Foreign language learners have access to a wealth of online learning materials, from books to interactive exercises, videos, audio and more. And yet, one key ingredient is still often missing: real world practice. Sure, if you already live in the country where your target language is spoken, there is no excuse. Just go out and dive right in! But if you live in the US and want to learn German, it can be tricky to find opportunities for real life practice (unless you’d like to learn Pennsylvania German).

While there is the option to find practice partners online, today I’d like to show you how you can use classic adventure games to boost your vocabulary and accelerate your listening and reading comprehension. NOTE: The following tutorial applies to German but you could apply the same principle to other languages as well.

Why Learn German With Classic Adventure Games?

Monkey Island 2

While the classic point-and-click adventure genre has been somewhat forgotten in the ever-growing list of immersive 3D action shooters and casual mobile games, it’s far from dead. Many independent game creators who grew up with classic adventures like Monkey Island are actually still making these kinds of games today, bringing us hits like The Journey Down or Sword & Sworcery and introducing younger generations to this classic form of gameplay.

Never played a point-and-click adventure game before? There isn’t really much to say, except: Give it a try. If you love good stories, mind-bending puzzles, quirky dialogues and exploring fantastic landscapes, you will love it. But why are these games good for learning languages, and why German? Aren’t these classic games all English titles?

Adventure Games Are Language and Story-Driven

While many kinds of video games can be used for language learning, adventure games are probably one of the most efficient genres, because adventure games are language and story-driven. Good adventure games are all about getting into the story, asking the right questions, understanding characters and connecting plot points. While modern games rely heavily on graphics, audio and video, classic adventure games had to rely on a lot of text — a fact that we can exploit for language learning.

By wandering around Pinchpenny Island or exploring Maniac Mansion, hovering over items with our cursor we can learn new words within a context and grow our vocabulary for everyday items (and the occasional shrunken head or time machine). It’s like this method of pinning post it-notes with the German words for refrigerator, light switch, table, etc. all over your apartment — only you don’t need to pin any post-it notes.

Secondly, adventure games contain a lot of dialogue. By interacting with different characters in the game, you can choose different dialogue options. It’s not like talking to a real person, yes, but you can replay these dialogues as often as you like — something which is difficult in a real world situation.

Last but not least, there’s the listening bit. While the very old games did not contain any spoken audio, the later ones were already beautifully voiced, presenting us with often stellar voice acting performances by native speakers. And here comes the good news: a lot of these games were fully translated into German, including voice acting. By coupling listening with reading, dialogue, vocabulary and following a good story, this can make for quite an immersive learning experience!

Okay, I get it. Adventure Games are Awesome For Learning German. How Do I start?

Since these games were built to run on older computers, we have to run them through an emulator, but it’s very simple and straightforward and works for both MAC and PC. As far as I know, if you own any of these games, you are allowed* to download a ROM image. If you down’t own any of the original games, you can take a look at the selection of free adventure games here.

Here’s how it works:

First of all, you need to download the ScummV emulator:

The second step is to download a game, unzip it and then add the game through the ScummV interface by selecting the directory containing the game. It’s fairly simple, but for those who need help, here’s a tutorial.

Ready? Okay, here’s a small selection of games which could be helpful for German language learners:

 

The Day of The Tentacle (German) – „Der Tag des Tentakels“

Der Tag des Tentakels

Tentacles are plotting to overthrow the planet. By using a time machine you’ll have to stop them — solving puzzles in both past, present and future. This is one of my all time favorite LucasArts adventure games. The writing and the voice acting is sparkling with brilliance, and the translation to German is just perfect.

  • full German voice and subtitles
  • Press F5 to enable subtitles, space bar to pause
  • subtitle speed (higher value: slower text)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

Sam & Max Hit the Road (German)

sam_max

Based on the original comic by Steve Purcell, in this adventure game from 1993 you are playing the role of Sam & Max, hunting all over America after a vanished Yeti. The characters, the artwork and the story are full of quirks — and the German version is done with a lot of love to achieve the same effect like in the original.The German writing isn’t always that easy, but enabling the subtitles helps.

  • full German voice and subtitles
  • Press F5 to enable subtitles, space bar to pause
  • subtitle speed (higher value: slower text)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

Discworld: The Trouble With Dragons (German)

discworld

Based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld universe, in this game from 1995 you are playing the magician Rincewind. A group of conspirators have awakened a dragon in the city of Ankh-Morpork. It’s your job to find the dragon, uncover the conspiracy and restore glory in the kingdom. The game has been praised for its humor, and it is beautifully voiced and translated to German. The controls differ a bit from other ScummV based games, but you’ll get accustomed quickly.

  • full German voice and subtitles
  • Press F1 to enable subtitles (Untertitel)
  • subtitle speed slider (Anzeigedauer der Untertitel)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

The Curse Of Monkey Island (German)

monkey_island_curse

This game is the third game in the Monkey Island series and while unfortunately it doesn’t feature any of the brilliant writing by Ron Gilbert, the mastermind behind the first two games and other LucasArts classics, it does come with a nicely upgraded graphical look and completely voiced German speech pack.

If you haven’t played any Monkey Island game before, you may want to start with Monkey Island 1: The Secret of Monkey Island (full German translation, no voice) or the second part: Le Chuck’s Revenge (full German translation, no voice) .While each part can be enjoyed on its own, real fans of the series will want to know how it all comes together.

  • full German voice and subtitles
  • Press F5 to enable subtitles, space bar to pause
  • subtitle speed (higher value: slower text)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

Full Throttle (German) – “Vollgas”

FULL THROTTLE

In this 1995 LucasArts game, set in a dystopian future of biker gangs and anti-gravitational hovercrafts, you are playing a biker named Ben who gets dragged into a corporate conspiracy and is forced to uncover it or be indicted for murder. While the story is shorter than other LucasArts games and there aren’t that many puzzles, this game focuses on creating an immersive cinematic (pixel) experience with many cut-scenes and well-written dialogues. The German translation is excellent and the voice-overs are beautifully done.

  • full German voice and subtitles
  • Press F5 to enable subtitles, space bar to pause
  • subtitle speed (higher value: slower text)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

The Dig (German)

thedig

In this 1995 LucasArts point-and-click adventure game, an asteroid is on a direct collision course with planet Earth. It’s your task to detonate the asteroid before it comes too close. But as you approach the asteroid, you realize that this may not just be a block of stone hurtling through space but an entirely different animal. Originally this story was conceived as a science-fiction movie, but due to financial reasons it was never realized. Hence, this adventure game has a thoroughly cinematic feel which is still there despite the technological limitations. As usual, the German translation and voice-overs are spot on!

  • full German voice and subtitles
  • Press F5 to enable subtitles, space bar to pause
  • subtitle speed (higher value: slower text)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

The Legend of Kyrandia: Book Two: Hand of Fate (German)

kyrandia

This is the second game of the Kyrandia trilogy. Developed in 1992, you are playing the sorceress Zanthia who is tasked with finding out why the kingdom is slowly vanishing into thin air. While this game only includes English voice-overs, it comes with a full German translation. I decided to include this game here, anyway, because it can be very interesting for learners to hear something in English and see it immediately translated into German. Plus, this classic adventure game is just too good to be ignored!

  • full English voice and German text/subtitles
  • Click on “Optionen” > Spielkontrollen to enable subtitles
    • Textgeschwindigkeit: an/aus (subtitle on/off)

how to obtain the game: Google

 

Are these all the adventure games available in German?

No way. This is just a small selection, showcasing a few games with full German voice-over which I’ve played myself. There are many more games which are available in German, but come without voice-overs. Take a look at old adventure games sites for more information.

 

What about other languges?

Many of these games were also translated into French, Spanish, Italian, etc. If you can get your hands on an original copy somewhere, you can download a ROM* to run in ScummV.

 

Can I play these classic adventure games on iPad or Android tablets, too?

iPad owners: you need a jailbroken iPad, ScummVM and iPhoneBrowser.

Android: download the ScummV app

 

P.S.: *Although many of these games are no longer offered for sale, it’s illegal to own or download ROM images if you don’t own an original copy of the game. P.P.S.: This blog post doesn’t offer any legal advice.

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all screenshots: Copyrights belong to the respective owners