The Nancy Drew PC games were a huge part of my life for years. From the time I discovered them circa 2000 until 2015, two games were released every year, one in winter and one in summer. Since then, there has only been one game released, but I live in hope that more are on the way. And until then, I can replay the thirty-plus existing games whenever the mood strikes.
If you, too, would like to (re)play these wonderfully detailed and educational Nancy Drew games, you could play them in order, or you could shake things up by playing according to season — the games aren’t so tightly connected that you’ll get too confused this way, I promise. The company behind the games, HeR Interactive, encourages this to an extent, making “winter” and “summer” game bundles available for purchase. I did not look at these bundles before making my selections, instead choosing to categorize the games in the way I thought best. And I added categories for spring and autumn, too, so now you can keep playing all year round!
Some of the selections were obvious — the one where you’re snowed in at a castle-turned-ski-resort is clearly winter — while others I categorized based on vibes more than objective evidence. Feel free to arrange the playing order to suit your own taste, perception, and memory, if you like. All that matters is that you have a good time!
The Secret of the Old Clock
Not only is this a symbolic spring, as this game is based on Nancy’s earliest adventures, but it takes place on a very pleasant sunny day. Perfect for minigolf!
Trail of the Twister
In the U.S., tornado season is generally from March to June, so this is definitely a spring game.
The Haunted Carousel
I used to go to Disney World in May, so this amusement park-centered game makes me think of spring.
Labyrinth of Lies
The myth of Hades and Persephone takes center stage (literally!) in this game, set in a Greek museum. Since spring is traditionally when Persephone gets to return to her mother Demeter, that’s the season this game makes me think of.
The Phantom of Venice
I assume Venice is nice to visit in spring. And one of the songs they play in the background as you roam the city is the “Spring” portion from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
Danger by Design
This one is in the Spring section for the very silly reason that it is set in Paris, and the first thing I think of when I think of Paris is a line from an old song: “The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring…”
Legend of the Crystal Skull
We have an exact date for when this New Orleans-based game takes place: May 31. Technically spring, but it would be a fair fit for summer as well!
The Secret of Shadow Ranch
Brave triple-digit temperatures to catch a saboteur and his ghostly horse — and to pick vegetables for the ranch’s picky cook. (Seriously, bring in too many underripe veggies and it’s game over.)
The Haunting of Castle Malloy
One of your tasks in this game is to pick flowers for a friend’s wedding bouquet. Most of these flowers bloom in late spring or during the summer, making this game set in a half-destroyed Irish castle a probable-to-definite summertime play.
Ransom of the Seven Ships
What better way to spend the summer than by sailing and swimming in the Bahamas?! Granted, the fact that your best friend is missing is a bit of a downer…
The Shattered Medallion
I’ll be honest and say this is the only Nancy Drew game I didn’t much like. BUT it has a nice summery feel as you wander New Zealand as a reality show contestant.
The Creature of Kapu Cave
You and the Hardy Boys get to roam the jungles and beaches of Hawai’i collecting shells, fishing, and identifying local bugs and plant life. Oh, and something about a legendary monster and a dying pineapple crop?
Secret of the Scarlet Hand
The focus on the ancient Maya, who inhabited tropical climes, prompted me to put this one in the Summer category.
Shadow at the Water’s Edge
Spend summer vacation teaching English to Japanese kids…and being SUPER haunted by a ghost at the ryokan you’re staying at. (The voice actors’ accents may be the scariest thing of all…)
Ghost of Thornton Hall
During a steamy night in the Deep South, Nancy dredges up dangerous family secrets — including exactly the kinds of secrets you’d expect a powerful Southern family to have.
Danger on Deception Island
Summertime is the perfect time to help a lost orca off the coast of Washington state! You get to go kayaking and learn about whales at a museum dedicated to them, too.
Alibi in Ashes
In this game, Nancy spends most of her time in jail, so her friends have to do the sleuthing (and eat lots of ice cream) in their hometown of River Heights.
The Silent Spy
Spend a summer in Scotland, where Nancy uncovers deadly secrets about her deceased mother and immerses herself in the world of spycraft!
Secrets Can Kill
There are two versions of this game. One is the first in the series, and the second is a remake with better graphics and a moderately more satisfying conclusion. Both take place at a Florida high school.
Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon
The season isn’t too clear on this one, but one of the side characters has a nice fuzzy sweater, so I assume it’s chilly.
Message in a Haunted Mansion
This one’s all about the ghosties! Roam a dusty old San Francisco house as unexplained shadows, bodyless voices, and more follow you around.
Midnight in Salem
This one is set in Salem, Massachusetts, right around Halloween. Mini-games include carving jack-o-lanterns and making pancakes with images of creepy creatures on them!
Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake
The trees are all green in this one, but somehow the rustic cabin you stay in evokes a fall feeling for me.
Stay Tuned for Danger
The TV season traditionally starts in autumn, so that’s where I’m putting this game, in which Nancy investigates death threats being made against an egotistical soap opera star.
The Final Scene
You spend the entire game inside a dilapidated theater, searching for a kidnapped friend. Something about the once-grand, broken-down old place gives me autumn vibes.
The Captive Curse
Everyone in this game – including Nancy – is dressed like it’s Oktoberfest (which is in September, vielen Dank!), so this one belongs here. While you do get to roam around some creepy woods, most of the time you’re in an old German castle on the prowl for a monster with a necklace fetish.
Curse of Blackmoor Manor
This one vaguely reminds me of The Hound of the Baskervilles — creepy English manor, spectral beasts, etc. — and since that book was set in October, this game should be, too.
The Deadly Device
The climax of this suspenseful game takes place during a blizzard in the Colorado Rockies…just in time to trap you in a science lab with a killer!
Treasure in the Royal Tower
When a blizzard puts paid to Nancy’s ski plans, she goes looking for Marie Antoinette’s lost diary instead, like you do. One of the suspects is a hunky French ski instructor.
The White Wolf of Icicle Creek
Here’s another one set at a ski resort, but this time you get to do some actual snowshoeing and snowmobiling…and cleaning the property’s lake for ice skating. It’s more of a working vacation. By that, I mean you’re undercover as the maid.
Tomb of the Lost Queen
A lot of archeological expeditions to Egypt take place in the fall or winter. That makes winter the perfect season to go poking around the recently-rediscovered tomb of Nefertari! (Or is it really her tomb?)
Sea of Darkness
For more conventional winter fun, head to Iceland! You’ll get to see the aurora borealis, experience the joys of the polar night, and poke around in dangerous ice caves.
Warnings at Waverly Academy
Spend winter break undercover at an elite girls’ school. It even starts snowing partway through the game — it’s very pretty!