Choose Your Own Adventure

Embarking on Exciting Interactive Adventures with Choose Your Own Adventure


The Choose Your Own Adventure book series has been delighting readers young and old for over 40 years with its innovative branching narrative format that allows readers to determine the course of the story. As one of the most popular children’s series of all time, with over 265 million copies sold, Choose Your Own Adventure paved the way for other gamebooks and interactive fiction. Let’s dive into why this pioneering series remains so engaging and influential decades after its original publication.

You can find Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK. Here we propose one of our favorite collection, the Ninja Box.

Getting Hooked on Gamebooks

The series launched in 1979 when author Edward Packard told bedtime stories to his two daughters, giving them periodic choices that would change the tale’s direction. Realizing that other kids would probably enjoy this participatory storytelling style too, he approached a publisher and the first Choose Your Own Adventure book – The Cave of Time – was born.

The premise was simple but captivating – you were the protagonist and had to make difficult choices to shape the outcome of your journey. Every few pages, the reader would be presented with a situation and at least two options labeled “If you choose this, turn to page…” leading to different branches and conclusions. The second-person perspective put young readers directly in the shoes of the main character to experience the consequences of their decisions firsthand.

This engaging gamebook format was a hit among kids who loved having control over the stories. The choose-your-own style also lent itself perfectly to exciting plot lines involving mystery, danger, and adventure. As the series took off in the 1980s and 1990s, it expanded into diverse settings from fantasy lands to space voyages, but retained the interactive, immersive spirit.

Charting Your Own Course Through Compelling Dilemmas

A major reason why the Choose Your Own Adventure series stands the test of time is due to the thought-provoking dilemmas it presents. At key junctures, the reader must evaluate risky choices that promise great reward but could also lead to failure or even death! The tension heightens as you realize a seemingly minor early decision could steer you towards triumph or tragedy.

For example, in The Abominable Snowman by R.A. Montgomery, one early fork poses:

If you decide to take the shorter route to the monastery, turn to page 28.
If you choose the safer path that curves around the mountain, turn to page 43.

The former seems more alluring as a shortcut, but also winds past steep ravines and cliffs. Here the reader must weigh caution against possible time savings, not knowing what awaits further ahead. Such meaningful decisions pique our curiosity about divergent outcomes.

The series often plunges protagonists into pulse-pounding scenarios like escaping a secret government facility, surviving a tsunami, or exploring a junglemine. Flipping between passages heightens the suspense as one weighs choices with extreme consequences. Will confronting villains lead to combat or diplomacy? Is a door a gateway to treasure or a trap? The uncertainty keeps all possibilities in flux, encouraging thoughtful reflection.

Blazing Trails in Interactive Fiction

Beyond gripping plots, the Choose Your Own Adventure series pioneered game mechanics in literature that inspired innovations across mediums. The branch-based passages function much like hypertext links that have become integral to digital media. Meanwhile its use of second-person narration and direct addressing of the audience has become more commonplace.

Many credit Choose Your Own Adventure with laying foundations for contemporary video games, especially roleplaying adventures with branching side quests and far-ranging conclusions based on player agency. The series demonstrated how giving audiences more autonomy could boost engagement. Developers have built upon these concepts of nonlinear storytelling, experimenting with emergent gameplay elements and sandboxes.

Choose Your Own Adventure also ushered in a wave of similar gamebooks like Fighting Fantasy, Endless Quest, and Lone Wolf while launching the prolific CYOA book brand we still enjoy today. Their design blueprints have also influenced various analog and digital successors like augmented reality novels, visual novels that blend graphics and text, as well as interactive films. It’s hard to imagine many seminal works like Bandersnatch without these pioneers paving the conceptual groundwork.

Choosing Your Destiny Across Creative Mediums

Beyond novels, the signature Choose Your Own Adventure framework has been adapted into numerous mediums as well, from themed 90s PC games to audio books to theater performances where audiences vote to steer the production. Translating the branching stories into these interactive formats demonstrates the flexibility of its core mechanics.

More recently, the nostalgic series has undergone a major modern revival through new editions as well as thematic successor series like Choose Your Destiny and Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies. These refresh the brand for contemporary audiences while retaining familiar choose-your-own hooks.

Netflix also partnered with Chooseco, the series’ publisher, to produce an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure-style movie for adults titled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch in 2018. Viewers could make decisions for the main character using their remote control, leading to diverging scenes and conclusions. This brought the beloved format full circle, adapting it for streaming while paying homage to the original book series that started it all.

Why Choose Your Own Adventure Still Captivates Readers

So what has made the Choose Your Own Adventure series not just endure but evolve with the times? Beyond its compelling literary branches, I believe its customizability and replayability are key. The ability to chart unique paths by revisiting critical moments taps into our curiosity about how various choices and contingencies can alter outcomes.

The series empowers readers to forge their own self-directed journey instead of following a predetermined rails. This amplifies our agency and engagement – outcomes feel more meaningful when we stake claims over them through consequential actions. And should the conclusion leave you unsatisfied, you can always retry crucial decisions and explore an alternative narrative branch instead.

By inviting participation in unfolding the narrative, Choose Your Own Adventure books invested young readers in imaginative worlds where their choices shaped destinies. That feeling of influence through interactive mechanics endures as a compelling facet across many contemporary media today, from video games to virtual reality.

So revisit these classics to experience where modern sandbox storytelling began or discover the series for the first time to chart your own adventure! Just be prepared to face some tough choices with far-reaching consequences only you can determine based on the path you ultimately choose.

If You Liked This Series, Check Out These Similar Recommendations:

  1. The Magic Labyrinth by Phillip Woods – This interactive fantasy novel has multiple storylines and endings for readers to explore. With dangerous monsters, magical objects, and high stakes, it recaptures the peril and excitement of Choose Your Own Adventure.
  2. The Cave of Time by Edward Packard – From the original CYOA author comes this time travel adventure where readers visit dinosaur times, medieval castles, Egypt, and more based on their choices. It’s fast-paced, educational fun.
  3. Escape from the Haunted Warehouse by Kate Messner – A scary setting with lots of danger and several possible endings to experience. Fans of creepy CYOA books will enjoy the thrills and chills.
  4. The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene – This Nancy Drew interactive mystery lets readers help solve a disappearance at a ranch. There are coded messages, a treasure hunt, and a satisfying conclusion.
  5. Underground Kingdom by Edward Packard – In this fantasy CYOA, readers explore an underground world of talking animals and strange creatures while trying to make their way back home. Suspense and surprises await.
  6. Race Forever by R.A. Montgomery – Choose the next move in this epic sci-fi adventure spanning many planets and timelines. Help defeat an evil empire spanning centuries with intrepid decisions.
  7. House of Danger by R.A. Montgomery – Readers get drawn into a mystery with a diverse cast of characters including detectives, spies, and scientists. Lots of logical thinking is required to succeed.
  8. Journey Under the Sea by R. A. Montgomery – Undersea worlds and adventure awaits in this imaginative CYOA with magical moonstones, ancient sea creatures, and sunken ships to explore.
  9. Space and Beyond by R.A. Montgomery – Blast off into space and chart a course through black holes, dense asteroid belts, and eerie space anomalies in this cosmic sci-fi thriller.
  10. Time Machine by Edward Packard – One of the classics of the genre, follow the choices through time from the age of dinosaurs to the distant future. History and science abound for education and excitement.


What is the Choose Your Own Adventure book series?

The Choose Your Own Adventure book series revolutionized children’s literature when it debuted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These interactive books allow the reader to make choices at key plot points that determine the story’s outcome. Readers can explore dozens of different storylines in a single book, providing seemingly endless hours of entertainment. Originally published by Bantam Books, the series now contains over 250 titles and has sold over 265 million copies worldwide.

Who actually created the first Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook?

The Choose Your Own Adventure series was created by author Edward Packard in 1969. As a writer and editor for Vermont Crossroads Press, Packard expanded on an idea he had to let children determine the storyline as they read along. He approached Raymond Montgomery, founder of Vermont Crossroads Press, who loved the idea. Packard’s first book in the series, Sugarcane Island, was published in 1976. It was an instant hit, leading Bantam Books to acquire the series from Vermont Crossroads Press and propel it to worldwide popularity throughout the 1980s and beyond.

What is the reading level of Choose Your Own Adventure books?

The Choose Your Own Adventure books are generally written for readers ages 8 to 14, so they have vocabulary and plots suitable for a middle grade reading level. The series helped many children transition from early readers to young adult novels. Despite the simplicity of the prose, the interactive format keeps readers engaged as they navigate through complex storylines and use critical thinking skills to evaluate outcomes of the choices presented. The books simultaneously build confidence and challenge young readers.

There are several reasons why Choose Your Own Adventure books resonated with young readers when they debuted. First, the interactive format was innovative—nothing else like it existed at the time. Readers felt empowered being able to control story outcomes. The books also tapped into kids’ sense of imagination and adventure. With genre-spanning tales full of excitement, the books were fun to read over and over again while discovering new endings. And short chapters with frequent cliffhangers kept readers hooked and thrilled to turn every page.

What impacts did the series have on literature?

The Choose Your Own Adventure series had profound impacts on children’s literature. It pioneered the idea of interactive nonlinear storytelling and second-person point-of-view narration, establishing key conventions in gamebooks. These innovations inspired countless authors to create their own interactive tales across genres. The series also helped legitimize children’s literature by showing that books for kids could achieve commercial blockbuster status. Its commercial success in the 1980s proved the marketability of children’s series.

With over 250 titles published, there were many beloved Choose Your Own Adventure books over the decades. Some of the most popular included The Cave of Time, Your Code Name is Jonah, Lost on the Amazon, Space and Beyond, and Journey Under the Sea. Books based on action/adventure themes generally resonated strongly with young boys. Forbidden Castle and House of Danger were also fan favorites. Newer titles that continue to captivate today’s youth include Mayday! and River Rafting.

Did the content in Choose Your Own Adventure books ever spark controversy?

While mostly harmless interactive fun, some Choose Your Own Adventure titles did contain controversial content for their time. The Cave of Time was banned in many schools and libraries in the 1980s due to a storyline involving witchcraft. Other entries had storylines with violence or death as potential conclusions, frightening some adults. This led Bantam Books to cease publishing the series in 2000. However, nostalgic adults who grew up reading the series revived interest, prompting Chooseco to relaunch many classic titles along with new books as well.

How have Choose Your Own Adventure books evolved over time?

While the interactive second-person choose-your-own-adventure format has stayed the same, many aspects of the books have modernized with the times. Storylines, settings, characters, and topics have become more diverse and inclusive. Taboo or frightening content has been reduced to suit today’s cultural sensibilities. The Choose Your Own Adventure brand has also expanded beyond books to release interactive apps, virtual reality games, playing cards, and more. Authors can now collaborate online and use analytics to improve storytelling. But that sense of boundless adventure for every reader remains unchanged.

Are the old Choose Your Own Adventure books still available today?

Yes, many of the original Choose Your Own Adventure titles from the peak of the series’ popularity can still be purchased today. Bantam Books released numerous titles from 1979 to 1998 which frequently reappear across online stores and booksellers. Chooseco owns the book series and continues to publish both the original books as well as new additions. Collectors may be interested in hard-to-find early editions with the iconic blue spine covers. Whether nostalgic adults seeking books from their childhood or parents introducing the series to their own kids, the classics that started it all remain available to adventure-seekers today.

Is there anything in store for this series?

As today’s youth become more technologically sophisticated, the creators of Choose Your Own Adventure are working to innovate the book format to match modern interests. The company Chooseco publishes updated versions of beloved classics along with new entries annually. Allowing online collaboration, the brand also experiments with interactive storytelling methods not possible in the 20th century. They are releasing customized adventures centered around the reader and expanding into smartphone apps and virtual reality. So while the essence of interactive choose-your-own tales persists, the execution continues modernizing. By straddling digital media and print books, the future looks bright for this beloved series pioneering a new era of interactive fiction.

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