"Best Story" Contenders in GOTY 2018


#1

Hey, I am a huge fan of games with compelling stories. I’m having a hard time compiling a mental checklist of games I want to be mindful of spoiling (I’m like that!!!) when entering any articles/podcasts for GOTY this year.

What do you think are the Best Story contenders this year? Which games earned your Best Story awards?


#2

From what I’ve played, definitely Lamplight City. Francisco Gonzalez deserves way more credit than he gets, just about everything he’s ever written has been wonderful and very un-game like when you dig into the details (see Shardlight and A Golden Wake). This game was probably the best version of all his past work, a really well done character study about a man dealing with addiction, grief, and guilt disguised as a pulpy supernatural mystery story, basiclly saying it’s going to be Blackwell and ending up having an incredible scene where the main character just describes a sci-fi story he read to his bartender to put across his own complicated feelings about how he failed to save his partner and his haunted by his memory, only for the point to fall on deaf ears.

There’s a lot of fun character writing in all the cases, but everything comes back to how well the game deals with exploring the psyche of its lead and it is fantastic. I think it was better written than even Wadjet Eye’s Unavowed, which might have the tightest character writing in Dave Gilbert’s career overall (especially with Eli and Logan).


#3

Celeste likely earns my best story this year.

I’m not finished with The Missing or The Council but both are strong contenders for 2 and 3


#4

Hey folks, I don’t mean to detract from the topic at hand but I just wanted to give a heads up that the mods will have a post going live soon that’ll detail some of our plans for game-of-the-year content on this forum. Like last year (and the year prior) we thought it’d be fun to host our own series of awards & discussions that give space to reflect on the year in a variety of ways. This isn’t to say “and that’s why we’re locking this thread”, just to let those of you who are itching to start talking goty stuff know that we’ll be giving you more ways to do so soon. :+1:


On topic, I would absolutely recommend The Missing by White Owls if you’re looking for “best story” candidates. It’s not for everyone (there’s some uncomfortable themes & imagery) but it really resonated with me personally. You can find more thoughts about it in this thread if you’re interested: The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (tw self harm/gore)


#5

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is a contender for me, as I just absolutely adore the writing in that game. The world is fascinating and compelling, and the prose is often the sort of flowery bullshit that I can’t help but wrap myself in like a warm blanket. I loved the first game, and this is another fantastic RPG that is well worth a play if you enjoy self-indulgent lore and world building like I do. From a story perspective, the expansion of the world of the gods and their direct intervention in the world, as well as the colonialism abound in the politics of the world made for a compelling narrative.

Deltarune was just a wonderful little dive back into the mind of Toby Fox, and while the hype and fandom can sometimes obscure it, Toby Fox is legitimately one of the better writers currently in Indie Games.

I could, and have, write a massive amount about Spider-Man, both my love for the game and it’s story, and my annoyance with it’s shortcomings. While I have massive issues with the whole “spider-cop” thing as well as the lazy and tropey usage of Riker’s inmates, I think that overall Insomnaic was able to make one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever, easily being able to stand along side the best of both comics and films.


#6

I’m glad this is a Spider-Man safe zone. I love love love Spider-Man’s narrative in that it made me feel like I was playing one of Sam Raimi’s Spidey-movies and I can’t help but adore it for that. It was the perfect blend of cinematic Spidey with a willingness to go down weird comic book rabbit holes that I was smiling the whole way through. I can’t wait to revisit the DLCs and soak in more of that world. (Also, Deltarune was fantastic as well!)

For me, I’d like to shout out Valkyria Chronicles 4. Sure, it’s got some major plot holes and can get Way Too Anime at times, but ultimately the story’s emotional high points were just so damn good. The characters are well drawn and have full arcs over the course of the game, and their growth is reflected in the gameplay, thereby imbuing the already fun battles with an emotional resonance. It’s just so good when its good that you’ll curse it even harder when it gets bad. But it’s gosh darn compelling and I can’t deny that.


#7

It’s going to get overshadowed in the platformer realm by Celeste (which I also adore, and is on the shortlist for my overall GOTY), but Iconoclasts left me really impressed with its narrative design and writing. It has some extremely well-built, three-dimensional, relatably and sympathetically flawed characters and complex, difficult themes that it revolves around. It dives way deeper than I expected into things like religion, theocracy, and fanaticism, themes like revenge and redemption (or the impossibility thereof), and it cleared the bar that few games clear for me where its characters actually felt like people rather than archetypes.


#8

for me, best story isn’t just in the story itself, but also how it’s told. @diglett, i agree that iconoclasts really…went for it, but i’d also argue that that game is overwritten as heck. it’s got themes, but it’s a bit too enamored with its gravity for my taste.

that said, i have to then (somewhat hypocritically) shout out god of war, which did an enormous number of things wrong, but got a lot of moments very right. i think its failings, more than anything else, are because of the writing team’s blind spots; i think its core discussions of cycles of violence largely work quite well.

celeste is also another no-brainer (and is the only game to make me cry this year), but i think my top answer would have to be return of the obra dinn. i played it like a month ago now, and i still think about it. it’s a game that, on top of just a good story, has gameplay that is built around discovering that story and all its facets. lots of games feel like they just sort of…have characters because they need to. obra dinn is the best storytelling of the year in my opinion because it forces you to think and care about that crew. it also is confident enough not to give you absolutely every detail, and i love it for that.

also, @Navster, hell yeah, raimi spidey is best spidey <3


#9

Heaven Will Be Mine does beautiful, surprising, and psychologically incisive things in reworking the standard box of mecha-show metaphors into a coherent narrative about building relationships and communities on the periphery of a culture that wants to remake you—the way it reimagines the language of physics is going to stick with me for a long time.


#10

EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER let me punch fascists while piloting a mech made of bone and sinew. Best story I’ve played this year by far.


#11

Crosscode has a silent protagonist and actually gives a good reason while implementing it in a way that it enhances the experience.

ie. it’s a complete miracle and needs to win all of the awards.

Plus it’s a game where humanity explored the galaxy but found no sapient life anywhere so they have it all to themselves. In an effort to add some entertainment they took a planet and set up a fictional ancient civilization on it then designed a mmo experience for people to VR into hologram avatars and run around for fun.

And that’s just the backstory


#12

I think it’s Obra Dinn for me. By the end I was really surprised at how strongly I felt about some of the characters, despite the storytelling being so unconventional. It does an amazing job of laying out a network of interrelated characters and having them all pop in and out of each other’s stories. There’s a decent amount of depth to most of them, too; aside from one character who’s a raging sociopath, everyone is sympathetic to some extent, even those whose actions I disagree with.


#13

I hope everyone has a chance to check out Wandersong before the end of the year. The soundtrack slaps, it has great characters, and it’s about remaining optimistic and trying to enact change even in the face of unavoidable apocalypse. And you can sing and dance whenever you want!

Besides that, Celeste (probably my number 1), Return of the Obra Dinn, Deltarune, The Haunted Island: a Frog Detective Game, God of War, and Spider-Man are all great. I still need to check out Heaven Will Be Mine, EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER, and Unavowed before the year’s end.


#14

Do not skip Unavowed. I won’t spoil it but the true villain of the game may be the best villain of the entire year, because they’re so unlike what you’d expect from a story like that.


#15

I’m probably going to be (rightly) lampooned for this but the lore writers for Destiny 2 finally seem to have been set free and there are some really compelling stories and vignettes being told after a very bland year 1


#16

Everyone saying Celeste has me really excited to play it! I bought it on Black Friday with hopes to play it when the semester is over. I haven’t played any 2018 games with killer stories this year (Into the Breach, Monster Hunter World, Pokémon Eevee) so I’m looking forward to Celeste, especially because I don’t really see how it’s going to have a story at all.


#17

I’ve posted this in the discord. But Fortnite has really done some cool story stuff that works for a multiplayer game. A lot has happened this year and it just built up to the finale during season 6 with the cube being destroyed. Now we have a clean slate and a new story starting next week.


#18

Honestly, RDR2’s long, slow (like, beyond glacial) and sad tale of a crumbling family unit/dissolution of a cult living on the violent philosophy of a ceritfied madman and one member trying to inject some small amount of kindness back into the world while he stares down his impending doom cut me pretty damn deep.


#19

Personal fave has gotta be Torna: The Golden Country, love those characters and the way it plays on being a prequel might not be anything new, but it’s executed brilliantly.

Shoutouts to Deltarune tho, hella.


#20

My vote would be for Celeste, that game came out of nowhere and was this awesome platforming but the story it was wrapped around and how that fitted perfectly into the format of that meat boy esque fast die and retry platform was the icing on the cake.

As much as I enjoyed God of War, I felt the story ultimately floundered towards the end and was leaving questions for the inevitable sequel/s.

I felt Spider-Man was much better as a story, especially the way it ended. It was very sentimental, but I was destroyed by the death of Aunt May. The way in which he is given the impossible choice of saving his aunt of hundreds of other people with the vaccine. The way he put on the mask and affirmed to her that “You’re going to be alright ma’am” before she revealed that she had twigged long ago that her nephew was Spider-Man - I think it just speaks volumes how Insomniac absolutely nailed the character, and though it was a story involving dudes with ultra negative darkness powers, it was rooted in the classic Spider-man/Peter Parker story where despite all his good intentions he can’t always save the people that matter most to him.. Spider-Man just had so much gosh darn humanity througout.