Version tested: Retro
As the game credited with inventing the point and click adventure, it's only fair that we bow down to Ron Gilbert and company for creating one of the most important, innovative, and well-written videogames of the late 1980s.
The first game to utilise the revolutionary SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) game engine, this comic adventure freed gamers from the tethers of inputting text-based commands and all the teeth-grinding guessing-game frustration that went with it. Instead, Maniac Mansion allowed players to input commands from a limited list of options, making the whole process infinitely more elegant and intuitive.
But as good an idea as it undoubtedly was, it came alive thanks to sharp writing, brilliant dialogue and the most vivid cast of characters anyone had ever seen in a mere videogame up to late 1987.
Wonderfully ambitious, and designed to make full use of the storage advantages of the C64's increasingly essential floppy disk drive, the game debuted all manner of ideas which still sound innovative two decades on.
With the rescue of Dave Miller's girlfriend being the main aim of the game, you had to choose two friends (from the six available) to accompany you on your daring mission, and were able to switch between characters as you saw fit.
But while each character was blessed with subtly different abilities, the way the game plays out (and the endings you get) depend on your choices. Even taking that out of the equation, the game is a joy to behold, infused with the kind of incidental wit and fiendish charm which permeated all LucasFilm [later know as LucasArts] adventures for the next ten years.
Although Ron Gilbert and company went onto better things, Maniac Mansion set in motion a captivating chapter in the history of gaming, which in terms of wit, invention and style has arguably never been equalled.
9 / 10