[Top 10] Best Indie Games With Good Story

indie games with good story
Playing a good game is like reading a journal, sometimes literally.

Are you ready to be blown away and forget what is real? 

A game isn’t great without a good story. It’s my firm opinion that a story can make or break a game, regardless of graphics, voice acting, and other game elements. In this list, I will countdown the top 10 best indie games that have a great story. Many of these games are more like an interactive cartoon, or walking simulator, maybe even a point-and-click adventure...but have such a deep and immersive story, you forget about everything else. To me, that is what makes a great story. One that is immersive and draws you into their world, so you forget about your own for a  while.

 

10. Thomas Was Alone (PC/PS3/PSVita/XBOne/Ps4/WiiU/Mobile)

Thomas Was Alone Gameplay

Guide a group of rectangles through a series of obstacles, combining their unique skills to get to the end of each environment. 

Thomas was alone. Then, he wasn't. Thomas, a red rectangle, was desperate for some friends. This game is charming and makes a captivating story about this little red rectangle that makes you feel something as if he were a person. 

This minimalist 2D platformer is about friendship and jumping, floating, and oh yeah, anti-gravity, which is really cool. Listen to the awesome soundtrack by David Housden. Jump over rectangles and listen to the amazing narration as the story progresses. 

This game isn’t just a random story about some kindergarten shapes. Thomas Was Alone tells the story of the first sentient Als, as they try to “escape” or maybe, “emerge”. The myriad of plot twists and superhero origin stories you’ll discover will have you really involved in the lives of these colorful rectangles. It’s definitely a must-play for a good story! 

 

Work together to solve puzzles with your friends.

9. Kentucky Route Zero (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch)

Kentucky Route Zero Gameplay

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realistic adventure game about a secret highway running through the caves beneath the American state of Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. This game is divided into 5 acts, this game is a narrative from a truck driver named Conway who tries to cross the fictitious Route Zero in Kentucky and the strange people he meets along the way. 

This game has received acclaim for its visual art, narrative, characterization, and atmosphere, and themes. All of these redeeming qualities make it an amazing story-driven game with the right amount of intrigue and attractive qualities. 

Kentucky Route Zero has received some criticism for its lack of gameplay, voice acting, and the lack of puzzles or mysteries to solve. However, this is just a game you play to enjoy the story and unfold the lives of the odd people you meet along the way. It has a certain charm to it, but if you want exciting puzzles and chilling mysteries, this isn’t a game for you. 


Make new friends...like a boy with a giant eagle as a pet!

8. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC/XBOne/PS4/Switch)

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Gameplay

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a first-person story-driven mystery game. You play as Paul Prospero, an occult-minded detective who receives a disturbing letter from a boy named Ethan Carter. Realizing the boy is in grave danger, Paul travels to Ethan’s home of Red Creek Valley, where it turns out things are worse than he ever imagined. Ethan has, as the name implies, vanished, in the wake of a brutal murder. 

The world of Red Creek Valley is beautiful, yet ominous due to the ghastly events that have occurred there. An interesting mechanic in the game is the ability to communicate with the dead, find out how they died and gather clues to help you unlock the mystery behind Ethan’s disappearance and the fate of his family. The investigation can be conducted on your own pace and your own terms. This game is less about terror and more about a looming sense of unease as you discover clues and solve puzzles to close the case.

This game is fascinating because let's be honest, it’s pretty awesome to get to play a deceive working on a grisly murder case! Along with the beautiful, photorealistic graphics and the lingering feeling of unease, this is a game with an intriguing story that will lock you in as you desperately try to solve the case of Ethan Carter. 

Nothing like fresh blood first thing in the morning.

 

7. Oxenfree (PC/XBOne/PS4/Switch/Mobile)

Oxenfree Gameplay

Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who unwittingly open a ghostly rift. You play as Alex, and you’ve just brought your new stepbrother Jonas to an overnight island party gone horribly wrong. 

Oxenfree is kind of reminiscent of those teen horror films of the 1980s. It features an intelligent, smooth conversation system that changes the storyline and relationships with the other characters depending on your answers. You can also communicate with the supernatural world via radio, and manipulate the world around Alex. Not to mention the soundtrack is awesome, coupled with the beautiful art style from Disney alumni. 

This game is not only gorgeous with well-done music, but it has a great storyline and several mysteries to unravel spanning decades and lifetimes. This isn’t a short game, but I love games that are longer and give more time to explore the story and character’s lives. This game was inspired by the lesser-known events of World War II, and I’m a history enthusiast, so this was enough for me to pick it up. 

Choose wisely: What you say and do affects the story.

 

6. 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. 

The choices you make shape the story.

 

5. Papers, Please (PC/PSVita)

Papers, Please Gameplay

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 some of my other 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 an immigration inspector, you meet people trying to gain access to Arstotzka, and review their documentation such as passports and 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 and a unique storyline you get to help create!

Review documents and admit or deny visitors.

 

4. Stardew Valley (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch/PSVita/Mobile)

Stardew Valley Gameplay

You’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with only hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home?

The best stories are the ones you create. That is the beauty of Stardew Valley. You have choices for what you want to do, and can do all or none of it! Will you follow the story of restoring the community center and bringing the community together again? Will you join forces with corporate giant JojaMart? Maybe you want to live a quiet life and get married and start a family. Perhaps you want to live in isolation on your farm and deal with no one. Anything you want to do is okay in Stardew Valley. 

There are also several options for how to grow your farm. Raise livestock, grow crops, heck, you can start your own brewery or cannery. You could spend your days fishing, cutting wood and breaking stones, or even dumpster diving in the trash (which is often frowned upon) for your next meal. There are so many ways to make a living in the valley, the sky's the limit!

I often call this game a better, grown-up Harvest Moon. Behind the charming town and seemingly pleasant villagers, there are deep topics to explore with them- from addiction to depression and suicide. It all depends on who you choose to call friends and become close to. What makes this game so great is you are not only forging your own story, but your very presence helps develop the stories of those around you as well. That, to me, makes it a great game with options for a great story. In Stardew Valley, you are the author of your destiny.

Live the life you want in Stardew Valley!

 

3. Undertale (PC/PS4/PSVita/Switch)

This game appeared on some of my other 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. During a war, the monsters were forced to live underground by humans, and relations have been tense ever since. 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 like 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 judgment on this gem of a game. 

I love this little ghost dude. 

 

2. Gone Home (PC/PS4/XBOne/Switch)

Gone Home Gameplay

June 7, 1995, 1:15 AM. You arrive 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, and not having any personal interaction with them at all. 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 story, 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 for its story, 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 explores the abandoned TV room.

 

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 all at once. 

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 story-driven 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. 

Home sweet home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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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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