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File:Shadowgate title.gif

Abandon all your free time, ye who enter.

Shadowgate is an adventure game originally for the Apple Macintosh, and ported to many other systems, such as Windows, Amiga, Game Boy Color, and perhaps most famously the NES.

Famous among adventure games for its innovative and groundbreaking story. Just kidding. The story is just a typical story of a hero venturing into the lair of the Big Bad to take him out and save the world. So what? The real stars of the game are how many deaths are possible, and the diversity and size of the castle itself. It's hard to say the exact percentage, but there are actually a few YouTube videos of all the possible deaths.

Your torch runs out, you die. Move forward when a monster is still standing, you die. Teleport inaccurately, you die. Use a weapon on yourself, you die. Reach for the wrong item, you die. Open the wrong door, you die. Etc. Etc.

Yet, for some, that is half the fun of the game. For others, it's the still challenging puzzle solving, since this game has a time limit, which is relatively uncommon now.

Also has a fantastic soundtrack (the NES and Game Boy Colour versions, that is).

It got a couple of sequels, Beyond Shadowgate for the Turbo CD and Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers for the Nintendo 64.

A remake was funded through Kickstarter in 2012 and released in 2014.

Compare Uninvited and Deja Vu, both by the same developer.

Tropes used in Shadowgate include:
  • Armor Is Useless: The game and instruction manual gives a few references to your hero's armor... and you can get a spiffy new helmet, shield, and gauntlets from the castle. But everything still kills you. You should have been a purple-underwear-clad nudie like Ace Harding in the beginning of Deja Vu II.
  • Ascended Extra: Lakmir plays a much greater role in Shadowgate 64 than he did in the original title.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The "Hit" command shows a screen-filling, dramatic "POW!"... but it is worthless worthless worthless except for two occasions (entering the arrow room, and accessing the gem bag). Use it on almost any enemy and you are MEATSAUCE. Even the sword is only useful on one enemy, and he has to already be unconscious for it to work.
  • Booby Trap: Numerous, such as for instance floors that open up, a mirror that leads to outer space, and what not.
  • Chained to a Wall: The chained woman in the original who's really a werewolf and will handily kill the player if freed.
  • Darkness Equals Death: You have two torches. You have to keep at least one of them lit, or else you'll stumble around in darkness until you die.
  • Emphasize Everything: The NES version has all text in ALLCAPS, and some sentences (particularly involving surprises or deaths) end with TWO EXCLAMATION POINTS!! The drama! The drama!
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: At the end, you are offered her hand as part of the standard reward.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: And how!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • At the time this game came out, Nintendo was pretty tight on the censorship, yet the word "Hell" appears in at least four instances of gameplay. Most of the deaths are intact as well and describe some pretty gory scenes, albeit only in text.
    • The Game Boy Color version (which was a minor remake of the NES version, but with enhanced graphics and extra language options) received an "E for everyone" rating, which means the game managed this twice.
  • Guide Dang It: Unless you are using a guide or have a buddy along to guide you, trying to complete the games without knowing what specific item goes on what specific spot/enemy will drive you nuts.
  • Have a Nice Death: The descriptions are varied, and can get fairly graphic.
  • Heroic Mime: Inverted. The hero actually seems to be perfectly capable of speech; it just so happens that no-one in Castle Shadowgate can actually understand what you're saying. Weirdly, this includes the sphinx (who speaks to you during the course of the game) and the Big Bad. The only person that can understand you is the troll, and even then he just says that he doesn't feel like speaking, and tells you to get lost.
  • Hint System: The most useless one in adventure gaming. When you get to the point where you'd really need it, all it does is tell you some variation on, "Don't give up!"
  • Hollywood Torches: Horrifyingly averted.
  • Interface Screw: Three instances in Shadowgate 64. A room in the Tower of Trials (filled with spinning blades) alters your directional movement. Wearing the Blue Ring also alters them in the same way. Finally, drinking either the Liquid Sunset or the Night Elixir makes your vision swagger around as if you're drunk for a while.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Someone would have to make a video game of Tomb of Horrors to make a more dangerous place.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Either this game's greatest strength or its greatest weakness, depending on who you ask. Unless you happen to know just the right sequence of events, you're going to die. A lot. It leads to a Try Everything Pixel Hunt some of the time.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle:
    • How was I supposed to know that the replica of a shooting star would turn into a real shooting star when I threw it, or that it was the only way to kill the wyvern?!
    • So what's the "special" torch for? Killing a wraith. Wait, what?
    • Well, you obviously need that cloak for heat protection.
    • The hellhound's only weakness? A vial of water. Not holy water, just water (at least there is no indication until you throw it). Must suffer from Wicked Witch syndrome.
      • It is indicated somewhat: examining the vial reveals that there's a cross printed on it.
  • Nintendo Hard: Good luck beating the game without at least a hintbook. The remake adds a few Myst-style puzzles on top of that.
  • No OSHA Compliance: There are more than a few things in the game that will collapse if you try to walk on them or climb them.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The princess is wearing one at the end, in the versions she appears.
  • Press X to Die: Using your SOCKO power — er, the "Hit" command — on nearly any enemy will get YOU killed.
  • Red Herring: All over the place.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: One room has a Sphinx, and the player must answer his riddle by showing him the item that it describes (surprisingly enough, you don't die if you answer incorrectly; instead, you just get transported to another room).
  • Schmuck Bait: No shortage of this. Word to the wise: EXAMINE things before you take/use/etc. them.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The "Epor" spell.
  • Sequel Hook: "The first story's end." Fortunately, there were sequels.
  • Sequence Breaking: If you go into the room of flames, you get sent back to the previous room. You're expected to go find the cloak to protect you from the heat. However, if you kill yourself after being sent back, the game respawns you in the last room you where in; the flaming room, allowing you to bypass the cloak altogether.
  • Shout-Out: As the Macventure games on the NES and GBC gained accompanying music when you play the flute it actually plays a portion of the Joe's Bar NES music from Déjà Vu.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: In the NES version, a creepy tone plays when you have one torch remaining and it's close to being snuffed out.
  • Standard Hero Reward: "You are bestowed a kingdom to rule, and the king's fair daughter's hand!!"
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The game tells you what must be done in the form of your typical rhyming prophecy, the last two lines of which are "Joining two, the Golden Blade/The last to invoke, the Platinum Horn". There is no obvious reason this was done except to break the rhyme, as the item referred to is indeed called the Golden Thorn.
  • Timed Mission: The limited amount of torches. Also, in the PC version, taking too long anyway will allow the Warlock Lord to summon the Behemoth, and you lose no matter where you are at that point.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The main protagonist, depending on how you play the game.
  • Trial and Error Gameplay: Loads of it.
    • One room is a hall of mirrors, and you have to guess which mirror to smash to continue. Smash the wrong one, and you get sucked out into space, or the broken glass kills you.
  • Troll Bridge: A troll who wants a toll. Or he'll kill you. Of course, this being Shadowgate, he'll kill you even if he gets it. Possibly justified in the first time you see him you don't have gold, and can only get by him by hitting him with a spear. The second time, you do have gold, but he's probably pretty sore about you hitting him with a spear.
  • Unwinnable by Design: In the original (not remake) PC version, each spell can be used only once (unlike the console version and PC remake, where you can use a spell multiple times), and using the wrong spell at the wrong time can make the game unwinnable.
  • Unwinnable By Mistake: After defeating the Bridge Troll for the first time and making it a significant amount further, don't backtrack to the other side again before you learn the "Humana" spell, or you'll never be able to cross the bridge again once the troll has climbed back up.
  • Violation of Common Sense: You can USE the sword or the spear on yourself... Which results in the hero killing himself. Goodness knows why you would want to do that, but you can do it.
  • With This Herring: You enter Castle Shadowgate with merely a torch and worthless armor.


It is a sad thing that your adventures have ended here!