Something Different: Video Games with the Best Story

I’m a fan of video games, but sort of a casual fan. I’m the kind of person who gets sort of intimidated when asked to play Halo, who still plays Left 4 Dead in single player mode because I fear the sugary, underaged wrath of the teenaged boys who (in my mind at least) make up most of the online multiplayer.

But some games have stories so great that they overcome my natural tendency to flinch every time something shoots at me, and my clumsiness with a controller.

Deadly Premonition is a game that’s already become sort of notorious for being flat out insane. A sort of low rent mash up of Heavy Rain and Twin Peaks, it follows the exploits of Agent Francis York Morgan (but call him York, everybody calls him York) as he tries to uncover the motivations behind a series of killings in the small town of Greenvale. The protagonist talks to his imaginary friend Zach, reads fortunes from his coffee, and has endless amounts of dialogue about old science fiction B-movies. The graphics are kind of horrible for a game that just came out a year ago, and the combat is beyond tedious, but the story is insanely fun, and at times the game is outrageous, almost campy. It has one of the weirdest boss fights you will probably ever play.

But the greatest thing about Deadly Premonition is that, despite the fact that it’s so silly, I found myself actually invested in the story. At the end, when several important characters are faced with the threat of death, I found myself actually saddened by the prospect, not something you can say about every game.

Very little can be said about Half Life that hasn’t been said again and again, but I really do love it. Unlike a lot of wish-fulfilment sort of video games, where you play a beefy space marine, it seems like Valve really knew how to strike at the heart of nerds everywhere by making their protagonist a scientist who works in a top secret science lab, and, though he’s completely untrained in combat, still manages to beat back an alien invasion with just a crowbar and a stolen handgun. I am so very jealous of Gordon Freeman’s beard.

Half Life 2 also wins major points in my book for including a non player character who’s not just tolerable, she’s downright loveable – Alyx Vance. When was the last time you played a video game and were actually excited to see an NPC?  Half Life 2 is like a greatest hits album for the whole medium of video games, including car chases. FPS sequences, a straight-up survival horror level (ugh, Ravenholm) and you even have control over other units for parts of the game.

The most interesting part of the whole Half Life series (and really, Valve’s work as a whole) is that the games manage to build up an interesting story without, ever once, actually using a proper cut scene. There’s the eight minute intro to the first game, but even during that you can still move around the train car. Control is never actually fully taken away from the player.

Silent Hill 2 is another famous game, and it’s my favorite. I don’t necessarily find it scary, in the adrenaline pumping way I find very large spiders and episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County scary, but it’s creepy, that’s for sure. Especially since I happen to have the same first name as the protagonist – hearing people call your video game character by your actual name adds another level of weirdness.

The game follows James Sunderland, an ordinary guy who received a letter from his wife telling him to go to the town of Silent Hill.  His wife died three years ago, but James finds himself compelled to go to the town anyway, and finds the whole place deserted when he arrives.While wandering through the town, he encounters a woman – Maria – who looks exactly like his dead wife, deformed and lifeless monsters, and a little girl who insists that he didn’t love his wife as much as he thinks he did.

Silent Hill 2 is a journey through the mind of its protagonist, an examination of his greatest fears and desires, and the secrets he tries to hide from himself. James is a memorable and likeable character, even if he’s not the nicest of guys, and there are a number of sequences that are extremely memorable.  Every time I replay it, it’s still interesting and new.  Honestly, even if you don’t want to play the actual game, I’d recommend watching a Let’s Play or at least watching the cut scenes. Below is probably my favorite:

Also, it has an amazing soundtrack. Check out this song:

Awesome.

(Apologies if some of the videos don’t properly embed.)

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