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10 best video game stories ever

Some video games with the best stories to date (Image via Naughty Dog, Dontnod Entertainment & Rockstar Games)
Some video games with the best stories to date (Image via Naughty Dog, Dontnod Entertainment & Rockstar Games)
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Sidhartha Deka

Once upon a time, video games would focus solely on gameplay, with little to no emphasis on the overall story. However, as time moved on, so did video games, thus increasing their overall quality and ushering in a new form of media for storytelling.

Since then, video games have been judged not only for their gameplay and visuals but also in narrative achievement. Featuring stellar voice acting performances and well-written narratives that move audiences, video games have become a platform wherein creators can bring to life a new form of storytelling, one that requires active audience participation.

Over the course of the last two decades, video game stories have been highly compared to big budget movies and TV shows. Some video games have arguably achieved more than most movies, with their plots, protagonists, and interesting side characters. On that note, here are 10 of the best stories in video games.

Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion and may contain spoilers.


10 video games with narratives that are better than movies

10) The Last of Us Part I & II

The Last of Us (Image via Naughty Dog)
The Last of Us (Image via Naughty Dog)

Since the two games are part of the same larger story, one cannot be mentioned without the other. The first installment of The Last of Us, developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony, was released on June 14, 2013. The video game’s main protagonist, Joel, meets young Ellie as the two journey across a zombie-infested US.

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The second game, which was released on June 19, 2020, focuses on Ellie as a young adult after the events of the first game. The overarching theme of the first game is family, and how Joel and Ellie become akin to father and daughter. While the two initially start off on the wrong foot, they learn to trust one another with time.

The second game deals with cause and effect, which starts a vicious cycle of revenge after Joel’s actions at the end of the first game. Ellie has a hard lesson to learn about vengeance as she comes into her own in this game. With stellar performances from Troy Baker as Joel and Ashley Johnson as Ellie, this duology is an emotionally rocking ride from start to finish.


9) What Remains of Edith Finch

What remains of Edith Finch (Image via Giant Sparrow)
What remains of Edith Finch (Image via Giant Sparrow)

Developed by indie developer Giant Sparrow and published by Annapurna Interactive, What Remains of Edith Finch is a single-player video game wherein Edith Finch narrates how her family was cursed. This game was originally released on April 25, 2017 for Windows and PlayStation 5.

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The story is told via a diary, which narrates the time when Edith returns to her ancestral home. Here, the story flashes back to different family members and their eventual deaths. While the family matriarch believes that a curse haunts the family, the game never clearly tells the audience if this is indeed true or just superstition.

The themes of the video game revolve around the concept of the inevitability of death. Players assay the role of different members of the Finch family, taking them across different gameplay tropes. In the end, it is revealed that Edith had also died during labor, and the diary is being read by her child.


8) Mass Effect trilogy

The Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Image via BioWare)
The Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Image via BioWare)

Mass Effect is a series of video games from developer BioWare, released over the course of six years, starting in 2007. These games are set in a fictional future where humanity has developed space travel and has already contacted several alien species. The protagonist is a soldier of the Systems Alliance Navy, named Shepard.

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Mass Effect is simply a hero’s journey, in which Commander Shepard unearths a hidden threat to destroy all life in the galaxy. The scope and narrative of these games have often been compared to the space opera style of the Star Wars movies, which also involves different planets and a conflict spanning the galaxy.

Commander Shepard's story has earned BioWare a lot of praise, more than their other properties. Despite the controversial endings seen in Mass Effect 3, these games are some of the most iconic and beloved titles amongst sci-fi RPG fans.

With the next Mass Effect game seemingly returning to the Milky Way galaxy and carrying on with Shepard’s story, fans cannot wait for its release.


7) Life is Strange

Life is Strange (Image via Dontnod Entertainment)
Life is Strange (Image via Dontnod Entertainment)

While Dontnod Entertainment has many games under its belt, its first foray into the graphic adventure genre is definitely worth mentioning. Life is Strange is an interactive story video game which was released in 2015 in an episodic format across 10 months.

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The story revolves around Max Caufield, who returns to her hometown of Arcadia Bay for high school. While in a threatening situation, she discovers she can control time. This starts off a fun albeit dangerous journey, as she meets her old friend Chloe and they discover a sinister mystery around some missing school students.

This video game offers many emotional beats, outlining the major themes of the narrative. The importance of time and how to utilize it effectively are vital lessons to take away from this story. It also deals with depression and bullying and how it affects everyone, even if they do not always show it.


6) Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight (Image via Rocksteady)
Batman: Arkham Knight (Image via Rocksteady)

Despite the recent influx of big budget Hollywood movies, the best superhero experiences seem to come from video games. Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight dropped the trademark comic style from its previous games, instead opting for a grounded Dark Knight story, straight from the pages of DC.

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It is a normal Halloween in Gotham City, where Batman must work together with the GPCD to stop Scarecrow and his plan to flood the Eastern Seaboard with fear gas. The premise is as Batman as it gets, but the execution is phenomenal. The story takes several unexpected turns and ends on a note that might surprise many.

This video game shows how well a superhero story can be told, especially in an open-world environment. Though Arkham Knight ended Rocksteady’s Batman series, their Arkham universe is still going strong with the upcoming Suicide Squad Kills the Justice League game.


5) Undertale

Undertale (Image via Toby Fox)
Undertale (Image via Toby Fox)

From the brilliant mind of Toby Fox came Undertale in 2015. In the 2D role-playing video game, players control an unnamed child who falls into the mysterious land of the Underground. Originally released for PCs, the popularity of this title saw it ported to different consoles.

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Undertale offers players multiple choices with the freedom to play as they please, which was novel for a 2D title at the time. The unnamed boy meets a variety of creatures, many of whom are properly fleshed out characters, even though they only communicate via text.

Overall, this is an emotional journey regardless of the path one traverses, although players going for the genocide run might be the exception. Being compassionate is awarded with wholesome gratification, while backstabbing and double crossing is met with a heart-wrenching talking to and a tough boss battle.


4) God of War (2018)

God of War (Image via Santa Monica Studios)
God of War (Image via Santa Monica Studios)

Once upon a time, no one would have thought that a God of War video game would receive praise for its story. However, when developer Santa Monica Studios sought to reinvent Kratos in a soft reboot, it outdid the past title in all aspects. No longer a revenge-driven rage-filled god killer, this Spartan now takes on the responsibility of a father.

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With a full beard signifying his calmer outlook on life, it was worth picking up 2018's God of War just to see Kratos' evolution. However, his change is merely the tip of the iceberg, as the game is filled with interesting characters, including Atreus, Kratos’ new son.

This time involving the Norse Gods, the larger story is not full of mind-numbing action, but is punctuated with actual emotional moments. Kratos struggles with the responsibility of fatherhood, while Atreus acts like a brat at times. Even the villain and side characters get proper arcs of their own.

The game’s sequel, God of War: Ragnarok is one of the most highly anticipated games of the year.


3) Unpacking

Unpacking (Image via Witch Beam)
Unpacking (Image via Witch Beam)

An offering from indie developer Witch Beam, Unpacking is a puzzle video game that was released on November 2, 2021 across several platforms. The objective of the game is simple: players have to unpack boxes and arrange their belongings in appropriate areas.

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While the video game’s story is simple, its presentation is commendable. The story is told through different items belonging to the protagonist, with players discovering more about the character each time.

Unpacking is the story of growing up and tackling the responsibilities of life. The protagonist grows up throughout the game and the audience can see different stages of their life. The bittersweet ending of the game will surely bring tears to the player’s eyes.


2) Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel's Spider-Man (Image via Insomniac Games)
Marvel's Spider-Man (Image via Insomniac Games)

Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, which was released in 2018, is a new take on the friendly neighborhood wall crawler and another example of doing ample justice to the original comic books.

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Alongside Peter Parker as Spider-Man, the game features additional characters from Marvel comics. It tells an original story of Peter eight years into his superhero career and, as usual, down on his luck.

A well-paced story that allows the player enough time to get acquainted with the controls and the open-world sandbox, it picks up speed towards the second act and finally puts the pedal to the metal on the third. Do not be fooled though - this is still a Spider-Man story through and through, filled with loss, self-sacrifice, and of course, hope.


1) Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Image via Rockstar Games)
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Image via Rockstar Games)

And finally, a game that requires no introduction, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. A prequel to the first Red Dead game, this story takes place in the late 1800s as industrialization makes its way to the American Wild West. The game follows John Marston’s original gang of outlaws led by Dutch van der Linde.

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In the title, players take on the role of new protagonist Arthur Morgan, a member of the van der Linde gang, who has one of the most compelling character arcs in video game history. The overall story takes place in six chapters and details the downfall of the gang as they are led further and further astray by their wayward leader.

One of the most crucial themes in this game is the nature of the changing times and how it affects people. Throughout the game, almost all the characters in the gang end up undergoing some change or the other, including John, Arthur, and Dutch. Ultimately, the player decides which road to take, with one ending in self-sacrifice while the other giving in to the protagonist’s greed.


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Edited by Saman
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