The 25 best video game stories ever

Mass Effect 2 - Garrus
(Image credit: BioWare)

The best game stories are often those that stay with you long after they've come to a close. Whether that be because they personally resonate with you, capture your heart, or leave a lasting impression, there are so many memorable stories in games to discover. Thanks to the interactive nature of games, it can often feel like we are helping to shape the stories we experience, with choices that can lead to different outcomes. 

Choosing the best game stories of all time is no easy feat. Over the years we've seen a myriad of adventures that show off the storytelling talents of the writers behind them. Some of the best RPGs and best single-player games around, for example, are home to many memorable stories, but there are plenty to discover across several different genres. Tackling various themes, topics, and scenarios, the very best stories also bring to life lots of iconic characters who can draw us through the narrative and immerse us in virtual worlds. 

From big sprawling journeys to the indie gems with plenty of heart, read on below as we take you through our selection of the best game stories

Recent updates

This list was updated to fresh the ranking and add in more recent releases that have some of best game stories, such as Baldur's Gate 3 and Immortality. 

25. Marvel's Guardian's of the Galaxy

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Developer: Eidos Montreal
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy takes you on one memorable journey across the cosmos. Taking on the role of StarLord, the story is full of action, laughs, and moments that may even make you shed some tears. Brilliantly capturing the humor and sense of fun the ragtag crew are so known for, each character brings something to the table, with choices put front and center that allow you to shape how the adventure unfolds. There's so much heart to the story, and many moments that will stay with you as you try to navigate a series of chaotic events. The experience really shines aboard the Milano ship you and your ragtag crew call home in the galaxy. Every inch of the Milano really feels like a lived-in space, with excellent environmental storytelling building up a picture of your shipmates personalities. 

Read our Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy review 

24. Final Fantasy 6

A character standing on a train in Final Fantasy 6

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Developer: Square Enix
Released: 1994
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Android, iOS

While later Final Fantasy titles improved the graphics, the plot never got better than in the sixth entry. Final Fantasy 6 tells a sprawling tale about the death of magic at the hands of unethical progress, and it has one of the biggest ensemble casts this side of War & Peace. It allows players to see any of a dozen characters as a fulfilling lead, and all would work in that context. Moments like an impromptu opera performance, the discovery of hidden lineage, or a heroic sacrifice are sprinkled throughout the game, but it’s the bad guy that really steals the show. Kefka is one of the most detestable villains we’ve ever met, and the script does an amazing job of building up the heartless bastard. If Final Fantasy 6 is actually Kefka’s tale, then it’s a well-told one indeed.

23. Undertale 

A room full of books and creatures in Undertale

(Image credit: Toby fox)

Developer: Toby Fox
Released: 2015
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch

Undertale is a unique game. There are monsters and goat-people and magic. But there’s also a touching exercise in empathy (or the lack thereof). It’s a challenge to condense the very strange story into one or two lines, but the most important thing to know about Undertale is that, beneath its peculiar, scrappy surface, its heart is made of pure sweetness. One of the most powerful abilities in video game story-telling is how the player’s actions can impact the narrative. Some games have used that amount of self-directed choice to reach for profundity, only to fall short. Undertale stands out for its many alternate endings, each of which manages to pack an emotional punch.

22. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Developer: Square Enix
Released: 1995
Platforms: PC, Android, iOS

Time travel doesn’t have the best track record as a narrative tool. In Chrono Trigger, though, the device shines as a source of storytelling finesse. The game starts simply enough at a town festival, but soon the unassuming Crono and his friends are thrown into a massive adventure where he makes friends with cavemen, cursed knights, and robots searching for humanity. And you find a way to connect to all of them. The ever-shifting world Chrono travels has much to teach about the human condition. 

Technology may change, but people always have the same capacity for love, greed, devotion, hate, and honor no matter the era. And the storytellers knew when to create quiet moments to let the players get close enough to see some characters in a whole new light. Keeping track of timelines might be complicated, but the characters’ motivations never were.

21. GTA 5

Three playable characters stand in a triangle wearing suits and holding guns in GTA 5

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Developer: Rockstar Games
Released: 2013
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

The most subversive story Rockstar has ever told in GTA is also the series’ best. GTA 5 is really hard to pigeonhole. At times it’s a wisecracking take on Michael Mann’s Heat – those headline scores are incredible. Most of the time though, this Los Santos yarn is way too hard to pin down… and that’s a compliment. Thanks to its innovative character-swapping gameplay, GTA 5 lets you live three very distinct lives over the course of a single campaign.

Such is the quality of the voice acting and mission structure, you’ll find yourself subconsciously role-playing whoever you think Franklin and co. should be. Presented as miserable and remorseful, Michael isn’t the guy you do drive-by shootouts with. Ditto Franklin. Knowing and loyal, you want to actively limit the damage you do when the game puts you in the role of the young carjacker. And that’s the genius of Trevor. A fully-fledged psychopath, played with wonderful glee by Steven Ogg, GTA finally has a vehicle for its frenzied bloodbaths in the form of an unrepentant character who couldn’t care less about ludonarrative dissonance. 

20. Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloy against a blue sky in Horizon Zero Dawn

(Image credit: Sony)

Developer: Guerrilla Games
Released: 2017
Platforms: PS4, PC

The story of Horizon Zero Dawn is fantastic on a number of levels. Firstly, it's the creation of the team over at Guerrilla Games, which is famous for the Killzone series, games that have never been heralded for their storylines. It’s also fantastic because it has a female protagonist in Aloy, with strong themes of femininity and matriarchal societies. Thirdly, it actually creates a vision of an end of the world that isn’t terrible. Quite the mean feat eh? But at its heart, this is a story of sci-fi robot dinosaurs, tribal humanity, and a kick-ass heroine. Of course, once you've ventured through Aloy's first adventure, it's well worth checking out Horizon Forbidden West, too. 

19. Life is Strange/Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Chloe and Max in Life is Strange while the sun sets

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Developer: Dontnod Entertainment/Deck Nine
Released: 2015/2017
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Switch

It seems almost mean to bundle both these brilliant episodic titles into one entry for the best game stories, but they’re best experienced as one package. The original Life is Strange tells the story of Max Caulfield and her friend Chloe Price facing the perils of adolescence, love, and an impending supernatural, town-destroying, storm. Across three episodes you uncover a terrible secret about what happened to a missing girl, Rachel Amber, who happened to be incredibly important to Chloe. It’s very much focused on how you want to tell the story, and the branching narratives mean that it merits a few playthroughs just so you can see just how far the ripples of your actions and words stretch. 

And when you’ve done that, go play Before the Storm. The prequel focuses on the relationship between Chloe and Rachel before the events of Life is Strange. It’s a powerful narrative on growing up, loss, and emotions. It feels more grounded because of its lack of the supernatural, helping make the story options connect and more importantly, resonate. And like the original, every decision you make changes the flow of the story. Play it over and over again, you deserve it.

18. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Nathan and Sam Drake with Sully in Uncharted 4: Among Thieves

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Developer: Naughty Dog
Released: 2016
Platform: PS4, PS5

Uncharted 2 may be the best pure expression of what Uncharted is all about, but it’s Nathan Drake’s final chapter - Uncharted 4: Among Thieves - that delivers the best story. Building on the emotional beats it mastered as a storyteller during production of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog gives us a more thoughtful take on Nate – one that’s filled with Indy-style thrills, but also moments of quiet character pathos. This is the game where Drake finally starts to question his mortality, and more importantly, makes his peace with the fact he needs to soldier up and become an actual adult.

17. Firewatch

Reading a map with a compass in the countryside in Firewatch

(Image credit: Campo Santo)

Developer: Campo Santo
Released: 2016
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, 

Walking simulator games that tug at your heartstrings have been seeing a surge of late, but few have dug into the deeper levels found in Campo Santo’s Firewatch. The game partially works so well because of the premise: Henry, your character, is spending the summer working as a ranger in Wyoming. Although he wanted the gig to get away from his own thoughts and life, he winds up building a chatty relationship with his boss through their radio conversations.

That isolation, tucked away in a natural setting that’s equal parts pretty and perilous, makes a perfect backdrop for this suspenseful tale. Each strange discovery Henry makes drives the story forward until it has the unstoppable momentum of an avalanche. Once you start playing, it’s damn near impossible to put down until the final credits roll.

16. Portal 2

Two robots embrace in Portal 2

(Image credit: Valve)

Developer: Valve
Released: 2011
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (via the Portal: Companion Collection) 

After Portal's brilliant, minimalist narrative introduced gamers to the silent Chell and the decidedly less silent GLaDOS, Valve faced a tall order. How could a stunning short story be followed up with a full retail release? Could new characters really stand toe-to-toe with GLaDOS? The answer, astoundingly, was yes. All of the new characters added character to the world of Portal 2, from the curious Wheatley to the amazingly charismatic Cave Johnson. 

Yes, there was still plenty more to see (and curse) from Aperture. Exploring the depths of the derelict business introduced us to new bits of lore, fleshing out the most important character in the series: the facility itself. Learning Aperture's backstory and finding out about GLaDOS's history was surprisingly touching. Chell's story, too, ended up concluding well, turning the relatively quaint story of the original into a saga as epic as nearly any other.

15. Persona 4 Golden

Characters from Persona 4 in a comic strip-esque montage

(Image credit: Atlus)

Developer: Atlus
Released: 2008
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Switch

Persona 4’s greatest strength comes from pacing. The life of the protagonist plays out one day at a time for an entire year in the quiet town of Inaba. You dig deep into a murder mystery while also attending high school, working part-time jobs, and (most importantly) bonding with your new friends. You may enter a shadowy world of dungeons and monsters, but you become so attached to your new companions that a small moment in the park with one of them has more impact than most intense boss battle. 

Persona 4’s tale takes more than 80 hours to experience, but it never feels drawn out as every day is a new chance to get closer to your friends. Characters like Teddy, Kanji, and Chie are well-defined by scenes that shift between comedy and drama fluidly, and you express your unique feelings for them through the expansive dialogue choices. When the story reaches its satisfying climax, you feel like you’ve gone through a life-changing ordeal with your best friends. When the game ultimately ends, it’s hard not to shed tears for all you’re saying goodbye to.

14. Red Dead Redemption 2

A homeless veteran hugs Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Developer: Rockstar Games
Released: 2018
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

The second part of one of the greatest video game stories ever told. Once again, this is an exception to including multiple game entries from the same series in this list. Still, when it comes to Arthur Morgan’s wondrous Wild West quest, what choice do we have? Combining empowering gunplay with one of the most geographically interesting open-world maps of all time, this is AAA storytelling at its best. Regardless of the fate of its outlaw, Red Dead Redemption 2 somehow sets the stage for an even more compelling sandbox story, with both games combining to create a larger, more cathartic story. 

13. Mass Effect 2

The Illusive Man against a planetary backdrop at the opening of Mass Effect 2

(Image credit: BioWare)

Developer: BioWare
Released: 2011
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

Assemble a crew of sidekicks, achieve the impossible, save the galaxy. It’s hardly ground-breaking material for sci-fi, but Mass Effect 2 taps into one of the all time classic adventure stories: uneasy allies versus overwhelming odds. And it all plays out in space, with the role of overwhelming odds being played by ancient, titanic machines. It’s still punch-the-air satisfying when Shepard and friends smash through the game's suicide mission climax. 

Few other games make you feel so close to the supporting cast, either. Each crew member has a deep backstory, and most ask you to make complex decisions to help them out, potentially souring your friendship with another character. When/if you lose one of them during the suicide mission you feel genuine remorse, a great indicator that Mass Effect 2’s story has left a lasting impression on you. And thanks to the release of the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, you have the perfect excuse to experience the story all over again or for the first time. 

12. Half-Life 2

Gordon Freeman and Alyx in Half-Life 2

(Image credit: Valve)

Developer: Valve
Released: 2004
Platforms: PC

Nearly 20 years later and we’re still waiting for the conclusion to Half-Life 2’s story, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best sci-fi narratives ever. Set some years after the events of the first game, Half-Life 2 sees Gordon Freeman (and his trusty crowbar) team up with Eli and Alyx Vance to fight off the Combine; a technologically superior multidimensional empire that managed to conquer Earth in just seven hours. 

Unlike the original game though, you have no idea what’s been going on or what’s about to happen, making the story all the more powerful because you’re in the same situation as Gordon himself. Thanks to the trust it affords players, Half-Life 2 stands apart as a first-person shooter way ahead of its time, with a narrative that keeps you perplexed but forever invested. 

11. Shadow of the Colossus 

Main character stands in front of a woman's body on a stone tablet with a dove in the foreground in Shadow of the Colossus

(Image credit: Team Ico)

Developer: Team Ico/Bluepoint Games
Released: 2005
Platforms: PS4

The crux of this goliath-slaying quest’s story may be held back to the final scene, yet though it’s light on dialogue, Shadow of the Colossus is still one of the greatest video game tales ever told. Combine its bewitching score with a mysterious world that’s begging to be explored, and an emotionally-tortured hero who clearly hates every action players force him into, and you have a narrative masterpiece. Dealing in guilt like almost no other game, SotC is one of the storytelling giants. Appropriate, given the subject matter.

10. Metal Gear Solid 

Solid Snake and Meryl in Metal Gear Solid

(Image credit: Konami)

Developer: Konami
Released: 1998
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch (via Master Collection) 

Hideo Kojima’s first real attempt at Hollywood-aping storytelling remains his best. The game that essentially created the 3D stealth genre is also one that tells a brilliant tale. In David Hayter’s Solid Snake, you have the closest gaming equivalent to Die Hard’s John McClane we’ll ever have: a sturdy yet wisecracking lead who imbues every line he’s given with deadpan life experience. Before Kojima became in love with his own overblown scripts, Metal Gear Solid was the game where he managed to perfectly balance gameplay and (reasonably) tight plotting. 

9. Immortality

The overview movie screen in Immortality

(Image credit: Half Mermaid)

Developer: Sam Barlow / Half Mermaid
PC, Xbox Series X/S, PS5, iOS, Android 

Immortality is an interactive trilogy from Her Story and Telling Lies developer Sam Barlow and Half Mermaid that expertly engrosses you in a mystery. With a novel approach to storytelling, the experience has you looking through reams of footage in three different movies that were never released. With the goal of trying to uncover what happened to the missing film star Marissa Marcel, you'll watch scenes unfold and have to try and hone in on different aspects to uncover more footage. Every little detail or nuanced expression could be a new threat to pull at, with behind-the-scenes instances, film moments, and others that will keep you guessing as you try to get to the root of the mystery. With a voyeuristic feel at times, it succeeds at drawing you right into Marissa's world and it's hard not to want to keep pulling at those threads to find out what truly happened.

Read our Immortality review

8. God of War

Atreus rides on Kratos' back as he climbs a mountain-side in God of War (2018)

(Image credit: Sony Santa Monica)

Developer: Sony Santa Monica Studio
Released: 2018
Platforms: PS4, PS5, PC

After the incredibly shouty original trilogy, few gamers would have thought Kratos and Santa Monica Studio had a great story in them. How wrong we were. While the original games were defined by all-consuming vengeful hate, rebooted God of War ditches much of that loathing for deep-seated, yet restrained parental love. By giving Kratos a son, Sony finally allows Kratos to become a truly three-dimensional character… albeit one who still yanks an ogre’s innards out every 40 seconds. A special word too for Christopher Judge. The former Stargate SG1 actor makes a wonderful Kratos, giving a performance that dovetails between barely contained rage and an all-encompassing love for his child. Once you've experienced the story of the first game, it's well worth journeying your way through the recent follow-up, God of War Ragnarok.

Read our God of War review

7. Telltale’s The Walking Dead 

Clementine in The Walking Dead: Season Two

(Image credit: Skybound Games)

Developer: Telltale Games
Released: 2012
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

An intense, emotional ride until the very end, Telltale's The Walking Dead was our game of the year in 2012 because of its gut-wrenching story. Lee Everett, a man on his way to prison, plays the unlikely hero who stumbles upon Clementine, a young girl whose parents were vacationing in another city when the zombie apocalypse happened. 

Their unexpected journey takes them to Savannah, where her parents should be, and along the way you meet a cast of characters who you grow to love (or hate with a burning passion). It's okay though, because there are instances when your choices affect their chances of staying in your group. The game's strengths are its dialogue and character development, and it's impossible not to feel sad, guilty, or angry whenever Clementine witnesses or experiences anything horrible. It's a given that when the dead start walking that there will be gruesome scenes, but the pacing, the execution of each scenario made The Walking Dead stand out.

6. The Last of Us

Joel teaching Ellie to use a sniper rifle in The Last of Us

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Developer: Naughty Dog
Released: 2013
Platforms: PS4, PS5, PC

The most emotionally layered, big-budget video game there’s ever been. The Last of Us proves to be a masterclass in single-player pacing. Setting you in the shoes of a grizzled gunrunner who’s more than done with the end of the world, TLOU stands unbelievably tall thanks to his relationship with a young girl who may just hold the key to saving humanity. Ellie isn’t just one of the most complex heroes ever, she’s arguably the greatest character in PlayStation history. With a remastered re-release that brought the PS3 to PS4, Joel and Ellie's adventure also got a next-gen upgrade with the launch of The Last of Us Part 1. Plus, the story even saw the creation of the hit The Last of US HBO show, which is based on the game. Once you reached the conclusion of the first, it's also worth experiencing the sequel, The Last of Us 2

5. What Remains of Edith Finch

A corridor from the house in What Remains of Edith Finch

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

Developer: Giant Sparrow
Released: 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch 

It’s hard to tell you exactly why this indie’s story is so utterly amazing without ruining it entirely, but that’s part of its charm. The less you know about this electrically eclectic game, the better. Set aside a Sunday afternoon and play it through in one sitting, and, trust us, you won’t regret it. What we can tell you is that it’s a collection of strange stories about what happened to members of one family. Each one is told using a different gameplay style and the way they play out is as inventive as the stories themselves. This is interactive storytelling at its finest. 

Freed from big-budget story pressures, What Remains of Edith Finch can be gloriously random whenever it wants. One moment you’ll be playing as a seal-devouring shark, the next a fish-butchering factory worker. And just when you think you’ve got its narrative pacing pegged, Edith will floor you with an incredible homage to Michael Myers’ Halloween. This is independent storytelling at its most nuanced. 

4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Geralt takes on a huge antlered beast in The Witcher 3

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Developer: CD Projekt Red
Released: 2015
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Switch

Look out, Nilfgaardians: Geralt is back in town. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes our gravel-voiced hero on a search for Ciri, his young ward who has attracted the malevolent interest of the Hunt. This whole game world draws its inspirations from Eastern Europe, giving it a different flavor than the average fantasy RPG. But The Witcher 3 transcends expectations for the genre left and right. The characters are fully-realized and relatable, and their interactions have nuance. 

The writing is head and shoulders above the average script. The game systems are impeccably executed and help to further the story. And where most games only have binary good-or-bad ethical rules, this series has always been most comfortable exploring the morally murky areas. The core game of Wild Hunt was a masterclass of storytelling, but the addition of the Blood & Wine DLC took the game’s narrative to the next level.

Read our Witcher 3 Wild Hunt review. 

3. Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Developer: Larian Studios
Released: 2023
Platforms: PC, PS5

The storytelling in Larian's D&D-infused RPG is masterful. Comprising three acts that are rich with choice and discovery, Baldur's Gate 3 sees you wake up aboard an alien ship with an unwelcome tadpole passenger taking up residence in your brain. You're then hurtled into an adventure full to the brim with memorable moments, mysteries to uncover, and enemies to face as you try to navigate your newfound connection to the Mindflayers and a nefarious cult of The Absolute. 

The party members that join you are brilliantly brought to life with their own storylines, flaws, and nuances that make each and every one feel fleshed out and relatable, and getting to know them brings so much added depth to the adventure. There's also so much scope to relive the narrative in different ways, from creating your own character and picking one of many different classes, to experiencing one of the preset origins, or exploring the mysteriously murderous Dark Urge storyline. Baldur's Gate 3 truly takes you on an unforgettable journey with an impressive amount of choice that will surprise you time and again.

Read our Baldur's Gate 3 review.

2. BioShock

A little sister cries over a dead Big Daddy in BioShock

(Image credit: 2K)

Developer: Irrational Games
Released: 2009
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Would you kindly... recognize the continued legacy of Irrational Games' BioShock? Far more than just its perfectly judged final act twist, Ken Levine’s genre-defining shooter proves itself to be a master of background storytelling. In Rapture, you’re dealing with one of the great video game settings: a submerged city that defies expectations at every wicked, watery turn. At one point you’ll be admiring a giant squid as it scuttles past the hub of a long-submerged city. The next? You could easily be setting your Palpatine-style lightning hands on a monstrous deep-sea diver whose only purpose is to protect a small girl so sinister, she makes the kid out of The Ring look like Mary Poppins Jnr. 

1. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2

(Image credit: Konami)

Developer: Team Silent
Released: 2001
Platforms: PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC

There’s a sinister genius to the storytelling in Silent Hill 2. It starts off as a mysterious love story: James Sunderland is searching for his wife after receiving a letter from her one year after her death. It ends up as something far darker and more complex. Silent Hill 2 tells its intricate story on multiple levels. While the spoken narrative leaves you in little doubt about what kind of man James Sunderland is, the way you play and interact with the world also has a impact. 

Spend the game at half health (or lower) for example, and you’ll get a different ending because your lack of regard for his health tells the game that you think James is suicidal. Symbolism also plays a big role. Every disgusting creature in the game is a manifestation of James’ twisted psyche; physical representations of his sexual hang-ups and guilt. By the end, you’ll have lost every shred of empathy you had with the game’s protagonist. How often do you get to play an entire horror game before discovering you’re the real monster?

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Dave Meikleham
Paid maker of words, goes by many names: Meiksy… Macklespammer… Big Hungry Joe. Obsessive fan of Metal Gear Solid, Nathan Drake's digital pecks and Dino Crisis 2. Loves Jurassic Park so much, may burst at any moment.
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