10 Easy Video Games With Great Stories

Posted by | November 30, 2015 | Feature | No Comments
The Sailor's Dream

Sometimes it can be hard to sit down and commit yourself to a game—especially when the game is hard to play. There are tons of great stories in series like Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed, but they’re bundled with mechanics that make them difficult to access if you don’t often play games. Or even if you do play games a lot but don’t have a thousand hours to devote to completing something.

This is a list of games with great stories that don’t require you to have maximum finger dexterity to play. Most of them are puzzle games, some focus on exploration, and others have gorgeous art and music.

These games are also great examples of the powerful ways that storytelling can be wrapped up in gameplay to create an experience that you can’t recreate in other mediums.

Without further adieu, here are 10 awesome story games that anyone can play.

1. Her Story – Sam Barlow

Her StoryHer Story is one of my favorite games from 2015. In it, you watch old police interviews with a woman who… did what? Her husband has been killed, and there’s a complex mystery around what happened, and who did what. The only mechanics in Her Story are watching the videos, and typing keywords into the archaic search engine. You can type in phrases or individual words, and if the woman says them in an interview, that interview will come up. You can also tag the interviews for later, so that you can find and rewatch specific ones. And you’ll want to. Her Story is full of clues that you might not spot at first.

We rated the game 13+ for Sexual Themes, Violence, Language Use, and Drug and Alcohol References. Her Story doesn’t depict any violence, but it is discussed with candor in the police interviews.

2. Gone Home – The Fullbright Company

Gone HomeGone Home is a sort of mystery as well. College student Katie comes home from study abroad to find that her family’s new home is empty. On a stormy night (of course) Kate explores the house, trying to figure out where her parents and younger sister are. Though the game is spooky, it’s not meant to be a horror game. Gone Home focuses on the story of Katie’s younger sister Sam, who is coming of age in Oregon in the ’90s. It’s a story of teenagers clashing with parents over friendship, sexuality, and Riot Grrl music.

As you move around the house, you can pick up objects, read letters, and listen to voice recordings left by Sam. Clues also lie in notes scrawled on calendars or left in books. Gone Home deals with mature themes like depression and sex (not depicted, but discussed). There is also some language use, and scary imagery if you count having the crap scared out of you by being in a dark house all alone.

3. To The Moon – Freebird Games

To The MoonTo The Moon is a point-and-click adventure game about two doctors who explore an old man’s memories in order to grant him his last wish on his deathbed. His wish? Go to the moon, of course.

Through the memories, the doctors learn why he wants to go to the moon and uncover the story of his lifelong romance with a woman named River. In each sequence of the game you explore the setting of an important memory and solve puzzles relating to its importance.

The story in To The Moon is subtle and touching. It tells an unexpectedly intimate story beneath its sci-fi premise.

4. Monument Valley – ustwo

Monument Valley best app ever awardsMonument Valley is a gorgeous puzzle game for Android and iOS. In it you guide a tiny princess named Ida through a series of Escher-esque structures. The story is told through Ida’s conversations with spirits that she meets along the way.

The game is entirely touch-based. You can tap and drag parts of the buildings to move them, and you tap where you want Ida to move. Along the way she will encounter non-lethal obstacles, like pesky crows that yell at her and block her path. Most of the challenge comes from looking at the architecture of each level, and figuring out how you can make a viable path for Ida to cross.

5. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP – Superbrothers and Capybara Games

Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery EPSuperbrothers Sword and Sworcery is about a mysterious woman named The Scythian, who is after a powerful book called the Megatome. It draws a lot of references from Greek myth and story, including breaking the fourth wall with a narrator. That sounds super serious, but Superbrothers uses modern slang to add humor to speeches about fantastical sacred objects. The story makes a lot of references to real-life locations and common adventure tropes. It’s clever and refreshing.

It is available on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, and was designed with touch controls in mind. Players point and click to navigate and fight. It’s definitely more challenging than a lot of the games on this list, but the myth-infused story and short playtime make it worthwhile.

6. The Stanley Parable – Davey Wreden and Galactic Cafe

stanley parableThe Stanley Parable is so, so strange. And so wonderful. It started out as downloadable content for Half-Life 2 and grew into a cult classic. It’s a deeply philosophical game that poses a lot of messed up questions about free will, and what video games are—and by extension what humanity is. Sounds complex, right?

The narrator of the game dictates your actions before they happen. But since you’re controlling the character, you can choose to ignore his narration. If you do, the narrator gets progressively angrier, and bad things start to happen. If you’re interested in a psychological mindtrip that is bleak, funny, and full of meta, The Stanley Parable is the game. The mechanics aren’t a point of interest at all. It’s about the nature of play and how we interact with games.

7. Device 6 – Simogo

Device 6Device 6 is a mobile game about a woman named Anna who wakes up in a strange castle. It could be called a text-based game with visual elements. Anna’s actions are described as if you’re reading a novel. As you scroll across the page you find illustrations of the rooms that she finds, and the sound effects happen in time with your scrolling. When this first happened it blew my mind; this game is best played with a pair of ear-covering headphones so you can immerse yourself in Anna’s strange journey.

The puzzles are solved by finding clues in the environment. Device 6 is one of the coolest uses of text, sound, and mobile technology that I’ve ever seen. Following the text through the different rooms requires turning your device around, mimicking the paths that Anna takes through the castle.

8. The Sailor’s Dream – Simogo

The Sailor's DreamIf Device 6 is a little too intimidating and complex, The Sailor’s Dream is a good change of pace. More than that, it’s beautiful. In The Sailor’s Dream you scroll across a seascape and explore a series of islands. At each fantastical island, you find fragments of a story about a sailor, a woman who lived by the sea, and a young girl who lived with her.

The game uses your mobile device’s internal clock to unlock content. Each hour (from 1 to 12) you can listen to a radio broadcast from the sailor that will elucidate what happened to these characters. You also find songs written by the woman in bottles that float in the sea. The songs are gorgeous; you can listen to them on Loudr.

9. The Wolf Among Us – Telltale Games

The Wolf Among UsThe Wolf Among Us is based on the Fable comic series. It follows Bigby Wolf (yeah, the Big Bad Wolf himself) as he tries to solve a series of magical murders.

Most of the gameplay revolves around timed dialogue choices and quicktime events. That might sound technically challenging, but I found the quicktime events in The Wolf Among Us a lot more intuitive than in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. You also spend a lot of time exploring scenes and finding clues.

Don’t mistake all the familiar fairy tale characters for family-friendly. In the real world, the Fables deal with poverty and alcohol abuse, among many other problems. You know, like the murder. If you’re a fan of the Fables comics, this is a cool chance to explore that world in all its gritty depth.

10. In Between – Gentlymad

in betweenIn Between is a thoughtful game where you guide a terminal cancer patient through the stages of grief. Each of the stages of grief is represented by an obstacle you have to overcome or a puzzle you need to solve. Some of the levels can get a bit difficult, but ultimately this is a game that provokes empathy for the man’s struggle. The art is also gorgeous, and full of light and shadow and stylized imagery.

The game is available through Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux. It’s a great example of how games can use puzzles designed around a concept or theme as a way of further exploring it.

 

Simone de Rochefort

About Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.