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The Most Compelling Video Game Storylines Ever

Updated February 16, 2020 318.1k votes 40.4k voters 713.9k views271 items

List RulesOnly 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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  • 1
    9,050
    2,723

    The Last of Us

    Action-adventure game, Survival horror

    Release2013

    DeveloperNaughty Dog

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  • 2
    6,041
    2,149

    Red Dead Redemption

    Action-adventure game

    Release2010

    DeveloperRockstar San Diego

    More Red Dead Redemption 

    List of All Red Dead Redemption Characters#5 of 84 The Best Games That Never End

  • 3
    5,815
    1,389

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

    Action role-playing game

    Release2015

    DeveloperCD Projekt RED

    More The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 

    25 Memes That Are Hilarious If You've Played Too Much Of The Witcher#62 of 124 The Most Popular Video Games Right Now

  • 4
    2,831
    1,234

    Fallout: New Vegas

    Shooter game, Action role-playing game

    Release2010

    DeveloperObsidian Entertainment

    More Fallout: New Vegas 

    #7 of 55 The Most Popular Single Player Games Right Now#3 of 57 The Best Survival Games of All Time

  • 5
    2,623
    1,198

    Tell Tale's The Walking Dead

    Episodic video game, Adventure

    Release2012

    DeveloperTelltale Games

    More The Walking Dead 

    #11 of 57 The Best PlayStation 4 Adventure Games#21 of 22 The Most Punishing Video Games of All Time

  • 6
    5,937
    2,679

    BioShock Infinite

    Shooter game, Action-adventure game

    Release2013

    DeveloperIrrational Games, 2K Marin

    More BioShock Infinite 

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  • 7
    4,841
    2,296

    Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

    Action role-playing game, Adventure

    Release2003

    DeveloperAspyr, BioWare

    More Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 

    #2 of 28 The Best RPGs on Xbox Game Pass#7 of 204 The Best Games On Xbox Game Pass

  • 8
    2,968
    1,329

    Metal Gear Solid

    Shooter game, Action-adventure game

    Release1998

    DeveloperKonami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Konami

    More Metal Gear Solid 

    List of All Metal Gear Solid Characters#33 of 238 The Best Classic Video Games

  • 9
  • 10
    1,294
    145

    Red Dead Redemption II

    Action-adventure

    Release2018

    DeveloperRockstar Studios

  • 11
    4,103
    2,137

    Assassin's Creed II

    Action-adventure game, Stealth game

    Release2009

    DeveloperUbisoft Montreal

    More Assassin's Creed II 

    #48 of 112 The Best PlayStation 4 Games Released So Far#9 of 20 The Best DLC Packs

  • 12
    3,988
    1,911

    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

    Action-adventure game, Action role-playing game

    Release1998

    DeveloperGrezzo, Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development

    More The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 

    #1 of 178 The Best Nintendo Games, Ranked#3 of 15 These Enthralling Video Game Stories Could Never Be Filmed

  • 13
    4,310
    2,084

    Final Fantasy VII

    Role-playing

    Release1997

    DeveloperEidos Interactive, Square

    More Final Fantasy VII 

    #22 of 354 The Greatest RPG Video Games Ever Made#55 of 1,371 The 100+ Best Video Games of All Time, Ranked by Fans

  • 14
    3,090
    1,588

    Batman: Arkham Asylum

    Action-adventure

    Release2009

    DeveloperRocksteady Studios

    More Batman: Arkham Asylum 

    #2 of 158 The Best Comic Book Based Video Games#11 of 44 The Best Xbox One Adventure Games

  • 15
    3,355
    1,773

    Dragon Age: Origins

    Role-playing video game

    Release2009

    DeveloperEdge of Reality, BioWare

    More Dragon Age: Origins 

    #2 of 29 The Best Queer Video Games With LGBTQ+ Content#14 of 34 The Best Games Like Skyrim

  • 16
    1,990
    902

    Release2004

    DeveloperObsidian Entertainment

    More Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords 

    #2 of 62 The Best Star Wars Video Games#14 of 21 The Top Video Games That Couldn't Live Up to Their Hype

  • 17
    2,554
    1,347

    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

    Shooter game, Action-adventure game

    Release2009

    DeveloperNaughty Dog

    More Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 

    #540 of 617 Sony PlayStation 3 Games: List of PS3 Console Games#11 of 119 The Best Video Game Sequels

  • 18
    1,046
    494

    The Wolf Among Us

    Graphic adventure

    Release2013

    DeveloperTelltale Games

    More The Wolf Among Us 

    #25 of 55 The Most Popular Adventure Games Out Now#50 of 108 Licensed Games That Actually Live Up To The Source Material

  • 19
    2,369
    1,239

    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

    Action-adventure game, Action game

    Release2004

    DeveloperRockstar North

    More Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 

    #7 of 15 Most Controversial Video Games That Have Ever Been Released#1 of 14 The Best Grand Theft Auto Games

  • 20
    2,373
    1,141

    God of War

    Action-adventure game, Action game

    Release2005

    DeveloperSCE Santa Monica Studio

    More God of War 

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  • 21
    648
    174

    Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

    Action-adventure game, Third-person Shooter

    Release2016

    DeveloperNaughty Dog

    More Uncharted 4: A Thief's End 

    #9 of 66 The Most Popular Action Games Out Now#63 of 114 The Best Games To Play Online

  • 22
    1,806
    886

    Grand Theft Auto V

    Action-adventure game, Racing video game

    Release2013

    DeveloperRockstar North

    More Grand Theft Auto V 

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  • 23
    1,356
    683

    Tomb Raider

    Action-adventure

    Release2013

    DeveloperCrystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal

  • 24
    2,397
    1,189

    Final Fantasy X

    Console role-playing game, Role-playing video game

    Release2001

    DeveloperSquare

    More Final Fantasy X 

    #2 of 382 List of Games With Girls in the Lead & Female Protagonists#21 of 31 The Greatest RPG Soundtracks Of All Time

  • 25
    516
    151

    Horizon Zero Dawn

    Action role-playing

    Release2017

    DeveloperGuerrilla Games

    Horizon Zero Dawn is an action role-playing video game developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 4 and released in early 2017.