The Best StoryDriven Video Games

The Best Story-Driven Video Games

If you’re really into good storytelling in your video games, then these story-driven games with excellent plots will be right up your alley.

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The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Games stick with us for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you became addicted to the cycle of progression; powering up your character, unlocking new gear, leveling up. Maybe the gameplay held enough variety and excitement to keep you hooked for hours. Perhaps you wanted to see every corner of a game’s expansive open-world.

For many gamers, it’s the story that ropes them in. Some gamers only play games for their story; they want an interactive narrative that they can be a part of and be whisked away by. For this list, we have avoided the games that have more story than gameplay, and instead focused on those with excellent stories that are also mechanically strong and well-designed experiences. These are the stories that have gripped us won’t let go.

Updated on February 7th, 2022 by Hodey Johns: Writing a narrative is not an easy task, especially when that story needs to be communicated to a broad population. The same characters, stories, and plots can resonate profoundly with one individual and fall flat with another. In video gaming, the complexity grows as gamers will experience various aspects based on their own decisions and interactions. Those who have put together a masterpiece deserve recognition at the top of the craft. Recent games have made their literary mark on the universe and have been recognized on this list for their successful endeavors in bringing fiction to life.

33 The Wolf Among Us

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Sometimes using established stories can limit a story. Fans often treat source material as sacred, not to be tampered with. But a bold developer can sometimes take a classic tale and treat it like a canvas to the delight and imagination of the gamers.

The spin placed on Little Red Riding Hood done by Telltale Games makes The Wolf Among Us something special. It’s a short game with a lot of DLC after gaining a cult following with a story that keeps characters in the spotlight. It’s one of the very best games to take on road trips.

32 What Remains Of Edith Finch

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

For a game that takes scarcely over two hours to complete, you won’t be able to stop talking about What Remains of Edith Finch, even after years separated from the experience. Gamers will be drawn in by the dark aesthetic and the story about a curse that causes family members to meet early and unfortunate ends.

Games that a generally “dark” and “sad” are a dime a dozen, but it’s the refreshing and unexpected message at the end that makes the narrative work here. No one has the power to stave off death forever. This is the curse of humanity and it’s that very curse of temporary nature that precisely makes the strive to live all the more wonderful.

31 Portal 2

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Predicting that a sequel to the phenomenal Portal could live up to the expectations would have been a risky bet. Yet what fans got was a game that amplified the puzzles and logic of the first game and wrapped it up in a hilarious and engaging story.

Portal 2 took the bold step of introducing new protagonists and antagonists and it paid off in spades. The key to this success was never losing sight of Chell or GLaDOS for the first game. The story revealed in Portal 2 is a must-play experience for anyone calling themselves a gamer.

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30 Firewatch

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Fans are sharply divided over whether or not Firewatch is a good game. It is very short, limited on action, and devoid of screen-rattling moments. But nobody disagrees that the landscape is beautiful and the story is one of the ages. It’s a game that feels like autumn in all of its good and bad ways.

The exposition occurs over walkie-talkies, using a dialogue between Henry and Delilah that is both relatable and revealing. The fluid way they transition from humor to heavy subjects had the world beyond the gaming community realizing that gaming can tell a story as well as any book.

29 Disco Elysium

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Story-driven games can fall into the trap of retelling a fairy tale. The hero is a knight in shining armor and the villain is a demon straight out of hell. Disco Elysium wins by exploring the grey areas of the world. Harry is a mix of good and bad and it is up to the player to decide which of those he gravitates toward.

The world around Harry is just as complex as the detective himself. Motivations are not singular or transparent. Gamers will come across villains that they sympathize with instead of monsters cackling from the shadows. These eventual enemies can be just as memorable as the main character.

28 Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Naughty Dog has come an awfully long way since the days of Crash Bandicoot. Its games have always been good, but through the Uncharted series, the developer helped to pioneer a movement that led to the rise in popularity of narrative-driven video games. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is not only a cinematic masterpiece, but also serves as a fitting end to one of gaming’s very best heroes.

Each of Nathan Drake’s four fantastic outings features wonderful storytelling, but it’s his last that truly highlights his personal growth while also providing a bit more insight into his past and his relationships with those closest to him.

27 Final Fantasy X

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

There have been some fantastic Final Fantasy games over the years, but not many of their stories are as captivating as the one in Final Fantasy X. It has a little bit of everything; from an ill-fated romance to a son’s neverending struggle to earn his distant father’s approval.

With the exception of perhaps Kimahri, each of the party members in Final Fantasy X offers something significant to the game’s narrative. They’re also incredibly complex, and the storytelling techniques used to relay their tale were pretty groundbreaking for the era. When combined with Nobuo Uematsu’s sensational score, it makes for an unforgettable experience that JRPG fans would be foolish to miss.

26 Life Is Strange 2

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

The episodic game of Life Is Strange 2 might not be filled to the brim with action, but it’s an incredible work of art and storytelling nonetheless. The game focuses on the choices the player makes, which will ultimately determine the outcome at the end.

After a misunderstanding with the police and a strange explosion, two brothers Daniel and Sean are forced to flee as fugitives. During their hunt, Daniel discovers that he has a special ability: he can use the power of his mind to move objects. Puzzle-solving and dialogue choices aside, the characters alone and their touching bond are what make this game so good story-wise.

25 Final Fantasy IX

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Final Fantasy creator and original director Hironobu Sakaguchi was once quoted as saying that he’d rather tell a good story than make a fine action game, and there is no better story in the series than that of Final Fantasy IX. Where the game succeeds is in its characters’ personal stories and relationships.

Every member of your party is a charming, endearing person with a story worth knowing intimately. The game’s overall plot might not be original, but the heart that was poured into its characters and their relationships is second to none. You’ll play through this game 20 more times just to enjoy the journey you take with this wonderful cast of characters.

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24 Tales Of Arise

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Every so often, there comes an RPG that you just can’t afford to miss. Tales of Arise was given the RPG of the year at the Game of the Year Awards for satisfying gameplay and character options. But it’s the story that leaves gamers floored.

Stories of war and love are rarely done well. When they strive to be too tragic, they become predictable slogs. When they aim to be too inspiring, they turn a blind eye to brutal realities. Tales of Arise takes a grounded approach to both warfare and romance and executes both to perfection.

23 To The Moon

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Even by today’s standards, To the Moon is a relatively short game, but it more than makes up for this with its fantastic story. You’ll be placed in the shoes of a pair of doctors as they travel through the memories of one of their dying patients in order to fulfill his final request. It’s full of touching moments and is a must-play for fans of narrative-driven titles.

The game was built using RPG maker and features an art style reminiscent of some of the best role-playing games of the nineties. Granted, the gameplay does leave a little to be desired, but the story is expertly written and is perfectly complemented by Kan R. Gao’s hauntingly beautiful soundtrack.

22 The Walking Dead

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Due to the simplicity of their gameplay, a lot of emphasis is placed on the storytelling in Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series. Thankfully, the overarching narrative is more than capable of carrying the titles on its back, thanks in large to the sheer strength of its characters.

Though players initially take control of Lee, later installments will see them walking in the shoes of a young woman named Clementine. Watching her grow and mature is an absolute joy, while the harsh and unforgiving world in which the games are set provides plenty of tension. You’ll also be able to shape the narrative with the choices you make and some will even have consequences much further down the road.

21 Chrono Trigger

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Games involving time travel can very easily devolve into an incomprehensible mess of poorly woven narrative threads and nonsensical ideas. This isn’t a criticism that could ever be levied against Chrono Trigger, however; a game that many consider to be the best JRPG ever made.

Despite taking players to multiple time periods and allowing them to change the future through their actions in the past, the game’s narrative is incredibly easy to follow. The characters are all incredibly likable too, and each has their own motivations for joining the fight against Lavos. It was also one of the first video games to feature multiple endings and allows players to finish the main story at numerous points.

20 Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

What many had merely hoped would be a good gameplay experience ended up turning into the winner of the Best Narrative at the Game of the Year Awards in 2021. The characters are true to their comic book origin, true to the movie version, and yet the developers put a great deal of their own creativity and love into them.

Considering the disappointment of Marvel titles, some might question if this is a “good by comparison” selection. But it’s not this at all. Gamers come to love the cast and become inevitably invested in the missions that they embark on.

19 Ghost Of Tsushima

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Veteran gamers are always wary of games that produce great graphics because they often try to add a lot of polish to a thin story. This was not the case with Ghost of Tsushima, a game that leverages its graphics to tell a tale of a land ravaged by invaders.

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No further words need to be spoken, but those that are tell tales of forgotten lore, broken families, the purpose of faith, and the reason and ways people fight against impossible odds. Players will not soon forget the world of Tsushima after looking at it through the eyes of samurai warrior Jin Sakai.

18 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

The third installment of the popular game and book (and now Netflix) series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best and most iconic medieval fantasy RPGs to have come out in the last decade. Toe-to-toe with Skyrim, it introduces players to a much darker and more sinister world of monsters and magic.

The player must navigate the vast open-world as Geralt, hot on the trail of Yennefer. On the way, a myriad of quests, tough boss fights, and various secondary storylines help to build a rich and diverse world that any player hungry for lore and story would be delighted to dive headfirst into.

17 Undertale

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Undertale is a great example of telling a compelling story without splurging on high-tier graphics. Inspired by retro games, the look and controls of this game closely mimic old hand-held console games while bringing in a fresh, extremely touching story.

It’s the story of a young child falling inside a mountain, which is protected from the rest of the Earth with a magical barrier. To return home, the child must interact with the inhabitants of the mountain, all of which are various kinds of monsters. Depending on the approach the player takes (pacifist or violent), the outcome of the game will be significantly different.

16 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

The Metal Gear Solid series is all about the storyline. While it came to define a genre that didn’t exist before the first game’s debut in 1987, it has always been infamous for its complex plot of sinister villains and political paranoia, as well as extended cutscenes that swallow up the rest of the game.

The third game in the series, however, undoubtedly hit that sweet spot with regards to plot. The rivalry between the man who would become Big Boss and his former mentor, The Boss, was gripping. The way that the game had a tight ludonarrative understanding of itself was truly brilliant.

15 Yakuza 0

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

The Yakuza series is in a unique position wherein it enjoys a distinctly heavy amount of ludonarrative dissonance; its side quests, mini-games, and combat encounters have little to nothing to do with the game’s main plot. But the developers know that, and they enjoy it.

So, while the game might have all kinds of campy and silly mini-games to enjoy, its plot is one of betrayal, brotherhood, loyalty, and growth into manhood. Every game in the series has a wonderful story to enjoy, but Yakuza 0 hits that tone just right, offering impeccable voice acting and unbelievably smart localization.

14 Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The Best StoryDriven Video Games

Another wonderfully campy Japanese series, Danganronpa is a narrative-based game in the ‘visual novel’ genre, blending life simulator elements with trial-based scenes reminiscent of Phoenix Wright.

In this game, the protagonist and his peers have all been locked inside a school and are slowly being killed off. After each grizzly death, a trial is held and the player must determine the culprit. Although the heavy anime art and aesthetics might point to a jolly cartoony game about school friends, it has some wonderfully executed twists and turns to enjoy.

Hodey Johns is a writer for Game Rant based out of the Rocky Mountains in North Ogden, Utah. He’s had a passion for video games and literature since he was a child growing up along the beaches of San Diego, California. As a graduate of Theology from Liberty University, he puts his experience with religion, philosophy, and debate into his work. His other interests include sports, smoking meats, and podcasting.

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