One of things that defines humans as a species is our ability to tell stories. They can be used to pass down important lessons from one generation to another, venerate a person’s life, tell fantastical tales that look into the past, the future, and visit other worlds.
As video games as an art form have matured, so too has its capacity for great storytelling. Not only are the stories that games tell getting better and better, but so too are the ways that they can draw you in as an active participant in the tale.
There is no denying Death Stranding’s narrative has its issues – it’s heavily weighted to the back quarter of the game and unless you read every email and research note you’re still going to be baffled the second time the credits roll – but stick with it and you’ll find one of the most original, complex, and most importantly, human stories ever found in a video game.
The constantly changing story wrongfoots the viewer on numerous occasions; a major character is killed off half way through leaving the player bewildered, as do digressions involving dinosaurs, Vietnam, and Frankenstein’s monster. Each character’s story has a revelation that shocks and surprises in ways that are cleverly interwoven, culminating in a finale that is utterly bonkers yet still immensely satisfying.
Death Stranding shows that an action video game can have a plot as intriguing as a Netflix series. As Amelie points out in the game, we have come a long way from rescuing a princess in a castle.
The Outer Worlds – Runner Up
Set in an alternate future where American corporations were never regulated by Teddy Roosevelt, The Outer Worlds tells the story of a vast conspiracy that threatens the very existence of the Halcyon colony on the edge of the galaxy. The deeper you go, the more the game’s themes of greed and control paint a dark picture of a colony on the brink of collapse under the unfeeling dictatorship of corporations. It’s an involving story that rarely goes where you expect it to and it even throws in a few red herrings to muddy the waters a bit.
The game is more than just its overarching plot though, as you can follow the often genuinely touching stories of your various companions. Whether it’s helping Parvati get herself a girlfriend or getting Vicar Max over his troubling past, there’s a more personal side to the game’s many stories.
At every step of the way The Outer Worlds lets you be the saviour the people of Halcyon needs, holstering your gun and talking to people, or you can just be a bastard and murder everyone, even becoming the game’s antagonist. Your choices will decide the fate of your companions, individual locations and the whole colony, for better or worse.
– Gareth C
Control – Runner Up
Control’s narrative stood out this year in a sea of games with decent stories. Why? Probably because of how tied up it was in the world that Remedy has created. There’s a story here of Jesse Faden searching for her brother, being linked to a mysterious force, and having power handed to her, yet that just scratches the surface. Remedy created a game where players were encouraged to hunt down the story, piece it together, and draw their own conclusions.
Sure there is some exposition from Jesse but for the most part she is just as in the dark as players, building her knowledge of The Oldest House and the Bureau at the same time the player is. While beneath all of it there is a direct story thread it is surrounded by so many mysteries that Remedy makes you accept as normal in this world, tying into a plot that is far bigger than Jesse’s own.
– Aran S
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Life Is Strange 2
- Sea of Solitude
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list:
- Best Remaster/Remake
- Best Visual Design
- Best Soundtrack
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Gameplay
Which game has really stood out for you this year as the best narrative? Let us know in the comments below.