The first games I really got into were the old adventure games from Sierra like Kings's Quest, Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. By today's graphical standards they might not look like much but they offered the best gameplay and storytelling you could imagine. The passion for these types of games grew over time and I played every adventure game I could get my hands on and / or afford. I specifically looked for the ones that contained full motion video. Back then this was the next level in adventure gaming and the closest of having interactive movies. Me being a huge film fan I naturally could not pass up this opportunity. So I very gladly dove into this genre. I have played all kinds of FMV games and there are quit a few I can't even recall meaning they were not that good or memorable. However there are some I do remember fondly of and I actually consider them to be the best of all the FMV games I have played. And those I will list here. Mind you there is no significance to the order.
I will start with naming the one game that seems to pop up in my mind the first when I think of FMV games:
1. Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (1995)
This was the first Gabriel Knight game I played and instantly got me hooked to the other games in the franchise even if they weren't FMV. The creator of these games Jane Jensen knows how to write good stories. And more importantly she knows how to make you immerse into those stories by backing up that with good gameplay. In The Beast Within she masterfully combines fiction with history. Believe it or not it made reading the high number of books present in the game a lot of fun. Not to mention the fact that she played around with some old legends and myths and managed to make them fresh and exciting. They even composed an opera for the game and made me appreciate this art form a lot more than I did before.
Another title that immediately comes to mind is:
2. Black Dahlia (1998)
Even knowing how it ends I have replayed this game many times because it really is that good. From all of the FMV games made I think this has to be one of the most underrated. Right from when you start this game you get sucked into the story where you play a FBI agent trying to solve the Cleveland Torso Murders. And very soon you discover there is much more to these killings and that it is far more sinister you could hope for. This game has an incredible good build up of tension and suspense and above all puts you in the middle of it. You actually feel like you are in the 1940's. The ambiance of that game is that good. And they did it long before L.A. Noire did it. It almost looks like that the developers from L.A. Noire must have been inspired by this game. Only Black Dahlia is by far the superior one since despite some illogical puzzles it really makes you feel like you have accomplished something when you have finished the game. Once the hunt is on, you can feel the adrenaline rushing inside you. Because it is then when the story really gets thrilling.
When you are talking about the best FMV games then you will have to include the Tex Murphy adventures. (I have yet to finish The Tesla Effect, but after all this time the developers behind this still show they are supreme masters of the genre).
3. Under a Killing Moon (1994)
The first Tex Murphy game I played and I can't tell you how much it had surprised me. It had a good story, good actors including some big names, and good gameplay. And above all a big sense of humour while still managing to keep things serious if needed. Tex Murphy played by Chris Jones is excellent as the Sam Spade wannabe.
4. The Pandora Directive (1996)
With this game the developers managed to improve on the predecessor Under A Killing Moon. It was one of the first games that offered you multiple endings depending on which path you had taken. There were three to choose from. The Pandora Directive is a huge game. But with the multiple paths and the endings it made me want to replay it many times just to see if the story truly would play out differently. And for the majority it does significantly. I never had seen that done in a game before and till date I think it is one of the few that showed us how to do it right.
5. Tex Murphy: Overseer (1998)
I will always remember this one as the most tragic one because of how it ended but also because of the story and the actors. Michael York is not some glorified cameo but he actually brought something to the role he played. Visually and gameplay wise this game was top notch. And it made me sad to see it would not get the sequel that was planned.
Sierra were the ones you would go to for good adventure gaming and they proved that again with the Phantasmagoria titles.
6. Phantasmagoria (1995)
It is one of the first games (at least as far as I can tell) that featured some gruesome and gory scenes. But this game was more than just that. It actually tried and managed to put you in this eerie and dark tale by slowly showing you some changes that occurred in the house you were living in. Some were done very subtly and others very obvious but done right. You really felt like your house was haunted.
7. Phantasmagoria: The Puzzle of Flesh (1996)
The Puzzle of Flesh is hardly subtle compared to the first but it also knows how to build up tension. Although very different from the original. This tale is more psychological of nature which also can be very haunting depending how much you can relate to the main character.
8. Zork: Grand Inquisitor (1997)
This one was a real surprise to me. As it plays out in a fantasy setting but contains a lot of pop culture humour. And it stars Dirk Benedict. How awesome is that.
9. Spycraft: The Great Game (1996)
Not sure of how much of what transpires is real and true to life but it sure made me feel like a badass spy.
10. Urban Runner (1996)
One of the first adventures where the puzzles you need to solve are timed. Well, you could take your time but that always ends up in death and failure. Don't get discouraged though, it is what makes this game a lot of fun. Some of the solutions are quite obvious. And I know that many fans of the genre have the tendency to over think. Here you are forced to do the opposite. Underrated.
11. Harvester (1996)
Most people will be unprepared for what this game asks you to do. You can be sure of it that it will be very weird and ultra twisted. It will make you question your own morality and depravity. This is far from your normal point and click game. There is even an option to type in your own words and dialogue next to some given to you. Even when you type in something randomly the people will respond to it. Eerie sometimes but mostly incredibly amusing. This game is also very underrated if you ask me.
12. Dark Seed II (1995)
A sequel that surpasses the original in many ways. A lot of the atmosphere and weirdness is still based on the art of Giger (creator of Alien creature) but also how the story is told and unfolds. Very well done ending. It sure is one you won't forget that easily. But keep in mind that this is an old game. Now after so many years it might be less surprising as it was back then. Although I think it will still surprise the hell out of people.
13. Star Trek: Borg (1996)
Being part of a Star Trek adventure is already very cool if you ask me. But one where you get to deal with the Borg is incredibly awesome. This adventure plays out as an episode of one of the shows but where instead of the famous characters now you get to play the hero because Q makes that happen.
14. The X-Files Game (1998)
My expectations for this game were quite high back then and in some ways it came close and in others it felt underwhelming. It was marketed as being the first adventure where Mulder and Scully would be featured prominently. And that simply is not true. You do get to interact with them but very briefly. Despite this you do get to meet some well known characters of the show and you do get to feel like you are part of the X-Files universe. Overall it was a real fun game that I replayed several times.
And I almost forgot The Journeyman Project games. All of them are good within their own right but two of them really impressed me. The first that did so was:
15. The Journeyman Project: Buried in Time (1995)
This was an extremely stylish and slick game where you could travel in time and where some of the puzzles only could be solved if you changed things in the right time.
They improved on these mechanics and the visuals even more in the last part called:
16. The Journeyman Project: Legacy of Time (1998)
Apart from the many improvements visually you get to interact with Genghis Khan. Isn't that something? Like the previous games in the franchise they mash up real history with fiction in a way that it is engaging and fun. Plus it is pretty neat to be able to alter and witness the change in the future because of that.
Some of these games have been released on GOG so you can play them on current systems. However for others you will have to do some work in order to get them running. Or if you still have an older machine you could play them on that. If you find these games lying somewhere I can guarantee you that they are worth the purchase and the time.