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#1 Posted by orshick (170 posts) -

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.

I'll start.

  • 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!

#2 Edited by BIGJEFFREY (4952 posts) -

Max Payne 2, Alan Wake, P3, P4G.

Pretty subjective topic. Everyone has their own taste in writing.

#3 Posted by BeachThunder (11847 posts) -

I think people talk up Hotline Miami way too much...

Anyway, it's definitely worth trudging through PST's gameplay for the story elements...

#4 Posted by pyromagnestir (4299 posts) -

@orshick: I like your choices

I'd add To The Moon

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#5 Posted by TobbRobb (4603 posts) -

Oh dear. Writing in games. Hmm. This is a hard question. I'll meditate on it overnight.

#6 Posted by FancySoapsMan (5816 posts) -

I think Killer7 had a pretty well written story.

It's amazing how much it actually makes sense if you think about it (or read the wiki).

#7 Posted by erhard (399 posts) -

The Last of Us is written very well.

#8 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3801 posts) -

Max Payne 2: It's a bit corny on purpose, and for noir it's just brilliant. The plot is good itself but it's just the moments in Max's monologue that really get me. This part is a personal favorite:

Vlad was right. There are no choices. Nothing but a straight line. The illusion comes afterwards, when you ask 'Why me?' and 'What if?' when you look back, see the branches, like a pruned bonsai tree, or a forked lightning. If you had done something differently, it wouldn't be you, it would be someone else looking back, asking a different set of questions.

I also thought Max 1 (of course) and 3 is underrated in this regard, probably because it is much less verbose and noir, but it has some really nice lines.

This kind of place made me want to puke. I needed a real drink to cope with the electronic music and robotic people.

I had a hole in my second favorite drinking arm, and the only way we were likely to get Fabiana back now was in installments.

I ain't slipping man- I'm slipped.

And finally, Red Dead Redemption, which has the best dialogue in any game to me. It's just witty and entertaining and well delivered. The interplay between characters is fantastic.

#9 Edited by orshick (170 posts) -

Awesome! The Last of Us and Killer7 are games I've been meaning to try out some time. I keep hearing good things about To The Moon so I just might have to try it, though each time I look at screens of it, I have a hard time imagining that it's really "for me", if that makes any sense.

#10 Posted by ArtisanBreads (3801 posts) -

Last of Us is well written in it's restraint... which is unusual for a game. A lot of that is given by Naughty Dog's talent for cinematic delivery of their characters interacting and their tech for facial capture and that sort of thing.

Restraint makes good writing often so I don't mean to downplay it... I just couldn't give you any money quotes from the game. Just my opinion and why it wouldn't be on my best writing list at all.

#11 Posted by Rahf (126 posts) -

The monologues in Max Payne 2 are brilliant. True noir in its most dark and cynical presentation. I also love the bizarre juxtaposition you're exposed to in certain sequences, and the hallucinatory scenes are creepy. Good structure and execution.

Bastion is interesting because of the way story is shared.

With quite a few snags in the proceedings--the Final Fantasy series, from FFVII up to FFXII, have good stories. They're hampered by hammy execution and convenient plotting, but still have grand arcs with lots of character. Final Fantasy X stands out to me; a light story that gradually spirals into darkness and hopelessness.

#12 Posted by Rainbowkisses (472 posts) -

Since no one else mentioned it I'm going to say The Secret of Monkey Island. It has some of the most memorable lines in video game history and Guybrush Threepwood has to be my favorite video game character.

#13 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3801 posts) -

@rahf said:

The monologues in Max Payne 2 are brilliant. True noir in its most dark and cynical presentation. I also love the bizarre juxtaposition you're exposed to in certain sequences

I was just replaying it, and two parts I had kind of forgotten but really loved:

Vinny in the Captain Baseball Bat Boy outfit. Also loved his apartment with him defending all his memorabilia.

And Lords and Ladies is BRILLIANT. That is some great writing.

#14 Posted by ArtisanBreads (3801 posts) -

Since no one else mentioned it I'm going to say The Secret of Monkey Island. It has some of the most memorable lines in video game history and Guybrush Threepwood has to be my favorite video game character.

Good point. For comedy there has been none better. Also love Grim Fandango.

#15 Edited by orshick (170 posts) -

@artisanbreads: I didn't play Last of Us yet but I don't think understatement is invalidates good writing. Authors like Hemmingway made careers out of it.

You're right the cornyness in Max Payne 2 is intentional and we love the game for it. The stuff in it that was kind of lame I think is durring those non-combat missions where you just heard a lot of jokes that kinda fell flat for the most part. Not really bashing the game though, I usually name it as my all-time fave.

Red Dead Redemption...forgot all about it. I actually considered writing about the GTA games because I really do think there is some great writing in those, but but didn't since I'm kind of mixed on them in their entirety. The trope of having the protagonist just do the biddings of one whack-job after another just began to seem kind of lazy and sloppy to me. This is true of RDR as well I think but the sheer impact of the good parts of the story I think earn it a spot on my list.

#16 Edited by orshick (170 posts) -

@rahf: Yeah totally. I'm not even sure if it's "true" noir since I've not seen any classic film noir that had this atmosphere that thick. It seems in the 90s and 00s we sort of reinvented noir by putting it on steroids, and nothing is a better example of that than Max Payne 2.

Weirdly enough I didn't really get into Bastion. I love Kasavin, and I loved the initial idea but the story never ended up grabbing me, and the world just never felt inviting for me to inhabit. The fact that it wasn't solid, and just falling into place as I walked I think is at least partly responsible for this ( even though it IS a neat trick).

#17 Edited by ArtisanBreads (3801 posts) -

@orshick said:

@artisanbreads: I didn't play Last of Us yet but I don't think understatement is invalidates good writing. Authors like Hemmingway made careers out of it.

You're right the cornyness in Max Payne 2 is intentional and we love the game for it. The stuff in it that was kind of lame I think is durring those non-combat missions where you just heard a lot of jokes that kinda fell flat for the most part. Not really bashing the game though, I usually name it as my all-time fave.

Red Dead Redemption...forgot all about it. I actually considered writing about the GTA games because I really do think there is some great writing in those, but but didn't since I'm kind of mixed on them in their entirety. The trope of having the protagonist just do the biddings of one whack-job after another just began to seem kind of lazy and sloppy to me. This is true of RDR as well I think but the sheer impact of the good parts of the story I think earn it a spot on my list.

I don't think Last of Us has bad writing, as I said, I just can't even remember a line. I don't think it's great. The delivery is great though. I'm sure for many it's restraint was a breath of fresh air or hey maybe preferred, I know that I often prefer wordier more crafted writing (Cormac McCarthy is my favorite author, so yeah).

I love Max Payne 2's humor, one of my favorite parts personally.

and the GTA protagonist thing has never been an issue for me really. Yes I notice it but it's a video game and I don't really care. I enjoy Rockstar games more for their dialogue than their overall plot for sure, with their dialogue being maybe the best in the business.

#18 Posted by el_tajij (709 posts) -

Those are all great choices. For me it's Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. I still haven't finished the sequel but the ending to 999 is the best gaming experience I've ever had. Very few pieces of media have hit me as hard as that game did, and it was all down to the writing.

#19 Posted by BeachThunder (11847 posts) -
#20 Posted by Rick_Fingers (524 posts) -

I second To The Moon.

Gunpoint actually had a surprisingly well-written story with some legitimately witty dialogue that played with the expectations of what you expect to have happen in a game.

Speaking of Torment (I really need to get back to my play through), I recommend Baldur's Gate 2 as well - the world and structure isn't quite as interesting as Torment, but the main plot is very well done and the main villain, in particular, stands out as one of the best written and acted ever.

#21 Posted by pyromagnestir (4299 posts) -

@beachthunder:

Well, sure, it's humor was a bit more miss than hit but it did some really good things!

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#22 Edited by csl316 (8448 posts) -

I really liked Brutal Legend. Cool characters, interesting twists, and numerous dramatic decapitations. Just a fun story. Maybe not "best" but I really enjoyed it.

#23 Edited by DonChipotle (2725 posts) -

I think Killer7 had a pretty well written story.

It's amazing how much it actually makes sense if you think about it (or read the wiki).

I was going to say this, but instead I will second it. A first playthrough might not make any sense. But playing it again, paying attention to the pigeons and the ghosts, and things start sounding cohesive. And then it hits you.

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#24 Posted by orshick (170 posts) -

@donchipotle: Interesting. I really need to play this game. Thanks!

#25 Posted by orshick (170 posts) -

@rick_fingers: Will have to play Gunpoint sooner or later. BG2 I've tried years ago but just couldn't be bothered getting around the archaic mechanics, especially after playing the more refined KOTOR. But I keep hearing about how good the story was, so if it's another Mass Effect on my hands then I think i'll need to give it another go, maybe the enhanced version will make that a little easier. Thanks!

#26 Edited by Karmosin (210 posts) -

Planescape: Torment.

The detailed descriptions, the dialogues, the teammembers and almost every goddamn NPC have some kind of quirk that makes them just a little more special. It had me laughing, it had me sobbing (Deionarras memory!!) and it had me pondering all kinds of things. For me there's no better storybased-experience in gaming than Planescape and more or less all of it is because of the writing.

"What can change the nature of a man?"

#27 Posted by gaminghooligan (1435 posts) -

Fable 3. The game itself wasn't all that great for me, but the writing and performance of said writing by that stellar voice cast is really something special.

#28 Edited by Animasta (14673 posts) -

Nier. That game's story is so good, the characters are so good, everything about how that game is written is so good.

#29 Edited by Questionable (619 posts) -

@animasta said:

Nier. That game's story is so good, the characters are so good, everything about how that game is written is so good.

It may have a good story but the game only gives the player bits and scraps to work with. I would say it disqualifys for this topic through its bad presentation and reliance on outside sources

Now for those who have not yet caught the hint: Plane scape: Torment (Now on sale at GoG.com!) is an amazing game. and should be experienced even if just for the sheer size of the stories and lore told of the world within

#30 Posted by Animasta (14673 posts) -

@animasta said:

Nier. That game's story is so good, the characters are so good, everything about how that game is written is so good.

It may have a good story but the game only gives the player bits and scraps to work with. I would say it disqualifys for this topic through its bad presentation and reliance on outside sources

it doesn't have bad presentation though. None of the stuff in the art book is that game changing, they tell you most of it's backstory through loading screens and side quests and text documents.

#31 Edited by ADAMWD (581 posts) -

Gemini Rue, fairly short indie adventure game where you control two characters. It is set in a dystopian, sci-fi world. Really captivating narrative with some cool environments and characters.

#32 Edited by yourbuddyjeff (27 posts) -

for me it would be:

Persona 4 golden

.hack series (I know they were terrible but I loved them)

Monster hunter series

Last of us

#33 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

I'm not sure about writing, but Dark Souls has some amazing implied storytelling if you dig for it.

#34 Edited by development (2250 posts) -

@orshick: The Darkness is so damn underrated. The story and voice-acting in that game are phenomenal.

Planescape: Torment is my hands-down favorite story-driven game. I've never been more immersed in such a crazy and alien universe, and almost all of that is conveyed by writing alone. It's basically a playable novel.

#35 Edited by audioBusting (1507 posts) -

The Witcher games have a very well-realized fantasy world. Kentucky Route Zero is worth mentioning because it's pretty much the only magic realist game which isn't exactly an Interactive Fiction. Zeno Clash is too, because of how enjoyably weird the story is.

Oh, let's not forget Cart Life for its effective plot and dialogue.

#36 Edited by Jeust (10552 posts) -

@animasta said:

@questionable said:

@animasta said:

Nier. That game's story is so good, the characters are so good, everything about how that game is written is so good.

It may have a good story but the game only gives the player bits and scraps to work with. I would say it disqualifys for this topic through its bad presentation and reliance on outside sources

it doesn't have bad presentation though. None of the stuff in the art book is that game changing, they tell you most of it's backstory through loading screens and side quests and text documents.

This is not questionable!

Personally I'll second also Alan Wake, The Darkness, Planescape: Torment, Persona 3 FES and Brutal Legend. I also add Jade Empire, Radiant Historia, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy X, Catherine, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill: Downpour .

#37 Edited by JasonR86 (9657 posts) -

Some that come to mind to me are;

Dear Esther; The narration is so phenomenal in that game. It's just tight, concise, neat and says so much with so little. Despite the over-verbose ending narration the dialogue is some of the best I've ever heard in a game.

Gone Home; I'm a little close to the sun on this one but this game takes a lot of important themes and ideas and puts them out there in a very straightforward manner that doesn't hold back. I don't like to use this word often but tackling some of these issues is pretty brave.

To the Moon; Also a brave game in in terms of the themes and issues it tackles. The dialogue isn't perfect but it is much more touching then I ever thought it would be.

Journey; This is a big of nontraditional writing but to set the scene and deliver this story, which also allows for interpretation, some really clever writing had to take place.

Last of Us; Minus a few missteps this game is written nearly flawlessly to me. It's writing that carries a game that didn't need carrying.

Walking Dead: This game's characters and situations carried this game but, unlike Last of Us, the game needed to be carried. But the writing was more then able to do so.

Uncharted 2; Writing humor in games is really hard. Uncharted 2 does humor really well. Writing pulp is really hard in anything. Uncharted 2 does that really well too.

Portal 2; The pinnacle for humor in games for me.

Mass Effect 1; The first Mass Effect had to do so much introducing and universe building while also developing characters who would last for two more games. The sheer size of the assignment would be hard to tackle. That they did it so well is a testament to fantastic writing.

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#38 Posted by armaan8014 (5381 posts) -

The witcher 1

@orshick said:

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.

Can you link that vid?

#39 Posted by armaan8014 (5381 posts) -

The witcher 1

@orshick said:

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.

Can you link that vid?

#40 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11626 posts) -

Planescape: Torment and NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer. Unsurprisingly had a lot of the same people working on both.

#41 Posted by armaan8014 (5381 posts) -

The witcher 1

@orshick said:

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.

Can you link that vid?

#42 Edited by Sinusoidal (1420 posts) -

@jeust said:

@animasta said:

@questionable said:

@animasta said:

Nier. That game's story is so good, the characters are so good, everything about how that game is written is so good.

It may have a good story but the game only gives the player bits and scraps to work with. I would say it disqualifys for this topic through its bad presentation and reliance on outside sources

it doesn't have bad presentation though. None of the stuff in the art book is that game changing, they tell you most of it's backstory through loading screens and side quests and text documents.

This is not questionable!

What is questionable is the incredibly bland presentation, rampant repetition and flat out boring gameplay. It's a shame, because the game has some really unique, brilliant moments, but they're so few and far between it's just frustrating. Nier has so much potential, I wish it had been successful enough to warrant a sequel where they could have ironed out some of the more egregious faults.

As for well-written games, I'm partial to the PS2 triumvirate of platformers: Sly, Jak and Ratchet. Sucker Punch, Naughty Dog and Insomniac had a real knack for charm. All three did decent jobs with more mature story lines this generation as well with inFamous, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Ratchet Future and Resistance.

#44 Posted by Crysack (302 posts) -

Planescape: Torment and.....that's about it. Writing standards are generally pretty awful when it comes to video games.

I guess if you're looking for some half-decent Star Wars fiction, you should check out KOTOR 2 with the reconstruction mod. Kreia is hands-down the best written Star Wars character.

#46 Edited by McGhee (6094 posts) -

This thread should be ashamed for not yet mentioning Deadly Premonition.

#47 Edited by orshick (170 posts) -

@armaan8014: For sure. Here's the vid. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xY1UjIRYsw .

Awesome responses here by the way. Already have Kentucky Route 0 which I will play soon. Same goes for Dark Souls. Played more Planescape, and it's getting pretty fantastic now. Already was intending to try Catherine and Journey sooner or later. Adding 999, Gome Home and Gemini Rue to the list of games I want to play.

Much as I loved Alan Wake's atmosphere and influences (Twin Peaks and Stephen King), I thought the story was a pretty big let down. Same goes for Dear Esther unfortunately... I did love the idea of walking around and having a story narrated to me but this particular execution just seemed more like a very bland than profound.

#48 Posted by DocHaus (1325 posts) -

Spec Ops: The Line. An interesting look at the Heart of Darkness often glossed over by other shooters.

#49 Posted by spraynardtatum (2818 posts) -

Portal 2 and Bioshock Infinite stick out in my mind. And as @mcghee said, Deadly Premonition.

#50 Posted by jimmy_p (278 posts) -

Deadly Premonition would be an even creepier Twin Peaks

Bioshock Infinite would have been better as a movie honestly

Hotline Miami, a neon fever dream directed by Refn