Based in San Rafael, California and specializing in licensed, episodic adventure games, Telltale Games was formed in 2004 by former LucasArts developers Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors and Troy Molander when Sam & Max: Freelance Police was canceled.
At first, they were known for making games for relatively obscure IPs with cult followings, such as Bone and Homestar Runner, and series like Sam & Max and Monkey Island that were previously handled by their spiritual parent company.
They often released all sorts of machinimas and mockumentaries in between games to appeal to the fans. The interpretation of Hell seen in Sam And Max was very clearly modeled on their own office. They even published a complete Sam And Max comics treasury (the first in 12 years), Surfin' the Highway, and commissioned a new comic from Steve Purcell.
In 2011, they released Jurassic Park: The Game, which departed from the typical puzzle and exploration-based gameplay of point n' click adventure games and instead followed a more linear storyline with quicktime events and choices that would alter how the game played out. They used this same style for the 2012 release of The Walking Dead: Season One, which proved to be their breakthrough hit: it was released at the height of The Walking Dead's popularity, the gameplay style had been refined since Jurassic Park: The Game, with much more emphasis placed on the "choices matter" aspect, and some extremely high-quality and gut-wrenching writing. The game was critically acclaimed, with many calling it one of the best games of 2012, and single-handedly brought Telltale Games into mainstream attention.
After this, Telltale took the success of The Walking Dead and ran with it. In 2013 they started releasing a second season of Walking Dead adventure game episodes, as well as The Wolf Among Us, based on the Fables comic series which like The Walking Dead was a narrative-driven, "choices matter" adventure game. Their newfound popularity also got them access to some more high profile IPs: in 2014 they released Tales from the Borderlands, a narrative-driven, "choices matter" adventure game, as well as Game of Thrones (Telltale), a narrative-driven, "choices matter" adventure game, and 2015 saw the release of Minecraft: Story Mode, which was, you guessed it... a narrative-driven "choices matter" adventure game.
Telltale Games' downfall came down to oversaturating their market. The success of that first Walking Dead game led to them pumping out as many games in the same style, which placed a burden on the developers working on the games, oversaturated a genre that Telltale had created and had almost complete control of, and pushed them away from their older style of more straightforward adventure games that, while not pulling in as much as the first Walking Dead, consistently made the studio money. Several of these games were well-received (though a good deal more had mixed reception), but critics agreed that Telltale never managed to recapture the magic of The Walking Dead's first season.
On September 21, 2018, it was revealed that Telltale Games had undergone a major downsizing, reducing their numbers to a skeleton crew of 25 working on a Minecraft project for Netflix, resulting in the cancellation of all their announced upcoming projects, and with The Walking Dead's final season being finished by Skybound Entertainment, Robert Kirkman's production company. By November, however, the remaining Telltale staff were let go, and Telltale entered into assignment proceedings to liquidate all of its assets to creditors, effectively dissolving the entire studio. As a result of the proceedings, some of Telltale's games were pulled from online services such as Steam.
On August 28, 2019, nearly a year after Telltale Games shuttered, LCG Entertainment bought Telltale Games and rebranded themselves as the old company, planning on releasing old and new games alike, starting with the long awaited second season of The Wolf Among Us. On December 2021, it was announced that the new Telltale Games is working with Deck Nine to bring a new adventure series based on The Expanse. Much of the talent involved with the studio prior to the 2018 mass layoff would also regroup in late 2021 to form a new studio called Dramatic Labs, who are working on a licensed Star Trek game called Star Trek: Resurgence. Another group of former Telltale developers from the company's early years formed Skunkape Games. Skunkape bought the rights to Telltale's Sam & Max games to remaster them and is releasing the games onto modern consoles.
Games and game series by Telltale Games include:
- Telltale Texas Hold'em - 2005
- Bone: Out from Boneville - 2005
- Bone: The Great Cow Race - 2006
- CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder - 2006
- CSI: Hard Evidence - 2009
- CSI: Deadly Intent - 2009
- CSI: Fatal Conspiracy - 2010
- Sam & Max: Freelance Police
- Sam and Max: Save the World (Season 1) - 2006-2007
- Sam and Max: Beyond Time and Space (Season 2) - 2007-2008
- Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse (Season 3) - 2010
- Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - 2008
- Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures - 2009
- Tales of Monkey Island - 2009
- Hector: Badge of Carnage - 2010-2011
- Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent
- Puzzle Agent - 2010
- Puzzle Agent 2 - 2011
- Poker Night at the Inventory - 2010
- Poker Night 2 - 2013
- Back to the Future: The Game - 2010-2011
- Jurassic Park: The Game - 2011
- Law & Order: Legacies - 2011-2012
- The Walking Dead
- The Wolf Among Us note - 2013-2014
- The Wolf Among Us - Season 2 - TBD
- Tales from the Borderlands - 2014-2015
- Game of Thrones - 2014-2015
- Minecraft: Story Mode - 2015-2016
- Minecraft: Story Mode - Season 2 - 2017
- Batman: The Telltale Series - 2016
- Batman The Telltale Series: The Enemy Within - 2017-2018
- Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series - 2017
- Stranger Things - Cancelled
- The Expanse: A Telltale Series - 2023
This article adapts to the changes you make. The trope list is tailored by how you edit.
- Acclaimed Flop: Most of Telltale Games' library was essentially this - many games were loved and enjoyed, but weren't money-makers outside of Minecraft: Story Mode, The Walking Dead Season 1, and publishing the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of 7 Days to Die.
- Author Catchphrase: Starting with The Walking Dead, two messages are prevalent in their choice-and-consequence games: The first thing you usually see at the beginning is "This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play," and during gameplay, "X will remember that" usually pops up after major dialogue decisions.
- Breakthrough Hit: Two: the Sam & Max: Freelance Police revival was the company's first episodic gaming success. The Walking Dead (Telltale) won tons of awards and gave them recognition among the mainstream gaming press.
- Executive Meddling: After the success of The Walking Dead, it was mandated that all later games followed the style it had set up.
- Expanded Universe: Most of their games are sequels or parts of a greater whole to the original work in some way.
- In Spite of a Nail: Despite the games often acting like nearly every choice the player makes will have some lasting effect on the narrative, in reality, only a handful of them will impact the plot, and the story will almost always follow the same, linear beats regardless of the decisions made.
- Morton's Fork: Unfortunately enough to get its own page.
- Optional Character Scene: Variously in their games, depending on the choices made, each character has several different scenes.
- Production Posse: Roger L. Jackson, Dave Fennoy, Adam Harrington and Andrew Chaikin pop up a lot, among others. Notably averted in Game of Thrones, though, which features an entirely new slate of voice actors for Telltale, including actors from the HBO series.
- Rereleased for Free: Around the time The Walking Dead: Season 1 finished its run, the first episode became free. The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, and Game of Thrones (Telltale) followed suit, although around the end of their runs.
- Revisiting the Roots: They've experimented with much more dramatic or dynamic story-telling for quite a while and state that they intend for Poker Night 2 (featuring Ash Williams, Brock Samson, Claptrap, and Sam as players, while GLaDOS deals) to be much more humorous.Dan Connors: It's great to revisit our roots after the success of The Walking Dead. People might not know that we have a strong history of humor in our games, and players are going to find a lot of laughs in Poker Night 2, Poker Night 2 is another example of our ability to work with phenomenal partners and bring great characters to life in the gaming universe.
- Running Gag: The drink Banang has popped up in some form or another throughout their games.
- Sadistic Choice: Every time there's a point-and-click game, this trope is inevitably played straight and, at times, exaggerated.
- Strictly Formula: While their episodic adventure games were already developing this reputation beforehand the runaway success of The Walking Dead: Season One and the company's wish to make lightning strike twice led to this becoming a deliberate part of their development strategy according to internal documents released when the company folded in 2018.
- What Could Have Been:
- Telltale Games wanted to do Scott Pilgrim, but Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim's creator) rejected the offer, not because of a dispute between him and Telltale, but because he believed that Scott couldn't work out as an Adventure Game. One may wonder what would have happened if we had gotten this over a multiplayer beat-em-up game.
- They announced plans to do a new King's Quest game and gave it a fair amount of press, but rights complications prevented it from being made.
- Telltale announced in 2018 they were going to develop a second season of The Wolf Among Us, an Evil Dead game that would have featured Bruce Campbell and a Stranger Things game. With their September layoffs, those games were canceled. LCG Entertainment's August 2019 buyout of Telltale eventually lead to the resumption of the second season of The Wolf Among Us.