[Top 10] Best Indie Narrative Games

Indie Narrative Games
Let's dive in!

What makes a great narrative?

I love narrative games. They are story-driven, immersive, and often give you a story that draws you into the fictional world. The story is kind of like picking up a good book, so good, you forget about your own reality for a while as you are enveloped in the reality of the character, their troubles, and their goals. 

On this list, I countdown the top 10 best indie narrative games that left a lasting impact and blew me away with the story it told. If you haven’t picked these up, you should consider adding them to your library for the amazing story they tell. Take some time and enter another world of intrigue, mystery, and fantasy. 

 

10. Cave Story (PC/PSP/Wii/DSi/3DS/Switch/Sega Genesis)

Cave Story Gameplay

Run, jump, shoot, fly and explore your way through a massive action-adventure game reminiscent of classic 8- and 16- bit games! This is arguably one of the best-known indie games of all time. Cave Story features a completely original storyline, wrapped with personality, mystery, and hours of fast-paced fun. 

Cave Story begins with you, the player, waking up with no memory of who you are or how you got here. You uncover a village of cute rabbit-like creatures, the Minigma, who live in the self-descriptive Minigma Village. The once-carefree creatures are in danger at the hands of a mad scientist. Their only hope is you. Can you help the Minigmas and stop the delusional villain? 

As a lover of retro games, this one really appealed to me. I love the simple design, the fast-paced levels, the music, it reminds me so much of the good old days of the Super Nintendo and Gameboy Color. I put it at number 10 because it has aged, although an updated Cave Story + has been released on Steam and Nintendo Switch! This game was also released in 3D and was published for the Nintendo 3DS. This is a widely popular game available in many ways across a variety of consoles. If you haven’t played it, be sure to pick it up on your console of choice and see what all the hype is about! 

This game keeps you shooting and moving!

 

9. The Stanley Parable (PC)

The Stanley Parable Gameplay

The Stanley Parable...what is it? It’s a first-person exploration game, I do know that much. You will play as Stanley, and not play as Stanley. You will follow a story, but not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end.

Sounds confusing? Good. I just don’t know what to make of this game. I played the free demo to get an idea of what I was dealing with here, and that left me even more confused. It says to give you an idea of what The Stanley Parable is all about, but it left me scratching my head. On the upside, the narration is hilarious, and you can choose to do what the narrator tells you, or go do your own thing. Depending on if you choose to follow his directions, or not, will change the gameplay and determine which ending you get.

What originally began as a mod for Half-Life 2, The Stanley Parable has become it’s own game with high praise from critics. You start off in a strangely deserted office, after receiving no instructions at your job for an hour. The narrator will explain what is going on and what you should do, and you will get to decide.There are numerous endings to get, making each game what you want to make of it. 

I have this game at number 9 because it was just so confusing and hard for me to fully understand. However, that only makes me want to play it again and see if I can pick up on anything else. 

Stanley takes a look at the surveillance footage.

 

8. Firewatch (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch)

Firewatch Gameplay

Firewatch is a first-person, single-player mystery set in the American Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional attachment and lifeline is a woman on the other end of a two-way radio. 

The year is 1989. You play as Henry, a man who escapes his messy life to take the job of a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. It’s an especially hot, dry summer, and everyone is on edge. Your supervisor, Delilah, is available to you at all times via talking to her from a walkie-talkie. You will explore a gorgeous, wild, and unknown environment, facing questions and making choices that can make or break the only meaningful relationship you have. 

Firewatch is a beautifully done game with breathtaking art, an immersive script and voice acting that make the characters come to life. It features a stirring original soundtrack from Chris Remo of Gone Home. Many other noteworthy individuals worked on this game, making it into a breathtaking masterpiece with an amazing story to uncover. 

This, like many others on my list, is an adult game with adult conversations about difficult topics. It may be best to know if you are younger or plan to play with a younger sibling or child present. This game may not be for everyone, due to the serious topics it covers. If you want an escape from the gloomy reality of adult life, you may pass on this one. 

Be careful out there. 

 

7. Sally Face (PC)

Sally Face Gameplay

Delve into a dark adventure following a boy with a prosthetic face and a tragic past. Unravel the sinister mysteries of Sally’s world and find the truth that lies hidden in the shadows. 

In Sally Face, you play as a boy named Sal Fisher, called “Sally Face” by many, mostly due to the prosthetic face mask he always wears. The game begins with Sally moving to Nockfell for a fresh start with his father, following a tragic accident and the death of his mother. They live in Addison Apartments, Room 402. 

The gameplay in Sally Face is simple, you walk around, talking to various characters and collecting items. Sometimes, you have to give a certain character an item to trigger story progression. The game has five episodes in all, each expanding upon the last. 

Sally Face has an intriguingly horrific storyline, bizarre characters, and a 1990’s Nicktoons feel that will spark nostalgia  of that era. This game is a handcrafted masterpiece, but may not be for those who are easily distrubed. It plays almost like an interactive cartoon, and like many others on my list, focuses more on watching the story than actually playing the game. 

Sally Face tries to solve a gruesome murder.

 

6. Papers, Please (PC/PSVita)

Congratulations. The October labor lottery is complete, and your name was pulled. For immediate placement, report to the Ministry of Admission at Grestin Border Checkpoint. An apartment will be provided for you and your family in East Grestin. Expect a Class-8 dwelling.

This game appeared on another one of my lists, but I feel it belongs here as well. In Papers, Please, you play as an immigration inspector to control the flow of people into your country, Arstotzka. The communist state has just ended its 6-year war with neighboring country Kolechia and finally opened up its borders for business and travel. 

The way the story is told through this game is intriguing. As a immigration inspector, you meet people trying to gain access to Arstotzka, and review their documentation such as passports, work visas, while talking to them about why they are entering the country. You must carefully review their documents before you decide to approve or deny entry. Among the honest immigrants and visitors there are smugglers, spies and terrorists. Choose who you admit very carefully. 

The story is played out through newspaper clippings, which can change depending on who you did- or didn’t- let in. The player may face moral dilemmas while in the game, like deciding whether or not to admit a “supposed” spouse who wants to return to their family but may be lacking documentation. 

You also have to use the money you earn to care for your family. You have to provide food, rent, heat, and medicine for each member. They can and will die if you fail to care for their needs. You can choose what path you take, either earning a meager salary honestly, or agreeing to take bribes or gain money in other illegitimate ways…

I was immersed and intrigued by the story in Papers, Please. Although it doesn’t look like that great of a game, there’s just something interesting about it’s concept. There are several endings you can get, so playing again and again to get all of the endings is like playing a new game each time. I’m also a sucker for history, so I was deeply interested in the story and demographics of this fictional country. You should give Papers, Please a try if you are into a new concept for a video game. 

Would you let him in? Choose carefully...

 

5. Night in the Woods (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch/Mobile)

Night in the Woods Gameplay

Night in the Woods is an adventure game focused on exploration; as well as story and character development. There are dozens of characters to meet and talk to, and lots to do in this lush, vibrant world. 

In Night in the Woods, you play as an adorable cat, Mae Borowski, who has dropped out of college and returned to her hometown. Her hometown of Possum Springs is a crumbling mining town that has seen better days. Mae attempts to reconnect with her old friends and resume her carefree, aimless life, only to discover everything’s changed. Her friends have grown up, strange things are happening, and there’s something in the woods. 

This game has an adorable, immersive art style, I loved the cute little animals! The soundtrack doesn’t disappoint either. Don’t let the art style make you think less of it, however. This game addresses deep-grown up problems, such as capitalism and working-class America, all under a cutesy facade. 

Night in the Woods perfectly captures the fears and uncertainty of a young adult, struggling to grow up and find out what they want in life. If this sounds like you, this may be a game you can relate to. You’ll be moved by Mae’s story and the thrilling mystery you help her solve. 

Help Mae uncover the mystery of Possum Springs.

 

4. Celeste (PC/Switch/XBOne/PS4)

Celeste Gameplay

Help Madeline survive her inner demons on her journey to the top of Celeste Mountain, in this super tight platformer from the makers of TowerFall. Brave hundreds of hand-crafted challenges, uncover devious secrets, and piece together the mystery of the mountain.

Celeste is a highly celebrated platformer narrative on Steam and beyond. It’s easy to see why, the game is charming, the story is immersive, and the soundtrack is amazing. If you haven’t played this profound story of self-discovery, you should pick it up right away.

The controls are simple, you simply jump, air-dash and climb to advance through each level. However, the player must decide how to use these moves in combination to advance through the deadly traps. Luckily, this is not a roguelike and you can respawn quickly where you last left off. There isn’t much more to say about Celeste, other than what others on Steam have echoed: Just buy it! 

Discover the perils of Celeste Mountain.

 

3. Undertale (PC/PS4/PSVita/Switch)

Undertale Gameplay

Undertale, the RPG game where you don’t have to destroy anyone, unless you want to.

This game appeared on another of my lists, because it’s just that good. It has an amazing storyline, a great soundtrack, and memorable characters.

In Undertale, you play as a child who has fallen into the Underground, a world of monsters, closed off from the world of humans on the surface due to a magic barrier. A war with the humans caused the monsters to be forced underground, and relations are still tense. The player meets several monsters on the way back to the surface.

In Undertale, you can choose to fight the monsters you meet, in a mini-bullet hell fashion to dodge their attacks. If fighting is not your thing, you can attempt to pacify them and show mercy. How you play is up to you, and will change the story depending on the choices you make. 

I love games where your decisions affect the story, it feels you play a bigger part in the world you are entering. In Undertale, this is definitely the case. On the surface, this game doesn’t look like it could have such a profound impact, but it does. This is one you have to play for yourself before passing judgement on this gem of a game.

Decisions: How will you face Greater Dog?

 

2. Gone Home (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch)

Gone Home Gameplay

June 7, 1995, 1:15 AM. You arrive at home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you after this long absence, but the house is empty! Something’s not right. Where is everyone? What’s happened here? Unravel the mystery for yourself in Gone Home, a story exploration game. 

In Gone Home, you play as a girl named Kaitlin Greenbriar, whose mother, father, and sister moved to a new house while she was in Europe. In the game, you move from room to room, interacting with various objects, such as letters, books, cassette tapes, and more to figure out what happened in the house, and where your family is. 

Throughout the exploration of the house, you learn more about the house’s inhabitants and get to know them more personally, despite them not being there. The house has a lived-in feel, and the objects you find are often handwritten notes and cards that give the game a touch of realism. During the story, the player’s sister slowly narrates what happens by journal entries that come up during key points in your search. 

If you love a good mystery, this game is for you. I loved taking the time to reach into this immersive world and discover all the little pieces as I tried to solve the mystery of what happened to the Greenbriars. I felt like I really got to know this family and enjoyed every moment of exploring this house. The raging thunderstorm in the background also gave the game a spooky feel to it, although it’s not a horror game at all. You can’t help shaking the feeling that something horrifying is waiting to happen! If you like to take your time and enjoy a game, you’re in for a good time. The ending is a bit underwhelming, but it still told a great tale of love and being true to who you are.

Kaitlin finds a postcard she mailed while abroad.

 

1.What Remains of Edith Finch (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch)

What Remains of Edith Finch Gameplay

What Remains of Edith Finch is a strange collection of tragic tales about a family living in Washington state. Playing as Edith Finch, you  will explore the colossal and peculiar Finch home, searching for stories as she explores and pieces together her family history and tries to figure out why she’s the last one in her family left alive. This is a walking simulator game, where you travel through this strange house, interacting with various objects that tell a story.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this game at first, other than it looked really pretty. The graphics are fully immersive in this mystery house, and pretty soon, you get lost in Edith’s world as she discovers what happened to each of her family members, filling them in on her family tree, drawn in a journal. The house looks homey and lived in, with things left behind just the way the family left it. By interacting with objects, the story progresses, as Edith narrates everything she sees. 

The strange house has all the doors to each room sealed up, but you get around by way of secret passages as you investigate the house. At times, you will have to search for an object to activate the passage to get into the next room, in turn, advancing the storyline. Looking around each room and learning about the world of each family member was highly intriguing. You also get to play a short clip of each family member’s final moments, which is both horrifying and emotionally moving.

Although each tale is tragic, the game grips you with the mystery and each story is more dramatic than the last. I found myself holding my breath at various points as each story played out. It is hard to put in words how amazing this game is. Beautiful, immersive, and an exciting and suspenseful story about an incredibly unlucky family will pull you in and leave you wanting more. Even at the end, there are more mysteries that need to be solved. This is probably the best narrative game you have never played, and I urge you to play it right now. It will be the best two hours you will spend today. 

Only yours, Edith...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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From running a farming empire to managing a city of tiny animals, Alli loves the playful side of gaming. With a story to tell, she can't wait to make people read her (very strong) opinions.
Gamer Since: 1995
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
Top 3 Favorite Games:The Sims 4, Papers, Please, Gone Home
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