10 best story-rich video games of the 2010s (one for each year)

Since video games are a relatively new form of media, they didn’t need to focus heavily on their story to bring in players at the time of inception. In the 80s, when the hype for arcade games was rising, pleasing, engaging gameplay was enough to keep people enthralled for hours on end.

Only in the last two decades has the story become an essential aspect of titles, falling into one parameter with which they are now judged. Gone are the times when an Italian carpenter could try to rescue a city’s mayor from a giant brown ape without any explanation.

Audiences nowadays demand a cohesive story from video games, with a compelling narrative and character development from its cast.

In the last decade, starting from the 2010s, many such releases have delivered a great video game experience, rife with a great story and interesting characters.

Note: This article reflects the writer’s opinions.

Ten video games from the 2010s with the best story experience

1) Heavy Rain – 2010


An interactive drama, action-adventure video game, Heavy Rain falls into the thriller mystery genre of storytelling. Developed by Quantic Dream and published by Sony, it was released on February 23, 2010, for the PS3 and PS4 in 2016.

The events of this title revolved around a serial murderer known as the Origami Killer in the urban setting of a city inspired by real-life Philadelphia.

Players get to take on the role of four different characters throughout the narrative as the story unfolds and tasks them with playing out different scenarios. Each character can find additional clues and hints which can lead them to deduce the identity of the Origami Killer.

One playable character is Ethan Mars, a single father whose son has been kidnapped by the killer. The second is Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler investigating the death of another victim of the killer.

The third character is Madison Paige, an investigative reporter who wishes to find out more about the killer. Finally comes Scott Shelby, a PI looking into the killer as well.

Aside from some excellent storytelling, audiences will not be ready for the final reveal at the end of this video game, especially if they have not been paying attention.

2) Portal 2 – 2011


Developed and published by Valve, Portal 2 continues the story from the first video game, which sees Chell take on the evil AI GLaDOS and defeat her. This sequel was released on April 18, 2011, which saw Chell again being awakened from cryosleep to try and attempt to escape the crumbling Aperture Science Facility.

While the title initially seems like a rehash of the previous one, with GLaDOS being awakened once more and taking on the role of the primary antagonist, things soon head into unseen territory. This happens when the AI ​​personality core, Wheatly, who had been guiding Chell so far in the game, gets plugged into the main control as a replacement to GLaDOS and immediately becomes corrupted with power. Like mere seconds after he’s been jacked into it.

Thus follows an unlikely alliance between bitter enemies Chell and GLaDOS and some highly unforeseen character development for the once villain of the series. Ellen McLain returns to voice GLaDOS with a stellar performance, along with Stephen Merchant playing Wheatly, first as the bumbling sidekick and later as the megalomaniacal villain.

3) Mass Effect 3 – 2012


Mass Effect 3 saw the final chapter of the famous trilogy and brought the story of Commander Shepard and the Normandy Fleet to a close. Developed by BioWare, this sci-fi epic space adventure of a video game was released on March 6, 2012, for Windows, PS3 & Xbox 360.

With the alien threat of the Reapers now imminent upon the galaxy, Shepard and his team travel to various locations across the star system to try and fight their forces and assist their allies. Like in previous titles in the franchises, users visit different planets and play out various story scenarios, the outcome of which affects the final battle.

Taking place on Earth, this last offensive leads to Shepard having a final confrontation with the Reapers directly, who offers one of three choices (if specific criteria are met) with which to end the story. While none of these endings give fans enough closure, a new Mass Effect video game, which is currently in development, just might.

4) The Last of Us – 2013


Developed by Naughty Dog, The Last of Us is an action-adventure title released on June 14, 2013, exclusively for the PS3. Set in a world overrun with zombies infected with a fungal pathogen, this video game tells the story of Joel and Ellie as they travel across the US.

At the very start, it is shown that Joel ends up losing his daughter at the beginning of this infecting plague. After a few years, when humanity now exists in small pockets around the land, he works as a smuggler tasked with transporting a young orphaned girl called Ellie to a group of researchers.

While not starting on the best of terms, as the story progresses, Joel and Ellie become close, with him seeing her as a daughter. However, by the end of the title, he has to make some very tough decisions, which ultimately see his life undone in the sequel.

Filled with some of the best motion capture and voice acting in video games history, Troy Baker as Joel and Ashley Johnson and Ellie have been nominated for many awards for their performances.

5) Alien: Isolation – 2014


Possibly one of the best titles, which resulted from an adaptation of a movie, Alien: Isolation was developed by Creative Assembly and published by SEGA. This survival horror video game was released on October 7, 2014, for Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Telling an original story, the events of this title take place after the original Alien movie, from which it has been inspired. In an adjacent setting, the daughter of Ellen Ripley (the protagonist from the films), Amanda Ripley, goes out in search of her mother to the large space station Sevastopol, which had recovered the flight recorder from her mother’s spaceship.

Once inside this station, things go out of hand as a fully-formed Xenomorph appears and is identified as the prime cause for why most people aboard the vessel were dead.

Amanda must try her best to survive and find a way out of the station, as gamers get to navigate corridors and large open areas while the alien prowls nearby.

6) Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom – 2015


The final video game in terms of the story of an operative named ‘Snake’ in the Metal Gear series, The Phantom was developed by Kojima Productions and published by Konami. Set after the events of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, players take on the role of Venom Snake as leader of the Diamond Dogs mercenary group.

Released on September 1, 2015, this open-world stealth title, Venom Snake becomes embroiled in the civil conflicts of the Soviet-Afghan War and the Angolan people. His larger mission is to locate the secret organization known as Cipher, which had previously sent assassins to kill him.

While dealing with lots of action and original story beats, this video game also does much to set up the subsequent events in this universe, which chronologically take place in the original Metal Gear. This includes the escape of Liquid Snake near the end, the division between Venom Snake and Big Boss, and Solid Snake’s introduction.

7) Quantum Break – 2016


From Remedy Entertainment comes this sci-fi action-adventure video game that tells an original story, boasts a star-studded cast, and a live-action companion web series to boot. Quantum Break was released on April 5, 2016, for the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.

Focusing on time travel, protagonist Jack Joyce is granted time manipulation powers after an experiment involving a time machine goes awry. His fellow scientist Paul Serene also obtains these abilities, albeit with the additional capability to see forward into time, which he uses to make the right decisions in the present, which will turn situations in his favor.

Ultimately, Joyce and Serene come to a head amidst the impending collapse of the time-space continuum. Actors Shawn Ashmore and Aiden Gillen play Jack and Paul, while Lance Reddick also has a supporting role in this video game.

8) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – 2017


Developed and published by Ninja Theory, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was an action-adventure video game initially released on August 8, 2017, for the PS4 and Windows PCs. Set in a fictional fantasy world, it sees the protagonist Senua take on a journey to the Norse underworld to bring back her dead lover.

A Pict Warrior in the 8th Century, Senua arrives at the border of Helheim at the beginning of the title and comes into conflict with deities of Norse and Celtic Mythology. Senua’s goal is to kill Hela, ruler of Helheim, and retrieve the soul of her dead lover Dillion from her.

The game depicts Senua inflicted with a curse, wherein she hears voices in her head, which is meant to represent the symptoms of the psychosis she suffers from. This game aspect was highly praised due to its unique representation and realistic take.

Its story and direction were also applauded as a work of art, with a sequel titled Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 in development.

9) Red Dead Redemption 2 – 2018


Red Dead Redemption 2 was a prequel to the original Red Dead Redemption video game, which narrated the story of John Marston’s old crew, the Van der Linde gang.

Developed by Rockstar Games, this video game masterpiece was originally released on October 26, 2018, for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and Windows and Stadia a year later.

Set across five fictional states in the Wild West of the US, this title’s story revolved around the protagonist Arthur Morgan. He as a likable character, eager to please the leader of the gang, Dutch van der Linde, who is somewhat like a father figure to starts him.

However, as the plot progresses, Arthur must start thinking for himself, as Dutch becomes increasingly unhinged, and finally decide where his loyalties lie.

Users can play Arthur any way they choose, as an honorless mercenary or an honorable wild west gunslinger like in the old movies. If taken the latter route, he has one of the best arcs of a character in video game history, with voice actor Roger Clarke getting his due diligence as he was nominated for various accolades for his performance.

10) A Plague Tale: Innocence – 2019


This action-adventure stealth title was developed by Asobo Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive, released on May 14, 2019. A Plague Tale: Innocence is a fictional historical story set during the war between England and France and takes place in Aquitaine, France , in the year 1348.

This video game follows the story of two siblings, Amicia de Rune and her brother Hugo, whose family home was attacked by soldiers of the French inquisition with orders to capture the little boy. With their father killed and mother captured, the siblings escape and go on the run, which leads them to various places and people from whom they learn more about why Hugo is wanted.

It is revealed that Hugo possesses the Prima Macula in his blood, which gives him the power to control the rats spreading a plague across the lands. The Grand Inquisitor, Vitalis Benevent, seeks to harness this power to use it to control France under his rule.

The siblings must then choose to find a way to stop Vitalis and be free or to stay on the run their entire lives.

Note: This article is subjective and reflects the author’s opinion.

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