We love stories.
What more, we love the mediums we use to tell these stories, but, we also delight in finding new ways to tell them. Cave paintings? Check! Plays? Check! Books? Check! E-Books? Sure, Check! Movies? Hells yes! Check! TV? You betcha! Check! Poetry? Obviously! Check! Youtube videos? Sure, why not? Check! Videogames? Huh? Wut?
I’m going to be honest with you (and you’re just going to have to trust me on this point, otherwise one of us is just going to be left glaring a the other person and that’s just going to make the house plants uncomfortable)…. I love to read, fiction mostly, but pour enough liquid boredom in the old thought machine and I’ll pretty much read anything. Recently though my thoughts have paraded down streets that I had not seriously considered to be a storytelling medium, but, upon reflection, it is very obviously a storytelling medium.
I am of course speaking about Videogames
Now, granted, not all videogames fall within this category, although, since anything can be a story, so maybe I should narrow the lens.
I also know that there is an argument that can be made that there are stories aplenty in games like Call of Duty. What I want to do though, is to share some of the video games where the story is the MOST IMPORTANT PART of the game. The stories in these game could stand alone as book, comic or movie and that’s why I love them.
So I have put together an completely not inexhaustive list (took me barely any effort, did most of it from bed). Which is totally not complete, I mean, this could be a multi post article spanning decades and no one has time for that. These games however, are very good videogames and in many instances, their story is what made them playable.
TOP TEN LIST OF VIDEOGAMES WITH GREAT STORIES
(* ALSO THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS)
Mass Effect (1, 2 & 3) Videogames
Mass Effect for me, was the perfect mix of space opera videogame opium and action. From the very beginning this videogame grabbed me by my eyeballs and didn’t stop until I had collapsed in an exhausted heap at my computer desk.
The story was so good you forgave the clunky (like super mega clunky AF) combat mechanics and the eternal tedium of driving your Mako in Bioware’s attempt to simulate a road trip to the Prairies. This wasn’t Bioware’s first entry into epic storytelling through videogames (Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire) but it was for me the first one that really caught my attention with the depth of writing and characterization.
Story Rating: 8 out of 10 Protheans
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 picked up the story of Commander Sheppard by killing him in the opening cinematic (Spoilers: You get better).
The game then continues to drive you face first through a plate glass story as you begin an adventure in recruiting, seducing or killing your teammates. ME 2 also introduced (for me…this was before I had encountered XCOM permadeath) the possibility of ACTUALLY LOSING YOUR TEAM!!!. This game also had the audacity to punish you for taking too long to get moving. What this did for me was it managed to instill a sense of urgency in my saving of the Universe.
What this this meant is, that my first run through of ME 2 had more saves than anything I had racked up in any other game before…because no one dies today, everyone goes home.
Story Rating: 9 out of 10 Mirandas
Mass Effect 3
First off, I think when you talk about ME 3 you have to at least mention the “Holy War” that erupted from the community. It was a thing….it was THE THING that most Mass Effect players were talking about (some were ranting….I might have been ranting)
The problem was, that when ME 3 was first announced (and that it was the last Commander Sheppard story), we were told that the endings would be so unique to our play style (all the choices made in ME 1 and ME 2 would matter) that it was unlikely if any players ending would be exactly the same as anyone else.
So, if you were like me, you went back and played Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. You forged the storyline you wanted so that the narrative was in your image. The perfect opus to your adventures with Commander Sheppard and the crew of the Normandy. At night, you’d lie awake in bed and wonder how your story would play out—How would the stars remember your deeds? What would a tapestry look like when it was woven from the skein of your life?
Is that what awaited us?
What we got instead was CHOOSE A, B or C….sorry CHOOSE GREEN, BLUE or RED.
There were riots, cities burned etc. I wasn’t a fan of the ending (but rioting is exhausting), but they left so many holes in the ending that it was hard to be happy with the ending. Major story points were missing, or ignored, and team mates that should have been involved in the last bits were nowhere to be seen.
In the end, Bioware responded to the absolute insanity of the community by releasing a free DLC that answered all those questions. I was mollified, which I am sure helped the devs at Bioware sleep at night.
All in all, not the most perfect series ending but still okay.
Story Rating: 7 DLC Apologies out of 10
Uncharted (Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, Drakes Deception, A Thief’s End) Videogames
Uncharted: Drakes Fortune
Drake’s Fortune felt like the start of a great movie franchise (except it was a videogame). More than most games this first entry into “Boy Laura Croft” was funny and witty. Sure it was essentially a platformer and parkour recruiter but you didn’t really play this game for the game play. You played it for the story. All the major players get introduced and even the ones that annoy you are fun. This was the game that made me think that a movie franchise could be fun…not entirely convinced.
Story Rating: 7 Fortunes out of 10
First of all, I’m a Canadian so it kills me to have to spell “Amoung” as “Among”.
Remember when I said that Drake’s Fortune made me think that this would work as a movie? Well this was the chapter that convinced me that my life wouldn’t be complete unless this movie got made. Also, as an aside—A letter to Hollywood, Dear Hollywood, if you are going to make an Uncharted movie, then just use the script from Among Thieves. Literally, just copy and paste it into your things. Seriously, I’ll do it for you….No charge.
Again, the game play is what I am going to call “Typical Parkour Excitement” you jump, climb and shoot. There are some puzzles if that’s your thing. But honestly, I play the Uncharted games because it’s like playing in a movie. A really good action movie.
Story Rating: 9 out of 10 Shangri-Las
I’m going to be honest with you, this chapter was the weakest of the four. There was no real progress in game play, they did advance Nathan’s relationships a bit but overall this chapter was entirely unnecessary in the progression of the narrative. It’s only in this list for completion of the series and because if I omitted it the list would look weird.
Me: Ugh! Why am I still wander this stupid desert!?
Story Rating: 6 out of 10 Sully’s
A Thief’s End
I wish more games would take page out of the Naughty Dog playbook when it comes to ending a franchise. Uncharted 4: A Thieve’s End was the perfect ending to a overall fantastic and ENTERTAINING series.
Thief’s End took us from the very beginning of Nathan Drake and took us home again. The story drove us to want to finish this, but at the same time there was this reluctance. Like any good book, when you can see the last pages you find yourself slowing down not wanting it to end—but end it must.
It was closure at it’s finest, and it let the player say goodbye to Nathan in the best way possible—With dreams of another tomorrow.
Story Rating: 10 out of 10 Pirates
The Witcher (1, The Assassin of Kings, The Wild Hunt) Videogames
The Witcher (The First one…not the title, it’s just is the first one)
The Witcher is probably the first Witcher videogame that I didn’t’ instantly love. It had to win me over, and it has become the perfect example of how story can fix poor gamplay. The first Witcher had clunky mechanics and combat that would just as soon send you running off the ledge of a wall as it was to attack an enemy. However the story saved it from being launched across the room.
I think I would compare to Mass Effect 1, excellent story covering for really poor game mechanics. You could in theory, skip this game and jump into the series with the Witcher 2.
Nah, play them all.
Story Rating: 7 out of 10 Monsters
The Assassin Of Kings
This was the chapter that locked me into the world of Geralt of Rivia. From the very beginning the story has all the best bits of an epic.
I think, the writers had really figured out who Geralt was (also fun fact: The games are all based off a series of novels so figuring out who Geralt was, was probably easier for them), how the world worked and the people in it. I played this game more for the story and the characters than I did for the monster murder (which there is alot.).
Story Rating: 8 out of 10 King Assassinations
The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt was already on many people’s top ten list. This isn’t a review, there are a million reviews of this game and all the TOTALLY AWESOME DLC for it.
This is on the my list of best stories because the story in Witcher: The Wild Hunt is one of the best ever written. Graphics and gameplay aside, the story, and watching it play out had me both laughing and crying. I think I could have made my point of “Videogames as story” with just this game.
With the Blood and Roses DLC you get the ending for Geralt that is so good and complete, that it makes me think that the writers from Projekt Red took a page out of the Naughty Dog playbook (which they probably didn’t, these guys are just that good)
If you love great stories in your video game, THIS is the one you play.
Story Rating: 10 out of 10 White Wolves
Top 10 Best Story Telling Video Games
So These are my top 10 story based games, or games where the story makes up for any shortcoming in gameplay or graphics. To be sure, these are not the only games with an awesome story, but these are the ones that instantly popped into my head when I thought about it.
If I were to put them in order though…
- Witcher: The Wild Hunt
- Mass Effect 2
- Mass Effect
- Uncharted 4: Thieves End
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
- Witcher: Assassin of Kings
- Mass Effect 3
- The Witcher
- Uncharted: Drakes Fortune
- Uncharted: Drakes Deception.
So these are my ten videogame stories. The wondrous thing is that this doesn’t even SCRATCH THE SURFACE. There are so many more REALLY GOOD STORIES out there (The Rest of Us, Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic, Undertale…).
Videogames are the new medium for storytelling, and now with virtual reality cresting over the horizon like the oncoming storm the possibilities for storytelling is going to explode.
So….what’s your favourite Videogame story?