Games have enormous untapped potential to tell new and compelling stories through interactivity. You won’t be stuck in a long, drawn-out cutscene in these narrative-driven games. These stories are told through player interaction.
All of these games are under $20. And while some of them may be short, each one of them is a masterpiece and well worth the asking price.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Length: ~2 Hours
Available on: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
The story takes has you play Edith Finch, the youngest member of a family seemingly cursed to die young. You explore through the Finch household in order to discover how each member of the family died across three generations. The environment is filled to the brim with details and clues that help you piece together the stories. But what makes the game stand out are its interactive segments where you play as each family member who had died.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Length: ~5-10 Hours
Available on: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Out of all the games in this list, Return of the Obra Dinn is perhaps one of the most original. You play as an investigator in the early 1800’s and must determine the fates of a missing crew and the series of events that led to their disappearance. It was developed by one person, Lucas Pope, who also made Papers, Please. The dithering of the graphics plays into the aesthetic of retro adventure games, while the story and dialogue make you feel like you’re reading a 19th-century novel.
The Wolf Among Us
Length: ~8 Hours
Available on: PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Price: $19.99 via Amazon
Telltale Games is known for making great narratives, but The Wolf Among Us is truly their most overlooked gem. The story has you investigate a murder within a secret fairy-tale community living in Manhattan. It has a classical noir tone and a cast of incredibly well written fairy-tale characters, that are subverted into being real and emotionally flawed people.
The Stanley Parable
Length: ~15 min – 2 Hours
Available on: Mac, PC
Price: $14.99 via Humble Store
Don’t let the length fool you, The Stanley Parable is a game that is meant to be played multiple times. Throughout the game, you are accompanied by a disembodied narrator as you navigate around an office. The game is comedic and can be extremely surreal, as the environment is full of twists, secrets, and branching paths.
While a single playthrough can be a short as 15 minutes, a lot of the game’s enjoyment comes from playing the game again and going down the corridors you didn’t go through the previous time. It’s worth seeing each one of the game’s numerous and hilarious endings!
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Length: ~ 3 Hours
Available on: PC, PS3, PS4, Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Price: $14.99 via Humble Store
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is one of the few games where you play two characters simultaneously. In the story, the two brothers go on a long journey to find The Tree of Life, with hopes to cure their father’s illness with its water. You get whisked through a fairytale-esque land with all sorts of classical creatures, all the while solving puzzles to traverse through the environment using the strengths and weaknesses of each brother.