Video games are notorious for housing some of the strangest storylines in fiction. Who could forget the ill-fated tale about a plumber on a quest to save a princess from a fire breathing dragon? Of course, games have evolved since the days of rescuing the princess who was in another castle. By invoking compelling narrative, games have proven that they are just as good a medium for storytelling as any other. So it's natural that much of a game's success these days can be attributed to its unique storylines. Here's my list of what I believe to be the coolest concepts used in games. Warning, there may be slight spoilers below.

This game's story was so cool that it has subsequently lived on through video game pop culture to this day, and it's ridiculous to boot. Who can forget the infamous storyline, so easily summed up in a mere two sentences? "The president has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?" That's it. That's all the story this game needs. The gamplay was less than stellar, but who cared when you were playing a title called "Bad Dudes" and you spent the core of the game beating the crap out of ninjas?

Those who played this gem might find it hard to forget. With an ominous tone, a creepy score and a completely gothic setting, Deception was just one of those games that you had to play with the lights off. It also happened to boast one of the coolest stories for its time. You play as a prince who is framed for the murder of his father, and during your execution you are struck by lightning and transported to a forrest. There you meet a mysterious woman who tells you the key to revenge is by making a deal with the devil and unlocking the power of darkness by ruling over his castle. So the prince does this, and is now charged with seeking out the key to Satan's resurrection, but must fend off the intruders of his castle with well-placed traps and created monsters along the way - Never forgetting his latent desire for punishing the foe that framed him. The story took a lot of twists during its course, and depending on the choices of the player, the outcome would differ. Should you resurrect Satan and wreck destruction upon the world? Or are you a defender of justice and do you seek to destroy him once and for all? The choice is your own, and as such this game has always held a special place in my heart as one of the coolest and most open ended.

Gears of War is one of those rare games that on top of amazing gameplay actually has a pretty good storyline backing it up. The game takes place on a planet much like old Roman-Greco earth, and it stars Marcus Pheonix as a soldier imprisoned for insubordination. The inhabitants have just gotten over a very lengthy war, but their moment of bliss is shortlived when the planet's original inhabitants, a subterranean race called the Lotus, launch an offensive against the people of Serra. A resistance forms and Marcus is released from prison to help implant a device capable of mapping the Lotus' underground network. While heavily inspired by much older Sci-Fi, Gears of War succeeded in creating an atomosphere that really felt like chaos. The Lotus were a formidible enemy, and the story was packed with deep underlying philosophical themes. A groundbreaking game.

Chrono Trigger is arguably one of the greatest RPGs of all time, despite that the story felt a little ridiculous at times. The main character is a boy named Chrono, who after meeting a mysterious princess is literally thrown into the streams of time. During the course of his time traveling escapades, Chrono and friends uncover a recording from the future that shows the destruction of earth at the hands of an ancient enemy named Lavos. From then on, Chrono travels through time in hopes of unlocking the mystery of Lavos, and gaining knowledge and power enough to defeat him. One of the unique things about Chrono Trigger was the number of endings it boasted. The player has access to the final boss very early in the game, but it would be foolish to fight him then. However, after beating the game the player could start a "New Game +" mode and begin again with his current level and equipment, therefore making it quite possible to defeat Lavos upon the first encounter. If a player chose to defeat Lavos before accomplishing certain tasks, the ending would differ. This led to a lot of replay value and freedom on the player's part. The story, while pretty straightforward, got fairly complex once unraveling the mystery of Lavos. And honestly, how badass is Magus? Seriously.

This little piece of nostalgia had enough drama in the story to make a grown man cry. With plenty of plot twists and amazing character development, Final Fantasy II lives on to this day as one of the greatest in the franchise. The story starts off as Dark Knight Cecil, commander of the Red Rings, is questing for the king of Baron to steal a crystal from the wizards of Mysdia. From the start, we already have a great glimpse into Cecil's character. He's against the nature of his mission, but he is loyal nonetheless, and serves his king even though it kills him. When Cecil expresses his concern to his majesty, he is stripped of his title and forced to deliver a package to the callers of Mist. He is accompanied by his friend, Kain the dragoon, and upon reaching his destination realizes that the king used him to destroy the village. Cecil stumbles upon his girlfriend, Rosa, who has fallen ill. The only thing that can cure her is the Sand Ruby, so Cecil embarks on a quest to restore the vitality of his love. During this course, Cecil uncovers an even greater plot that threatens his world. Can Cecil redeem himself from a lifetime of wickedness by rising up to save the world? Aside from this conflict, FF II had some amazing character development. We sympathised with every character, even the bad ones, and we really felt like we knew them. The choices Cecil is forced to make throughout the story really heighten the drama of this superb game. Not to mention, Kain was totally cool. And that's all that needs to be said.

Despite its flaws and slightly unoriginal plot, Lunar: The Silver Star was still a groundbreaking game. Plagued by a slew of utterly horrible games, the Sega CD cried out for a hero. That hero was Alex, a young boy in the village of Burg who yearns to embark on exciting adventures like his late hero, Dragonmaster Dyne. Alex's friend Ramus provides him with an opportunity: Go to the White Dragon cave and sell one of his enormous diamonds. Alex agrees, but not before visiting his friend and adopted sister Luna to practice for the goddess festival. From the emotionally moving scene when we meet Luna, in good animation and voice over no less, we already know that we're going to be in for a moving story. Accompanied by his baby white dragon, Alex, Ramus and Luna set off on their quest for adventure, with no clue that they are just beginning a much larger, and highly important quest for the sake of the world. Lunar succeeded in getting the player emotionally involved not only through its plot, but the great score. Lunar was full of well-written lore, funny dialogue and the coolest plot twists out of any video game period. Sadly, it fails in character development, but this issue is thankfully redeemed by the PSX remake.

This amazing game by Sony really set the bar for what a video game was capable of. Feauturing exciting, fast-paced combat, God of War weaved an impressive narrative and stunning animation to deliver a truly groundbreaking game. God of War takes place in ancient greece and plays heavily on its mythology. It stars Kratos, a disgraced Spartan who has been living the past decade as a personal servant to the gods in hopes of relieving the nightmares of his past deeds. Althena tells Kratos that if he accomplishes one final task, his wish will be granted. The god of war Ares, jealous over the worship of his sister Althena, has been laying waste to her city of Athens. Since Zeus has forbidden gods from warring against one another, only a mortal trained by a god has the power to defeat Ares. And that is Kratos' mission: to kill Ares. Kratos jumps on the opportunity, and the player comes to find out his motives and disdain for Ares over the course of the game. God of War is perfect for lovers of films like Clash of the Titans, because it takes them, bitchslaps them with a bleeding arm, tosses them in a blender and drinks their gore. God of War is dark, engrossing, and a great game. A remarkable achievement in storytelling to say the least.

A game that truly needs no introduction. A special forces team that was investigating recent cannibalistic murders has vanished in the depths of Racoon City after a helicopter crash. Another team is sent in to rescue them, and in the process is forced to hide in a mansion from a pack of rabid dogs. Immediately not everything is what it seems, and the characters are introduced to a world of murder, conspiracy and zombies. As either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, the player must navigate the zombie-polluted mansion in hopes of rescuing your team members, and uncovering the mystery of this mansion in the process. Resident Evil is just one of those games that grabs you by the throat and never lets you stop playing. It was terriftying, mysterious and good old fun. The story is chock full of plot twists and intrique, featuring a cast of impressive characters like the old badass Barry Burton and super cool Albert Wesker. Plus, it's a game that lets you kill zombies, and it paved the way for the survival horror genre forever.

RPGs before Lunar: Eternal Blue were nothing like it. Lunar: Eternal Blue, as described in a review, is The Godfather II of RPGs. It totally surpassed the original in every way imaginable, and though a lot of RPGs would hate to admit it, but they no doubt learned what makes an RPG great from this game. Eternal Blue boasted hours of well-acted voice over, animation, and story. The plot is epic, to say the least. From the beginning it feels like you're engrossed in a well-written book rather than an RPG. RPGs before Eternal Blue usually failed to develop character. They were mostly, "Go here," "Kill this guy," "Rest in town, "Repeat." Lunar gave you STORY. It gave you character development, and it just gave the impression of an epic game all throughout. You play the role of Hiro a few centuries after Dragonmaster Alex's defeat of the Magic Emperor Ghaleon. Hiro is an explorer who investigates the ancient Blue Spire after a beam of light recently hit it. There he discovers a mysterious girl named Lucia who claims she is from the blue star and must meet with the Goddess Althena urgently. Before they leave, the dark god Zophar makes his presence known and curses Lucia. From this point, Hiro must seek a way to cure Lucia's curse and get her to the city of Pentagulia to meet the Goddess Althena and hopefully save the world from Zophar's wraith. What made Eternal Blue unique was the philosphy latent in it. Could Hiro truly find the courage to rise up and save the world? Is the individual less important than the whole? Eternal Blue set the standard for what makes an RPG great, and to this day I still consider it to be the greatest RPG of all time.

This is it. The granddaddy of epic storylines. I am considering the series as a whole as oppossed to just the first game. Here is a series that actually concentrated on the story as oppossed to the gameplay. Why they just didn't develop a TV series I'll never know. The story is much too complex to describe here, but it begins as one man's quest to cure himself of the vampire disease and ends up as a legacy of world domination, hence "Legacy of Kain." The story stars Kain, a nobleman who is murdered by bandits. He asks the Necromancer Mortanius for revenge and he is turned into a vampire. After killing the bandits, Kain now seeks a means to bring himself back to life, but finds that much more hangs on him than he'll ever know. The story finds true promise in its sequal, Soul Reaver, which follows the quest of Kain's lieutentant, Raziel, who after being thrown into the lake of the dead by his lord, embarks on a quest of vengeance. Little does Raziel know that his death was only the beginning of a plot far more grave, and Raziel follows Kain through time unknowing that he is merely a pawn of Kain, and a greater evil that has yet to name itself. Legacy of Kain was a series that kept you begging for more after each game. You just couldn't wait. Each game you hoped to gain some closure to the story, and even after the last game fans are begging for another to clear up the final loose ends. Legacy of Kain was extremely dark, ominous, and fit with a chilling score. The story featured great twists and a totally epic plot, and the player was constantly at odds with whom to side with. What is Kain's real motive? Is Raziel in the right? The character development is remarkable, and when Raziel realizes he is just the pawn in everyone's game, he gets pretty pissed off and decides to play a game of his own. The voice acting was superb, and I challenge anyone to find a more enthralling story.

Hopefully this list sheds some light on what video games are capable of storytelling wise. I think a lot of games rival Hollywood movies and some good books, and it's clear that games are now starting to take the direction of "interactive fiction" as oppossed to plain video games. Of course, this list is too short. There are plenty of games that feature amazing stories, and they are only going to get better in the years to come.


List by KaneOfShadows (08/18/2008)

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