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While there have been many advances in technology and gaming, some people still appreciate the old-school challenges such as text-based games. These interactive fiction games still exist, and there are plenty of ways to play them online.
Whether you are a current fan of the genre or simply intrigued by it, here are the best interactive story games you can play online today.
Interactive Fiction Games to Play Online
Text adventures, online stories, or whatever you call them, interactive fiction games are plentiful online. But what are the best?
We have compiled a list of what we consider to be the best interactive fiction games…
- The Hobbit
- Lost Pig
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Whom the Telling Changed
- For a Change
Let’s look at each game in turn, then find out where you can find more games once you’ve completed them.
1. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Perhaps the most famous text adventure of all time, The Hobbit is based on the legendary book.
However, it is not necessary to read JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings prequel to complete the game. Instead, simply embrace those staples of the text adventure: look, examine, and use. It shouldn’t take long before you’re guiding Bilbo Baggins on his way, collecting keys and a certain ring, and outwitting spiders and a dragon on your way to discovering lost treasure.
2. Photopia by Adam Cadre
Less a game than a story, Photopia is considered by many to be the most influential piece of interactive fiction in the post-Infocom era.
It has quite a unique opening. One moment you’re waking up in the car from a night of partying as your friend speeds down the road. The next, you are suddenly a girl, the first on the red planet.
Going any further into the plot will give too much away, which is what makes this such an intriguing game. Photopia 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.
3. Lost Pig 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 more and more as you play. It also features some pretty good adventure-game-style puzzles, but don’t give up too quickly. You should be able to solve them easily, making this a great game for beginners.
You can find more information about Lost Pig (and Place Under Ground) on the game’s website or start playing it on the Interactive Fiction Database.
4. 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. Playing as Arthur Dent, your rather strange friend Ford Prefect then drops by with bad news. Earth is about to be demolished to make way for an interstellar bypass!
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is available across multiple mediums. So whether you have heard the radio series, read the book, or watched the movie, don’t miss H2G2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a remarkable interactive fiction game that you’ll remember for a long time.
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 laughs.
5. 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 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.
Review more information about Whom The Telling Changed or begin the game on the Interactive Fiction Database site.
6. 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.
Interactive Fiction Game Resources
The example games above are just the tip of the iceberg of what online story games are available. If you want to explore further, check out these libraries of text-based games.
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 80s text game craze.
You’ll find the Zork games (and others) on this Infocom games archive site. Note that you will need to install a browser applet to play them in your browser. As such, you may prefer to find these games in other locations, some of which are listed below.
For discovery of new games and even for those interested in creating their own, Playfic is a great resource. 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.
Text Adventures is another community of interactive fiction game creators and players. And, it also happens to boast Zork I. Check out the featured games or select a category like puzzle or fantasy.
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 interactive fiction game there.
This is worth doing as playing in the browser can be frustrating at times, with a lot of scrolling required.
Games that have been abandoned by developers and publishers can be found online, available to play legally. These can often be played in your web browser. With so many classic text adventures across many home computer platforms during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, you’ll find a wealth of options at My Abandonware.
For example, an older version of The Hobbit was released in 1983, and while it looks a little dated it still plays well. Play it at My Abandonware as a live DOSBox session in your browser.
Play the Best Interactive Fiction Games Online
This is just a small number of the interactive fiction games you can play online. Searching the interactive fiction libraries, you’ll find text games that you’ll remember for years to come. For the best results, download the games where possible to play without the limitations of a browser.
Do you want to enjoy more games from the past? Check out how to play retro games on any platform with DOSBox.