tentacle in preventing the evil, mutated Purple Tentacle from conquering the world via a complicated adventure through time.
2) Manny Calavera
Grim Fandango was a masterpiece of the graphic adventure genre that had the misfortune of coming out in 1998, just as genre was in its decline. A mystery in the style of a hard-boiled 1940s noir film with a visual style inspired by the calaca figures of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, the game starred Manny, a grim reaper (or “travel agent”) whose job is to shuttle people to the heavenly Ninth Underworld.
A sort of skeletal Humphrey Bogart with a Hispanic accent (voiced by veteran actor Tony Plana), Manny is one of the most fully-realized characters in any LucasArts title. As the story unfolds over several in-game years, Manny grows as he experiences love, heartbreak, defeat, and triumph. He’s one of the most memorable characters created by Tim Schafer, the man behind Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle (as well as more recent games such as Psychonauts and Br?tal Legend).
1) Guybrush Threepwood
“Hi, my name’s Guybrush Threepwood and I wanna be a pirate.” No debate here — Guybrush Threepwood is easily the most famous original character from any LucasArts game. The hapless hero appears in The Secret of Monkey Island with no introduction other than his stated ambition to become a pirate, but by the end of the game, he’s become a hero… of sorts.
Whether or not Guybrush has ever become an actual pirate is debatable, but what Guybrush did become is a beloved favorite character of gaming fans worldwide and perhaps the most famous graphic adventure character of all time. Guybrush’s popularity even led to a guest appearance as an alternate skin in Star Wars: Force Unleashed II. With his most recent outing in Telltale Games’s Tales of Monkey Island in 2009, Guybrush Threepwood shows no sign of vanishing into Davy Jones’ Locker anytime soon.