Game stories are becoming increasingly important as each year goes by, with the big studios pumping a ton of money into weaving deep and compelling worlds, hiring some of the biggest names in entertainment to take part, and spreading lore not just through the games but associated books and movies. A good story is nothing without its cast of characters though, and through the years we’ve had memorable ones pop up with the mere mention of them able to give you a nostalgia trip. A character can make or break a franchise.
2016 has had a number of stories told through the medium of games, and along with that a new bunch of characters have entered the world while established ones have returned too. Blockbusters have found themselves battling with much smaller stories over the last year, but did one of them succeed or did a new kid on the block steal the thunder?
Campo Santo’s Firewatch could be considered one of the surprise hits of 2016. In an industry where games with guns and action rule, a game with a plot revolving around a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness doesn’t sound like it would gain much attention. Yet the story that unfolds as Henry explores the wilderness in an attempt to solve a mystery while balancing a relationship with Delilah, his one link to the outside world, managed to captivate players. Firewatch’s story is not just about solving a mystery but dealing with a relationship and how to pursue it, something everyone can relate to in some way.
Firewatch’s mystery will keep you guessing for a while too, especially as you find them in the wilderness the clues to the mystery add up. You get drawn in and like any good mystery Firewatch makes you care about the outcome – no matter how divisive that outcome actually is – because you’re so invested.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
When it comes to stories in gaming, it would be foolish to ignore Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. While it is more grounded than the previous games in the series, Uncharted 4 tells a story that protagonist Nathan Drake is invested in the most, with the mysterious reappearance of his older brother Sam and his plea for help to find that one last lost treasure. Nathan is drawn back into a world he thought he had left behind in an attempt to help his brother while faces from his past, both friendly and unfriendly, appear. It is a worldwide caper that explores personal relationships while also presenting a story that focuses on a piece of pirate history that could have really changed the world.
Uncharted 4 is also a chapter in a much bigger arc that has spanned two console generations now, and that is the journey of Nathan Drake himself and how his adventures have defined him. It’s in this game that his journey comes to a definitive conclusion, while also sowing the seeds for a new journey to start.
A first person mystery following a rookie FBI agent on her first case, as she tries to locate a missing child while also keeping an eye on her new partner, there’s strong parallels and inspirations from classic 90s TV series such as Twin Peaks and The X-Files. It even borrows the style of TV and film editing, with sharp cuts that remove every unnecessary moment of trudging through corridors that you find in other games.
Yet the entire story is told without a single word being spoken. Every single moment, every plot beat, every emotion, it’s all conveyed to you by what you see on screen. It could be someone’s face screw up in anger, a door slamming in your face, it could be the symbolism of a small dead bird or your dreams. What makes Virigina stand out isn’t necessarily the story, but the way it’s told.
Our winner for 2016’s Best Story goes to:
Runners up in alphabetical order:
- Quantum Break
- Steins;Gate 0
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Now we move on to the best character and this discussion panned out in direction that led to a number of varied options being put forward by the team, but by the end of it one stood above the rest.
Nathan Drake is one of the most prominent video game characters to enter the scene, making a mark almost ten years ago in the first Uncharted game. Since then he has travelled the world, looking for treasure, going against goons and paranormal characters, and built relationships. Throughout his adventures we’ve seen him wisecrack, but Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is where we see him most emotionally exposed.
In Uncharted 4 Nathan has to deal with finding out his brother is alive after believing he had been killed years ago. That revelation brings him joy but also stress as this leads to going around the world while trying to balance his marriage with Elena. You see Nathan struggling with trying to please both of these people in his life, ultimately coming up short in a somewhat more grounded rendition of the character than previous outings.
We’re sticking with Uncharted 4 here and this time with new character Nadine Ross, a South African mercenary who is on the opposite side to the Drakes. The interesting thing about Nadine’s nomination is that she wasn’t in the original list, but that while discussing Nathan Drake she came up as contender for being the best character in Uncharted 4. What made her a strong candidate is the attitude she brings to the franchise.
Unlike the majority of the villains in the Uncharted series, Nadine isn’t here to find a treasure for herself or rule the world. Instead as a leader a mercenary group she just wants to get paid. In a way she represents what a realistically ruthless person would do if they were transplanted into the Uncharted universe. There are times, especially one particular moment near the end, where she underscores how ridiculous the situation is and calls people out for it. It could be argued that in Uncharted 4 Nadine is the most sensible character of the entire cast.
In quite a surprising twist, Nadine Ross of Uncharted 4 goes from last minute nomination to Best Character of the Year. The comments are open below; we can’t wait.
Runners up in alphabetical order:
- BT-7274 – Titanfall 2
- E3N – Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
- Henry – Firewatch
- Nathan Drake – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
- Tracer – Overwatch
- Trico – The Last Guardian