Most lamentably, Hamlet: The Text Adventure, one of my main reasons for this post, seems to have been taken off the internet for exceeding its allotted bandwidth, a victim of its own success. It doesn't appear to have resurfaced anywhere, but I'll put this link up to mark its existence, in the hopes it will be back someday. It was a beautiful thing, I assure you.
UPDATE: Wonderful news! Creator Robin Johnson has contacted me to inform me that the game now exists at a new address: http://www.versificator.co.uk/hamlet. Go and play!
So, on to things that actually still exist. The Adventures of Criz the Bard is a fun, quick little jaunt. You must explore the town of Highmoon to find a cure for the ailing High Priest. Controlled by buttons rather than typing, the range of action in the game is fairly minimal; there is no conversation or manipulation, only movement and exchange of items you receive. Dialog is automatic, and the "quests" are of the basic errand-running variety. Here's a sample room:
You have entered the Tower of Rhauntides, Sage of Deepingdale.
Rhauntides looks up.
'Danali poisoned ?! Quickly, take this card and bring the Book of Cures from the Library in the Leaves of Learning.'
I think this is what they refer to as a "time waster". Oh, and the game begins in the Bard College, which certain people will surely get a kick out of.
BRAD: The Game is short, primitive, wacky, irreverent, off-color, and mildly amusing. It's an html-based choose-your-own-adventure-type game. Sample:
Sleep comes naturally. But just as you drift into dream, you hear a knock at the basement door.
"Brad! Hey, Brad, are you down there?"
Wow, that's Katie's voice!
Too good to be true. Pinch own ass and wake up now.
"Enter the lair of Brad, young Kaitlin..."
If, like me, you think there's something particularly humorous about pants, it works even better.
Say, I also just noticed that this is a game by The Reverend Brendan Powell Smith, the brain behind The Brick Testament. Cool.
The Crystal Skull is an illustrated html-based text game set in the Aztec Empire. In addition to the game itself, there is an "info" feature which will provide historical background and educational asides, with maps, diagrams, and photographs. Entertaining and informative!
You stand in a small garden in the zoo of the Aztec Emperor Motecuhzoma. There is a clay pot on the ground in front of you. The garden is your responsibility, for you are a humble gardener. Your name is Quetzal.
Exit to Aviary
Look in Pot
Of course, none of these are the real thing -- classic interactive fiction, text parsers and all. For that, visit iFiction. It's a nice big collection of all kinds of IF titles you can play in your browser, from modern offerings to the old greats, like Infocom's Zork series.
For some suggestions on what to try, or an introduction to IF in general, try Baf's Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive (the archive itself can be explored at www.ifarchive.org), or read this very nifty article at Brass Lantern: "Magic Words: Interactive Fiction in the 21st Century", originally published at 1UP.com. Included in the article are interviews with IF authors, and lots of recommendations. It's a great place to start. The Xyzzy Award winners are also probably a good bet.
Excellent news! You can now play the Infocom classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy online, at the ever-wonderful BBC website, where they're offering a special souped-up anniversary edition with a pretty graphical interface. (In fact, they're offering two.)
You can also play it in its more or less original form (but without the option to save, alas) at the official Douglas Adams site. Whichever you choose, do not miss the opportunity to experience this great title.
Now, go play. If I only had time to play more of these myself...