Successes and Failures in Popular 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. 

Critical Hits

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. 

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.

Harry finds his police vehicle in the ice

Disco Elysium:

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


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

Final Fantasy XIV: Character

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

Final Fantasy VII:

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

Prey: Soundstage


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

Guilty Gear Strive:

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

Weak Points

Chrono Cross:

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

Mother 3:

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

Final Fantasy VIII:
Setup and Payoff

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

Persona 5:

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