The Best Indiana Jones Video Games
It's not a common thing to find video games based on a popular license that are actually any good. Here's the best of the bunch for the Indiana Jones franchise. These are games that range from "pretty good" to "fantastic" but all are worth a look if you've got a hankering for Indiana Jones.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
This title was released on the Nintendo 64 in an odd way. It was a Blockbuster Video exclusive, which meant that you couldn't rent or buy the game in any other stores. It was only at Blockbuster. You could, however, buy the game online from the LucasArts website at the time. Being a young chap at the time, I was unable to do this and thus was forced to rent the game multiple times until I had completely devoured it. Of course, the game was also available on the PC but that is a far less interesting story.
Personally, this is my favorite game on this list due to the nostalgia surrounding it alone. However, there are some major problems that cannot be ignored. The controls are hardly smooth. indiana Jones controls like a stiff robot, hardly giving you the impression that he could dive and roll away from traps. The combat is also mundane, feeling more like filler in the game's levels than anything of real import. Indiana Jones is a brawler in the movies. He throws punches and grapples with enemies just as much as he fires a weapon, but in Infernal Machine the only combat that is even passable is with firearms.
Furthermore, this game is mostly a Tomb Raider rip off. Tomb Raider was quite popular at the time and it was obvious that LucasArts realized that those games were a better version of an interactive Indiana Jones adventure than they had come out with in ages. So points for unoriginality, yet the level design and scope of the game is still a blast. Clever puzzles and traps make this the best Indiana Jones game to most resemble the mystique you find in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Dr. Jones is searching old ruins for the golden idol.
If you've gone through the rest of this list I recommend not passing up Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine if you can find it. It's old and hasn't aged very well, but it's obvious there was some real cleverness involved in its development and it should be appreciated.
Release Date: November 23, 1999
Platforms: N64, PC, GBC
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
This is easily the best Indiana Jones game for a more action focused gamer. That's not to say that you won't find exploration in this title as Dr. Jones travels around the world, but the game's design is far simpler compared to The Infernal Machine. You won't be scratching your head so much as doing your best to not die. Lots of combat abound in this game. Luckily, the combat is good. Fantastic controls will allow you to shoot your way past Nazis and the like, but there is also a fairly robust hand to hand combat system that mimics the spirit of the movies perfectly. You'll be brawling, using objects from the environment like bottles and shovels, and even grappling foes with your whip. It's a fantastic combat system, one of the best I've ever seen in a game of this type and very reminiscent of the melee combat in the James Bond game, Everything or Nothing (which I also recommend).
The story takes place before The Temple of Doom movie and leads right up to it. Remember that diamond Dr. Jones trades for the artifact in the beginning of the movie? Now you know what this game is about. Emperor's Tomb definitely gets points for filling out the already established universe of the Indiana Jones films even more.
Hardly the thinking man's Indiana Jones adventure, Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb still proves itself as the most movie like experience you'll find out of any game on this list. The only real negative is that the graphics could be better.
Release Date: February 24, 2003
Platforms: Xbox, PS2, PC, Mac
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Where Emperor's Tomb is the action gamer's Indiana Jones title, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is the thinking man's game through and through. You're going to get stuck in this game. A lot.
This point and click adventure was designed by none other than legendary game developer Tim Schaefer, and plays a lot like his other game, The Secret of Monkey Island, only with a fresh coat of Dr. Jones paint. The story and sense of humor fit the franchise well, but there's little action to be found in this title. Furthermore, the pacing of this game is off compared to how one would expect an Indiana Jones adventure to unfold. It starts at Marshall College, where Dr. Jones is a tenured professor of Archeology, and is a slow burn from there until the game really takes off.
However, in spite of how unlike the movies this game is, it excels at being a fantastic point and click adventure game. If you don't mind the occasional absurd puzzle (using an old can of mayo to grease up a statue so you can move it comes to mind) then you're not going to find a more entertaining game than Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. And for being only five bucks on steam, this makes it the cheapest game on this list. You can't say no to that price when it comes to trying this out.
Release Date: June 1992
Platforms: PC, Mac
Lego Indiana Jones 1 & 2
I'm lumping these two Indiana Jones lego games together because they're so similar and really should go together in your experience. While you can just play Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures or Lego Indiana Jones 2, it's worth your time to invest in both. The first game, as the title suggests, only covers the events of the first three movies in the delightfully charming Lego style seen in Lego Star Wars or Lego Harry Potter. The second game features all four movies, but the levels for the first three movies are brand new and in many ways an improvement over the original. The sequel also comes with an adventure creator for unlimited Lego fun.
Both of these games excel primarily at being fantastic Lego co-operative games more than they do Indiana Jones games per se, but their charming style and simple (but not boring) gameplay make them worth a look. Don't ignore them because you think they're for kids. Adults will enjoy them too!
Release Date: June 3, 2008/November 17, 2009
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP, PC
AVOID: Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings
Though this article is about the best Indiana Jones games released as of 2011, it is worth pointing out the travesty that is Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings to steer you away from the temptation to play this atrocious game. Released in 2009, Staff of Kings is the most recent Indiana Jones adventure that isn't built with the help of Lego. Promising to be a brand new adventure that takes Indy around the globe, I had high hopes for The Staff of Kings. But what was once originally a game in development for all major consoles eventually only came out for the Wii and PS2 (in addition to some less than spectacular handheld versions).
Staff of Kings looked like it was going to be a spiritual successor to the gameplay of Emperor's Tomb, and to some extent it is, but it undoubtedly falls short. While hand to hand combat is enjoyable, shooting is non-existent except for scripted moments where the game lets you take out your gun. The adventure itself is almost downright boring and the fiction presented doesn't add anything worthwhile to the Indy universe. Top it all off with gameplay that feels unfinished and you're not in for a wild ride with Staff of Kings.
Avoid this one at all costs.
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Platforms: Wii, PS2, DS, PSP