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Top 10 Emotion Driven Games

Playing Heavy Rain really got me remembering one of the big advantages that video games have as a medium, that of being able to draw a player in emotionally. Sure, you can feel emotion reading a book or watching a movie, but with a video game you have control over what occurs. This brings the events to a personal level that is a bit harder to achieve. I thought I would try and look at some of my favorite games that feel driven by emotion. Now this is more than just emotional moments, this is a list of games that really try and pour it on and leave the player thinking afterwards. As standard we’ll keep it to one per franchise.

10 – Braid
Braid was a simple little indie game that attempted to take the idea of time manipulation and create an intriguing puzzle game with it. If the game was left at that, it would have still been one of the better indie games to come out recently. The developer, Jonathan Blow, decided to take things up one step further by creating a surreal and dreamlike world that the game takes place in. While simple at first, a deeper glance into the world reveals a deep story that focuses on a man coming to grips with his life and his emotions. This is a sorrowful tale about lost love and how one must learn to develop emotionally in order to truly gain acceptance.

9 – Baldur’s Gate II
While Baldur’s Gate was a grand success for BioWare, it was Baldur’s Gate II that truly cemented BioWare as one of the top RPG manufacturers. With this game they weaved a story that was incredibly intricate in plot and character development. On top of this, you could find numerous side stories that were more than the simple little fetch quests that one would expect. Each side quest/task was accompanied by its own plethora of developed characters who would get you emotionally involved in whatever they were tasked with. This game was also one of the earliest examples of developing personal relationships with those in your party to a point that caring for one left you hurting another. There was no perfect game here, there was a counter reaction to every action and choice you made and they would prove key to the later elements of the game.

8 – Metal Gear Solid 4
Metal Gear is a game franchise that has always been well versed in story telling and was one of the earliest examples of how direction and story could really dictate a game. While it was a bit tough to really pick one of the games, Metal Gear Solid 4 did the best job at running the overall gambit of emotions. The game is basically the culmination of everything that has come to pass in all the prior games. With so many stories coming to a close, there’s no way that the game wouldn’t take an emotional focus. We see sorrow in the deep stories of each of the boss characters and how they came to be. Then we cover dealing with death and loss as Snake must. Along with that you see how Snake must come to grips with his connections with Meryl, his “Brother”, and we even see the story of Raiden and his declining sense of humanity as he’s replaced more and more by machinery. This is really the epitome of the series.

7 – Kingdom Hearts
When it was first announced that Kingdom Hearts would combine Disney with Final Fantasy characters it seemed almost to belittle one of gaming’s beloved franchises. No one could have expected the deep and compelling story and characters that this game developed. Though the game started out incredibly light heartedly, it soon built up steam of a world full of life that was being corrupted by evil that was represented as having no emotions. Here alone we see the concept that if you can’t feel, you barely even exist and are practically empty inside. While most of us remember Disney films as childish things, Square Enix remembered the drama and heart that made the films work so well. When combined with the melodrama that most final fantasy type games were known for, you end up with a tour de force of emotions.

6 – Eternal Sonata
This surreal game is set in a world that exists purely inside the mind of composer Frederick Chopin as he lays dying. That alone should warn you that you’re in for a bit of a ride. Here we have a game that tries to deal with existence and the meaning behind it. This is defined in the numerous ways that the characters interact and deal with love, companionship, bonds, and what it means to believe in an ideal. The game itself can be a bit heady with a ton of metaphysical ideas and concepts that will have many scratching their brains as they try and piece together the logic behind how Chopin is a character in this world that’s in his mind that’s being destroyed. Add onto that the idea of what will happen to the characters when Chopin dies and you’re left really thinking and caring about each character and their lives.

5 – Final Fantasy X
Many will probably disagree with this series being so far down the list, but bear with me. Once again it was difficult to choose one out of such an elaborate franchise, but FFX was perhaps the most developed in its story telling. Most of the Final Fantasy games prior to this one had the story develop around only a few of the main characters while the rest were pushed to the side or played incredibly minor parts. It was in FFX that each character really developed an elaborate story of their own and had a pivotal role in the overall story. On top of that you have the overall theme of death through the game and each character has to deal with it in their own way. This game also had one of the more powerful of love stories in the final fantasy franchise and to have the ending that it did there was simply no way you couldn’t find yourself feeling for the characters in the end and understanding their pain.

4 – Silent Hill 2
For those who have played this, you will surely understand why it’s on this list without me having to say anything. For the rest, you have to understand that Silent Hill 2 at it’s root is a story about a man that must come to grips with the death of his wife. Everything that happens in Silent Hill 2 is based on the emotions and feelings of the main character. Every monster that you fight represents a different part of James Sunderland’s psyche and what makes him who he is. The characters you meet are all lost in their own little nightmares and at a deeper level you can find that characters such as Eddie and Angela represent other possible results of James’ identity if he had been pushed one way or another. When the big reveal happens at the ending it’s such a blow to the player that a level of its magnitude has rarely been replicated.

3 – Lost Odyssey
Many were probably put off from this game for its character designs, but this is one of the better RPG’s to come out in a long time. This was developed by Mistwalker Studios which is composed of some of the key members of the development teams of Final Fantasy’s 1-10. The game focuses on a group of immortals and how it drastically changes their interactions with humanity. While it starts out a bit cliched with the main character having amnesia, the reasoning behind it ends up being completely valid. This also actually adds a lot to the gameplay as we find out more and more of his tale through the “1000 years of dreams.” Here is the bread and butter of the emotion engine that is Lost Odyssey. These dreams, written by acclaimed novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu, are powerful short stories that are extremely heartbreaking and hit too close to home sometimes. We really get deep glimpses into the character’s psyche and why they’ve made the choices they have and see how immortality is truly a curse over a gift.

2 – Ico
It was a challenge deciding between this and Shadow of the Colossus, but Ico really had a more constant state of emotion through the story. From the second the game starts you are overwhelmed by an environment that almost seems to breath with life. When you meet Yorda, the game takes you into a world where we see that language is not a necessity for conveying feeling and emotion. Every little interaction that happens between Ico and Yorda is teeming with energy. The game really works at showing how these two bond over time in the way that he goes from pulling her by the hand to her almost seeking his hand out to stay near him. It’s the little elements that truly make this game. The first time Ico falls to far and Yorda runs to him to make sure he’s alright is so incredibly heartwarming that you just have to marvel at it. When a player first logs back into the game after saving, the sight of them asleep on the couch together calls back a time of innocence and love that we all can relate to. It’s such an established feeling that even looking at the trailer for The Last Guardian gets people drawn to the characters with a depth like no other.

1 – Heavy Rain
While some may consider this more an interactive movie than a game, it still has every right to be on this list. Most gamers today are a bit older and many of us are starting to have children. So for many, the concept and ideas within this game are extremely easy to relate too. There is a darkness in this game like no other and it really tries to bring out the emotions of the players in this way. Perhaps the key ingredient in getting the characters emotionally involved is in the way that the game itself changes based on the decision the characters make. These are not cut and dry good or evil decisions either. They are often really difficult choices with extremely powerful consequences. The whole focus of the game is on what lengths you would go to for someone you love. Being able to see what the character is thinking at any time through the game really gives you an insight into the emotions that may be driving the character you are playing as at the time. This is a game that will make you think and truly dwell on the choices you make long after you have made them. You will leave the game emotionally drained after some chapters, and it will truly make you think about what choices you would make.

  1. jettwinlock
    March 9, 2010 at 12:40 am

    You know what’s super sad game, Audio Surf playing, songs from Pure Moods.

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