In a lot of games, the story comes secondary to the gameplay. There’s an ideal reality here, where the gameplay and story go hand-in-hand to create something in a way only games can, though unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. What usually happens is a story is written separately and then retrofitted, making it feel somewhat at odds with the actual gameplay.
In some games, that’s fine. No one is really paying attention to the story in games like Doom, while in others the story can feel incredibly sparse spread across a world that only tells its story in cutscenes. A funny intersection can occur here though, where both intentionally or otherwise, a character may end up with an unusually large amount of time to do just about anything but what they’re meant to be doing.
6/6 Noctis – Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy 15 is a game with a bit too much time on its hands in plenty of areas. The game already had a troubled development lasting ten years from conception to the final product, starting and stopping and ultimately changing entirely along the way. Having to experience the story across various pieces of multimedia didn’t exactly make it easier to just jump in and understand what was going on either.
What the story does make explicit though is the pertinence of your goal. Your city has fallen, your beloved held by imperial captors, and the gods to be commanded, all before the Empire takes over the world. What does Noctis do? He goes fishing. And hunting. Catches some frogs. Takes pictures with his friends. A few cooking lessons. Just cruising across the continent. Sorry, who was Lunafreya again?
5/6 Colt – Deathloop
Arkane are incredible developers at a very specific kind of game, and they’re some of the best in the industry at it. Immersive sims are few and far between, and not many have the attention to detail and freedom that Arkane have. Dishonored was an incredible release for them, and Prey had such a unique atmosphere. Though Deathloop isn’t as heavy on many of the immersive sim elements, it is very heavy on the creative violence.
Being trapped in a timeloop, Colt has as long as he wants and needs to uncover the secrets of Blackreef and unlock that pieces of the puzzle that lets him kill each and every Visionary. The thing is, you can actually take as long as you want. Die in the stupidest way possible, or on the very last step of the final day, Colt just gets back up again. Experiment as much as you want. Hell, don’t even break the loop if you’re having that much fun.
4/6 Agent 47 – Hitman
Across the entire Hitman series, Agent 47 has been depicted as a man with efficiency on the mind. A perfectionist by trade, he appears, does his job, and is gone in a flash as if he was never there to begin yet. Yet despite all that incredible skill at not leaving a trace, he sure does like to linger around the crime scene a tad longer and more conspicuously than he should.
Really, does no one find it odd that the man with a barcode on his head keeps changing his clothes? Why would he possibly go to the effort of poisoning a cupcake just to steal an outfit to get into another house to steal an even stronger poison to use on someone else? Hell, he can even solve an entire murder mystery that’s been planned against his target with no real reward in mind. Just for it’s fun. For someone who’s a blank slate, he’s got a quirky sense of humour.
3/6 Kiryu – Yakuza
When you hear about a Yakuza game, what’s the first thing that comes into your mind? Probably Kiryu and his distinctive suit helping a diaperer man with his mommy fetish. That’s an oddly recurring one. The first thought is never the actual main story of the games though, which tend to be incredibly serious, actually.
Yakuza 0 has Kiryu on the run from the Dojima clan, his friendships pushed to their limits, and lives in general brought to ruin over a tiny plot of land. Yet outside those story missions, Kiryu is learning the backstory of every Cabaret girl he meets in hopes one of them will get a girlfriend, or he’s learning how to play Mahjong just to eventually loose all his money. Most critically, he is putting a chicken in charge of his booming property empire. Dramatic Yakuza story be damned, Kiryu will fall for another of the million scam sub-stories in the original game.
2/6 The Dragonborn – Skyrim
Skyrim is not a game that needs an introduction. By far Bethesda’s greatest commercial hit with endless community support, Skyrim has kept mainstream relevance in few ways a single game every has. Ask anyone what the story of Skyrim is, they’ll likely struggle to remember the details. Ask them their opinion of the Lusty Argonian Maid series, and they’ll write you a thesis like it’s a real novel. It’s a testament to their world-building, though is at odds with its ambition.
In Skyrim, you are meant to be hunting down Alduin as the Last Dragonborn, defeating his soul in Sovngarde to put an end to the calamity he brings once and for all. He’s soaring around Skyrim reviving dragons, letting them assault the lands with ease. With hundreds of hours on a single character, you may very well never reach Sovngarde, or even the remnants of the Blades. Instead, you’ve likely become the leader of every institution in Skyrim, be it illustrious or illicit.
1/6 Sam Porter – Death Stranding
Kojima’s name has a certain reputation behind it, but thankfully the man can actually direct more than one type of game. With Death Stranding, many people expected another Metal Gear-style game, and it is truly anything but. Next to no stealth to speak of and action moments almost non-existent, Death Stranding is a game all about the journey much more than it is the destination. It’s a journey lived in steps trodden over the same ground a hundred times.
Of course, Kojima also does like to be ambitious with his stories, at times to his detriment. Death Stranding shines when you’re making deliveries and coming across other peoples’ structures. The plot, however, would urge you to quickly connect everywhere because Timefall is rapidly ageing anything it touches, and also Higgs is doing random evil acts like trying to make humanity go extinct. But hey, those packages aren’t gonna deliver themselves.