- As with every Top Five on the blog, this is a list of my five personal favorites. This is not intended to be objective or exhaustive. If I happened to run across it and I liked it, that's how it gets on the list.
- Fabled Lands: The War-Torn Kingdom - Probably the last great gamebooks, the Fabled Lands series eschews the mediums Choose Your Own Adventure guided storyline roots in favor of an open world to explore. The ingenious use of check boxes in the text and codewords act as the variable flag that guide you through the various encounters. Removing the strong narrative does leave you without much motivation. But if you have a healthy curiosity, there are a lot adventures to be had and stories to find. And if you run out of things to do, all you have to walk to the edge of the map and you can move on to the next book. The War-Torn Kingdom is the book I've spent the most time in because it was the first released. But it is well balanced with big quests to follow as well as an interesting land to journey through.
- Fighting Fantasy: Deathtrap Dungeon - The fact that it was the very first gamebook I ever owned may cloud my judgment. However Deathtrap Dungeon is, appropriately, one of the most famous Fighting Fantasy books ever published. Devilishly difficult, with wrong turns aplenty that make it easy to miss something you will need several encounters later. But the atmosphere made this a story that captured my imagination. I never did get all the way through the book, but I enjoyed my many, many deaths just the same.
- Fighting Fantasy: Space Assassin - On the opposite side of the Fighting Fantasy spectrum is this sci-fi. The additional rules make the book a lot easier to get through, which makes Space Assassin one of the few that I successfully completed. Funny enough, the one part that sticks out most in my mind is the impromptu tank simulation that occurs partway through the book. It's a neat little minigame that does something different with the medium.
- Lone Wolf: Fire On The Water - The Lone Wolf series was a serious departure in gamebooks for me. A much great storytelling experience, the series felt more epic than the down-in-the-dirt fantasy of the FF books. While the first book was good introduction to the series, Fire On The Water sees your character (the Lone Wolf) traveling to a neighboring kingdom to procure a magic sword with which you can thwart the invasion of your homeland. It took me a couple of attempts to make it through this book, but the massive battle at the end was well worth the effort.
- Steve Jackson's Sorcery: The Shamutanti Hills - Based on the Fighting Fantasy rules, the Sorcery series was goodbooks for grown-ups. At least that's the impression I got. In actuality, the book was a pretty traditional start to the series. It's also the only one I was able to finish with any sense of accomplishment. I stumbled through the second on accident, I think, and never found more than two of the serpents. Don't even ask about my time in Mampang Fortress. But the mad imagination at work in The Shamutanti Hills drove me to try that book time and again. Someday I'll try the whole series again, but I'll have to find them first.
- All of this thinking about gamebooks has reminded me that I've been meaning to write a gamebook of my own. Maybe I'll even share if I get something done. What do you think?
© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.