Have you ever watched one of those teenage slasher flicks and found yourself yelling at the movie? Like when the soon to be victim runs up the stairs away from the killer instead of out the perfectly good front door into the arms of the police or other protector?
Word to the wise…Don’t watch a movie like that with me. You’ll hear me saying things that’ll make a sailor blush with shame after they make that oh so wrong decision.
But…what if after yelling directions to the TV the characters actually did what you shouted?
While this interactive story may have recently shown up in modern TV–more on that later–this option has been around in books for the longest time! So without wasting anymore time, let’s dive into my personal list of the Best Choose Your Own Adventure Books!
So, for those of you who don’t know…Ya girl is a sci-fi nut. Seriously just love it. But perhaps my favorite sub-genre of that is Steampunk. Steampunk typically revolves around a Victorian England setting that’s filled with gears, top hats, steam-powered robots, rigid airships, and other steam-powered whirlygigs.
And What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower is a Steampunk CYOA Novel! It incorporates all the essentials of a classic Steampunk tale and throws in the additions of Gnomes and Goblins. If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself inside of a Steampunk adventure, this is the absolute best book to do so.
Sci-fi’s not the only thing that I absolutely adore. Neil Patrick Harris can add his name to that list as well. He’s totes adorbs and a wonderful actor both on screen and stage. He’s a national treasure. (I promise, NPH, I don’t have a bubblegum shrine dedicated to you. Yet.)
And he’s lived a pretty unique life. So it only makes sense that his autobiography matches. It’s a revolutionary new concept that takes you through various stages of his actual life while putting you in the driver’s seat.
Ok. Before you run off and buy this book based off the title alone…I gotta be clear.
THIS BOOK IS NOT DESIGNED FOR CHILDREN!
The premise of this book is that you’re cat trying to make your way back into the loving arms of your family. Sounds friendly enough, right? But along the way, you’ll run into dark themes and shady characters including the crazy people, drugs, and more. It’s a twisted sense of fun for those who enjoy dark humor. But again, this is not family-friendly.
This is another adult-friendly, dark selection on this list. Many believe that Choose Your Own Adventure books are strictly for children. But this book puts those assumptions to bed.
In Which Cult Should I Join, the premise is to figure out psychotic cult you should join. You’ll be faced with tough choices such as should you drink the kool-aid or eat the applesauce. This book can provide you hours of wicked entertainment provided your sense of humor allows it.
Time Travel Dinosaur is pretty much an amalgamation of all that is good in this world. Time travel, dinosaurs, steampunk, astronauts… the works.
The book’s all about a time travelling dinosaur who works as part of the Time Travel Investigation Agency. And he’s trying to track down a lab coat wearing lunatic from breaking the the space-time continuum. If that doesn’t get you excited…I’m pretty sure nothing will.
Look, I’m a fan of the classics. But there’s one author I could never really get into: Shakespeare. But this book helps change that opinion.
To Be or Not To Be takes Shakespeare’s Hamlet and flips it upside down on its head. Instead of following the standard story, you can choose to be and follow several different characters. Want to be Ophelia and change the world? Go for it! Want to avenge your father’s death as Hamlet? Do so with with ruthless efficiency!
Want to play as Hamlet’s father and die on page one? Well that’s your choice. But you do get to spend the rest of your story line making decisions as a ghost.
This is the book that pretty much started it all for most of us into Choose Your Adventure Books. And it still remains a classic family-friendly favorite.
The Cave of Time was actually the very first CYOA book under Random House’s CYOA brand. Published in 1979 and written by Edward Packard, this book follows your adventures through the Cave of Time which can transport you to all sorts of eras throughout history.
If you’re brand new to these, I would recommend this to be the best choose your own adventure book to start with.
House of Danger is from Chooseco’s CYOA line and another kid-friendly selection.
In this book, you’ll be able to investigate the dark history of your town and the criminal activities of those around it. But the one thing you can’t get past is the Marsden House and the disappearance of its owner. In order to solve the case, you be encountered by criminal rings, time travel, and mutant chimpanzees!
This another book from Random House’s CYOA book series. It’s another great family friendly book geared towards 9-12 year old readers. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from a fun adventure.
Written by Jay Leibold, you’re whisked away to Kyoto, Japan where you (as a young aspiring ninja) discover an ancient Samurai sword left at the doorstep of your dojo. What path will you choose? Each decision you make will lead down its own exciting path whether it’s time travel or ninja battles.
Last, but definitely not least… One from the Master of Young Horror, R.L. Stine. Honestly, out of all the selections on this list of Best Choose Your Adventure Books, this one touches me the most. I still have very distinct memories of reading through this book over and over on the school bus every morning. As a matter of fact, I had to purchase multiple copies of it due to how much I’d flip through the pages.
The premise of the story is that you end up trapped in this super-creepy amusement park. And the only real help you find is the mysterious manager Big Al who encourages you to check out some of the most bizarre attractions. Will you make it out alive or become one of the carnival’s attractions forever? Readers beware, you’re in for a scare!
CYOA books are a super cool, unique way to get through a story with multiple pathways and endings. But when did these really come about?
As mentioned above, The Cave of Time put the genre on the map in 1979. This book was immediately popular and spawned a whole wave of CYOA books. Originally for children, the books expanded into adult markets throughout the 80s and 90s.
Although not a popular today, the genre still holds some clout among readers. But what’s even more exciting is the dive into CYOA movies! Recently, Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch–a CYOA movie based on its Twilight Zone-esque series, Black Mirror.
The movie pauses at different points allowing the watcher to make a decision to further the story. These may lead to the movie ending early or you having to go back and make a better choice. It’s a novel concept, and one I personally would love to see repeated in the future.
If you’ve never read a choose your adventure book, you may be confused on exactly how they work.
Here’s a simple breakdown of how to read one.
First, you’ll normally read through an intro without any choosing options. This sets the tone of the book and the base story line. But these intros aren’t normally too long at all. Just a few pages, and then boom. You’ll be presented with your first choice.
At the bottom of the page you’ll be offered 2 or more choices. What will the character in the book do next? Depending on what choice you make there’ll be a page number associated with it. After making your selection, turn to the appropriate page and keep reading.
This process of choosing, turning, and reading continues until you inevitably reach one of the book’s endings.
Just like any other book, there are some good ones in the genre…and some not-so-good options. I have three main criteria that help me decide whether the book is worth reading other than just story lines.
I’m not the only who really gets that throwback wave when revisiting these books. In this video, HappyConsoleGamer goes over his experiences with Choose Your Own Adventure books.
CYOA stories in print are pretty easy to fathom. And even the Bandersnatch movie can be seen as innovative. But…audiobooks? That’s kind of hard to see done. But Audible and Amazon have been able to put some together through the use of Amazon Alexa.
Just listen to your story like normal. However, when you get to the point where you need to choose, use Amazon Alexa commands to voice your decision. Alexa then relays that info so your story keeps on keeping on.
Whether you’re a traditional book or ebook reader, movie watcher, or audiobook fanatic…there are CYOA options available for you. The choice lies solely with you. Just don’t be afraid to start over again if you die horrifically in a time-traveling garbage truck accident or if you find the lost of El Dorado.