Due to the success of Telltale games, such as The Walking Dead and Tales From The Borderlands, episodic games have become increasingly popular. Other studios, such as Square Enix, have adopted this model and used it for their games. Square Enix and IO Interactive’s popular franchise, Hitman, is the most recent example of a major IP shifting from a single release to an episodic format.
Episodic games are highly successful because they usually craft much more interesting narratives and characters. These games are also cheaper, so they’re more accessible. There are many excellent episodic games to choose from, but these are the five best episodic adventure games.
5. King’s Quest
Sierra Adventure’s King’s Quest franchise was one of the earliest graphic adventure games and is generally viewed as a classic. First released in 1980, the King’s Quest games told fantasy stories about knights, kings, queens, wizards, and many more fantasy tropes. The game was rebooted in 2015 and is a pleasant fantasy tale reminiscent of The Princess Bride.
An old Graham is narrating his past adventures to his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn. You play as the younger Graham in the story, acting out the adventures as Graham relates them. Through the three chapters released so far, Graham earns a knighthood, becomes rightful king, and meets his first love. All the chapters are happy tales with beautiful characters and a general fun fantasy feeling, like early sections of Tolkien’s Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring. The first three chapters are available to download on Steam or console, and the remaining chapters are stilll in development.
4. The Wolf Among Us
Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us is a murder mystery set within the universe of Bill Willingham’s Fable comic book series. In this universe, characters of children’s literature, such as Snow White, The Big Bad Wolf, and Mr. Toad, exist within the normal world in an isolated village called Fabletown. You play as Mr. Bigby (The Big Bad Wolf) and you are the sheriff of the town. Your job is to protect the people of Fabletown from each other and keep ordinary people out. A gruesome murder launches Mr. Bigby into an investigation that leads him to seedy corruption, lies, and hard decisions.
The Wolf Among Us is fantastically noir. From its art design, to its plot, and its central character, it feels on par with noir film classics like The Maltese Falcon and L.A. Confidential. You also get to make major decisions as Mr. Bigby and ultimately decide how much of his soul Bigby is willing to sacrifice to solve the case. All five episodes have been released and are available to download on console and on Steam.
3. Life Is Strange
Life Is Strange is a really interesting episodic adventure by Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment. You play as high school photography student Maxine Caulfield, who discovers she has the ability to rewind time. After having foreseen a massive tornado destroying her town, Maxine must try and rescue the town. Based on your actions as Maxine, the narrative structure and ultimately fate of the town is entirely in your hands.
Despite some awkward slang and lip synching issues, Life is Strange is a great game. The narrative is poignant and emotional and the characters are well developed. The world is immersive enough to draw you in. What I especially enjoyed was that it dealt with subjects usually avoided by video games, such as bullying, drugs, and suicide. All five episodes are now available and can be downloaded on console or Steam.
2. Tales from the Borderlands
Leave it to Telltale to made a compelling narrative and characters from a franchise that focuses solely on shooting things with a near infinite variety of guns. Like The Wolf Among Us, Tales From The Borderlands is an episodic adventure game that seamlessly captures the comedy of the Borderlands games with the tense situations and difficult choices of Telltale games. You play as both Rhys, a corporate employee, and Fiona, a slick con artist. Together, you both search for a Vault Key and the treasure that lays hidden within the vault.
Each of the five episodes of Tales From The Borderlands are fantastic. The leads are loveable and relatable. The action sequences are fun and can take your breath away. But the most refreshing part of Tales From The Borderlands is how fun it is. Most other Telltale games, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, are depressing and focus on the horrors man is willing to inflict on his fellow man. But Tales From The Borderlands are about treasure hunting and friendship and is generally more lighthearted. All five episodes are available to download on console and Steam.
1. The Walking Dead Season 1
Zombies are a tired cliché. You can’t walk into a video game store or online marketplace without tripping over the dozens of generic zombie shooters available. Yet, the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is one of the greatest modern video games. Much like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, The Walking Dead focuses on the relationships between people. The zombies are simply an ever present threat, like enemy soldiers or disease, the game isn’t really about them. It’s a long look at what it means to be human and how human can you be once civilization breaks down.
You play as Lee, a convicted criminal on his way to prison, when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. Escaping police custody, you find a young girl named Clementine and become her guardian. You join a group and struggle to survive in this post-apocalyptic world and fight to protect Clementine from the dangers of this new world. This is a great game, but it isn’t a fun game. You will be faced with harrowing decisions and, like reality sometimes, there is no right answer.
Are you willing to kill a man because he might be infected? Are you willing to amputate another person’s leg because it may save his life? Would you steal supplies from somebody else, knowing that by doing so you are essentially leaving them to be zombie chow? The Walking Dead is great, not only because it’s well acted and well written, but because you learn a lot about yourself in your first playthrough. Both the first and second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead are available to download on console and Steam, with a third season coming later this year.
This post was originally written by Patrick Dodd.