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Worlds That Tell Stories

Often we think about video game narrative as what characters and narrators tell us. But the worlds in which we play these games are often as dense and rich with story as any other aspect of the experience.

Some games, like Alba, A Wildlife Adventure, weave narrative through the state of the island and its animal inhabitants. Others, like Paradise Marsh and Proteus, invite us into a space that is both grounded and mystical with insects taking to the stars or our presence causing the cosmos to shift.

Games like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture or Firewatch create a world of relationships connected to a particular place and time that strongly evoke both memory and story. Or there are games that seem bereft of human presence, like Lushfoil Photography Sim, and tell a story about absence as much as presence.

Then there are games like Abzu, Journey and Vane that take you to places you can't normally go. Both the journey to get there and the sense of presence when you arrive tells a narrative that sticks in your brain as much as any story.

Some games let you (seem to) push through to parts of the world usually off limits. Portal, for example, lets you go behind the scenes. Uncharted games let you squeeze between rocks that would usually mark a barrier. Balan Wonderworld lets you jump and trick your way into bits of the level that feel like you've tricked the game.

However they do it, game worlds tell stories unlike other media. They look like our world but are built for us in a way that leads, invites and nudges us through unexpected narratives.

This list includes 35 games from the last 36 years, with 1,322 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to find stories in game worlds.

DetailsList Details

PEGI Ratings: PEGI 3 to PEGI 18
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB MATURE 17+
Australian Ratings: G to R 18+
Genres: Action, Adventure, Collecting, Creative, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Puzzle, Race, Rhythm, Role-Play, Sequencing, Shooting, Simulation, Stealth, Strategy, Traversal and World Building
Total Likes: 1,322
 

 

Metroid Dread

Release Date: 08/10/2021

Platforms: Switch

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Metroid Dread, the latest Metroid game, is a running, jumping, exploring and fighting game where you progress through levels, fight challenging bosses and uncover secrets. It returns the franchise to the 2D side-scrolling style of...

Vane

Release Date: 15/01/2019, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Vane is an ethereal adventure in a ruined desert where strange golden dust transforms a free-spirited bird into a determined young child. The premise is not all that uncommon, but Vane stands out for how you soar over the dessert and climb your way...

Balan Wonderworld

Release Date: 26/03/2021

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

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Balan Wonderworld is a running, jumping and exploration game. It draws on classic 3D platform games, but with simpler controls and a more laid back challenge. Like Mario Odyssey, much of the gameplay revolves around getting temporary abilities (here it...

Proteus

Release Date: 30/01/2013

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and PS3

Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds

This game takes you to a pixelated island. As you explore you discover that your presence changes the seasons and time of day. Delving deeper, there are rudimentary interactions with the creatures that inhabit the land, and rain clouds that blow in from...

Flower

Release Date: 12/02/2009

Platforms: PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Control the breeze blowing across fields of grass and blow petals into other flowers to make them bloom. Flower is simple and single-purpose in evoking the feeling of the wind. What starts as an awkward struggle to control the breeze soon turns into a...

Journey

Release Date: 14/03/2012, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Journey is an adventure game set in a desert. Exploring the eerie sand-scape, you discover a world abandoned by the race that created it. The sense of space and scale evokes feelings of aloneness and being lost. But then the game pairs you with other...

Horizon Forbidden West

Release Date: 18/02/2022

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Horizon Forbidden West is a post-apocalyptic action-adventure where you explore an overgrown landscape with now-crumbling remnants of modern life. The story of Aloy continues as she sets out to investigate a plague terminating from an arcane frontier...

Horizon Zero Dawn

Release Date: 01/03/2017

Platforms: PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Horizon Zero Dawn, and the follow-up game Horizon Forbidden West, has a post-apocalyptic feel familiar from movies like Planet of the Apes. It plunges you into an overgrown landscape with now-crumbling remnants of modern life where animalistic machines...

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Release Date: 19/11/2016, updated in 2017

Platforms: PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an action-adventure game set several years after the events of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. You play Nathan Drake, a happily married former treasure hunter coaxed out of retirement by his brother. This leads into...

The Long Dark

Release Date: 22/09/2014

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

The Long Dark is a thoughtful exploration-survival game where you have crash-landed in the icy Canadian wilderness after a global disaster and must find a way to survive. Through exploring, crafting and fighting you must look after your body...

Abzu

Release Date: 02/11/2016, updated in 2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Abzu is an adventure in a lush underwater world. You descend into the heart of the ocean to find ancient secrets and encounter majestic creatures. This combines the beautiful weightlessness of diving with an ancient story of meaning and place in the world.

The Last Of Us Part II

Release Date: 19/06/2020

Platforms: PS4

Skill Rating: 16+ year-olds

The Last of Us Part II is an action-adventure game set five years after The Last of Us. You control two characters in a post-apocalyptic United States. Ellie is out for revenge after suffering a tragedy, and Abby is a...

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Release Date: 03/03/2017

Platforms: Switch and Wii U

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild departs from the previous Zelda formula with the scale and depth of its world. You walk, fly, ride and climb your way through a landscape that varies in climate, terrain, inhabitants and vegetation. Weather and...

Paradise Marsh

Release Date: 03/02/2022, updated in 2022

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds

Paradise Marsh is an open-world collecting game where you explore a varied marsh to find insects to put their stars back in the night sky. You wander an endless wetland and collect creatures, skim stones and eat mushrooms as the weather and seasons...

Kentucky Route Zero (Series)

Release Date: 07/01/2013, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game in five acts. This means that you explore a deep and rich world backed by haunting electronic music and hymns to unfold a story of unpayable debts, abandoned futures, and the human drive to find...

Sunlight

Release Date: 14/01/2021

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Sunlight is a short adventure game where you explore an uncharted forest, guided by harmonised whispers. As you move from tree to tree you discover different voices, genders and dialects, speaking as one. Taking artistic inspiration from expressionist...

Shadow Of The Colossus

Release Date: 18/10/2005

Platforms: PS2, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

You play a young man who enters a forbidden land to defeat sixteen massive beings to restore the life of a girl he cares about. It sounds like any other video game, although in fact, Shadow of the Colossus stands apart in many ways.

Portal (Series)

Release Date: 10/10/2007, updated in 2011

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS3, Switch, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

You are in a science laboratory where you seem to be being tested. Watched by the artificial intelligence GLaDOS, you have a gun that can create a pair of magic portals on any surface: one is an entrance and the other is an exit. Through a series of...

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Release Date: 11/12/2020

Platforms: Apple TV, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

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,...

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.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Release Date: 01/11/2011

Platforms: PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is an action-adventure game and the third entry in the Uncharted series. In Uncharted 3 you once again take the role of Nathan Drake, treasure hunter, in the hunt for the lost city Ubar (also known as Atlantis of the...

Terra Nil

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Terra Nil is a strategy game where you are using clean technology to bring back life to a barren world. It's a city building game where you aren't building a city at all, but a clean thriving ecology. It raises interesting themes of how humanity plays...

Disco Elysium

Release Date: 15/10/2019, updated in 2021

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

Disco Elysium The Final Cut is a role-playing game set in the fictional city of Revachol where you play Harrier "Harry" Du Bois who must solve a complex murder. Unusually, your choices and actions not only determine how the story unfolds but affect...

Koral

Release Date: 16/05/2019

Platforms: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Koral is a diving exploration game where you play the sea current. This sounds a little odd, playing a flow of energy, but works brilliantly.

Eidolon

Release Date: 01/08/2021

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Eidolon is a narrative game where you slowly explore a massive, post-human Western Washington. Unlike other action-oriented adventures, here you navigate an open world without threat. It's simply been reclaimed by nature, so your task is to discover...

Metroid

Release Date: 06/08/1986, updated in 2017

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, DS, GBA, GameCube, Switch, Wii and Wii U

Metroid is a series of running, jumping and exploration games where you play bounty hunter Samus Aran who protects the galaxy from the Space Pirates. It includes the platforming of a Mario game, but the focus is more on fighting enemies, finding new...

Lushfoil Photography Sim

Release Date: Coming soon

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

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Lushfoil Photography Sim is an adventure where you explore and photograph vast faithfully recreated landscapes. While some other games offer the chance to pause and take a picture, Lushfoil doubles-down on the process, art and tranquility of photography.

Pattern

Release Date: 07/04/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Pattern is a game about exploring different worlds. It's novel because of the lack of objective or direction. You are left to explore each world, with only the smokestack of a fire in the distance as a waypoint. When you reach the fire you can choose to...

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Release Date: 23/11/2010

Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360

Enslaved, similar to Heavenly Sword offers a heady mix of heroic storytelling and narrative. You control a character called Monkey (played by Andy Serkis) in a third-person perspective and use power-staff combat moves, running...

Urbek City Builder

Release Date: 13/07/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Urbek City Builder is a city-building and resource management game where you grow, plan and shape a city. It's like the Sim City games, but the twist is that money doesn't feature. Instead, costs come in the impact to natural...

Figment

Release Date: 22/09/2017, updated in 2019

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

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Figment is a narrative adventure game set inside a traumatised mind. You explore a whimsical, musical world, complete puzzles, and defeat monsters to uncover a story of optimism and overcoming fear. The unusual, hand-painted art style, a musical score...

Oni: Road To Be The Mightiest Oni

Release Date: 09/03/2023

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Oni: Road To Be The Mightiest Oni is an action adventure about a demon warrior who, after being defeated by a Japanese folktale hero, joins forces with a spirit to get revenge. You play by exploring the hand-drawn world as dynamic duo: Kuuta clubs...

The Forest Quartet

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

The Forest Quartet is a puzzle adventure about the band's lead singer who passed away in an ancient forest. You play her spirit travelling through the forest to create three final acts unique to the members of her band for a final concert. It's an...

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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