One thing I love about the gaming industry is the rise and subsequent focus of a large number of major game developers on storylines. Having grown up with books like The Lord of the Rings, the various Stephen King novels and A Song of Ice and Fire (to name just a few), a decent storyline has always been important to me.
This has also carried over into the games that I enjoy the most; if a game has a really good story, then I don’t actually care about the graphics! Hell, my favourite game of all time, Final Fantasy VII, is from 1997, and looks like it! Yet I continue to play it almost annually! Which is why it’s the first game on the list (and will probably end up being my version of Rob Pearson’s use of Metal Gear in the PlayStation Access videos).
Final Fantasy VII
When you are talking about games with an epic storyline, it’s hard to ignore a game that spans 3 discs because of the length and depth of the storyline! Immediately throwing you into the world as an eco-terrorist, you start Final Fantasy VII as what most people would view as the bad guy, going against society. Hell, the first mission of the game involves you bombing a power plant that is sucking the life energy out of the planet. Pretty serious stuff for the beginning of a game, eh?
There’s a video showing the PS3 tech demo remaster of the introduction to the game, which is pretty epic itself! And from there, your journey spans the entire world, following a murderous psychopath with insane strength, fighting off giant monsters summoned from within the planet, watching entire cities be destroyed, and even going into space inside a rocket aimed at a meteor! Add to that the crazy amount of emotional loss within the game, and if you don’t think that’s epic, I don’t know what is!
Mass Effect 2
Okay, so we already spoke about epic introductions… But Mass Effect 2 has, quite possibly, the most epic introduction to a game (or TV or movie) ever! Having survived the events of the first game, you and your crew are out in space, hunting down remnants of the enemy forces. Then, you’re attacked by an unknown enemy, your ship is destroyed… And you die. Start opening credits!
And nothing slows down from there. Having been brought back from the data via genetic and nano technology, you are forced to work for one of the bad guys, because he is the only one who believes you about the incoming threat of the Reapers. You have to save a bunch of Krogan aliens from mercenaries on a planet where the sunlight is so hot you’ll die! You have to infiltrate and extract an assassin from within a huge tower filled with people looking to kill him.
Oh, and the whole game is a build up to a “suicide mission” where, depending on the decisions you made throughout the game, can end with various characters dying, including you (again). And this time, the death is permanent, so if you transfer your save to Mass Effect 3, those who died will stay dead!
Knights of the Old Republic
Continuing the Sci-Fi trend, next we have a slightly aged (or shall we say matured) game – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Like with Final Fantasy VII, if you can see past the now dated graphics, you’ll find a truly immense storyline! It starts with you waking up on a spaceship under attack and you having to fight your way to the escape pods.
From there, in true western RPG style, you go through a long campaign of winding and twisting storylines that are directly effected by your choices. Eventually, you get to train to become a Jedi (which is bloody awesome), build your own lightsaber, and get hunted by an assassin droid. And whilst all this is going down, you’re tasked with learning what plan the Sith Lord Dark Malak has, and how to stop his conquest of the galaxy.
There is also a huge twist in the story which, since release, has almost become legendary in the gaming industry. I won’t spoil it, but trust me, this is one Star Wars story that you really want to play through!
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Another old but utterly classic game next, and one that most people (sadly) don’t remember or haven’t played. The Persona series become ver popular with the release of Persona 3 on PS2, but if you go back to the PS1 days, the series was very different. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is actually the second half of the storyline of Persona 2 – there are two games called Persona 2, one with the suffix Innocent Sin and then Eternal Punishment. Whilst playing through Innocent Sin would give you a headstart on understanding what is going on in Eternal Punishment, I would recommend playing Eternal Punishment first. That’s because knowing what happens in Innocent Sin would actually take away from the mystery in Eternal Punishment.
Now, on to the basic storyline premise – you follow the exploits of a magazine journalist who gets caught up in a serial killer case. Alongside your friend, a fallen from grace police detective, a number of other characters and a young man who “looks very familiar” to the journalist (though she cannot remember who he is), you are dragged, kicking and screaming into a nightmare. The serial killer, known as JOKER, targets people suggested to him when you call your own phone number and say a name. He then summons “demons” to kill his victims in horrifically gory fashion… So when you become his next target, you need to learn to use your Personas (your own inner demons taken form) to protect yourself, find JOKER, stop his killing spree and work out who wanted you dead.
Red Dead Redemption
Taking a step back in time now, we’re going to visit the Old West! Set in a time where industry and machinery are taking over and taming the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption is an open-world Western created by the team behind Grand Theft Auto. So, obviously, that means you are free to go wherever you want, you can play poker, race horses or engage in utter mayhem. However, the best part of the game is the storyline!
In short, you take the role of John Marston, ex-criminal turned honest family man, whose world is turned upside down when the government kidnap your wife and son and tell you that the only way you’ll see them again is to hunt down your old gang and bring them to justice. This opens up into a storyline that spans the southern states of America and the northern terriroties of Mexico.
With gun fights, horse back chases and times where you have to protect carriages from bandits, the storyline never gives up pace! And the characters themselves are all memorable, like the crazy old drunk who lives in a graveyard! And similar to Knights of the Old Republic, the ending of the game hits hard and has become infamous with gamers everywhere! This is one game you won’t want to put down until your seen the story to its conclusion!
TellTale’s The Walking Dead
Next on the list, we have a side story from The Walking Dead, created by the genius minds of TellTale games! You take the role of a man who escapes the back of a crashed police car after the zombie apocalypse has started. There, you walk through the streets until coming across a young girl.
From here, in typical Walking Dead fashion, the story follows you and your friend as you try to survive, meet up with other survivors and work out who to trust. The biggest part of the game, however, is that your decisions not only effect the storyline, but also how the other survivors view and trust you! It’s a very thoughtful game that will have you captured within the first 10 minutes!
The Last Of Us
Finally, we come to one of the most emotional, mature and gripping storylines in gaming history; The Last of Us. Based upon the real world fungi known as Cordyceps (also known as the Zombie Ant Virus), The Last of Us is set in a world where this fungi has evolved to infect humans as well. So yes, it is a zombie apocalypse game, but it’s not like any other zombie game you’ve played!
From the very introduction, you’re forced with the emotional horror that a zombie apocalypse can bring. There’s no big guns and muscle-bound soldier-types here… You play as father and aged man Joel who, for almost the entire game, has to work alongside a girl named Ellie in order to survive and make their way across America!
As the game unfolds, it is the (very realistic) bond that develops between them that really holds you. And trust me, it never lets go. I cannot do this game justice in words… Seriously, I can’t. Even the opening section of the game will have you on the edge of your seat, fully immersed in the story (even if you’ve never played a game before). And you won’t be able to get through The Last of Us without at least 1 box of tissues!
To show just how good the game is, just take a look at this Wikipedia page listing all of the awards it won!
And That’s All Folks
Those are my top 7 games with epic storylines! They will pull you in and not let go… But you’ll be enjoying the stories so much you won’t want to put them down anyway!
Have you played any of these? Do they sound interesting to you? Let me know in the comments below!