Top 5 Video Game Plots
Oftentimes, the plots of video games are just as important as the gameplay itself. Games that are fun to play are ruined if the story is illogical or full of holes (looking at you Arkham Knight). This is a list of the five best plots in a video game. This list is based on three criterias: engaging characters, a clear and cohesive narrative, and creative ideas. There will be spoilers for each game.
Honorable Mentions: L.A. Noire (too long), Heavy Rain (awful plot twist), Dark Souls (unclear narrative)
5. Batman: Arkham City
I know it’s a game based on a comic book and I know the opening premise is ridiculous. No city on Earth, even Gotham, would section off a whole chunk of its city as a gigantic playground for criminals. And if even if one city did, they certainly wouldn’t let a criminal be in charge. But once you accept the premise of the game as ridiculous and examine the story within the confines of that premise, you find an excellent, well written plot that examines Batman’s heroism and fractured psyche.
Arkham City’s plot, like most comic book plots, is very simple. The story begins with Batman trying to unmask a criminal conspiracy within Arkham City. Early on, Batman is captured by the Joker and poisoned. The Joker has been poisoned and infected you and the Gotham hospitals with his blood. Unless Batman finds the cure, he and many Gotham citizens will be poisoned.
As the story unfolds, the game touches upon several themes. What is it to be a hero? The ultimate conspiracy is that Ra’s al Ghul, a vigilante much more black and white than Batman, has gathered all the criminals together so he can bomb them all out of existence. Thus, ending the criminal element within Gotham. Batman prevents this from occurring, but it raises several questions. Does Batman’s lone rule make him a hero or not strong enough to get the job done? How many lives would he save by killing these criminals? Is he saving them because his whole identity is wrapped up in fighting crime? If there’s no crime, why would there be a Batman?
Arkham City continues the tradition of exploring the strange connection between Joker and the Batman. The story explores their relationship as two sides of the same coin. Joker treats Batman like a friend, calling him nicknames like ‘Batsy.’ He’ll call and leave voicemails detailing how much he misses Batman and demanding he call him back. Like in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, Arkham City tests Batman’s no kill rule. And like the film, the conclusion of the game offers a very satisfying answer.
4. Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, along with being fun to play, has an excellent plot. Like most Westerns, the plot isn’t terribly complex. You play as John Marston, a former criminal who’s trying to escape his violent past by living his life with his family as a quiet farmer. This new life is shattered when the federal government kidnaps your family and gives you one last job. You must hunt down your former compatriots; the last outlaws in the West.
Similar to many other Westerns, such as Unforgiven, John Marston realizes that he cannot escape his past no matter how hard he tries. Every attempt to escape his past, only drags him further into the muck. The game hammers home the theme that you cannot escape your sins. After John Marston completes his task, his family is returned to him. But his respite is short-lived. The federal government arrive to tie up loose ends. John is forced to sacrifice himself to save his family. The true price for his violent past is his own violent fate. The redemption is that he saves his family and will be remembered as a good man, unlike his former companions.
3. Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 1
Every zombie movie, tv show, or video game has the same essential story. Civilization has been shattered by the zombie apocalypse and a small band of humans try to survive and keep what little humanity they have left. Telltale’s The Walking Dead is no exception. The game centers around Lee Everett. Lee was convicted of a crime and was being driven to jail when his police escort is attacked by zombies. He rescues a small ten year old girl named Clementine and meets a band of survivors. Together over the course of the season, the group tries to find a safe place to avoid the apocalypse.
What elevates The Walking Dead above its fellow zombie games is its superb characters. Not only does Lee have an interesting backstory and an engaging personality, but all the other characters do as well. Each character has well written dialogue and realistic motivations for their actions.
This is especially true for Clementine, the girl Lee rescues in the beginning. Lee, and you as the player, instinctively want to protect her from the horrors of this world. Over the course of the game your relationship grows and Lee has to realize that he can’t simply hide her from all the terror around her. He has to teach her how to survive if and when something happens. Lee teaches Clementine how to fire a weapon and cuts her long hair, so zombies can’t grab it. And by the end of the season, Clementine is able to survive because of Lee.
2. The Last of Us
I don’t think there’s much I can say about this game that hasn’t already been said. It won game of the year in 2013 and was often compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the gameplay is fine, the story and characters are what made this such an awarded game. You play as Joel, a man hardened by life and doing whatever he can to survive in this post apocalyptic society. Joel is tasked with escorting a fourteen year girl named, Ellie, across the United States. During the journey, Joel and Ellie form a bond, with them becoming a surrogate family.
The only reason The Last of Us isn’t number one is because it’s too much like The Road. The game is a constant downer. The game opens with the most tragic introduction I’ve ever seen. Most of the characters you meet end up dying or being bitten. While Ellie and Joel have small moments of levity, the tone of the game is dark and depressing. By the end, Joel and Ellie have become almost unlikeable because of all they’ve had to do to survive. Even at the end when you save Ellie, you do it by killing people who are only trying to save the human species. At the end, nothing’s changed and the world stays completely ruined and hopeless. 1. Bioshock Infinite
Both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite have exceptional plots. But due to their major similarities, such as a ruined utopia and a questionable charismatic leader, I chose the best one. Bioshock Infinite is a fantastic game through and through. It’s fun to play, great cast of characters, compelling leads, beautiful world, and a plot worthy of Inception.
You play as Booker DeWitt, a private detective sent to the (racist) utopia of Columbia. You are tasked to bring a girl named Elizabeth back to New York. You rescue Elizabeth early on and spend the rest of the game trying to kill Columbia’s leader, named Comstock, and escape back to New York. As you play, the story starts to twist and turn in on itself. Elizabeth can open up ‘tears’ into parallel universes. She and Booker can then hop into other parallel universes and timelines. The game runs the risk of being too confusing as you start to lose track of what exactly is going on. But Ken Levine wraps the game all together in a beautiful neat bow and leaves you with a jaw dropping twist ending that you absolutely should have seen coming.
If I left out any games or you want to rearrange my order, please leave me comments.