It’s award season here at Twinfinite! Let’s look back at the best story and narrative-driven games from 2017. Voted on by our editors, these games hooked us with their incredible tales. Let’s start our top vote-getting honorable mentions, runner-ups, and finally, of course, our overall winner!
Honorable Mention: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
First-person shooters don’t tend to be known for their storytelling, with games in the genre tending to focus more on gameplay and multiplayer options than character development and a compelling narrative. The recent Wolfenstein games haven’t followed that trend however, with The New Colossus choosing to tell a story about B.J. Blazkowicz and his gang of revolutionaries who are attempting to overthrow the Nazis that won the Second World War, in addition to its full throttle action.
However, it isn’t that overarching narrative that makes Wolfenstein II so effective. It is each of the weird but wonderful characters that add emotion, heart, and humor to what would otherwise by quite a dark tale. The protagonist, B.J, is a straight-faced hero at first glance – someone who is there to get the job done without worrying about himself or what’s around him – yet he is so much more complex as a character than that. He worries about how his impending death will affect his blossoming family and whether he can do right by his crew. Each character in the story is like this, each of them having complex personalities that make you care for them more than you’d ever expect to.
It helps as well that each cutscene that breaks up that action is fantastically directed and every voice performance is spot on, engrossing you in the group’s quest. Wolfenstein II features some of the most memorable moments on 2017 and they usually come from the characters and the situation they are in, rather than the combat the series is known for.
Second Runner-Up: Horizon Zero Dawn
From the very first reveal of Horizon Zero Dawn, the gaming industry was totally captivated by its unique setting. Enormous robotic creatures roamed across a gorgeous post-apocalyptic world retaken by nature, cohabited by primitive tribal cultures. It was a narrative premise that fascinated and intrigued. Thankfully, Horizon Zero Dawn does more than just tee up a great tale, it absolutely delivers one of the best standout video game stories of the year.
The game’s main protagonist, Aloy, is a robust character, growing throughout the plot as she unearths the secrets of her world and her part in its unraveling. But beyond piecing together those mysteries, the political conflicts between the various tribes that inhabit Aloy’s world are equally interesting. The narrative finds a way to weave these two pillars together, and by its conclusion, they culminate in a gripping finale.
Few open world games strike such a deft balance between storytelling and gameplay, but Horizon Zero Dawn is surely one of the best examples we’ve ever played. Even when generously delving into exploration and side quests, the story rarely feels bogged down and always remains cohesive throughout this 30-or-so hour experience. Were it not for the incredibly high standards of its competition this year, Horizon Zero Dawn might well have edged out Twinfinite’s best video game narrative 2017.
1st Runner-Up: Persona 5
Persona 5 is probably the first game that comes to mind when we’re talking about the most highly anticipated releases of 2017. After its initial reveal back in 2013, and suffering through a series of heartbreaking delays, Atlus’s newest entry in their esteemed JRPG series finally made its way to the PS3 and PS4 this year. And it was certainly worth the wait.
From the get-go, the story easily hooked in players with its simple premise: take control of a socially deviant high schooler as he brings corrupt adults to justice. Throw in a ragtag band of equally deviant misfits and entertaining personalities, and you’ve got a winning RPG formula right there. While the story does falter quite a bit in its second half with no real meaningful discussion about what the game wants its core message to be, the characters and subplots more than make up for it.
The social links in Persona 5, or Confidants as they’re called here, have been fleshed out significantly, and they feel more complex and relatable than even our favorite characters from Persona 4. Oddly enough, it’s the side characters that steal the limelight here. With the way the main story is structured, every Confidant – no matter how minor they might seem – feel weighty, and like they have a part to play in your character’s growth and how the Phantom Thieves develop.Whether you’re spending time with the fraudulent fortuneteller or the shogi pro who’s struggling to meet expectations, Persona 5 really knows how to grab a player’s attention and make them focus on the stories of the little guys.