Over the years of gaming we have seen many great releases, of which many contain compelling and engaging stories. Some have left us heart-broken, overwhelmed with delight or simply stunned in shock.
So I decided to put together a list of the best narratives in gaming history not just based on the plot itself, but how it is presented and told to its audience. The following list contains games that could leave you in floods of tears, or quite literally jumping with joy.
So what are the best narratives in gaming and why? Also, don’t worry no plot spoilers here.
10. The Portal Series (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Few people would relate to this game for its narrative; however the second game really brought the Portal series alive. With the return of GLaDOS and new-comer Wheatley, the story begins to take shape as you begin to realize what really happened at Aperture Science.
Portal 2 confirms everything that arose as suspicion in the original Portal and creates even more of a story by introducing new characters (or looking at them more in-depth), such as Wheatley, Cave Johnson and the much loved duo Atlas and P-Body. It also introduces co-op for the first time in the second game, which allows a whole new perspective on the story.
9. The Elder Scrolls Franchise (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
The Elder Scrolls franchise has a highly expansive story based in the fictional continent of Tamriel on the planet Nirn. Each game follows a separate storyline, however ultimately they narrow down to the war between the Imperials and Stormcloaks.
Skyrim being the newest edition to the Elder Scrolls series places you as the last surviving Dovahkiin (translated as Dragonborn). As the High King of Skyrim has been murdered, Skyrim is plunged into chaos and war as each alliance makes a claim for the throne. However, the real crux of the narrative is that it is also under threat from dragons, which were thought to be a a myth of the past until now.
The game offers a truly immersive story in an open-world environment, allowing you to take control of the story and create your own destiny.
8. Half-Life Series (PC, PS2/PS3, Xbox 360)
The Half-Life series offers a very unique and engaging narrative. The first game begins as you arrive for work at the Black Mesa Research Facility, and you are given the task of pushing a non-standard specimen into the scanning beam of the Anti-Mass Spectrometer for analysis. However a freak event occurs, opening a portal between Earth and the planet Xen.
When you wake up after being knocked out by the occurring events and you find the research facility has been swarmed by creatures from Xen and soon becomes a task of survival, to escape the facility and seek rescue…
Certainly a strong and very compelling narrative, and the sequel more than does it justice as well.
7. Grim Fandango (PC)
Grim Fandango creates possibly the best atmosphere in any game to date; few games are near as original as Grim Fandango. The characters within this game truly make it something special, with the dim-witted yet faithful companion Glottis, and the great love story between Manny and Meche.
It’s a truly unique game with a creative, interesting, and enjoyable story. It’s so light-hearted, funny and brilliant in every way, being the oldest game on this list hardly does it any disservice.
6. Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
The thing that makes this narrative stand out by a long way is the design teams’ skill in world building, something that is vitally important in creating an engaging and enthralling storyline. The game is set in a futuristic, desolated Washington D.C and world details are just stunning as it sets the scene perfectly for the narrative.
There are just so many captivating moments in this thrilling story, with many twists and turn along the way. – It offers a truly unique narrative and setting, more so than any other franchise.
5. Telltale’s The Walking Dead (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, MAC)
The Walking Dead is a purely narrative based game over anything, featuring a vast amount of quick-time-events in a point-and-click adventure. It’s hard to not get drawn straight into this story as you soon meet up with your main companion of the game, Clementine.
This little girl is possibly the character I have become most attached to in any game. The Walking Dead really builds the connection between you and Clementine as you take on the defensive father role throughout the game, and you truly begin to care what happens to not only Clementine, but other characters you meet along the way too.
A truly powerful story, not to be taken lightly. In the world of The Walking Dead, the story can become very dark and sinister, however this really makes the story come alive and just brings you even more into its breath-taking narrative.
4. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, MAC)
Deus Ex, or more specifically Deus Ex: Human Revolution, not only has one of the best narratives in gaming, but some of the best voice acting and presentation as well. The characters in this game feel so real, and because of this, you feel so involved and engaged and actually feel like part of the story. This game features decision choices that actually matter and have completely different outcomes each time.
So few games could compete with the compelling and immersive narrative that Deus Ex has. Everything from setting to characters and background to voice acting, it all just fits perfectly in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
It creates a completely believable not-too-distant-future for you to fully explore and engage in, and a very believable story of power and corruption.
3. Mass Effect Trilogy (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U)
The Mass Effect Trilogy is renowned for its massive game world and large amount of lore, making the whole universe in the game feel alive and realistic. This is vitally important for creating a believable and captivating narrative, which Mass Effect does almost perfectly.
The narrative really draws you in, as you quite literally create your own destiny as you follow Shepard’s journey from his small investigation on Eden Prime into the Prothean beacon and the missing colonists, to the epic and colossal final showdown against the Reapers.
The franchise will quickly engage you in its story, as all the choices you make throughout the games, can have drastic effects later on. This makes you really care about the choices you make and what you think will happen, and certainly creates one of the best narratives in gaming because of it.
2. Bioshock (PC, PS3, Xbox 360, MAC)
Bioshock introduced a new way of playing an FPS without the usual clichés of the protagonist being over powered compared to everything else in the game. In fact Jack, the protagonist of Bioshock, is merely a pawn.
It has an interesting mix with the setting with a split between 60’s theme and steam-punk design. It has a completely unique style and setting in the underwater city of Rapture. Never before has there been a game so heart-wrenching and so well presented in the FPS genre.
A truly unique game and narrative in a beautiful yet demonic setting.
1. Heavy Rain (PS3)
Heavy Rain is possibly the most emotional, unique and by far the most touching story in gaming. Heavy Rain follows the story of a father on a journey to find his missing son, who was kidnapped by the “Origami Killer”.
You also follow the stories of a private detective (Scott Shelby), a journalist (Madison Paige) and an FBI detective (Norman Jayden). Each narrative seems separate at first, especially Madison’s story, but soon they become entwined as the narratives cross over as the mystery becomes slowly revealed.
Ethan Mars is by far the most notable character of the game, as you spend a large amount of time playing his side of the story. He is a loving father that wants nothing more than to save his child and will not let anything stand in his way.
Heavy Rain will overwhelm you in sadness, cry with joy and leave you absolutely stunned. It is an unbeatable narrative and a true masterpiece.