Narrative has always been a part of video games, but in the early days, it was often a minor element that essentially set the stage for the actual gameplay. The original Doom, released in 1993, is a perfect example of this.
There was a rough plot that was largely laid out in the instruction manual, and occasional text descriptions after levels had been completed. Apart from that, the game was just about killing, surviving, and collecting supplies, with no real narrative development.
As the years have gone by, the narrative aspect of video games has become increasingly important. A game without a solid story is now seen as lacking. The story is often what initially hooks players and keeps them coming back to play again and again.
Games in which the player’s actions can influence the narrative have also become very popular since this makes the entire playing experience feel more immersive and increases the replayability of these games.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the other ways in which narrative-driven games have impacted the video game industry.
Narrative-driven games have had some surprising effects on their players. By telling a compelling story, they can inspire players to learn new things and explore the real world a little more. Both Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons had the surprise impact of getting people gardening in real life.
Games like Red Dead Redemption that combine narrative with realistic depictions of US wilderness landscapes have had the added impact of inspiring players to travel. On a caravan road trip across the Southwest, you probably won’t encounter many cowboys and outlaws, but you will be able to enjoy the amazing scenery and wildlife of these locations.
The Success of Indie Studios
The focus on telling a compelling story means that game developers need a different kind of talent than simply the tech side. In addition, narrative-driven games don’t necessarily need to have the same high level of graphics and gameplay mechanics, which has partly contributed to the return of pixel art games.
Combined, these factors allow a small indie studio with the right creative team to create a game that is competitive on the market and has an audience, even if they don’t have the same development budget as the AAA studios.
Steam and other online platforms for selling and marketing games have also made these indie games more accessible and at reduced costs since physical copies of games no longer need to be produced. This has made it possible for indie studios to be very successful.
The success of indie studios in turn means that a wider variety of games is being produced. With so many games being created by so many smaller, independent developers, it’s now possible for every type of gamer to find a narrative-driven game that appeals to them.
Some indie games, such as Spiritfarer, a game in which your character’s goal is to help ferry souls to the afterlife, direct their innovation at the story. Others have more traditional plots but innovate in the graphics – for example, Disco Elysium is a relatively standard RPG but is designed to look like an oil painting.
Online Casino Games
When you think of casino games, you don’t normally imagine anything with a narrative to it. While great stories can be told about playing poker or blackjack, there aren’t any stories attached to the actual card games.
Anyone familiar with the traditional slot machines with their cherries, BARs, and 7s could be forgiven for thinking that there’s no story to any of these games, either. Excitingly, the world of slots has changed dramatically.
Slot machine games now use their format to tell stories creatively A glance at the different themed slots available on mobile at LeoVegas shows just how much of an impact narrative-driven games have had on the market as a whole. The best example of this is the Rich Wilde series of games from developer Play’n GO.
Rich Wilde is an Indiana Jones-esque character, and each game in the series features him in a new adventure. Among his various adventures are the Egyptian-themed Book of Dead, the Greek adventure Shield of Athena, and the Lovecraft-inspired Tome of Madness.
Each game has special features and graphics that move the story along. His daughter, Cat Wilde, is even introduced as a character in Shield of Athena. While there is only so much depth that the slot format allows, the effort put into telling a story shows just how important a game’s narrative has become for players.
Leading Narrative-Driven Games
If all of this sounds intriguing but you aren’t familiar with the current leading games, we’ve compiled some suggestions to try. Below are some of the leading narrative-driven games that are currently capturing players’ attention.
Final Fantasy 16 is the latest installment in the series and it puts the narrative in the foreground. There have been some critiques that it’s narrative-heavy but those have been in the minority. Most players have instead been thrilled with the story and graphics and delighted to be able to play the next chapter in the saga.
Horizon Forbidden West is the recently released sequel to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn. What could be a simple post-apocalyptic point-and-shoot is one of the most beautifully crafted narrative adventure games of the last decade? It also features an extensive open world so that players can take breaks from progressing the narrative to explore.
The other games that we have mentioned above are also strong contenders for the best narrative games. Red Dead Redemption II, Spiritfarer, and Disco Elysium all have their strong points and can engage players for hours on end.
Once you’ve started playing one narrative game and gotten fully involved in the story, you’ll be excited to dive into the next. With the impact of narrative games being felt across the video game industry, players can enjoy narrative games in every genre and skill level.