Immersive, story-based games
November 15, 2012 7:50 PM   Subscribe

OMIGOD I just played "Dear Esther" for the first time. This is the absolute sweet spot for me for gaming/interactive fiction. Please help me find more.

(I'm only about one hour into Dear Esther, so please, no spoilers.)

This game pushes all of my buttons: heavy on the atmosphere and storytelling, there are secrets to be revealed, there is some really smart and literate writing going on, there is some beautiful and atmospheric music. I absolutely adore it.

It has a lot in common with games that I have loved in the past: Braid, Bastion, Fallout, Bioshock, IF games like Blue Lacuna and To The Moon. Great story, a little bit of mystery. Intelligent and ambient.

So, what other games should I explore next? In a FPP earlier today about Glitch, people were saying that part of the problem with that game was that it wasn't enough of a game ... I don't care about that. I don't care if it's an on-rails experience, or if I'm led through in some very obvious way. I care about the story and the experience, which is where "Dear Esther" is hitting all of the right notes. Are there other things out there that I might adore?
posted by jbickers to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 150 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutly play Gravity Bone and the sequel Thirty Flights of Loving.
posted by hellojed at 7:52 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're up for being terrified: Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Best experienced in the dark with headphones on.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:55 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Myst series?
posted by littlesq at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Stanley Parable is another HL2 mod that's fantastic, with a lovely narrator.

Psychonauts has good writing, awesome visuals, and tons of secrets and little things to notice. Also fun voice acting.

Longest Journey is an adventure game with a great main character and awesome atmosphere, and you can use a guide to get past any of the weird puzzles that get in the way of exploring the world.

On the off chance: Portal and Portal 2
posted by drethelin at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is fairly old, but if you're into fantasy storytelling, King of Dragon Pass is second to none (it's also available on iOS, if you'd prefer). Here's a Let's Play thread to give you an idea.

If you check it out, my advice to you is: read the manual and roleplay. To succeed, you actually have to think like a magic Viking rather than a presumably enlightened 21st century from a modern, liberal society.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:26 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have to go with Portal 2. It tells a very engaging, interesting story through the environment. It's beautiful, hilarious, intelligent, perfectly paced.
posted by Tevin at 8:49 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Parts of Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas pushed my explore, unravel mysterys and discover secrets buttons, but there's a lot of running around and shooting stuff in between so if you're not so up for that turn the dificulty to it's easiest setting and make a point of looking for notes and reading every computer terminal.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:56 PM on November 15, 2012

The Path

Many secrets, very atmospheric, a bit glitchy, and wonderful.
posted by DeltaForce at 9:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Bastion is a great game, if you don't mind playing an action/rpg. It's set in a beautifully stylized post-apocalyptic world that seems to be a blend of fantasy and western elements.

But what really cinched the game for me, and what might be of interest to you, was the way the storyline was relayed to the player.

There is a narrator that is present through all of the levels you play through and as you move through different levels, discovering things, defeating enemies, etc, he narrates it as part of the ongoing story. So you literally get the story as you play it. He even comments on little things, like particular weapon combinations that you choose to equip, your playstyle, etc. There are also xp farming maps that run in stages and where you get backstory on a specific character, also narrated. The actor who plays the narrator (Logan Cunningham) did an amazing job in voicing the role.

Also, the OST, in particular the tracks with vocals, is downright haunting.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 9:20 PM on November 15, 2012

Just saw this today - keep your eye out for it.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:46 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heavy Rain if you have a ps3
posted by ljesse at 10:47 PM on November 15, 2012

Digital: A Love Story
posted by speicus at 10:58 PM on November 15, 2012

In my opinion, one of the most criminally under-appreciated games of the last decade is L.A. Noire. It's memorable for its flawed, interesting protagonist, its atmospheric recreation of 1940's Los Angeles, and the excellent facial animations. The facial animation not only conveys the emotions of the characters but is actually part of the game mechanics when interviewing/interrogating suspects. I loved the way the game is broken into individual cases that you investigate and (occasionally correctly) solve; each one is a story unto itself, and also serves to add details to the over-arching plot. I liked the fact that you could actually "solve" cases and not be entirely certain whether you convicted the right person; the game moves on either way. After completing each mission, you're able to replay it should you wish to try other outcomes, something I've been meaning to do since first completing the game. I'll likely just replay it entirely, because it was such a fantastic experience the first time.

If you want to check some reviews, here's the Metacritic page for L.A. Noire on the 360.

Also, an interesting (albeit spoiler-full, so beware) article on the game and its lead character was published at Medium Difficulty.
posted by EKStickland at 11:19 PM on November 15, 2012

Maybe Trauma?
posted by Yma at 11:44 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not out yet, but I reckon Gone Home will be right up your alley.
posted by juv3nal at 1:11 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

oh my bad it's the same thing OrangeDrink mentioned.
posted by juv3nal at 1:15 AM on November 16, 2012

I'll second Amnesia and The Path. Both great. Amnesia is really scary though. Like poop your pants scary. The Path is all atmosphere, similar to Myst. Not really a game per se but a strange, haunting world to run around in.
posted by elendil71 at 4:58 AM on November 16, 2012

Try Lone Survivor.
posted by dortmunder at 5:13 AM on November 16, 2012

Limbo is an atmospheric and unsettling platformer. Less puzzley than Braid, more reflex-and-execution.

I'll join the Amnesia chorus as a game that masters atmosphere--it stumbles in the third act, but up till then is wonderful. The same team's Penumbra games were earlier efforts, and you can see the DNA that would recombine into Amnesia later, but are much rougher and less assured all around.

I'll also back The Path recommendation.

Home is a decent entry as well, though IMO the art style choice does it no favors.
posted by Drastic at 5:15 AM on November 16, 2012

I'll add my vote to Trauma.

Also worth checking out is Analogue: A Hate Story (same author as Digital, Don't Take it Personally Babe...). Admittedly I haven't played it past the demo, but as I understand the game is centered around reading old private journal entries by members of two clans, and trying to piece together what happened between them on an empty spaceship.

Gone Home looks very neat, thanks OrangeDrink/juv3nal!
posted by Violence at 6:50 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Stanley was what lead me initially to discover Dear Esther. If you have a PS3, you may also enjoy Jouney. It has fairly different mechanics than Esther, and is more linear, but also has very rich atmospherics and good story telling (although the story telling is entirely visual).
posted by samsara at 7:15 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good call on Journey; I strongly second it. If PS3 platform is an option for you, the same developers' earlier title Flower is a good one too.
posted by Drastic at 8:43 AM on November 16, 2012

The Walking Dead games are doing some of the best interactive storytelling on PC. It's gore galore, but tremendously interesting. The game puts you into some serious moral dilemmas.
posted by GilloD at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2012

Resonance. Also I third Journey, never fails to make me cry
posted by raw sugar at 1:17 PM on November 17, 2012

Gabriel Knight, Sins of the Father.

Old but full of atmosphere.
posted by litleozy at 3:15 PM on November 21, 2012

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