Underappreciated Narrative Storytelling in Video Games

When you think about video games, what comes to mind? Maybe some teenager hunched over a controller in their basement yelling obscenities into a headset while mindlessly shooting down other players. I invite you to look a little closer though, and discover the hidden beauty behind video games and explore the narrative possibilities within virtual spaces. Great storytelling is no longer limited to books and film as video games of every genre have begun to develop their own unique sense of narrative. Now, don’t fret if you aren’t too familiar with video games; I am only going to be scratching the surface of this vast topic and will mention games ranging from casual plays to games you must commit more time and energy into. That being said, if you are apprehensive about diving right into video games I hope this short rundown of my favourite games may provide you some guidance. 

Animal Crossing: The newest release of this game rose to fame during the height of quarantine due to people using it as a coping mechanism to compensate for our lack of social interactions. For those who are unaware of this game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an open world game in which you create a character and customize your own personal island, complete with quirky neighbours and a variety of wildlife occupying the area. Now, you may be thinking: how can such a laidback game have an intriguing narrative?  The best part about this game is you create your own storyline and control the world around you. You are free to design your home and island however you wish, and honestly this freedom is the perfect remedy for being trapped in social isolation. 

The Legend of Zelda: This series has been going strong for over 30 years with approximately 27 different title games and is perfect for all the fantasy nerds out there. To give a brief overview of the story, you play as a young warrior named Link who travels across magical realms fighting an overpowering evil attempting to take over Hyrule Kingdom (each individual game is a different variation of this very general summary). You make your way through several different temples or dungeons, each ending with a boss fight that increases in difficulty as the game goes on. The lore behind this franchise is incredibly vivid to the point that one may even enjoy this game beyond actually playing it. You don’t have to play the games in any sort of order, but I would recommend starting with Twilight Princess (my personal favourite), or even the latest release, Breath of the Wild.

The Last of Us: I wanted to end with one that had a really profound impact on me and how I see the world. For a quick summary, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic society in which a mutant fungus infects people and turns them into a zombie-like creature. In the first game, you play as a smuggler named Joel who is tasked with the job of escorting young Ellie, who is amazingly immune to the fungal disease, across the country to an organization called the Fireflies who believe they can create a cure from the girl's immunity. At first the two characters butt heads, but as the game progresses and you spend more time together, their relationship grows into a father-daughter bond. There is a twist at the end (which I will not reveal due to spoilers) but all I can say is this game blew me away. It’s not a simple zombie horror game but rather has a complex storyline which has extremely compelling characters that I couldn’t help but grow emotionally attached to. Don’t even get me started on the sequel for this game, I could write an entire thesis on it. So, if you’re looking for an interesting video game that has an amazing narrative focusing on themes of loss, sacrifice, and endurance you need to play The Last of Us.