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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 a 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 tell 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 136 games from the last 38 years, with 2,372 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.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild

Release Date: 03/03/2017

Out Now: Switch and Wii U

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World and Weather

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...

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Release Date: 11/12/2020

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

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is an adventure game where you play as a young girl who starts a wildlife conservation club. Play involves exploring the island, using the bird song you hear to find and photograph all manner of real-world birds. It stands out...

Journey

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

Out Now: PC, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Journey is an adventure game set in a desert. Exploring the eerie sandscape, 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...

Firewatch

Release Date: 20/09/2016

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Cartoon and Open World

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...

Abzu

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

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

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 finding meaning and your...

The Last Of Us Part II

Release Date: 19/06/2020

Out Now: PS4

Skill Rating: 16+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Day and Night

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...

Flower

Release Date: 12/02/2009

Out Now: PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Open World and Weather

Flower is a traversal collecting game where you control the breeze 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...

The Long Dark

Release Date: 22/09/2014

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night and Open World

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...

Horizon Zero Dawn

Release Date: 01/03/2017

Out Now: PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night, Open World and Weather

Horizon Zero Dawn is a post-apocalyptic action adventure where you explore an overgrown landscape with now-crumbling remnants of modern life. Play involves exploring the world, learning your new abilities as the story unfolds and using them to defeat...

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

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

Out Now: Mac, PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person and Open World

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,...

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

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

Out Now: PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

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 another...

Proteus

Release Date: 30/01/2013

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS Vita and PS3

Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World and Weather

Proteus is a narrative adventure game which 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,...

Balan Wonderworld

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Hand-Made

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...

Horizon Forbidden West

Release Date: 18/02/2022

Out Now: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night, Open World and Weather

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...

Terra Nil

Release Date: 28/03/2023

Out Now: Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Grid and Open World

Terra Nil is a strategy game where you use 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 an...

To A T

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

To A T is a lighthearted narrative adventure game about a teenager with a unique posture that makes parts of their life in a small coastal town challenging. With your arms permanently stretched out, you explore the beautiful town with your dog and...

Paradise Marsh

Release Date: 03/02/2022, updated in 2023

Out Now: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night, Hand-Made, Open World and Weather

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...

Tiny Glade

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead

Tiny Glade is a simulation game that gets you doodling picturesque castles. More of a toy than a game, you play by placing and moving different elements of your construction. As you do the game magically connects everything together to create beautiful...

Vane

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

Out Now: PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

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 desert and climb your way...

Crime O'Clock

Release Date: 30/06/2023

Out Now: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon and Hand-Made

Crime O'Clock is a point-and-click crime-solving game where you explore a detailed map to piece together timelines that prove whodunnit. You zoom in and study the detailed map to find time markers and work out the culprit of hacking, murder and theft.

Dredge

Release Date: 30/03/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night and Weather

Dredge is a fishing adventure set in a remote archipelago called ‘The Marrows’ with a dark past. You explore the surrounding waters to fish for hundreds of different sea creatures and other resources. It stands out for the clever rhythm-based...

Chants of Sennaar

Release Date: 05/09/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

Chants of Sennaar is a traversal and translation puzzle where you play a traveller called to reunite the Peoples of the Tower who are unable to communicate with each other. Play involves exploring the cell-shaded world to decipher the glyph-based...

Metroid Dread

Release Date: 08/10/2021

Out Now: Switch

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

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...

Isopod

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Isopod is an action-adventure where you play Winston the Woodlouse. Play involves exploring the out-sized world as a diminutive Pill-bug by rolling, zipping, and slamming your way to your destination. It stands out for bringing insect-style motion to...

Sword of the Sea

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC and PS5

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

Sword of the Sea is a traversal game where you are a Wraith resurrected to restore life to a desolate world. Play involves exploring submerged ruins to discover the cultures that built them. It stands out for the flowing movement and beautiful vistas...

Spilled

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Spilled is a traversal game where you explore the waterways of a polluted land to collect and clean up the waste. Play involves steering your little tug to collect the spilt oil and then deliver it to earn coins and upgrade your boat. It stands out for...

Baby Steps

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night and Open World

Baby Steps is a tongue-in-cheek traversal game where you play Nate, an unemployed failing son who sets out on a journey of putting one foot in front of the other. The twist is that you must control and place each foot individually while ensuring you...

Barotrauma

Release Date: 13/03/2023

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

Barotrauma is a cooperative space-submarine adventure set after humanity has fled to Jupiter's moon. You work with other players to steer your submarine, work the ageing machinery, fight monsters and fix the endless leaks. It's a game that revels in not...

Ghost Bike

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon and Open World

Ghost Bike is a racing adventure where you play the last of the magical couriers taking packages between the living and the dead. You explore the stylised world to compete in races, find bike parts and get your ghost bike in working order.

Sunshine Shuffle

Release Date: 24/05/2023

Out Now: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cards and Cartoon

Sunshine Shuffle is a narrative game where you play poker with talking animals who each have a criminal past. It's based around the group's regular Texas Hold 'Em poker game. It stands out for the endearing Robin Hood story and the unusual blend of...

Thank Goodness You're Here!

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

Thank Goodness You're Here! is a slapstick adventure set in Northern England in the style of classic Beano comics. Play involves exploring the cartoon world to take on quests and special challenges. It stands out for the visual style, but also a...

Kinsplant

Release Date: 26/09/2022

Out Now: Web

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Open World and Pixels

Kinsplant is an adventure about searching for a fabled artefact buried somewhere in one of the four realms. Play is like a retro adventure game where you move around, fight enemies and hunt for an ancient artefact. However, the twist is that it has been...

The Lamplighters League

Release Date: 03/10/2023

Out Now: PC and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon and Grid

The Lamplighters League is a tactical strategy game where a team of cartoony misfits use their unique abilities to outwit enemies. Play mixes real-time infiltration and turn-based tactical combat where every character matters if you are going to come...

Shadow Of The Colossus

Release Date: 18/10/2005

Out Now: PS2, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Shadow Of The Colossus is an action-adventure game where 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...

What Remains of Edith Finch

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

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

What Remains of Edith Finch is a narrative puzzle game about the surviving member of the Finch family, who seems to have died from a curse. From a first-person perspective, you return to the family’s coastal home to learn about each relative’s final...

Disco Elysium

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

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

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...

Kentucky Route Zero

Release Date: 07/01/2013, updated in 2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Components: 2D Overhead

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...

Marvel's Spider-Man 2

Release Date: 20/10/2023

Out Now: PS5

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night, Open World and Weather

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is the action-adventure sequel to Marvel's Spider-Man and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales where you shoot webs to swing around New York and defeat...

Alan Wake II

Release Date: 27/10/2023

Out Now: PC, PS5 and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Filmed

Alan Wake II is a survival-horror shooting game where you play two intertwining lives in a dark psychedelic story. Across two worlds, one real and one nightmarish, you use your flashlight to stun hideous monsters, then kill them with your limited...

Atomic Heart

Release Date: 20/02/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

Atomic Heart is a shooting adventure game set in an alternative history where the Soviet Union wins World War 2 and you are a special agent fighting back against rogue robots. Play involves traversing the utopian world and using the environment and...

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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