Nick Montfort’s been mentioned a number of times in association with this production. With a doctorate in text adventures, and what is likely the first academic book on text adventures (Twisty Little Passages), he’s an authority on the subject, and a great guy too.
Just recently, he took it upon himself to answer the simple question: It’s 2009 and you want to play some decent interactive fiction – where to start?
Here’s the list reposted here, although of course you should also read his original posting for links. What I like about the list is how it shows how the form has matured from the early days, and the plentiful directions people/authors are taking the medium.
Anchorhead by Michael Gentry, 1998
A sprawling horror based on the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, with exquisite attention to detail and compelling characters and places.
Bad Machine by Dan Shiovitz, 1999
The surface of this game seems to be a confusion of code, error messages, and a small bit of English, but its strange science fiction world is deeply systematic.
For a Change by Dan Schmidt, 1999
Schmidt’s game programming is better known thanks to Guitar Hero but before he coded that up he was inspired by Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String and wrote this piece of interactive fiction, which features an odd lexicon and curious, magical assemblages.
Varicella by Adam Cadre, 1999
A sort of revenge-play, difficult, complex, and worth several attempts. A strange palace holds intrigues, surprises, an array of excellent characters who wander and plot against the player character, the palace minister.
Shade by Andrew Plotkin, 2000
The most famous “one room game in your apartment.” What seems to be a sleepless night undergoes a disturbing transformation as the character, undertaking ordinary actions, uncovers a different reality.
Slouching towards Bedlam by Daniel Ravipinto and Star C. Foster, 2003
An intricate steampunk piece with that deals with insanity and language and offer several different concluding threads.
Whom the Telling Changed by Aaron Reed, 2005
A reframing and reworking of Gilgamesh, the first known epic, which combines elements of hypertext-like word selection with the usual command-based IF interface.
Bronze by Emily Short, 2006
Reworks the beauty and the beast legend, embedding memories in an architectural space in compelling ways. It has a special “novice mode” and a status-line compass that will aid players in understanding and navigating IF locations.
Lost Pig (And Place Under Ground) by Admiral Jota, 2007
A hilarious underground romp that brings every major type of puzzle together in miniature form. The really wonderful aspect is the orcish, semi-literate narration that is used throughout.
Violet by Jeremy Freese, 2008
A graduate student locks himself in his office to try to make progress on his dissertation. The puzzles, as the player seeks to overcome distraction, are amusing, but the atmosphere and the voice of the character’s absent, imagined girlfriend are extraordinary.