Zork III: The Dungeon Master


The final installment in the original Zork Trilogy, Zork III: The Dungeon Master sees you return as the nameless Adventurer, this time to become the next Dungeon Master and rule over the Great Underground Empire. With a somewhat darker and more isolated tone than the first two games, it helps set the mood for this being the end of the trilogy.

This story once again received glowing reviews from a number of critics, just like its predecessors, despite a significant bug present in the game: having the Elvish sword in your inventory at the endgame makes it unwinnable. This flaw aside, Zork III had all the charm, wit, humor and cleverness that made the entire series a smash hit, and remains one of the most loved game series today because of it.


Once upon a time, computer games that consisted only of text were a common thing. Sometimes called text adventures and sometimes referred to as interactive fiction, these games were truly more like interactive novels. While text adventures were never my favorite genre, they did have a way of sparking your imagination like no other type of game really could.

The Zork series is probably the best known of this genre. Infocom got famous for creating a variety of “Interactive Fiction” and Zork was their flagship series. Eventually, Infocom moved on to graphical adventures and other types of games before vanishing in the mists of time but they will probably always be best known for Zork.

In Zork, you play the role of an adventurer who discovers “The Great Underground Empire”. Ultimately, your goal is to collect and return with a variety of treasures. Collecting all of the treasures will result in the highest possible score. There were sequels to Zork, including this game, Zork III: The Dungeon Master. Zork III was slightly less straightforward than the stricly treasure hunt nature of the first two games in the series as you had to prove your worthiness to become “The Dungeon Master”. However, like the previous two Zork games, Zork III was very well done. If you liked Zork I and Zork II, there’s little doubt that you would like Zork III as well.

Because Infocom’s games were built on on a custom virtual machine known as the Z-machine, Zork III, like its predecessors, was available on a huge number of platforms relative to most games. These include the PDP-10, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, CP/M, TRS-80, PC (DOS), Apple II, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Macintosh, Atari ST, NEC PC-9801, MSX, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and the TI-99/4A among others. The screenshots above will be recognizable to anyone who ever owned a Commodore 64.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to play all of Infocom’s Z-machine based text adventures, including Zork III. From what I can tell, Zork IIIlast appeared officially in 1996 on a text adventure compilation. However, in additional to emulating the various computers that Zork III is available on to play the game, you can also find Z-Machine implementations for modern platforms. If you are interested in text adventures and have never played, I highly recommend the Zork series. You might as well start with Zork I but it isn’t strictly necessary. You won’t be hindered much if you decide to start with Zork III instead.