Gaming

How to Make Your Own Text Adventure Games: 7 Tools

Christian Cawley Updated 19-05-2020

Modern AAA video games are feats of engineering. They utilize physics engines, artificial intelligence, realistic graphics, and even virtual reality. However, other types of games exist. Including text adventure games.

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Text-based games (also known as interactive fiction) are growing in popularity alongside retro games in general. They’re perfect for anyone who prefers to imagine a game’s events rather than seeing the action play out on screen.

Text-based games are comparatively simple to make, and don’t require hours creating graphics and sound. Interested? Then try these tools to start creating your own text adventure games…

1. Twine

You don’t need any coding experience for simple, basic stories, which is where Twine comes in. Giving you the tools you need to start creating your interactive fiction, Twine runs on desktop and in your browser.

Simply use the app to create your interactive stories and export them as web pages. When your story is finished, upload the HTML files to a web server and share them with the world.

For more complex narratives, Twine supports features like variables and conditional logic. It also supports JavaScript, CSS, and images if you want to present your story as more than standard interactive fiction.

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To help you learn Twine, check the official wiki, and view the screencasts. There is also an informative reference guide and community help in the Twine forums. Get active here and share works-in-progress and learn tips and tricks from your fellow users.

Download: Twine for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Web (Free)

2. Quest

While you don’t need programming experience to use these text adventure makers, it can help with Quest. It features a built-in scripting language for handling complex logic and supports the addition of sound, images, and video.

Available for Windows or in your browser, completed Quest games can be exported to the web and played online. Furthermore, there are no commercial restrictions, so you can even sell your Quest games if you want to.

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Quest is open source (open source vs free software Open Source vs. Free Software: What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter? Many assume "open source" and "free software" mean the same thing but that's not true. It's in your best interest to know what the differences are. Read More ) under the MIT License, which means you can download the source code and modify it. You probably won’t do this, but forking the project remains a possibility if you don’t like the direction Quest takes in the future.

This tool has one of the most active communities of all the text game engines currently available. Specifically, the official Quest forums have regular traffic and new posts on a daily basis. If you want to become part of a community, Quest might be the best choice for you.

Download: Quest for Windows and Web (Free)

3. ADRIFT

Create your own text adventures with Adrift

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ADRIFT is one of the oldest functioning options for creating your own text-based games. Its unique selling point is pretty clear: absolutely no programming experience needed, even if you want to create non-trivial narratives.

The beauty of ADRIFT is that everything is driven by the GUI. This means drag-and-drop selections, folder navigation, drop-down menus, etc. All characters, events, objects, variables, etc. are click-to-set-up, making ADRIFT one of the easiest systems to use.

The only downside is that ADRIFT games can only be played through the ADRIFT Runner application. The good news is that ADRIFT is cross-platform, so it’s not too much of an inconvenience.

Looking for games to play? Check out ADRIFT’s own database of games. Need help or want to hang out with other ADRIFT users? Check out the official ADRIFT forums.

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ADRIFT hasn’t been updated since 2016 but don’t let this put you off as it remains in use.

Download: ADRIFT for Windows and Linux (Free)

4. Inform

A free app that uses a programming language based on English, Inform features two built-in books to help you learn. These are a tutorial, Writing With Inform, and The Inform Recipe Book. Using the tutorial, you can ease yourself into the software; the recipe books shows you how to control objects in your text adventures.

As well as being bundled into the game-making software, these books can be read on the website’s documentation page. Meanwhile, there is a community of creators working with Inform on the Interactive Fiction Community Forum.

In addition to Windows, macOS, and Linux, versions of Inform are available for FreeBSD and Raspberry Pi.

Download: Inform for Windows, macOS, and Linux (Free)

5. Squiffy

From the same team as Quest is the simpler Squiffy tool. While Quest is aimed at writers planning to create advanced text adventures or gamebooks, Squiffy focuses on story.

Free and open source, Squiffy outputs completed games as HTML and JavaScript so you can upload them to the web. This can be your own site or the textadventures.co.uk community. Or you can use Adobe PhoneGap to turn your game into an app.

Download: Squiffy for Windows, Linux, and Web (free)

6. Ren’Py

For a more polished product there’s Ren’Py, a popular game creation tool. You can use this for anything from interactive fiction and other text games to point-and-click adventures.

It comes with a detailed reference manual and a quick start tutorial to teach you the ropes. To see the possibilities of this tool, spend a few moments browsing games made with Ren’Py on itch.io.

While powerful, Ren’Py might prove to be too much for you to handle if you’re new to making games. However, if you have already developed a story with another tool and are ready to upscale it to another platform, Ren’Py is ideal.

Download: Ren’Py for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Web

7. Inklewriter

Not sure if you want to commit to any of these text game makers at this stage? Inklewriter is a web-based tool that guides you through the creation process with an interactive tutorial. It’s a more casual tool, designed for less advanced stories.

Simply head to the website and follow the steps. An interactive “Tutorial Story” guides you through the process, enabling the creation of a branching story. With no special code requirements, this is a largely point-and-click process, with you simply adding the story.

Head to the Inklewriter website to start creating your text adventures.

Create Your Own Text Adventure Games

While game creation was once a closed shop, these days there are many free game development tools.

So, if interactive fiction, text adventures, or text-based RPGs are your thing, the tools listed above are perfect. They’re suited to all levels of difficulty and can deliver instant results too.

Looking for inspiration? Check out the best interactive fiction games 6 Great Interactive Fiction Games to Play Online Right Now Want to try playing a text-based adventure game? Here are the best interactive fiction games you can play online right now. Read More to see what’s already out there.

Related topics: Adventure Game, Game Development, Interactive Fiction.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. DJ Rites
    December 29, 2017 at 11:06 am

    These three are so uniquely different yet they are all helpful and useful in their own right. If you can't decide, get all of them, try them out and figure out which one suits you the most.

  2. Finn
    March 27, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Of the three of them I can recommend Adrift, if you don't have the time of stomach for learning code. It's very easy to use and you're able to create qquite complex games with both graphic and sound.

  3. Killword
    December 22, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    INSTEAD uses a compiler that Android can read in native. Another to look at is PAWS NG, it makes online use of QUILL's next generations of little brothers, PAWS and SINTAC. It is both in English and Spanish (evidently Spanish speaking countries LOVE text adventures)...

  4. Anonymous
    September 23, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Nice article, Inform’s community is alive, but they use the Interactive Fiction Forums which is a community that is for all interactive fiction platforms. Mostly it is connected with the Intereactive Fiction Archives which is the world’s repository for all interactive fiction games of any platform and operating system.

    I have used the Adventure Game Toolkit which is no longer supported and is only able to run under DOS or Windows. The Windows version had some features cut (mostly the ability to use graphics and audio) and designed for 95 or 98. I have run it successfully up to Windows XP.

    Currently I have been trying Inform 7, the latest version of Inform. It is not for the novice, it is a professional level game creation system which is heavily rule-based. While it can create very complex games, I find it rather cumbersome to use. It also does not handle UTF-8 very well as it has a tendency to choke when even real quotes are used. Old AGT never had that problem.

    Which is why I am here, I have been looking around for an alternative. I guess the Agility system, which was the successor to AGT, is no longer used either. My OS is Linux now, so it looks as if TADS will be the best choice for me. Although, I do have a virtual Windows 7 on Linux. So I could use ADRIFT.

    The nice thing is there is Gargoyle which is a universal system that can play almost all platforms. (This is what they claim, but I don’t know of any platform that cannot be played using Gargoyle. Okay, Quest is not on their list.) It even will play Hugo games, but I understand that Hugo is non-free. I have no experience with Hugo, so I cannot comment about it. Gargoyle was created from the coöperative spirit of all the IF gaming platforms and authors. I seem to remember something about a Babel agreement between the different platforms. You can find more information about it here which will lead to a download page: http://ccxvii.net/gargoyle/

  5. Brad
    January 20, 2015 at 12:22 am

    I also want to mention here that Quest now has a browser-based version on their website. You can register for an account then save your games either privately or publically on their server. This is great if you cannot install Quest on your PC (maybe you don't have Windows) or you prefer file portability via cloud. I have noticed however that it is not quite fully featured however, and for some features you will have to download and import your file into the desktop version, but it is pretty close.

  6. ZTAB
    September 9, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Hello, does anyone know or use ZTAB ? (https://sourceforge.net/projects/ztab/)

  7. TheGameMaster
    April 28, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I'll mention my IF engine here if that's ok: [Broken URL Removed]
    It's all web-based with nothing to download or install. Free to create and/or play. Enjoy!

    • Joel Lee
      May 1, 2013 at 1:12 am

      Thanks for sharing. Good to know that IF is still alive!

  8. Vampie C.
    March 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    do you happen to know such a tool to use on an android phone?

    thank you.

    • Joel Lee
      March 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      I haven't ever heard of a text adventure creator for Android. If one exists, I'm not aware of it. Sorry!

  9. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Interested in Quest. Seems like a no-hassle, straightforward engine.

  10. jameydee
    March 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I'm shocked - no mention of Inform?

    • Joel Lee
      March 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      Due to length limitations, I had to cut down to 3 choices. The 3 in the article seemed to be the most well-recognized in the IF realm, plus they had the most active communities from what I could see. Forgive me if I was wrong to leave out Inform!

  11. justinpot
    March 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I did not know there was a fellow IF enthusiast among us. I tried to learn Inform once. Still really want to create a game, just need to make the time.

    http://inform7.com/