While story might not be the first thing that people consider when thinking of video games, they can be a much more involving storytelling medium than film and even novels. Contrary to what some might think, video games don't have many inherent limitations on storytelling. They're commonly associated with mindless violence, but we have seen time and again that they can be much more than that.
Video games have the benefit of being interactive, a benefit not shared by books and movies. Some games use this to take storytelling to a different, higher level. These are the most amazing video games there are. In this article we will examine and discuss the ten best stories in video game history. We talk a lot about the storytelling potential in games, but very few live up to that potential. This list is dedicated to those few.
Be forewarned that this article contains spoilers for every game listed. Do not read about any game you have not played.
These are games that were once on our list, but have since been replaced by another. Make no mistake, they are remarkable in their own right and arguably worthy of being in the top 10.
"I was weak. That's why I needed you... Needed someone to punish me for my sins... But that's all over now. I know the truth. Now it's time to end this."
Silent Hill 2
- James Sunderland
Game Title: Silent Hill 2
Release Date: 2001
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 2, XBOX, Playstation 3 (HD re-release), XBOX 360 (HD re-release)
Genre: Psychological Horror / Survival Horror
Plot Involves Saving the World?: No.
is legendary for its storytelling. This is yet another game we've written about in considerable detail before, both in the aforementioned best antagonist
article and our best horror game
article. It took the psychological horror genre to a new level.
You play as James Sunderland, a recent widower. At the start of the game James receives a letter, apparently written by his deceased wife Mary, telling him to meet her in their "special place" in the mysterious, abandoned town of Silent Hill. Right at the start of the game, when he is reading the letter, it's made obvious that he's a tormented character and that the player is going to experience his hell, his misery. But you won't be able to guess just how deep this journey goes.
The town of Silent Hill is cut off from the rest of the world. For most people, once you enter there is no escape. The roads leading out of the town are destroyed, leading down into an endless cliff. The town is overrun by monsters, which are each symbolic representations of an inner struggle of James. This includes the apparent antagonist Pyramid Head, which we wrote about here
. The quote at the top of this page summarizes Pyramid Head; he is an invention of Sunderland's mind, existing to punish James for his sins, to judge him, to encourage him to face the horror of what he had done. But what did James do? This leads to another twist.
James' wife, Mary, did not die of sickness as he said throughout the game. She was in fact dying of sickness, but it was James who ended her life. He ended her life by suffocating her. Dying in her hospital bed, Mary only brought pain and suffering into James' life. James had suffered enough, and chose to end his attachment to a dying woman. In her final days Mary often lashed out at James, inflicting her pain onto him. All of this pushed James over the edge, and his journey through Silent Hill is perhaps a way for him to face what he has done.
The story is a psychological study of guilt and self-deception, told in a powerful and poetic way.
As with other great stories, the plot which is what
happens, might not seem very impressive on paper. But the story, which is why
those things happen, is one of the most complex and well-written of any and all games. Silent Hill 2 doesn't have the most amazing overall dialogue though; in this area it is bested by the others, with bits of dialogue being downright silly (the poor voice acting does not help). But its use of symbolism and metaphors is legendary, the best in the history of video games. They're used in the game's set pieces, on the enemy models, and in the writing itself. It does a much better job showing
, and relies primarily on the former, it's