10. Final Fantasy VI
Yes, the final pixellated Fantasy game ever beats the more revered Final Fantasy VII to this list. While VII was one of the most impressive step-ups in a game series on a technical level, and combined that with a fantastic story, it owes a lot to the epic, sweeping plot of VI – which marked a tonal shift for the series. FFVI was the first time the series left behind the comforts of a generic medieval setting, taking us instead to a spectacular steampunk world of heavy industry and battleships. The story was gripping, and packed with some of the series’ most memorable characters, such as Umaro, Terra, not to mention the terrifyingly sociopathic villain, Kefka. The main party characters felt like a true ensemble, rather than followers of one particular ‘leader’, and there’s something poignant about this community-spirited approach. Unlike successive games in the series, the VI storyline didn’t feel cluttered or convoluted (commonly known as ‘Metal Gear Solid syndrome’). It’s a pretty classic storyline, but set in such a world and written in such a way that it has the edge over its fellow games in the series.
9. Fallout 2
Yes, yes. We’ve all heard by now that Fallout 4 has a string of memorable endings, but that still doesn’t bring it up to the level of what was told by Fallout 2, which marked a watershed moment in video game storytelling. Like other entries in the series, Fallout 2 is distinct thanks to its 1950s visualisation of what the future would’ve been like. It’s all atomic power, broken down shark-finned cars and clunky, heavy-looking industrial equipment, and that gives it a charm unlike any other. The main questline sees you having to save the villagers of Arroyo from the Enclave, but it’s all the little environmental and narrative stuff that really draw you into the world. The sharp dialogue (best in the series), the weird, engaging characters you meet, and the countless documents talking mournfully about the old world are all narrative elements that fill out the world beautifully. The significant level of choice given to players in making big decisions and shaping their own stories made Fallout 2 a narrative revolution in games, and most of the great RPGs of today owe a lot to this game as storytelling goes. Buy Fallout 2 at GOG