I'm looking for games with intelligently-written, truly mature story once again

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Before you say anything - yes, I've made a thread like this a couple of years ago. You can probably still find it if you look hard enough. The thing is, I got off the wrong foot back then and want to try again, this time knowing exactly what I'm after and why I like the writing in the games I'm going to mention. I really hope you'll be willing to help me out once again.

As the title mentions, I'm looking for games with truly mature and intelligently-written story. What I mean by that is a type of story that tackles tough, controversial subjects and themes, and does it well. Topics that often aren't even mentioned, let alone given the spotlight, due to video games' role as entertainment and a form of escapism. Topics such as darker sides of the human psyche, consequences of actions resulting from people acting on those impulses, and deep analysis of ethics and morality of such actions.

Execution is key here. I'm not going to lie - I have incredibly high standards regarding storytelling (which is both a blessing and a curse), so I'm not willing to give out participation awards. A lot of games over the recent and not so recent years, such as The Last of Us, Life is Strange, David Cage's games, or the Metal Gear Solid series have attempted to bring maturity into gaming, with the result pretty much always being an awkwardly-written pretentious cringefest, that instead of making me think, made me roll my eyes. Here's my personal list of games that actually managed to achieve truly mature writing and have my eternal respect for it. In the spoilers I've written reasons why I think so. Some of them might spoil the story of the game itself.

- Silent Hill 2

- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

- Telltale's The Walking Dead Season 1

- NieR

- L.A. Noire

Those are my top 5 picks. Based on that, what would you recommend I should play? It can be any genre and any year. Visual Novels I'm also willing to give a chance if you can find me something exceptionally good.

The preferred platform is PC, but I also have a bunch of older consoles: a PS1, a PS2, a PSP, a DS, and a Gamecube. Obviously my next stop should be the other Yoko Taro games, but I'd love to see if I have any other options because it's honestly kind of sad knowing I pretty much only have one game left to play (because at the moment I don't have either a PS3 to play Drakengard 3, or a PC powerful enough to play NieR: Automata).

Here are my PC's specs. It's pretty crap by today's standards, but I'm sure some less demanding games are going to be able to run on it:

- AMD Athlon II X4 @2.8GHz
- 4GB RAM
- Radeon HD 7770 1GB
- Windows 7

If you have any questions that would help you understand what I'm after better, feel free to ask. Thanks in advance for the help.

You sound like an elitist. And should probably stick to books.

If you're not only looking for shorter story-driven games I'd recommended at least the first couple Witcher games, which should run well enough, and maybe you'd have a better PC by the time you're done with them for 3. The series deals with racial issues as well as various morality threads which you as the player have some choice in affecting.

There's really nothing like the classic Silent Hill games, but some shorter titles that also explore darker themes would be:

Dear Esther
What Remains of Edith's Finch
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Gone Home
A Wolf Among Us (another Telltale game, which I preferred over TWD, but mostly due to its tone and characters)
The Stanley Parable - for something really different

There's a chance you'll end up thinking of it as an "awkwardly written, pretentious cringefest" as well but Killer 7 might be my favourite story in video games. Period. I'd also recommend Pathologic, though the gameplay is a bit of a bothersome affair, and the Dark Souls/Bloodborne games. Those have famously minimal exposition but they convey a lot of interesting themes and backstory through other ways.

As far as I'm concerned you're never going to top Silent Hill 2.
I think games like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Spec Ops and BioShock have good writing too.

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is a really great one. Also of PS2 era as SH2.

Lost Patrol

Let's see...Just skimming through my Steam list, I can only think of one.

Spec Ops the Line, if you haven't already tried that. It does not pull any punches in it's look at what war can make us do.

The fact you've got super high standards nixes Of Orcs and Men. I really liked the story and characters and dark painful world, and it did make me think, but it's kinda unpolished, and has a certain level of cheese in some of the dialogue (as well as one eye-rollingly worded phrase that pops up at once point).

I remember your previous threads asking for games to play, and you never seemed very satisfied with the examples you were getting, so I doubt you will here. Especially when it comes to what is considered intelligently written or mature storytelling, since 'intelligent writing' and 'mature storytelling' doesn't mean 'tackling heavy subjects'.

But anyway, I'd say.. The Last of Us and Metal Gear Solid 1. Yeah I know you gave those as bad examples of mature stories in games, but you're wrong. Wolfenstein: The New Order is another good one, as is the recent God of War and The Witcher 3.

You're not going to find one. Its the nature of the medium, video games. The game part implies enjoyment, so that already undercuts the desire for a gritty, mature, tough experience because you're supposed to be enjoying it. And the whole separation from the story, it being a game that you can pause and put down technically indefinitely will always undercut any emotional stakes/statements being made.

Will Joel give Ellie over for experimentation? Find out after this burrito and text-message conversation about plans for the weekend with the group!
Will James Sunderland finally find his redemption? I dunno, the game was so fucking boring I paused it about half-way through and loaded up OctoDad, a much more cohesive story.

No matter what the 'elitist' say, Video games are always going to have a level of silly, mature-breaking elements to it that will always undermine their message. And before you say it, yes the same applies to books and movies. You can pause a movie, you can put down a book. That separation, even with 'based off true events' stories does muffle the experience. Schindler's List is a great movie, but I still every now and then wonder why Qui Gon Jinn hasn't pulled out his lightsaber or summoned Batman to deal with this shit.

Going to have to second What Remains of Edith Finch, but not just because it meets your criteria. I also think it's a good game.

Despite what some people have said about it, it's not really a walking simulator.

I only saw the one trailer that was associated with the physical soundtrack, this one:

and bought the game immediately. And the physical copy from iam8bit for $30 at that. Worth every penny to me.

Johnny Novgorod:
BioShock have good writing too.

Eeeeeeeh...

Having played both Bioshock 1 and 2, I see holes and silly logic in the story and world building.

Silentpony:
You're not going to find one. Its the nature of the medium, video games. The game part implies enjoyment, so that already undercuts the desire for a gritty, mature, tough experience because you're supposed to be enjoying it. And the whole separation from the story, it being a game that you can pause and put down technically indefinitely will always undercut any emotional stakes/statements being made.

Will Joel give Ellie over for experimentation? Find out after this burrito and text-message conversation about plans for the weekend with the group!
Will James Sunderland finally find his redemption? I dunno, the game was so fucking boring I paused it about half-way through and loaded up OctoDad, a much more cohesive story.

No matter what the 'elitist' say, Video games are always going to have a level of silly, mature-breaking elements to it that will always undermine their message. And before you say it, yes the same applies to books and movies. You can pause a movie, you can put down a book. That separation, even with 'based off true events' stories does muffle the experience. Schindler's List is a great movie, but I still every now and then wonder why Qui Gon Jinn hasn't pulled out his lightsaber or summoned Batman to deal with this shit.

Isn't this about immersion rather then mature storytelling? Your beef seems to be more with the fact that media can be interrupted or paused by outside factors, or actors being reused. That's not really a problem on the part of the writing.

Casual Shinji:

Silentpony:
You're not going to find one. Its the nature of the medium, video games. The game part implies enjoyment, so that already undercuts the desire for a gritty, mature, tough experience because you're supposed to be enjoying it. And the whole separation from the story, it being a game that you can pause and put down technically indefinitely will always undercut any emotional stakes/statements being made.

Will Joel give Ellie over for experimentation? Find out after this burrito and text-message conversation about plans for the weekend with the group!
Will James Sunderland finally find his redemption? I dunno, the game was so fucking boring I paused it about half-way through and loaded up OctoDad, a much more cohesive story.

No matter what the 'elitist' say, Video games are always going to have a level of silly, mature-breaking elements to it that will always undermine their message. And before you say it, yes the same applies to books and movies. You can pause a movie, you can put down a book. That separation, even with 'based off true events' stories does muffle the experience. Schindler's List is a great movie, but I still every now and then wonder why Qui Gon Jinn hasn't pulled out his lightsaber or summoned Batman to deal with this shit.

Isn't this about immersion rather then mature storytelling? Your beef seems to be more with the fact that media can be interrupted or paused by outside factors, or actors being reused. That's not really a problem on the part of the writing.

To a degree that's fair, but I think at least when it comes to video games there is an exaggerated, exacerbated systemic crack between mature writing and the player experience. Take what many people say is the Citizen Kane of gritty video games, The Last Of Us.
At the end of the day, regardless of the writing, its still a human player playing as a gritty bearded man and his foul-mouthed sidekick fighting zombies with vegetables for heads. There's a level of silly camp there that is unintentional on the writers part, but mandatory on the whole 'video game' part.
The game has to be fun, so there has to be something for us as player to enjoy even if the characters in game do not. Joel doesn't enjoy fighting zombies, but we do because we know its not real, the stakes aren't real and we have a healthy separation that limits our ethical and moral obligations to the game world, thus severely crippling how mature and serious we can take the story. We can if we want choose to let Joel be killed a thousand times by zombies, over and over, and it doesn't change the story one bit yet changes our experience of the game. So the Last of Us is no long the gritty story of man and child in a desperate run for survival, but that game we spent 3 hours trying to get all the death animations. Both are accurate descriptions of the game, and that's going to limit how seriously we can take it.

Its not a problem with the writing per se, its a problem in the writing. Game writers wants a mature, serious game have chosen the wrong medium for that story. Video games limit how mature and dark and gritty you can take a story, and ironically the more serious a game takes itself, the campier it gets.

Silentpony:
To a degree that's fair, but I think at least when it comes to video games there is an exaggerated, exacerbated systemic crack between mature writing and the player experience. Take what many people say is the Citizen Kane of gritty video games, The Last Of Us.
At the end of the day, regardless of the writing, its still a human player playing as a gritty bearded man and his foul-mouthed sidekick fighting zombies with vegetables for heads. There's a level of silly camp there that is unintentional on the writers part, but mandatory on the whole 'video game' part.
The game has to be fun, so there has to be something for us as player to enjoy even if the characters in game do not. Joel doesn't enjoy fighting zombies, but we do because we know its not real, the stakes aren't real and we have a healthy separation that limits our ethical and moral obligations to the game world, thus severely crippling how mature and serious we can take the story. We can if we want choose to let Joel be killed a thousand times by zombies, over and over, and it doesn't change the story one bit yet changes our experience of the game. So the Last of Us is no long the gritty story of man and child in a desperate run for survival, but that game we spent 3 hours trying to get all the death animations. Both are accurate descriptions of the game, and that's going to limit how seriously we can take it.

Yeah, but again, that's on us. It's our choice to play the game that way. I can also choose to screw around with the saturation of my TV or cycle through the lanuage options during a movie. With a movie, at the end of the day, you're also just sitting on your seat of choice staring at an electronic device displaying colours.

The combat is "fun", because it's entertaining to overcome a simulated experience, like being hunted down by armed goons or zombies. It's still the same experience for the characters in the game, the difference being for them it's not vicarious. I also enjoy watching No Country for Old Men eventhough nobody in that movie is having a good time nor is the movie intended to be fun, but I still enjoy it.

This still seems to be about immersion and whether or not you can suspend the fact that you're just sitting on a couch with a controller in your hands and just disappear into the game. Some people can't. Some people also can't take comic books serious, because of the text bubbles.

I still don't get why people come to games for story/narrative/characters as their main reason for playing because the writing talent that is currently in the medium is really really bad. You might get one really well-written game each generation if you're lucky.

Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

Samtemdo8:

Johnny Novgorod:
BioShock have good writing too.

Eeeeeeeh...

Having played both Bioshock 1 and 2, I see holes and silly logic in the story and world building.

Yeah, Bioshock's assassination plot is probably the most nonsensical assassination plot I've ever experienced and that's saying something considering many action movies have crappy assassination plots. Just about every game that gets acclaimed for having some amazing plot is usually only about as good as the average TV show.

Lufia Erim:
You sound like an elitist. And should probably stick to books.

So you have fuck all to contribute. Good to know.

OT: You may like The Fall, it and its sequel are basically a robot story that can only work with robots and the inner mechanisms of how they operate. A combat suit with an A.I. gets dropped onto an abandoned colony and the story is about her trying to get her user to a medical facility despite her programming limiting her in many ways. To say more would be to give a lot of spoilers.

Phoenixmgs:
I still don't get why people come to games for story/narrative/characters as their main reason for playing because the writing talent that is currently in the medium is really really bad. You might get one really well-written game each generation if you're lucky.

Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

Samtemdo8:

Johnny Novgorod:
BioShock have good writing too.

Eeeeeeeh...

Having played both Bioshock 1 and 2, I see holes and silly logic in the story and world building.

Yeah, Bioshock's assassination plot is probably the most nonsensical assassination plot I've ever experienced and that's saying something considering many action movies have crappy assassination plots. Just about every game that gets acclaimed for having some amazing plot is usually only about as good as the average TV show.

And a lot of the lore feels "Video game-y" like lets just say its nearly impossible to adapt everything about Bioshock 1 in TV/Movie format.

Phoenixmgs:
Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

It also had the president of the United States grabbing someone by the crotch. Good God, the relevancy.

Samtemdo8:

Johnny Novgorod:
BioShock have good writing too.

Eeeeeeeh...

Having played both Bioshock 1 and 2, I see holes and silly logic in the story and world building.

Not enough sharks? Or too many?

Johnny Novgorod:

Samtemdo8:

Johnny Novgorod:
BioShock have good writing too.

Eeeeeeeh...

Having played both Bioshock 1 and 2, I see holes and silly logic in the story and world building.

Not enough sharks? Or too many?

Well there was only 1 shark in Bioshock 2...

Phoenixmgs:

Samtemdo8:

Johnny Novgorod:
BioShock have good writing too.

Eeeeeeeh...

Having played both Bioshock 1 and 2, I see holes and silly logic in the story and world building.

Yeah, Bioshock's assassination plot is probably the most nonsensical assassination plot I've ever experienced and that's saying something considering many action movies have crappy assassination plots. Just about every game that gets acclaimed for having some amazing plot is usually only about as good as the average TV show.

I said 'good writing', not 'amazing'. But speaking of amazing, there's plenty of that with plot holes. I don't think they constitute a death sentence for quality. Infinite does go a bit off rails towards the end around the point that ghost nonsense starts but I think the overall message of the games and the themes they deal with are mature enough.

Samtemdo8:
And a lot of the lore feels "Video game-y" like lets just say its nearly impossible to adapt everything about Bioshock 1 in TV/Movie format.

Outside the video game themes about player character/choice, I don't see why Bioshock wouldn't work just fine in another medium. Not that I was saying to adapt it but an average TV show is better written than Bioshock.

Casual Shinji:

Phoenixmgs:
Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

It also had the president of the United States grabbing someone by the crotch. Good God, the relevancy.

MGS has flashes of brilliance interspersed between its extreme camp and cheese moments.

Phoenixmgs:

Casual Shinji:

Phoenixmgs:
Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

It also had the president of the United States grabbing someone by the crotch. Good God, the relevancy.

MGS has flashes of brilliance interspersed between its extreme camp and cheese moments.

I wouldn't call that specific moment one of brilliance though, just one of those Kojima moments we choose to ignore, like being able to see through Paz's clothes in Peace Walker.

Johnny Novgorod:
I said 'good writing', not 'amazing'. But speaking of amazing, there's plenty of that with plot holes. I don't think they constitute a death sentence for quality. Infinite does go a bit off rails towards the end around the point that ghost nonsense starts but I think the overall message of the games and the themes they deal with are mature enough.

I feel Infinite had the stronger moments, that entire end sequence had so much attention to detail to how everything went down. Though the whole middle act is so poor and horribly thought-out, there definitely had to be rewrites or development issues.

Casual Shinji:

Phoenixmgs:

Casual Shinji:
It also had the president of the United States grabbing someone by the crotch. Good God, the relevancy.

MGS has flashes of brilliance interspersed between its extreme camp and cheese moments.

I wouldn't call that specific moment one of brilliance though, just one of those Kojima moments we choose to ignore, like being able to see through Paz's clothes in Peace Walker.

I wasn't trying imply the president's crotch-grab was a flash of brilliance but the codec conversation towards the end that I initially mentioned.

Well, better keep looking. Ayy... But, on a more serious note, i can think maybe of two picks that can meet your standards.

One is already mentioned in this thread Spec Ops: The Line, the other is Frictional Games' SOMA.

The first one is basicly another retelling of "Heart of Darkness" by Conrad. So, you had a book about XIXc. colonialism, a movie about Vietnam war, and now a video game about heroic US Marines trying to bring a drop of stability to somewhere Middle East.
I think "The Line" does a graceful job, with its modern take on this, though I have more qualms about the game than your average reviewer, and don't particularly think meta stuff works that well. But, it's still a better (loose)adaptation than i'd expect from this medium.

SOMA on the other hand a horror/walking sim, that might be most crushingly dark take on transhumanist hopes and dreams i've seen in videogames(and does it in a non-standard way too).

Other than those, i can think of few titles that, while i don't think meet your requirements, could still be worth checking out.
"Grim Fandango" is a very rare example of a mature, while cartoony, game, that isn't overtly dark or (ha)grim, and also, what's that, has a plenty of humor to it??? And it got a remaster some time ago.
"Planescape: Torment", if that somehow slipped your mind. "Witcher 2" is basicly a fantasy political thriller.
You probably already played them, but OG Silent Hills(from Team Silent) are also good, though cult nonsense brings writing down at times.

Phoenixmgs:

Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

Yeah, the game predicted how people would live inside their own information bubble long before social media was a thing and how everyone will start to believe convenient half-truths that are neither right nor wrong(fake news) all under the auspice of mass surveillance programs(prism). The only thing left for MGS2 to have prophesied the entire early 21st century information age is for data to have accumulated at such a rate that the internet era has effectively become a digital trash heap. And basically with news media having become ideological ammunition for online flame wars and objectivity out the window that moment doesn't seem that far off.

Anyways MGS2 shows how even postmodernism could have a place in videogames, even if MGS2 is the only title. Not surprisingly the similar avant-garde Silent Hill 2 is from the same year. So yeah, games with really intriguing stories can be made but such projects obviously rarely get the green light. I guess it also takes the particular rare momentum of having both the creative vision and those in charge having affinity for the medium and similar aspirations. Can be sure we won't have to expect neither anymore from konami. :p

MrCalavera:

SOMA on the other hand a horror/walking sim, that might be most crushingly dark take on transhumanist hopes and dreams i've seen in videogames(and does it in a non-standard way too).

Agree yeah, soma is heavy on the existential dread. Really great philosophical story in that one.

I recommend Labyrinth of Refrain. It doesn't shy away from having very controversial or extreme things in the story but it also doesn't hit you over the face with them and doesn't let it devolve into melodrama. Unfortunately almost anything I could say to explain why I enjoyed it so much would be a spoiler.

stroopwafel:

MrCalavera:

SOMA on the other hand a horror/walking sim, that might be most crushingly dark take on transhumanist hopes and dreams i've seen in videogames(and does it in a non-standard way too).

Agree yeah, soma is heavy on the existential dread. Really great philosophical story in that one.

Meh. SOMA went in a direction I found rather dull. The start of it was super creepy and interesting but then it just lost everything once you meet up with Catherine and stopped being a horror story and had to make up a lot of excuses to keep characters going or make them do things the plot required of them.

I was very disappointed with it, it could have been a great horror game but it gave that up to talk about science.

SNIP

SNIP

PsychedelicDiamond:
There's a chance you'll end up thinking of it as an "awkwardly written, pretentious cringefest" as well but Killer 7 might be my favourite story in video games. Period. I'd also recommend Pathologic, though the gameplay is a bit of a bothersome affair, and the Dark Souls/Bloodborne games. Those have famously minimal exposition but they convey a lot of interesting themes and backstory through other ways.

Agree on Killer 7. Speaking of Suda, the No More Heroes games have great stories. I haven't played Travis Strikes Again, but I heard the story was well done, despite the gameplay being repetitive and lackluster. I will wait on a sale for that game.

My list and my opinion. I am a guy that prefers better gameplay over story, but if the game does good in both areas, then I have no complaints.


Mad World
God of War 4
Resident Evil 2 (original and remake)
Yakuza series
Asura's Wrath
Devil May Cry 3
Crysis 2
Wolfenstein: New Order, Old Blood, and New Colossus
F.E.A.R
Hotline Miami

Phoenixmgs:
I still don't get why people come to games for story/narrative/characters as their main reason for playing because the writing talent that is currently in the medium is really really bad. You might get one really well-written game each generation if you're lucky.

Also, MGS2 literally predicted what the Internet was going to do to humanity and each day the story only becomes more relevant. What other game's plot can you say actually becomes more relevant over time?

As said, truth is stranger than fiction.

To the Moon and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons might do the trick.

Adam Jensen:
To the Moon and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons might do the trick.

Adding to that, Actual Sunlight and Little red Lie is a good one even if they are walking sims

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