I’m a bit of a gamer. I know, big cringe to admit that nowadays, but I am. I can’t help it, I love gaming. So I just wanted to have a little discussion about the games we feel have the best stories. I would make a top ten list but I think I’ll go for a different approach and go for the discussion side of things.
I love a lot about games. How they’re made, the art behind them, the creative teams that work on them. Visual presentation and sound design. Mechanics, gameplay etc. But I absolutely adore what videogames can do with story. This is why horror games have completely blown the genre out of the water. Films, books or comics can’t even come close to how scary a horror game like Silent Hill 2 or Amnesia can get. That immersion can work for any genre or any type of story.
Personally, I have lots of different types of storytelling that I enjoy. I love the straight-forward cinematic storytelling of games like Bioshock or The Last of Us, but I also love the strange fourth-wall-breaking storytelling of games like Undertale.
However, the games that had me the most invested in terms of story over my life are undoubtedly JRPGs. The Final Fantasy, Persona and Disgaea series’ especially. Persona 5 had me engaged and loving it right from the first few seconds, not to mention Persona 4 was my favourite story ever as a teenager. I have a special place in my heart for Disgaea 4 as well, the crazy anime hijinks mixing well with its insane, off-the-wall gameplay and art style.
Final Fantasy is another case. A childhood game like Persona 4, holding a special place in my heart like Disgaea. But not only that, Final Fantasy as a franchise holds up to scrutiny in ways stories rarely can. Final Fantasy 4,6,9,10 and 14 especially all have narratives that when examined in further detail just explode into rich detail and thematic beauty. Don’t get me wrong, every game in the series has a depth you won’t find elsewhere in the genre, but my lord do those in particular ever deliver in terms of story.
Now I’d like to mention what I think is the best kind of storytelling in gaming. Maybe not my favourite, maybe not the kind that draws me in easily, but definitely the most interesting. That being From Software, and the incredibly unique way they approach storytelling for their games.
As of now, the games they’ve approached in this way consist of: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Bloodborne, Dark Souls III and to a certain extent, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. So what makes it so unique?
To put it simply, for the most part, you as a player are simply not made aware of the story. Not at face value anyway. NPCs are vague and sometimes even outright lie to you. The world is harsh and unforgiving, not allowing you to learn much from your surroundings before being smashed apart by a giant ogre or burned alive by a dragon. But, little by little, as you progress, you do piece the story together. From items, you pick up, pieces of backstory you hear that line up between multiple people, location details and even tiny things like the enemy placement.
The uncontested master of this is Bloodborne, by a country mile. Starting off as a fairly generic trek through old horror movie territory. It goes over werewolves, spooky castles, witches and ogres. But slowly descends into areas of dark, twisted cosmic horror that comes completely out of left-field, though feel earned completely because of how well it was built up.
So, what are your favourite videogame stories? Do you have a favourite genre? What are the best? Let’s discuss!