From re-working a classic to providing a sequel that more-than lived up to the status of the original. It was a massive year for stories in games, and one that saw the last-generation of consoles end with some of the best-told stories on the consoles, ever.
Here are our picks for the Top 5 Narratives in Video Games for 2020.
5.) Final Fantasy VII Remake [PS4]
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Final Fantasy VII Remake was anything but a straight re-tell of the classic 90’s JRPG. Instead, the game offered long-time fans a new view on a game they knew like the back of their hands, while new players got a new version of the classic story. I don’t think any expected the game to end where it did and leave us all diving into podcasts [like ours] and online forums to break down what happened. Final Fantasy VII Remake managed to hit many of the original game’s emotional character moments, all the while subverting expectations. It’s a brave choice and one that seems to have paid off. I know all of us here at the Explosion Network are excited to see what comes next.
– Dylan Blight
4.) Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales [PS4, PS5]
Miles Morales has become a household name in the wake of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. With this game very much in development when that film was released, this iteration of Miles is quite different and one I very much fell in love with. After playing as an experienced Spider-Man in the 2018 game, we now play as the very green Miles in this game and get to see all those early days mistakes we’ve seen in Spider-Man before, like destroying a bridge or trusting the wrong person.
Getting to experience more of Miles’ world was a real treat with a number of scenes in his apartment helping to get to learn more about him. Meeting all these characters I know little about as well as some I have seen before was a delight, particularly Ganke and Hailey. The overall story of Miles Morales is great and reaches a climax that will hit you right in the feels. Peter Parker has some serious competition.
– Ashley Hobley
3.) Persona 5 Royal [PS4]
Four years after the release of Persona 5, developer Atlus and P Studio packed a heap of new content into Persona 5 Royal‘s release. One of the most significant additions was an entirely new act and ending to the game. It is a literal game-changer and emotionally, the most hard-hitting character work of the entire game.
In particular, the addition of two new characters adds a lot to the games core narrative. Kasumi Yoshizawa is a new classmate and potential phantom thief. Her background is one of mystery, but it’s one of the tightly woven emotional highs and lows when it unravels itself in the games final act. But it’s Takuto Maruki that makes Persona 5 Royal feels like an entirely new game. He’s a brand new counsellor added between the cracks of Persona 5‘s original palaces and stories to emerge as the most compelling character in the game. A profoundly layered one who I still think about months after finishing the game.
It may be asking a lot of those who already played Persona 5 to see it through again for the new content, but it’s more than worth it. Persona 5 Royal improves upon the original game tenfold, especially when it comes to the games narrative and final act.
– Dylan Blight
2.) Hades [PC, Nintendo Switch]
Hades has captured the gaming’s world attention with its unique use of story in a genre where that hasn’t really a priority. The core narrative is very simple: Zagreus, Son of the god of the Underworld, learns his mother might still be alive and sets out to escape the underworld to find her. The impressive thing about Hades is it gives an explanation for why you fight-die-repeat and continue to do so after escaping that feels like the game mechanics were chosen to be in service of the story rather than the other way around.
Dying constantly is a little bit easier to handle as each time you perish you return to the House of Hades and can talk to a wide cast of characters each with their own stories, relationships to build up and information to help flesh out the (under)world. One of the highlights to me was the story between Euridice and Orpheus, a Greek myth that is retold wonderfully in the game.
The amount of story and lines in this game is really impressive. I am at 91 attempted escapes at the time of writing and I’m still getting rewarded with new story points. Hades has set the bar for all roguelikes to measure themselves up to and Supergiant have again proven themselves to be master storytellers.
– Ashley Hobley
1.) The Last of Us Part II [PS4]
In many ways, gaming narratives are still in their infancy compared to older mediums like books or movies but within recent years we are beginning to see writers starting to push the boundaries of writing in the medium and in effect grow the medium in itself. Neil Druckmann and Hailey Gross did exactly that with The Last of Us Part II. The original instalment in the series had done this in ways with its lead characters Joel and Ellie. Druckmann and Gross took risks with the narratives for Part II to challenge its players.
Bringing questions of perspective, The Last of Us Part II uses its characters in a master class of character development and asks some real questions that introspectively changes how we view the first game. As all great narratives do this caused great debate within the gaming community. Whether you were negative or positive towards the narrative it does not matter because it left an impression on you enough to go out and talk about it. The Last of Us Part II will continue to be something truly special for me and I often find myself lost in thought about the questions presented by the game and isn’t that what all great writing should strive to do?
– Ciaran Marchant
This Top 5 list was compiled by Dylan Blight, Ashley Hobley and Ciaran Marchant.