Button Mash The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever  

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Originally by Ranker Community
328.1k votes 32.8k voters 608.8k views 298 items

List Rules Only games with great narratives (graphics and gameplay not considered).

 

Video game stories range from the extremely simplistic to the staggeringly complex. While early games - and many contemporary ones focused on gameplay - treat the plot as a loose outline filled in by action or puzzles, some games have tried to push the boundaries and tell emotionally gripping, cinematic stories with elements of interactive control and player choices that forward the storyline.

The advent of so-called "sandbox" games, which give players more freedom in choosing how to explore the environment, which missions to embark upon and what order to progress in has also served to make games more character-driven and involving. ("Fallout 3," for example, builds up a karmic profile of the player based on decisions in how to advance through missions.) These best storyline games build on the gameplay and graphics with genuinely good stories. 

Currently at the top of the list of the best video game storylines are the Mass Effect games with BioShock, The Last of Us, and Half-Life 2 all in contention for the number one spot. Gamers will also recognize other popular video game franchises, like the worlds of Kingdom Hearts, or Metal Gear Solid and Assassin's Creed, which feature twists and surprises in their storylines. 

This list collects the games with the most entertaining and involving storylines. Vote for your favorite games on the list, and build your own version to add more suggestions that aren't already ranked! There is no shortage of games with amazing stories.

 

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list ordered by
1
6,145 3,918
BioShock is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Survival horror
BioShock is a first-person shooter video game developed by 2K Boston, and published by 2K Games. The game was released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 platforms in August 2007; a PlayStation ...more
2
8,109 2,003
The Last of Us is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
wiabux added Action-adventure game, Survival horror
The Last of Us is an action-adventure survival horror video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 3 on June 14, 2013; an ...more
3
5,685 3,545
Mass Effect 2 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Third-person Shooter, Action role-playing game
Mass Effect 2 is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. It was released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 on January 26, 2010, and for ...more
4
4,911 2,839
Mass Effect is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Third-person Shooter, Action role-playing game
Mass Effect is a 2007 science fiction action role-playing third person shooter video game developed by BioWare for the Xbox 360 and ported to Microsoft Windows by Demiurge Studios. The Xbox 360 ...more
5
4,959 2,098
Star Wars: Knights of the Old ... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action role-playing game, Adventure, Role-playing video game
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by LucasArts. Written by Drew Karpyshyn, the soundtrack for the game was composed by Jeremy ...more
6
5,334 1,863
Red Dead Redemption is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game
This game is an open world, western action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar San Diego and published by Rockstar Games. It was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles on ...more
7
5,610 2,444
BioShock Infinite is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
midnightq2 added Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Action role-playing game
BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. It was released worldwide for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 ...more
8
3,015 2,445
Half-Life 2 is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Survival horror
Half-Life 2 is the well-recieved sequel to Half-Life. Half-Life 2 takes place in the dystopian City 17 and the surrounding area, almost 20 years after the events of the original Half-Life. In ...more
9
4,333 2,188
Final Fantasy VII is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Console role-playing game, Japanese role-playing game, Role-playing video game
Final Fantasy VII is a 1997 role-playing video game developed by Squaresoft. It is the seventh installment in the Final Fantasy series and the game is the first in the series to use 3D computer ...more
10
4,103 2,376
Fallout 3 is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction
Fallout 3 is an action role-playing open world video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios, and is the third major installment in the Fallout series. The game was released in North America, ...more
11
4,327 954
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
davis-lau added Action role-playing game
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an upcoming action role-playing video game set in an open world environment, that is currently in development by Polish video game developer CD Projekt RED. It is ...more
12
3,415 1,705
Dragon Age: Origins is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Role-playing video game
Dragon Age: Origins is a role-playing video game developed by BioWare's Edmonton studio and published by Electronic Arts. It is the first game in the Dragon Age franchise. The game was released ...more
13
4,017 1,902
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina o... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game, Action role-playing game
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a 1998 action-adventure video game developed by Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis and Development division for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It was ...more
14
3,963 2,071
Assassin's Creed II is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game, Stealth game
Assassin's Creed II is a 2009 historical fiction action-adventure open world stealth video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the second major installment in the ...more
15
4,320 2,177
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game, Action role-playing game, Role-playing video game
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth installment in The Elder Scrolls action ...more
16
3,479 1,982
Mass Effect 3 is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
midnightq2 added Third-person Shooter, Action role-playing game
Mass Effect 3 is a 2012 science fiction action role-playing third person shooter video game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, ...more
17
2,096 1,179
Chrono Trigger is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Console role-playing game, Role-playing video game
Chrono Trigger is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995. Chrono Trigger '​s development team included three designers ...more
18
1,890 1,918
Half-Life is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Action game
Half-Life is a science fiction first-person shooter video game developed by Valve Corporation, the company's debut product and the first in the Half-Life series. First released in 1998 by Sierra ...more
19
3,012 1,560
Batman: Arkham Asylum is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game, Action game, Beat 'em up
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a 2009 action-adventure video game based on the DC Comics superhero, Batman. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction ...more
20
2,334 1,395
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Platform game
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a 2009 action-adventure third-person shooter platform video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 3. It is ...more
21
2,702 1,835
Heavy Rain is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game, Interactive movie, Action game
Heavy Rain is an interactive drama action-adventure video game developed by Quantic Dream and published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 3 in February 2010. The ...more
22
2,708 1,702
Portal 2 is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Action-adventure game, Puzzle game, Platform game
Portal 2 is a 2011 first-person puzzle-platform video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. It is the sequel to Portal and was released on April 19, 2011, for Microsoft Windows, OS ...more
23
2,794 1,228
Metal Gear Solid is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action-adventure game, Action game
Metal Gear Solid is an action-adventure stealth video game developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan and first published by Konami for the PlayStation in 1998. The game was directed, ...more
24
1,894 1,177
Silent Hill 2 is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Horror, Third-person Shooter, Survival horror
Silent Hill 2 is a survival horror video game published by Konami for the PlayStation 2 and developed by Team Silent, a production group within Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo. The game was ...more
25
2,408 976
Fallout: New Vegas is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever
Shooter game, Action role-playing game, Action game
Fallout: New Vegas is an action role-playing video game in the Fallout video game series. The game was developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Bethesda Softworks. It released for ...more