So who were LucasArts?
Founded in 1979 by George Lucas, LucasArts was one of the best kept secrets in the video game world. It was not until 1986 when the companies first major commericial success did gamers really take notice. But how did LucasArts Entertainment reach mainstream popularity?
With the backing of Atari, LucasArts had been founded as LucasFilm Computer Division to take advantage of a growing video game market. Unable to make Star Wars games due to licensing problems, the team had to focus on new and original titles. They would go on to have one of the best video game libraries of all time.
“The company found its first major success in video game adaptions of hollywood movies.”
The company found its first success in adaptions of hollywood movies. Releasing titles for well known series like Labyrinth (1986) and Indiana Jones (1989). You can argue that the golden age of LucasArts Entertainment wouldn’t be until the beginning of 1990. But which games should be on your must play list and of course, where can you play them?
The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
Released in 1990 and created by Ron Gilbert, the Secret of Monkey Island is a great example of what an adventure game should be. It has laugh out loud humour, smart puzzles and a great story that now spans 5 games. Not to mention the finest cast of characters of any series.
The Secret of Monkey Island follows the tales of the loveable pirate apprentice, Guybrush Threepwood. The pirate governess, Elaine Marley. And the dastardly ghost pirate LeChuck. The swashbuckling adventure crosses the high seas of the Caribbean as our hero aims to find the iconic, Monkey Island.
“The Secret of Monkey Island follows the tales of the loveable pirate apprentice, Guybrush Threepwood.”
Co developed with the brilliant Tim Schafer (check out our summary of the fantastic Psychonauts) and David Grossman, Ron had become disillusioned in the instant death trial and error gameplay of other adventure games. They instead wanted to focus on exploration and puzzles to carry the plot forward. The Secret of Monkey Island is truly one of the best examples of adventure games you can play.
Day of the Tentacle (1993)
1993’s follow up to Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle is a classic 2D adventure game that incorporates time travel and that classic LucasArts humour.
Following the tale of Bernard, Laverne and Hoagie as they save the world from the evil purple tentacle. The trio get sent back and forth in time trying to prevent a dystopian future controlled by an intelligent tentacle. The gameplay is synonmous with that classic LucasArts style.
Bright, colourful and unashamedly funny. Day of the Tentacle remains one of the most beloved adventure games today. You can play Day of the Tentacle: Remastered on the XBox Marketplace and the PSN Store. If an emulator is more your style, try playclassic.games
Zombies ate my Neighbours (1993)
Zombies ate my Neighbours is a top down action adventure game released on the Sega Mega Drive and Nintendo SNES. The original title was heavily censored at the time to remove any sign of gore. Replacing blood with green ooze and chainsaws with simple axes.
Whilst not a traditional adventure game, the run and gun approach of the gameplay was perhaps more remaniscent of ToeJam and Earl for the Mega Drive released earlier in 1991. The main characters being tasked with rescuing their neighbours before any monsters can get them.
Zombies ate my Neighbours has been re-released on the Nintendo eShop for Switch and the PSN store. You can also play it on playclassic.games
Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1994)
Carrying on from the previous installments. Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi tells the third film of the original trilogy. It follows the gameplay faitly consistently and will be familiar for any retro gamer who has played the originals.
The key differences you will find are character selections for levels are back and the inclusion of a password save option. So you won’t have to worry about starting again if you can’t beat the Rancor beast! Praised for its graphics, many critics found it to be too similar to previous entries. We think it shows that the formula was already good, and it didn’t need changing!
Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi can be played right now on playclassic.games
Grim Fandango (1998)
One of the HitStart teams favourite games of all time. Grim Fandango is a highly unique, stylised adventure telling the tale of Manny in the land of the dead. Manny is a down on his luck travel agent who must guide souls on the path to the land of Eternal Rest. However, you quickly find not everything is not as it seems and a tale of death and intrigue plays out.
“Grim Fandango is unique in everything”
Grim Fandango is unique in everything from its story to its fully rendered 3D models. The game was built on the fantastic GrimE engine, enabling the team to build colourful, vibrant worlds. This same engine would later go on to be used for the incredible Escape from Monkey Island just two years later.
Luckily for us all, Grim Fandango has been re-released in recent years and is now available on PSN, Android or IOS devices.
What happened to LucasArts?
LucasArts continued to release games all the way through the 90s and into the early 2000’s. Reacquiring the license to the Star Wars franchise of games was a massive bonus for the company and many titles would go on to be released for multiple consoles. Classics like Star Wars Tie Fighter, Star Wars Demolition and the brilliant collaboration with Bioware, Knights of the Old republic would be released.
“There had been 4 to 5 development teams at one point working on multiple titles”
LucasArts were incredibly successful as a developer for many years and in 2004, under the control of a new CEO – restructuring began. The fundamental reasoning behind this was to simplify their team organisation. There had been 4 to 5 development teams at one point working on multiple titles at the same time and staffing was cut by over 50%.
Multiple successful titles would be released after then. The epic Star Wars: Battlefront, Empire at War and Lego Star Wars to name but a few. Focusing only on new Star Wars titles, other IPs had seemingly been shelved. Though new series like Mercanaries found limited success.
It was at this point in 2008 that their internal teams began to be scaled down. Few titles were released after this point and Monkey Island even had a new release in well received Tales of Monkey Island episodic series by TellTale games.
“Monkey Island even had a new release in well received Tales of Monkey Island episodic series”
Then finally in 2012, Disney acquired LucasFilm and along with it LucasArts. No further games were planned and the studio was finally closed in 2013. So ends the tale of one of the industries most loved development studios.