There’s something about a well-crafted story that can really grab your attention and not let go. We see fantastic and meaningful narratives told in film and television, in books and comics, but we’re increasingly seeing video games be used to tell some truly fascinating stories on all levels. Arguably, video games can be even more effective at telling tales simply through being an interactive medium and putting you in control.
2017 has been another fantastic year for stories in video games, but one game in particular stood out for many of us at TSA.
A lot of games ponder upon various philosophies regarding life and its purporse, but few have done it as effectively as Nier: Automata. At first glance the game appears to be about fighting machines that have conquered Earth for their alien masters, but that veneer is quickly done away with as more is uncovered about the world that 2B, 9S, A2, and the other androids look to reclaim for humanity. The masterful way in which it is done is why Nier: Automata has won our Best Narrative award.
You go from destroying robots in one scene to debating what life, consciousness, sentience, and souls are through expertly designed struggles. Each main character is plagued with doubts as new situations arise while you continue to campaign against the machines. The most brilliant thing about Nier: Automata is how much it will blindside you, subverting almost every expectation.
Nier: Automata’s narrative isn’t complete after one playthrough either, as the full story is unlocked through different paths. That might sound like a chore, but each of the main path playthroughs adds new complexities, new perceptions, and more questions that you and the characters must contend with. The narrative of Nier: Automata is far from simple, but every main story beat is captivating.
Persona 5 – Runner Up
On the surface, Persona 5 is a mixture of high school drama and a heist movie. Taking on the role of the Phantom Thieves as word of their shenanigans becomes more widespread, the bonds the player character creates with his teammates and well-meaning allies to the cause show off some of the best character development in years.
There are moments that make Persona 5 really stand out. The initial repulsion of peers and teachers alike because of your mere presence is fascinating to see play out, while delving into how each villain is driven by a certain vice garners a Batman-like attachment. Companions tend to be caught up in some way and the overarching plot shows just how deep rooted the conspiracies are. Persona 5 stole plenty of hearts as a result of its compelling narrative.
Horizon Zero Dawn – Runner Up
Horizon Zero Dawn works on multiple levels with its story, as Aloy ventures forth on a journey of self discover. On a personal level, she’s trying to find who she is while also averting the end of humanity, but her origins are brilliantly interwoven with a dark and compelling science fiction story of how modern civilisations fell. You might go into the story expecting a Skynet-like AI gaining sentience, playing into the tropes of a human apocalypse as machines rise up against us, but it’s nowhere near as simplistic as that and goes through several fascinating twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Doki Doki Literature Club
- What Remains of Edith Finch
There’s been a lot of great stories told in video games this year, and ours are just a handful of games that deserve recognition. What has stood out for you this past twelve months?
Also, Miguel really wants you to know that you should play Doki Doki Literature Club.