More and more games are offering players some sort of choice when it comes to the direction of the narrative. These are some that do it really well.
Video games weren’t always about stories or having an epic narrative. At one period in time, video games were simply meant for play and to challenge your skills as the player for entertainment. Somewhere along the lines, video games evolved and fused the storytelling with gameplay to create the blockbusters we have today. Now, aside from the latest Tetris, it’s rare that a game doesn’t contain some story elements. Beyond that, however, are games that are solely driven by the story. In these games, the story is the anchor of everything that makes the game great and the makers have chosen to let you lead the way.
Over the years, many great story-based games with narratives that fracture or morph based on player decisions have hit the market. Some are less complex than others. But they all tend to engage players with meaningful character interaction.
Updated May 30th, 2020 by Meg Pelliccio: Games that utilize decision-based elements that shape the characters and storyline allow players to feel more immersed in the title, as well as enabling each playthrough to feel more personalized.
It’s great to be able to discuss with friends how their playthrough transpired, discovering that they may have killed characters you didn’t, or that they ended up with a different conclusion entirely. Decision-based games offer great replay value and are well worth trying if you haven’t already.
1 Catherine: Full Body
2 Dragon Age: Inquisition
The entire Dragon Age series offers players multiple occasions where they have to make a decision; these choices can be small and change next to nothing, or they can be large plot points that go on to echo in the rest of the sequels.
Spoilers ahead! Dragon Age: Inquisition, in particular, had some tough to decisions for fans to make, such as which of your companions to leave in the fade to die, as well as who would become the next Divine — a choice that will surely have consequences in Dragon Age 4.
3 Telltale’s The Walking Dead
The once-dead, now recently-resurrected studio Telltale is famous for creating episodic games that are solely meant to tell stories based on player decisions. Telltale’s games weren’t layered like Until Dawn with abilities to see into the future on the current trajectory or to view evolving traits of the characters you were influencing.
But games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead did offer an inside look at the end of each episode of each pivotal decision and how many other gamers out there in the world did or didn’t make the same choices as you. Fans enjoyed being able to see how their choices stacked up against the rest of the world!
4 Mass Effect 2
While Bioware has struggled as a studio with the recent Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem failures, the studio is traditionally known for its killer action-RPGs that prominently feature agency at the core of the experience. Mass Effect 2 saw players control Commander Shepard, a soldier of the distant future.
In the game, players are capable of making command decisions for Shepard’s crew members aboard the Normandy that affect their relationships and actions. What made Mass Effect 2 even more thrilling was that it allowed players to carry over their Mass Effect save files to continue the story based on the choices players made in the original game.
5 Heavy Rain (Choice of Games)
Heavy Rain thrust players into the heart of neo-noir detective thriller. Multiple characters were at play here, but it was up to the player to make decisions for each of them as they dealt with the mysterious Origami Killer.
Like any narrative-focused story, the decisions players made affected the eventual outcome. While nothing changed with regards to who the Origami Killer actually was, the discovery could either be a relief or rather tragic for all involved.
6 Detroit: Become Human (Choice of Games)
Androids certainly don’t dream of electric sheep in this sci-fi thriller from the makers of Heavy Rain. Detroit: Become Human allows players to take control of three different androids each with a pre-programmed purpose. However, as this is a narrative-based game focused heavily on free agency, the story focuses on androids and their pursuit of autonomy.
One such android, Markus, is discarded as a deviant android and wades into a political battle for android rights rallying other androids for the cause. Kara is a housekeeping android destined to protect the daughter of her employer. As a result, she becomes deviant as well. Lastly, Connor assists law enforcement with investigating deviant androids and will eventually be faced with the choice of becoming a deviant himself.
7 Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Choice of Games)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a cyberpunk-fueled third-person action game that puts players in the role of Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT officer in charge of the security for Sarif Industries. In this future, humans are becoming augmented with artificial body parts to increase their capabilities or, perhaps, save their lives.
Adam falls into the latter category and is forced into augmentation after suffering catastrophic injuries during an attack on Sarif Industries. After recovering, he embarks on a quest to find his attackers as he wades into a story of shadowy figures and corruption run amok. Decisions are made by the player in a few pivotal moments that affect different story elements and tactics for infiltration or confrontation. Additionally, one decision is made at the end of the game that determines the conclusion. The decision-based elements aren’t as extensive as other games, however, they are pivotal to the overall experience.
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