StoryScan: Critical Hits

Strengths in Individual Game Stories

12 Minutes:

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

Alan Wake:

Alan Wake uses its abundant paratext to blur the line between fiction and reality.

BioShock Infinite: Exposition

Bioshock Infinite avoids the dreaded ‘info-dump’ by concealing crucial exposition deep inside its setting. 

Chrono Trigger:

Chrono Trigger tells a memorable story by hitting all of the key beats of the Three-Act Structure.

Cyberpunk 2077: Subplots and Side Stories

Cyberpunk 2077 uses the Sinnerman quest-line to reinforce themes of redemption and salvation.

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 IX: Character

Vivi the Black Mage is well-remembered because he has strengths, weaknesses, goals, and obstacles. 

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. 

Final Fantasy Tactics: Theme

Final Fantasy Tactics explores the corrosive effects of political in-fighting through the powerful and the powerless. 


Creative use of the source material makes Goldeneye (N64) a stand-out among cinematic adaptations.

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. 


Inside creates tension by withholding critical information from the audience, feeding into the fear of the unknown.

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver: Opening

Soul Reaver’s opening efficiently establishes the story’s plot, characters, and setting.


Portal’s AI antagonist keeps things interesting by making the impersonal personal.

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 7: Biohazard: Theme

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard reinforces its themes of survival through self-sacrifice with the recurring motif of the family. 

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. 


Snatcher combines its cinematic influences with original ideas, resulting in a story that could have only come from Hideo Kojima. 

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.

Team Fortress 2:

Team Fortress 2 uses paratextual videos and comics to overcome the storytelling limitations of the genre.

Trover Saves the Universe: Stakes

Trover Saves the Universe grounds its absurd story by periodically raising the stakes.

Until Dawn:

Until Dawn excels at scaring the player by borrowing terror-inducing techniques from some Hollywood horror classics.

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.