It’s unfortunate that some film buffs will miss out on some of the most exceptional stories there have ever been told, and that’s simply because they’re not gamers. Not all video games are battle royales and annual sports releases, but instead are vessels for some of the most jaw-dropping mysteries that exist.
Though it’s still more of an exception than the norm, in the case of some games, the gameplay serves the narrative instead of it being the other way around, and that’s what transforms a game from a fun shoot ’em-up to a fictional masterpiece. From Indiana Jones-influenced globetrotting adventures to terrifying psychological horror thrillers, these video games give most movies’ narratives a run for their money.
10 Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)
The Uncharted series wears its influences on its sleeve, and the games most likely wouldn’t exist if it was for the Indiana Jones movie series. The stories in the games are so thoroughly researched and have arguably surpassed the historical fantasies of the Indy movies.
Drake’s Deception might not be the most beloved game in the series—that crown belongs to Among Thieves or A Thief’s End—but it has the best narrative by far. The video game is all about Nathan Drake trying to find Iram of the Pillars, the lost city that T.S. Elliot, A.K.A. Lawrence of Arabia, spoke about at length. A movie adaptation of the video game is being released next year, but the plot is currently unknown, and Drake’s Deception would be the best source material to base the movie on.
9 Bioshock: Infinite (2013)
Being based in the fantasy city in the sky, Columbia, the narrative of Bioshock: Infinite is as close to impossible to summarize as it gets. It follows Booker, a private detective who is sent to Columbia to find a missing girl. But, what that leads to is psychotic cults, parallel universes, and one of the most depressing video game endings ever. The game uses its format to its advantage because, if there’s any video game that’s unfilmable, it’s Bioshock: Infinite.
It isn’t just Infinite, but the first Bioshock game was an incredible and mysterious horror/thriller too. It has a skewed, disturbing tone, the Big Daddies are terrifying, and the late-game plot twist is jaw-dropping.
8 Red Dead Redemption (2010)
There were dozens of westerns released every year in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and it was almost as if they came off a conveyor belt. Screenwriters would turn out tons of screenplays much quicker than they work today. However, there were special exceptions where the genre would really excel with epic movies such as director Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West.
It’s those movies that the monumental Red Dead Redemption takes influence from. Though it has classic themes of revenge and excessively plays into the genre’s tropes, Red Dead Redemption is a western on a massive scale. Not only is the game better than most western movies, but the sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2, is just as good, beating out any western movie that gets released these days.
7 Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Psychological horror movies have been massively influenced by Silent Hill 2. The game has a familiar narrative of monsters manifesting from the protagonist’s consciousness, and they are allegories for something much deeper. Out of all the psychological horror movies with unstable protagonists, the video game is better than all of them. The second installment also has the very first appearance of Pyramid Head, one of the most feared villains in video games.
Unfortunately, the movie adaptations were overwhelmingly negatively received by fans and critics. However, in a way, that’s a testament to how great the games are and to how video games can tell stories in ways which movies simply can’t.
6 Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020)
There’s so much Spider-Man material out there that it’s amazing that fans still don’t feel fatigued by the character yet. The eighth blockbuster movie featuring the MCU hero, No Way Home, is being released this year, and the trailer for the upcoming video game Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 recently debuted.
Miles Morales’ profile gained a ton of attention in 2018 with the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but the Marvel’s Spider-Man spin-off more accurately depicted the character. Spider-Man: Miles Morales showed the character’s upbringing, and it featured a narrative more gripping than any Spider-Man movie—or almost any other superhero movie, for that matter. The video game is a perfect example of why Sony should make a Miles Morales Spider-Man movie.
5 The Half-Life Series
Few other games have been as thoroughly researched as the Half-Life series. The main story is about a scientist named Gordon Freeman who must escape a research lab that’s invaded by aliens, but that only scratches the surface of what makes the series so perfect.
In the series, there’s so much history to every location and every seemingly insignificant prop that it could fill a dozen books. There’s a ton of backstory to even the minor characters and the competition between two rival scientific research organizations, Aperture Science and Black Mesa. The mystery about the missing Icebreaker, the Borealis, still hasn’t been answered, and fans likely won’t be receiving answers anytime soon.
4 Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
The Grand Theft Auto series is appealing for its satire of the American dream and parodies of real-life people, along with its open-world sandbox gameplay. But, below the surface-level appeal, Rockstar has always taken pride in its storytelling when it comes to the notorious series.
The best of all of them was the surprisingly realistic depiction of Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic, who genuinely wanted to escape a life of crime. It parallels all of the best crime movies, but what it does best is portray the fact that Niko doesn’t have a choice in most of his actions. Where Hollywood movies can be guilty of glamorizing the violence, GTA IV is the grittiest and dirtiest narrative in the series, and it has some of Grand Theft Auto’s best villains.
3 Tomb Raider (2013)
The Tomb Raider games had never really had any kind of deep story quintessential to the series’ gameplay. It was always a case of simply racing against groups of mercenaries to find an artifact that could end the world. But, 2013’s Tomb Raider completely rebooted the series in a way that even influenced the direction of the movie adaptations.
Partially thanks to the success of Uncharted, Tomb Raider took that storytelling even further and grounded Lara in a more realistic setting. It showed that she learned to defend herself after being assaulted, and it added some emotional weight to her backstory.
2 Shadow Of The Colossus (2005)
Shadow of the Colossus tells the story in a way that all the best movies do, with subtlety instead of enormous amounts of exposition. Instead of characters rambling through endless lines of dialogue to explain what’s going on, Shadow of the Colossus is in no rush to do anything of the sort. It’s what Colossus doesn’t tell players that makes it so provoking.
The game follows Wander, who carries an unconscious woman into a beautiful but forbidden land. He is ordered by a mysterious spirit to kill the many beasts who roam around the land protecting it. Though it isn’t as interactive or outrageous as the likes of GTA, Shadow of the Colossus has one of the best open-world environments, and it’s because of the mystery that surrounds it.
1 Far Cry 3 (2012)
The reason that Far Cry 3 has a better narrative than most movies is simply down to the antagonist, Vaas. The character is up there with Darth Vader and the Joker as one of the most iconic villains of all time. Vaas has a lot in common with the Joker, in particular, as he wants to see the world burn more than anything.
The game sees the playable character Jason attempt to rescue his friends from a group of pirates on the fictional Rook islands. It’s almost like a mix between the theatrical elements of The Pirates of the Caribbean and the intense realness of Captain Phillips. Considering there are so few modern-day pirate movies, the third Far Cry game could inspire some incredible films.
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