Video games with stories as enjoyable as Bioshock: Infinite?
April 29, 2017 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm realizing that I tend to buy games and never play them, especially RPG's, because I'm looking for something in particular that I'm not finding often. More inside.

I realize some might be inclined to roast me for the premise here, because Bioshock:Infinite isn't a universally beloved game, but it's the last game I played that I really enjoyed that wasn't something quick (party games like Overcooked, or VR - I have a Vive.)

Things I liked about Bioshock, realizing all of these might not be in another game:

- the way it unfolded slowly, leading to a grand conclusion
- the mystery
- the political overtone
- the creepy feeling, without going all out into horror

Another game I recently enjoyed was The Talos Principle.

I find myself buying a lot of games hoping for a great story and kind of giving up quickly. An example would be the latest Witcher game and Fallout 4. I'm feeling very over 50+ hour games that mostly involve walking around a map and trying to collect every experience.

Hopefully this is enough info to get recommendations.

I have access to a ps4, a PC, and a Vive.
posted by imabanana to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
This is a completely different genre of story—straight-up action/adventure rather than creepily political—but the Uncharted games have fantastic narratives combined with top-notch voice acting and animations (including facial expressions). Seriously, it will ruin cut scenes in other games for you.

I'm playing Horizon Zero Dawn right now, and it's very much the kind of game you say you're "very over."

By the way, I also loved Bioshock: Infinite, for the same reasons you described.
posted by dondiego87 at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I suggest all the assassin's creed games.
posted by saradarlin at 2:25 PM on April 29, 2017

All the Bioshock and Assassin Creeds rock. Unfortunately they are few and far between.
posted by jtexman1 at 2:31 PM on April 29, 2017

I think what you want is an FPS with straightforward level design and a story. So I'm going to suggest Dishonored. The first one is better if you haven't played it, but both are very good. Also the Deus Ex games; the new Mankind Divided is excellent.
posted by Nelson at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

The Tomb Raider reboot that came out a few years back may fit your bill. It's one of the few games I've finished recently. Good storyline, nowhere near 50 hrs to complete, even if you do all of the optional side-temples. I really dug it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:48 PM on April 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Last of Us might suit you. Not so much a mystery as a will they make it vibe. But linear, pretty heavily story & character driven, with what you'd call some politics of a sort in the way the way what government is left is working and different factions etc, creepy as hell. Nothing has scared me more than trying to sneak past a clicker. I hate horror games but this was scary enough without being too horrific.

Horizon Zero Dawn has a great story & mystery to it, but there is a whole bunch of the stuff you're over in it too. It is possible to completely ignore all that & just do the storyline though if you like, hell they don't even tell you about a lot of the quests you have to just stumble upon most of them. Some of the collectibles are fun (viewpoints & the dolls) as they give you glimpses of someone elses story at 2 different points in history (at the time of the apocalypse and of a society after the fall) but some are stupid & easily ignored (why am I collecting coffee cups?).

The story mystery is very good & I found it very absorbing. Also things like the mystery of what are Cauldrons, the old bases you find, exploring ruins etc is fun. Creepy & suspenseful in places & smart combat you have to think about. It might be worth you getting when it's on sale for the storyline part.
posted by wwax at 2:51 PM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Borderlands 2, if you ignore the side quests? Especially if you play through the main story and then Dragon Keep, yeah, it builds to something worth building to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

surely you have played portal and portal 2???

I found portal 2 to be a better designed game, and it's fine to play that one first, storywise
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have you played the Dishonored games? They have wonderfully creepy atmosphere and a complex world. The first game, IMHO, has a better storyline than the second (but everything else about the second is fantastic).

The games definitely check off creepy and political overtone. As they are quite long games, the plot will unfold slowly by design.

They can be played as linear games, but each level is a sandbox that can be approached many different ways. You can play as more a combat game, or pure stealth, or a combo.

PS if you enjoy the first game, definitely play the game's story DLC. It's really good.

I think what you want is an FPS with straightforward level design and a story. So I'm going to suggest Dishonored.

Just in the interest of representing the games fairly; the level design is not straightforward in the way that Bioshock Infinite has. It's much less linear. Also, the games are not really shooters per say... there's some shooting, some melee combat, some magic, some stealth.
posted by selfnoise at 3:09 PM on April 29, 2017

I'm gonna go a bit old school. The original Deus Ex is great. Grab it on steam, patch it up, and enjoy.
posted by isauteikisa at 3:10 PM on April 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Enslaved is a game that did not get nearly as much praise and attention as it deserved, but when I played it earlier this year it was my favourite story-driven fighter/shooter game since the Bioshock era. It unfolds similarly (and even has a male-female protagonist pair like BI).

It's on an Indiegala bundle at the moment: Definitely worth it for that price.

You might want to check out the new Prey when it comes out as well. Comparisons to the Bioshock series are already being made.
posted by hiteleven at 3:21 PM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

My all-time favourite videogame story, which also happens to check a lot of your explicit boxes and almost none of your implied wants, is Kentucky Route Zero. It's a profoundly weird game, with an unusual main mechanics, about an antique deliveryman and a hidden, spectral highway. The story is both significantly out of your control (the characters do what they like) and significantly in your control (you decide the backstories, and in one magical section of Act III, you control an entire scene like a conductor).

You may also like, in order from 'least weird' to 'most weird':

-Assassin's Creed II trilogy: II, Brotherhood, Revelations
-Far Cry 2 and 3
-Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
-Deus Ex (old, new, whatever)
-Spec Ops: The Line (warning: intensely depressing)
-Bastion and/or Transistor
-Portal 1 and 2

If you're willing to give another RPG a shot, try Knights of the Old Republic II with a patch (it's an old game whose production was very rushed). If that worked for you, try KOTOR I with a patch.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:45 PM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bioshock Infinite is one of my favorite games, eclipsed only by the Last of Us. That game feels much more intimate than Infinite, which is very focused on the relationship between the main characters, though both games have very solid world building. Both games are very on-rails; while there are opportunities to drift off for awhile to get an extra item or learn about a side story, those opportunities are definitely diversions off the main path and you have to reroute pretty quickly. Troy Baker plays both main characters, and Elizabeth/Ellie are both good companions. Last of Us has some very stressful and scary moments, more than Infinite, and is overall darker in tone. Last of Us is my absolute favorite game. Highly recommend.

The Uncharted series, the other Naughty Dog series, is also very good. Much more light-hearted in tone.
posted by lilac girl at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

SOMA had an incredibly good atmosphere, story, and ending. (It's creepy, evolves slowly, very story based).
posted by so fucking future at 3:54 PM on April 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Life is Strange?
posted by Diagonalize at 4:05 PM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I came here to say SOMA. I cannot recommend that game enough. It's more horror than Bioshock Infinite, but the story is incredible. I don't think I've ever been moved more by a video game.

I'm not sure if you're into more "graphic novel + puzzles" games, but the Zero Escape trilogy has a phenomenal story. They are 999, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma. Do yourself a favor and avoid any story spoilers at all costs.

The Wolf Among Us has a gripping story.

I'm also going to second Spec Ops: The Line, Portal 1 and 2, The Last of Us, and Life is Strange.
posted by blackzinfandel at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

- Nthing Dishonored
- Dreamfall Chapters
- MURDERED: Soul Suspect
- The Wolf Among Us
- Bastion
- Transistor
- The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
- Remember Me
- The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
posted by brook horse at 8:35 PM on April 29, 2017

I may be off base here, not being a huge gamer and having never played Bioshock:Infinite, but I'm going to go old school as well and recommend Eternal Darkness. You need a Gamecube or a Wii though, but a Gamecube will cost you less than the game.
posted by bongo_x at 9:33 PM on April 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Kind of surprised no one's mentioned Gone Home. It's not quite as sweeping in scope as some of these other titles, but it heavily story-driven and mildly creepy in atmosphere while ending in a place that's emotionally powerful. It's also got a pretty dark backstory if you're really fanatical about hunting down all the clues.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:14 PM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Some older games that might fit the bill. Are you a graphics snob? I am, but I loved these games anyway.

Beyond Good & Evil. Fun surface, but some interesting political stuff hiding underneath. Some unusual mechanics (e.g. one of the things you do is take pictures. If that doesn't sound hard, the tricky bit is doing it within combat).

Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. On the minus side: wonky combat and some bugs (though there is a mod that fixes them all). But the story and atmosphere are so unusual that its sins are easily forgiven. Spoiler: you are a vampire.
posted by zompist at 11:03 PM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would Nth the Assassin's Creed II games, Dishonored, Beyond Good & Evil, Life is Strange, the Tomb Raider reboot, Deus Ex (original or Human Revolution) and Gone Home. Those are some of my all-time favorite games and I'd recommend them to anybody, but they seem especially in tune with what you're asking for.

I would warn that Assassin's Creed II does give you the opportunity to wander the map doing sidequests, but it's pretty easy to bypass them if you aren't interested, and it doesn't have the sidequest bloat that seems to have creeped into later games in the series. I would skip Assassin's Creed I-- my first AC game was II, and I was able to catch up pretty quickly.

In addition to all those, I would add for your possible consideration:

• Her Story. Really fun mystery game with a unique gameplay mechanic. It's possibly the least linear game I've ever played, but it somehow manages to provide the player with a steadily unfolding story and a very satisfying experience.

• LA Noire. A fantastic story, set in 1940s LA. Some film noir creepiness, and some political overtones. The primary gameplay mechanic involves watching character's body language and trying to figure out if they're lying to you. Understandably, this is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. I loved it, and I highly recommend giving it a try. If you end up liking the mechanic, I think this game will tick all your other boxes.

•  Virginia and Firewatch. They're different games from different studios, but I'm lumping them together because they're both short, linear indie games that lean more on story than on gameplay. Virginia is more surreal and his more political overtones. Firewatch is more naturalistic and has some of the most convincing dialogue I've ever heard in a video game. Both have endings that left me a little cold, but I still felt both were worthwhile experiences.

• Alan Wake. Has an unfolding mystery and a clear, linear path. Although it is presented as a horror game, it's more on the creepy side of horror rather than relentless shock or gross out.

• Call of Juarez Gunslinger. It's not creepy or political, but it's a fun linear game, and it had just enough unfolding story to keep me entertained over the 8 hours it took me to finish it.
posted by yankeefog at 2:54 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding bloodlines, and there's a unofficial patch that neatly cleans up the (many) bugs that were there on release.
posted by faustian slip at 3:51 AM on April 30, 2017

(Another Infinite/Talos fan here. I was really looking forward to this thread, but seems most recommendations that caught my eye here resulted in an "X is already in your Steam library" when I went to add them to my Steam wishlist, so might not be a lack of games that's kept me from playing lately (*) :-)

(Life Is Strange Episode 1 is free on steam at the moment, btw.)

(*) Kid says I should get a 1080 and an RGB mouse pad, that'll fix everything.)
posted by effbot at 4:14 AM on April 30, 2017

I'm gonna go a bit old school. The original Deus Ex is great. Grab it on steam, patch it up, and enjoy.

I'd suggest the new ones, actually, I don't think the original has aged particularly well though it's been canonised as gaming goodness.

Mass Effect 2 is excellent. As is Witcher 3. You don't need to have played the earlier ones in the series.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:34 AM on April 30, 2017

Prey is coming out in 6 days and some ex Bioshock designers worked on it. There's a free demo out for consoles so you can try the first hour. It reminds me very much of Bioshock, it's an obvious spiritual successor.
posted by mattholomew at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2017

I was going to rave about the Uncharted series, but that's already been done, so I'll go really old school and say Under A Killing Moon. It's from the mid-90s, so is a bit cheesy, but has the voice of James Earl Jones (!) and a good story. It's available on GOG, so is playable on modern Windows.

The Metal Gear Solid games are also heavily story driven, even 5, though that one drops most of the cutscenes in favor of audio tapes you can listen to at your leisure instead. 2 and 3 are actually a biting commentary on gamers and gaming more than anything else.
posted by wierdo at 7:40 AM on April 30, 2017

Bioshock Infinite is among my favorite games. Definitely give The Last of Us a try. It might be missing the political overtone, but the story is amazing. It unfolds slowly and leads to a very emotionally powerful ending. The actor who voiced Booker also voiced Joel, the co-main character in TLOU.

Dishonored is a fun game with a well-drawn world (lots of political shenanigans) and a satisfying ending. It can also be played with several different styles--all stealth, lots of magic, no killing, all killing, all guns no magic, etc--which adds a lot of replayability.

Of course, you should give the first two Bioshock games a go...

I love the Dragon Age games, which might be a little more fetchy-fetch than you'd like, but the first one especially has loads of politics and a very grand and satisfying ending, and the world setting is one of my favorites. With the third one, we're starting to see the whole underlying arc of the series come to fruition, which is exciting.
posted by lovecrafty at 10:51 AM on April 30, 2017

Check out Oxenfree (PS4 or PC, your choice)!
posted by destructive cactus at 10:49 PM on April 30, 2017

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