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Legendary game designer Tim Schafer recommends his 13 favourite PS4 games

Double Fine’s creative director talks the importance of story in the likes of Valiant Hearts, Inside, Until Dawn, The Last Guardian and more

There is more than one way to skin a cat (don’t ask me how I know that) and there’s also more than one way to tell a great story in games. You can do it with great dialogue, or no dialogue at all.

You can focus on the depth of the characters, or on the richness of the environment. You can bring your hero’s choices to life with game play mechanics that are complex, or extremely simple.
And that’s why this list of great PS4 story-telling games is so diverse – they all tackle the problem in their own style. Each one finds a unique way to bring its world, its characters, its story to life. And no cats are skinned in any of them. I’m sorry I even brought that up.

 

1. Night in the Woods

Came to this one for the art, but found some of my favourite writing in games recently. Really funny, nuanced, and surprising.

Night in the Woods

2. Unravel

A beautiful platforming puzzle game with a story told through environments and photographic memories.

3. Gone Home

I admire this game for putting story front and centre and committing to that as their prime focus before other games were doing it.

Gone Home

4. Valiant Hearts

A story about the war told in a way that war stories are rarely told in games.

5. Oxenfree

Naturalistic dialogue that can be interrupted, redirected, and played with – still sounding pretty natural. Super hard to pull off, but they did it really well.

Oxenfree

6. What Remains of Edith Finch

I thought I knew where this was going when it started, and then I was constantly surprised by where it took me. Very memorable.

7. Machinarium

Story told without words at all, just art and little comic strip memories. Beautiful!

Machinarium

8. Inside

This minimalistic story seemed to present more mysteries than it solved. It felt like anything could happen next. Bleak and harsh and constantly engaging.

Inside

9. Wheels of Aurelia

A very unique way of telling a story while on a road trip. Make decisions in dialogue trees, but also in branching roads. Style and subject matter different from any game I could think of.

10. Bound

Mostly a platformer, with a very unique way of visually exploring memories.

11. Until Dawn

Recommend you play with a group of friends and not alone – not just because it’s scary, but because this game really invites you to cooperatively work through a story together, yelling and screaming and laughing the whole time.

12. Guacamelee!

A fighting game with many great, colourful characters, rich with personality.

13. The Last Guardian

Incredibly strong depiction of a character and a relationship, using very few words.

What did you think about this story?
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18 Comments
7 Author replies

Sure, but why chop up a weasel by hand when you can put it in a blender? And other such animal-cruelty themed idioms.

Tim Schafer 25 July, 2017 @ 18:11
1.1

Excellent point.

livewire001 25 July, 2017 @ 18:33
2

All these descriptions come off like you only watched the trailers or read the first paragraph of a review. How do you manage to produce a list article with less and poorer writing than buzzfeed?

Tim Schafer 25 July, 2017 @ 19:51
3.1

Practice!

PS I’ve played all of those games and finished almost all of them. That light/dark jumping-while-switching in Guacamele is HARD.

thecough181 25 July, 2017 @ 20:53
3.2

Is this really you replying? Sorry I bought psychonauts pre-owned but thanks for letting me buy it on ps4 to make up for it. If you think guacameele is hard you should try meat circus!

StevenJamesHyde 25 July, 2017 @ 23:31
3.3

“Meat Circus”? Nope, definitely not googling that

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1
4

go go Team Schafer!!

warensembler83 25 July, 2017 @ 19:54
5

No Bloodborne = no party. I like everything on your selection, though :P Except maybe Gone Home, which is an interesting concept but IMO is too short and doesn’t develop enough, it just builds up for nothing. Guacamelee is hard but I loved every second of it.

6

Some fantastic games mentioned, showing some great examples of how story can be just as compelling in games these days. The endings for both Valiant Hearts and The Last Guardian are so well done and hit home really hard in playing them, as did some of the stories in What Remains of Edith Finch, if people haven’t played those they really should (especially Valiant Hearts as it’s a fantastic game).

I’d personally add Virginia as another example of how storytelling can be done. It doesn’t fully nail the execution and goes a bit too David Lynch, failing to bring it together in the end, but it’s a nice way of showing that spoken words aren’t always needed. Likewise Firewatch in how that builds the characters through dialogue alone. Or even Hyper Light Drifter in how you piece things together slowly about the history of the world and all the symbolism.

I do find as I get older and continue to play games that it’s the games that go that extra length with story and narrative that seem to ...

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Some fantastic games mentioned, showing some great examples of how story can be just as compelling in games these days. The endings for both Valiant Hearts and The Last Guardian are so well done and hit home really hard in playing them, as did some of the stories in What Remains of Edith Finch, if people haven’t played those they really should (especially Valiant Hearts as it’s a fantastic game).

I’d personally add Virginia as another example of how storytelling can be done. It doesn’t fully nail the execution and goes a bit too David Lynch, failing to bring it together in the end, but it’s a nice way of showing that spoken words aren’t always needed. Likewise Firewatch in how that builds the characters through dialogue alone. Or even Hyper Light Drifter in how you piece things together slowly about the history of the world and all the symbolism.

I do find as I get older and continue to play games that it’s the games that go that extra length with story and narrative that seem to click with me more.

Tim Schafer 26 July, 2017 @ 01:35
6.1

I have heard good things about Virginia, but to be honest I haven’t gotten around to playing it yet. I should!

Carnivius_Prime 25 July, 2017 @ 20:46
7

Hm, yeah most of these are really not to my taste despite having played them (most of them via PS Plus freebies).

Guacamelee is great fun though especially in multiplayer. Wanted to like Machinarium but I just couldn’t get into it. Valiant Hearts was kinda neat. Gone Home was really boring, sorry. For me a game should always put it’s gameplay before story. Else it just feels like a book or film you annoyingly have to press a few buttons to get to next page or scene. Haven’t tried the Last Guardian but mostly because Ico did nothing for me and I kinda hated Shadow of the Colossus.

My fave games on PS4 tend to be things like Uncharted 4, Ratchet & Clank, Street Fighter, inFamous, Mad Max, Shadow of Mordor (only just recently got into that one cos so cheap, I was never into Lord of the Rings but likely that hack n slash fun) and more indie stuff including recent games like Wonder Boy – The Dragon’s Trap, Neon Chrome, Nex Machina, Iron Crypticle, Aqua Kitty DX, Super Stardust an...

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Hm, yeah most of these are really not to my taste despite having played them (most of them via PS Plus freebies).

Guacamelee is great fun though especially in multiplayer. Wanted to like Machinarium but I just couldn’t get into it. Valiant Hearts was kinda neat. Gone Home was really boring, sorry. For me a game should always put it’s gameplay before story. Else it just feels like a book or film you annoyingly have to press a few buttons to get to next page or scene. Haven’t tried the Last Guardian but mostly because Ico did nothing for me and I kinda hated Shadow of the Colossus.

My fave games on PS4 tend to be things like Uncharted 4, Ratchet & Clank, Street Fighter, inFamous, Mad Max, Shadow of Mordor (only just recently got into that one cos so cheap, I was never into Lord of the Rings but likely that hack n slash fun) and more indie stuff including recent games like Wonder Boy – The Dragon’s Trap, Neon Chrome, Nex Machina, Iron Crypticle, Aqua Kitty DX, Super Stardust and a whole bunch of other gamey games of gameness.

CoolRichy007UK 25 July, 2017 @ 21:21
8

14 – stacking 15 – All of tims games

9

Seeing as you’re replying to posts, I’d love to see a PS4 port of Stacking. Absolutely loved the Steam era atmosphere.

Tim Schafer 26 July, 2017 @ 01:35
9.1

Thanks! I like that one too! I’ll pass along your request! :)

tpepper1985 26 July, 2017 @ 08:48
10

Can’t argue with this list Tim! I have not played about half of these and heard good things about the other half … Guess that means I still need to check them out! Would be interested to know out of these 13 which is your top game?

Tim Schafer 26 July, 2017 @ 21:13
10.1

Well, it was posed to me as a list of great storytelling games. If it was my favorite playstation games of all time, I think Katamari would be up there, along with Okami.

11

Great list, I’ve loved every game I’ve played on here (about half of them) so will definitely explore the others. Did you play Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture? Interested to hear your thoughts, I loved it.

Tim Schafer 26 July, 2017 @ 21:13
11.1

Only a tiny bit! So many games to play!

11.2

Persevere with it. Everybody’s gone to the rapture is one of the best walking Sims out there currently and has a good story coupled with sheer beauty and an arousing yet haunting soundtrack. Definitely The Chinese Room’s best game to date.

BackwardsNinja 26 July, 2017 @ 11:52
12

Mr. Schafer, thank you for all your great (and undoubtedly hard) work over the years. Your games shaped my childhood and have heavily influenced my sense of humour with all the quirky characters and their great dialogue.

Do you think that perhaps The Dig might see a remaster at some point? That was a terrific game and very underrated. :)

12.1

Man I really loved The Dig. Killer soundtrack too.

Tim Schafer 26 July, 2017 @ 21:14
12.2

I wish we had the rights to that. It’s on a list of things we’ll try to do if we can get permission some day!

Not really anything like my list.

However your games are amazing, enjoyed them for close to 20 years and now my kids are loving them. Grim is still our favourite and one of the greatest games ever.

Cheers Tim

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