Blade Runner (Virgin Interactive Entertainment, 1997)
An early use of real-time 3D-rendered characters in an adventure game, this side-story to the classic film follows another Blade Runner's attempt to hunt down some rogue replicants. The winding story has 13 possible endings, and some of the film's cast (Sean Young, Brion James, William Sanderson) make cameo appearances.
Ripper (Take Two, 1996)
A classic example of much-derided FMV genre (using b-movie-style video clips intercut with the game), following a hunt for a modern-day Jack the Ripper. Spread across 6 CDs, the game featured on-camera turns from an embarrassed-looking Christopher Walken, along with Karen Allen, Burgess Meredith, John Rhys-Davis, Ossie Davis, and even Jimmy "J.J." Walker (plus a very early appearance by Paul Giamatti).
Grim Fandango (LucasArts, 1998)
An overwhelming favorite of adventure game fans, this point-and-click game from LucasArts is a film-noir-style take on the afterlife, with both characters (including protagonist Manuel "Manny" Calavera) and settings taking design cues from Mexican Day of the Dead folk art. Lead designer Tim Schafer has become an industry legend, and is currently working on the heavy metal parody game "Brütal Legend."
Phantasmagoria (Sierra, 1995)
This creepy, atmospheric tale was one of the first games to use digitized actors, and while it looks dated now, we recall the satanic cult plot as being pretty sophisticated for games of the time. It was also one of the first games aimed at mature audiences, with suggestive sexual themes and some very R-rated blood and gore.
The Gabriel Knight series (Sierra, 1993-1999)
A well-reviewed series of mystery adventure games (two of which featured the voice of Tim Curry as New Orleans sleuth Gabriel Knight) with an X-Files vibe. Chasing werewolves and vampires around the globe, Knight delivers witty (for a game) dialog and also works in a lot of edutainment-worthy real-life history about the places he visits. An interesting note: 1999's "Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned" essentially covers much of the same theological ground as "The Da Vinci Code" (while adding vampires).