Home Gaming The best-written games of the past year

The best-written games of the past year

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132

Writing-is-hard

There are a few exceptions of course (emphasis squarely on “few”), but the writing in games is almost always terrible. The vast majority of the people writing the games we play can’t write. They can’t tell engaging or intriguing stories. Games writers are given free reign to write rubbish, because nobody’s really willing to challenge their work.  Why bother with meaningful dialogue? Why construct proper narrative arcs, or write realistic, fleshed-out characters? It’s just a game. Still, some games are actually well written – and according to the Writers Guild of America, these are the ones released in the last year or so that weren’t steaming literary turds.

These are the nominees for the 2014 “outstanding achievement in writing for videogames” award:

  • Alien: Isolation, Writers Dan Abnett, Dion Lay, Will Porter; SEGA
  • Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, Lead Scriptwriter Jill Murray; Scriptwriter Melissa MacCoubrey; Story by Jill Murray, Hugo Giard, Wesley Pincombe; Ubisoft
  • Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Story by Alexandre Amancio, Sylvain Bernard, Travis Stout; Scriptwriting Alexandre Amancio, Travis Stout, Russell Lees, Darby McDevitt, Ceri Young; Additional Scriptwriting Jeffrey Yohalem; Ubisoft
  • The Last of Us: Left Behind, Written by Neil Druckmann; Sony Computer Entertainment

It’s worth noting that the Writers Guild of America only nominates members of the WGA Videogame Writers Caucus, or those who have applied for membership – so it’s very likely that some of the genuinely well-written games of the past year have been glossed over. Games also needed to be released between December 1, 2013 and November 30, 2014. Yes, it does sort of make the award mostly irrelevant, but it’s interesting that both of last year’s Assassin’s Creed games made the grade. Unity, in particular has been on the receiving end of the exactly the opposite of acclaim, but that springs mostly from its technically broken launch – and not for its story.

What games did you play in the last year that you felt actually featured accomplished writing? It’s okay if you can’t think of well, anything. I understand.

We’ll find out who’s nabbed it on February 14.

Last Updated: January 13, 2015

132 Comments

  1. Admiral Chief

    January 13, 2015 at 12:03

    I’ll let you know about Alien Isolation once I install and play it.

    Reply

  2. Admiral Chief

    January 13, 2015 at 12:04

    Writing skills checklist:
    – Story (done)
    – Code (ummmmm)

    Reply

    • HairyEwok

      January 13, 2015 at 12:09

      I think out of the year it took them to make the game 11 months were used just to getthe story right for Unity.

      Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      January 13, 2015 at 12:10

      Outsource the coding to Gearbox Software

      Reply

      • Matthew Holliday

        January 13, 2015 at 18:49

        What you need to do to break a gearbox game:

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          January 14, 2015 at 07:52

          LOL!

          Reply

  3. Ghost In The Rift

    January 13, 2015 at 12:08

    hmm,Alien,though i prefer Dragon Age over the assassins any day.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      January 13, 2015 at 12:08

      I prefer proper spacing in a sentence, but,hey,that,is,just,me

      Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 12:16

        You’remad,Idon’tknowwhatyou’regettingat.

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief

          January 13, 2015 at 12:22

          Andawntfirgetproppirspeeling

          Reply

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:26

            That was very difficult to read, I’ll let you know.

          • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

            January 13, 2015 at 12:39

            omgwtflmaoumadbro?

      • Ghost In The Rift

        January 13, 2015 at 12:38

        I’m sorry:'(will a tutor like this guy help?

        Reply

      • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

        January 13, 2015 at 12:39

        We all …. have a little …. William Shatner in us all.

        Reply

  4. Hammersteyn

    January 13, 2015 at 12:08

    TLOU obviously. Just one more award it scoops.

    Reply

  5. Hammersteyn

    January 13, 2015 at 12:09

    Diablo 3,Gta V and Far Cry 4 had some decent writing

    Reply

    • Jaded_Reprobate

      January 13, 2015 at 12:09

      Trevor has me in stiches very often… gotta love the GTA V humour

      Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        January 13, 2015 at 12:11

        They should feature his mom in the expansion

        Reply

      • HairyEwok

        January 13, 2015 at 12:11

        I wish GTA V radio stations were as awesome as GTA San Andreas. Those infomercials were the best ever.

        Reply

        • Jaded_Reprobate

          January 13, 2015 at 12:15

          west coast talk radio has some ridiculously funny topics

          Reply

        • Quo Vadis?

          January 13, 2015 at 12:28

          Yea, channel X in GTA SA had some seriously good songs!

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn

            January 13, 2015 at 12:32

            This!

          • Ghost In The Rift

            January 13, 2015 at 12:55

            I agree,dont know why they used that shity punkish trash rock in GTA V,there is no station on GTA V that got tunes i listen to,hope PC version will have the custom radio station.

      • Quo Vadis?

        January 13, 2015 at 12:27

        Where they are tracking the z type car in the parking lot, and he tells the chopper pilot “keep it steady, I get violent when I’m queasy”. One of many, but that one had me laughing really hard.

        Reply

    • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

      January 13, 2015 at 12:37

      The radio channels on all the GTA games.

      Reply

    • Matthew Holliday

      January 13, 2015 at 18:43

      its a pity that there is so little emphasis on the writing and dialog for diablo. i suppose it comes with the genre: “LESS TALK, MORE GRINDING FOR ITEMS!”

      gtaV, agreed, good gaem.

      farcry 4, well written, but gets lost in the massive open world.

      Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        January 14, 2015 at 07:53

        I got so pissed with my brother when we played and he skips the dialogue on Diablo3

        Reply

        • Matthew Holliday

          January 14, 2015 at 09:33

          i would try play with a friend, because he convinced me it was how it should be played.
          my first playthrough and he’s skipping all the scenes.
          annoyed would be an understatement.

          Reply

  6. Raptor Rants A Lot

    January 13, 2015 at 12:13

    The only 2 that really could contend are TLOU and A:Isolation.

    From everything I’ve read, the AC games all feel “bland” in story and acting.

    It’s sad that game writers can just do as they please with no real quality checking. But one has to look where gaming came from. Gaming came from simple principles of “start here, end there” and that’s it.

    It’s only in the last decade that games have started evolving as story driven mediums

    Reply

    • Lord Chaos

      January 13, 2015 at 12:17

      The Freedom Cry dlc had brilliant writing, pity it was so short.

      Reply

      • Raptor Rants A Lot

        January 13, 2015 at 12:18

        Short, brilliant writing still counts I guess. There’s something about a good, solid story that grips you that makes all the world of difference. Even if it’s short. If it leaves you wanting more then you know it was superb.

        Reply

        • Lord Chaos

          January 13, 2015 at 12:20

          Come to think of it, it might have not been that short, finished it in a day, but never put the controller down. Like you said, solid story that grips you.

          Reply

          • Raptor Rants A Lot

            January 13, 2015 at 12:22

            Just a pity it’s something that’s very few and far between. The industry still needs to evolve to a point where good writing is a norm

    • ToshZA

      January 13, 2015 at 12:45

      I don’t know, the Monkey Island games were really well written, funny, and something you could play over and over again. Now, where did I put my glove?

      Reply

      • Raptor Rants A Lot

        January 13, 2015 at 14:45

        Wasn’t the original released in like 1990? That’s more than a decade ago.

        Reply

        • Raptor Rants A Lot

          January 13, 2015 at 14:48

          That being said, it was an exception not so much a rule. Lucasarts was trying to start off with good SP stories.

          man, now I am thinking of Grim Fandango as well… Darnit nostalgia!

          Reply

        • ToshZA

          January 13, 2015 at 14:54

          That is my point, yes. 🙂

          Reply

          • Raptor Rants A Lot

            January 13, 2015 at 15:22

            Sorry I replied to myself. I see what you were saying but it was an exception at the time. Not so much the rule of thumb 🙂

            I do miss those days where devs were exploring the story driven stuff though. Some amazing things came from all that.

          • ToshZA

            January 13, 2015 at 15:24

            Yes true, but it seems that good stories today are still the exception, not so much a rule of thumb.

            Basically, we’re stuck in the late 80’s/early 90’s, story-wise.

          • Raptor Rants A Lot

            January 13, 2015 at 15:25

            Back in the day it was either story based or wasn’t.

            The story stuff was great because it was thought through. If it wasn’t story based it was a point A – B game that was just fun.

            Nowadays everyone wants to put in a story. Whether it’s good or bad. I wish they’d return to a think of “If it don’t need a story, don’t put one in”

            Devs must stop thinking every game must have a story

          • ToshZA

            January 13, 2015 at 15:58

            Actually hadn’t considered that, I have to agree with you.

    • Matthew Holliday

      January 13, 2015 at 14:56

      a story can still be written well, even if its bland.
      John Grisham is a fantastic author, but i still find his books boring as. (needs moar dragons.)
      quality of writing and the story dont have to go hand in hand.
      Dragon Age had a fantastic story, but the writing of it was shit as. super forced, super cliched, dialog left alot to be desired.
      Uninties characters look alot more solid, so if the dialog and his actions fit the character, Id still consider it to be well written.

      Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 15:05

        Agreed. Micheal Crichton was not a creative writer when it comes to wordplay and such but his stories were good and well thought out.

        Reply

      • Raptor Rants A Lot

        January 13, 2015 at 15:21

        Not sure if I can agree. I feel writing and story need to both be good. But it’s all down to personal choice and that’s why some games are enjoyed by some and not by others.

        I do agree that John Grisham needs more dragons though

        Reply

        • Matthew Holliday

          January 13, 2015 at 18:38

          oh, i agree that they SHOULD both be good.
          however, i was pointing out that you can have one without the other.

          Reply

          • Raptor Rants A Lot

            January 14, 2015 at 09:35

            Ah. Yes ok I see what you are getting at. I guess you have a point. But darnit, we are entitled gamers, we demand both!

  7. house_hero

    January 13, 2015 at 12:13

    GTA V writing was great.

    Reply

  8. Captain JJ Saga

    January 13, 2015 at 12:15

    So much for games with actual stories like Valiant Hearts, Child of Light and Transistor. Oh wait, they’re not “AAA”, so they don’t count.

    Reply

    • ToshZA

      January 13, 2015 at 12:44

      I was thinking exactly this. Both Transistor and Child of Light were serious highlights for me this year. That story just pulls you in and you get lost in this beautiful world and story and it’s wonderful!

      Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 12:47

        Exactly. It’s because of games like those that I had a great gaming year in 2014, different to most.

        Reply

    • konfab aka derp

      January 13, 2015 at 13:11

      They are probably not fee paying members as well.

      Reply

  9. Hammersteyn

    January 13, 2015 at 12:18

    Which COD game did the kid in the header write?

    Reply

    • Lord Chaos

      January 13, 2015 at 12:19

      Seeing as there is nothing yet on his paper, I’d say all of them.

      Reply

      • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

        January 13, 2015 at 12:35

        Comment of the week!

        Reply

      • ToshZA

        January 13, 2015 at 12:43

        LOL!

        Reply

  10. Thats_how_I_Troll

    January 13, 2015 at 12:18

    Haven’t played any of those… I really enjoyed Call of Juarez: Gunslinger’s writing. It was something different….

    I know it was a 2013 Game, but I only played it beginning of last year

    Reply

    • Captain JJ Saga

      January 13, 2015 at 12:19

      That was some cool writing. Got a bit dragged out in the middle, but picked up nicely later again.

      Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      January 13, 2015 at 12:40

      I’m busy playing that, and I agree, it is really damn good!

      Reply

  11. RinceThis

    January 13, 2015 at 12:19

    Is this like the MSSA where you can only be viable if you pay?

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      January 13, 2015 at 12:20

      I’d ask them but what if they sue me?

      Reply

    • Thats_how_I_Troll

      January 13, 2015 at 12:21

      But that sounds Fraudulent 0_o

      Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 12:22

        Never! It’s a service, so you must pay each person. To their private accounts of course. ;P

        Reply

        • Thats_how_I_Troll

          January 13, 2015 at 12:24

          But Sperts doesn’t work like that ;p

          Reply

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:26

            You’re right. Probably not. :/

          • Thats_how_I_Troll

            January 13, 2015 at 12:26

            Unless it’s Sport Like WWE

            Edit: And only Hillbillies and Darren thinks that shit is real 0_o

            Edit Edit: And apparently Captain JJ

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:27

            Which is totally real.

          • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

            January 13, 2015 at 12:35

            100% Legit

          • Thats_how_I_Troll

            January 13, 2015 at 12:45

          • ToshZA

            January 13, 2015 at 12:48

            I’m trying to make sense of this, but I can’t.

            Kind of proves your point though.

  12. Uberutang

    January 13, 2015 at 12:20

    Dan Abnett FTW. The man behind the best written WH40K books!

    Reply

    • Captain JJ Saga

      January 13, 2015 at 12:21

      TAKE ALL THE UPVOTES!!

      Reply

      • Uberutang

        January 13, 2015 at 12:22

        For the Emperor Brother!

        Reply

        • Captain JJ Saga

          January 13, 2015 at 12:23

          For the Emperor who was with us this day.
          (I sure do like some Chaos every now and then when the mood strikes though)

          Reply

          • Brady miaau

            January 13, 2015 at 12:30

            NOOOO, not Choas? Seriously? not the Good Guys? (euphemism for good guys, right?)

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:31

            I like the lore behind Chaos. Plus I have a friend who loves Chaos, so he’s influenced me a bit.

          • Blood Emperor Trevor

            January 13, 2015 at 12:54

            Your friend is a heretic. There is only one fate for heretics. And as someone infected by his foul machinations you must be cleansed as well.

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:57

            *readies Axe of Khorne.

          • Blood Emperor Trevor

            January 13, 2015 at 13:01

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 13:58

            LOL

        • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

          January 13, 2015 at 12:30

          For the greater good!

          😛

          Reply

          • Brady miaau

            January 13, 2015 at 12:31

            Yeeees. Kill millions to get the few, but it was for the greater Good. I tell you

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:32

            That’s what I do when I see ants in my kitchen.
            Only four made it to the counter, but I will find their nest and I will exterminate them. ;P

          • Brady miaau

            January 13, 2015 at 12:49

            Yeah my wife , she calls it mass murder.

    • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

      January 13, 2015 at 12:29

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

      Reply

    • Blood Emperor Trevor

      January 13, 2015 at 12:36

      Gaunt’s Ghosts FO EVA!

      Reply

    • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

      January 13, 2015 at 12:36

      Speaking of which, we all need a new DoW game. :<

      Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 12:38

        We do. DoW 2 was so epically long, to top that will be tough. Retribution was a bit disappointing, but the MP is always fun with friends.

        Reply

        • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

          January 13, 2015 at 12:44

          Played Space Marine? Is it any good. Saw it pre-played.
          I have the original DoW & Imperial Guard expansion. Used to have Dark Crusade but the CD had chewed by the dog. I sure miss that dog.

          Reply

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:46

            I’ve logged about 50 hours on Space Marine. The campaign is okay, not bad, but if you’ve got a few friends the horde MP games are quite cool. The versus games aren’t so great though.

          • Blood Emperor Trevor

            January 13, 2015 at 12:47

            I played it, was pretty fun.

        • Brady miaau

          January 13, 2015 at 12:52

          I cannot get into DOW2. What is the secret to enjoying it? I want it to be like DOW1, just a bit more. AND the control are buggy. Control groups work, I test then (press 1 for group, then 2 for other and so forth) and then, in the heat of battle when I need to move the snipers out the way, the control group fails to select them!!!!!!!!!!! Pisses me off enough that I have never gotten past the fourth mission. AND no base and no select guns for space marines

          Reply

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:56

            I know DOW1 was very different and very great, but I went into DoW2 as a different game, not a sequel. It’s the only way really. The leveling up system makes it so darn addictive and the campaign is so long.
            I get what you mean though, DoW1 was great. So far I’ve enjoyed both almost equally methinks.

    • konfab aka derp

      January 13, 2015 at 13:12

      Ha I cast Matt Ward.
      The spiritual liege of Warhammer

      Reply

  13. Brady miaau

    January 13, 2015 at 12:23

    Past Winners from WGA site

    The Last of Us, Written by Neil Druckmann (2014)

    Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray (2013)

    Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Written by Amy Hennig (2012)

    Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Story by Patrice Desilets, Jeffrey Yohalem, Corey May; Lead Script Writer: Jeffrey Yohalem; Script Writers: Ethan Petty, Nicholas Grimwood, Matt Turner (2011)

    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Written by Amy Hennig (2010)

    Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Writers Haden Blackman, Shawn Pitman, John Stafford and Cameron Suey (2009)

    Of those I have played the Force Unleahsed and cannot see it getting an award for story. Seriously? Is this an award for those who have joined our club but the rest feel the club is not relevant?

    Reply

    • Captain JJ Saga

      January 13, 2015 at 12:27

      Big name publishers

      Reply

  14. Dutch Matrix

    January 13, 2015 at 12:24

    Best story ever? Why, the Sims 4 of course! Followed by a lifetime achievement award for the amazeballs skillz of the team responsible for Space Invaders…

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      January 13, 2015 at 12:27

      Ever wonder what goes on beneath the sheets?

      http://img-9gag-ftw.9cache.com/photo/aZWYVmp_460sa.gif

      Reply

      • Norm (@e3zype3zy)

        January 13, 2015 at 12:29

        Some serious Kama Sutra it seems.

        Reply

        • Captain JJ Saga

          January 13, 2015 at 12:29

          Beat me to it with seconds. 😉

          Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 12:29

        I don’t recall seeing that in the Kama Sutra.

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          January 13, 2015 at 12:32

          This is EAs plan to fix all glitches in the future. Just throw a blanket over it.

          Reply

          • Captain JJ Saga

            January 13, 2015 at 12:32

            Comment of the week right there dude.

          • Hammersteyn

            January 13, 2015 at 12:34

            XD

      • Thats_how_I_Troll

        January 13, 2015 at 12:34

        I think he is performing and exorcism

        Reply

      • Ghost In The Rift

        January 13, 2015 at 12:35

        Shit that’s disturbing.

        Reply

        • Captain JJ Saga

          January 13, 2015 at 12:36

          I don’t think you need to worry about your kids trying to woohoo when they see this.

          Reply

      • Quo Vadis?

        January 13, 2015 at 12:35

        Sims 5: The Exorcist Edition. Crucifix sold seperate

        Reply

        • Thats_how_I_Troll

          January 13, 2015 at 12:44

          Holy Water as DLC, cause it is difficult to code water, let alone Holy Water

          Reply

          • Quo Vadis?

            January 13, 2015 at 12:50

            And a co-op feature if you cannot tackle the demon boss battles on your own 🙂

          • Thats_how_I_Troll

            January 13, 2015 at 14:12

            Wait what there are Demons in Sims? (Scrolls back up) Nevermind…..

  15. Quo Vadis?

    January 13, 2015 at 12:25

    All those do deserve a nod as they properly should, but I think Outlast should also get a nod.

    Reply

  16. Thats_how_I_Troll

    January 13, 2015 at 12:31

    Jimmy, any views from you?

    Reply

  17. Blood Emperor Trevor

    January 13, 2015 at 12:38

    Well it wasn’t a 2014 game, but the one with the best written story I played last year was Contrast.

    Reply

    • Captain JJ Saga

      January 13, 2015 at 12:40

      You’re a contrast!

      Reply

      • Blood Emperor Trevor

        January 13, 2015 at 12:42

        And I take my responsibility to show everyone how to be better very seriously.

        Reply

        • Captain JJ Saga

          January 13, 2015 at 12:43

          So noble.

          Reply

    • Thats_how_I_Troll

      January 13, 2015 at 12:48

      I remember playing Contrast back in the 90’s, but I preferred Brightness…

      Reply

      • Captain JJ Saga

        January 13, 2015 at 12:49

        Colour in the 60s was a much bigger hit.

        Reply

        • ToshZA

          January 13, 2015 at 12:50

          Snap! XD

          Reply

      • ToshZA

        January 13, 2015 at 12:50

        Back in my day, we were still trying to cope with Technicolour. Man that was rough.

        Reply

        • Matthew Holliday

          January 14, 2015 at 09:32

          these were pretty much gone when I came along.
          but at friends holiday houses with old TVs, me walking around the room to a chorus of “move the antenna this way” “NO! move the antenna that way”
          yeah I remember that much

          Reply

      • Blood Emperor Trevor

        January 13, 2015 at 12:52

        Hipster.

        Reply

  18. Norm (@e3zype3zy)

    January 13, 2015 at 12:40

    But what about MGS Geoff? *runs*

    Reply

  19. Mandom (Umar)

    January 13, 2015 at 12:45

    Danganronpa

    Reply

    • Thats_how_I_Troll

      January 13, 2015 at 12:46

      Yeah Umar, only you to mention a game that cannot be pronounced, properly.

      Reply

  20. b1nd3r

    January 13, 2015 at 12:59

    But everyone the “Battlefield games are the best ever” just logged into battlefield 2 they finally got the day 9000 patches fixed >.<

    Reply

  21. JacoZAB

    January 13, 2015 at 13:01

    How the hell did Asscrap Unity get on the list? Am I the only one who thinks Wolfenstein had a great story?

    Reply

    • b1nd3r

      January 13, 2015 at 13:03

      Wolfestein`s story wasnt that compelling in my opinion but if we are talking gameplay fuck that game is fun

      Reply

  22. Milesh Bhana

    January 16, 2015 at 16:42

    pity it’s limited to that Guild. I’m assuming that’s the reason that none of Telltale’s games got nominated for this.

    Reply

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