Adventure Games vs Role-Playing Games: A Comparison

The Difference Between Adventure Games and Role-Playing Games

Adventure games rely heavily on a well-told story to pull the player into their fictional worlds. These games may re-release or rework existing franchises (such as Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Island) to find new audiences, or they may be independent titles from developers with a cult following, such as Thimbleweed Park or the Phoenix Wright series.


While the genre’s prominence peaked in the 1980s, adventure games still exist today. Most of these are played on a computer and involve an intersection of story elements and gameplay challenges, including exploration and discovery, object interaction puzzles, and character development.

The first adventure game, Crowther’s Adventure, was a text-based interactive story that followed the adventures of a spelunker in the Mammoth Cave system. As computer technology improved, graphic adventure games began to be developed, using a combination of the player’s text commands and pre-rendered or full-motion video. These games included the LucasArts series, the King’s Quest games and others by Humongous Entertainment and Revolution Software.

More recent graphical adventure games use point-and-click interfaces to allow the player to move their character around the world, interact with non-player characters through dialogue and conversation trees, and examine objects within the environment. These games often include a list of on-screen verbs that the player can select to initiate different actions, and they tend to be more heavily tied to an overall narrative structure than their predecessors.

Language Skills

Adventure games are often text-based, and the player interacts with the game by typing commands. These commands are not limited to navigation and movement, but can also include speech, actions, and other grammatical functions. The player must be able to understand these and type them correctly in order to advance the story.

The immersive world of an adventure game can make it challenging for language learners to understand the on-screen text, especially if they are not familiar with the genre. However, studies by Helsinki University and Monterrey Institute of Technology have shown that this format can be helpful for foreign language learning.

One example is Cultural Attache, where players play the role of a refugee. The game’s forgiving system allows users to continue the game after a certain number of social blunders by simply requesting transfer to another city, allowing them to start fresh. This feature lowers the Affective Filter and makes the game more enjoyable for users.


In addition to puzzle-solving, adventure games often contain a number of other elements. Most importantly, they have a story. While this requirement allows us to exclude purely puzzle-based gams like Sokoban and the daily crossword, it also helps distinguish adventure games from books, movies or even real life adventures.

These stories are usually complex and immersive, giving players a sense of being immersed in the game world. In fact, this is one of the main draws of this genre and what separates it from other gaming types.

Although most popular in the 1980s and 1990s, adventure games continue to be played by a dedicated community of hobbyists who prefer their intuitive exploration gameplay. Larger companies such as Daedalic Entertainment, Deck13 and Telltale Games have continued to excel in the genre by revitalizing existing franchises (Sam & Max, Monkey Island) or creating their own ingenious originals. They also have a good reputation for their technical expertise with the use of computer graphics.

Decision Making

The lines between Adventure Games and Role-Playing Games are often blurred, especially when it comes to the games developed by independent video game developers with cult followings. Character development is a tempting characteristic to use to draw the line, but it can easily be applied to both genres. It’s important to note that the emphasis of character development in an adventure game is usually used to solve a specific problem, as opposed to the general leveling up that takes place in a role-playing game for improved chance at solving non-specific problems that arise in the virtual world.

Adventure games focus on puzzle-solving within a narrative framework and contain few or no action elements. They are not the same as role-playing games that involve extensive combat and team-building; purely puzzle based games like Sokoban or the daily crossword; or interactive fiction games that are primarily textual. The immersive worlds in these games are typically graphically oriented, either through augmented text commands or, as in the arcade game Dragon’s Lair and its successors, full-motion video.

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