Open Thread: Favorite Video Game Plot?

What's your favorite video game plot of all time? (Differentiated from "favorite video game" because play mechanics can ruin the overall experience, I know.)

I really, really, really love Persona. I really like the whole "many selves within you" aspect, probably not the least because it always used to bug me growing up that people would talk to me about wanting to know "the REAL Ana" as if I wasn't real all the time. I really like the character of Mary, because she's a relatively rare disabled (sort of. It's complicated.) character in the video game landscape, and I really like the exploration of her character as deeper than peaches'and'cream. And I love that the characters start off looking like stereotypes (the Rich Kid, the Responsible Kid, the Smart Kid, etc.) and then turn out to have all this depth of character unfold because people are not stereotypes, and if you think they are, it's your failure to look deeper. Ah, memories.

I don't like the PSP remake quite so much, I'm afraid.

Runners-up include Lunar (the PS remake where Luna gets some agency), Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy Tactics (the plot makes sense after the 8,734th play through!).



Samantha C said...

I fricking love .hack. The anime Sign was great, and the follow-up game series just as awesome. It's trippy and doesn't always make perfect sense, but it's all swirling around questions of identity and personhood and self-awareness and worth. If an entity only exists inside a computer program, does that make it not alive? How far do you go into unchartered waters to rescue the few, when you don't know what kind of damage you're doing to the many? What does authority mean in a world that can be literally re-shaped? Ooo it's fun.

redsixwing said...

Xenogears. Also trippy and weird and in some cases very problematic, full of strange prophecies, religious overtones and downright strangeness. Oh, and furries who follow you around for, like, the entire game.

But it deals with "what if God is evil," which is I think the first time I'd had that concept spelled out for me in so many words, and nicely demonstrates the sheer stupidity of placing people into social strata that Never Shall Meet, and has some of my favorite character in it, not to mention giant robots, the aforementioned furries, some really horrible puns, and awesome music. (The Xenogears arranged CD, Creid, is one of my favorites even after a massive project in which I translated all the lyrics. Anyone who's listened to something obsessively, a phrase at a time to try to capture the inflection that could change the meaning of the next three verses should know that's really something special.)

That... isn't exactly what you asked. But it hits a lot of my favorites: relationship to deity/deific things, what's worthy of worship, personal agency in the face of overwhelming prophecy and expectation, giant robots.

Michael Mock said...

I'm very partial to the Soul Reaver games, though I'm not sure how much of that is the plot and how much is other things (the voice acting is excellent, for example). For that matter, Blood Omen 2 had some interesting moments with its vampiric protagonist Kain, presenting as a very morally ambiguous character.

Infamous and Infamous 2 did some very interesting things with the concept of super-powers and moral choices.

Psychonauts was another one that did well with its characterization, though I thought there was a major element that simply got *left out* of the plot, near the end.

Oh! Probably the most interesting just for the plot (though the gameplay was excellent, also) was Second Sight, which opens with the guy waking up in a White Room scenario. Throughout the game, you alternate playing through his escape and search for answers, and playing through his flashbacks to what led up to his imprisonment. It creates a sort of layered effect that's really nicely built - so when you hit the climactic moment, it really *works*.

Will Wildman said...

Lunar (the PS remake where Luna gets some agency)

Adored the original but I haven't played the remake, so now I'm curious - what exactly does she get to do? I know there's the fakeout where it looks like she's going to stay behind as in the original and then she decides to go with them to the mainland after all, and I think I heard she then stays with the party until it's time to get kidnapped after returning to Quark. Does she actually affect the story in-between?


I find it hard to pick a plot because it means first I have to figure out how much of the plot was in the game and how much was happening inside my head at the time. (I have to remind myself on occasion that Samus doesn't actually have any dialogue. Her personality is obvious to me, but that is because I make stuff up. There are many games for which this is true, which maybe points to a theme: I appreciate a game that leaves room for me to customise the story inside my head.)

I have a deep and abiding affection for the original Phantasy Star trilogy, despite only playing half of it. Epic multi-millennium-spanning story: check. Player-brutalising plot twists: check (the saying goes that Phantasy Star fans didn't really register Aerith because we were still recovering from losing Nei seven years earlier). Heroes sometimes ruin everything: check. Relatively low on problematic materials: check (Rika probably didn't need to fight in a leotard, but at least she's a ferocious brawler rather than a staff chick).

I also love Skies of Arcadia for absolutely embracing the cliche storm and producing something that ought to have been terrible but has somehow gone horribly right. It's not by any means poetic or original - it's more like a high-production-value version of the kind of story I'd have created when my age was single-digit. I'd call it a guilty pleasure except that I feel no shame.

chris the cynic said...

My favorite game is Deus Ex, the original, and a big part of that is on the plot/story/setting side of things, but I'm not sure that the plot in isolation holds up.

What really works for the plot is how well it ties into the setting, things don't just appear for convenience, they have well thought out roots going back decades, sometimes centuries. Nothing is ever there just for convenience it's always well integrated into the world and everyone has their own perspective.

That last part is one of the reasons that I think the multiple possible endings works in a way that in many games it utterly fails to. By the time you reach the end you've had a chance to meet people on the various sides of the hastily formed coalition supporting you and, while they all agree that the common enemy must be stopped, they disagree about just about everything else.

Each one of them represents a possible story that the game could be telling, and until the end they coexist in Schrodinger fashion, but once you reach the end you're the one who decides how the wave function collapses*.

Which ending you go with will determine which of various different stories the game told, but all of the stories fit because you've been seeing their roots and their advocates for much of the game.


Another thing that I always liked the story of was The Dig, but one returning to it the actual story is less deep than the half remembered impressions of the story.


it always used to bug me growing up that people would talk to me about wanting to know "the REAL Ana"

Well I'd imagine that would be annoying, what with them holding you over a volcano and everything.


I fricking love .hack. The anime Sign was great, and the follow-up game series just as awesome.

I'll second the love for Sign, I've been writing about it of late, but I've never played the game. (I'm a PC only gamer, so PS2 only games are beyond my reach.)


*Though don't take the analogy too far. This isn't Clue where ending selection determines previous events. (That is, which ending is chosen in the next act determines who the murderer was in the previous act.) The events that have transpired don't change, it's just their narrative significance and overall meaning that changes in retrospect once you know what they were leading up to.

Lonespark said...

Well I'd imagine that would be annoying, what with them holding you over a volcano and everything.

I have no idea what this means. Is it related to some meaning of "Ana" in another language?

chris the cynic said...

No. Firefly reference.

In the episode War Stories the bad guy is trying to meet the "real" Mal (since he's talking to Mal his exact words are, "now, let us see if we can meet the real you") which is tied up in the works of a fictional philosopher/dictator who said, "Live with a man 40 years. Share his house, his meals. Speak on every subject. Then tie him up, and hold him over the volcano's edge. And on that day, you will finally meet the man."

So knowing the real Ana = holding Ana over the volcano's edge. Which would presumably bug a reasonable person.

CleverNamePending said...

This question for some reason is harder for me then it should be. There are a few games that I played just to find out what was going on (KH2) and a few where the game play didn't matter too much because I had just fallen in love with the story, characters, and world (Ocarina of Time, which remains one of my favorite games ever to this day.) but which one has my favorite story?

In a fierce battle between my childhood imagination, and my appreciation for a video game story that makes an emotional impact. We have Chrono Cross, which was the first game I beat before my brother and I loved it. It was the first game that I felt my choices actually impacted it. Who was in your party changed the story lines you got! And there were different endings?! It blew my child mind, and sent my imagination running wild, and to this day, I still love it for that alone, even though all the things I loved about it as a kid still all hold true for me.

The, in the other corner we have a game that I played recently that I can not speak warmly enough about. Bastion. If you haven't played it, go on Steam of the Xbox marketplace and buy it now. The game is visually stunning, and we only get one voice actor, for the Rucks, the narrator, but you don't care because it's so good. It's a heartwarming tale about the post-apocalyptic Calamity and the player (The Kid) struggling to put things right. It touches on human nature a lot, how our pasts shape us, and some things I want to tell you, but would spoil bits of the game so won't. Honestly, it's a short and cheap game, just make sure you play the optional flashback levels, because they add so much to the over all game.

I also want to throw an honorable mention to Psychonauts, but I realized it was less the story it's self (kid runs away from the circus to go to summer camp and then things go wrong, so he has to save the day) and more the characters and how they tell the story it's self. It's quirky, funny, and brings something fresh to the table, but story wise it doesn't quite compete with the other two.

chris the cynic said...

I also think that the plot of Alien vs. Predator II is worth noting for the way that it does a good job of having the story separated into three parts (one for each species campaign) while having each part stand alone as a complete story in itself, and just being a well told story at that. It's a shame that Primal Hunt really didn't live up to the same standard.

It also would have been nice if the plots of either of the AVP movies had lived up to that standard. (I confess a fondness for the first, but that doesn't mean it was high quality.)

Charles Matthew Smit said...

Actually, Chris, a real dictator -- just a fake quote. is the probable basis for both our warrior-poet sadist here, and the villain in Mulan!

As for my favorite video game plot, it would have to be Persona 4, for much the same reasons as the original Persona. It has a very twisty murder mystery, teenagers with confused sexualities that are (largely) respected by the narrative, and you care DEEPLY about these people, because as you meet each of them you see them all in terrible danger from a facet of their own psyche. The Jungian psych and archetypes are fun to play with in their presentation here, the supporting cast is just s rich and nuanced as the main characters... there are two or three background characters who are handled poorly, but I played through the whole game -- 44 hours of gameplay -- in under 5 days, because I was just that hooked.

The runner-up would have to be the Mass Effect series, but my favorite moments are a little more diluted there and wrapped up in character much more than plot. I don't really care that much about fighting the Reapers; I just want Garrus to finish his calibrations so I an chat with him more.

chris the cynic said...

Huh, when the episode first came out I thought I remembered people trying to look it up and finding that no such person existed.

Anyway, the important thing is not historical accuracy, the important thing is Simon's response: "What if you don't live near a volcano?"

Redwood Rhiadra said...

I don't play video games much - my twitch reflexes are pretty bad, and I don't have the patience for computer-RPGs (grind, grind, grind).

I do have something of an interest in Interactive Fiction (i.e. text adventures), and many of those have some really good plots. The one that still stands out the most for me is Photopia (Adam Cadre, 1998), which I just found out even has it's own TVTropes page!

I highly encourage everyone to play it. It takes less than an hour, and you can do so online here:

Tim said...

Planescape: Torment is a great videogame, primarily because it takes advantage of the medium to allow you to shape the story of the character very, very well. It allows huge amounts of choice and dialogue. Ultimately the plot is fairly linear, but how you get there is more important than the plot's final destination - and there are tons of great options and choices. I remember being given at times a choice of like seven or eight dialogue options - and a few of them were to (Truth) or (Vow) X, while another would be to Lie (X). That gave the player agency to assign motivation and character based on the dialogue chosen rather than not having any consistency and picking the line of dialogue that seemed sort of right. It helped a lot that the setting and characters were some of the best in RPG history. The whole thing felt really well crafted, and the writing was of exceptionally high quality for most of the game. The Modron Maze low and high difficulty enemies had my favorite videogame Mook dialogue of all time.

Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines also is great. I really like the world, setting, and atmosphere in that game. The graphics and look of everything, as well as the sound and audio design, is very consistent and helps emphasize the mood of the game and the story it tells so that the whole thing works together as a creation - it feels like one guy designed it all with a single creative vision (nowhere near the truth, of course, but it's still one of the most cohesive work in gaming history). It is really fun and the endings are all pretty decent. I really appreciated the high-quality voice acting, also.

Psychonauts story was really funny and well-done, and a lot of the characters have a lot more depth to them by the end of it. It's a really fun and interesting tale, and exploring people's minds has never been so fun in fiction.

The Void by Ice Pick Lodge was super amazing in that it drops you into the game in media res and there's a huge amount of obscurity and exploring the unknown. It was really really neat to find out what was going on and to make choices in it based on my best idea of what to do next. It's not a game for everyone, though. I'm not sure what's going on with the gender issues in it, but I suspect Ana could spend at least a couple posts dissecting it because it's pretty weird and messed up but ultimately, I think, open to interpretation. It's a really difficult and at times frustrating game, though, and it's not afraid to make you load saves and redo whole sections.

The writing in Time Splitters 2 and 3 was really, really hilarious - some of the funniest and best that I can recall. The game plots themselves aren't exactly beacons of awesome, but the writing and incidental dialogue and overall execution of what could have been a totally lackluster plot was really superb.

Mary Kaye said...

The text adventure _Spider and Web_ by Andrew Plotkin has an incredibly structured plot (which is impossible to talk about without spoilers, alas). Honorable mention also to _Photopia_ and _Jigsaw_ in this genre.

Overall, though, for me the standout would have to be _Morrowind_. I'm not sure it's the due to the plot, though it's quite a good plot, but I hit the point where I really, really needed to ask a major NPC some hard questions--and I *could*. And he answered them--including "What is it like to be a god?" which I would never have expected.

The subsequent Elder Scrolls games are technical marvels but emotionally speaking they leave me cold.

Loquat said...

It probably says something about the video games I've played that the first thing that came to my mind was not a commercial game, but a fan mod for Neverwinter Nights - the game came with a toolset you could use to build entire new campaigns, or even load in your own models if you wanted to use creatures or environments not found in the original game. So people started making their own campaigns, some of which were better written than Neverwinter Nights itself, and three of the best were all by this one guy Stefan Gagne. Who apparently has a blog and publishes his scifi/fantasy/anime writings online, so I think I need to go read that now.

But before I go, I'll also put in a word for Portal 2. I played the last half all in one go, and things just kept getting weirder and more ludicrous until the final crowning moment of LOLWUT-awesome. (It helped that I was finishing up late at night, and everything's funnier when I've stayed up too late.) And of course Cave Johnson is comedy gold.

ZMiles said...

Bioshock. One of the most atmospheric and brilliant games I've ever played, with a really engaging plot. The characters were just incredibly well done to fill their rolls -- not just Ryan and Atlas, but the minor bosses like J. S. Steinmann and Sander Cohen, and even the people you only meet on recordings, like the poor, beleaguered Bill McDonagh, the nerdy Kyburz, and the angry and focused Anya Andersdotter. I wasn't actually as impressed by the 'deconstruction of what it means to play a video game' as most people, and I think the Tenenbaum character was slightly mishandled (the game tended to ignore how evil she used to be in favor of her more recent redemption), but the rest of it was great.

Bioshock 2 had a good plot, although I don't think it was quite as good as Bioshock's. Dr. Lamb just wasn't as interesting of an opponent as Ryan; somehow, she talked more but said less, and what she did say wasn't threatening so much as obnoxious bragging. One LP that I watched put it as, "You're supposed to fear Andrew Ryan. You're supposed to hate Sophia Lamb." And I think fear was a more effective motivator of the plot than hate. There were some awesome moments -- Fontaine Futuristics, where you're following Gilbert Alexander's recorded instructions to kill him, while his corrupted and warped new form 'Alex the Great' tries to stop you, was brilliant, as was the whole Mark Meltzer plotline -- but I think it fell a little short. (And as for Bioshock: Minerva's Den, it had the best protagonist of the three games, but the worst antagonist. Wahl sounded like Voldemort and worshipped a computer. Not very compelling).

Seconding The Dig. I loved that game as a kid. The novelization was pretty good too.

I'll also bring up The Last Express. It's the game Jordan Mechner did that wasn't Prince of Persia. A murder mystery adventure game, set on the last run of the Orient Express before the outbreak of World War I. Extremely well detailed world, intricate plot, and the characters were all great (especially Cath, the protagonist, with a snarky comment for every situation and a tenacity to rival Inspector Javert). Unusually, even though it was an adventure game, the action scenes still worked well. And while the bomb-defusing puzzle was stupid, the others were great.

And if we're talking fan-games, I'll also mention Story of the Blanks. Sure, it's only ten-fifteen minutes long (if you don't lose), but it's actually got a reasonably intricate story. It's about as dark as you can get in MLP:FiM without losing the feel of the series, but I think it actually maintained it pretty well.

Launcifer said...

I think I might second Morrowind there, largely for the over-arching principles behind the plot. There's something rather awesome about the question of whether the hero is in fact the prophecied messiah or merely a willing pawn in an altogether different game. Plus there's the fact you can actually carry on playing the game after you've effectively broken it. That really stuck with me.

I also loved the Shalebridge Cradle section of Thief: Deadly Shadows. It's basically a complete genre shift from the rest of the game, with its own self-contained narrative outshone pretty much the entire survival horror genre.

Props should also go to a very old game called Dreamworld which I had on the Atari. It was absolutely bonkers and probably the first notion I ever had of what kinds of stories one could tell within the medium.

Launcifer said...

And... right on cue, I've just noticed I used the word "bonkers", so my apologies for that.

ZMiles said...

(Actually, for those interested, a link to Story of the Blanks: Spoilers are in the comments, so you might not want to read them before playing it).

Samantha C said...

Chris, I don't play any games at all (beyond rhythm and turn-based, I have little hand-eye coordination for buttons), but I watched the whole game series Let's Played by NakaTeleeli here: . He also did the sequel trilogy .hack//GU. And incidentally, is currently playing Persona 4, which is a series I'd love to check out for myself one day.

Ana Mardoll said...

Does she actually affect the story in-between?

She meets Ghaleon in, ah, Vale, I think, and that's an interesting scene, and I believe she also meets Mia. Those two meetings definitely make her feel like more of an actual "kidnapped party member" and not just "girl from back home that only the hero has ever so much as seen". My first play-through, I genuinely believed I'd get her back at some point because HEALS. (I stopped hoping when Jessica came on board, because THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.)

I don't think she "affects" the story as in changes it (I haven't played the Original, just read about the changes), but she contributes a lot of dialogue and she's easily the most important member of the party because HEALS and there's lots of interesting foreshadowing in Vale when the villagers are shocked that she has this "song magic" that they're not really familiar with.

Cupcakedoll said...

Gabriel Knight, for vintage game with awesome plot. For modern games, I loved Scratches, which has a really dumb title but it's basically Explore the Spooky House. You're a writer who's bought a spooky house, and as the game progresses you learn about a murder that took place there and what really happened and what's really haunting the place. Which turns out not to be what you'd expect from reading my rather generic summary.

I wanted to like Psychonauts but lack of hand-eye coordination trapped me in the first chapter, never to progress further.

Vardulon said...

Deadly Premonition - it has the best-realized main character ever in a videogame, and as for the plot - it poses the question 'what if Twin Peaks had been a coherent and satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and an ending?

The answer? It would be the best videogame story ever.

Mime_Paradox said...

This is a surprisingly hard question for me to answer, possibly because I tend to think of "plot" as being one of the least essential things in a good story, and separate from things like "characterization" and "pacing", and "presentation". So I'm just going to go ahead and list my favorite videogame story.

I mentioned in a previous recommendation thread about a post I'd written in my blog about Dreamfall, my sacred cow videogame. While I love that game's story, part of me feels like the game is cheating—it's a story that happened to be told in a videogame, instead of a videogame that happened to have a story. The two things are at cross-purposes, making each other worse than they would have otherwise been (even if the actual gameplay is pretty unsalvageable).

So, limiting myself to games in which the story and the gameplay are complementary and inseparable, I'd have to say that my very favorite videogame story would probably be that of Elite Beat Agents, because it's the sort of story that could only ever really work as a videogame, and because it works really, really well, and manages to be affecting despite its persistent tongue-in-cheekness--you don't expect a game in which you use the power of song and dance to do things like help a washed-up baseball star defeat a lava-spewing golem or aid a pair of Paris Hilton-like heiresses survive on a desert island without sacrificing the level of comfort they're accustomed to--to actually pull at your heartstrings, but it totally does, thanks to a dramatic swerve midway through, and one of the best climaxes ever, and one that can't be replicated in any form but that of a videogame.

Honorable mentions: Chrono Trigger's for being utterly charming and earnest, Earthbound's for the way it makes me feel nostalgic, and Mother 3's for making me want to cry even when I don't understand what anyone is saying. The Tale of Ash (The King of Fighters 2003 - The King of Fighters XIII) for the way it uses the SNK-verse. Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter One of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa's because it exists, and Infinite Space's for requiring a flowchart to keep track of all the characters and factions and for being genuinely surprising.

Launcifer said...

@Mime_Paradox: Was Dreamfall the sequel to The Longest Journey? I'm a bit hazy on what I played on my old Xbox, but I'm fairly sure that I have both of those knocking around somewhere. I especially liked the characterisations on them, actually.

'Course, if you mean some completely different games, then ignore me ;).

Jurgan said...

I was going to pick Bioshock probably as my number 2 choice, for all the reasons you listed. I have no interest in Bioshock 2, though, as it seems like just an obvious and unnecessary rehash of the first game. I am incredibly psyched for Bioshock: Infinite, though.

But my number 1 choice has to be Silent Hill 2. Without going into too much detail, my wife has many of the same health issues Ana has (I don't know how similar they are, but they sound alike). So this story about a man dealing with the recent death of his seriously ill wife spoke to me on a personal level. All the side characters were equally fascinating and tragic. The story of this game was perfect, and it had some pretty terrifying moments as well.

I also have to give credit to some of the older RPG's. FFVI was my favorite game for years, and it's still in my pantheon of all-time favorites. FFIX and Chrono Trigger were also great. Chrono Cross was confusing and had too many uninteresting characters. Suikoden 2 and Wild Arms were also great.

malpollyon said...

A lot of the obvious picks have already come up, so I'll go with a few no one has mentioned yet. I am glad I played all of these games, but I wouldn't say that I exactly enjoyed some of them:

A wonderful deconstruction of the JRPG genre with some unusually good characters. The fact that the translation and english voice acting are fantastic makes it particularly compelling.

Sam and Max Hit the Road
My favorite point and click adventure game, I pretty much laughed at this from start to finish.

Metal Gear Solid 2
Just for the way it so successfully trolls fans of the first game. The opening sequence heavily implies that you got the Bad Ending from the first game, and it only gets more infuriating from there.

Which takes the idea of Grimdark fantasy and turns it up to 11. The main plot is bad enough, but each weapon (there are 65) has an associated four paragraph "story" which is usually incredibly grim. Trigger Warnings would include (ROT13 in case you don't want to read a long string of disturbing triggers): Puvyq Nohfr, Puvyq Fbyqvref, Pnaavonyvfz, Vaprfg, Crqrenfgl, Snagnfl Enpvfz, Gbegher, Fhvpvqr, Encr, Tber. To top it all off the gameplay is terrible.

Possibly the most aggressively incoherent story I've ever encountered. Things hold together just enough for you to constantly feel on the verge of finally understanding what the hell is going on, but the game only gets more inconsistent with each reveal. To be honest, I'm not sure why I found this so delightful, as that kind of unresolved "mystery" usually drives me up the wall (viz. Lost).

Final Fantasy VI (originally released as III outside of Japan)
One of the two really effective mid-game false-climaxes I've encountered. You get to the no return dungeon, confront the Big Bad and..... Welcome to the World of Ruin, enjoy the other half of the game. (The other one was Castlevania SotN, with the inverted castle. There are people out there to this day who think the first half of that game is the whole thing. Okami would have made number three, if the menu system hadn't made it screamingly obvious that I there was a lot of brush powers still to collect.)

To the Moon
A game about regret, mental health, sacrifice, and love. A bit reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but instead of removing memories, you're there to build one.

Launcifer said...

@malpollyon: I quite liked Nier, too, especially when you play through it a second time and work out what's really going on. Then I felt like a bit of a git, to be honest, to the extent that I started rooting for the "villains". It also gets bonus points for taking the "what with the what now?" ending of Drakengard and running with it. Almost a shame Square closed Cavia immediately after that.

Gelliebean said...

I loved the story to Bioshock as well - not so much the sequel, but I've played them both again anyway. Definitely excited about the potential for Infinite.

Probably my favorite plot to a game, though, is "Day of the Tentacle". (An older LucasArts game - if you're not familiar, it was a sequel of sorts to Maniac Mansion, where you have to play in the present, the Revolutionary War-era past, and the future pretty much simultaneously.) You have to come up with a lot of ridiculous solutions to even more ridiculous problems to try to stop giant mutated tentacles from taking over the world.

malpollyon said...

@Launcifer: One of my favourite touches was that jura lbh trg gur dhrfg gb xvyy lbhe svefg tebhc bs funqbjf nsgre gur cebybthr, gurl jba'g npghnyyl nggnpx lbh ng nyy. Lbh'er hayvxryl gb abgvpr orpnhfr gur cebybthr pbaqvgvbarq lbh gb fgno svefg nfx dhrfgvbaf yngre, ohg gur funqbjf qvqa'g vainqr lbhe jbeyq, lbh vainqrq gurvef.

Qenxratneq naq Avre obgu funer n frafvovyvgl gung vf creuncf orfg fhzzrq hc nf "Fb jul, rknpgyl, qvq lbh guvax fynhtugrevat rirel yvivat guvat va lbhe cngu jnf tbvaat gb znxr nalguvat ng nyy *orggre*? Jung vf *jebat* jvgu lbh?"

The music was pretty great too.

DavidCheatham said...

I'm not sure that it's possible to judge 'plot' as a single thing in something like an RPG, where there's THE plot, and then there's a billion little plots. There probably are RPGs that are linear and have a lot of plot (From what I understand, that's how the FF series works, but I've never played them.), but I don't tend to play them.

So when I think about 'plot', it's adventure games that spring to mind.

For plot, I have to give both The Longest Journey and Dreamfall the top rating. They are both amazing in that they actually keep trying to figure out what's going on the entire time. (Although the pacing was rather slow.)

Let's see...the Indigo Prophesy had an...interesting plot. It was fun, once you figured out what genre you were actually in. Except the ending turns into incoherent nonsense.

Bificommander said...

I also liked Psychonauts, it was like a zelda game that traded its epicness for originality and humor. Not a bad trade.

Speaking of which, Ocarina of time's story was simple, but executed very well in my opinion. The time travel, always a tricky element to the plot, was used pretty well. And it altogether just worked. I'm currently replaying Twilight Princess, and... I dunno, the gameplay is still good but I just feel that that storywise game sets the bar higher than Ocarina of Time but doesn't jump any higher. There's truely awesome moments (the cutscene before you start the water temple! The water spirit doesn't pull any punches when it comes to showing what it was like when people turned on each other in their quest for power. Man that looked freaky), but they're just kinda there, they're not central elements of the plot. Plus, I motion that game be named 'The legend of Midna', because Zelda is at her least involved in that game. Besides Midna, the only characters I like are the big barkeep lady Telma (a good example of a strong confident female character that isn't a chainmail-bikini wearing supermodel that hacks everything in a 10 mile radius to pieces with every spin of her blades) and the really, really little boy that goes all Ayn Rand on everyone's asses, who's just funny. All other characters are either bland, underused (that group of heroes could've been fun if they'd do anything else than point the way to the next dungeon and help you with about 5 enemies in the last level during a cutscene)

There's also Overlord, a fairly humorous take on the fantasy genre where you play the part of the villain, while all the heroes that took out your predecessor have succumed to one of the seven sins. It was funny on its own but the plot twist at the ending was pretty well done. I was really going OhShitOhShitOhShit when that was going down.

I'll also second the first Deus Ex and Bioshock (though I only really like the plottwist of the latter). I'll also nominate Sacrifice (for the skill in telling a cohesive story, even though you can swap which god you're fighting for between missions) and Homeworld for the way in which they tell the story. (The audio in that game is awesome).

Launcifer said...

@Malpollyon: Yes, I think I remember which bit you mean, there. Have to say I never played Drakengard, though. Hell, I don't think I could now I've read the DarkId's let's play on it.

@DavidCheatam: Funny thing about The Indigo Prophecy when it came out in the UK was that it was called Fahrenheit, on account of the weather. Throw in the ostensible plot of the first act or so and it becomes an absolute - and annoying - whammy when you realise what kind of story you're actually being told because the whole thing seems geared towards maintaining that fiction until you're at a point where you're likely to complete the damn thing anyway. Of course, I might also have a problem with the fact I spent threee days with RSI trying to hold on to a helicopter somewhere near the end.

Mime_Paradox said...

Yuppers--Dreamfall = The Longest Journey sequel. Read my essay on it, if you haven't already![/begging]

Re: Killer 7: This is one of the game where execution trumps concept, for me. The story here, such as it is, is inexistent. And yet, there is not one scene here that isn't done with tons of flair. The Russian Roulette scene (Content Note: suicide) May be my single favorite scene in videogames.

Re: Final Fantasy VI: This is one of the games where I feel the gameplay and the plot end up working at cross-purposes, particularly in the second half of the game, where the structure switches from something linear and controlled to more open ended gameplay. While there's some strong individual scenes, the whole is weaker than the sum of its parts. That said, I really do love this game, even if the plotting itself is inconsistent. I'm a particular sucker for anything involving Locke and/or Celes, who form one of my favorite fictional couples ever.

Snoof said...

I was going to mention Planescape: Torment (deep, fascinating, and one of my favourite settings _ever_) and Skies of Arcadia (total clichestorm that works perfectly, enjoyably upbeat compared to all the grim gritty depressing console RPGs of that era), but I see they've already been mentioned. Also Okami (for a speechless protagonist, Ammy has a lot of character). Other favourites:

The first three Phoenix Wright games. In some respects they're more like visual novels with added puzzles than actual games, but they're deeply engrossing. I get invested in the characters in a way I often don't in video games, and that's one of the signs of a really solid, well-written game. My highlights: taking down Manfred von Karma at the end is amazingly satisfying, as is Edgeworth's Big Damn Hero moment in the third.

And now, the reverse: Shadow of the Colossus. The plot is implicit, rather than explicit. There's no exposition or explanation. Instead, the player tries to understand what's going on based on cryptic dialogue, architectural cues and a whole mess of symbolism. I love it, especially the repeated big-small motif, Dormin's voice-of-many and the way the Wanderer's condition worsens as more colossi are slain.

Nathaniel said...

Whoever mentioned Second Sight gets a holler. While I have played games with twistier plots or more complex characters, this is the single best damn game in existence when it comes to the structure and pacing of the plot. Stuff that far to often gets tossed to the side in the best of games. "Hey there hero, I know you need to save the world, but bring me ten bear butts first." I don't want to spoil, so all I'm going to say is that the game manages to have two climaxes one right after the other, both equally effective.

Also got to give kudos to Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. It is game deeply concerned with psychology and the effects of grief and loss, while also having a bundle of interesting character interactions. It also manages to keep its cards close to its chest right up to the end, so even as things don't add up, its only right at the closing that it all starts to make perfect sense.

As an addendum, while I can't claim originality or even a flawless translation for Phantasy Star 4, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I see you an Aerith and raise you and Alys. Never cried because of a video game, but that scene has come close many times.

Will Wildman said...

As an addendum, while I can't claim originality or even a flawless translation for Phantasy Star 4, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I see you an Aerith and raise you and Alys. Never cried because of a video game, but that scene has come close many times.

I know, right? Admittedly, it was a little (little) less brutal for me because I knew Phantasy Star II and the two have a number of obvious parallels, including the death-of-the-hero's-adoptive-family-member. PSIV had better writing, though. By which I mean PSIV is the only time I can think of when The Hero has a last-minute screw-the-call-of-destiny tantrum and I was totally on-side with his justifications, and the reason that he comes back is again very moving and believable. They had an entire epic saga leading up to that moment and they made it pay off in the best possible way.

Michael Mock said...

You know, this has turned out to be a very expensive thread for me. So, so many games I'm going to have to pick up... and then find time to play...

Curse you all, and thank you, too!

Silver Adept said...

If I had to pick one based on the execution of its plot, I think my winner would be Okami. It blends Japanese legends and a light hint of science fiction all together into a satisfying plot, as well as an intuitive interface and puzzle set. Chrono Trigger gets honorable mention, but it really requires going through the plot to the point of the open-world sidequests before it really shines through as a time-travel game.

Hearing other people's favorites, though, gives me lots of nostalgia about classic games from the Adventure Game era (I made it all the way to level 15 on Highway Surfin', and I'm still proud of that.) and classic consoles. Ah....

JonathanPelikan said...

Persona, Skies of Arcadia, Deus Ex... as if I needed any more evidence that this blog, and its community, are Awesome capital A and the sort of place I like to hang on the internets. :D

Hrm. Favorite video game in terms of plot. That's really tough, and not just because I have a hard time picking favorite anything, even food or colors. (Blue, though)

So I'll give a wishy-washy socialist sort of answer, and speaking from a plot perspective, something probably like Record of Agarest War [so much potential! so little budget, such poor design!] If we're adding in character to that, then I'd go with the Mass Effect series, or, speaking of Persona, Persona 3. My first intro to the series was 4, but I actually warmed up to 3 quite a lot and now it's my undisputed favorite of the series. The game is so soul-crushingly long (90+ hours, three regular-strength epic RPGs in one, and then there's the ultra-hard expansion pack...) that you literally feel like you've known your game-friends for actual years, and that's helped by how much they all act like people.

Special award here goes to Junpei Iori. When I first met this guy, he was Dis Guy who Wouldn't Shut Up and annoyed the crap out of me, and on one of the first boss fights runs off like an idiot because "Minato got chosen to be the leader and not me, boo hoo, I'm gonna run ahead and show everyone who's boss!' and that got old the very first time he brought it up, but as the story progressed and you got to know him and get used to him, he actually grows on you quite a lot; now he's one of my favorites, and a true Bro. Hard to really describe how, but he's one of the most person-like characters I've ever seen in any work of fiction.

Dav said...

flamebait/ Ahem. Bioshock was pretty, but was not better than its predecessor, System Shock.

I don't really distinguish "plot" from other aspects of a game - that is, I'm sure I'm overlooking some good plotting (or intended plotting) because of subpar gameplay/storytelling. And a lot depends on the story you tell yourself, as well - I've had some doozy role-plays from otherwise blah RPG/rogue/FPS games.

I'm very fond of the way Vespers works as a story; plotwise, I don't think it's revolutionary, but it really hangs together in a nice way. Er, for some value of nice. I can't believe there's no summary on the database, so in short: the plague comes to a monastery, and it's all downhill from there.

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