Strengths and Weaknesses of Individual Game Stories


This feature seeks to highlight specific aspects of a game’s story, such as adherence to a unique structure, its character development, or its usage of theme. Stories that handled these aspects well are discussed in the Critical Hits section; stories that struggled are discussed in Weak Points. Full Game Studies break down the strengths and weaknesses of entire games, including their structures, characters, and themes. 

Critical Hits

12 Minutes:

12 Minutes develops the theme of mindfulness, by connecting it to plot, character, and setting.

Harry finds his police vehicle in the ice

Disco Elysium:

Disco Elysium uses broken things as symbols to emphasize the theme of redemption.

Final Fantasy VII:

Final Fantasy VII’s memorable opening succeeds by weaving in  character, setting, theme, and conflict. 

Final Fantasy XIV: Character

Final Fantasy XIV establishes its villain’s character through an arc that forces him to make difficult choices. 

Final Fantasy XIV: Subplots and Side Stories

Final Fantasy XIV’s Dark Knight job quest-line adds depth to the main narrative by developing the characters, the setting, and the themes.

Final Fantasy Tactics: Character

Final Fantasy Tactics uses a Corruption Arc to show what happens when a character compromises his integrity in pursuit of his goals. 

Guilty Gear Strive:

Guilty Gear Strive uses its gleefully absurd tone to illustrate its themes while staying true to both genre and franchise conventions. 


Hades integrates the protagonist’s goals into its structure, marking the end of each act with a change in direction.

Kingdom Hearts:

Kingdom Hearts satisfies three separate audiences with an opening that emphasizes conflict and character development. 

Prey: Soundstage


Prey (2017) maximizes its setting, a labyrinthine space station, by using it to illuminate the plot, the characters, and the theme. 

Resident Evil: Village:
Setup and Payoff

Resident Evil: Village uses setup and payoff to create tension surrounding the mystery of the protagonist’s unique abilities. 

Spec Ops: The Line:

Spec Ops: The Line leaves a lasting impression on players by reinforcing its theme, the high cost of heroism, at key plot points. 

Super Mario RPG:

Super Mario RPG makes the most out of its lighthearted, comedic tone by integrating it in both story and scene.

Tales of Arise:
Inciting Incident

Tales of Arise combines global and personal conflict to create a compelling Inciting Incident.

Yakuza: LaD: Kasuga and the Tape

Yakuza: Like a Dragon:

Yakuza: Like a Dragon uses both kindness and cruelty to make the audience sympathize with its protagonists.

Weak Points

Chrono Cross:

Chrono Cross’s story struggles to get off the ground due to a lack of goals, stakes, and urgency.


An incurious protagonist punts DEATHLOOP’s key questions to its endings. 

Far Cry 5:

Far Cry 5’s use of a silent protagonist hamstrings the development of the other characters.

Final Fantasy VIII:
Setup and Payoff

Final Fantasy VIII’s most infamous plot twist is a failure of both setup and payoff. 

Mother 3:

Although Mother 3 is a much-loved cult classic, its irregular structure, perspective switches, and time skips result in an inconsistent pace. 

Octopath Traveler:
Setup and Payoff

The disconnect between setup and payoff in Primrose’s portion of Octopath Traveler leads to a stale, repetitive story with nothing new to say.

Persona 5:

Persona 5 has all the elements of a strong story, but a bloated third act keeps it from reaching its full potential. 

Full game Studies

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time’s flawless integration of plot, character, and theme made it an instant classic that has endured for decades. 

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

Majora’s Mask puts its main narrative on the backburner to make room for its compelling cast and complex themes. 

The Legend of Zelda:
The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker is a simple yet effective story that weaves the theme of generational change into every aspect of its narrative. 

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Twilight Princess gets off to an uneven start, but finds its focus once it narrows its cast to reach a strong conclusion. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword’s standout secondary character almost redeems the bloated third act and poorly-explored themes.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild uses an unconventional story structure to give Princess Zelda a long overdue Hero’s Journey of her own.