No video game can exist without gameplay. It’s the foundation that the medium has built itself on for decades. Almost every other aspect, including a game’s story, isn’t necessary to get players from one point to the other. Narratives do help build immersion, however, which is important for developers who are looking to hook users with memorable experiences. Each title below successfully manages to capture players with its gameplay, but fails to offer anything compelling as far as story goes. These video games are certainly worth playing, but it’s probably best if fans skip the cutscenes.
Video games with better gameplay than story – Destiny
Given the memorable characters and spectacular conflicts players had in Bungie’s Halo series, many were expecting the studio’s next franchise, Destiny, to follow in its footsteps. While Destiny does boast tight first-person shooter gameplay and some fun RPG mechanics, its story is generic and forgettable. The first title’s premise certainly isn’t special, as it tasks Guardians with defending Earth’s last city from aliens. Characters are also pretty one-dimensional and not much lore is explained in-game. For the full story, fans are obligated to search online.
Destiny 2 does succeed in giving users a better story experience (including an actual villain to fight against), but it doesn’t reach the same narrative sophistication of Bungie’s earlier hits. Perhaps the company’s recent distancing from Activision will change how the series’ story will play out in an upcoming sequel.
Video games with better gameplay than story – Most Mainline Pokémon Games
Nearly every mainline Pokémon game since 1996 has players assume the role of a fledgling trainer who decides to take on each one of his or her region’s eight gym leaders, challenge the Elite Four, and become champion. In every title except Ruby and Sapphire, the protagonist doesn’t have a dad, there’s a villainous organization of villains to take down, and a rival stops players intermittently to test their skills. There’s not a lot of drama to be found here.
On the bright side, gameplay is simple and addictive, as up to six Pokémon can be used in battle, each one with its own unique abilities and type attributes. Memorizing which monsters are best to use is fun and welcoming for those who aren’t used to turn-based JRPGs. There are also hundreds of Pokémon to collect now. Despite each game’s basic gameplay design, the quest to “be the very best that no one ever was” is probably going to take a while.
Video games with better gameplay than story – Metal Gear Solid 5
The Metal Gear franchise’s transition to open world gameplay in Metal Gear Solid 5 is seamless. The game allows fans to approach mission objectives however they like, without punishing them for deviating from stealth mechanics. Missions can be completed with assistance from an AI-controlled partner like Quiet or D-Dog or undertaken entirely solo. The choice is totally up to the player.
Though the game’s story also diverges from tradition, it’s not as successful in leaving a lasting impression. Metal Gear Solid 5 requires that players learn the intricacies of the franchise’s narrative beforehand. Even with this knowledge, however, the story is hard to follow, as some scenes don’t sensibly tie into one another or end abruptly. That’s not to mention the title’s disappointing conclusion and the missing Episode 51.
Video games with better gameplay than story – Bayonetta
Bayonetta revolves around sexiness and style. The franchise’s gameplay makes this clear from the get-go, as its fast-paced, flashy action combat is reminiscent of God of War, Devil May Cry, and Ninja Gaiden, but arguably feels better than all three. It helps that each game constantly messes with the player’s perspective and sense of scale. One moment, the titular witch may be fighting enemies on the ground. The next, she’ll be rebounding off platforms in the stratosphere.
Unfortunately, each title’s narrative is a bit too esoteric. The first game centers itself around Bayonetta’s strange memory loss and the sins of her past. The second has her rescue her friends from the Gates of Hell and its evildoers. Universes, time travel, and other sci-fi elements are thrown in the mix and make each plot hard to follow without a synopsis nearby.
Video games with better gameplay than story – Metroid: Other M
Metroid: Other M is Samus Aran’s most controversial game for good reason. Its simple control scheme allows players to enjoy the title with only a Wii remote. Gameplay is somewhat preserved from the Prime series, allowing fans to alternate between first and third-person perspectives (though traversal is limited to the latter). Environments are designed with exploration in mind, and players can execute enemies with cool melee finishers once their health is depleted significantly. Few would argue that Other M‘s gameplay is its greatest weakness.
That distinction lies in its story, which is ironic considering how the game was developed with plot and characterization in mind. Unskippable cutscenes remove fans from gameplay in long intervals. These sometimes last up to 15 minutes. Dialogue is fairly uninteresting and portrays Samus as a whiny teenager rather than a hardened bounty hunter. Her misguided loyalty to Commander Adam Malkovich feels out of character considering her independence in prior Metroid games.
Ultimately, Other M fails in giving players a reason to care about Samus like they had in the past. The franchise has the potential to deliver on a compelling narrative-driven experience if it manages to portray the famed bounty hunter in a better light. Hopefully the upcoming Metroid Prime 4 blends gameplay and story appropriately.
Gameplay is an integral part of any video game. It’s the ingredient that separates the medium from film and television and gives it its own identity. That’s not to say that video games can’t borrow from these channels to give players a range of interactive entertainment to choose from, be it episodic or long narrative-driven experiences. No matter if gameplay or story suits one’s preference, it’s undeniable that a variety of software options keeps the industry healthy and open to whomever wants to play next.