From Pixels to Plot Twists: 15 Of The Best Story Games

Last updated: 12/27/2023
6 minutes read

The world of gaming has evolved significantly since the days when hi-tech was the likes of Breakout or Pong and you had to play rather simple games, wherever you could find them.

Nowadays, gaming allows you to step into many other realms. You're not just an NPC or passive observer, but an active participant in crafting your own narrative. It's safe to say that in most cases, titles of this nature fall under the category of "story games". This genre revolves around sprawling narratives and sees plot value over action.

The best story games use interactive storytelling to offer experiences that stay with you long after you've put down the controller - they create characters you connect with and form genuine attachments to, worlds that can feel, at the moment, as real as the room around you.

If you're a fan of these story-driven games, we've done you a favor and compiled some of the most legendary titles on the market. Which will you play next?

15 of the Best Story Games

1 - The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was a fiercely anticipated new release in 2023. Zelda fans have been waiting patiently since 2017 and were desperate to see what the follow-up to Breath of the Wild had in store. Luckily, they weren't disappointed. If you haven't tried this franchise before, we'd highly recommend taking Link on an exploration of the lands of Hyrule and the vast skies above it.

2 - The Last of Us Part II

If you thought it couldn't get better than The Last of Us Part I, then you were wrong. We rate this as one of the best story games to have been released in the last 10 years. The Last of Us Part II is a deeply emotional and morally complex post-apocalyptic story of revenge, love, and redemption.

3 - Red Dead Redemption 2

If you want to lose yourself on horseback in the open plains, then saddle up for an epic Western tale following the life of Arthur Morgan, an outlaw struggling with morality in a changing world.

4 - Hogwarts Legacy

After many (and we mean many) delays, Hogwarts Legacy is finally out, meaning wizarding fans can finally experience Hogwarts like never before. Create your character, choose your house, and enter the game as a fifth-year student, complete with quests, Quidditch, Gobstones, and Wizard's Chess.

5 - NieR: Automata

If a tree falls within an empty wood, does it make a noise? This is the kind of question that would likely stump the androids in this strange future-themed game. However, NieR: Automata raises some interesting philosophical themes for players, including questions about the humanity of androids.

6 - Sons of the Forest

Sons of the Forest is one of the best story games on PC if you like your gameplay on the spooky side. Do your best to survive on an eerie island with just your wits and foraged materials. Oh, and try to avoid the cannibals...

7 - Life is Strange

An episodic adventure game with a focus on time manipulation and the consequences of your choices. Unlike some of the other titles on this list, Life is Strange can be played beyond PCs and consoles as it's one of the games that are also available on iPhone.

8 - Horizon Zero Dawn

In this action-packed RPG, you take the role of Aloy, who's a hunter exploring a vast, post-apocalyptic world and trying to uncover the secrets of a technologically advanced past.

9 - Detroit: Become Human

Worried about AI taking over the world? In this interactive drama, even the androids face ethical dilemmas. Within the world of Detroit: Become Human, androids are commonplace throughout society, but some start to behave defiantly and cause some serious ripples...

10 - Firewatch

If you're all about the characters, then Firewatch could be the best story game for you. Henry is the protagonist who is investigating a mysterious conspiracy related to a historical fire. Your actions will dictate the overall nature of the narrative, including the quality of Henry's relationship with Delilah, a companion he stays in touch with over a walkie-talkie line.

11 - Resident Evil 4

The original Resident Evil 4 is considered by many to be one of the best story games ever, and the 2023 remake manages to keep the original video game story whilst giving the graphics and narrative progression a revamp.

12 - The Stanley Parable

Have you ever wondered how much freedom of choice you really have? The Stanley Parable makes our list of the best story games for challenging our assumptions about autonomy and control.

13 - Monkey Island (Series)

Perhaps one of the most memorable adventure games of the 1990s, this hilarious, mystery-filled game follows Guybrush Threepwood on his way to defeat the terrible (and undead) pirate LeChuck, becoming the most infamous pirate of the seas. The series has six games in total, with the first release taking place in 1990 as The Secret of Monkey Island. The latest iteration, Return to Monkey Island, was released over 30 years later, in September 2022.

14 - Oxenfree

Do you enjoy a tale of the unexpected? Oxenfree is one of the best story games for anyone who loves a supernatural thriller adventure game with a focus on dialogue choices and mystery.

15 - What Remains of Edith Finch

An anthology of short stories that explore the lives and deaths of cursed members of the Finch family - a great video game story if you enjoy an epic generational saga.

The Evolution of Story-based Video Games

The first story-based video game is widely thought to be a game called Adventure, also known as Colossal Cave Adventure, which was created back in 1975 by Will Crowther. Crowther was an American programmer and caving enthusiast, and Adventure is a text-based game that laid the foundation for narrative-driven video games in the decades that followed.

While Adventure doesn't have the sophisticated graphics or sound effects of today's best story games, it introduced the concept of interactive storytelling in video games. Players had agency in making decisions that affected their progress, and the game's text-based format allowed for a level of immersion that was novel at the time.

While the best story-driven games have evolved exponentially to include graphics, voice acting, and complex narratives, Adventure remains a foundational piece of gaming history and a testament to the potential of storytelling within gaming.

What Is the Value of a Narrative in Video Games?

Playing the best story games isn't just about escapism and relaxation, you can learn a lot from games with a strong narrative and compelling characters. The best story-driven games encourage empathy and compassion. Playing as different characters and making choices from their perspectives can enhance your understanding of different viewpoints and life experiences, help broaden your horizons, and increase your empathy in real life.

You may also notice improvements in your critical thinking and decision-making - the best story games will present you with complex decisions that have lasting consequences. Engaging with these choices can enhance your critical thinking skills as you evaluate options and consider potential outcomes.

Whether you're a fan of open-world adventures, emotional rollercoasters, or thought-provoking narratives, the best story games have something for everyone. Our 15 best story mode games are games that promise to challenge you, inspire you, and transport you into worlds that are as vivid and immersive as any book or movie.