Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers review

The Good:
  • Believable
  • Interesting characters and a gripping storyline combined with great investigative game play based on true historical and religious backgrounds. One of the best adventure games ever written.
The Bad:
  • A few of the puzzles might feel out of place in the well-realized setting. Tim Curry's
Our Verdict: The high point (and swan song) of Sierra's 2-D adventure era -- a wonderful introduction to the characters and world of Gabriel Knight.


An older man watches the fire, caught somewhere between his fear and the eyes of the dark woman who holds his gaze. A tear trickles down his cheek. She burns and grimaces and looks to the heavens - and as she does so she changes. Her features warp, twisting into an animalistic parody -- and then settle into those of a leopard.


He gasps as the snake coils about his neck, tightening, becoming the dark brown of a noose caught in the rain, the breeze. The rictus of his mouth glistens in the lightening.

Images -- a knife, a medallion, blood.

And Gabriel Knight awakens with a scream...


So begins Sins of the Fathers -- the first chapter in the Gabriel Knight series. Gabriel is a struggling author who has been trying to write his latest novel for weeks, to little avail. And now his strange nightmares are getting steadily worse.

The game follows his slow discovery of his family's history as he investigates what the police are calling the Voodoo Murders in his own backyard, New Orleans. Starting as a simple attempt to find a little atmosphere for his book, he uncovers a world he never knew existed, where the battle between good and evil takes on very real dimensions.

Gabriel works along side his assistant, Grace Nakimura, who runs the rare book shop he owns in the French Quarter. Grace's part in the first episode is minimal. Rather than being a playable character, she acts as a resource for Gabriel, performing research whenever she's asked. Together with Gabe's childhood friend, Detective Mosley, they learn of the secrets buried in Gabriel's family history and face the evils that have grown to fruition in the rich soil of New Orleans.

Sins is one of the many 2-D games Sierra produced, and the company's long and excellent history in the genre is evident. The hand drawn backgrounds and characters might seem a bit pixilated against the rendering technology of today, but they've lost none of their charm. Of particular interest is the use of a "comic book" style for several of the game's climactic scenes -- single, still panels appearing layered over one another.

The sound is very well done -- although implemented only in MIDI or SoundBlaster format. Leitmotifs appear in the music; there's a definite "Gabriel theme" that's established in the opening, and variations of it appear throughout the game, and indeed, the rest of the series.

The interface is a more detailed, complex version of the point-and-click functionality that appeared in King's Quests V and VI. Instead of a simple 'use' command, players must choose among 'push', 'operate', and 'take'. There are even two different operations for communicating with characters -- talk and interrogate. This finely-tuned interface allows users to be more precise in their actions.

The game was originally released in two formats -- disk and CD, each containing both the DOS Windows versions. The CD version had the added bonus of a full audio track, including voiceovers for all of the characters -- including the narrator. The voices are all done by Hollywood talent -- including Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn, and Leah Remini. While some of them (Remini as Grace, particularly) work wonderfully, Curry's attempt at a Gabriel's New Orleans drawl is so overdone as to sometimes be grating, especially when put against the more authentic accent of the game's female narrator.

That being said, Sins of the Fathers is one of the best adventure games ever written. The mysterious premise is the perfect hook to pull the players into the supernatural world of Voodoo-haunted New Orleans. The player follows Gabriel step-by-step as he interrogates witnesses, finds clues, and slowly pieces the puzzle together.

The game is broken up into a set of ten days over which the story is told. Each day opens with a cinematic of the sun rising over the French Quarter along with a rhymed couplet -- a small part of a poem that is revealed in the course of the game. Each opening continues as Gabriel wakes up, grabs a cup of coffee and talks about his current situation with Grace. Between the couplets and the conversations, the player is given a clear set of goals to accomplish before the next day can continue, though the required actions to complete some days are not as logical as they could be (I'm thinking particularly of the ones revolving around what the poem refers to as "Bacchus' abode").

Conversation is a big part of the game play and is done through a rather elegant menu system. On either side, close-ups of Gabriel and his subject appear -- these look particularly good under VESA hi-res graphics option. The menu is a conceptual inventory -- a list of ideas and subjects that Gabriel has come across in his investigations. Clicking on one will cause Gabriel to ask a question pertinent to the situation at hand. Sometimes, the questions will lead to sub-menus of further lines of inquiry. Adding to the sense of atmosphere, all of the audio is lip-synched with the character close-ups.

Along with the interrogate tool, Gabriel also has the ability to simply chit-chat with people. This, combined with a fully-realized set of questions for each character about themselves, fleshes out the characters wonderfully. I spent much of opening of the game simply looking around the shop and asking Grace about herself and her background. The game includes a virtual tape recorder which Gabriel uses during his investigations. Using it, the player can replay any past conversation he's had -- which can be very useful in piecing together what's already been learned.

The puzzles are almost universally logical and well-implemented. One or two, while still straightforward, are less well-integrated, and are only noticeable because the rest of the game world is so well crafted. However, most of the puzzles are wonderful examples of their craft -- conundrums which force the player to utilize several sources of information and not a little intuition to complete. One particularly memorable one involves the decoding of a secret Voodoo language, and the creation of a new message towards a particular end.

The depth of the background material the game is based on is amazing as well. The history of New Orleans, the slave trade in the West Indies and the United States, the Haitian slave rebellion, Voodoun and African tribal religions all figure into the story of Sins of the Fathers.

Gabriel Knight 1 is an old game, and getting it to run on a modern operating system can be difficult. After trying several solutions (including running the game in DOSBox), I found two possible ways of playing the game in Windows XP. The Windows version will execute, if run in Compatibility Mode, but it's prone to crashes and the only way to save successfully is while the game is displaying the travel map of New Orleans (even after applying the latest patch). Running the game's DOS mode using VDMSound was much more successful, but unfortunately, the character voices would not work.

However, regardless of any technical difficulties you may face, and any slight annoyances in the implementation, I wholeheartedly recommend Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. It's a powerful, intriguing piece of work, and while not for children, it will most certainly appeal to anyone mature enough to handle its subject matter.

Affiliate Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is available at:

Affiliate Links

What our readers think of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Readers rating


4.5 stars out of 5
Average based on 60 ratings
Your rating
Log in or Register to post ratings.

Posted by Kelop on Jun 5, 2014

Excels at suspense story and puzzles

It's a very good game that still upholds its quality. This opinion is free of any sentiment or nostalgic influence since now, over 20 years after the game has been released I've played it for the first time. My initial thought: very pixelated and... Read the review »

Posted by MrChapeau on Mar 25, 2014

Dripping atmosphere

Make no mistake -- this game is wonderful. The characters are beautifully written and very believable. I like them and want to know them in real life. The star of the show is the story and setting. I've rarely been more enveloped in a mystery.... Read the review »

Posted by fauryn on Oct 20, 2013

Great Adventure

The Good: A very good adventure, one of the best I have ever played. The story is about Gabriel Knight, a young writer and owner of a bookshop, who is going to write a book about some mysterious murders just happened in New Orleans. They seems... Read the review »


Adventure games by Sierra On-Line

Gabriel Knight (Series)

Gabriel Knight (Series) 1999

Welcome to the remote French village of Rennes-le-Chateau. Gabriel and Grace arrive in this town in pursuit of a kidnapped child, but a deeper, far more frightening story begins to unfold. Whispers of a sacred bloodline, vampires, and a boundless treasure set the shadow hunter and his companion on

» View all games in this series
Quest for Glory (Series)

Quest for Glory (Series) 1998

The Council of Silmaria has set before you the seven deadly Rites of Rulership. If you succeed, you’ll save the kingdom and win the right to rule as king.

» View all games in this series
Shivers (Series)

Shivers (Series) 1997

I’m convinced that someone or some thing is after me. I’ll see a movement in the shadows, or feel a breath on my neck. But then it’s gone. Whatever it is, it’s lurking near – waiting for me. I’ve uncovered another piece to this puzzle, but am reluctant to writ

» View all games in this series
Phantasmagoria (Series)
PC, Mac

Phantasmagoria (Series) 1996

Curtis Craig is a quiet young man. He has a steady job and a lovely girlfriend. He’s been out of the mental hospital for exactly one year. All Curtis wants is to live a normal happy life, but something seems to have other plans. Strange events, inexplicable and terrifying, begin happening

» View all games in this series
Leisure Suit Larry (Series)

Leisure Suit Larry (Series) 1996

Will Larry hit bottom? Or dock his little dinghy? Drop a world-class lounge lizard onto a cruise ship filled with gorgeous women and what do you get? Side-splitting slapstick? A bawdy bevy of beauties? The Lust Boat?

» View all games in this series

Lighthouse: The Dark Being  1996

Pass through a shimmering portal into a world teeming with invention, discovery... and evil. An exotic parallel universe is terrorized by a dark being. Alien technology, unearthly treachery, and brain-twisting dangers skulk around every craggy cleft and corner. You are summoned on a rescue missio...

Space Quest (Series)
PC, Mac

Space Quest (Series) 1995

Fight grime and battle evil adversaries with Roger as he joins farces with video games, TV and sci-fi movies, past and present – in his wildest adventure ever. Brimming with slapstick comedy and parody, explore almost 100 3D rendered scenes – from the inner mind to the outer limits.

» View all games in this series

Torin’s Passage  1995

I thought I had silenced them all. Curse the quick thinking of the Arch Authority, snatching the child away before his doom was sealed. Had the lad been with the rest, surely my suffering would have ceased years ago. At last I have found him, but in a world of isolation and innocence. He has no ...

King’s Quest (Series)
PC, Mac

King’s Quest (Series) 1994

Princess Rosella is swept off to the lands of Eldritch by a magical whirlpool, after which her mother, Queen Valanice, jumps in to rescue her wayward daughter.

» View all games in this series
Sierra Discovery Series (Series)

Sierra Discovery Series (Series) 1993

Lost Secret of the Rainforest is a trek through lush jungles, mysterious caverns, and ancient ruins atop craccy, mist-covered peaks, requiring you to defeat real-life dangers threatening the rainforests of South America. As you explore this exotic ecosystem, you will encounter endangered animal spe

» View all games in this series
Police Quest (Series)

Police Quest (Series) 1993

Someone’s on a killing spree, and it’s up to you to solve a string of seemingly random murders. Some clues may bring you closer to the killer. Some lead down blind alleys. You must find the killer before he strikes again. Play it by the book and you might just stay alive. Make a mis

» View all games in this series

Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist  1993

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear… when men were men, women were women, and sheep were scared! The year is 1888; the setting, post-Gold Rush California. As Freddy Pharkas, you uncover a treacherous plot to turn your once-thriving metropolis into a ghost town. With pe...

The Dagger Of Amon Ra (A Laura Bow Mystery)  1993

Laura Bow, intrepid heroine of The Colonel’s Bequest, is back! This time she’s trapped in a huge, imposing museum in the dead of night, surrounded by socialites, miscreants, thieves… and a cold, relentless murderer. What is the ancient secret of The Dagger of Amon Ra, and who is...

Pepper’s Adventures in Time  1993

Ride the wild time machine into American history with Pepper’s Adventures in Time!

Mixed-Up (Series)

Mixed-Up (Series) 1991

The mischievous Bookend has mixed up the pieces of five of the world’s most famous fairy tales. “Can you help me put them together again?” the friendly Bookwyrm asks, and your child is off on an exciting learning adventure. Miniquests feature five different fairy tales:

» View all games in this series
Conquests (Series)

Conquests (Series) 1991

The gauntlet has been dropped. The most intriguing and enduring outlaw of all time comes to life in Sierra's richest, most complex game yet. To survive, you must use compassion as well as wits and cunning.

» View all games in this series

Codename: ICEMAN  1989

Oil shortages, international politics and radical terrorists form the backdrop for a powerful story of world crisis, superpower conflict and high tech escapades. The scenario: a kidnapped U.S. ambassador and the only man who can save him - Codename: Iceman... Pilot a nuclear submarine across the se...

Laura Bow mysteries (Series)

Laura Bow mysteries (Series) 1989

It is the year 1925, and the roaring '20s are well underway. As Laura Bow, young college student, you've been invited to visit Colonel Dijon's isolated estate to watch as he announces his intention to bequeath his millions to all present! Immediately, you sense greed and suspicion among the Colonel'

» View all games in this series
Gold Rush! (Series)
PC, Mac

Gold Rush! (Series) 1988

The gold rush is on! Sell your land, pack your bags, and grab the next ride out, because fortune lies just 2,500 miles away.

» View all games in this series

The Black Cauldron  1986

Find the Black Cauldron and defeat the forces of the wicked Horned King by destroying the cauldron’s magical powers, removing it forever as a threat to humankind. But beware! The closer you get to it, the more precarious your position will be. Eventually you will have to face the Horned Ki...

» Full game details

The Dark Crystal  1983

In a faraway world, an event of cosmic importance is about to occur: a Great Conjunction of the planet’s Three Suns. A thousand years ago, when the Suns last came together, a cruel and selfish tribe known as the Skeksis seized control of the radiant Crystal that once brought harmony to all...

» Full game details