For all the brouhaha generated over graphics and music, a video game is only as immersive as the story-telling it uses to draw players in. It’s the story that introduces us to the world and its characters while taking us on grand adventures. 2016 was full of interesting stories and memorable characters but which one stood out the most? Let’s look at the nominees for best story of 2016.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Nathan Drake’s last hurrah ended up being much more than his swan song. From the reappearance and bond with his brother Sam to life after marriage, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End explored the many complexities of a more mature Nathan Drake. The epilogue showcasing Drake’s transition into a life of adventure and family is a comforting resolution for one of gaming’s more iconic adventurers.
The mixed reception to Mafia 3‘s gameplay and open world couldn’t overcome the praise for its story. A tale of revenge centered on one Lincoln Clay served as the back-drop to depict racism in the late 1960’s. Clay’s personal arc of vengeance transitioned to becoming the monster he sought to destroy and despite its repetitive side-missions, Mafia 3‘s core story delivered.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Excuse the clichés for a second and take in the humanity that is Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s story. This isn’t a tale of patriotism as much as survival and optimism. Infinite Warfare’s campaign may be predictable – kill “insert main villain’s name here” – but its characters and the freshness with which it approaches key plot points is worth noting.
Playdead is no stranger to hype and mystery – after all, it had a lot to live up to after Limbo. Inside may not be as game-changing but its presentation, story and atmosphere deserve so much more recognition. Who are you and are you really in control? Are we all simply driven by another’s imperative? In as few words as possible, Inside told an incredibly compelling tale.
Otus is a pacifist but far from a coward. So when sky pirates suddenly attack his village and kidnap his friends, it’s up to Otus to rescue them. Otus’s journey through the world of Owlboy is one of attention and care, balancing animated fantasy with retro-goodness. Even if Owlboy stole a dozen or so hours of your time, Otus’s story and the turns he endured would stay with you.
Gears of War 4
How do you expand on a universe while staying faithful to its roots, marching towards the future yet remembering the past? Gears of War 4 showed us how, delivering JD Fenix as a natural hero to root for while still presenting a world in peril. Despite the insistence on simply throwing the player from one way-point to another and reusing enemy factions, Gears of War 4‘s themes of family reinforced with a long overdue sense of horror made for one of the more enjoyable stories of 2016.
During Mafia 3‘s ending, it comes time to decide who you really are. This isn’t in the “good and bad” sense either – the sum of your actions effectively comes back to haunt you – but it’s amazing how many times Mafia 3 poses that question. The arc of revenge and overwhelming anger felt by Clay is tragic and self-destructive as much as it is progressive. If Mafia 3 held up a mirror to the disgusting traits of humanity in the late 60’s, then it also served as a window into the deepest darkest depths of a man’s soul.
Note: GamingBolt’s Game of the Year categories, nominations and awards are selected via an internal nomination, voting and debate process. You can check the rest of categories and the respective winners here.