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

Deathloop Review

“The story and mystery centred around Colt and Julianna drives the motivation to see this game through to the end.”

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


Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – PlayStation 5

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

Psychonauts 2 Review

“This ability to craft detailed stories beyond the surface throughout Psychonauts 2 is a shining light in a game full of them.”

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

Unpacking Review

“Building a narrative for a character you neither interact with as a player nor see and making that engaging is a monstrous task. However, it is one that Witch Beam achieves with flying colours.”

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

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Review

“Focuses on the team dynamic to fill out its gameplay and relies on strong writing to carry its linear campaign while boasting nuanced performances”

Dylan Blight, Ashley Hobley, Ciaran Marchant & Wil James compiled this Top 5 list. The Video Games nominated must have released or had a sizable update within December 13th 2020 – December 13th 2021 and have been released in Australia.