For the most part it is always the gameplay that makes for a truly awesome video gaming experience, but there’s also something to be said about storytelling, especially if it’s really great. While the mechanics of a title are always going to be what increases the “fun factor” in most instances, it is a quality storyline and plot which actually push the entire experience to a higher level. Yes, a great narrative can turn a decent game into a masterpiece, opening doors in your mind that you didn’t even know were there and unlocking imaginative new possibilities for developers and marketers. While it could certainly be argued that most popular games out there possess great storylines, the following 10 games are considered (by us, anyway) to be a cut above the rest. They offer you a chance to immerse yourself in an alternate reality that is unlike most others out there, affording a glimpse into visceral and fully realized worlds…
Aside from essentially breaking new ground with regards to the concept of stealth-based gameplay, Metal Gear Solid (the series really, including the magnificent MGS3: Snake Eater) played out like a graphic novel of sorts. Moreover, to say that the game’s story was convoluted and complex was and is an understatement. The way it doled out one tantalizing piece of the puzzle after another all the while building tension to the breaking point before revealing a slew of startling facts…well, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. For all intents and purposes MGS took espionage drama to new heights for video games all while introducing us to lots of exciting new possibilities and leaving us pondering long after the credits had rolled.
Certainly the Final Fantasy series needs no introduction. For RPG fans it has long been one of the major contenders on the scene and has continually shaped the way we view the genre in general. FFVI however stands out amongst its peers simply because it was so different from its predecessors. Not only did it introduce some steampunk elements but it presented an extremely deep backlog of characters as well as an increasingly intertwined network of plot themes, environments and events which combine to create a very lucid and “alive” world.
For ages gamers had been asking for a title which allowed them to enact the part of the tragic detective and that’s exactly what we received with L.A. Noire. Quite obviously the game draws influence from movies as well as directly from Los Angeles police culture and news items, but it manages to remain extremely unique in the way it delivers its action. For the most part it details the exploits of crack detective Cole Phelps, an Elliot Ness-like character who is essentially incorruptible and highly intelligent, coming off a series of bad experiences in the war. The game features a series of stunning cases, including an encounter with the infamous Dahlia killer, also exposing some of the nasty politics associated with crime-fighting. It all leads up to a characteristically tragic ending that’s actually quite moving, instantly evoking feelings of nostalgia as you think back on all the events of the game.
In short, Max Payne basically IS a graphic novel with lots of interactive features and intriguing combat. Unlike a lot of other games on this list it would actually seem that its developers had in mind to create a story with a game structure built around it and that core mechanic really shows quite well. Moreover, the way they throw you back into flashbacks really helps to emphasize the revenge angle (for your murdered family). By the end of this one you’ll be more than ready for vengeance.
Seemingly similar to Silent Hill, Alan Wake really is its own IP, presenting a plot that plays out in installments not unlike what you might encounter when watching a TV series. Of course the way they’ve integrated fear and horror into the mix only pushes the entire experience to a whole new level, presenting bits and pieces of the puzzle at a time basically forcing you to push onward to uncover the next series of tantalizing clues.
Many might be apt to simply discount GTA V’s story as just another hilarious spoof job, however if they did that they would be missing out on the incredible intricacy inherent in the way the 3 lead character’s exploits tie together. Additionally, Rockstar seamlessly blends comical elements with more serious overtones to achieve a new kind of balance with its storytelling that’s both highly entertaining as well as thought-provoking.
On its face Assassin’s Creed 2 might seem like a rather straightforward tale of ancient intrigue and high-flying parkour action. However, as you look closer you’ll discover an absolutely amazing reveal which (toward the end of the game) takes the plotline of the series to a new height.
It could be argued that Mass Effect (the series) is really just a great RPG gameplay system built around an extremely incredible story about galactic cycles and the struggle for dominance between organic and artificial sentient life. Regardless, the power of the narrative inherent in Mass Effect cannot be denied and all the various elements be they political, strategic, interpersonal, or intergalactic meld together in the end to present gamers with what is probably one of the most “epic” stories ever told in gaming, period.
Portal has basically taken the world by storm and has become one of Valve’s biggest successes, wining over legions of new gamers in the process. Starting off innocently enough as a straightforward puzzle game, you are quickly introduced to a warped story as you come to realize that your AI host isn’t exactly being candid with you.
Simply put, when it comes to storylines within the concept of a western theme, Red Dead Redemption stands alone as perhaps the greatest game ever produced of its type (to date). Not only does it capture an incredible number of classic western moments through a series of interactive missions, but it also manages to provide a redemptive conclusion where, continuing on his father’s legacy, the lead character’s son tracks down the evil sheriff and exacts bloody revenge upon him…gunfight down by the river on a drizzly day, boom! Credits roll, cue the music. Yes, even after completing this behemoth of a game you’ll be contemplating its winding story and the individual experiences of its principal characters.