5 Great Interactive Fiction Games You Can Play Online Right Now

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interactive fictionThere’s no better time to be alive than right now as far as I’m concerned. The food is awesome, there’s great music being made all over the world and we have this fantastic little thing called the Internet, which allows me to work with good friends from all over the planet.

Yep, 2010 is the best year yet.

This deep love I have for today doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally wish awesome things from the past would come back, however. In the early 80’s most of the best games were text-based, meaning the graphics were provided by the player’s imagination. Just as film-making will never match books in my opinion, modern graphics haven’t yet caught up to the power of well-written text games and their ability to harness the imagination. But today such games are all gone, right?


Nope. Like I said, the best time to be alive is right now, and a big part of why is the Internet. There are countless text interactive fiction games being made now, three decades past the medium’s commercial prime, and they’re almost all freely available on the Internet. Called “Interactive Fiction” today, a list of the best games in this field would take ages to compile, so I’ll just show you a sampling of my favorite games that can be freely played online.

Lost Pig And Place Underground by Grunk

Pig lost! Boss say that it Grunk fault. Say Grunk forget about closing gate. Maybe boss right. Grunk not remember forgetting, but maybe Grunk just forget. Boss say Grunk go find pig, bring it back. Him say, if Grunk not bring back pig, not bring back Grunk either. Grunk like working at pig farm, so now Grunk need find pig.

interactive fictionSo begins this less-than-epic quest, in which our hero attempts to find a pig.

No, really: that’s the plot. And it’s amazing.

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This short game’s narrative voice is deceptively simple, and will have you laughing out loud more than once as you play it. It also features some pretty good adventure-game-style puzzles, but don’t give up too quickly: you can deduce everything easily, making this a great game for beginners.

You can play Lost Pig online right now or find more information about Lost Pig at the Interactive Fiction Database (IFDB.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

adult interactive fiction

Like many geeks I’m an avid devotee of Douglas Adams’ writing in general and the famous Hitchhiker’s Guide media franchise in particular. I love the radio series, the television show, the books and even tolerated the movie. I’m also quite fond of the classic Infocom game of the same title.

Happily this classic is playable online today. Find a version of the interactive fiction game with some graphics at the BBC’s website or the text version at Douglas Adam’s website.

The real charm of this game is its narrative voice – the text was written by Adams himself. This game is not easy, and includes no hint system, but devotees of Adams’ work should struggle through – it’s worth it just for the one-liners.

For A Change by Dan Schmidt

The sun has gone. It must be brought. You have a rock.

If you think that reads more like poetry than it does a game you’re probably right. This is a game as well as a poem, and a pretty good one at that.

A surrealistic adventure featuring an invented vocabulary provides an experience no other medium possibly could, and makes a strong case for the continued existence of text games. Be sure to check this one out.

Play ‘For a Change’ online or find out more about the game and download links at IFDB.

Photopia by Adam Cadre

interactive fictionLess a game than it is a story, Photopia is considered by many to be the most influential piece of interactive fiction in the post-Infocom era.

For this reason I highly recommend trying it out, although I fear talking too much about the plot will give too much away. I personally find this game beautiful, though there has always been controversy surrounding it so make up your own mind.

Check out Photopia now or find out more about the game over at IFDB.

Whom The Telling Changed by Aaron A. Reed

As your village in ancient Mesopotamia decides whether or not to go to war the legendary story of Gilgamesh is told. Your role is to, by asking the right questions, manipulate public opinion toward fighting or not fighting. This game is great if you have a working knowledge of the Gilgamesh epic (read it free here) and even better for repeat playing, as there are multiple possible endings.

Click here to play Who The Telling Changed now or read more about the game at IFDB.

Infocom Games

If you’re wondering where Zork is, the answer is that it’s hard to say. Technically Activision owns the rights to the Zork trilogy and the rest of the (amazing) Infocom library, which fueled the 80’s text game craze. They’ve not released any of these titles recently so far as I know.

This website seems to feature pretty much all of them, however, and you can play them in your browser. I’m not sure how legal this is, but it’s there and working.

Conclusion

This is but a small number of the text-based games you can find online, of course. You can find many more over at the IFDB, which serves as an online database of the many free games available. You’ll also find downloading instructions for any particular game there.

Well, do you think text games could be fun…or do you lack the attention span for them? Do any Interactive Fiction fans recommend games that I missed here? Comment away; we won’t tell you that you can’t.

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Comments (8)
  • Michael Hayes

    There were a number of text adventure games I played when I was in college. One of the more well-written ones at that time was Anchorhead. Its genre is Lovecraftian Gothic horror, which seemed to be a favorite among IF writers at the time. I liked it though, because a lot of effort went into the room descriptions, capturing the feeling of being in a New England coastal village. It even avoids the mundane "you can't go that way" response by telling you what lies in which direction. It starts as a carefree exploration, and gradually pulls you into the discovery of an ancient sinister plot. Of course, any recommendation of IF games shouldn't leave out the ones by Graham Nelson, lauded as the father of modern IF. Curses and Jigsaw were tough but rewarding. I still remember playing Jigsaw and staying on board the Titanic until the last possible moment. I'm glad you mentioned Photopia, probably the best of the "puzzle-less" sub-genre of IF. Too bad that and the other puzzle-less IF, at least at that time, were all morbid. There was also Mercy, which takes place in the fictitious near future where a new smallpox epidemic is killing everybody and the main character is a euthanasia doctor. Then there was In The End, which covers the subject of suicide. As for Zork, I was glad that Activision at least had created Zork: The Undiscovered Underground concurrent with their release of Zork: Grand Inquisitor. Even if it was relatively short and poorly-written (I know grues were mentioned in passing in other Infocom games, but actually seeing one and then entering a grue convention was just lame), it was at least a nod. The recent game Call Of Duty: Black Ops I has an easter egg where the player can use a computer to play the classic Zork.

  • Aryamaan Giri

    How on earth are we supposed to play these games ??!!

    • jhpot

      There are direct links to the games themselves in playable form, so I’m guessing your question is about how Interactive Fiction works in general. In most games you can type “help” to get a pretty good guide, but basically what you need to do is type what you want to do.

  • Joseph Michael Daryl

    Drug Lord…..

  • Joseph Michael Daryl

    You Forgot Championship manger . It’s a Soccer Base Manager Game Which was popular till 2002. Text were use to describe the game.This was one true classic.They don’t make games like these anymore.

  • Aibek

    Give it a try guys and let us know.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.