My Ranking of Every Single Nancy Drew PC Game
If you ever wanted to play some Nancy Drew point-and-click adventure PC games but don't want to commit to all 33 games, I've got you covered.
As a Certified Gamer Girl, I am a proud player of all 33 Nancy Drew PC games. The journey started when I was about 10 years old, in the electronics section of a Target. I wanted a computer game, and I only had about $10 to spend, and right there on the clearance rack was a Nancy Drew PC game for exactly $10—it was basically destiny. Since these were games that were playable on the shittiest of computers of the time, these were perfect for me, as someone who always had shitty computers. Now that I’ve played each of these games at least twice during the seventeen years I’ve been playing, I feel as though I’m qualified enough to rank all these titles from worst to best, so here is that list for ya.
33. Ransom of the Seven Ships
There are only three games in the entire 33-game series and the other two are the first ones (and they are old as hell). So why was this game, made in 2009, also cut? Well, it’s because one of the characters is doing blackface, pretending to have a Jamaican accent when he’s just a white guy in disguise. Yeah, I just spoiled the game for you but honestly even if you do get your hands on a copy, the game just isn’t worth it. Part of the joy of the games is talking to the characters to try and figure out what went wrong. Nancy and George are on a deserted island and the only other character is this racist actor guy. Where’s the fun in that?
32. Midnight in Salem
Before I get to this game review, I need to give a little bit of context. Ever since 1998 when HerInteractive started making Nancy Drew games, they’ve managed to churn two games a year. This was great for fans but apparently it was pretty unprofitable and the company was relying on an angel investor to fund the whole operation. Without getting into too much detail, years ago HerInteractive got a new CEO and they did what all good CEOs do: they fired all the in-house developers that had been working there for years and also decided they needed to take the games in a new route by outsourcing the games and working on a new engine (the old games were run on an engine unique to them). Some of those decisions were bad, others seemed like a good way to get with the times. Unfortunately for fans, this meant that there was an almost five-year gap between game 32 and game 33.
For years, the game would be announced and then ultimately delayed for another year. In 2019, HerInteractive said that they were no longer trying to play us. Midnight in Salem was going to be released. The news was exciting, but also nerve wracking. All the previews looked a bit rushed and half-baked. Any stills of the sets were underwhelming to say the least—the backgrounds of the games were a real selling point for a long time, they were beautiful and the new game looked like any random free game you could find on Steam. But I wasn’t about to be a hater, so I was still excited to play.
I don’t want to be that person who says, “This game is different than the other ones, and therefore I hate it!” but there’s a lot to be desired in this game. First of all, this game needs massive RAM power to be able to play, and Nancy Drew gamers are notoriously casual gamers and have non-gaming PCs. My 8 year-old gaming laptop lagged a lot. The character and set designs were a bit flat, and the navigation was also a bit confusing. There also was a lot more dialogue and very few puzzles, which is odd because this is a puzzle-heavy franchise (though I actually didn’t mind having a few less extremely difficult puzzles to have to figure out).
There are things I liked about it, though. First up, the premise of the game is so much fun! They’re in Salem, Massachusetts and there are a lot of cool elements that involve witches—so spooky! The game also features a lot of characters who are fan favorites (or at least my favorites), like Deirdre and the Hardy Boys. This game had the potential to be one of the best ones in the series, but there were a lot of things that fell short because of some bad executive decisions. Typical, right?
31. Danger by Design
As someone who studied French in high school, got a bachelor’s degree in it, and then lived in France for a short while, it is disappointing to admit that the Paris game is just not that good. The story isn’t interesting, the characters are a bit boring, and there isn’t really even much of Paris being seen. Even so, the best part of the game is going to Pont Neuf and painting knockoffs of the famous paintings in the Louvre.
30. The Creature of Kapu Cave
Even though this is another Hardy Boys feature, I’m just not that much of a fan of this game. There are parts of it that are really fun, and Big Island Mike is very meme-able, but overall I usually have trouble getting through this game. It might just because the redesign of the Hardy Boys look absolutely busted.
29. Secret of the Scarlet Hand
Out of all of these games, this is the only one I’ve played through only once. It is so hard. Like so, so hard. Maybe I’m just an idiot but this game is so hard to get through. There’s so much reading (we’re in a museum), so that might be the reason why. You have to, like, read everything in the museum to get through some of the tasks and it takes a long time. This is also an older game, so there’s no checklist or notes—you gotta do everything yourself.
28. The Shattered Medallion
So in a lot of the games, there is this mysterious character named Sonny Joon who seems to have worked at every job Nancy has before she gets there, and gets fired in disgrace for being the world’s worst employee. He leaves by a lot of weird notes about aliens and stuff. This is the game where we finally get to meet him, and it’s in the most Sonny Joon way possible—he takes over a reality TV show production on an island. The premise is very fun but Sonny kind of sucks and it just doesn’t compare to other games.
27. Labyrinth of Lies
In this game, Nancy goes to work at a museum in Greece (cool) and there’s also a play going on at an amphitheater that’s right outside the museum. It’s pretty incredible that even though we’re in Greece, we only get to see the inside of a museum and a theatre set. There’s not much to explore for most of the game, but when you get to see the stage sets underground that are all supposed to be places in Greek mythology, that’s pretty cool.
26. The Haunted Carousel
The first ten games really have a special charm that the other games don’t have, but this one is very forgettable. The amusement park is weird and the characters are kind of annoying. There’s also a lot of time spent having to learn shorthand and helping this machine make a wet rag of a character learn how to have fun again. It’s an emotional rollercoaster but an underwhelming one.
25. Tomb of the Lost Queen
For a game that’s all about navigating an ancient tomb, this game isn’t as exciting as you would think. A lot of the characters are a bit rude and it’s kind of easy to tell who the culprit is just based on everyone else’s vibe. There’s also a lot of talk about aliens, which ends up coming up again in later games.
24. Trail of the Twister
There’s not really much I remember as being significantly too remarkable in this game. The team of people Nancy is working with aren’t, like, the most dynamic characters that we’ve seen and it does take place out in the middle of nowhere. That’s the point, though, since they’re trying to record storms. It’s one of those games that has driving involved so that’s fun. Not a bad game, but not a great one either.
23. Secrets Can Kill
The original version is so old that it requires two discs and the characters are all cartoon animations, which is jarring and feels out of place. The remastered version is better in that the game looks a lot nicer than the 1998 version, but they introduced a new character named Uncle Steve, and they made Daryl (a guy who is supposed to be quite hot who flirts with Nancy all the time) look absolutely busted. It’s a bit simple, but the mystery is intriguing.
22. Stay Tuned for Danger
As the second title in the whole series, this game does fall short in a lot of ways. There’s not a whole ton of stuff to do and there’s also one part of the game that if you mess up and don’t pick up an item right away, getting that item again is going to prove to be tricky (I recently learned this the hard way). I also find it funny how old this game is that the main characters are soap opera stars that people actually care about. Who has watched a soap opera in the past 15 years, right?
21. The Deadly Device
Most of the mysteries in Nancy Drew games are pretty harmless like lost treasure, empty threats, and ghosts, but this games mystery is way darker: it’s a murder that she’s investigating. Some of the newer Nancy games have taken a darker turn and I wonder if that’s because they ran out of ideas or because they know their fan base is getting older. This one will put you on-edge but not because there’s a mysterious spirit haunting the place. This time it’s a nefarious person haunting the place.
20. Treasure in a Royal Tower
What else is there to do while snowed in an old castle that was imported from France to Wisconsin other than snoop through the whole damn place? Well that’s what Nancy is doing in this game. In this one, you’re obviously stuck in one place and there are of course some secret passageways. The best part is interacting with the characters—some of them are quite interesting, and are fan favorites enough to make cameos in other adventures.
19. The Haunting of Castle Malloy
Out of all the games, this one definitely has the most intrigue when it comes to relationship drama. Nancy is there just to be part of her friend’s wedding but the groom is missing. The best man is hot and also in love with the bride? Did Ned and Nancy break up? There’s a ghost in this castle? There’s a lot to discover, though (no spoilers) the ending is very weird.
18. The Captive Curse
Living in a castle in Germany seems like a great way to live until you find out that there’s a monster that loves to come in and terrorize everyone in town and kidnap someone every few years. A lot of the characters in this game are annoying and the accent work is borderline offensive at times, but this game is very nice to look at. There’s also a cool roleplaying card game kind of deal that is pretty interesting and fun to play for a long time.
17. Sea of Darkness
This is the last game before the hiatus (explained in the Midnight in Salem entry), and even though it’s exceptionally dark the visuals are quite nice (gotta enjoy them while they last, right?). To be honest, I can’t really remember anything off the top of my head that stands out about this game, though I do like how the ship looks. It’s overall just quite pleasant.
16. Legend of the Crystal Skull
In this installment, Nancy is out in New Orleans to go on a much-needed vacation with our friend Bess, but ends up getting stuck in a spooky mansion that belongs to a distant friend of Ned’s because of some storms. There are a lot of mysteries in this house of a quirky dead guy, and Nancy obviously has to figure it all out. This one is also pretty puzzle-heavy and the eyeball stuff is tedious. Nevertheless, the locations are really nice to look at and you even get to switch between Bess and Nancy, and make Bess eat a lot of gumbo.
15. Danger on Deception Island
This one is hard. Like, really really hard. But at the same time, it’s a lot of fun. Just be prepared to maybe use a walkthrough guide (I only ever play Junior Detective and it’s still too much for me). There are a lot of tasks and puzzles, tunnels and new places to explore. There are so many elements to the game that you will be able to get hours of gameplay out of it. Plus, you get to make sandwiches and you can make your friend Kate eat some absolutely rank sandwich concoctions.
14. Secret of the Old Clock
While all the other games take place in somewhat modern times, this one is a blast from the past and takes us all the way back to the 1930’s. Some people don’t like this game because there are so many tasks, but I like tasks. You can even drive around town and do odd jobs for cash to spend on other things that cost a nickel.
13. The Silent Spy
This boy sure has got a lot going on. There’s spy stuff obviously but there’s also, like, way more emotional stuff that happens in cutscenes and the like than usual. In this game, we learn more about Nancy’s mom, who died a long time ago and never really gets brought up much. While most of the games are fun (albeit dangerous) adventures, this is the first game where we really get much of anything when it comes to our protagonist’s own character growth, which is cool.
12. Curse of Blackmoor Manor
Lots of stuff happening in this one. Spooky rich person’s house: check. Creepy weird kid: check. Strange midnight rituals: check. A lot of board games to play with said creepy weird kid: check. Someone turning into a werewolf: a maybe at least. There’s also a parrot you can feed and it talks to you. As I said, there’s a lot happening in this game. I think it’s a fan favorite for a lot of avid players, and I understand why.
11. Message in a Haunted Mansion
This is the first Nancy Drew game I had ever played, the game that made me the person who I am today. I don’t really know if I rated it this high because it’s really good or if I just like it from nostalgia. Anyways, it’s a fun one filled with pretty doable puzzles, a cool house to explore, and lots of jump scares and spooks.
10. The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
We love a game that takes place in a cozy winter resort, and this game is just that. While there’s a whole lodge to explore, there’s also a bunch of places outside to venture off to—just don’t freeze to death. Another feature is that you get to pelt a literal child with snowballs. There’s also a wolf and it’s cute. The only thing to worry about is that there’s this game, Fox and Geese, and it’s really fucking hard but you have to win to beat the game. You’ve been warned.
9. Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon
If there’s two things that I like, it’s the Hardy Boys and trains: two things that are into this game. This game is very fun, I think it’s a great balance of different places to explore, puzzles, tasks, and interesting characters. Lori Girard, a Paris Hilton knockoff who cares about historical mysteries, uses her money to boot up a retired train for one last journey to figure out why Jake Hurley, the man who owned the train, disappeared. Along with the boys and Lori, there’s a romance writer, a ghost hunter, and a detective who is really bad at his job. A good time all around.
8. The Phantom of Venice
In some of the later games of the series, Nancy starts getting into super secret spy work, and this game is one of those. She’s in Italy trying to do a little bit of snooping on a guy, but even though she’s employed she is still strapped for cash (as she usually is abroad). My favorite part of this whole game is that you can make Nancy take on a job as a dancer in a club where she has to wear a full catsuit. This is definitely a game for children, right?
7. Alibi in Ashes
Okay this one is really fun mostly because Nancy is in jail for the majority of it so she has to rely on her friends to bust her out (and by that I mean figure out who really burned down City Hall). By using your handy dandy phone, you’re able to switch points of view between Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned to do what you need to do. And in the meantime, you can just sit outside and eat ice cream all day.
6. The Final Scene
Who doesn’t enjoy having to find your missing friend in an old movie theater about to get shut down? The characters are all very fun in this one, half of them being snooty Hollywood types and half of them locals wishing to save a historical theater. There are also a ton of Harry Houdini elements because allegedly he performed at this old fictional venue. Overall, great vibes in this one.
5. Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake
This one is a classic. It’s got spooks, it’s got secret passages, and it’s got dogs. The opening sequence to this game is pretty scary, especially when you’re playing it as a twelve year old in the middle of the night in your basement.
4. Shadow at the Water’s Edge
Of course, the game where Nancy goes to Japan is bound to be cool. There’s a ton to explore, since you’re not only at the ryokan but you also get to explore a few other spots and take the train to do it. This game is puzzle-heavy, so if you like doing sudoku and making very intricate cute bento boxes, this is the one for you. There are also a lot of spooky jump-scare moments so be warned (or get excited). Nancy is also unspeakably rude to a lot of the main characters and it’s really funny.
3. Ghost of Thornton Hall
A lot of Nancy Drew games have spooks, and this one takes the cake. Not only is it scary at parts, it’s beautiful and heart wrenching all in one. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one, and it’s up to Nancy to piece together some dark family pasts.
2. The Secret of Shadow Ranch
Shadow Ranch, the tenth game in the series, still holds up as one of the absolute best games. There’s so much to do on this ranch, and for some reason Nancy has to do it all (even though she’s technically on vacation). Unlike in real life, doing chores is a lot of fun, and helps you forget the fact that there’s a glowing horse causing problems at night. You also get to ride a horse and visit a ghost town. A great game for a true cowboy.
1. Warnings at Waverly Academy
This game has got everything. As Nancy, you’re going undercover as a student in the valedictorian wing of a prep boarding school. Obviously, there’s going to be so much drama as these girls are in it to win this scholarship. You wouldn’t think that doing other people’s homework would be fun, but at least in this game it definitely is. I do have to say that the music is way too tense than it should be, which makes snooping around feel like there’s a real sense of danger.