As a counterbalance to this thread:
What are some video games that do a really good job of telling a good story? I expect Shadow of the Colossus to pop up here, but I’ve never played it as I’m PC-only.
Before someone comes in and says that all games have substandard storytelling or plots, I want to nip that argument in the bud by saying that many great films or books have gaping plot holes (Casablanca: a letter of passage won’t help Laszlo if the Vichy don’t feel like honouring it; the notorious eagle problem in Lord of the Rings; and so on). Nominations here don’t have to be utterly flawless and in line for awards for literature, but they do have to have both great storytelling and a genuinely good plot to be told. We’re also just talking plot and storytelling; awful gameplay or crippling bugs don’t exclude nominations.
My first nomination is the Witcher series, particularly the first one. The setting is well fleshed out, and unlike almost all major games it really feels like the game was built around the plot, rather than a plot being shoehorned into gameplay concepts. Each game is somewhat episodic in that each act has a side story along the main plot (in 1, the Beast of the outskirts; the Lady of the Lake; and so on), but they are very much intertwined (each act very much builds on the main plot threads as well as side threads), and events and choices in each act/area really do change later developments. The overall plot comes together to be suitably epic, does a good job of tying a number of threads together, and is grand enough to be difficult to summarise in a single sentence.
In the Witcher 2, these concepts are taken even further in that the 2nd act has mutually exclusive areas and storylines to play through depending on a major choice in act 1, and you really can’t uncover the whole story in a single playthrough. That’s both a strength and a weakness for the game.
The storytelling is way above average IMO, with writing and voice acting better than most games.
My second nominee is probably fairly controversial: Saints Row 2. This is a great game with an over-the-top setting, with characters that are larger-than-life yet still have considerable depth. Result: you get sucked in and suspend disbelief even though the setting should seem silly enough to distract. Similar games (GTA?) rely mostly on cardboard cutouts and stereotypes. SR2 goes farther – for one brief example, the stereotypically “gangsta” character, Pierce, has a fondness for classical music, and when he’s first planning a heist, he’s got a well-thought-out, intellectual plan that should lead to nobody being hurt – it’s instead the protagonist who cuts him off with “let’s just go in and shoot everybody”. Pierce is, in fact, the voice of reason and sophistication, which subverts his stereotyping.
Each storyline, for the separate gangs you’re fighting, has a number of twists and turns and do a good job of pulling you in. Overall, the plot is appropriate for the setting – a giant corporation manipulating gangs into gang war with the aim of lowering property prices, getting land at a steal, and getting huge profits as a result.
I thought the story was well told, frequently hilarious, with great characters and a functional plot.