Games are meant to be played, but ever since Space Invaders introduced the idea of narrative scenarios, the digital medium has recognized its potential for storytelling. Over time the writing has improved, better graphics have allowed for more interesting techniques, and every now and then a game pushed the boundaries of just how mature a story could be. By this point gaming is undeniably a storytelling medium, and weve experienced some incredible stories in our history of gaming.
We went over the a lot of releases to find the best written stories of all time. These narratives made us feel, made us think, and kept us glued to the screen until we reached the resolution. These games all told stories that only could be possible in a video game, and if we want this medium to keep evolving, then this is the perfect time to celebrate them.
Max Payne Franchise
In these neo-noir third person shooters the titular character Max fights off his own personal demons amongst an intriguing conspiracy surrounding the murdering of his family. This is another series with fantastic writing but what makes it stand out even more are Max’s constant inner monologues over comic strip stylized scenes drawn beautifully. Max suffers through loss after loss throughout the franchise but has now found peace, and truthfully no other character deserves solace this much.
The Walking Dead
Telltale’s respect and love for a popular franchise ensured that The Walking Dead was more than just a shameful cash-grab. The developers showed their expertise in storytelling through a well-acted, well-scripted, player driven narrative that revolves around ideas of vulnerability and personal responsibility.
In the first game, players control an ex-con named Lee who takes it upon himself to protect and teach a young girl named Clementine in a post-apocalyptic zombie nightmare world. In the second game, after Lee’s tragic demise, Clementine serves as the protagonist and, in addition to the themes of the first game, players have to deal with a non-traditional disempowerment of the main character.
Director Ken Levine had some massively sized shoes to fill after writing Bioshock so with Infinite the hype was through the roof. The original was miraculously topped though whether you’re wandering around a disturbingly early 20th century racist fictional city in the sky, Columbia or wrapping your head around a story that passes through parallel universes.
Ken Levine did the seemingly impossible though and found a genius way to connect the city in the sky to the city under the sea. In all my years of playing video games, I have never been as shocked. The sudden transition from Columbia to Rapture leaves you dumbfounded, breathless, and maniacally laughing to yourself in disbelief that the writers pulled this twist off that we wanted to see. And then, without even letting you recollect your thoughts, the ending shatters your mind again with another epic twist.
To The Moon
More Indie game love and if you haven’t played this one you absolutely have to. To The Moon is a Point and Click Adventure game set in the future where scientists can implant memories that don’t exist into peoples brains, almost similar to Inception. In this game, you are tasked with placing a memory of visiting the Moon into an elderly man as his dying wish, but as you venture through his entire life you come to understand a very tough life full of lost love, death, a serious exploration of Asperger’s, and more. I actually don’t want to spoil this one because its twists and ending are poetically beautifully in ways that you have to see to believe.
Final Fantasy VI
We have reached the best of our Final Fantasy games with none other than the game starring the video game equivalent to the Joker; Kefka. Everyone else seems to firmly believe that Sephiroth is the ultimate Final Fantasy villain which befuddles me because last time I checked, Kefka’s mentally unstable self succeeded in taking over the world. We’ll take his final boss theme Dancing Mad over One Winged Angel any day of the week too.
Originally created as a platform exclusive for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the first game in the three-game story-arc tells the story of Commander Shepard (whether that is a male or female, and how that character appears being entirely up to the player) who, taking command of a very special interstellar space ship, is destined to discover the existence of a hostile alien force bent upon the destruction of all sentient life in the universe.
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is one of gaming’s brightest treasures. It’s scary as all hell, for one, and it has a great story to make it a memorable and integral part of gaming’s history. Players control James Sunderland, who enters Silent Hill after receiving a letter for his wife Mary, who died of an illness three years prior. Some crazy-pants stuff happens along the way and there are twists at every turn, but if you’re willing to sink some time into the game, there’s also plenty of interesting tidbits on the backstory of Silent Hill. The game also has the iconic Pyramid Head, who is both terrifying and badass as he hunts you down.
The Last of Us
A gaming masterpiece. The Last of Us doesn’t offer a convoluted plot full of twists and turns. It’s simply a tale about a despondent man reluctantly partnered with a young, vivacious girl in a post-apocalypse setting. Ugh, I know, another post-apocalypse story. But what sets The Last of Us apart from the rest is a story centered on its two leads. It grabs hold of your heart from the opening sequence and leaves you no choice but to invest in the characters in this poignantly realistic world. But even during the darkest times, the game lets its breathtaking settings instill a sense of hope amidst the chaos, juxtaposing the fall of society with the perpetual beauty of nature. The banter between Joel and Ellie only increases in volume and meaning as the game progresses, strengthening a flawless story that leads to one of the best endings in gaming history.