The power of games comes not only from the fact that we can battle a bunch of bad guys using impossible fighting moves, solve brain-taxing puzzles as part of a globe-trotting adventure, or get behind the wheel and tear through the streets with reckless abandon - their power to engage and enrapture also comes from the stories that they tell and they way that they tell them. Our interactive medium allows for deeper immersion in tales both long and short, and in 2018 there was no shortage of great writing and storytelling. From epic yarns about the gods to a fantastical twist on the truth about lost property, the last twelve months have seen us take on some unforgettable adventures.
5. The Council / Big Bad Wolf
While we'll remember 2018 as the year Telltale Games went down with a bang, there were interesting developments elsewhere on the episodic scene. The Council took one step back (to bring back meaningful puzzles) and two steps forward with its fascinating historical setting, occult plot, and RPG-like systems for abilities (which influenced your actions and possible choices). It may have had some rough edges, but we forgive those on account of giving us something that felt truly different in a genre that has sadly lacked innovation in recent years.
What's more is the plot really kept us hooked. This titular council includes various famous figures from history, and right from the start when we're locked up for stealing a book, we get thrown into a plot that is incredibly grand in terms of its scale. Of course, the characters are part of the charm with The Council, and how you interact with these legendary figures determines how the story develops, akin to something like Life is Strange.
4. Forgotton Anne / ThroughLine Games
Could you imagine a reality where forgotten inanimate objects went to another world? That's the proposition that Forgotton Anne offers us, as this world of Forgotlings - as these lost items are called - gives them a life of their own. In this place, they can speak and live their lives together in peace. Or so it would seem. You play as Anne, a human and helper to the leader of this strange and characterful world, and when an uprising starts you're tasked with diving into the midst of things in order to get to the bottom of the rebellion.
It's never that simple though, and questions are soon raised about corruption and power, with your own moral compass taking you into the spotlight. You have the power to give and take away life from these Forgotlings with a device on your arm, but what is the right thing to do? This 2D platformer really delivers in terms of story, and the Studio Ghibli-inspired art certainly enhances the intriguing setting. With excellent writing brought to life by well-directed voice acting and exquisite visual design, ThroughLine Games' delivered one of the year's most memorable adventures.
3. Detroit: Become Human / Quantic Dream
We had high expectations for Quantic Dream's Detroit: Become Human, and for the most part, this choice-driven adventure about newly sentient androids offers something that's both unique and engaging. Detroit focuses almost completely on narrative yet it was made to the highest standards in terms of production values (things like facial animations, acting, and graphical fidelity). However, this was more than just a skin-deep experience, and we started to care for Kara, Marcus, and Connor, the three androids we guide through events. Throughout this three-pronged sci-fi adventure, we're given a fresh perspective on our own society - the whole thing is set in near-future Detroit, a city re-energised by the production of androids - that's not always entirely comfortable, and along the way, the game touches on themes of slavery, inequality, and the abuse of power.
Scenes are full of interesting decisions and events that can change the course of the story in both major and minor ways, and you can go back and dive into things again and explore different avenues once you've played through once. We also enjoyed how the various branches of the story intertwined in certain places and how important bits of the backstory came courtesy of newscasts or digital magazine articles. It's not perfect, and there are times when Quantic Dream falls into the old habit of mixing up the pacing a bit too much (which makes for the occasional dull moment), but for the most part Detroit: Become Human succeeded in making us care, making us feel something, and making us think about not just the future, but our present and past.