These are the video game stories that kept us hooked between levels and hours as we wondered what’d happened next or the ones we simply couldn’t put down. From a Groundhog Day-inspired hook, another Marvel hero making their single-player debut, or the return of one of the modern gamings most loved mascots.
Here are our picks for the Top 5 Narratives in Video Games from 2021.
5.) Deathloop – Paweł Kroenke, Sachka Sandra Duval Rieunier
Although the primary driver of Deathloop is to figure out how exactly to stop the time-loop Colt is stuck in, it does a stellar job of teasing out the story of how this all came to be. The background of Blackreef, the visionaries, Julianna and Colt’s own involvement in everything is told in various ways, with Colt always providing his own summary of any information he comes across so never miss an important detail, even if you are skimming through a file.
The mystery of this world is wonderfully teased out as are the various connections between the characters of the game. The team at Arkane Studios had made a world and situation so interesting, I was happy to crouch in a corner and listen to any audio log I found trying to avoid being killed as I learned something new.
– Ashley Hobley
4.) Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Sam Maggs, Mary Kenney, Max Folkman, Nick Folkman, Lauren Mee
After years of fighting villains, you’d think it’d be time for Ratchet and Clank to get some well-deserved rest, but not when you have Doctor Nefarious hanging around opening portals to other dimensions. But this leads to the addition of Rivet and Kit and a refreshing new direction for the franchise in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Our heroes, Ratchet and Clank, get to form refreshed hope for finding long lost answers, and we get to witness the origins of Rivet and Kit, two characters very similar to the Lombax and robot pal we know, but with a much more heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting origin. Every part of the universe feels lived in and with characters who you only wish you could learn more about, and as the credits roll, it’s hard to not think about the Pixar-like story you just got to play through on your shiny PS5 console.
– Dylan Blight
3.) Psychonauts 2 – Tim Schafer
Despite its cult following, Psychonauts was a story that had flown under many people’s radar. That has quickly changed thanks to the release of Psychonauts 2. A colourful game that brings the player into a world of spies and freely opens up the dialogue about mental health in an authentic way. Exploring each mind that Rasputin enters, it is easy to follow the overarching narrative. Each level holds a deeper story, whether that be a character’s fear of failure or dealing with the Trauma of losing love. It is refreshing to have an adventure game like Psychonauts 2 that is willing to explore deeper issues.
– Ciaran Marchant
2.) Unpacking – Wren Brier, Tim Dawson, Annie VanderMeer
Developer Witch Beam could only tell the narrative in Unpacking in such an effective way through video games. There’s no cutscenes or character dialogue; you don’t even see a protagonist. Instead, you spend the entire game unboxing a person’s belongings, and through the riffling, you’ll come to know them as if you have been speaking for hours. However, you quickly become invested as you see things change as this person carries childhood belongings into their first home with another adult. You’ll be able to make out personality changes, significant life moments, love and heartbreak. What makes Unpacking’s narrative so special is that you couldn’t tell a story like this and have it be as fascinating in any other medium. It’s a testament to video games as an art form and storytelling tool.
– Dylan Blight
1.) Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Mary DeMarle
Eidos-Montréal had their work cut out for them to create their own version of these characters that people have come to love from the movies but absolutely did. While the lineup is the same, there are certainly a number of tweaks and adjustments which make the Guardians in this game unique to this game, especially in regards to the characters’ backstories which all tend to be more heavily influenced by the comics.
The game gives us a wonderful planet-hopping adventure, filled with crazy situations, a fantastic cast of characters and enough personal moments to make it not just a game you remember for the funny banter, but one you remember for the emotional moments as well. And believe, there is a lot of funny banter. I happily wandered around the Milano as Drax, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Star-Lord had many humourous back and forths.
Even more so than the MCU films, this game is a love letter to Marvel’s cosmic universe and characters with many delightful easter eggs or guest appearances to keep any Guardians fan happy.
– Ashley Hobley