Updated by Sandy Stachowiak on 23 January 2017.
While there have been many advances in technology and gaming, some still appreciate the old-school challenges. Interactive fiction (IF) games do still exist and there are plenty of options available online. So, whether you are a current fan of the genre or simply intrigued by it, here is a terrific list of online, text-based fiction games for you to check out.
Lost Pig And Place Under Ground 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.
So begins this less-than-epic quest, in which our hero attempts to find a pig.
No, really: that’s the plot. And it is amazing.
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 pretty easily, which makes this a great game for beginners.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
As the story begins bulldozers are waiting to reduce your house to rubble to make way for a motorway bypass. While you attempt to deal with this problem, your rather strange friend Ford Prefect drops by to tell you that the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for an interstellar bypass!
Whether you have read the book, watched the movie, or neither, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an interesting interactive fiction game. And, if you are familiar with the story already, you will be in for some twists and turns in this online adaptation of the tale.
The real charm of this game is its narrative voice – the text was written by Douglas 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.
You can check out more details about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or begin the game on the Text Adventures website.
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 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. Prepare to really use your imagination, envision what is taking place, and then check this one out.
Further details about For a Change and a link to play online can be found on the Interactive Fiction Database site.
Photopia by Adam Cadre
Less 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. As the game begins, you are waking up in the car from a night of partying as your friend speeds down the road. Then, you are suddenly a girl, the first on the red planet.
Going any further into the plot will give too much away, which is one reason this is an intriguing game. The game really is beautiful, although there has always been controversy surrounding it, so decide for yourself.
To start playing Photopia or just look at more game details, you can head to the Interactive Fiction Database site.
Whom The Telling Changed by Aaron A. Reed
The heat of the fire and the glow in the storyteller’s eyes made the past present, and the path to the future clear. The power in the telling was immense, subtle, divine. What man would dare subvert it?
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.
You can review more information about Who The Telling Changed or begin the game on the Interactive Fiction Database site.
Are You Ready to Explore More?
If you are wondering where Zork is, the answer is that it is 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. The website seems to feature pretty much all of them; however, and you can play them in your browser.
For discovery of new games and even for those interested in creating their own, Playfic is a great source. This online community site lets you write, share, and play games created by others. You can check out the newest, most popular, or featured challenges.
Similar to Playfic and the source mentioned for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is Text Adventures. This is another community of interactive fiction game creators and players. And, it also happens to have Zork I. Take a look at featured games or select a category like puzzle or fantasy.
Interactive Fiction Database
The Interactive Fiction Database serves as an online catalog of the many free games available, including those mentioned here. You will also find downloading instructions for any particular interactive fiction game there.
This is but a small number of the text-based games you can find online, of course. If you have never played, do you think text games could be fun? Or, do any interactive fiction fans recommend games not listed here? Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments below!
Image Credit: Billion Photos via Shutterstock.com