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Monkey Island

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Monkey Island
The original series logo
Developer(s)LucasArts (1990–2010)
Telltale Games (2009)
Terrible Toybox (2022)
Publisher(s)LucasArts (1990–2010)
Devolver Digital (2022)
Creator(s)Ron Gilbert
Platform(s)Atari ST, Amiga, DOS, Windows, Classic Mac OS, macOS, Mega-CD, PlayStation 2, XBLA, WiiWare, PSN, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Android
First releaseThe Secret of Monkey Island
Latest releaseReturn to Monkey Island
19 September 2022

Monkey Island is a series of adventure games. The first four games were produced and published by LucasArts, earlier known as Lucasfilm Games. The fifth was developed by Telltale Games with LucasArts, while the sixth was developed by Terrible Toybox with Lucasfilm Games and Devolver Digital.

The games follow the adventures of the hapless Guybrush Threepwood as he struggles to become the most notorious pirate in the Caribbean, defeat the plans of the evil undead pirate LeChuck and win the heart of Governor Elaine Marley. The plots often involve the mysterious Monkey Island and its secrets.

Monkey Island was created by Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman. Gilbert worked on the first two games before leaving LucasArts. Grossman and Schafer had success on other games before they both left LucasArts. The rights to Monkey Island remained with LucasArts, and the third and fourth games were created without direct involvement from the original writing staff. Grossman was the project leader of the fifth game in the series and Gilbert was involved with the first design of the game. Gilbert's studio developed the sixth game, Return to Monkey Island (2022), with Grossman assisting.


Ron Gilbert's two main inspirations for the story were Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride and Tim Powers' book On Stranger Tides.[1] The book was the inspiration for the story and characters, while the ride was the inspiration for the ambiance. Gilbert said in an interview that "[the POTC Ride] keeps you moving through the adventure but I've always wished I could get off and wander around, learn more about the characters, and find a way onto those pirate ships. So with The Secret of Monkey Island I wanted to create a game that had the same flavor, but where you could step off the boat and enter that whole storybook world".[2]



Release timeline
1990The Secret of Monkey Island
1991Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
1997The Curse of Monkey Island
2000Escape from Monkey Island
2009Tales of Monkey Island
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
2010Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: Special Edition
2022Return to Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island[edit]

The series debuted in 1990 with The Secret of Monkey Island on the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST and Macintosh platforms; the game was later ported to FM Towns and Mega-CD (1993). A remake version with updated graphics and new voiceovers was released for PlayStation Network, PC Windows, Xbox Live Arcade[3] and OS X. An iPhone version was also released on July 23, 2009.

The game starts off with the main character Guybrush Threepwood stating "I want to be a pirate!" To do so, he must prove himself to three old pirate captains. During the perilous pirate trials, he meets the beautiful governor Elaine Marley, with whom he falls in love, unaware that the ghost pirate LeChuck also has his eyes on her. When Elaine is kidnapped, Guybrush procures crew and ship to track LeChuck down, defeat him and rescue his love.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge[edit]

The second game, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge from 1991, was available for fewer platforms; it was only released for PC MS-DOS, Amiga, Macintosh, and later for FM Towns. A Special Edition version, in a similar style as The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, was released in July 2010 for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

As Guybrush, with a treasure chest in hand, and Elaine hang onto ropes in a void, he tells her the story of the game. He has decided to find the greatest of all treasures, that of Big Whoop. Unwittingly he helps revive LeChuck, who is now in zombie form. Guybrush is eventually captured by his nemesis, but escapes with help from Wally and finds the treasure only to find himself dangling from a rope, as depicted at the beginning of the game. As Guybrush concludes his story, his rope breaks and he finds himself facing LeChuck, whom he finally defeats using voodoo. The surrealistic ending is open to a number of interpretations. In the manual of The Curse of Monkey Island, it is stated that Guybrush falls victim to a hex implemented by LeChuck.

The Curse of Monkey Island[edit]

The Curse of Monkey Island, the third in the series, was released exclusively for Microsoft Windows on PC in 1997, after a 6-year hiatus. The Curse of Monkey Island was released at the height of some of the biggest technological advancements in the gaming industry—digital audio, CD-ROM technology, and improved graphics.

Monkey Island I and II were originally released on floppy disks with text dialogue only. Entire conversations between characters would appear as written text, or as captions above their heads. The visuals of the third installment were also an improvement over the original game, using a more modern cel animation style. The Curse of Monkey Island is the only game in the series to feature this style of animation; subsequent games used three-dimensional polygon animation.

Threepwood, unwittingly, turns Elaine into a gold statue with a cursed ring, and she is subsequently stolen by pirates. He tracks her down before searching for another ring that can lift the curse. LeChuck appears in a fiery demon form, and is hot on Threepwood’s heels until a stand-off on LeChuck's amusement park ride, Monkey Mountain.

Escape from Monkey Island[edit]

Escape from Monkey Island, the fourth installment, was released in 2000 for PC Windows, and in 2001 for Macintosh and PlayStation 2.

When Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley return from their honeymoon, they find that Elaine has been declared officially dead, her mansion is under a destruction order, and her position as governor is up for election. Guybrush investigates and unearths a conspiracy by LeChuck and evil real estate developer Ozzie Mandrill to use a voodoo talisman, "The Ultimate Insult", to make all pirates docile in order to turn the Caribbean into a center of tourism.

Tales of Monkey Island[edit]

Tales of Monkey Island is the fifth installment within the series, co-developed by Telltale Games and LucasArts, with a simultaneous release both on WiiWare and PC. Unlike other installments, Tales is an episodic adventure consisting of five different episodes. The first episode was released on July 7, with the last one released on December 8, 2009.[4]

During a heated battle with his nemesis, the evil pirate LeChuck, Guybrush unwittingly unleashes an insidious pox that rapidly spreads across the Caribbean, turning pirates into zombie-like monsters. The Voodoo Lady sends Guybrush in search of a legendary sea sponge to stem the epidemic, but this seemingly straightforward quest has surprises around every corner.[5] Tales of Monkey Island was also released on PlayStation Network as a bundle for US$20.00.

Return to Monkey Island[edit]

With the purchase of LucasArts by the Walt Disney Company in 2012, the rights to the franchise are now property of Disney.[6] In the second half of 2010s, Disney Interactive ceased the production on gaming and transitioned to a licensing model. Gilbert wrote on Twitter that he was interested in buying the Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion properties.[7] Fans of the series launched an online petition asking Disney to sell the franchise to Gilbert; by December 2021, the petition had gathered about 29,000 signatures.[8]

Return to Monkey Island, the sixth Monkey Island installment, was released on September 19, 2022 on the Nintendo Switch and Windows, coming to other formats later.[9] It is a collaboration between Gilbert's Terrible Toybox studio and Lucasfilm Games, and published by Devolver Digital.[9] A frame story in the game serves to explain and continue from the ending of LeChuck's Revenge, while the main narrative takes place after the other games in the series.[9] Ron Gilbert has expressed his desire to tell a simple and focused pirate story in the game, while also redefining the adventure game user interface and deepening the greater lore. In addition to Gilbert, Grossman returns as co-writer, with music from veteran series composers Michael Land, Peter McConnell, and Clint Bajakian, and Dominic Armato, Alexandra Boyd, and Denny Delk reprising their roles as Guybrush, Elaine, and Murray.[10][9] Jess Harnell replaces the retired Earl Boen as the voice of LeChuck.[11][12]

Other appearances[edit]

Stan's Used Coffins is referred to in one of the levels of the LucasArts game Outlaws. In Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Guybrush can be accessed as a playable character via a cheat code; in addition, a Monkey Island-themed secret room can be found in the game's final level.[13] Guybrush also appears in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II as a playable skin for Starkiller named "Guybrush Threepkiller".[14]

Guybrush is paid homage in the Naughty Dog video game Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, where a pirate with major similarities to Guybrush is featured as one of the twelve pirate captains that founded Libertalia. Although he remains unnamed throughout the game, the resemblance is uncanny and his sigil is represented by a monkey. His portrait can be seen in the Libertalia treasury with the other founders and though his name is partly scratched out, the letters still visible spell out the truncated name "Guy Wood".[15]

Several elements from the Monkey Island series appear in Sea of Thieves as part of its June 2021 "A Pirate's Life" update. Developed in collaboration with Disney and primarily themed after Pirates of the Caribbean, multiple references to the characters and locales from the Monkey Island franchise can be found in journals by Kate Capsize scattered around the wreckage of The Headless Monkey during the update's first Tall Tale, accompanied by an original arrangement of the Monkey Island theme. According to the journals, Guybrush and Elaine Threepwood are celebrating their honeymoon somewhere upon the Sea of Thieves, while Kate perished attempting to get revenge on Guybrush for framing her.[16]

A full Monkey Island-themed expansion for the game, "The Legend of Monkey Island", was released on July 20, 2023 and spread across three monthly episodes. In the story, set between Curse and Escape, Guybrush and Elaine's honeymoon on the Sea of Thieves is interrupted by LeChuck, who traps them in a dream version of Mêlée Island where everyone worships Guybrush as a legendary pirate. To stop LeChuck from restoring the legendary Burning Blade and conquering the Sea of Thieves, the Pirate Lord recruits the now-revived Kate Capsize and the player pirates to enter the dreamworld and rescue Guybrush and Elaine.[17][18]

In an update to Hitman 3, a new pirate-themed map was added, which featured an Easter Egg referencing Monkey Island in the form of a gravestone in the environment reading "G Threepwood, Mighty Pirate", a clear reference to Guybrush.[19]

In The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, while completing the ‘Fists of Fury’ quest in the Blood and Wine expansion patch, the protagonist Geralt encounters a man named Mancomb. It is a pun made in reference to Guybrush, protagonist of Monkey Island. Mancomb also looks similar to Guybrush and performs similar feats as him and also engages in verbal taunt sparring with Geralt. The name Mancomb is a humorous paraphrasing of Guybrush Threepwood's name.[20]

Cancelled film[edit]

Shortly after Pixar, a spinout from Lucasfilm, found success with the first Toy Story film in 1995, there had been a push across Hollywood for more digitally animated films. Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), in the midst of transitioning from practical to digital effects, offered its services for producing these films to other studios. One of the first projects they tried to work on was with Universal Pictures to revive the Universal Classic Monsters line with a film called Frankenstein and the Wolfman. While several scripts and preliminary art was produced for this film, shake-ups at Universal due to the financial failure of Babe: Pig in the City led to changes in leadership for the film and ultimately its cancellation.[21]

David Carson, who had been set to direct Frankenstein and the Wolfman but left after the Universal shake-up, came back to ILM with the idea of an animated film based on the first Monkey Island game around 2000. With initial support from ILM, Carson worked an initial script with Corey Rosen and Scott Leberecht as to pitch the idea to Amblin Entertainment, the production company owned by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg had told Carson that he had previously told George Lucas that he should have made a Monkey Island movie years before, and other meetings with Amblin went well to proceed to further screenwriting work. The rest of ILM's story department was brought in to help write, including Steve Purcell, but this team worked separately from the writers that were developing the actual games, creating a disconnect between story the film was going with and the narrative already established in the video game series. As they continued to work out the screenplay, the direction of the film continued to veer further from the video game series, including at one point where Spielberg had suggested the game be about the monkeys on Monkey Island instead of the pirates. According to Carson, the lack of a creative direction at this point led to the film being shelved at ILM.[21]

Details about the film were first revealed publicly in 2011 as part of the Monkey Island Special Edition Collection which included some of the film's concept art, storyboards, and scripts.[21][22]

It had been rumored that Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio had been involved in the writing of the Monkey Island script which they subsequently used as the basis for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. Both Elliott and Rossio had been to ILM and were shown parts of the Monkey Island script, around the same time they were working on their script for Pirates. When Pirates was released, many fans of the Monkey Island series made comparisons of parts of the film to the games, and when news of the cancelled film first arose in 2011, the potential connection of Elliott and Rossio to the Monkey Island script started. Both Carson and Rossio stated that many of the tropes in both Monkey Island and Pirates are based on the classic pirate movies and that there was no direct reuse of the cancelled Monkey Island film in Pirates.[21]

The “Secret” of Monkey Island[edit]

None of the first five games explicitly reveal the "Secret of Monkey Island". The team behind Escape from Monkey Island attempted to resolve the issue by showing that the Giant Monkey Head was actually the control room of a Giant Monkey Robot. The cut-scene in which the revelation was made is called "The Real Secret of Monkey Island".[23]

Gilbert stated that he never told anyone what the true secret of Monkey Island is.[24][25] In a 2004 interview, Gilbert stated that when the game was originally conceived, it was considered "too big", so they split it into three parts. He added that he "knows what the third [part] is" and "how the story's supposed to end", indicating that he had a definite concept of the “secret” and a conclusive third game.[26]

The true nature of the secret is the main focus of Return to Monkey Island, with several characters competing amongst themselves in a race to discover "the Secret". The game's conclusion reveals the secret to be a novelty T-shirt earned as a prize at a pirate-themed amusement park, which has acted as the setting for all of Guybrush Threepwood’s previous adventures. Threepwood, as the game's narrator, is intentionally ambiguous as to whether this is the actual secret, even suggesting that the secret means different things to different people, and putting forth the notion that the story of the journey (and the joy of speculating about the secret with others) is more valuable than the reward itself.

After the release of Return to Monkey Island, Gilbert stated in an interview that the true secret (as conceived during development of the first installment of the series) is that Guybrush was, in fact, inside of a pirate-themed amusement park the entire time.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gilbert, Ron (September 20, 2004). "On Stranger Tides". Grumpy Gamer. Archived from the original on July 23, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  2. ^ "The Secret of Creating Monkey Island – An Interview With Ron Gilbert, excerpt from LucasFilm Adventurer vol. 1, number 1, Fall 1990". scummbar.com. June 16, 2004. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
  3. ^ LucasArts (June 1, 2009). "The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition product page". LucasArts. Archived from the original on June 2, 2009. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  4. ^ Fahey, Mike (June 1, 2009). "New And Old Monkey Island Adventures In The Works". Kotaku. Archived from the original on June 5, 2009. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  5. ^ "Tales of Monkey Island". Telltale Games. Archived from the original on June 5, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  6. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (November 30, 2012). "Ron Gilbert wishes he owned Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion". Eurogamer.net. Archived from the original on January 3, 2013.
  7. ^ @grumpygamer (May 23, 2016). "Dear @Disney, now that you're not making games, please sell me my Monkey Island and Mansion Mansion IP. I'll pay real actual money for them" (Tweet). Archived from the original on July 20, 2016 – via Twitter.
  8. ^ Hughes, Matthew (May 15, 2018). "Monkey Island fans are begging Disney to sell the rights back to its creator". The Next Web. Archived from the original on May 19, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Peters, Jay (April 4, 2022). "Ron Gilbert is making a new Monkey Island game, and it will be out this year". The Verge. Archived from the original on April 6, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  10. ^ "Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman – Return to Monkey Island". Adventure Gamers. April 14, 2022. Archived from the original on July 14, 2022. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  11. ^ "Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman – Return to Monkey Island". Adventure Gamers. April 14, 2022. Archived from the original on July 14, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  12. ^ "For those of you wondering, LeChuck is voiced by the amazing @JessHarnell". Twitter. August 8, 2022. Archived from the original on August 8, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  13. ^ "Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (In-jokes)". Archived from the original on August 13, 2022. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  14. ^ McWhertor, Michael (September 28, 2010). "I Am Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty... Jedi Apprentice?!". Kotaku.com. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  15. ^ "Uncharted 4 Easter Eggs: Monkey Island, Crash Bandicoot und Co. im PS4-Abenteuer". May 12, 2016. Archived from the original on August 17, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  16. ^ "Sea of Thieves Has a Really Cool Easter Egg for Retro Fans". July 2021. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  17. ^ "Monkey Island is coming to Sea of Thieves in a three-episode adventure". Eurogamer.net. June 11, 2023. Archived from the original on September 21, 2023. Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  18. ^ Skrebels, Joe (July 18, 2023). "The Legend of Monkey Island: How Sea of Thieves Is Translating Monkey Island's Story, Gameplay, and More — an Exclusive Interview". Archived from the original on September 4, 2023. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  19. ^ "Hitman 3 has a Monkey Island Easter egg". Eurogamer.net. August 2, 2022. Archived from the original on August 2, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  20. ^ "How To - The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt: References to Other Video Games". PC Gamer Forums. January 18, 2020. Archived from the original on March 30, 2024. Retrieved March 30, 2024.
  21. ^ a b c d Yarwood, Jack (February 22, 2021). "Spilling the secrets of the canceled Curse of Monkey Island movie". Polygon. Archived from the original on February 21, 2021. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  22. ^ Staff (September 2009). "Tails from Monkey Island". Retro Gamer (70). Imagine Publishing: 28–35.
  23. ^ "Escape from Monkey Island - Walkthrough/FAQ". February 7, 2013. Archived from the original on December 10, 2022. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  24. ^ Greg Kasavin (June 30, 2006). "Designer Threads feat. Ron Gilbert". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2007.
  25. ^ "The Monkey Island SCUMM Bar – Just Monkey Island". Scummbar.com. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  26. ^ Idle Thumbs, Ron Gilbert Speaks: Part 2 Archived November 22, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Ron Gilbert on Return to Monkey Island!". YouTube. October 9, 2022. Archived from the original on January 31, 2023. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
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