There is no Frigate like a Book - Emily Dickinson

Interactive Fiction

During the birth of computer gaming, games emerged in text-only MS-DOS variety, and an uncountable number of role playing adventures were created, sparking the imagination of early personal computer users.

These games have since been republished and re-birthed as "Interactive Fiction", creating a unique opportunity for English learners.  Revisiting these games of the past allows you to work on your reading comprehension, expand your vocabulary, engage your imagination and make learning English an adventure.

What to do...

  • Understand the Situations (Use the descriptive prompts to imagine the scene.)
  • Create a List of Commands (As you go, write down the commands that are successful.)
  • Use a Dictionary (Look up words that you don't know to help you imagine the scene better.)
  • Make a Vocabulary List (Write down all the new words you learn during your adventure.)
  • Make a List of Expressions (Write down all of the new expressions you learn along the way.)

Click here for support documents that you can use to help you maximize learning English while playing the games below.

Remember, these were originally created as GAMES for the entertainment of millions, so it's a great idea to use them to have some fun while learning English!

For tips on how to play click here.

Table of Adventures

The Miser's House

The Miser's House is a text adventure in which the player explores the Miser's House. The game is low on text and features relatively simple puzzles which makes it accessible to first time adventurers. There are no initial goals given other than the urge to explore the house and the fact that points are rewarded for solving puzzles. There's a total of hundred points to be accumulated.

Zork I, II & III

Set in "the ruins of an ancient empire lying far underground". You are the sole adventurer entering this dangerous land in search of wealth and adventure. The goal is to return from the "Great Underground Empire" alive with the treasures, ultimately inheriting the title of Dungeon Master.

Zork flash | Free online games with Games68.com


(1978) Acheton is a fantasy treasure hunt set in a claustrophobic dungeon. It boasts over 400 rooms and 200 objects, thereby making it much bigger than Zork. As with many games of this kind the most time is spent by exploring the environment and solving item-based puzzles. Everything is described solely with plain text and the player interacts with the game by typing in phrases which describe his desired action, e.g. "take bottle". It also features a help function with graded hints.

The Hobbit

(1983) The game starts with you, Bilbo, sitting in his cozy little hobbit cave together with his pals Gandalf and Thorin. You'll soon find out that not everything is as you might remember it from the book: Gandalf seems to be working on a strange spell that involves exploding hobbits, while Thorin has turned into a drug addict hippie, judging from his answer, some serious with personal problems. Although the game has but seven rooms, it gives you the occasion to retrace all the memorable scenes of the book -- together with psychotic Thorin, you'll be dealing with stoned trolls, goof off at Elrond's Last Homely Home and, ultimately, enter Smaug's fabulous cave.

Vacation Gone Awry

You're ready to go on a super vacation!  But what problems will you encounter on this vacation from hell?

The Oregon Trail

It's 1848 and you're headed to the great West. Do you have what it takes to lead a group of settlers over the famous Oregon Trail?  (NB: do not use the "shift" key or number pad on your keyboard when selecting numbers.)

Stephen King's: The Mist (advanced)

This adventure is adapted from the 150-page novella "The Mist" by Stephen King. While you are on a routine visit to the supermarket, a sinister, thick mist rolls into town, swallowing up everything in its path and trapping you. Can you escape amidst the ensuing panic, and make it out of this poisoned and bug-ridden town?

The Wizard's Castle

A long time ago, the great wizard Zot forged an orb of power. He soon vanished, leaving behind a vast castle filled with monsters, traps, and great treasures including the orb of power. The player takes the role of a bold adventurer in search of the orb of power and whatever other treasures he can make it out of the castle with.

African Adventure

You play a man who must help search for a man named Dr. Livingston who has become lost somewhere in the darkest parts of Africa. For every action you type, all the letters must be capital, and your statement can only be two words; a verb and a noun, such as "GET BOOK" or "GO EAST".

Alice in Wonderland

(1989) Alice in Wonderland is a text adventure based on Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. There are 16 objects in the game which you may be able to interact with. Each object has a weight and you can carry a different amount of items based on your size in the game. As Alice, you must explore Wonderland to find her lost pet cat and make it home alive.

Mystery Mansion

An interactive adventure based on facts, fictions and fantasies of the past, present and future. Designed to challenge the daring and entertain the curious.

Sherlock Holmes: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels

The famous detective Sherlock Holmes reads in a newspaper that the Tower of London has been closed for "reasons of security." Shortly afterwards he finds out that the Crown Jewels belonging to the royal family were stolen. The fact is kept in secret, and Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes best friend and associate, must retrieve them within forty-eight hours to avert a world-wide scandal. In this text adventure the player controls Dr. Watson, exploring familiar locations in London, questioning suspects and solving puzzles. The interaction with the game world is performed by typing combinations of verbs and objects. Descriptions of locations must be read and studied carefully, as they may contain clues vital to solving the game.


It's Hallowe'en night.  Veronica Ashcroft and her mania for Hallowe'en parties are putting new twists on a 110-year-old traditions.  It isn't a very nice night for a party.  The rain has been pelting down since early morning, but the weather hasn't deterred many guests.  The ballroom at Ashcroft Farm is filled with oddly costumed visitors.  The rather ridiculous wester outfit you are wearing was the only thing you could find at the costumer's on such short notice, but it's out of place only for its relative sobriety and taste in this crowd.


The protagonist wakes up in a hotel room in midtown Manhattan with no clothes and no money, and what is worse, no memory. Soon he discovers that some man wants to kill him and he is wanted for murder in Texas. Now his quest is to find out what exactly is going on, who he is and how to set things right.


Another routine day of drudgery aboard the Stellar Patrol Ship Feinstein.  This morning's assignment for a certain lowly Ensign Seventh Class: scrubbing the filthy metal deck at the port end of Level Nine.  With your Patrol-issue selfcontained multi-purpose all-weather scrub brush you shine the floor with a diligence born of the knowledge that at any moment dreaded Ensign First Class Blather, the bane of your shipboard existence could appear.


An interactive gothic horror story inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

Jewel of Darkness

A 3-part fantasy interactive adventure with graphics. Part I: The Colossal Adventure, Part II: The Adventure Quest, Part III: The Dungeon Adventure.

Beyond Titanic

In this mid-'80s text adventure, the player finds themself a passenger on the doomed Titanic and must find some way to save themself before the ship crashes.

Vampire's Castle Adventure

This short text adventure has the player exploring a vampire's lair in search of the game's "concealed goal." Not surprisingly, room descriptions are extremely terse and there aren't a whole lot of actions to perform.

Basic Commands

Many text games follow the basic commands. Simply typing "look" for instance will give you a description of your surroundings at that point in the game. 

Other basic commands are, Take, Read, Open, Go, Climb, Enter, Knock, etc.  These will most likely need to be followed by a direct object, like, Open Door, Climb Ladder, Go North.

If you are stuck, you may try typing 'help' or 'hint' to try to get additional information.

Click here for tips on playing interactive text-based fiction games.

Interactive Fiction Learning Journal

More ways to learn!
Maximize your learning by keeping notes as you play the game.  Make note of new vocabulary, expressions, commands, and maybe even map out your adventure as you play.

Certainly you can do this on blank piece of paper, but you may prefer to use a pre-made journal.  

Below you'll find an interactive fiction learning journal where you can keep track of the new vocabulary, expressions and commands.  You can download it as a single page, to be added to any notebook, or you may wish to download one already created. 

Interactive Fiction Learning Journal (Complete)

Download in PDF here

Single Page (Fillable)

Download in PDF here

More Games

The above games were selected based on their playability, popularity and awards won.  But there are still thousands more!   For more games start here: more games http://www.web-adventures.org/

For more information visit the Wikipedia article about Interactive Fiction


 Please feel free to leave your thoughts and advice here. Which game did you like best?