Games can tell great stories. And I want to celebrate that. I’ve put together a list of, not the best, but the most interesting and unique stories that video gaming has to offer. There are obviously some absolute classics missing, but I feel they already get enough attention. I don’t want to just dredge up the same old games. I want all of you to maybe notice something here that you haven’t tried before, and who knows? Maybe give it a go.
Bloodborne is not only an example of a great story but of great storytelling. As you explore the city of Yharnam subtle clues and hints slowly come together to form a compelling overarching narrative. Without cutscenes or exposition dumps Bloodborne weaves a tale of betrayal, corruption and terror. Much is left ambiguous but it only adds to the immersion. People have lost many an hour unravelling Bloodborne and its intricate mysteries. But if you don’t feel like studying the game yourself I would recommend you take a look at the Paleblood Hunt by dmcredgrave, a fantastically in-depth examination of the game’s lore. If you’ve ever wondered about just what’s going on in Bloodborne, you owe it to yourself to take a look. I’ll put a link to it at the end of the article.
It’s always great to see a game stand up and tackle complex themes with real maturity. Fallout 2 is absolutely one of those games. Thanks to a huge open world and a wide array of characters Fallout 2 explores themes ranging from slavery to drug addiction. Even if you don’t like the post-apocalyptic setting, you’ll find the world compelling. While the more modern Fallout’s have also had stories worthy of praise I feel that Fallout 2 really set the bar high for the series. I would actually go as far as saying that even the elder scrolls haven’t quite eclipsed what Bethesda managed to achieve all the way back in 1998. The game is available on Steam and while I know it hasn’t aged very well, I recommend you try it.
Papers Please is a masterclass in context. The political turmoil surrounding the fictional country of Arstotzka turns what should be an unbelievably dull game into a nail-biting thriller. You play as a border official, getting to decide who is allowed into Arstotzka. You have to work quickly enough to earn money for your family but must also be wary not to lose your job in the process. All the while you catch glimpses of whats going on in the world as people pass through you booth. With twenty unique endings and a host of meaningful choices throughout, this is a fine example of the kind of narrative this medium can produce.
This may be a surprising addition to many of you but I loved the story in the original Infamous. It manages to be both compelling and a lot of fun. You play as Cole MacGrath, hero (or villain) of Empire city. After a mysterious explosion Cole develops special powers and his search for answers is most certainly an intriguing one. It also doesn’t hurt that Infamous has a fantastic cast of likeable, well-rounded characters. Kessler (the main antagonist) being among the best. Infamous 2 also deserves a special mention but I felt that the original deserved the place on the list. I just wish Second Son had borrowed more heavily from its predecessors in the story department.
Hotline Miami 1&2
Our last entry is a little more “out there” than the others. It would be easy to dismiss the Hotline Miami games as nothing more than power fantasy, or a gore fest but I really don’t think that’s the case. The story in these games is a delight. The events centre around the Russian Mafia in Miami (during the 1980s). The plot itself is serviceable but it’s the way in which the lines are blurred between reality and madness that really make it special. The best way to describe it is surreal. The story is conveyed to you through what feels like a drug fueled haze, forcing you to question everything around you. I also really like the way moments of murderous frenzy are juxtaposed with moments of quiet reflection. If you’re looking for something a little different
then look no further.
So there you go. Some of my favourite stories in gaming. Lets hope we see a few more like this in the not too distant future.