Which games would you describe as "well written"?


#75

Most of my picks already listed, I will add:

The Wolf Among us
Knights Of The Old Republic 2
Vampire: The Masquerade
Legacy of Kain

And I will re-add this one for emphasis:
Red Dead Redemption

I know I’m forgetting a bunch…but not many…well-written video games are not that common.


#76

Well, the OG Thief games will always be my go-to for my favourite anything, and a lot of that is in their writing. Just solidly plotted fantasy-noir with some great characters and worldbuilding all the way through.

A lot of other favourites have already been mentioned, but here’s a trio of sci-fi puzzle games with some really solid writing behind them:

The Fall (Part one. I picked up part two on the steam sale, but haven’t really had time to get into it.)
The Swapper
The Talos Principle


#77

I don’t know what it means to be “well written”, but what I do know is that I barely remember any of the “story” from any of the games I play and in most cases actively grow frustrated at the “”“story”"" getting in the way of my playing the game. I don’t know if that’s because I don’t think these games are well written, or because I’ve never really seen games as a vehicle for stories (if I want those I read a book or watch TV and cinema).

I suspect one of the reasons I don’t care, aside from “poor writing”, is the depth of content. If you took all of the dialogue from your average AAA game, how much content would it be? One hour of a TV episode? A long movie? A short story? A mini-series? A decently sized fantasy novel?

I feel like it’s towards the shorter end, and I don’t really want to be reading the transcript from a one-off hour long special inbetween bouts of shooting lethal mercenaries.


#78

Old-timey space sims often had very good scripted narratives. (As well as recorded audiologs, emails, etc.) My favorite being Independence War 2.


#79

Great pick. Such a great game that ends up integrating the primary mechanic into the story it ends up telling. Woefully underrated and I consider it a must play for everyone.


#80

Rightly or wrongfully, I use ‘writing’ to refer to just about anything in a game where the essence can be mostly captured with words. Things that could be, and likely were, described by the originator to the executor.

I have a similar point of view with movies- I don’t make much of a distinction between writing and directing. “Writing” is just the central creative force that isn’t music, acting, or the specific details of production design.

If a character suddenly appearing in 16th century garb produces and effect in of itself, I’d ascribe that success to the writer. Only if the effect relied on the actual details of the garb (such that any competent 16th century costume wouldn’t do), then I’d ascribe the success, creatively speaking, to the costume designer.

I don’t know if anyone would agree with that perspective, but from my point of view there remains this counterproductive distinction in game design of the writer as the person that creates dialogue and synopses. I feel like you had a similar thing in old movies where the writer was basically a novelist or playwright that handed this document to the crew which in turn was filming something not far from a play.

In that sense Ueda’s compliment to Miyazaki (create concepts that can only be expressed through video games) is like Hitchcock’s to Spielberg:

young Spielberg is the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch

Spielberg’s response to that was:

“What? What did he say, again?” Spielberg has never heard this Hitchcock quote before. “Well! If he really said that, you just made my last four decades. You’re responsible for making my last four decades. I’ve never heard that!”

from:

I wasn’t alive when Spielberg was making his mark, but when I’d like to think I that when I watch Jaws that I get what Hitchcock was saying based on what I’ve seen of movies from the early 70’s and prior (though I have no clue if Spielberg was the ‘first’).

For me, the best written games are those that best craft a ‘player experience’. I feel like studios instinctively get all this, and just about every aspect of modern game design except writing goes with this flow. So you get these fully realized experiences narrated by some failed novelist’s attempt at a script. Horizon: Zero Dawn could literally be read from start to finish with the found documents in an appendix (which is essentially how they’re presented in game).

As far as games I think have great writing, there are of course the usual candidates like Witcher 3 and Dark Souls, but I’d also nominate games like Team Fortress 2, Company of Heroes, and Into the Breach where the writing doesn’t feel constrained by a traditional notion of ‘storytelling’. Hell, Devil’s Daggers is practically a well written game in my book.


#81

Nobody in this thread mentioned Inside. Y’all fired.


#82

Inside was cool, but “well-written” doesn’t seem to apply? Even in a general story sense. It was an environment that suggested a backstory (and never a coherent one that I noticed, although that doesn’t bug me) and one big gameplay/conceptual twist.

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’d love to hear your argument in its favor!


#83

Yeah I still don’t know exactly what happened in Inside.


#84

I’m torn between laughing and throwing up.


#85

Undertale is a great one too. Also another example of how gameplay and dialogue can be intertwined in only the way games can do.


#86

Alpha Centauri - I’m a bit surprised that it’s not been mentioned so far. It’s one of the few sci-fi games that succeed in creating and sustaining a compelling atmosphere where the norm is lots of techno-mumbo-jumbo from the onset.

FTL - its encounter vignettes convey a sense of this being a hostile universe that is nevertheless full of opportunities for the bold.

Anyone remember Betrayal at Krondor? That game was written by the author of Krondor novels, and fond memories flood back to me to this day.


#87

I remember that game. Mostly I remember being more or less constantly poisoned, for some reason.


#88

This is not accurate. He licensed it, and reviewed the materials to ensure they were not breaking canon, and consulted on various aspects of the story. He did not write it. He later adapted it into a novel, however. But the actual writing was all done by the dev writers.


#89

I remember starving to death on my way to Kondor. I was later told that I was supposed to have solved the riddles on all the chests I found along the way, but I’ve always been terrible at word puzzles like that.


#90

The first chapter is hard, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing yet. The story keeps telling you to hurry toward Krondor, but the gameplay actually favors you taking your time and making a long detour out to the east. Once you can get through that first chapter, you shouldn’t have any trouble with the rest of the game.

You should be able to get by without the riddle boxes once you get the hang of the combat system.


#91

My memory of Betrayal of Krondor is that it wouldn’t load on the computer I had at the time. So I owned it but never played it.


#92

Yeah, that was written by Tom Jubert who also worked on Driver: San Francisco, Penumbra and Subnautica, which had some surprisingly good writing too.


#93

I know Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines has been mentioned several times, but after playing it again a couple months ago and finally finishing it this time it is at the absolute forefront when I think about well written games. All the characters in the game are just a delight to interact with and they all feel like living people with their own motivations and ideologies. I think I had gotten so used to mediocre writing in games, because I was floored when I ran into Jeanette in the game. She has her own way of talking that made me think the writer had an absolute blast writing for her:

The other characters are fantastic as well. A character like Jack might come off as seemingly edgy in another writers hands, but in this game he is just immediately cool. The game is just filled to the brim with memorable characters, some of which only have a few lines and yet you get an understanding of who they are and they leave a lasting impression.

I’d have a hard time choosing another RPG that gets you as interested in its world as quickly as this game does. Often when I start an RPG, I try to have several hours set aside so I can get properly invested into the game since sometimes the beginning can be a chore. With this game you go straight into a trial, see most of the major characters in the game, Jack gives you a quick rundown of being a vampire, there’s a Sabbat raid with a bit of tutorial and when you come out of it, the game and its universe will have already gotten their hooks into you. Due to the writing you just soak up the terminology and information about the clans and sects effortlessly while you play.

One last thing I really appreciated was how the game took into account the gender of my character. I played a female character and I loved how the dialogue would be a bit different to account for that. Even in the above video, you can see the bartender call her ‘beautiful’ and ‘sweetheart’. During my playthrough I was called everything from babygirl to fucking bitch. I think at one point I was called sugartits. I tend to play as female characters often in games and I think other games take the easy way out so they won’t have to record a separate line.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention The Deb of Night radio program and its commercials. Every time I advanced in the game enough to where a new segment popped up, I had to stop what I was doing and listen to it in its entirety. Sooo good!


#94

Would you kindly let me add one more game to the list? I don’t have a very “high brow” description of “well written.” For me, I consider a game well written if it conveyed a feeling or emotion that moved me in some form more than the average adrenaline video game rush. And there is one game that fell flat in the 3rd act, but up until then had a really good setting and plot that was integral to the entire experience of the game, including most of the game play. And the gotcha moment got me. Hook, line, sinker. I’m usually pretty good at reading twists in video games because they are typically so horribly telegraphed but this one surprised me.

Smacking Andrew Ryan in the head during the revelation in Bioshock is still a vivid memory for me today, 11 years later. That to me is good writing. Video games are often a long and drawn out affair, and telling a story in this medium can be challenging. A good video game story teller uses the graphics, game play, sound and text in unison to make striking, moving centerpiece moments happen for players. And I thought this was a great example of that.