A couple of weeks ago we saw the release of one of my favourite games of the year so far – A Plague Tale: Innocence, and recently we finally got a proper look at Hideo Kojima’s upcoming game – Death Stranding – which will clearly be very story focused! Both of these have me thinking back to some of my favourite video game stories of all time… That’s right folks, it’s time for another top 10 list!
SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL GAMES ON THIS LIST!
…If you haven’t played a game on this list then I highly recommend you play it and come back!
Any excuse for me to talk about this co-op masterpiece! Admittedly there’s nothing overly special about A Way Out’s story until the very end. The enjoyment of this game comes from its amazing co-op gameplay while the typical prison escape story just plods along nicely. Then comes the twist… It turns out that one of the two playable characters is actually an undercover cop and the game, after hours of creative and inspired co-op gameplay, pits you and your buddy against one another in what is one of the most memorable endings to a video game story of all time and the perfect example of how a video game can tell a story that other mediums simply cannot.
I was told to play this game my a friend with no information other than “Dude, just play it!”. On the surface it looked like something I would hate… A third person shooter based in the Dubai desert with US soldier protagonists fighting the good fight! But I gave it a go… For a little while I was still convinced this was just another boring shooter that isn’t bad but nothing special until the story begins to unfold… I know that I said I’d be talking spoilers but I’d be here all day if I went through this ending and those who have played it know exactly how special it is and for those who haven’t – You should experience it for yourself. What I will say though is how amazing this story is for playing with your expectations and how when playing a video game you shouldn’t always assume you’re the good guy…
Quantic Dream’s futuristic sci-fi thriller had me hooked to the story from minute one. Playing through the many branching stories with the three playable characters was an absolute joy. The best part of these choice-driven narrative games are of course the ability to tell your own story, the way my game played out will almost certainly not be the same as my friends and that’s what’s so special about a game like Detroit: Become Human, you can have your own unique story or keep replaying the game til you’ve seen every outcome.
This can easily be tied into the entry above as it has all the same components that make it special. What sets Heavy Rain apart from other Quantic Dream games though was how much more personal the story felt. There was something about Ethan – a desperate father doing whatever he can to find his lost son, that made the choices you make feel so important. One stand out moment I will always remember was the game asking you to remember what your son was wearing the day he went missing and making you feel like the worst human being in the world when you can’t quite remember… It’s little touches like that which truly made Heavy Rain a one of a kind experience. Top it all off with the big reveal that one of your playable characters was actually the big bad all along and it’s easy to see why heavy rain is one of the best stories to ever be told in video games.
Rapture and the stories you hear through prerecorded tapes found throughout the underwater city is enough to secure a place on this list! Again though, it’s the way a game like this plays with your expectations of what you think you know. From the get go you feel comfort in the fact you have the voice of Andrew Ryan as he holds your hand through the early levels of the game and helps you along your journey. As gamers we’re used to this, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll have some sort of side character or maybe even a book or something to just guide you in the right direction. To then find out that you’ve been brainwashed by this person who you trust and come to the sinking realisation that yes, you will follow his every order feels like a proper betrayal of video game etiquette and I absolutely love it! Would you kindly read the rest of my top 10….
Gone home tells the story of a young woman returning home after spending some time abroad only to find that all her family have gone. What follows is a wonderfully written story discovered only by exploring the empty house and putting together the pieces that have been left behind. By the time I’d finished this short 3 hour story I felt like I was truly part of this lost family, like I’d come to know every character personally and given that you never actually meet this characters in the game, goes to show just how good of a story Gone Home manages to tell.
Another list, another God of War entry. I can’t help it okay? This game is a masterpiece and the story is a lot of the reason why! To take a character like Kratos – A bad ass God killing SOB that will stop at nothing to take his revenge, to a caring father who just lost his wife and wants the best life possible for his young boy is an achievement that Santa Monica studios should always be proud of. I was always a bit unsure how this would work but it’s pulled off with some style.. the little conversations that Kratos and Atreus have when travelling through this gorgeous world is what made me fall in love with these characters. The simple story of Kratos trying to get to the top of a mountain to spread his wives ashes while all along doing whatever he can to not let his son to turn out like him may not sound like a lot on paper but it’s an experience that will stick with me forever due to how well it’s written and voice acted.
This could have easily been number one on this list but having only just played this incredible game due to it being free on PS Plus this past month, I think it would be a biased decision. What an experience this little game is though, just wow! Not too different to Gone Home, you play as a young woman – Edith Finch, who is returning home for the first time in a while and the story is told by what you find around the house. Though the big difference here is that all of Edith’s family are dead and the whole family had at some point lived in this strange house that you spend the game exploring. Every family members room is untouched from the day they died with the aim of the game being to find a way in to each locked room to discover how each character passed away. This is where the game truly shines.. each story is told from that characters point of view and not only is each individual story brilliant and unique… It’s played completely differently, almost like you’re playing a different genre of game in every room! The family members story that will always stick with me the most though is Edith’s brother Lewis, if you’ve played this game then you know exactly what I mean! I’m not going to sit here and explain it as I could never do it justice. All I’ll say is that it’s a story that every person can probably relate to and chances are you will find yourself becoming very choked up as the story unfolds. If at the time of reading this game is still on PS Plus then do yourself a favour and play it now! Hell even if it isn’t, just pay the asking price, you won’t be disappointed!
Playing The Last of Us always gives me that feeling of sympathy… Sympathy towards the people out there who don’t play video games and will never witness an incredible story such as this. The prologue to this game would be enough in itself to earn a place in the top 3! If you type The Last of Us into YouTube, one of the first things you are likely to come across are reaction videos to this prologue, why? Because it tells such a strong and hard hitting story that people want to see if others felt the same emotional connection to it that they did and also just want to share it with others who may not ever play something like this. It’s such a credit to the writing and voice acting that this game will have most players in tears within the first 15 minutes and it doesn’t let up! This is a dark experience from beginning to end set in a horrible post apocalyptic world, it’s an experience that makes you question things in life that we all take for granted. There’s one part that I’ll never forget, it’s when Ellie spots an old poster of a skinny supermodel and becomes confused as to why she’s so slim, asking Joel how that could be when back then there was unlimited food available. It’s moments like that which makes this game stand above most others. By the time the end comes around and you’re questioning whether you want to save the life of a young girl you’ve had to protect this whole time or potentially save the human race, you realise you’ve been through something truly special. Take a bow Naughty Dog.
Yes, it’s becoming very obvious that I’m a sucker for any game where I play as a protective protagonist but this formula clearly works very well in modern video games. This game arguably tells the best story out of anything that has ever been released under the Walking Dead umbrella, and I include the comics in that! What Telltale’s episodic game manages to do is take advantage of what makes Walking Dead interesting and that is of course not the zombies but the humans and how they handle being put into this horrific situation. You play as Lee Everett who very early on in the zombie outbreak comes across a young girl named Clementine who has been separated from her parents leaving you to take care of her and keep her safe from the flesh eating zombies. The adventure that the two go on is simply outstanding. You come across a huge variety of memorable characters, some you love and some you hate. The game will then put you in the most heart breaking situations, often making you choose between two or more characters as to who you give rations to, who you tell secrets to and even who you save and who you let die. Every one of these choices made me question my actions, made me question whether I was not only doing the right thing but whether I was setting a good example for Clementine. By the time my story had come to an end I was more than happy with how I had raised this bright young girl but of course there would be no happy ending.. having been bitten in an earlier episode it was clear throughout the final episode that your playable character Lee would have to meet his end, this is not only sad due to how much I cared for Lee but the idea of leaving Clementine alone in this world was pure tragedy! The way it all plays out with the player having to make the choice between asking Clementine to kill Lee to put him out his misery or save her having to live with that memory while leaving Lee to his flesh eating fate is a choice that most people including myself would have had to make through teary eyes. Yes, Telltale’s Walking Dead might have not been setting the world on fire with its gameplay but when it comes to stories there isn’t many stronger than this one.