The Secret of Monkey Island

Mike extols the virtues of The Secret of Monkey Island, one of the most beloved Adventure games of the early 90s.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I would credit Maniac Mansion for “no walking dead” and “no dead end” design. While it was definitely possible to get stuck in MM, A) you had to be very unlucky. B) most of them were due to poor testing. In fact, it was the first adventure game where the designer actively tried to avoid death/dead end scenarios. They simply got better at it in later games.

You can see some of Ron’s design documents for MM here:

(see “no time limit, no death” section)

I would be inclined to disagree on Maniac Mansion, it’s certainly a move in that direction compared to the Saw-esque death traps of Sierra games, but, at least depending on which characters you go in with it is still pretty easy to find yourself in a pickle if you aren’t careful. it’s been a while since I played it, but off the top of my head I believe there’s a finite number of coins in the game which you can waste in various coin slots and cut off some of your options, you can get you characters trapped in the dungeon which isn’t inescapable but it makes some things tricky. there’s a plant I think that you are supposed to give some item or other but it will happily consume items you need to solve other puzzles. and you can drown your teens in the pool. I don’t know how many of these are entirely game ending since the game has multiple solutions but it does mean your actions can have real, detrimental consequences. and even if they are less capricious and arbitrary than some of it’s contemporaries in handing out punishment I think it’s still enough that you can’t trust it as completely as you can Monkey Island that whatever you click on you will be okay, nothing is going to go wrong. Which is profoundly liberating, it frees you up to try things that in another game might be unwise. some of the most fun to be had in Monkey Island and sometimes the key to the puzzle is in doing incredibly ill advised things to see what happens, sass the evil pirate, get in the cannon, go chat with those guys who wanted to kill you a second ago. Monkey Island guarantees it will be fine.

“move in that direction compared to the Saw-esque death traps of Sierra games” is an understatement. This idea of “no death” design ethos was a revolution at the era, and influenced pretty much every other adventure games that came afterwards.

If you’re not going to credit MM for the movement (I don’t understand why you wouldn’t), then you’d have to give it to Loom which perfected the formula and came out before Monkey Island.