I have already talked about this in some of my reviews already, but storytelling has been a sort of hot button topic recently, since people have been getting a little more sick and tired of storytelling not being as good as it should be. Sure, gameplay might be the better thing for gamers, but I think we can evolve and request or demand companies to take their storytelling abilities to the next level. I mean, RPG’s cannot be the only ones that have to have a focused story, right? So, here I am. I am counting down the best stories within the PS3, 360, and Wii generation of consoles. I might do another list for the older consoles, but for right now, I want to focus on the modern games that had the best storytelling abilities. I am not going to include games like Fallout and Skyrim, because those games, while having stories, tend to be more about enveloping you as the player into that game’s world. Oh, and I needed to have played the game to see its good storytelling abilities. Before we get started with number 9, here are some honorable mentions • Suda 51/ Grasshopper Manufacture games: I wanted to put them on the list because even though the stories are downright bizarre and sometimes stupid, the characters make the story more appealing. However, the stories don’t make a total lick of sense and are not fully fleshed out enough. A good example of this is that some of the villains in No More Heroes have no backstory, and it just kind of bogs down the fun experience that you get when playing through their games.
• Metal Gear Solid 4: I have seen a video walkthrough of the game, and it is pretty much a fine example of great story telling, BUT I have not played the game so I can’t include it.
• Witcher 2: Dark, adult, politics, and sex. What more could you ask for? Well, in my opinion, it got boring through some parts and it took me out of the story and universe of the Witcher
• Ratchet and Clank series: the first two games are weak in story and in villains, but the next games have a great story and great villains.
• The Last Story: It reminded me why I love the original creator of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy 9, Dragon Quest 8, and RPG’s from back in the day, because they make characters like the female protagonists more interesting. However, another RPG does this even better than this game. I really did want to put this game on the list though.
9. Uncharted franchise
This is basically the gaming equivalent to the Indiana Jones franchise. You’ve got a mostly relatable protagonist, the adventure to find the secrets and treasures of the world, and you get attacked by evil organizations and bandits who want to find said treasures before our main hero does. The stories are filled with great set pieces, memorable characters, and are simply a blast to play through. Totally enjoyable.
8. Double Fine Production games
Let us see here, you have the co-creator of many Lucas Arts Adventure games and the creator of Psychonaughts and Brutal Legend. What do all these games have in common? Their stories were well told and their characters memorable. I mean, one of the best things or the best thing about Brutal Legend was its characters and humor. I played Brutal Legend many times, and I still enjoyed the story as much as the first time I played it. You need a fun story and some good humor, along with memorable characters? Look no further than Double Fine Productions.
7. Mass Effect franchise
I think everyone who is a Bioware fan can all agree that Mass Effect is their best franchise. Dragon Age Origins might have been promising with a lot of good characters, but the second game basically messed everything up for that franchise. Now, Mass Effect has done the opposite. Mass Effect has built a very good universe with amazing characters spanning 3 great games. I just love the ideals that the characters have, and even though Shepard male/female is really not too complex of a character, the characters around him/her are. I just think they are all very fleshed out and unique. My only complaint about the storytelling in this franchise is, while the characters are well developed, the first game’s pacing is not the best. You basically meet most of your teammates during the first 2 hours of the game. I also love the little side stories and how YOU can shape what happens, like whether they get revenge by killing someone or etc. It just shows when Bioware REALLY puts their back into it, they can pump out some really great stuff, character and story wise.
6. Batman Arkham games
Note to every developer ever! Here is how you make a great super hero game with a darn good story! Batman Arkham Asylum and City are some of the best games around, and one of the few examples of developers actually caring about making a good licensed game. The stories were epic and dark. You weren’t just taking down the Joker, you were taking down many of the villains Arkham offered, and throughout both games, more so in Arkham City than in Asylum, the stories were overall well-told. The ending in Arkham City is one of the best in any game. It’s touching, sad, and not just because the relationship of the Joker was ending, but it was also famed voice actor and Mr. Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill’s last time playing the Joker. It was quite the ending.
5. Spec Ops: The Line
If the gameplay was just as good as this game’s story, it would have been the prime example of what Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield need to be. The story in Spec Ops: The Line focuses more on a squad of three soldiers and their mental stability and reaction to the events put in front of them. The environment they go through is really hellish, and it really does dive into the psyche of the main hero, and how horrible you can end up after such an event. Plus, this is probably Nolan North’s best role since becoming Deadpool and Nathan Drake. This is definitely a game you will play for the story and less for the gameplay. If Call of Duty and the other big budget shooters I mentioned above could take anything from this game, they should take the storytelling elements. 4. Asura’s Wrath
This is basically how a well-told anime should be. It might have elements of animes like Naruto or Dragon Ball Z, BUT those shows have filler episodes, and extend the fights way past their prime. Asura’s Wrath, while short, keeps the pace going with the fights being over-the-top and fast-paced, but it, of course, slows down for drama and character development. You can tell that Cyber Connect 2 put a lot of heart into making sure the story and the entire experience was memorable and enjoyable.
3. Heavy Rain
Talk about the ultimate example of a video game taking on a more cinematic approach. Heavy Rain is basically a film in video game form. It is an adventure/puzzle thriller revolving around a father trying to find his kidnapped son who has been taken by the Origami Killer. There is more to this, but the story is, for the most part, well-paced and well-told. If you love shows like Criminal Minds, and The Killing, you will feel right at home with this game’s story. Sure, there might be some plot holes, and the controls, along with the QTE moments, could take you out of the immersion, but it is still a great example of video game storytelling, and I cannot wait for the company that made this game’s next game, Beyond: Two Souls.
2. Walking Dead
Take Heavy Rain and combine it with the comic book art style and the license of one of the most popular shows right now on television, and you have Telltale’s The Walking Dead. This game has almost everything video game storytelling needs. It has strong characters, great pacing for most of the game, and even has the ability of making me cry. If a game can make me cry, that is a very impressive feat. The strong relationship between the two main characters is well-thought out and well-developed. The other characters are strong also, and leaving some of them alive till the very end will give you some really great moments. Sure, some parts could have been a bit more dramatic and not as silly, and yeah, there are some moments that drag. There are even some moments I couldn’t take seriously, but the great storytelling in this game outweighs the bad. I really wanted to put this game at number 1, but in my opinion, one game tops this one in storytelling.
1. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
So, yeah, the first good game of 2013 is also number one in my top 9 best stories in modern games. Why? Well, I feel like even more passion and love was put into this game’s narrative. Sure, the game might have been developed by Level 5 with Studio Ghibli doing the animated cut scenes and art design, but I bet they had some hand in crafting the story. If you know me, the Studio Ghibli Films are my favorite movies of all time. I say this because I feel like this game has the feeling and vibe of a Studio Ghibli film. It just reminds me why I like those movies, and why I like the RPG’s of the 90’s and early 2000’s. The characters are memorable, and are not as clichéd-looking as the recent Final Fantasy games and other RPG’s. I felt invested in the main characters’ struggles. I liked the charming vibe the game gave off. I really don’t find many flaws with the story. Sure, Walking Dead might have made me cry, but Ni No Kuni kept me involved from beginning to end. That is why it is my favorite story of this last generation.