Some of the first video games I ever played were the King’s Quest series. My older brother and I spent hours figuring out the puzzles and restarting the game after a comically narrated death. I still have an intense fondness for point-and-click games (see my review of the phenomenal Disco Elysium) that is based in the King’s Quest series. From the fanfare that plays over the Sierra title page to specific scenes, these games are seared into my memory in the best possible way. If you played any King’s Quest games as a kid (or as an adult!), I hope you’ll enjoy the following memories and comment with some of your own.
King’s Quest V – Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!
Released in 1990 (though I didn’t play it until around 1995), King Graham was my first KQ protagonist, and his quest to rescue his captured family is still so much fun to play through. For those who need a refresher on the plot, the evil wizard Mordack has magically spirited away Castle Daventry along with King Graham’s wife, son, and daughter. With the help of talking owl Cedric, Graham travels throughout towns, deserts, dark forests to gather clues and ultimately defeat Mordack and save his family.
- The ants singing, “We’re the ants of King Anthony, we’re going to help King Graham” STILL pops into my head on a regular basis, 25 years after first playing the game.
- That desert!! One of the most excruciating (and delightful) aspects of these games is how easy it is to get stuck or to die. You really have to save every two seconds, and nowhere was this more true for me than when wandering the desert to find a temple before I died of thirst. I remember drawing out maps with my brother to determine where we had gone and which route was safe. I kind of miss those days, as now my knee-jerk reaction to difficult puzzles in video games is to Google a solution.
- The final battle with Mordack, when you have to transform into the correct animal to counterattack his form, is so stressful! Even when I replayed this as an adult and used a walkthrough, my heart was racing from the emotional memory of playing this over and over again, young and fully believing in the high stakes.
King’s Quest VI – Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Released in 1992, this is my favorite King’s Quest game by far. Set in the Land of the Green Isles, Prince Alexander seeks the beautiful Princess Cassima. He is shipwrecked along the way and must use a magic map to travel from the Isle of the Crown to the Isle of Wonder, Isle of the Sacred Mountain, the Isle of the Beast, and the actual Underworld to make his way to his lady love and defeat the Vizier who wants to marry her by force.
- “Alexander opens his magic map.” I can still hear the intonation! Also, the narrator for KQ6 was SO TALENTED.
- When he reaches the Isle of Wonder, Alexander must get past five creatures, one for each sense (hearing, smelling, etc). Their forms are so whimsical and ridiculous, and I both loved and feared them.
- When Alexander finds all the ingredients to summon a winged horse to take him to the Land of the Dead, the game says the brew smells terrible. In an amazing coincidence, my dad was soldering toy trains in the room nearby when we first played through this scene. My brother and I were AMAZED that the game was able to create smells, and it was quite the letdown when we realized the actual cause of the burning plastic stench.
- It was such a great moment when the impassible sheer cliffs on the Isle of the Sacred Mountain pop out little stairs and you can finally climb to the top.
- Much like KQ5’s final showdown with Mordack, traversing the minotaur’s lair still terrifies me. The ominous clopping down hallways as you try not to get lost elicit childhood terror despite the fact that it is objectively pretty tame by all video game standards of today.
King’s Quest VII – The Princeless Bride
Released in 1994, KQ7 changed up the look and play style significantly. Embracing a cartoon aesthetic, the game alternated chapters between Queen Valanice and Princess Rosella. When Rosella leaps through a portal, her mom jumps in after her. They land in different parts of the land of Eldritch, and Rosella has been transformed into a troll. They journey through deserts, troll caves, Ooga Booga, and floating islands as they attempt to find each other and stop the evil Malicia from destroying the world with a volcano.
- In what has quickly revealed itself to be a trend, it is the scary things that stuck in my memory. The boogey man that leaps above the upper limits of the screen and then crashes onto you and kills you freaked me OUT, both as a child and as an adult.
- Archduke Fifi le YipYap’s slobbering nasal voice as he totters around little town.
- The stag sitting by cursed tree. These games really like cursed trees, huh?
- I remember loving the floating islands that you traverse by rainbow slides, but when I replayed this game as an adult I found this section of the game interminably long.
I went to Emerald City Comic Con for the first time in 2019. It felt right that I ended up going with my brother, since he was my first nerdy influence. Neither of us are talented enough to cosplay, but we wanted to make t-shirts that symbolized our familial relationship. Turns out there aren’t a lot of brother/sister characters without weird sexual tension! After some discussion, we had the brilliant idea to honour the games that first united us. He wore a Prince Alexander shirt, and I wore Princess Rosella. It was a pretty niche concept, but three people complimented us and one even wanted a picture with us! It was such a fun experience, and I’m glad that the King’s Quest games were a part of it.