While the good old button smashing worked great in the arcades, modern-day video games have evolved much more than that. Storytelling forms the crux of these video games, and most developers love to cook up complex narratives to entice the player base.
Gone are the days when video games had linear storylines in which the hero rescued the princess from the bad guys and saved the day. It is much more nuanced now. Players’ in-game actions often dictate the consequences, and at other times, the environment is used to provide the game’s lore.
Either way, stories make or break a game these days, especially when attention span is scarce in the digital world. A gripping tale keeps players on their toes and couple that with solid game mechanics, developers will have a best-seller.
Video games are an inclusive and interactive medium where stories are permitted to run amok, and sometimes the player is given the driving seat to manage the chaos surrounding them. Players connect to these stories and delve into the superhero fantasy they’ve always wanted to experience in the real world.
The medium serves as escapism for many, but gripping storylines make the gaming experience more fun, entertaining, and emotionally resonating for the players.
That said, here’s a list of the best story-driven games for PS4, which are some of the best works in gaming and excel in what they do. There are some bonus underrated and indie games at the end of the list as well.
The Last of Us Series
The Last of Us could go down in gaming history as one of the most phenomenal pieces of work. It is a breathtaking mix of emotionally stimulating tales in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by Cordyceps fungus. The game focuses on Joel, who finds his deceased daughter in Ellie, humanity’s last hope for an antidote, as she is somehow immune to the fungus, unlike others.
Apart from its stunning cinematics, the storytelling is done through dialogues and relies on the environment. It used Ellie’s diary and tape recorders from survivors that players can hear to provide context to the existing storyline, making it an enriching experience. Moreover, the sequel, The Last of Us Part II, released in 2020, made fans infuriated over the narrative choice of the game because it took a bold narrative stance and experimented with it.
Regardless of the fan reactions, it became a bestseller, swept game awards in almost all categories, and showed the masses how chaotic yet complex stories can be told with video games.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform available: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows (only the first part).
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was ahead of its times. It is an impressive open-world game where players get into the shoes of the Geralt of Rivia and slash their way through the monsters.
It was critically acclaimed for its day-night cycle and its side quests, which felt like separate stories with dark twists. This sometimes gives more context to the players, enabling them to understand the undertones of the main story. Moreover, the main story focuses on the character development of the protagonist Geralt and his journey as a Witcher. However, the fun part comes towards the end of the game when players’ in-game choices mean they will have different endings.
|The Witcher 3 Game of the Year Edition (PS4)||8,284 Reviews||$21.40||Buy on Amazon|
Later, it was also adapted into a live-action Netflix original web series starring Henry Cavill as The Witcher, which was also a massive hit. Who’s looking forward to Season 3?
Developer: CD Projekt
Platform available: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.
God of War (2018)
The God of War franchise started with Kratos taking names of the Greek Gods and decimating them one by one with his fury. Sony’s previous GOW titles already had a concrete narrative structure, but 2018’s God of War breathed fresh air into the franchise by adding a new side character of Atreus, the son of Kratos.
While the “boy!” memes flooded the internet, the narrative dialogues and the bond building between a strict father and a little kid wove a heartwarming tale. Staying in Midgard after Faye’s death, Kratos and Atreus must reach the highest peak in the nine realms of the Norse lands to scatter her ashes, honoring her final wish.
When the game ends, it leads directly to its sequel, God of War Ragnarok, which further explores this relationship and won the award for Best Narrative at the Game Awards 2022.
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Platform available: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows.
Detroit: Become Human
If we had to show how a solid narrative could govern a game, Detroit: Become Human would be perfect. Players play as three different characters, where every choice/action makes a huge difference in the game. Moreover, these choices are time-bound, and players must make them quickly. It can’t be changed mid-game, forcing them to stick with it till the game ends.
As a result, the narrative beautifully shows the consequences as part of these stories and shows some different actions that could’ve led to a completely different ending.
The game’s setting is a distant future where humanoids have become crucial and irreplaceable to humans. However, due to their augmented vision, they can solve hard problems in a jiffy. And this forges their game path.
Developer: Quantic Dream
Platform available: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows.
The wizarding and muggle worlds were waiting for Hogwarts Legacy, and it didn’t disappoint. Harry Potter games from the PS1 era have evolved a lot but have suffered from the same narrative issue. It had to rigidly follow the books and movies for its storyline.
However, Avalanche Software chucked this out of the window. It formed a new narrative before the events of Harry Potter, leveraging the creative freedom to form a whole new story. Players are brought into the game as 5th-year students who have to catch up with other students by doing extra challenges and attending lessons.
The stories also take help from hidden letters spread all across Hogwarts, which can be found by the player using the Revelio spell. That further enhances the story and provides insight into the 1800s wizarding world of which most Potterheads may not have vast knowledge.
Genre: Action/ Role-playing game
Developer: Avalanche Software
Platform available: PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch (upcoming).
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn emerged as one of the finest Sony exclusives with a female protagonist, Aloy, who is unraveling the mysteries of a post-apocalyptic world. This particular world is overrun by machines.
The game takes place in a unique setting where Aloy is trying to help the tribes take over the machines slowly, all the while understanding what makes these machines aggressive. She works out the fact that she is deeply connected with the artificial intelligence, GAIA, which self-destructed to protect humanity from going extinct and trying to subdue the effects of HADES.
|Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition Hits – PlayStation 4||10,442 Reviews||$16.22||Buy on Amazon|
The sequel for the game also makes things more complicated and ramps up the stakes as Aloy is tasked with finding more about the signal, which prompted HADES to act rogue.
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Platform available: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The Uncharted franchise explores Nathan Drake’s saga, where the main protagonist travels around the world in search of a lost treasure. The storyline right from the first Uncharted game is full of twists and turns. However, in the fourth installment, the game goes all out in framing a great story, with breathtaking graphics, fun mechanics, and witty dialogues.
In Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the narrative is designed in such a way that players naturally end up in a situation where they have to solve puzzles or even fall into scenarios where they have to decide if they want to stealth their way to the objective. Players have the liberty to go either all guns blazing and face the consequences or simply use stealth to get the work done.
Even though the game’s narrative is linear, it connects well with audiences who like to explore every nook and cranny of the world and want to experience storytelling in gaming. The game has often been criticized by fans on the account that it offers more of a cinematic experience rather than an actual video game. While this is partly true, there are plenty of elements and set pieces in the Uncharted series that provide excellent gameplay.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform available: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain carries the last legacy of Hideo Kojima, after which he parted ways with Konami. The Metal Gear series, in general, was a major hit for its unique take on narratives and open-world gameplay. But the stealth system is unparalleled to any modern video game, even today. The emphasis and variety of options truly provide all the tools that players require to become sharp assassins.
In this fifth installment, players play as Punished “Venom” Snake, who wakes up in Cyprus on the search for Cipher. The game has a plot of smaller stories to establish a larger narrative outside the game and takes inspiration from wars and the hierarchy of power.
|Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – PlayStation 4||$5.95||Buy on Amazon|
This game puts emphasis on putting the player through the power fantasy in a military setting and how they navigate through it with rigorous planning and strategy.
Developer: Kojima Productions
Platform available: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Red Dead Redemption 2
After a development of eight years and becoming one of the most expensive games ever made at a minimum cost of $370 million, Red Dead Redemption 2 excels at everything that you’d want from a best-selling video game. It has won multiple awards, including a Game of the Year award in 2018.
Put in the shoes of Arthur Morgan, the western outlaw who is the Van der Linde gang in the west, players have the choice to explore places like New Hanover, Ambarino, and Lemoyne in the United States and establish bonds. The narrative’s strength lies in being slow-paced, but having consistent performances from all characters. This ensures that it hits just the right amount. The development of the characters is truly remarkable, and each of them has unique stories which blend into the world naturally but never overwhelm the main storyline of Arthur.
The game also features different endings, which are based on the actions of the player in-game. This adds a certain level of replayability as well. In any case, considering the beautiful yet haunting depiction of the USA in 1899 that’s been shown in the game, you’re likely to spend hours upon hours just roaming the vast open world.
Genre: Action/ Adventure
Developer: Rockstar Studios
Platform available: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows.
Ghost of Tsushima
Sony’s exclusive line of games rarely disappoints and unravels some masterpieces. One such game is Ghost of Tsushima, which perfectly blends storytelling, cinematic visuals, and flawless combat.
Jin Sakai, the last member of Clan Sakai, is tasked with saving the Tsushima island during a Mongol invasion. He also has to face General Khotun Khan, who is the grandson of Genghis Khan. While one might think, the story is very simple, it is rarely that, and the game’s ending has divided players to some extent.
The game takes inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai cinematography which is reflected through its art style.
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Platform available: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5.
As far as PS4 story-driven games go, Firewatch is right up there with some of the very best. Not only does the game feature an interesting premise, but the setting of the Wyoming wilderness is brought to life through exceptional use of the Unity engine.
The game is set in 1989, and it mainly features just two characters – Henry and Delilah. You play as Henry, a man who tries to escape the fact that his life is a mess. Your constant companion, Delilah, talks to you through the handheld radio and provides instructions as well as introspections.
While it might seem like a tranquil walking simulator at first, Firewatch features a disturbing mystery that needs to be solved by our two characters. With gorgeous graphics (that hold up even today) and an engaging story, this is a game that you can’t afford to miss out on!
Developer: Campo Santo
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Any list of story-driven PS4 games would not be complete without Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Released in 2017, the game has won numerous accolades, including the BAFTA Award for Artistic Achievement. If you’re still not convinced, let me help:
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an action-adventure game that puts you in the shoes of Senua, a Celtic warrior who sails across the land to rescue her dead partner’s soul. What makes this game so different from others in this genre is that Senua’s condition (apart from having a mythological twang to it) also works as a metaphor for psychosis.
Of course, Senua doesn’t understand the medical term for her condition, and instead thinks of it as a curse. This forms the crux of the melee combat and psychological horror that the game features.
If you love good stories and gorgeous visuals, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a must-play. You’ll also be pleased to know that a sequel has been announced and is slated for release in 2024!
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developers: Ninja Theory
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows, Nintendo Switch.
What starts as a simple point-and-click game, Twelve Minutes takes the players for a spin when it loops them through time.
The game follows a very simple premise. A man comes to a room, meets his wife, and expects to have a simple dinner. However, somebody knocks at the door, and it goes haywire from there. As the time loop resets, players retain their memories. This allows the players to understand the time-loop concept and try to break it before it repeats over and over again.
Players’ in-game decisions play a huge role in shaping the overall narrative of the game. Therefore, the experience is unique for every player. In fact, there are seven endings to the game.
Developer: Luís António
Platform available: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, iOS, and Android.
Journey deals with narrative in a very refreshing way. It doesn’t have dialogues, yet the story is portrayed well through its art style and striking visuals.
The gameplay connects very well with the story, and it leaves the player in a state of awe. Writing any more about Journey would be an injustice to the game’s narrative and might spoil the player’s experience with the game. So, we’ll just leave it at this: you NEED to play this game if you love story-driven games.
Platform available: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, iOS.
The PlayStation 4 boasts one of the biggest and most comprehensive gaming libraries of all time. So, naturally, there won’t be too many issues if you’re a player who’s searching for a narrative-based game. However, not all games are made the same. So, this list should provide you with gaming experiences that far exceed your expectations!
Rijit Banerjee is a gaming/esports journalist who started his career in Sportskeeda in India and moving to work in some of the leading gaming publications in the world such as GG Recon, ESTNN, Dot Esports, and more. He spends his free time reading… read more