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 quick time 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 1, 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 ended up being their inability to realize that there can be too much of a good thing. 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, over-saturated 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 that first Walking Dead game.
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 rereleasing 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 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
- Back to the Future: The Game - 2010-2011
- Jurassic Park: The Game - 2011
- Law & Order: Legacies - 2011-2012
- The Walking Dead
- Poker Night 2 - 2013
- 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
This article adapts to the changes you make. The trope list is tailored by how you edit.
- 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.
- Back from the Dead: A slow burn but LCG Entertainment buying them out and re-branding seems to have saved them after their bankruptcy in 2018. Currently, they seem to be focusing on rebuilding their library and making the games accessible to the public again.
- Bookends: A rather tragic meta example. The Walking Dead was the game that eventually put them on the map as a major game developer. It was also the last major game they would work on before closing down.
- Cursed with Awesome: The first season of The Walking Dead is Telltale's most successful game and since then, reviews for their other games hasn't been as high as that was.
- Darker and Edgier:
- On a larger, meta level, The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones were much darker than their previous output.
- Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse was much more dramatic and grander in scope than the previous games, and came with a genuine Bittersweet Ending to boot. It was still a comedy before anything else, but there was a very noticeable Mood Whiplash and foreshadowed the darker direction the studio would take from that point on.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Or Middle Installment Weirdness, if you will. Telltale already had a lengthy list of works to their credit when Jurassic Park: The Game was released, but JP was just before the company grew the beard with The Walking Dead. As a result, Jurassic Park carries the scarier tone and stiffer QTE consequences of their later material, but lacks their now-iconic use of decisions, typical cel-shaded art style, and any of their rather large Production Posse.
- 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.
- Lighter and Softer: Tales from the Borderlands and Minecraft: Story Mode have a zanier and more comedic tone than their predecessors.
- Morton's Fork: Unfortunately enough to get its own page.
- Obvious Beta: Many of their games have lots of Game Breaking Bugs. It makes you wonder if they even test their games before releasing them.
- One infamous example is in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. In the Wii port of Homestar Ruiner, if the Wii is set to widescreen mode, and if the player talks to Coach Z in Extended Play, the game will freeze.
- Wii ports of Sam & Max: Freelance Police tend to have the cursor permanently stuck in the lower right corner of the screen, among many other bugs.
- Multiple times, episodes of their more recent games would have bugs such as lag, audio suddenly dropping out, character models not loading in, and more.
- The Wolf Among Us also infamously has a bug that turns text options into "This choice is blank!".
- Optional Character Scene: Variously in their games, depending on the choices made, there are several different scenes for each character.
- 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.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: What ultimately ended up being their downfall. They made some great story based games and kept point and click adventures alive through the 2000s and 2010s. However as the years went on, they rarely changed up their formula to their games and continued to used their old graphics engine that their consumers eventually started to take notice regardless of the license they had, leading to less revenue. Not helped at all that they started employing crunch hours on the numerous games they had put on their staff, laid off a good chunk of them and ultimately started losing sponsors and in turn, money to finance their games. In the end, while they did all they could to stay afloat and even started to try to rework their style (even developing a new engine for the Stranger Things game), it was too little, too late. Their last sponsor cut ties with them and they were force to declare bankruptcy in 2018, ending a 14 year legacy. Although, with LCG Entertainment buying them out and rebranding themselves as Telltale, with their first order of business being continuing production on the much requested second season of The Wolf Among Us, there may be hope for the company once more.
- Running Gag: The drink Banang has popped up in some form or another throughout their games.
- Sadistic Choice: They love this trope. Every time theres a point-and-click game, this trope is inevitably played straight and at times, exaggerated.
- Wham Episode: They have a penchant for this, with quite possibly their best examples being Sam and Max: Season 3, Episode 5, Back to the Future: The Game Episode 3, and Tales of Monkey Island Episode 4. Their more recent games (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones (Telltale), The Wolf Among Us), tend to take this to a whole new level, with every episode being a huge Wham Episode.