I've been on somewhat of a quest lately to find some games that have really good writing. Doing some preliminary searches lead to mostly mentions of various RPG's and such, which I don't mind but I would like to broaden the category to shooters, adventure games and what have you.
- The Walking Dead - The most recent example of very compelling writing in a game for me, which really only got better as it went on. By the time the DLC episode came out, they were so good at it that they managed to make me attached and emotionally invested in characters in mere minutes. Trully groundbreaking stuff.
- Majora's Mask - Note these don't have to be writing-heavy games. I think Majora's Mask for example had very sophisticated world building, particularly in the starting town where you cold walk around and explore all the different events that unfolded on a set schedule, etc. Super engrossing, even if I did lose interest as the quest unfolded and never finished it.
- Mass Effect 1 - I tend to gravitate to the more sophisticated/mature stories in my own reading or film watching but nothing is better than finding that pulpy story that manages to pull you into all its heightened drama, twists, and turns. This game did just that. I think the later two entries probably had better and more sophisticated individual story writing but the story arc and the emotional impact just couldn't compare to the first one for me.
- The Darkness and Riddick: Escape from Butchers Bay - Lumping these two together because they are somewhat similar and made by the same dev. Very well written and realized games. When I look at these two I really have to wonder why shooters these days still struggle with simple story beats when these two games just pull it all off so handily.
- Max Payne 2 - Mentioned primarily for the flavor the narration added to the game. I have a soft spot for the whole noir aesthetic and this game just really had that in spades, even if the writing was very silly in spots.
- Hotline Miami - Again, not really in the "story game" genre but the writing that it does have elevates it an order of magnitude above what it would have been had it only had the arcade action portion of it.
- Portal - Another example of a game's writing elevating the gameplay WAY beyond what it would have been on it's own.
I intend to try Fallout: New Vegas in the near future because of an interview I saw with a dev that made it seem very interesting.
Currently trying out Planescape: Torment. People are not wrong, the writing really is something special in this game, but it's a bit early to tell if it's fully up my alley just yet. Plus I'm not sure if I could really trudge through the archaic game play mechanics to see the story.
Skyrim was a mixed bag I think, fascinating at times, but less so once you've seen all it's tricks. While super impressive in the improvements it makes to the franchise in all ways, including the story, the openness of it and the story you make yourself while playing the game still seem to be king of what makes it special. Here's hoping writing gets amped up even more in the future incarnations of the series (although skyrim sold so well they might not feel that there is anything broken to be fixed in the first place).
I would love to hear about more games in this vein if you guys have any suggestions!