Games with good stories

I’m of the opinion that the majority of games that have a story have a bad one. So lets try and collectively gather all the games with good stories in this thread. (as subjective as this idea may seem)

My contribution:

Planescape: Torment - Immortal with amnesia adventuring through the planes in search of his identity/mortality meeting a cornucopia of berks, bashers and bloods along the way.

System Shock: Post-space station massacre via omnipotent rogue AI with plans backed up by plans to destroy all mankind.

Half-life: Classy alien invasion from another dimension replete with full scale military cleaning op/black op fail-safe.

Thief: All the thrilling escapades of Garrett busting a jack-move on the pagans, hammerites/mechanists, keepers, undead, nobility, etc… and his actions that end up saving the steampunk sprawl known as The City.

Grim Fandango.

Icewind Dale. I found the storyline quite engaging, although it helped that it was narrated by David Ogden Stiers.

I’m not sure this is going to work - some people think the plots and dialogue in the later Final Fantasy games are amazing, I think they’re quite lame. Anyway, I’ll add Anachronox to the list.

Max Payne - Noir revenge thriller.

No-one Lives Forever - Brilliant Bond takeoff, with twists and villains to match

I rather liked the harsh existential crisis of Phantom Dust, actually.

Fallout was a decent post-apocalyptic tale with a classic opening and a poignant ending.

Prince of Persia: I like the whole storytelling/fable vibe it had, straight out of Arabian Nights.

Deus Ex’s story could have been less convulated, but points for actually being internally consistent and not relying of contrivance

Knights of the Old Republic has bits that can be picked apart, but the overall story is strong.

Agree with Deus Ex and Grim Fandango. Loom would be my other Lucasfilm/LucasArts pick for a good story, though I wasn’t too crazy about the game itself. And Anachronox needs a sequel, dammit.

Baldur’s Gate 1/2
Fallout 1/2
Sam & Max Hit the Road
Maniac Mansion
Day of the Tentacle
Deus Ex
System Shock 2
Thief 2

Perhaps more controversial, because they are highly memorable and fleshed-out settings/events but light on verbal depth:

Rise of Legends (great setting, surprisingly believable background, awful connection to gameplay)
Total Annihilation (see above)
StarCraft (see above)
Starship Titanic (actually a very bad game, IMO)

I’d echo nearly every one of the above, and add:

The Lurking Horror
Leather Goddesses of Phobos
Bad Mojo
Monkey Island II
Day of the Tentacle
Eric the Unready
Alpha Centauri
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Twisted Metal: Black

(I’m not kidding about that last one. Some of the monkey’s-paw tales for the characters were quite entertaining, in a Tales From the Crypt sort of way. Admittedly, it was more story-as-reward than story-in-which-you-participated.)

I liked Deus Ex but I did think that if it had been a movie I would have been pretty amazed at some aspects.
If played through one way, the very people I had been slaughtering with joy for ages all of a sudden decided they loved me because I said sorry. Seemed a bit odd to me.

Just remember that we -Luke, the Force, moviegoers- forgave Darth Vader for the explosive destruction of an entire planet (including Jimmy Smits), all because he tossed an old man down a shaft.

  1. The Warcraft universe of games has been quite engaging even if it makes use of several cliches of fantasy genres. I liked it enough to read extensively into the backstory set prior to the very first Warcraft game as well as the lore of the games that came before Warcraft III. Caring about the story makes PvE in World of Warcraft a lot more goal-driven and enjoyable.

  2. The Half-life series. Ironically though we haven’t actually learned that much about what the hell is going on over the course of 2 main games and 3 expansion packs, so a lot of allure of the story right now is not about what actually happened (that’s just standard alien invasion fiction fare so far and isn’t particularly outlandish) but rather the speculation surrounding the direction of the series, the identities of some of the main players like the G-man, who Gordon Freeman works for and whether he’s a pawn, etc.

  3. Dreamfall The Longest Journey. I didn’t play the first game in the series but the major thing going for the second game was the very engaging story that was a large part of the appeal of the game, much more important than the simplistic gameplay and fighting/stealth elements.

These are the recent ones that stand out recently to me. I also object to the notion that people don’t really care about stories because then no one would have played Dreamfall. Personally, I don’t play games that only boast multiplayer elements. I never played the Battlefield series extensively outside of LAN parties. I avoid all strategy games that have an underdeveloped or no single player campaign.

Myth-- mostly because it was well told from a footman’s point of view, not from some big, nietzchean uber hero.

Planescape: Torment stands out as the only game I can remember, that I wanted to replay mostly for the story’s sake.

The classic Wings on the Amiga had a great story too. Even after all these years, I can still recall the highlights.

Some of these have already been mentioned:

Fallout 1 - perfect for the setting, great ending

Icewind Dale 1 - suprisingly engaging tragic backstory revealed

Syberia - rare case of a female protagonist keeping me interested in figuring out the whole mystery.

Portal - a weird mid-80’s game that basically had you returning to an abandoned Earth and trying to figure out what had happened by reading articles that a barely functioning “internet” system is pulling up. Not so much a game as a somewhat interactive novel. Later was actually published as a novel.

Phantom Dust is the only game I can think of with a really interesting story.

Lots of games have nifty dialogue or cool characters, but even the holy trilogy of Fallout/PST/JA2 have incredibly basic and cliched stories. Find a dealie, ZOMG Amnesia!, and “Save us Obi-Wan, you’re our only hope!”

P.S. I know Phantom Dust is also amnesia heavy, but it incorporates it into the story in a less awkward way than PS:T, which plays the amnesia card pretty much twice: To make exposition less awkward and for one(pretty fantastic) reveal. It’s not a core part of the story the way it is in Phantom Dust.

Americans rarely make story-heavy games and the Japanese have some sort of genetic disposition towards ruining otherwise interesting premises with wAcKy minor characters and/or mindmeltingly bizare twists.

I like Silent Hill 2 and Eternal Darkness.

I also think Dead Rising’s story is better than it honestly has any right to be.

Brian Reynolds’ Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.

It had an awesome setting, vivid characters, and really sharp writing. You supplied the narrative.