Ah, the videogame story. Having a good one can help make a mediocre game good and a great game even better. Not everyone plays games for the story of course, but for me it's one of the main reasons I play. Sure, movies and books can, and often do, tell excellent stories, but games have always been a more stimulating prospect for me. They're not tied down to typical storytelling conventions, they can tell stories in ways that cinema and literature cannot. And I find that fascinating. You are the hero of the tale, you get to play out the story as you see fit.
Now that I've gotten that brief introduction out of the way, I'd like to present to you my 10 favourite game stories so far. Each one is a story that ended up meaning something to me, and in the world of videogames, that's pretty rare.
10. Valkyria Chronicles
This World War II meets Disney story may not seem like much at first, but over time it deals with a number of mature themes and scenarios. War, love, death, prejudice, treason, sacrifice, it's all here in some capacity and it's used in a way that I wouldn't have expected from a game that seems quite light on the surface. Over the course of the story I really learnt to care about the rag tag group of soldiers that make up your squad and it really tugged on the heartstrings when some of them inevitably come to harm.
9. Half-Life 2
It just goes to show how some of the simpler stories can end up being some of the best. Told entirely through in-game chatter and events, Half-Life 2's story of the one Free Man rising up to topple a tyrannical alien regime is a ****c one. After the events of HL1, Gordon Freeman has become a legendary figure, inspiring hope and spirit through to the human resistance as he takes the good fight to the Combine.
8. Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
The first entry in arguably gaming's greatest trilogy, unlike many other franchise starting games, The Sands Of Time works because it tells an excellent story in it's own right. The Prince's quest through time to rewrite his mistakes and save the woman he loves isn't particularly original, but when it oozes this level of charm and fun it doesn't really need to be.
7. Shadow Of The Colossus
Another deceptively simple story, the true nature of SOTC's plot doesn't reveal itself until the very end, when the consequences of slaughtering the game's gentle giant's comes crashing down around your head. I won't spoil that here, but suffice to say, the ending moments really make you look back on the game's events in a very different light.
6. The Darkness
If you shoved The Crow and The Godfather in a blender, the end result would probably look something like this. Based on a comic book series by Top Cow, Starbreeze have gone above and beyond the source material to craft a crime drama worthy of the big leagues. The characters are all excellently realised, far beyond the 2D cardboard-cut outs that they often were in the comics.
Set up almost like an interactive movie, with each of the game's levels being an individual scene, your enjoyment of this game depends primarily on the strength of it's story. Luckily enough, it doesn't disappoint. Taking control of supposed murderer Lucas as well as the detectives trying to catch him, you get sucked into an occult murder mystery that quickly spirals out of control. The game's ending isn't quite up to snuff, but the first 2/3s are some of the most gripping in gaming.
Like the aforementioned Half-Life 2, Bioshock forgoes the use of conventional storytelling techniques, presenting itself as you play, delving deeper and deeper into the depths of it's failed utopia, Rapture. Despite the use of a number of high concept science fiction ideas, Rapture never once stops feeling like a living, breathing world. Terrible things happened there, as you soon become explicitly aware.
3. Forbidden Siren
An apocalyptic retelling of an old Japanese folktale, where a nun was granted immortality after consuming the flesh of a merman, Siren's story is a completely unique approach to horror gaming. Told in an unchronological fashion and featuring an ensemble cast of 10 playable characters, you must gradually piece events together to discover the truth as to what has become of the rural Japanese village of Hanuda. The game constantly toys with your expectations, sometimes jumping forward in time only for you to be attacked by a twisted version of a character who was previously under your control.
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
A prequel to the entire series, MGS3 depicts the tragic story of Big Boss and how he eventually becomes the terrorist that we see in the original Metal Gear. Taking influence from James Bond, among others, this story of espionage, betrayal and true patriotism is blockbuster entertainment of the highest order. If only MGS4 had followed a similar example.
1. Silent Hill 2
There's always more than meets the eye. Everything in Silent Hill 2 has some sort of hidden meaning just below the surface. Not a single detail has been included haphazardly, for what James sees hasn't been conjured up by just anyone. Silent Hill calls to people like him, feeds off of them, makes them suffer. With Silent Hill 2, Konami have forged what is perhaps the deepest, most intelligent story in gaming. From the the complex characters to the rampant symbolism to the final, breathtaking revelations, a journey into Silent Hill 2 will be one that most gamers won't forget in a hurry.
So, over to you guys. What are your opinions on the subject?
P.S. It's my birthday :D!