10 highest-rated video game storylines of all time

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April 26, 2021
5 minute read

Video games are an incredible storytelling medium. Thanks to that, they’ve become one of the most popular forms of entertainment worldwide. The narrative twists and turns of a good storyline have the power to transport you to other worlds and help you see the complexities of your own in a new light.

More than an experience, video games can teach you about the impact of narrative, the value of good writing, and the depths of human psychology. These 10 video games have some of the highest rated storylines of all time and shaped the industry immeasurably. If you're thinking about getting into video game reviewing, you should play through the ten games below and experience what the medium can do creatively.You’ll learn something valuable from playing each game.

1. The Last of Us (2013)

The Last of Us isn’t just another post-apocalyptic zombie story. It’s widely considered one of the best survival games of all time. It changed what narrative meant in the medium of video game writing. Set in post-apocalyptic America, The Last of Us is a story of two survivors, Joel and Ellie, as they journey across the country and work together to find a cure to a plague that nearly wiped out the entire human race. More than a game, the story leads you to contemplate survival, justice, and love.

2. Firewatch (2016)

Adventurous and emotionally gripping, you’ll be hooked after the introduction of this award-winning game alone. Firewatch follows the story of Henry, a fire lookout at the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, a year after the Yellowstones fires of 1988. Mysteries unfold as he explores the terrain with his supervisor Delilah on the other end of his walkie-talkie. A tale of escapism, Firewatch is a beautiful portrayal of the hardships of life and what happens when we run from them.

3. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

A well known classic, Metal Gear Solid is a series of action-adventure stealth video games that enthralls its players. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is favoured by many as the best storyline in the series and one of the greatest video games of all time. While previous games in the series were set in urban environments, Metal Gear Solid 3 is set in a Soviet jungle during the Cold War. It follows the protagonist, Naked Snake, as he attempts to rescue a Russian rocket scientist. The story is told through radio conversations and cutscenes, and was praised for its complex and emotional development within the series.

4. Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

Red Dead Redemption 2 sought to contextualize the tragic ending to Red Dead Redemption, considered one of the most mind-shattering video game plot twists. It was praised for its story development, detail, and interactive open world that pushed the boundaries of narrative in the genre. The story is set in the Midwestern United States in 1899 and follows outlaw Arthur Morgan as he deals with the decline of the Wild West and the rise of government forces and rival gangs.

5.Her Story (2015)

Her Story is an award-winning indie game representing a new breed of narrative game that feels less like a game and more like an interactive movie. Each person that plays the game will experience it differently because it’s built on a search engine that lets you explore an archive of video clips. You’re trying to find a killer by watching short testimony videos from the prime suspect, who is also the wife of the deceased. What you search for after watching a clip dictates where you get taken next. In this way, players make progress based on what they learn or feel, not on things they collect or do. It’s a simple yet empowering game that lets you dive deep into human psychology. It’s also a compelling example of how one game can tell a multitude of stories.

6. Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Described as one of the most complex stories in gaming history, this game still ranks on many gamers' list of favourite video game plots of all time. Final Fantasy VII follows Cloud Strife, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist group in an effort to stop a megacorporation from using the planet’s life essence as an energy source. It was the first in the Final Fantasy series to use full motion video and 3D graphics. This allowed them to introduce more science fiction elements and deepen the story experience for players. Final Fantasy VII was, and remains, a vivid portrayal of what it means to save a world.

7. Silent Hill 2 (2001)

Symbolism plays a huge role in this unforgettable horror game. Silent Hill 2 introduces you to James Sunderland, a man searching for his wife one year after her death. What follows is a sinister, twisting path that reveals a multi-layered world where your every interaction has an impact. Each creature you encounter is a manifestation of James’ psyche. If you disregard James’ health, you’re telling the game that you think James is suicidal and the ending will reflect that. This story takes you deep into the complexities of the mind and challenges your capacity for empathy.

8. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2016)

The entire The Witcher franchise is built on the world and characters from Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels. Narrative is deeply built into the creation of this game and that shows through in the level of detail you see in every aspect of the game, including the score. This action role-playing game takes place in a world based on Slavonic mythology and sees you as Geralt of Rivia, a monster slayer who is on the run and searching for his adopted daughter. The game’s open world allows you to explore 36 possible endings. In this game, every decision you make changes the state of the world you’ll end up in.

9. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

Star Wars fans will recognize and love the plot of this game, relishing in the opportunity to shape the destiny of the galaxy. Set 3,956 years before A New Hope, Knights of the Old Republic covers the lesser-known age of the ancient Galactic Republic. The plot is centered on the Republic’s battle against Sith Lord Darth Malak and you get to choose to take on the story as an honorable Jedi or a destructive Sith. It’s known for having one of the most unexpected plot twists of any video game.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Widely rated as the best video game of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a nostalgic one for most gamers. It was the first in the Legend of Zelda series to have 3D graphics and it’s story has influenced every subsequent game in the series. While previous games had simple storylines, Ocarina of Time introduced an interconnected world and resulting complex narrative that unfolded over seven years rather than a few weeks. Link, the main character in the story, traverses time to save his world and the Princess Zelda.