What AA or AAA games have the best stories?

We're kind of debating this in a thread about something else, so I thought I would make a separate thread.

I'm only including AAA and AA games because there are so many great stories in little indie games. But these smaller games have it easy. They don't have to try to appeal to the masses with their gameplay. For AAA and AA games, there's a delicate balancing act that has to be done.

I reserve the right to change my mind on my list at any time because I'll be thinking more about this later, but my top few stories in major games are:

1) Soma...No other game has come close to making me feel like I felt at the end of Soma. Just absolutely brilliant by any standard.
2) The Witcher 3...Rare is it when a AAA game explores serious ethical issues, but this one does it, and manages not to preach to you at the same time. And the Bloody Baron story is the single best side story of any game I've ever played, and that was just one story of many. I had no idea who to side with. Such great fun.
3) The Portal Games...The stories were ridiculous and GlaDOS was hilarious. Great fun from beginning to end. As good as any comedy from any form of entertainment.
4) Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice...A story about love and mental illness. The developers interviewed many people who suffered from schizophrenia when creating Senua's character. She's a very sympathetic character and her struggles draw you closer to her. It's a simple story told very vividly, and it's not only thoroughly enjoyable, but very moving.
5) Mass Effect Series...Though not entirely original, the overall story was gripping from beginning to end, and the companion stories, while sort of reminding me of soap operas, were a treat to follow.
6) The Talos Principle...Another game with some very heavy topics that handles them masterfully. And even though these are high level philosophical questions being explored, the game delivers in the end. You don't expect that in a game that is addressing such eternal questions. Usually you end up disappointed, like in Everyone's Gone to the Rapture, which had a horrid ending, or the television series Lost.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
  1. The Witcher 3. The main story was great. The DLC main stories were great. The vast majority of the sidequest stories were great. The epilog that left me wondering whether a specific character had died for several agonizing minutes was great. Earlier Witcher entries had good stories, too, but W3 left them in the dust.
  2. Final Fantasy 7. This one really surprised me. In some ways, it seemed like a game more for children, but the group of characters I was playing were a group of kind hearted.... ecoterrorists!? We get on a train and people are scared of us! One of the characters is captured and, if we don't save her, a bad guy is going to make her his sex slave!? OK, not a kids game no matter how silly the chocobo dance is. Characters end up dealing with some pretty heavy issues, while still having plenty of cute and silly stuff to lighten the mood from time to time. (And again, the music strongly enhanced the story.)
  3. Saints Row: The Third. Really zany and over the top all the time, I loved it!
  4. Dragon Age: Origins. Those Warders are serious stuff.
After that, there's tons of quite good stories, but I have a harder time deciding which is better than the other. Some have really excellent endings (Bioshock 1 and Infinite), some have great characters, and so on. Those four have it all.
 
I can't really think of any game where the story actually wowed me. Crying Suns is the only one I can think of where the actual story kept making me come back for more, but I don't know if that counts as AA.

The only AA/AAA I can think of is the Mass Effect series and mostly for how good it was in making me care about the characters. The actual story was just decent, compared to other types of media.

I really liked Portal, but it's mostly a series of jokes, I wouldn't really call it a story.
 
I can't really think of any game where the story actually wowed me. Crying Suns is the only one I can think of where the actual story kept making me come back for more, but I don't know if that counts as AA.

The only AA/AAA I can think of is the Mass Effect series and mostly for how good it was in making me care about the characters. The actual story was just decent, compared to other types of media.

I really liked Portal, but it's mostly a series of jokes, I wouldn't really call it a story.
Portal 2 is absolutely a story. Portal 1 is as well, though not as traditional, but it's weird to me to call it simply a series of jokes. You have Chell, the protagonist, who is trying to escape a facility with a rogue AI that is trying to kill her. That's a story. You learn a ton of lore and the dialogue is hilarious. Compare this to Virginia, a game that won best narrative that had zero dialogue or any written anything. The story in games is more than just words.

As for Mass Effect, I'd say the story was better than your average television show, which is impressive considering television has nothing to do but concentrate on story. Now if you compare it to something like "No Country for Old Men," then of course it pales in comparison.
 
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Story is absolutely more than just words! A story is a narrative that makes you feel something, and can be told without any words at all.

Having said that I'm going to be unoriginal and say Planescape Torment, which is basically an interactive novel, and not a very good game to play tbh. When it released it was a AA game at least, at the height of Infinity engine popularity. It was the second game I remember being fascinated by basically the story alone.

The stories I remember most are the ones that either make me feel something extremely strongly, or ones that make me think about things in ways that I haven't before. Its quite rare, so easy to remember when it happens. I bloody love stories, since I was tiny.

I'll also say Bioshock and continue to be unoriginal. When it released I don't remember there being a game before it that had made a political or philosphical statement about modern western society. Certainly not a 3d action game. Maybe its a bit cliche by standards of other media, but it was the first game I remember to do so, also had one of the best twists in video game history IMO

Not gonna get political in here, just saying it makes a statement whether you agree with it or not :)
 
Nov 27, 2020
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In no particular order:
1- I have to agree with @Kaamos_Llama on Planescape Torment. It was a game that was driven completely by the story & the characters stories, a blend of humor & tragedy, and was the only game that I've played where you could win ("win" is a bit arbitrary here, maybe I should say complete) the final confrontation through conversation; if your charisma was high enough. I had high hopes that Obsidian's Torment: Tides of Numenera would re-create some of those feelings, but it fell short of the mark.

2- Witcher 3, as others have mentioned, is a high water mark for story telling in an RPG, as well as for CD Projekt. Most of the quests had meaning, and there was no "good or evil" choices, a player had to follow his/her moral compass and really role play. As @ZedClampet stated, that Bloody Baron quest was phenomenal and possibly one of the best side quests ever written. I really hope that CDPR finishes the remaster version this year, as I really want to go back for another run.

3-Others also mentioned the Mass Effect 1-3 Trilogy, and I agree. Taken individually, they're good to great games, but take the overarching story line of all 3 games back to back to back, and it's the greatest RPG series I've ever played and re-played. Similar to @Pifanjr , I cared about all those companions, their varied personalities and stories and how they were interwoven with the main story.

4- Dragon Age Origins, as @Zloth mentioned, and still the best story & characters in the DA games. It was the beginning of the world of Thedas, the Wardens, and the Blight. Full of lore and backstory and quirky companions and their own history. The choices your Warden made could change the outcome of how the story played out.

4a- This is an honorable mention for Dragon Age 2, the black sheep of the DA triplets. It had it's gameplay issues, and the way Bioware reused maps killed any sense of exploration & discovery, but the story and the characters story & personalities drove that game. It's always felt to me that DA2 was a prologue to Dragon Age Inquisition; many of your choices and some of the characters from DA2 played a large role in DAI.

I really need to revisit those games, as I have all 3 in my TBP pile in Steam, including the remasters. I tried the first Bioshock years ago, but for whatever reason I quit it after several hours and I couldn't really define the reason.
 
If y'all are going to argue about what "story" is:


Maybe its a bit cliche by standards of other media
I wonder if that's it. If you haven't been exposed to good stories in other media, then game stories will seem great in absolute terms.

better than your average television show
Ok, let's do a bit of work on bar height here ;) I think average TV is somewhere around Staying Down With the Cash Cardigans, isn't it?
 
I really need to revisit those games, as I have all 3 in my TBP pile in Steam, including the remasters. I tried the first Bioshock years ago, but for whatever reason I quit it after several hours and I couldn't really define the reason.
It still holds up for me at least. I played through a few hours of the first games enhanced edition a few months ago and it still plays well. But some things just don't click with some people, so it goes. I loved Infinite, but didnt finish 2. People say that 2 was a better game to play than the first but I just fell off it when I played it for no good reason.

If y'all are going to argue about what "story" is:

You can tell a story just by showing a series of images or even sounds, there doesn't have to be dialogue or text is what I was meaning.

I wonder if that's it. If you haven't been exposed to good stories in other media, then game stories will seem great in absolute terms.
I love stories in all forms, novels, songs, poems, movies, games whatever since I was a toddler. But I've never been able to get into some anime series. There are people way smarter, older, etc than me whose opinions I respect who love certain shows, like Evangelion, but I can't see it. Something about it just gets in the way of me seeing the interesting stuff below the surface, and I cant put it out of my head when I watch it.

I wonder if it's more likely something like that with you and game stories?
 
Portal 2 is absolutely a story. Portal 1 is as well, though not as traditional, but it's weird to me to call it simply a series of jokes. You have Chell, the protagonist, who is trying to escape a facility with a rogue AI that is trying to kill her. That's a story. You learn a ton of lore and the dialogue is hilarious. Compare this to Virginia, a game that won best narrative that had zero dialogue or any written anything. The story in games is more than just words.

As for Mass Effect, I'd say the story was better than your average television show, which is impressive considering television has nothing to do but concentrate on story. Now if you compare it to something like "No Country for Old Men," then of course it pales in comparison.
I think Portal 1 doesn't really have a story. There isn't any character development or any other kind of development really. However, after thinking about it a bit more, I do agree that Portal 2 has a good story, it's just not very long and spread out in small chunks in between each level. Which is true for a lot of games that don't have the story as the main focus.

I've seen No Country for Old Men once as a teenager, when my grasp on English wasn't quite as good, without subtitles and I didn't follow the story at all.

I love stories in all forms, novels, songs, poems, movies, games whatever since I was a toddler. But I've never been able to get into some anime series. There are people way smarter, older, etc than me whose opinions I respect who love certain shows, like Evangelion, but I can't see it. Something about it just gets in the way of me seeing the interesting stuff below the surface, and I cant put it out of my head when I watch it.
I've seen Evangelion as a teenager and didn't get that there was supposed to be a bunch of hidden meanings behind it, I just thought big robots were cool. Also the theme song is amazing. I've since read a bunch of stuff about what it was supposed to be about and just like you I can't really see it. I'm not great with symbolism.
 
I've seen Evangelion as a teenager and didn't get that there was supposed to be a bunch of hidden meanings behind it, I just thought big robots were cool. Also the theme song is amazing. I've since read a bunch of stuff about what it was supposed to be about and just like you I can't really see it. I'm not great with symbolism.
The symbolism is why I think I should like it now. If I'd seen it as a teenager I might not have cared and the big robots could have won me over, hard to say.
 
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I think Portal 1 doesn't really have a story. There isn't any character development or any other kind of development really. However, after thinking about it a bit more, I do agree that Portal 2 has a good story, it's just not very long and spread out in small chunks in between each level. Which is true for a lot of games that don't have the story as the main focus.
I agree with you there. I think Portal 1 was really more like a demo, and Portal 2 was the more polished game that came out of it. It's great, though, even if it's not long. And even if Portal 2 does have a decent story to it, I really think of that game more for its stellar gameplay. It's definitely in the greatest games of all time category.
 
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my 2 highlights for last year were dragon age inquisition , it had a real good twist and a character appeared from way back that i even forgot existed.

My other choice and yes i still keep banging on about it !!!! has to be Horizon Zero Dawn , awesome graphics and a brilliant storyline that you wont understand if you get fed up and skip some of the cut scenes , cant wait for the next instalment due out in about 6 weeks
 
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my 2 highlights for last year were dragon age inquisition , it had a real good twist and a character appeared from way back that i even forgot existed.

My other choice and yes i still keep banging on about it !!!! has to be Horizon Zero Dawn , awesome graphics and a brilliant storyline that you wont understand if you get fed up and skip some of the cut scenes , cant wait for the next instalment due out in about 6 weeks
What? There's a new Horizon game coming out? I had no idea. Will it launch on PC?

Edit: I see it's only launching on PlayStation. Bummer
 
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Hi wooden its seems like it cos i found this , no mention of pc


Horizon Forbidden West is an upcoming action role-playing game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is set to be released on 18 February 2022 for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. A sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), it features an open world in a post-apocalyptic western United States.


just found this Is Horizon Forbidden West Coming to PC? (gamerant.com)

looks like its a no no
 
Hi wooden its seems like it cos i found this , no mention of pc


Horizon Forbidden West is an upcoming action role-playing game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is set to be released on 18 February 2022 for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. A sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), it features an open world in a post-apocalyptic western United States.


just found this Is Horizon Forbidden West Coming to PC? (gamerant.com)

looks like its a no no
Maybe in 5 years when they're ready to release the third one, they'll throw us a bone, and we'll finally get it. I'm definitely not buying a PlayStation, though, especially with MS buying up all the game companies.
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
Horizon's story isn't impressing me at all. At least at the point where I'm at now, I would put it below average. It starts off with a good origin story for Aloy, then contradicts it, then lets you go into the wide world where her background is largely ignored. Maybe the story will pick up again later, but I'm not holding out much hope.

(The game itself is still great fun! It's just not much for story.)
 
Horizon's story isn't impressing me at all. At least at the point where I'm at now, I would put it below average. It starts off with a good origin story for Aloy, then contradicts it, then lets you go into the wide world where her background is largely ignored. Maybe the story will pick up again later, but I'm not holding out much hope.

(The game itself is still great fun! It's just not much for story.)
You're a lot farther in than I am, but I'm really liking the story so far. It was rough that she was raised an outcast and then became part of the tribe. It's a little weird that she's dedicated to the tribe, even when some people are still giving her crap. But I'm liking where things are going with finding out about the previous civilization and stuff. But like I said, I'm not that far along, so maybe things are about to take a turn for the worse.
 
I've seen No Country for Old Men once as a teenager, when my grasp on English wasn't quite as good, without subtitles and I didn't follow the story at all.
Wouldn't be the same without a good grasp of English. It's probably the best written movie I've ever seen. I refused to watch any other movies for a long time because I knew they couldn't stand up to my new standard lol
 
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May 9, 2022
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Clearly The Witcher 3 is exceptional. Not much has to be said as it's all been said before by everyone else, Horizon is a great game also. I did thoroughly enjoy the Assassin's Creed series until it started to get a bit stale.

What I do find surprising is I haven't seen Telltale Series (Walking Dead, Borderlands, The Wolf Among Us) get a mention. I was gripped to characters of Lee and Clementine. Vaughan and Rhys are brilliant.

Honourable mention to Uncharted series (being released in June on STEAM I believe). This was the first game series I played that felt like I was in a movie.

I've never played Mass Effect series but I'm guessing I should given everyone's review.
 

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