Bronze: The Last of Us by Naughty Dog
Every year it feels like I play through a new story-based zombie game and claim that “They can’t get any better than this.” 2012 is a special year for this because Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a high bar to be measured against. It’s easy to compare that and The Last of Us since they share similar settings and a pseudo father-daughter character relationship, but The Last of Us doesn’t really rate to The Walking Dead’s standards. It starts off depressingly generic and formulaic, even to the point where I was rolling my eyes and sighing out loud as it unveiled itself. But about halfway through I was hooked by The Last of Us’ story. It feels unsure of itself, but once it finally becomes comfortable with its own skin, The Last of Us provides another great post-apocalyptic storyline. And that ending. But more on that later!
- Isaac Wagner
Silver: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons by Starbreeze
The actual plot progression of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’ story is pretty simple and unsurprising, but the journey it takes you on and how the story moves forward is the fascinating part. While there are cut scenes, the characters speak a made-up language so those cut scenes aren’t that important. Brothers gains mileage from storytelling through player interaction. From a giant’s castle to navigating a huge recent battleground, Brothers takes you to some incredible places, getting darker and darker in tone through mature themes instead of gory violence, usually forcing you to initiate its most disturbing moments. Brothers is interested in telling a story the only way that a video game can: through you. It’s the best example of this since Spec Ops: The Line and Limbo, and should be played by anyone who’s curious to see how far the video game industry has matured.
- Isaac Wagner
Gold: BioShock Infinite by Irrational Games
A marked improvement above its predecessor, BioShock Infinite’s story is one that would feel at home with science fiction literature’s best. Great characterization combined with a complex and thematically sophisticated plot, Infinite’s story is a powerful one that kept me going even when the gameplay failed to do so. But what solidified BioShock Infinite’s place on this list for me was the way that it imaginatively and effectively tied together the worlds of Rapture and Columbia into one huge, sprawling multiverse which has me very excited for future BioShock games. It not only explained the previously thought marketing-driven reuse of the BioShock brand and its new boring subtitle but also completely justified the renaming of 2K Boston into its own thing as Irrational Games, as the established their own unique identity with BioShock Infinite. As a whole BioShock Infinite’s story is one of the few games whose writing, characterization and plot progression are fantastic which I wouldn’t need to follow-up with “…for a video game.”
- Isaac Wagner