Sierra On-Line changed the landscape of adventure games in the 1980s. They laid down the first real asphalt on which future game developers would walk when they made their own games. In their quest to make great, immersive games, they kept pushing the boundaries of computer technology, which at the time was still very new.
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Today, we’re going to look at the top 10 Sierra adventure game franchises, ranked by how important they are. We’ll look at what each franchise did and why the video game community respects them so much.
Mysterious House was bold and clever. First: It was made by Sierra, and it set the stage for everything that came after it. It was one of the first adventure games to have real graphics instead of just text. This single feature caused a stir in the video game world.
People were shocked to see how much money they made. Mystery House sold more than 10,000 copies through mail order alone. It also had a re-release that sold another 80,000 copies. That might seem like chicken feed in our time and place, but for two young programmers who worked out of their home in the 1980s, it was a recipe for success.
Hoyle’s Book of Games
Those who play cards would enjoy Sierra’s foray into tabletop games. Hoyle’s Book of Games mixed well-known card games like Crazy Eights, Old Maid, and Cribbage with characters from many of the company’s best-known shows and movies. It was the first time that people could play Klondike or Hearts with Larry Laffer or Princess Rosella, and it was fun.
The most interesting thing about the Hoyle games was how many there were. There were a lot of volumes in the series, but some gamers might think only a few were there. There were dozens of them, and they included everything from Poker to Crosswords.
Roberta Williams may have started out making games that were fun for kids to play, but she also had a dark side. Phantasmagoria was her first real tryst with the macabre, and it caused as much trouble as it did money.
A rape scene in Phantasmagoria caused a stir among a number of activist groups because it was so rare in gaming at the time, not to mention today, even though it’s common now. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a technological wonder. It took the adventure game formula in a new direction because more technology was available.
Perhaps one of Sierra’s darkest and most adult game series was the Manhunter series when it came out in the 1980s and 1990s. Storytelling was a big part of it, and it was set in a terrifying future Earth that had been overrun by an alien force.
When you work for the aliens as a Manhunter, your job is to infiltrate and destroy an underground human resistance by taking a detective-style approach. The player could look at gruesome crime scenes, pick up evidence, and follow clues to the next step in the game. There were some changes in the story between the first movie, Manhunter, and its sequel, Manhunter: San Francisco. It was also one of the first Sierra games to use a point and click interface instead of a text parser, which would be used in all of the company’s future games.
Mixed-up Mother Goose
Roberta Williams, the designer of the King’s Quest series, wanted to take advantage of the success she had with that series and make a game for kids. Mixed-Up Mother Goose is a unique twist on some of the most well-known nursery rhymes for kids. It let kids go on their own adventure to fix things by finding the things they needed to put the nursery rhymes back together.
To show that there was a market for imaginative, charming adventure games for kids, the game would win several educational awards and sell more than half a million copies. In 1991, Mixed-Up Fairy Tales came out.
Leisure Suit Larry
In today’s terms, Leisure Suit Larry was a pretty mild game. It was a renegade game franchise that made a lot of money in the wild west days of early computer gaming. Larry Laffer is a down on his luck loser who wants to get a woman with nothing but his signature leisure suit and $94 in his pocket. This adult movie was about him and his quest to get a woman.
Because of this, the series was going to have five direct sequels until it was shut down for the last time back in 1996. For example, Magna Cum Laude would come out in 2004 and Wet Dreams Don’t Dry in 2018. Because it was the first game series to push the boundaries of offensive content long before mainstream internet pornography became common, it has a long history of being a favourite.
Quest For Glory
In the original title, “Hero’s Quest,” Quest For Glory games used the adventure game mechanics that Sierra had already set up and added a lot of RPG elements to make them more like traditional role-playing games.
The original game let players make their own character from a Fighter, Magician, or Thief. They could then add skills to make the gameplay experience unique to them. It was also one of the first games to have a day and night cycle, the need for food and drink, and the levelling of skills based on how often they were used. Skyrim was the game that came before it in many ways. Many sequels would follow, each set in a different country where the story could go on without a break.
Police Quest 4: Open Season
Police Quest 4 was made by someone who shouldn’t have been able to make it. A lot of the game was made by Tammy Dargan, a staff member at Sierra. Dargan wrote a lot of the game’s racial caricatures. Daryl F. Gates was made to look like the author of the game. There was a lot of attention on Gates, the former head of the LAPD who was convicted of crimes like the 1992 LA riots and the police attack on Rodney King in 1994.
With PQ4, Jim Walls’ wholesome “cops are your friends” type of copaganda is completely thrown out the window. Instead, he’s replaced by a much more evil creature that makes fun of Black Americans to the point of parody. And to some extent, Bill Gates’ videogame legacy lives on today, because Ken Williams said he made the right choice when he hired Gates in his memoir. There’s a lot to say about this game, but Duncan Fyfe already said most of it in this piece. At the very least, and I’m being kind, it was a bad idea to try to make the LAPD look better and more human. And it is painful to play. From the cops’ camaraderie to the misogynistic, transphobic ending, this is a game that should never have been made. It’s still a weird touchstone for some Sierra fans and police zealots who value its place in history, though.
It’s hard to judge a game that was made at the start of a whole new art and technology form, but there wasn’t much going on here. It first came out on the Apple II in 1980.