Good video games create worlds, tell stories, suck you into their unique experience, and if they are really excellent, they can inspire. That’s what this short list is all about. Games that have the unique ability to inspire.
This small selection of games have inspired me in some way throughout the years. Each entry I’ve played multiple times, some of them giving me a unique experience every time I play. If you are looking for a world to enthrall you, for a story to keep you at the edge of your seat, for an experience undeniably creative, then look to this list for your next gaming option.
Most of these games are slightly older, and all but one you can buy for less that $10 (I’ve provided a link to where you can purchase them courtesy of Gog.com!) I’m favoring games you likely haven’t played over games you have, so no Mass Effect, Skyrim, or Finaly Fantasy 7.
If you are a writer, artist, or some other creative, be sure to check out these titles and tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Syberia is an engrossing adventure style game conceived by Belgian comic artist Benoit Sokal. You play as Kate Walker, a disenchanted American lawyer who has traveled to the French village of Valadilène in order to solve some strange issues involving the death of a factory owner and the factories immanent takeover.
Where the game really excels is in it’s ability to pull you into it’s lush world. The setting feels real, so when you see factories powered by automatons and clockwork contraptions, it’s utterly convincing.
The story is also very engaging. It’s a strange mystery which takes you from one beautiful location to the next, pulling you along as if led by bread crumbs.
With Syberia it’s easy to let yourself go and melt into the computer screen, especially because the graphics have aged surprisingly well. And if you beat the game and find yourself thirsty for more, there’s a sequel.
5. Uncharted 2: Among Theives
This Playstation showpiece is far and away the most well known game on this list, and I almost didn’t include it because of this. But Uncharted 2’s fantastic dialog, great story, and perfect pacing make this a game every writer should play. Of the three games in the series, Uncharted 2 narrowly takes the place as the best, though all are memorable video games definately worth your time.
In Uncharted 2 you play as Nathan Drake, a snarky treasure hunter after an artifact called the Cintamani Stone. This quest leads you on an action filled globe trotting journey which take you from spectacular temples to war torn Nepalese villages.
The story is filled with so many twists and double crosses, it keeps you second guessing each characters motivation and allegiance. And the story doesn’t just play out during occasional cut scenes, but is expertly woven into game play as characters interact around you. Because of this, Uncharted 2 is just as entertaining to watch as it is to play.
Play it for the story, remember it for the set pieces, this game is a treasure just about every writer can appreciate.
An entirely visual story, the tale of this little robot, pieced together in a trash heap, is told without words or speaking of any kind. Even without words, this simple story remains strong and affecting.
The music is a mix of digital synths and found objects which matches the feel of the game exactly. In fact, the music is just damn good. When I bought the game, it came with the soundtrack, and I listen to it often while writing.
I’ve heard Machinarium explained as the perfect game to play with your mouse in one hand, a beer in the other Its a simple creation, but it’s brilliant in it’s simplicity, and over all to quickly. Buy Machinarium for $10 its going for at Gog.
3. The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings
The Witcher 2 is by far the greatest game of the current generation. It takes place in a dark fantasy world fraught with strife which allows the game to tackle some serious themes not often explored in video games.
You play as Gearalt of Rivia, a witcher; the title given to professional monster slayers. Witchers are unique in that they have mutated themselves using potions and mutigens which grant them incredible abilities. They are also shunned by many, considered less than human, praised by others, considered heroes, and manipulated by the upper class for political means.
The King has been assassinated, and Gearalt has been framed for the regicide. He must clear his name, and in the process he becomes an integral part of piecing back the nation which has declined into ruin; fought over by rival kingdoms, powerful sorceresses, and brutal generals.
But the story is not set. With every action the story changes in many diverse ways, sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically. Unlike games like Mass Effect or Fallout 3, their are no good choices, no bad choice, just shades of gray. This, in effect, makes you think very carefully about your role in the game universe as you take part in it shifting around you. This also means every time you play The Witcher 2, the story will be different depending on your choices.
The Witcher 1 was an above average game, hampered by a strange fighting system, but bolstered by it’s spot on story telling. But the Witcher 2 excells in every aspect of the game, from graphics which are stunning, to fighting which is tough and rewarding, to soundtrack, voice acting and more.
2. The Longest Journey
The Longest Journey is woefully unknown by today’s gaming community. When it was released, back in 1997, it’s visuals were top of the line, and it was hailed by all who played it as a masterpiece. It even spawned a sequel, which was pretty damn good even if it was more of an interactive movie than an actual video game.
The Longest Journey is a surprisingly emotional story of a girl named April Ryan who’s trapped between two worlds. She lives in a futuristic Venice where she is an art student. Troubled by vivid dreams a night, these dreams begin to leak into her waking life.
As strange things begin to happen around her, soon it becomes apparent that others can see, and interact, with these strange occurrences. It turns out there’s a parallel universe, each which subtly effects the other. One is our universe, full of futuristic technical advancements, cars complete with a draconian military police , the other is a fantasy world controlled by magic. Somehow, April can travel between the two, and it’s up to her to figure out what is happening.
The story is a stellar Sci-Fi/Fantasy epic, the scope of which is exemplified by the ending of the game. Spoiler:Throughout the game, April slowly struggles with the fact that she is some sort of “chosen one”, that it’s up to her to restore the two parallel worlds to balance. It’s not til the end that she grows to accept this fact, resigned to a fate which would trap her between worlds for thousands of years. But then she learns she’s hasn’t been chosen at all, not for that anyway. She is instead, after all she’s been through, is cursed to go back to her world and try an live a normal life. Such an ending you will not find in other video games.
Ok, so the screenshots look kind of dated, but trust me with The Longest Journey. It’s a gem in all aspects. Buy it today, play it through, then come back and tell me your thoughts. You can buy The Longest Journey at Gog.com for $10. And apparently it will be available on the iphone soon too!
1. Planescape: Torment
When it came to choosing which title was number one on this list, I struggled between the last entry and Planescape: Torment. Planescape: Torment eventually won for a few reasons. First, this was the game that inspired this list. Second, Planescape: Torment is perhaps the most creative game I’ve ever played. And third, this list was written with writers in mind, and the dialog in Planescape: Torment is priceless (there is literally a novels worth of writing in this game).
Planescape: Torment is perhaps the least well known of the classic Infinity Engine games which included such masterpieces as Baulders Gate I & II, and Icewind Dale I & II, but Planscape: Torment beats all those games in terms of sheer brilliance, graphics, and world building.
You play as The Nameless One, a man who has died a thousand times, and each time reawakens as a new person. In these thousand lives you’ve been a murderer, a thief, a priest, a warrior, a wizard, and more. But now something is different.
You begin the game waking up on a slab in a mortuary and the only person to greet you is a floating, bodyless scull name Morte. What’s strange is how much Morte knows about you.
This sets you off on a weird journey of self discovery within a world where every doorway could be a portal to another dimension, where cities are alive and buildings mature and grow, where a rat king has a monopoly on the death market.
Planescape: Torment is at times charming, at times shocking. It’s story will suck you in and rewire the circuits in your head. A game like this has only come around once, and I can confidently say a game like this will never come again.
When you buy this game, just know that there might be a bit of a steep learning curve. It uses old D&D 2 rules, meaning when you fight damage is measured in 2d6 (meaning two six sided die are rolled by the computer, so damage will be 2-12). But for those of you adventurous enough to give this game a shot, you will be rewarded with a universe utterly unique and inescapable.
If your not convinced about Planscape: Torment, here are some quotes from the comments on the GOG website.
Planescape: Torment was way ahead of its time. It is a great game, with an excellent story.”
“Planescape has gathered much media attention over the years, despite its poor sales. Such a shame, for Planescape’s writing and story is yet to be surpassed by anything on the market. It does not stun its audience with flashy gimmicks, but it boasts superior background art and a storyline that stirs the very abysses of your soul.”
“This game is not about saving the world. It’s not about killing the main villain. It’s about saving yourself. You don’t have a name. You awaken on a table in the morgue – not knowing who you are, bearing scars that could have killed a mortal man and tattoos are covering your entire body – you look more like a zombie than a living man. You should be dead, yet you live – you cannot die. You are immortal but it feels more like you are cursed to live rather than being blessed with eternal life.”