Madden enables us to live our dreams as an NFL superstar, while shooting your way through Call of Duty is great for stress relief. But what if you want to experience more? Games also offer some fantastic storytelling experiences, but it can be intimidating figuring out which ones. Like with comic books, it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s a bigger issue if you haven’t played many games and don’t understand the rules and mechanics that gamers have come to accept as natural.
Here’s a look at nine games that do a great job of introducing key gaming elements without overwhelming you, while also providing gripping stories.
9. ‘RED DEAD REDEMPTION’
A classic Western, Red Dead Redemption is ideal if you’ve played a Grand Theft Auto game but prefer a more sedate pace. If you haven’t played a Grand Theft Auto game, the controls don’t take long to master thanks to extensive tutorials showing you the ropes (literally, given how often you’ll wrangle up some cattle or horses).
Set during the decline of the American Frontier in 1911, a relatively untapped period of history for gaming, Red Dead feels fresher than most games. While you can keenly follow the storyline, there are still plenty of opportunities to simply wander and side quests to help you feel free to do whatever you want.
Ever played Doom or Call of Duty? BioShock is a little like that but with a fantastic story built around it. Even if you haven’t played a first person shooter before, you’ll soon learn what they’re all about as you negotiate an underwater world from a first person perspective. Shooting at enemies is a big part of BioShock, but so is uncovering its dark and unpleasant secrets.
Many games rely on you collecting seemingly random items to extend their longevity and make you feel you’re accomplishing something. BioShock has these collectibles in the form of audio recordings, teaching you more about the city of Rapture and encouraging you to be fascinated and enticed by what’s going on. You’ll never hear Beyond the Sea in the same way again, either.
7. ‘L.A. NOIRE’
L.A. Noire is a deeply flawed detective game, offering a similar experience to Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto. It offers some great ideas but doesn’t always succeed in its implementation. It’s here for these purposes, however, because it oozes a Mad Men style classiness. Not least because you’re playing as Ken Cosgrove from the show, or at least someone that looks and sounds a lot like him.
Look more closely while playing and you’ll notice a number of Mad Men inspired cameos, including Pete Campbell and Peggy Olsen, though there’s no sign of Don Draper. While some shootouts and car chases are a little tricky for novices, detecting lies during interrogations and spotting clues amongst murder scenes keeps the detective facade going.
You’ve probably played a Mario game at some point so you know what to expect from those kinds of games—jumping around until you reach the end, right? Braid is like that but it’s also really not. At its simplest, you’re trying to rescue a Princess from a monster, but there’s so much more to it than that, with an intriguing metaphor for addiction.
Manipulating time in order to solve puzzles and collect jigsaw pieces is a big part of it, but also the story is far more complex than it initially seems. As an introduction to just how weird and thought provoking some indie games can get, Braid is flawless.
5. ‘SPEC OPS: THE LINE’
Third person shooters, as the term suggests, have you controlling a character from just behind them, typically from over their shoulder. It’s a commonly used genre with the testosterone fuelled Gears of War the most obvious example and one you’ve probably seen advertised. Spec-Ops: The Line is the superior offering when it comes to a storyline, though.
Set among the worst dust storms ever recorded in Dubai, it tells the story of a decorated soldier who’s troubled by post-traumatic stress disorder. As things unfold, you and your team gradually lose sanity, reflected through the violent acts you commit. Four endings are available to choose from, each demonstrating equally bleak results of the evils of war and the difficulties surrounding untreated mental illness.
4. ‘THE WALKING DEAD’
Essentially an interactive graphic novel, The Walking Dead is perfect for those who want to make huge decisions without having to rely upon fast reactions when playing.
The game takes a different path from the show. You play a convicted murderer, Lee Everett, as he forms an unlikely bond with a young girl called Clementine. It’s the kind of thing that soon has you questioning your morals as well as how you react to people. While Lee is a mostly good hearted individual, the decisions become increasingly tough to make. It’s not a particularly difficult experience but it’s one that’ll stick in your mind, thanks to its powerful storytelling.
3. ‘HEAVY RAIN’
Heavy Rain was much maligned upon its initial release in 2010. There’s a good reason for that—it’s heavily flawed, but also wonderful. Playing out like a David Fincher movie, action is split between four playable characters, each embroiled in the case of the Origami Killer—a serial killer who drowns his victims with rain water.
Each character can die, bringing their involvement in the case to an abrupt end, but the story doesn’t end there. Instead, it opens up to provide numerous different endings. Despite those multiple endings, Heavy Rain never quite feels the same after completing it once, but it’s compelling that once.
2. ‘BROKEN SWORD: THE SHADOW OF THE TEMPLARS’
If you liked The Da Vinci Code back when it was relevant, you’ll enjoy Broken Sword. It’s a very similar storyline, full of intrigue and shadowy sects. More importantly, it teaches you how to solve puzzles, as well as understand how sometimes game solutions can be illogical.
It’s known as a point-and-click adventure, with you viewing scenery and tapping on interactive objects. At times, you’ll be combining items too in order to get past obstacles. It’s dependent on your brain rather than your reactions. Broken Sword is one of the finest examples thanks to its thrilling yet humorous storyline.
1. ‘THE LAST OF US’
The Last of Us has been widely regarded as one of the best games in recent years, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s not, however, great for those new to gaming.
You play Joel, a man attempting to escort a young girl named Ellie, across a post-apocalyptic United States. It’s as bleak as it sounds with its opening sequence as memorable as any iconic scene in a movie. It’s a tough game though, and you’re going to need your wits about you as you fend off multiple zombie-like creatures in a bid to simply survive.
Jennifer Allen is a freelance writer based in not-so-sunny Wales. She’s been gaming for over 20 years and cites Final Fantasy VII and Goldeneye as “life-changing.” Jennifer has written for outlets such as GamePro.com, G4TV.com, and PasteMagazine.com. In her free time, she pretends she knows what she’s doing at the gym.
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