Nier: Automata has a reputation for being really, really weird with some of the strangest sequences to prove a point. The thing that sells it though, is the true ending. Naughty Dog uses games as a way to their story with game mechanics really well. Stellaris uses its game mechanics for the player to create their own story. It's another way video games are can tell stories, just the other way they do it, but it's not the same way they tell stories.
Video games will one day surpass films and TV as the most popular storytelling medium. You've heard it here first and please be sure to credit me for my prediction once this comes true within the next 20 years. In this article, we talk about the games that best illustrate how well video games can tell stories.
This Slack discussion by Nicolas Ng, Jack Boreham, Jeffrey Harris, and I occurred in Slogging's official #gaming channel, and has been edited for readability.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 5, 2021, 12:10 AM
What games best illustrate the potential for video games as a storytelling medium?
The Last of Us is great at seamlessly (IMO) transitioning from gameplay to cutscene and interlacing story throughout the gameplay itself. Sometimes the best moments didn't come from cutscenes, but when Joel and Ellie were just walking around the environment (I'm looking at you giraffe scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMjdl_uYXgE).
What Remains of Edith Finch showed the power of gameplay itself as a storytelling medium. It made the most mundane tasks (like taking a bath) feel refreshing and interesting. While this game is called a walking simulator by some, it is so much more than that. I'd recommend it as an introduction title for people who have never picked up a game in their lives but love great stories and want to give story-based games a chance!
Nicolas NgFeb 7, 2021, 9:18 PM
Honestly, I'll always point at Nier: Automata for doing that like nothing else. It's got a well-deserved reputation for being really, really weird with some of the strangest sequences to prove a point. The game ties in quite a few game mechanics with the story. Things like being able to straight up disable the HUD by removing an item or having the interface getting completely messed up because it reflects what's going on in the story itself. The thing that sells it though, is the true ending. I can't say what it is but it is something that you have to play to truly experience. Watching it on Youtube doesn't do it justice at all
The other would have to be Stelaris. Naughty Dog uses games as a way to their story with game mechanics really well. Stellaris on the other hand uses its game mechanics for the player to create their own story. There's enough freedom in the game to find yourself the leader of an interstellar federation fending off extradimensional threats or being the Galactic Empire and carting around a planet-destroying superweapon to bully the other empires. They do it really well by using a library of random events to keep things interesting like new planets having a subterranean race hidden inside and stuff. It's another way video games are can tell stories, just the other way
Jack BorehamFeb 8, 2021, 7:39 PM
Personally, the recent God of War illustrates the potential of video games as a storytelling medium. The team over at Santa Monica Studios turned the franchise from originally a slasher into an in-depth storytelling series. They effectively gave Kratos emotion and depth, otherwise sought not possible. His relationship with his son is encapsulating and adds deep story layers to the franchise. The game itself not only has a deep story but shows how effective games are at storytelling. As no one could have imagined the God of War would turn from being an emotionless god slayer to a kind and caring father. It shows how games are perfect storytelling mediums.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 8, 2021, 11:08 PM
Nicolas Ng that's very interesting to hear. I actually played about 3 hours of the game and then got caught up playing Warzone and just stopped. I'll have to go back to it.
And I've actually never heard of Stellaris. Looking into it now, I've never experienced strategy games with a good story. I love games like Age of Empires and Command & Conquer, but I've never really played those games for the story, so it's surprising that you mentioned a strategy game in this thread! I'm always all for games that let players create their own story. Games that force the players to use their own imagination are special in their own right.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 8, 2021, 11:10 PM
Jack Boreham I've gotta shamefully admit that I've never played any God of War game...now that all of them are pretty cheap to pick up I'll have to give them a try. About the most recent release, I feel like games that focus on the relationship between just 2 characters have been some of the most successful: Last of Us, Brothers, TellTale's The Walking Dead, etc.
JeffreyHarris-HackerNoonFeb 15, 2021, 8:05 AM
Without a doubt The Witcher 3. The Witcher 3 drops you in a dark fantasy setting, and your choices and actions dictate your gameplay experience. CD Projekt Red put in subtle work to show the environments changing based on the story. Your actions will affect how NPCs view you in certain areas. Some NPCs will sing songs about your deeds. This is a higher level of storytelling than what can be achieved in a movie or TV show. It's storytelling in the passive gameplay. It's environmental storytelling. It's immersive storytelling.
JeffreyHarris-HackerNoonFeb 15, 2021, 8:06 AM
If you condemn someone to die, you can go back and see their decaying corpse later. The game pays off the side quest material in ways you would never expect that's deeply rewarding in ways most games do not do.