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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Feb 2012

    Tell me a story: Your Top Ten Narrative Games

    When I say narrative I guess I mean a plot or the illusion thereof which compels you to want to progress. Include anything you want, it can be something that the game allowed you to create or something delivered in a very linear manner, or anything in between, but provide a brief explanation of what it was in particular that you found engaging.

    The Witcher 2-Absolute tour de force. Hugely ambitious and impressive narrative, tightly controlled, populated by fully formed characters and factions, lavishly realised through graphics, voice acting and game mechanics. Not a moment wasted, perfectly paced. A gaming feast more or less unequalled in terms of pure immersive narrative for me. Absolutely the high water mark for how games can tell linear stories in my opinion.

    Bastion-Gameplay as a form of narrative revelation. An astoundingly rich world economically explored and explained, You advance into blank space but before long realise that an entire world has quite literally been built around you.

    Shogun 2-Simulate your own feudal war. It’s all there-economy, military, espionage, diplomacy, Family politics, all on a stage shared with an AI fully empowered to interact with the game, and the narrative, with as much commitment and creativity as the player. The only limit to the drama is your ambition.

    Dragon Age: Origins Unoriginal but superbly polished lore. The weight of history and culture is tangible throughout, if sadly compromised end game by your character being totally overpowered and outside of all that.

    Psychonauts-A series of vignettes which are each as creative as the entirety of most good games. Mechanics designed to interact fully with the story; beautiful aesthetics; some of the best dialogue going; At its strongest moments, the most compelling manifesto of what PC gaming as a unique medium should be.

    Bioshock- Obviously the conflict between the actual gameplay and the narrative was enormous and tremendously frustrating, but the story as told through the linear elements, audio records and mise en scene is one of the best going. A commentary on the excesses of Randian Objectivism and modernist ideologies set in an underwater dystopia is still one of the most impressive blueprints for any game, Rapture is still one of the most incredible places in gaming, and the big reveal is a genuinely incredible moment.

    Thief II: The Metal Age-Brilliant level design. A game which tells story through its use of space and environment as much as it does plot.

    Mafia II-Very strong linear narrative with superb production values, accompanied by sandbox elements very cleverly designed to accentuate the key elements and ideas being explored.

    Dungeon Keeper 2-The overall plot was entirely throw away, but like Psychonauts DKII managed to make every level unique, and so the campaign was effectively twenty individual stories which remains an impressive feat for gaming and a more or less unrivalled one for a real time strategy game. One level might be a siege, the next you would be capturing a monastery to overthrow a vampire fortress, the next was an RPG-alike which required that you forgoe the management elements in favour of exploration of dungeons with limited numbers of high level creatures to progress.

    Half Life-I don’t think it’s aged well sadly but it was the first game I played which arrested me with it’s narrative rather than require me to more or less make it all up in my head. Enthralled and terrified like nothing else at the time due to its clever meshing of plot and level design. Seemed like there was simply nothing else around that even tried that.
    Last edited by sonson; 14-02-2013 at 01:39 PM.

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lambchops's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    1-10: Grim Fandango.

    Well 1 at least, I'll think of more later.

  3. #3
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    Nov 2011
    Silent Hill 1,2,3!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    The land of slain white knights
    Hostile Waters.

    It's written by Warren Ellis, narrated mostly by Tom Baker.

    Get that shit off right now.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Voon's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
    Sultanate of Johore
    That'll be Bastion. You do want to know what's going on in the world you're in other than just "calamity". What's more compelling is when the kid sleeps and we learn about the characters.

    Beyomd that, Fallout: New Vegas. I know the game would still be good without a plot but damn, there's some parts of this game that I really want to progress for the sake of it's plot.
    Art blog here.

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    Watch me fail as Nobunaga

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus GameCat's Avatar
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    Nov 2012
    In random order:

    1. Shadow of Colossus

    Very sublime storytelling. Apart of short cutscenes it's all based on gameplay. Killing each of Colossus is very moving experience. You feel like you're king of the world and you want to punch yourself in face, simultaneously*.

    2. The Walking Dead
    Mostly because of characters and what's happened to them and my own choices. Lee and Clem are probably the best video game characters that aren't superheroes saving a day, everyday.

    3. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
    Yup, that's right. Not first, not second, not third. Shattered Memories. It have some great ideas for storytelling that can be applied only in video game. Like psychoanalyst (you're person that tells his own story to some doctor) tells you to colour drawing of your house and then when action gets back to Silent Hill your house is coloured like on your picture.
    Or different endings based on subconscious (unless you read gamefaq before playing) actions you take in game.

    4. Bastion
    Kid's chilling out after huge effort he made to save Bastion. He finally can put his weapons away and slow down a bit, watching pieces of old world floating around. You're reading this in your head using my voice. ~Narrator

    5. Metal Gear Solid
    It have mostly cinematic cutscenes (great ones) so this not exactly counts as good game narration, but it does some nice small things with Codec or some mockery like in MGS3 where one of characters can die, because he is too old, if you will just leave game working for couple of hours at certain poiont of game, lol.

    6. ???
    I can't think of more games without great narration that's a) cinematic b) based on tons of text.

    *Christ, as English isn't my first language I must always look into dictionary to write this... horrendous (wow, I wrote this correct) word.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sinister agent's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Swayze View Post
    Hostile Waters.

    It's written by Warren Ellis, narrated mostly by Tom Baker.

    Get that shit off right now.


    Great game, really strong narrative (particularly if you played it about a year and a few months ago, with all those protests going on) for an action strategy thing.

    "Do you remember the last time you killed someone?"


    The Last Express. Does story like nothing else - you feel utterly immersed in it, to the point where sheer curiosity will have you following around completely irrelevent NPCs just to hear their opinions on things or how their situation is progressing.

  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node mnemnoch's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    No love for "To The Moon"?
    Add me: Steam, Raptr: mnem


  9. #9
    Network Hub
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of Hotline Miami, as sparse as it was. I'm not sure that the ending was very satisfying, but it kept me wondering just what exactly was going on the whole way through.

    I'm also going to say Portal 2. Wandering around the destroyed remnants of old Aperture while listening to the whole thing falling apart through the audio announcements was brilliantly atmospheric.

  10. #10
    Lesser Hivemind Node Shooop's Avatar
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    May 2012
    I second The Witcher 2, and will add:

    Max Payne 3

    As a game, it fell flat because it wanted you to watch more than play. But it was telling its story well enough I wanted to watch it all mostly thanks to James McCaffrey's spot-on voice acting and a script that made a story we've all heard before interesting enough to listen to again.

    Silent Hill 2-4

    These barely qualify because they weren't even meant for PCs, but they are the high-water marks for stories that make you scour the internet looking for answers after their credits roll. Just about everything in them, from the settings to the enemies is drenched in symbolism.

    Portal 1 & 2

    Sometimes a story works best when you reveal as little as possible. Portal starts out rather generic and even bland save for the robotic voice of GLaDOS commanding you to perform tasks. But after it attempts to kill and you start looking through different areas of the facility things get a bit unsettling to say the least. Where is everyone? Why are there words scrawled all over the walls like that? Did the AI that tried to kill you have something to do with this? It's rare a game can build so much tension without putting you in actual danger most of its play time.

    The sequel couldn't rely on the sudden environmental juxtaposition and wisely didn't attempt to - but instead took some even more surprising twists as you got an idea just what kind of experiments were going on in that aperture science facility. And it gave Valve's writers a chance to show off how well they can make dialogue that straddles the line between comical and terrifyingly insane.

    Batman Arkham City

    I personally didn't think the ending of the first game was that terrible, but I definitely agree this one's much better. It's the perfect ending for such an iconic character - one that neatly capstones his entire legacy and is the perfect high note for his much loved voice actor to leave the business on. All the world a stage indeed.

    Mass Effect 2

    Once upon a time the Mass Effect series actually did matter. Not because of romance options, but because it made decisions matter not unlike The Witcher games. ME2 actually took this a bit farther by making your decisions as a player determine whether or not NPCs who would follow you into battle would still be alive. And if you played the first game, your choices from that one made a difference in the second in some noticeable ways.

    Spec Ops: The Line

    My personal pick for best video game narrative of the past decade. Some people say it's a commentary on the social issues shooters gloss over, but I think it works much better as an all-out deconstruction of those games' story tropes. Even the loading screens start "taunting" you as the game progresses and it ends the only way that could have possibly made sense. It's the perfect antidote to the non-stop jingoism and "might always makes right" attitude that games have been saturated in of late. That a story like this could be written means there might be some hope for the medium after all.

    Honorable mention goes to Dark Souls for mostly the same reason as the Silent Hill games; you really want to know what's going on because you just know there's more to the situation and the world than the game shows you. But it's annoying how ambiguous DS's story is. It's clever having bits of the story hidden in the descriptions for items, but even if you collected everything there's still many more questions it leaves frustratingly unanswered.
    Virtual Pilot 3Dô NEVER NOT SCAM!

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Jul 2011
    NY f'n C
    Planescape: Torment
    - because Planescape: Torment
    Fallout series minus 3
    - because Fallout
    Knights of the Old Republic
    - because it's Bioware schlock, but good Bioware schlock
    Mass Effect series
    - because you can't just pick one within the whole arc
    Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
    - because it's what Obsidian does best
    Portal series
    - because robotic tsunderes
    Grim Fandango
    - because Art Deco, mariachis and suaveness.
    Baldur's Gate series
    - because Minsc and Boo
    Max Payne
    - because Noir, comic books and constipated grimaces
    System Shock 2
    - because you motherfuckers haven't mentioned it yet. >:C
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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    Attorney at Lawl
    "His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy." - Woody Allen

  12. #12
    Lesser Hivemind Node's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    U.S. East
    I don't have time for a list, but Max Payne 2 is one of my favorites for this reason.
    Last edited by; 14-02-2013 at 06:31 PM.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    KOTOR II people, KOTOR II!

    Also I've always liked Prince of Persia Sands of Time's story. It's perfectly interwoven with the gameplay and has that fantastical One Thousand and One Nights vibe that makes it just perfect.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    My console picks first:

    Terranigma, pretty anime story, but a fun game nonetheless.
    Chronotrigger, incredibly intricate and fun. A neat story that wasn't in love with itself.

    10 PC games (discount the last two if compiling a list and the console games count):

    Planescape Torment
    Baldur's Gate Series
    Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines
    Bioshock (up until the foreseeable twist)
    Prince of Persia Sands of Time
    Grim Fandango
    Metro 2033

    NWN 2
    Kotor 2

    Honorable mentions:
    Dragon Age Origins (really more characterization than plot)
    The Void
    Last edited by Internet; 14-02-2013 at 05:47 PM.

  15. #15
    Network Hub Skull's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Planescape Torment is the only game I can remember I felt compelled to keep playing and find out what was happening despite the gameplay. Gripped from start to finish and only the story had me by the throat.

  16. #16
    Realms of the Haunting springs to mind. If we delve in adventure game territory I think I'd have to include Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, possibly the first game that ever made me truly care about not just a protagonist but a cast of characters.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus coldvvvave's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    Moscow, Russia
    Only one game ever managed to interest me with a story itself so I played it just to know more. It was Homeworld. Eventually I gave up and just watched cutscenes on YT. I just didn't enjoy the gameplay.
    Last edited by coldvvvave; 14-02-2013 at 07:01 PM.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    I'm ashamed of not remembering Homeworld earlier.

  19. #19
    Lesser Hivemind Node Kaira-'s Avatar
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    Jul 2011
    Oulu, Finland
    Silent Hills 2-4 and Shattered Memories. I especially hold 2 to high degree in gaming narratives, just brilliant in all the ways, thematic and character progression and all. And Shattered Memories for being one of the few games to make me well up at the end. Maybe not the most succesful reimagining of a game, but it did good enough job and played well with the themes it had.

    The Witcher (1). I'm not really sure what makes this stand up much higher in my mind than the second, but there's that something - detective work, build-up of the conflict(s), a small breather and then the grand finale. It weaves together so greatly.

    Planescape: Torment. Because.

    The Walking Dead. Great character progression and it all just seems to go forwards well.

    Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy. Disregarding the ending third of the game, it works so bloody well that it's ridiculous. A game of hunter and prey and all that. Shame about the ending, though.

    How could I've forgotten about Max Payne 1 & 2?

    [E2: the editinging]
    Someone apparently mentioned MGS3 which I forgot also. Because Kojima's madness is in perfect shape in this one.
    Last edited by Kaira-; 14-02-2013 at 07:05 PM.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mashakos's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    Other than MGS3, Silent Hill, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and the Mass Effect series as mentioned previously by others:

    Another World

    Reading a review of Journey, I was struck by how similar the sentiments expressed towards it are to this old game. Crushing solitude in a desolate, alien world, trying to reach salvation with a companion who keeps you going, and that finale....

    Full Throttle

    Eh, don't think I need to explain this one.

    The Neverhood

    An endearing attempt at trying to ask big philosophical questions in an adventure game.
    Last edited by mashakos; 14-02-2013 at 07:29 PM.
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