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Gaming 101: Narrative Games

In this series, we are learning how different aspects of video games work by playing games that offer an easy introduction to this one concept. This is designed for people new to gaming, and aims to identify games with the least barriers. In this entry we are looking at Narrative games.

Narrative video games focus on telling a story about characters, worlds and themes. Learning from the power of books and films, these games string together interactions not for excitement or competition but for storytelling beats. The best examples intertwine gameplay and storytelling, rather than interspersing short films ("Cut Scenes) between levels.

Games can use Adventure, Action and Role-Playing to communicate elements of story to players. Less obviously, games can also communicate narrative through how they Simulate the world, what needs solving in Puzzles or even the Strategies players need to employ.

The narrative of video games is not usually told (like in books) or shown (like in films) but overheard. Half caught sentences from passing characters. The architecture of the buildings. The way that levers and buttons interact. How other characters (and the world itself sometimes) reacts to your presence. What is broken in the space the game creates, and how/if it can be fixed.

This list includes 18 games from the last 12 years, with 652 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to play your first strategy game.

DetailsList Details

PEGI Ratings: PEGI 3 to PEGI 18
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB MATURE 17+
Australian Ratings: G to MA 15+
Genres: Action, Adventure, Communication, Creative, Narrative, Open World, Point-and-Click, Puzzle, Rhythm, Role-Play and Simulation
Total Likes: 652
 

 

Florence

Release Date: 14/02/2018, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

This is a little puzzle game that tells the story of a relationship, following the usual stages of loneliness, meeting, dating, falling for and moving in with another person. At first, the puzzle interactions seem trivial and the game doesn’t change...

Night in the Woods

Release Date: 10/01/2017, updated in 2017

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Night in the Woods follows college dropout Mae Borowski returning home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs. But the place is different now her friends have grown and changed. There’s something suspicious happening in the nearby...

Gone Home

Release Date: 15/08/2013, updated in 2016

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Gone Home places you in the role of Katie, returning from overseas to her family home. But the house is deserted and by exploring the rooms you piece together what happened to her sister, Sam. It’s a mystery to solve, but a common one of family...

Before I Forget

Release Date: 01/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Before I Forget is an exploration adventure, where you play Sunita, a woman alone in a house with early-onset dementia. As you wander from room to room, you discover mysterious objects, each holding a fleeting, fragmented memory. Examine faded...

Oxenfree

Release Date: 14/01/2016, updated in 2016

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Oxenfree is an adventure game where a teenagers’ beach party spirals into a supernatural story. You guide the outcome with your choices as the well-written dialogue reveals characters coming to terms with family breakdown, death of a sibling, blame...

What Remains of Edith Finch

Release Date: 18/04/2017, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Edith Finch is the surviving member of the Finch family, who seem to have died from a curse. In first-person perspective, you return to the family’s coastal home to learn about each relative’s final hours by exploring their rooms in turn.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Release Date: 11/12/2020

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is an adventure game where you play as a young girl who starts a wildlife conservation club. When Alba visits her grandparents on a Mediterranean island, she is excited for a summer of exploring with her friend Ines. But when...

Firewatch

Release Date: 20/09/2016

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Firewatch is an explorative adventure where you play a fire lookout in America’s Shoshone National Forest. It has a relational and conspiracy undertone similar to the podcast/radio drama and Netflix show [link to...

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Release Date: 12/08/2015, updated in 2016

Platforms: Mac, PC and PS4

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture lands you in a fictional deserted English village in 1984. As you walk the streets of another era you discover bright human forms who re-enact events like a radio play. Through their eyes, you see a web of fear,...

Lifeline (Series)

Release Date: 16/04/2015, updated in 2016

Platforms: Android, PC and iOS

Lifeline is a narrative adventure where you interact with an astronaut, Taylor via text messages. You help him return home after crashing his aircraft on a foreign planet.

Heavy Rain

Release Date: 06/10/2010, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS3 and PS4

Heavy Rain is from the same Quantic Dream studio who made Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human. It preceded these games but shared the same branching narrative and photo-realistic aspirations.

Bury Me My Love

Release Date: 26/10/2017, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Don’t be put off by the name and theme of this intriguing game, an adventure played by choosing responses in what looks like a messaging app. You take the role of the husband of a Syrian migrant travelling to Europe. As the game unfolds in real time,...

My Child Lebensborn

Release Date: 08/05/2018, updated in 2021

Platforms: Android, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

You nurture a Lebensborn child in Norway after World War II who faces a hostile community because they’ve been born to parents of both occupied and occupying forces. With meagre resources yourself, you must feed, clothe and bathe the child, but more...

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

"Have you ever made a mistake, or hurt people you care about?" Asks the Photographs trailer. It's a puzzle game that aims much higher than to distract you while on the way to work.

Leaving Lyndow

Release Date: 08/02/2017

Platforms: Mac, PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Leaving Lyndow is a narrative adventure set a couple of generations before Eastshade. Sharing the same anthropomorphized animal society, although here at an earlier stage, it's a game about the memories we make in the places we...

The Wreck

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

The Wreck is a narrative game where you play Junon, a mother at a crossroads. She's 36 but her career has stalled, she's emotionally numb, and her personal life is falling apart. It's not unfamiliar territory for a video game these days, but The Wreck...

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is an unsettling narrative adventure and sequel to Oxenfree. Like that game, you guide your character through choices that affect the direction of the well-written and complex story and tune your radio...

The Red Strings Club

Release Date: 22/01/2018, updated in 2019

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

The Red Strings Club is a futuristic narrative game where you prescribe implants and drinks to people who visit your bar. You talk to patrons, prepare them drinks and coax information out of them to advance the espionage story. It's a unique game that...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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