You know, there tend to be some rare moments when you realize that despite having existed for quite a while, there are some Topless Robot lists we surprisingly haven’t gotten around to yet. I honestly thought we did a list of the best LucasArts games in the past, and while a search reveals The 10 Best Original LucasArts Adventure Characters and The 10 Best Sierra Adventure Games, I honestly can’t seem to find any record of a list solely devoted to LucasArts games. Huh…(by the way, if it turns out I’m wrong on this, feel free to correct me and smack me upside the head).
It honestly strikes me as odd, because given how many great games LucasArts has made beside the onslaught of Star Wars titles they’ve put out, which could fill out their own entire list here (and probably have), you’d think a list like that would be a pretty obvious addition to our various lineups of nerd trivia, but nope, not there. So to finally remedy this situation (and as a much-belated memorial for them being killed by the mouse earlier this year), here are ten of the greatest games LucasArts ever pumped out, and let us never forget the awesomeness they provided us over the years.
Honorable Mention: Armed and Dangerous
While Armed and Dangerous is definitely a terrific shooter with a great sense of humor, it was also the only game here that wasn’t developed by LucasArts – only published by them – so I felt I couldn’t include it in the top ten. That being said, though, this game is still notable for two things: One, being one of LucasArts’ best titles from 2000 and beyond, and two…
…It has the Land Shark Gun.
It’s a gun that shoots sharks. TUNNEL sharks. Sharks that pop up and devour your opponent. My god, how did we not have more of this? How did this not revolutionize the industry? Do you realize that I might’ve actually given a crap about the Gears of War games if they had included a shark gun? Armed and Dangerous is great game that sadly slipped through the cracks, but legacy it left with the Land Shark Gun will truly live on in our hearts forever…
Well, here’s one that odds are you probably haven’t heard of. A turn-based gladitorial strategy RPG? Definitely doesn’t seem like the type of game you’d expect LucasArts to develop. But they did, and the result is what’s been called one of the best games from the ’00s that you probably didn’t play. After building a school for budding gladiators in the land of Gladius, your goal is lead a group of trained heroes out amongst worlds of various warrior cultures and mythical creatures in order to prevent a gigantic war from happening, which you complete through lots of combat, naturally. The combat is a mixture of rock-paper-scissors-esque set of classes and a golf-like swing meter to determine an attack’s effectiveness, which may sound odd and simple yet quickly gains a lot of depth due to the sheer amount of variety provided. So yeah, less God of War and more Final Fantasy Tactics, but that’s what makes it such a unique gem worth looking at.
Well, I’d tell you about Loom myself, but first it looks like this nice man in the corner might have something to say about it…
…Well geez, way to drone on there, buddy. But indeed, that is a lot of what makes Loom a pretty spectacular adventure game, along with an incredible and unique fantasy world and gameplay, and a stellar story that can get pretty deep at time. Feeling at times like the best ’80s fantasy film (from, um, the ’90s) never made, you should indeed rush out and buy Loom now! Aye.
8. Metal Warriors
You know, while LucasArts made a ton of unique and creative adventures over the years, sometimes the simplest concepts can truly yeild the best results. Case in point, the concept of “man in giant mech suit fights evil invasion.” LucasArts’ take on it a simple yet fun action-platformer with a good chunk of action, a nice variety of mechs to play as, and some sweet little touches like the ability to even leave your mech. In fact, that last part makes up what some have said is the game’s defining feature, the multiplayer mode, in which you and a friend duke it out in split-screen, rocketing back and forth and trying to blow each other away while swapping between mechs to liven the destruction up. Needless to day, Metal Warriors made good use of the golden age of multiplayer to create a damn good action game built around the joys of giant mechs, as it should be.
7. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
…Hey, just because I didn’t let the Star Wars join the party here doesn’t mean I’m going to leave out other beloved Lucasfilm franchises, you know. When those wacky Nazis are it again, this time trying to uncover Atlantis in order to find a machine that grants them godlike powers, it’s up to Indy and his love interest du jour, Sophia Hapgood, to stop them. Boasting some then-unique bits like branching paths (referred to as Wits, Team, Fists, evidently showcasing a lack of ability to predict the internet) and action-esque fight scenes that actually make it possible to die in a LucasArts adventure, along with a globe-trotting story that feels like classic Indy (rumors even abound that it was originally planned to be a then-fourth film), The Fate of Atlantis is a terrific game and a great addition to the chronicles of Indy, aliens be damned.
6. Full Throttle
Seeing as how other biker-themed video games these days are…well, not exactly of the highest quality, maybe we should look back to a time when a video game built around biker culture ended up being more acclaimed. And said game was Full Throttle, the first wholly original project from the god we mortals call Tim Schafer. And while it was the completely flawless masterpiece one might come to expect from Schafer the Almighty, it is still indeed a terrific adventure with a great sense of humor, a great story, some damn good semi-post-apocalyptic aesthetics, a great rock soundtrack (including some stuff from The Gone Jackals), and Mark Hamill in one of the best villainous performances seen in a graphic adventure game. At the very least, it’s a damn unique and fun experience that might be a bit overlooked in favor of LucasArts’ more cartoony titles, but still worth checking out just to experience the work of the master himself.
5. Sam & Max Hit the Road
By now I think you probably should’ve gotten the point that LucasArts made a lot of really, really, really freaking good adventure games, as if that wasn’t common knowledge already. But Sam & Max Hit the Road just might be their defining adventure, at least based on the sheer amount of cameos Max makes in other titles. Honestly, I don’t know if I can offer much insight on why this game is a slice of pure awesomeness aside from “It’s really damn funny, has vivid and incredible graphics, puts up a nice challenge,” etc. So instead, I’ll just say that in this adventure of a six-foot anthropomorphic dog and a hyperkinetic rabbity thing traversing America and all its glorious tourist traps in search of a missing bigfoot, you have to bungee jump from Mount Rushmore in order to steal tar from the Dinosaur Tarpit so you glue your mammoth hair together to help form a bigfoot costume to help you blend in.
If nothing in the previous sentence sounded awesome to you at all, I hate you.
4. Day of the Tentacle
First off, no, it’s not what you think it is. What Day of the Tentacle is is a sequel to the also-great adventure game Maniac Mansion, this time focusing on the character of the evil Purple Tentacle and his diabolical plans to create a world where tentacles rule over humanity and again no, it’s not what you think it is. Honestly, pretty much everything I’ve said about Sam & Max could apply here (humor, graphics, challenge, all awesome, etc.), but what gives DotT the extra kick is this game’s take on the original’s feature of having three different protagonists you can switch between on the fly…except this time, the three are each exploring the mansion, but in different time periods ranging from colonial America to the tentacle-filled bad future (again, NO), allowing for a nice variety of creative puzzles where you essentially get to screw around with the fabric of time, be it screwing with the Constitution or freezing hamsters. In the end, it’s just a truly excellent adventure game that crams a ton of pure awesomeness and cartoonish comedy into a few floppy disks to create pure joy.
3. The Curse of Monkey Island
Oh, this what not an easy decision for me…deciding to abide by the “one entry per franchise” rule meant I had to choose which of Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate’s chronicles to use here, and between Secret, Revenge, Curse, and Tales, there were four games’ worth of sheer swashbuckling awesomeness that made it quite difficult to pick the best. But in the end I decided to go with The Curse of Monkey Island, which takes everything that makes each game terrific – sharp wit, great puzzles, colorful atmosphere – but throws in the addition of absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn artwork and terrific voice acting along with the return of the second game’s hard mode, a cavalcade of colorful new characters ranging from Murray the Demonic Talking Skull to Gary Coleman, rhyming insult swordfights mixed in with high-seas cannon battles, and of course, jaunty musical numbers and fried chicken. So needless to say, it’s a piece of brilliance worth faking your death over twicefold, to say the very least.
2. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
You, a friend, and some water pistols versus an army of zombies, werewolves, chainsaw maniacs, evil dolls, vampires, mummies, giant ants, snakeoids and the occasional Frankenstein monster, all unleashed upon your town by the evil Dr. Tongue because why the hell not, he’s got nothing better to do. Thus goes the premise of one of the greatest hidden gems of the ’90s, Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Inspired by old-school creature features, a bit of Gauntlet, and even a touch of Big Trouble in Little China (seriously, more on that here), ZAMN is a top-down action game where the goal is – as the title rightfully suggests – to save your neighbors from the giant horde of monsters by fending them off with various unorthodox weapons, such as soda cans, footballs, fire extinguishers, the occasional bazooka, etc., all while traversing various maze-like levels. Again, this one pretty much falls into the category of “simple yet brilliant”, though again, the colorful aesthetics and sense of humor help out again. Plus, you get to meet George Lucas at the end, so that’s something…
1. Grim Fandango
Let me just put it like this: Grim Fandango is one of my Top Five Greatest Freaking Games of All Time. And considering how many other games I’ve praised before, hopefully that’s saying something. The story of Manny Calavera is one that should be experienced by all, a Dia de Muertos-inspired film noir masterpiece taking place throughout a four-year journey in the Land of the Dead as Manny sets out to right a wrong he made as a travel agent and winds up uncovering a grand conspiracy with the help of his speed-crazed demon friend.
Schafer, The Supreme Being of Light again strikes one out of the park, and even if one tries to make accusations of wonky controls (to which I will reply with a brick upside your head), everything else on display more than makes up for any supposed flaws…there’s the unique mix of art deco and Mexican iconography to create some truly outstanding and jaw-dropping worlds, the extremely clever mythology the game sets up concerning its universe, some of the wittiest and best dialogue ever seen in an adventure game, a colorful and diverse cast with some terrific voice acting, some truly challenging puzzles, some genuinely tear-jerking moments…I could go on forever here, but I honestly don’t want to go into specific and give anything way here (I think I’ll save that for the 15th anniversary this year…).
Indeed, Grim Fandango was the high point of LucasArts’ history, and even the high point for the adventure genre as a whole…and alas, the low point as well. While it was a critical darling and award-winner in several cases, it was supposedly the only LucasArts game to have never turned a profit (can’t even blame the consumer on this one, the competition was Half-Life and StarCraft, which ended up being two high points in their genres). As such, LucasArts sadly ceased production on their graphic adventure games, as did several other companies soon, and all of the whimsy and joy that marked LucasArts’ early days was phased out in favor of Star Wars, Star Wars, and Star Wars. Thus ended one of the greatest runs a video game company ever had.
…But god damn, did they go out on a high note.
Previously by Kyle LeClair: