My list is a mix of the old and the pretty new, but not the really new - unless it was in an IFComp. My list also has little from the middle, just because the middle area is what I have played the least of.
There are probably more old games that I like, but which I acknowledge are of historical interest rather than Top 50 worthy now. By the unnameable criteria I'm using, I definitely don't think a 'Wizard and the Princess' can cut it. But I do think some Scott Adams games cut it. Their puzzles also continue to stand up, unlike Sierra's, the latter largely defining what we now think of as classically unfair.
What I do realise is consistent about my list is that I'd be happy to open any one of these games right now (I mean RIGHT NOW) and play it again. Maybe that's my deepest down criteria.
I don't know if you noticed Jason Dyer's recent review of Adventureland. He mentioned:
'This is going to sound like a bizarre statement to anyone who has played a Scott Adams game, but Adventureland is the first game in my chronological series that has felt modern.'
(https://bluerenga.wordpress.com/2015/01 ... land-1979/
And he's saying that about the very first Scott Adams game.
Adventureland has always felt elemental to me. (Of course, having 'adventure' in the title helps.) It's clear and fun and really dense with the way the puzzles overlap. While the difficulty-favouring might prefer Zork or Colossal Cave in their elemental slot, I prefer this.
Some find so few words in a game intolerable. If you acknowledge that Adams's games convey an attitude (which they definitely do) I think you also have to acknowledge that their words have an aesthetic which is conveying it. I am more interested in what that aesthetic does than the fact that it's incapable of many things. His games may be the rawest demonstration of 'words + your imagination + puzzles = a particular type of engagement', and IF folk are always on about the power of words, and sometimes about the other things.Andromeda Awakening
I feel that for the typical range of what parser IF does well, sci-fi and fantasy are its best matches. Compared to Awakening, Apocalypse was smoother and won a comp, where this first one generated a strange kind of controversy over its difficulties - but then got updated significantly in response.
In retrospect, the first one left a greater impression on me. It's that thing of exploring a truly alien world that parser IF does so well, and solving novel puzzles with a degree of abstraction, and that this world conveyed a lot of history and possibilities. This is my benchmark for a classically styled sci-fi parser game with more modern-feeling content.Andromeda Dreaming
The achievement of Andromeda Dreaming is that it stands on something really solid (Andromeda Awakening) and manages to add an incredible amount to it in a short, mostly linear game that punches well above its weight in many respects. I'm unaware of another game with similar circumstances.
Because I'm mostly uninterested in short or speed games, this one stands out for me in the 'short' camp. Also for this reason, I'm aware it's unlikely to make most people's choice for a top 50.Aotearoa
One of the first games I played from modern times, this made me think, 'Wow, this is how these games could be treating players and these are some of the new things they can do.' That's on top of it being a really good game in its own right, and I don't really separate the two. Actually, I believe in their integration, so this game's attitude was where I started when I made Six.Coloratura
It's both conspicuously gamey and a visceral exploration of different characters' emotions. Someone said they haven't come back to it. I haven't come back to it either, but that's not criteria suited to every game for me. There are lots of great books I haven't read more than once, nor felt the need to until a lot of time had passed.Kerkerkruip
I still feel weird calling Kerkerkruip IF. Not in any sense that it's not what IF is today, but just having to use those words 'interactive fiction' for this case. Kerk is like the ultimate combat text adventure, and one of the most addictive games ever.One Eye Open
One of the best horror games of recent times. Really playable, and informed by all the developments in console horror gaming. Strange Odyssey
This is my favourite Scott Adams adventure. The great dangerousness of outer space to humans summed up in 16kB, and benefitting and making sense from the memory limitations and hostility. A form and content marriage.Suspended
My other favourite Infocom game. I was terrible at this but I still played the start of it over and over, because I found it that novel and creepy and suspenseful. There's still not a lot of competition today, either, technically, for a game where you can control six robot protagonists with different powers, personalities (so to speak) and ways of apprehending the environment.Theatre
While other people name things like Curses as their obligatory, fine and traditional-leaning big puzzlefests, I name Theatre, which is the horror equivalent. Well, OK so Anchorhead is probably most people's equivalent, but I found Anchorhead too hard, and I'm afraid I really detest Inform's hint systems from that era of game. Meaning, most hard games from that era, they get in cahoots with me to destroy my own experience of them until I quit.
Theatre is of far more reasonable difficulty and is also more its own being. I really like Lovecraft, but I'm also aware I react against the favouritism of literary subject matter over other which characterises a lot of the post-commercial era.Wishbringer
My favourite Infocom game. Powerful atmosphere, humour, menace, a normal version of the world and a flipside twisted one. And sort of tolerable difficulty. (I find/found all Infocom too difficult.)You Will Select A Decision
Perfectly written and one of the funniest things I've ever read or played. And very substantial.