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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 the 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) react to your presence. What is broken in the space the game creates, and how/if it can be fixed.

This list includes 26 games from the last 24 years, with 884 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, Brain Game, Collecting, Communication, Creative, Fighting, Narrative, Point-and-Click, Puzzle, Rhythm, Role-Play, Sequencing, Simulation and Traversal
Total Likes: 884
 

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...

Florence

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

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Florence 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...

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...

Night in the Woods

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

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

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Night in the Woods is a narrative adventure which 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...

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,...

Bury Me My Love

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

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Cartoon and Text

Bury Me My Love is a narrative adventure game where you play the husband of a Syrian woman, Nour, travelling to Europe. Play involves receiving and sending simple messages where Nout tells you how she is getting on and you influence her choices. It...

Oxenfree

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

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

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

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...

Gone Home

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

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

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

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...

What Remains of Edith Finch

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

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series 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...

Lifeline

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

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person and Text

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.

Before I Forget

Release Date: 01/07/2020

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person and Hand-Made

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...

Heavy Rain

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

Out Now: PC, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Weather

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.

My Child Lebensborn

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

Out Now: Android, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

My Child Lebensborn is a narrative role-play game where 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...

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

Photographs - Puzzle Stories is a narrative puzzle game where you witness the lives and memories of five different characters. You investigate old photos for memories that advance the story and solve simple puzzles that reflect their lives. It stands...

The Wreck

Release Date: 15/03/2023

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

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

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...

Leaving Lyndow

Release Date: 08/02/2017

Out Now: Mac, PC and PS4

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person and Open World

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...

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals

Release Date: 12/07/2023

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

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...

Upheaval

Release Date: 03/10/2022, updated in 2023

Out Now: Android, Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: Day and Night and Text

Upheaval is a narrative game where you have 30 days in a village before a wizard arrives. In those days, you can stir up chaos, lay low, go adventuring or do countless other activities. With over 5000 possible endings, it stands out for the sheer...

This is a True Story

Release Date: 22/03/2022

Out Now: Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Hand-Made and Weather

This is a True Story is a narrative adventure based on actual events and interviews. You play a woman in Africa on her daily journey to go and collect water for her family and witness the events that play out on the way. The simple gameplay and...

Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance

Release Date: 15/07/2021

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

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance is a narrative game set in the final year of a high school for mythological creatures looking for love. You play Stella, who must find her place in the school as she talks to peers and decides who to date. It...

Syberia: The World Before (Series)

Release Date: 18/03/1999, updated in 2022

Out Now: Android, DS, Mac, PC, PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Syberia: The World Before is a wartime narrative adventure where you explore the past and present to unravel the mystery surrounding the two people's intertwining lives. You solve puzzles, interact with characters, and visit diverse European locations....

The Last Door

Release Date: 20/05/2014, updated in 2019

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

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

The Last Door is a point-and-click narrative game set in Victorian England where something ancient and evil is stirring. Inspired by the works of author H.P. Lovecraft, you search haunted buildings for supernatural phenomena using the items you find. It...

The Red Strings Club

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

Out Now: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

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...

Albert Wilde: Quantum P.I.

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and 3D First-Person

Albert Wilde: Quantum P.I. is a mystery adventure where you play a detective cat in a fictional 1930's New York. It combines point-and click adventuring with e first person perspective. Solve murders, flirt badly, maybe discover a wormhole to another...

Atuel

Release Date: 14/09/2022

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

Atuel is a surrealist narrative game where you traverse the topography and wildlife of the Atuel River, in Argentina. Like a documentary you watch clips from interviews with locals, exploring the intimate and historic relationships with land and nature....

Minecraft: Story Mode

Release Date: 13/10/2015, updated in 2017

Out Now: Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Mac, PC, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Minecraft: Story Mode is a point-and-click narrative adventure set in the Minecraft universe where Jessie, an inexperienced adventurer, sets out on a grand quest with their friends. As you watch their story unfold, you make...

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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