The best story games use interactivity to spin truly unforgettable tales, drawing you in to their worlds with compelling game mechanics, immersive visuals and fascinating characters. Storytelling is at the heart of many of the best video games. From the best RPGs to the best horror games, titles of all sorts use stories to keep players invested, giving a wider meaning to their mechanics and systems.
The best video game stories aren't confined to any one genre. Below, you'll find gritty historical dramas, sweeping fantasy epics and thought-provoking sci-fi classics. No matter the flavor of game, however, every entry on this list distinguishes itself, not just in terms of the story it has to tell, but also when it comes to how it tells its story of choice. Here, you'll find games where the mechanics reinforce the tale being told, leading to an experience that's more complete and meaningful.
At TechRadar Gaming, we love a great story game, and are always looking for the next big entry for our list. We've spent thousands of collective hours playing these games in order to figure out exactly which titles are the best of the best. This guide is designed not only to save you time, but to help you find the perfect game for your needs. No matter your tastes, our expertly curated list of the best story games has something for you.
The best story games 2023
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Baldur's Gate 3 manages the near-impossible task of being extremely open-ended while also telling a well-constructed and juicy story with oodles of possible variations. No matter what sort of character you play. your protagonist will slot seamlessly into the world.
Baldur's Gate 3 offers phenomenal storytelling, more than earning a place on this best story games roundup. Contrary to CRPGs of the past, Baldur's Gate 3 provides a cinematic experience. Every cutscene is expertly voice-acted, with motion capture assisting the voice actors in bringing the game's cast to life. The game also features a narrator whose lavish descriptions are as captivating as they are immersive.
The game also presents you with a multitude of branching paths, all of which feel just as rewarding and legitimate as the others. Baldur's Gate 3 allows you to craft a tale that's entirely your own, offering you a fantasy playground that, somehow, retains a strong sense of narrative coherency throughout. Whether you're a goody-two-shoes Paladin or a tyrannical Sorcerer, you can play the game your way - no mean feat for a title of this scale.
Final Fantasy 16 is a broadly linear experience, but Square Enix uses this linearity to sharpen the pacing of the main story to a razor's edge. If Baldur's Gate 3 is a playground, Final Fantasy 16 is a roller coaster, offering you a thrilling ride to a single, final destination.
Platforms available: PS5
Final Fantasy 16 marks a turning point for the franchise, earning a place on our best story games list with aplomb. While every entry in the Final Fantasy series boasts impressive storytelling chops, only Final Fantasy 16 does so with modern cinematic ambitions. Square Enix's newest mainline Final Fantasy is like the dark medieval anime you always wish had existed. The scale of the game is immense in terms of the epic setpiece battles between supernatural monsters, political stakes, and emotional payoff. Everything about the game is big, bold, and impressive.
This very much includes the story, which follows the adolescent and adult years of a young noble from one of Final Fantasy 16's warring states. Clive Rosfield is both an audience surrogate and a fully fleshed-out character in his own right. Final Fantasy 16 is very much his story, but, once you've seen the world through Clive's eyes, you won't want it any other way.
The Last of Us Part 1 acts exactly as a remaster should. The improved graphics and mechanics don't come at the expense of the tragic and poignant tale at the game's core. On the contrary, they uplift it, reincarnating the original and giving it a chance to break our hearts all over again.
Platforms available: PS5, PC
The Last of Us Part 1 is, at the time of writing, the definitive way to experience the tense action sequences and melancholy storytelling that immortalized its original predecessor. Besides graphical improvements and the occasional mechanical tweak, the game remains much as it always has been.
Perhaps more than any other title on this list, The Last of Us Part 1 offers impeccable pacing which is reinforced by game mechanics. Frantic combat setpieces are broken up by slow, pensive moments of scavenging, both of which are, in turn, punctuated by cutscenes that masterfully build dramatic tension. Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic tale still teaches us that the most important thing about an apocalypse isn't the disaster itself, but the people living with it. Our The Last of Us Part 1 review showed that even the hardest-hearted members of the TRG squad couldn't help but shed a tear.
Undertale may have a veneer of comedy, but, scratch the surface and you'll find a tale with aching depth and emotional weight. The game calls RPG tropes into question while exploring fandom, love, relationships, and empathy. For a game about monsters, it is resoundingly and profoundly human.
No list of the best story games would be complete without Undertale. Though it may look humble and unassuming, this indie darling by composer and game developer Toby Fox weaves an unforgettable story full of drama, wit, and charm. The game follows a young person who falls into the underground, a parallel world populated by strange but lovable monsters.
Over the course of your adventure, you'll meet a memorable cast of characters, brought to life by writing that sparkles and delights. The game also turns RPG convention on its head, encouraging you to befriend monsters rather than harm them. Of course, you can choose violence, but, if you do so, you will invite dark consequences.
Alan Wake 2 is a modern horror masterpiece, but it's the dual narrative that gives it the edge over its predecessor. By having two perspectives shared between FBI Agent Saga Anderson and Alan Wake himself, the game broadens its horizons, giving you giving you more ways to experience this chilling yet engaging story.
Platforms available: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Alan Wake 2 horrified and thrilled us in equal measure, setting a new bar for modern survival horror titles. Its gripping storyline is full of twists and turns, more than doing justice to the Stephen King novels that inspired it. From Remedy Entertainment and creative director Sam Lake, the game follows the story of Alan Wake, a writer who swiftly becomes embroiled in a series of supernatural events. Though its predecessor is an excellent psychological horror game, it isn't necessary to play the first game to understand the second, as the more recent title is built with newer players in mind.
The story follows the twin perspectives of FBI Agent Saga Anderson and Alan Wake himself as they try to survive the supernatural threats that beset them. The grim tale burrows into your brain, luring you in with tantalizing and shocking mysteries until you're completely immersed in the morbidly fascinating game world. Staff writer Elie Gould called Alan Wake 2 "beautifully terrifying" in their review for TRG. "I also couldn't ever put it down, despite its scares giving me the shakes."
Deus Ex is, in many respects, a parent to modern immersive sims. More than that, however, it offers a cyberpunk story that wrestles with difficult questions about globalization, transhumanism, and political ideology. Though over 20 years old, Deus Ex is still held by many to be a gold standard in video game storytelling.
Platforms available: PC, MacOS
Released in the year 2000, many of the entries on this best story games list owe a great deal to the innovations made in the original Deus Ex. Originally developed by Ion Storm, this game has you take on the role of JC Denton, an agent of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition. Like its spiritual successors Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the title addresses themes of transhumanism, having its protagonist augmented with superpower-granting nanomachines.
As well as offering a well-paced main storyline, Deus Ex allows the player to tell their own story by completing objectives their own way. Stealth, conversation, and brute force are all tools in your arsenal, to be used whenever and however you see fit. Even the ending, which we won't spoil, offers tremendous scope for player choice, forcing you to put your own moral code on the line as you determine the fate of the world.
Cyberpunk 2077 immerses you in the murky moral problems of Night City, dragging you down into the sump and challenging your beliefs with plenty of difficult choices. The Phantom Liberty expansion is a particular treat in this way, and still keeps me up at night.
Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC
Thanks to the recent Patch 2.0 update, Cyberpunk 2077 has come into its own, ensuring that bugs and clunky mechanics no longer get in the way of storytelling by doing away with both. It may be coming up to the three-year anniversary of the sci-fi RPG's launch, but CD Projekt Red's dark cyberpunk tale now stands on its own feet, earning a well-deserved place on our list of the best story games.
With memorable characters and more than a few shocking twists, Cyberpunk 2077 offers a relatively linear story, but still squeezes in ample opportunities to confront you with difficult moral choices that roll on to affect the narrative. Despite this linearity, the story is powerful and confronts themes themes both personal and political.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is as immersive as they come. Emulating the glacial pacing of westerns like Deadwood and Django Unchained, Rockstar Games' historical epic rewards patience and tenacity, offering a gripping story that slowly but steadily draws you into the game's world.
Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC
The best story game of its kind, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an immersive, story-driven game that presents a detailed and complex portrait of a gang of outlaws as they roam what remains of the Wild West - always hoping to stay one step ahead of the law. There is a deep romance to the title, which simultaneously lionizes the rugged individualism of the cowboy lifestyle while, in the same breath, challenging the notion that such a way of life could ever have existed.
Though Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn't tell a particularly original story, the way it spins its yarn of choice is absolutely breathtaking, commanding the player's full attention with well-paced narrative beats and surprising plot twists to keep you on your toes. As you play, you will find that the gang's triumphs and failures begin to feel like your own; a testament to the warmth and empathy that runs through the game's heart.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 has one of the most memorable and distinctive ensemble casts in video game history. All 12 of the supporting characters have rich backstories, and, thanks to the game's penchant for dialogue options, you're able to feel a sense of ownership over your protagonist's relationships with their crew, making for a game story that feels deeply personal.
Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC
The crowning jewel of the Mass Effect saga, Mass Effect 2 brings some much-needed sci-fi drama to our best story games list. Though all three entries in the core saga are fantastic titles in their own right, Mass Effect 2 stands apart, offering both the best standalone experience and the strongest story arc of the three. As you progress through the tale, you'll need to make difficult choices, weighing up challenging moral dilemmas throughout BioWare's epic space opera.
In this third-person RPG, Commander Shepard has to save the galaxy from an ancient threat. No longer backed by the galactic government, they have turned to a dubious terrorist organization for funding and support. Over the course of the game, you'll be gearing up for the "suicide mission", a daring assault on the enemy's base of operations where characters, including your protagonist, can perish. To this end, you'll need to assemble a crew, upgrade your ship, and prepare for the fight of a lifetime. In the process, your Shepard will forge new relationships, tackle new hardships and possibly even fall in love.
Best story games: FAQs
What game has the best storyline?
Alan Wake 2 undoubtedly has an exceptional storyline. However, the answer to this question is very much dependent on a player's individual tastes. Any of the games on our best story games list could qualify depending on your taste in genre and storytelling style. If you're a fan of more realistic tales, you're more likely to get a kick out of Red Dead Redemption 2 than the more fanciful Baldur's Gate 3.
That being said, sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone can be rewarding, as you may discover a brand-new type of game that you may never have considered before. For instance, though Deus Ex may be unfamiliar to many on account of its age, the sci-fi classic is well worth a look.
What story game should I play on PC?
Baldur's Gate 3 is a great choice if you're a PC gamer and a fan of fantasy. Alternatively, those looking for a grittier adventure are likely to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077's bleak yet compelling sci-fi narrative.
Fortunately for PC users, almost every game on our list is PC compatible, meaning that you have a wide selection to choose from. However, if you're looking for a PC-friendly alternative to PS5-exclusive Final Fantasy 16, Final Fantasy 14 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake are great options and each boast very strong stories.
How we made this best story games list
When crafting our list of the best story games, we wanted to offer as diverse a list as possible, showing off the breadth of narrative techniques available across the video game landscape. It was also important to us that older titles be considered, given the strong influence of timeless classics like Deus Ex on modern game writing.
Most crucially, however, we sought to build a list full of titles that immerse players, drawing you into their worlds with evocative writing, dynamic worldbuilding, and distinctive characters. Only games that ticked all three of these boxes were considered for our list and, of those, only the very best made the cut.
What's more, we put our expert knowledge, experience, and critical opinions together when making this list - not to mention the thousands of hours the TechRadar Gaming team has put into the games on this list too. This is a list that you can trust - we know the difference between the best story games and the rest.