One subject I haven’t really talked about on this channel is that of computer and video games. While I don’t consider myself a “gamer” as I don’t think I’m well-versed or well-experienced enough to do so, computer games have been a part of my life ever since I was a child. I’ve never owned a gaming console (besides a Game Boy Advance which I only had one game for), so my familiarity is strictly on the PC platform.
The genre of computer games I’ve played mostly are point-and-click games and one of my favorite series of this genre is the Nancy Drew series produced by HeR Interactive. The series comprises 33 games from 1998 to the present and provided the market with quality computer games targeted towards girls. In each game, you play as the titular detective trying to solve a mystery all the while conversing with unique characters, exploring interesting locations, and solving a plethora of puzzles.
I’ve recently marathoned all the games again and I’d like to share with you my top 13 favorite games of the series. Keep in mind there will be mild spoilers ahead. Otherwise, enjoy!
#13: THE CAPTIVE CURSE (2011)
“Nancy’s off to Germany to investigate mysterious sightings of a creature that’s been terrorizing the community of a remote Bavarian castle. Local legend tells of a creature that marauded the area centuries ago, wreaking havoc and ultimately causing the death of a young woman before disappearing without a trace. Can you, as Nancy Drew, unmask the creature before you suffer the same terrible fate?”
This is the most surprising to me as I wasn’t fond of this game the first time I played it. But upon replaying it, it’s much better than I remember! I enjoy the overall atmosphere of the game as it takes place in a German castle tourist attraction. I enjoy the fact that any money you may need to spend in the game can be found scattered throughout the game without you having to earn it via minigames. It’s also one of the easiest games in the series to beat, in my opinion.
My only gripe with the game is that I think it has the most confusing layout of any game in the Nancy Drew series! Seriously, finding my way around the castle was super frustrating! Besides that, I think this is a very underrated Nancy Drew game.
#12: THE SECRET OF SHADOW RANCH (2004)
“A ranch vacation takes a terrifying turn when a ghostly horse appears in this mystery game. Is it driven by the vengeful commands of its long-dead master, Dirk Valentine? Or is a living villain behind the ranch’s string of bad luck? It’s up to you, as Nancy Drew, to figure out who’s wearing the black hat before your investigation is ambushed in Nancy Drew: Secret of Shadow Ranch!”
This one is a beloved classic to most fans of the Nancy Drew series. Be it the interesting setting or the character many ship with Nancy, Dave Gregory, most gamers tend to enjoy this one.
The daily chores can be frustrating to some, but I didn’t really mind personally. I wish we didn’t have to ride around to the different areas so much though and some of the puzzles are just plain frustrating (I’m talking to you, marble puzzle with wooden planks!). My biggest gripe with this game though is getting the days to trigger. I was literally stuck for over an hour trying to do whatever I could to get the next day to trigger!
Besides those issues, you can’t go wrong with this game!
#11: SECRETS CAN KILL (1998/2010 Remastered)
“A family visit throws you, as Nancy Drew, into the scene of a crime that happened only last night! Jake Rogers is dead, and a secret died with him–or did it? Roll up your sleeves and dig into an engrossing mystery that is full of places to explore, puzzles to solve, suspects to question, danger to evade and evidence to evaluate. A wily killer may still be on the loose…so keep your wits about you in Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill!”
The first game in the series isn’t only classic, but genuinely good! One of the few games in the series that deals with murder, you could argue that this is the darkest of the games (especially as Nancy Drew confronts the killer at the end of the game while brandishing a gun, the only time she dons a firearm in the entire series).
It was remastered in 2010 with the main changes being the characters being CG animated to fit the style of the other games in the series as well as changing the culprit and the ending, i.e. no Nancy Drew with a gun. But overall the gameplay is still the same, so that’s why I don’t differentiate between the two games. Whether you play the original or the remastered version, you will enjoy it!
#10: SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK (2005)
“It’s 1930 and Nancy Drew is asked to visit Emily Crandall, in Titusville, a girl whom Nancy knows only through a mutual friend. She and her mother had been counting on the generosity of their kindly but strange neighbor, Josiah Crowley, to leave them part of his estate to support the inn they own. But in his will, everything was left to Richard Topham, his ESP teacher. A contested will, a suffering girl, suspicious psychics — can Nancy solve the mystery before time runs out in Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock?”
Released to commemorate Nancy Drew’s 75th anniversary, this game messes with the space-time continuum and transports Nancy Drew to the year 1930 where we see her tackle her first ever mystery.
Based on the first four Nancy Drew books, this game is fun and easy overall, giving us a great look at 1930s life in pre-Walt Disney World Florida. I do get annoyed with some of the chores you have to do such as driving and golfing, but overall it’s an enjoyable game and a cool venture into the past.
#9: DANGER ON DECEPTION ISLAND (2003)
“George’s friend, Katie Firestone, invites you, as Nancy Drew, to Deception Island for a whale-watching excursion, the sleuth arrives to find Katie’s tour boat heavily vandalized. A threatening note warns Katie to “stop meddling.” Apparently, Snake Horse Harbor is divided over an orphaned orca whale that recently appeared in the channel and has apparently decided to stay. What was a simple vandalism case begins to unfold into something more mysterious and sinister. Can Nancy find the culprit, or will she be too late to “Save the Whales?””
This one will always hold a special place in my heart as this was the first Nancy Drew game I ever played and the one that made me fall in love with the series! I never read the Nancy Drew books growing up as I was a Hardy Boys guy myself, so this game was also my introduction to the character and world of Nancy Drew as well.
Besides the nostalgia, I do believe that this game is quite fun and a great one for newcomers to the series to start out with. There are many locations to check out and colorful characters to meet. I do get tired sometimes of the traveling and errands you have to do, but otherwise you can’t go wrong with this one.
Interestingly enough, this is #9 on my list and also the 9th game in the series!
#8: GHOST DOGS OF MOON LAKE (2002)
“You, as Nancy Drew, must pick up the cold trail left by a notorious gangster who once lived in the lakeside cabin recently purchased by Nancy’s friend. Are the ghostly legends true, or is there a flesh and blood answer to the dogs’ haunting howls? Decipher cryptic puzzles, search through shadowy wood, creepy old houses, interview suspicious characters, and dodge danger to sniff out the truth behind local legends to solve the mystery in Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake.”
This is another decent game in the series, this time taking place in the woods and giving us a gangster’s backstory. Again this is another errand-heavy game, which I’m not super fond of and finding your way through the forest can be tricky if you’re not careful. But other than that, I have no problems with it.
#7: TREASURE IN THE ROYAL TOWER (2001)
“While snowed-in at the Wickford Castle Ski Resort you, as Nancy Drew, are trapped in a place that’s as strange as its history. The castle is a riddle, full of dead-ends and detours that hint at a legend left behind by Marie Antoinette! Solve baffling puzzles, search concealed rooms, interview evasive suspects, and sidestep danger on the hunt for a secret that the doomed queen was desperate to hide in Nancy Drew: Treasure in the Royal Tower.”
Like The Secret of Shadow Ranch, this is another game in the series that is almost unanimously deemed a beloved classic by Nancy Drew fans! The mystery, setting, and characters are very enjoyable and this is also our introduction to one of the most beloved characters in the series, the eccentric Professor Hotchkiss. My only main gripe with this game is that the castle is huge, so finding your way around it takes some time. Other than that, this is an excellent game!
#6: MESSAGE IN A HAUNTED MANSION (2000)
“Nancy Drew is invited, by a friend, to San Francisco to assist in the renovation of a Victorian mansion. But there are other uninvited guests, visitors from the past–spirits who want the place all to themselves. Nancy suspects that there is another force at work: greed. In a house full of trap doors and secret tunnels, breaking glass and suspicious fires, one misstep and Nancy won’t stand a ghost of a chance in Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion!”
This is the first game in the series to delve into hauntings and ghostly mysteries, a motif that will be expanded upon in multiple later games. It’s a very enjoyable mystery with interesting characters and history to learn about. If you can tolerate the early 2000s character animation and graphics, this is another game I would suggest to a newcomer for their first Nancy Drew experience.
#5: THE HAUNTED CAROUSEL (2003)
“You, as Nancy Drew, are invited to the Jersey shore to investigate a series of mishaps at the Captain’s Cove Amusement Park. First, the lead horse was stolen from the carousel. Then the roller coaster suddenly lost power, resulting in a serious accident. Now the merry-go-round is mysteriously starting up in the middle of the night. Will you be able to unravel the mysterious happenings surrounding this beautiful antique carousel in Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel?”
This one is really fun! I mean who wouldn’t want to spend their entire day in an amusement park? This is also the first game wherein if you need to use the phone, there is caller ID so you can click on the name of the person you wanna call rather than having to input the number manually yourself. I also think that this is the easiest game in the series and a very underrated one at that! Finally, this is another game that I would recommend to newcomers for their first Nancy Drew experience.
#4: SECRET OF THE SCARLET HAND (2002)
“Between cases, Nancy Drew has taken an internship as Deputy Curator at the Beech Hill Museum in Washington, D.C. Nancy soon discovers she will be doing more than learning about ancient Maya artifacts – there have been a series of thefts and the only clue left behind is a mysterious scarlet handprint! Will Nancy be able to put the pieces of this ancient puzzle together? Or will the mystery remain entombed forever in Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand?”
This is a game that I’ve always loved ever since I played it for the first time; it was even my #1 favorite for a while! So you can imagine my utter shock to find out years later that many Nancy Drew gamers actually aren’t too crazy about this game!
I love the museum setting, I love all the characters (Henrik has the best voice of any character in any Nancy Drew game), I love the mystery, I love the culture, I just have a blast playing this game! This is also the first game to introduce us to the character of Sonny Joon, a cryptic character whose mark will be left throughout multiple later games in the series!
The game does have problems with getting events to trigger, but other than that, this is a huge favorite of mine!
#3: CURSE OF BLACKMOOR MANOR (2004)
“All is not well in Blackmoor Manor, a fourteenth century English mansion haunted by a tragic past. You, as Nancy Drew, embark on your first international adventure to visit Linda Penvellyn, your neighbor’s daughter and newlywed wife of a British diplomat. A mysterious malady keeps Linda hidden behind thick bed curtains. Is she hiding from something or someone, or is a more menacing threat stalking her? Face your fears to find the truth in Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor!”
This is another game in the series that is almost unanimously beloved by fans! It’s also the first of the scary Nancy Drew games and the first to take place outside of the US. The entire manor and overall atmosphere of the game is deliciously dark and I love it! Some of the puzzles aren’t particularly fun and I wish we got to know the characters more as most of the game is spent exploring the manor and its hidden passageways rather than talking to people.
But in the end, this is an amazing game!
#2: LEGEND OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2007)
“The Search is on for an Unearthly Artifact in New Orleans! Bruno Bolet was the proud owner of the “Whisperer,” a crystal skull rumored to protect its holder from almost any cause of death – except murder. When Bruno passed away, his nephew Henry came to wrap up his affairs, but he couldn’t find the skull among the clutter of the creepy Bolet manor. You’ll need to team up with Nancy’s best friend Bess Marvin to find this mystical artifact before it falls into the wrong hands in Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull!”
This game is honestly as good as the one I have in the #1 spot that they could easily swap places depending on the day! I absolutely love the dark, enjoyable atmosphere of the game! I mean, a lot of it takes place in a cemetery! I also think this game has the best animation in the entire series!
The game seems overwhelming at first when you realize how many glass eyes you need to collect, but you get into the game really quickly afterwards. Most of the puzzles are interesting although I could do without the scavenger hunt being so long and the wasp minigame getting tougher and tougher each time.
But besides that, this game is truly spectacular!
AND MY #1 FAVORITE NANCY DREW GAME IS:
LAST TRAIN TO BLUE MOON CANYON (2005)
“The Hardy Boys have invited you, as Nancy Drew, on a train ride out West hosted by beautiful and prominent socialite, Lori Girard. Lori has gathered the greatest minds in mystery to solve a century-old secret and the haunted train is their best clue. The luxurious train once belonged to Jake Hurley, who set out long ago to find the mother lode during mining mania. Years later, Jake’s train was found in Blue Moon Canyon with the engineer slumped over in the car – dead. Jake had mysteriously vanished… Climb aboard, as Nancy Drew, and see if you can uncover the truth at the end of the line in Nancy Drew: Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon!”
What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said before? It’s simply wonderful! It’s very fun to play, it’s not super hard, the new navigation style and interface work to the game’s advantage, and we get to meet the Hardy Boys for the first time! I did find the game shorter than I remembered it being originally, but it doesn’t reduce in the overall enjoyment of the game in the slightest! If you haven’t played this one yet, you need to get on it!
And those are my top 13 favorite Nancy Drew games! What do you think of my list? Are you a fan of these games too? Which are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!
4 thoughts on “My Top 13 Favorite Nancy Drew PC Games”
An excellent list! I never played the “Nancy Drew” games but they sound similar to “The 7th Guest” which terrified me as a youngster, but I loved the story and puzzles. How can one find and play these games these days? Are they in Steam?
Also, the new CW series of Nancy Drew is HIGHLY enjoyable if you haven’t been watching it.
I haven’t played The 7th Guest, but have heard a lot about it, lol. I’m not sure if these games are available on Steam, but they can be purchases from herinteractive.com either as a digital download or physical copies (for those that are still available as such).
I haven’t been watching the Nancy Drew series, but have heard a lot about it. I hear there’s a Hardy Boys series as well.
I enjoyed reading your list! My only quibble is that Secret of the Old Clock does not take place in Florida; the original Secrets Can Kill was the game set in Florida. Secret of the Old Clock does not specifically state where it is taking place, although HeR Interactive took elements of it from the Nancy Drew book series: Secrets of the Old Clock, The Bungalow Mystery, and The Mystery at Lilac Inn among them. I think we can assume that it takes place somewhere in the Midwest, somewhere within driving distance of River Heights, Illinois (where Nancy lives), but it is otherwise not specified.
Yeah, I had heard that they took multiple novel elements regarding Secret of the Old Clock. To be fair, I’m sure they did that with most of the other games. Thanks for commenting!