Games that have outstanding writing

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The Jak series worked out well. Everything else I thought of was already mentioned. But Daxter was always great.

Final Fantasy IX

High fantasy that doesn't feel like a Tolkien rip-off? What madness is this?! The madness of a JRPG, that kind of madness. Seriously, WRPGs, start taking notes. Snappy dialogue, great plot, characters you can genuinely get interested in and some surprisingly deep (and sometimes dark) elements that you wouldn't expect from a game looking so colorful cartoony.

Shadow Hearts

A game situated right before the start of World War I, with an occult twist. Need I say more? Combining horror and comedy, the original Shadow Hearts has a great setting with an interesting story that isn't afraid to take some really dark turns. The graphics are kind of horrendous and the gameplay is far from innovating, but the audio and story do such a good job of carrying the game, that I would still recommend it.

Terminate421:

Here is a game thats breath taking when it comes to writing:

image

No trolling either, seriously.

My god, someone thinks that a Pokemon game has GOOD WRITING?

Have my children, you sir had made my day.

I LOVE the writing of that game!

Morrowind, all of it.

Deus ex, all of it.

Fallout, for the most part, is on the same level as biowares games. Generic for the most part, but there is alot tucked away that shines so bright...

Max Payne, all of it.

Bioshock, ALL OF EET! First one was WAY more thought-provoking though.

I can't believe everyone in here has forgotten the greatest game story ever. I mean, it even has the perfect voice to match it.

GamerAddict7796:
It's more the enviromental storytelling, something Skyrim did well aswell. When I walk into an abandoned building and find decades of backstory, it really helps immerse me.

That isn't really writing, though. It's a brilliant way of telling a story, but it's not writing. I didn't put Half-Life 2 on there for that reason.

Bioshock.

Sander Cohen's and Dr. Steinman's audio logs are just incredible.

Since everybody's already mentioned Planescape: Torment, I'd like to throw in Arcanum. Yeah, you'll see me constantly poo-poo'ing it in RPG threads for its horrible (read: non-existent) game balance, but the game world itself, which is masterfully crafted and full of conspiracies, not to mention the twists and turns the main story takes you through, are worth a playthrough.
I remember one extensive quest delivering a particularly unsatisfying solution that will very likely leave an unpleasant feeling in your stomach should you bother to follow it all the way to the ugly truth.

Also, let's just say that there's a reason that the religious figure your player character is supposed to be the re-incarnation of is named "Nasrudin", which in our world was a legendary trickster figure in Islamic folklore.

Edit: Obligatory GOG.com spam:
http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/arcanum_of_steamworks_and_magick_obscura
If you're a diehard RPG buff, have a tolerance to bugs (I think there's a fanpatch that fixes some, though) and shitty balancing, and worship Anderson and Boyarsky (the guys who brought you the original Fallout) you might as well drop 6 bucks on this sucker.

jackpackage200:
While I am tempted to say Red Dead Redemption, I will say Super Paper Mario has some excellent story and brilliant dialogue.

...Super Paper Mario had a story?

Ahem...

Deus Ex
Deus Ex: Human Revoloution
Mass Effect
KotOR I
Red Dead Redemption
Portal
Portal 2
Dragon Age: Origins

Honourable Mentions:

KotOR II - The writing and it's pacing was really to ecletic to let me say it had outstanding writing, but it was certainly pretty good.

The Witcher II - This would have made it on the other list if it wasn't for the lack of colsure and the fact the sequal isn't for another couple of years.

L.A. Noire - I really, really like noir and in my first write of this post it was up in the other list. However, I felt my bias probably influnced the decision too much.

Mass Effect 2 - Unfortunately fell apart in too many places and complete missed the tone of original to make it here, but it had it's moments.

Not-So-Honourable Mention:

Mass Effect 3 - I really shouldn't be giving this an honourable mention (EDIT! So I wont). Almost everything is wrong with this game before you take a look at the ending. However, it did have Mordin Solas' redemption story which was truly touching. Too bad the rest of it sucked.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

teh_Canape:

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Kai-Leng

actually, Kai Leng is from the books, not the game =P
although maybe you already knew and I'm just making an ass of myself

Whether or not he originated in the books, he's in the game itself, and his presence serves only to shit on the story.

Seriously, what were Bioware thinking?

I imagine they thought he would be a Bob Fett/Sephiroth like figure who we would all find to be so cool and eagerly buy the DLC that let us play using him!

They completely and utterly failed instead ending up with Wesley Crusher as a ninja.

jackpackage200:
While I am tempted to say Red Dead Redemption, I will say Super Paper Mario has some excellent story and brilliant dialogue.

Tempted? Just out right say it. RDR had one of the best stories I had ever experienced. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for a good western, but playing through the game didn't feel like a game - I was playing a movie. It had its happy ups and its sad downs and an awesome ending. What more can you ask from a story?

Irreducible Sohn:
Bioshock.

Sander Cohen's and Dr. Steinman's audio logs are just incredible.

All of the audio tapes were incredible. Listening to all of them and patching them together to get the real story was great. However, I feel that the tapes in Bioshock 2 were a little better. Hearing the burned out and depressed Andrew Ryan and the sane Gil Alexander as the insane Alexander the Great ear rapes you with his crazy voice was very cool.

I liked the writing and story in Advent Rising.
Alpha Protocol was decent as well, I suppose. If we only count writing/story.

rob_simple:
I've always loved the writing in the Ratchet & Clank series. The characters are always well fleshed out for the style of game and the writing is genuinely funny without using any of the usual self-referencing crap that most video games throw in for cheap laughs.

Ok that is true the people at Insomniac know there way around a joke.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

BloatedGuppy:

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Disagree strongly on that. The first was a decent attempt at a good ol' Space Opera, but everything from 2 onwards was a plunge straight into Herp Derp territory.

Bioware is an interesting case when it comes to writing quality. The overarching plot tends to be extremely juvenile, and there's often a lot of bad characterization or plot holes to agonize over. But there are moments here and there...a particular quest, a turn of phrase...that is really sharp and funny and thought provoking. It's evident they've got some really good writers on staff. They just end up serving a thin soup more often than not.

I'd say that they're very generic writers who've had the knack (or luck) to elevate pretty standard writing with out-of-nowhere plot twists or occasionally witty banter. The writing in KOTOR is only remembered because "OMG PLOT TWIST!" Same for Jade Empire, though I'd argue that JE also had marginally better thematic content.

Thing is with Mass Effect, they argued from the first game that it was going to be a complete three arc trilogy, yet compared to the likes of LOTR or the original Star Wars films, and its just the most wonky, narratively schizophrenic trilogy imaginable. I'm pretty sure it was revealed a while ago that Bioware were putting various writers on and off the ME bus, which doesn't surprise me. The first game was pretty solid, but after that it just gets too ludicrous to take seriously.

Anyways, I'll stop bitching now. Suffice to say that whatever talent Bioware once had, they've lost it now. I think once they come out with a new game, rather than something that's coasting on the back of former glories, people will see how stilted, arbitrary and plot-hole-tastic theiir writing has become.

Yeah, I'm taking the opinion of anyone who thinks KotoR II has any semblance of outstanding writing with a huge freak grain of salt. They didn't even finish the game, and the narrative has huge breaks and non sequitors because of it. In fact, it often leaves you out in the dark a lot.

Probably the game with the purely best writing I've ever seen is The Witcher 2. It's the appropriate definition for gritty and mature. There are not good decisions and there are no purely evil decisions either. IF you let it you'll be thinking about the choices and outcomes for a while.

I thought Final Fantasy 9 was stellar. I cared so much about the characters, especially Vivi. Loved 8 and 7 also. But I remember the 9th most fondly. Red Dead Redemption I think was great.

TheOneBearded:

Irreducible Sohn:
Bioshock.

Sander Cohen's and Dr. Steinman's audio logs are just incredible.

All of the audio tapes were incredible. Listening to all of them and patching them together to get the real story was great. However, I feel that the tapes in Bioshock 2 were a little better. Hearing the burned out and depressed Andrew Ryan and the sane Gil Alexander as the insane Alexander the Great ear rapes you with his crazy voice was very cool.

I agree. I hope audio logs return in some form for Infinite because they added a lot of back story and emotion to Bioshock 1/2.

Also I loved Sinclare's (sp?) logs. Might be one of my favorite game characters off all-time.

Psychonauts
Bioshock (The tapes, wow.)
Bastion
Fallout 3/New Vegas (depending on mission and area)
Portal series
Dragon Age: Origins
Oddworld series
Mass Effect series (has it's moments)
Morrowind

I feel like I am missing a lot...I'll probably add more later.

Dragon Age: Origins is pretty good,but BioWare doesn't get any points for writing anymore: It's a BioWare game,so great writing is to be expected. In my opinion...The original Supreme Commander gets my vote,pre Forged Aliance.

You don't know who is the "good guy" or the "bad guy". The plot is actually realistic,considering the universe. Plus...The UEF had a backup plan,if BLACK SUN failed. Option Zero,which entailed nuking the earth until it was a ball of glass. And,by Forged Aliance,we don't know who won the Infinite War,although it's highly probable that the Aeon Illuminate won.

Inkidu:
[quote="j-e-f-f-e-r-s" post="9.376357.14643670"]SNIP[/quote

]Yeah, I'm taking the opinion of anyone who thinks KotoR II has any semblance of outstanding writing with a huge freak grain of salt. They didn't even finish the game, and the narrative has huge breaks and non sequitors because of it. In fact, it often leaves you out in the dark a lot.

Sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome Chris Avellone's writing is.

Funnily enough, there's been a restoration mod available for years now that cleans up the cut content and turns KOTOR II into a far more complete game.

And just because a developer decides to have an ambiguous story, that doesn't count as a strike against it, or as if you're being left out in the dark. Yes, the ending was rubbish. Yes, the HK-50 story wasn't resolved until the Restoration Mod. But apart from that, everything you need to understand the story is there in the game, you just have to actually think about it a bit.

Here's something to think about. You know Darth Revan? The amazing incredible Darth Revan who no-one can shut up about, and is portrayed in TOR as being the baddest of the bad-ass motherfuckers, who can play Xanatos Gambits using entire star systems?

That's the difference between serviceable writing and great writing.

Human Revolution was pretty solid throughout, barring a weak ending. Seems to be a recurring theme with RPG's as of late...

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Inkidu:
[quote="j-e-f-f-e-r-s" post="9.376357.14643670"]SNIP[/quote

]Yeah, I'm taking the opinion of anyone who thinks KotoR II has any semblance of outstanding writing with a huge freak grain of salt. They didn't even finish the game, and the narrative has huge breaks and non sequitors because of it. In fact, it often leaves you out in the dark a lot.

Sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome Chris Avellone's writing is.

Funnily enough, there's been a restoration mod available for years now that cleans up the cut content and turns KOTOR II into a far more complete game.

And just because a developer decides to have an ambiguous story, that doesn't count as a strike against it, or as if you're being left out in the dark. Yes, the ending was rubbish. Yes, the HK-50 story wasn't resolved until the Restoration Mod. But apart from that, everything you need to understand the story is there in the game, you just have to actually think about it a bit.

Here's something to think about. You know Darth Revan? The amazing incredible Darth Revan who no-one can shut up about, and is portrayed in TOR as being the baddest of the bad-ass motherfuckers, who can play Xanatos Gambits using entire star systems?

That's the difference between serviceable writing and great writing.

Dude, all I've ever played is II, I've played it like fourteen times, and the fact that someone else has to come along and restore your "outstanding writing" means it was never so to begin with. Don't get me wrong, it's good writing, it might be damn good writing, but it lacks a lot of technical and cohesive skill (the bare-bones 101 structure in places) that constitutes good writing.

I'm not one to call the ending total garbage either. Though I'll say the light-side ending makes more sense than the dark side one. However, it did feel rushed and does not tie things together well.

I'm all for good creative writing but you've got to have the technical chops behind it too, or it's never going to be as good.

Inkidu:

Dude, all I've ever played is II, I've played it like fourteen times, and the fact that someone else has to come along and restore your "outstanding writing" means it was never so to begin with. Don't get me wrong, it's good writing, it might be damn good writing, but it lacks a lot of technical and cohesive skill (the bare-bones 101 structure in places) that constitutes good writing.

Let's put it this way - if the only version of Brazil you've seen is one with the "love conquers all" ending, don't be surprised if people give you quizzical looks for ragging on how the ending of the movie is optimistic/uplifting to the point of being cheesy.

Kahunaburger:

Inkidu:

Dude, all I've ever played is II, I've played it like fourteen times, and the fact that someone else has to come along and restore your "outstanding writing" means it was never so to begin with. Don't get me wrong, it's good writing, it might be damn good writing, but it lacks a lot of technical and cohesive skill (the bare-bones 101 structure in places) that constitutes good writing.

Let's put it this way - if the only version of Brazil you've seen is one with the "love conquers all" ending, don't be surprised if people give you quizzical looks for ragging on how the ending of the movie is optimistic/uplifting to the point of being cheesy.

I don't get the example, but I get the gist of what you're trying to say, but it doesn't expunge what was originally technically shaky writing. The Mona Lisa was never finished and it is judged on those merits. Why shouldn't games be judged just as equally?

Inkidu:

Kahunaburger:

Inkidu:

Dude, all I've ever played is II, I've played it like fourteen times, and the fact that someone else has to come along and restore your "outstanding writing" means it was never so to begin with. Don't get me wrong, it's good writing, it might be damn good writing, but it lacks a lot of technical and cohesive skill (the bare-bones 101 structure in places) that constitutes good writing.

Let's put it this way - if the only version of Brazil you've seen is one with the "love conquers all" ending, don't be surprised if people give you quizzical looks for ragging on how the ending of the movie is optimistic/uplifting to the point of being cheesy.

I don't get the example, but I get the gist of what you're trying to say, but it doesn't expunge what was originally technically shaky writing. The Mona Lisa was never finished and it is judged on those merits. Why shouldn't games be judged just as equally?

The Mona Lisa wasn't forced out after only 13 months just because Lucasarts said so.

For all it's warts I liked the writing in MAss Effect 1 and 3. Far less so in 2. Personal opinion only and it would not really stand up to a critical argument.

Both KotOR games had great writing. Especially the second. For reasons already given I am certain.

I enjoyed the story in The Witcher for it's gritty uncompromising world.

But my all time favorites that I experienced directly were in no particular order:

Fallout 1 and 2: open world? Check
Effective use of Choice and consequences? Check.
Sense of exploration? Check.
Those 2 games are classic for a bloody reason.

Another was Alpha Protocol. Scratch the exploration but the way player action was handled in that game was second to no other I had played personally. It was even better for the fact that even as a player you really could not get much of a sense of Mike Thorton's true personality. He manipulates the player nearly as much as everyone else. Well as long as you do not go for the thug approach then he is pretty transparent. It was a rough beast but very well written in my opinion.

Honorable mention goes to Deus Ex Human revolution. Mostly because I picked up little real personality from Adam Jensen. Just a security chief doing his job. He was badass, skilled and suave but I felt no sense of soul from him at all. That counted against the writing fairly heavily for me.

Inkidu:

Kahunaburger:

Inkidu:

Dude, all I've ever played is II, I've played it like fourteen times, and the fact that someone else has to come along and restore your "outstanding writing" means it was never so to begin with. Don't get me wrong, it's good writing, it might be damn good writing, but it lacks a lot of technical and cohesive skill (the bare-bones 101 structure in places) that constitutes good writing.

Let's put it this way - if the only version of Brazil you've seen is one with the "love conquers all" ending, don't be surprised if people give you quizzical looks for ragging on how the ending of the movie is optimistic/uplifting to the point of being cheesy.

I don't get the example, but I get the gist of what you're trying to say, but it doesn't expunge what was originally technically shaky writing. The Mona Lisa was never finished and it is judged on those merits. Why shouldn't games be judged just as equally?

We only have one Mona Lisa to evaluate. We have multiple versions of KOTOR II, The Hobbit, Blade Runner, Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (film version), Star Wars IV, etc. When evaluating these, people have a wide variety of options to choose from, and don't just arbitrarily select the one that was released first.

Specifically when saying "let's evaluate KOTOR II's script," it makes the most sense to me to evaluate the version with greater fidelity to the script.

As far as video games are concerned, Nier really is the greatest story ever told, although in terms of its storytelling, it loses out to BioShock.

Simon the Sorceror is pretty good.
The Elder Scrolls games have pretty good writing that is sadly let down by bad voice acting.

Norrdicus:
Legacy of Kain series (minus Blood Omen 2)

damn, ninja's

but LoK, Portal 1-2 and a lot of older JRPGs like Parasite Eve had really good writing (though PE is based on a book ...)

Savo:
Mass Effect (more specifically, 1-2 and 99% of 3). Persona 3-4 feature some great character development and storytelling.

This.

Basically anything by Bioware really (Barring Dragon Age 2 which was OK)

Also Bastion, that game was just so well done.

Squidbulb:
Simon the Sorceror is pretty good.
The Elder Scrolls games have pretty good writing that is sadly let down by bad voice acting.

Ehhhhhh

Morrowind was good
Oblivion sucked
Skyrim was okay if cliched to all hell.

How has this thread gone to 3 pages without someone mentioning Xenogears?

This is probably one of the very best stories ever told in a game.

The gameplay was fairly average to mediocre though, things actually improved part way through Disc 2 when they ran out of time/money and most of the story was told by characters sitting on a chair talking in an empty room :)

I also agree with The Longest Journey (I really want to see the end of that story sometime), L.A. Noire, Bioshock, Monkey Island, and pretty much everything by Valve or Rockstar.

Most of Mass Effect (except that one part we don't talk about)

KOTOR 2

NWN2, but infinitely moreso in Mask of the Betrayer

Dragon Age: Origins

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (a little iffy, especially with the contrived boss fights, but the character writing and voice acting was good enough to pull it off)

The Fallout series' writing has always been pretty good; even at its' worst, it's been passable. (Not including the spin-off Tactics, as I haven't played that yet so I wouldn't know)

No mention of Chrono Trigger? Not even from the guy with Magus as his avatar? Frog's backstory alone is, in my opinion, one of the greater stories in video game history.

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