While most RPGs are not quite novel-quality in terms of story, a vast amount of many RPGs are still shining examples of interactive storytelling. The year of 2008 offered a decent selection of top quality stories and here are the best.
The World Ends With You works for a great many reasons, and like with any good game, the best part is how they all fit together. This DS title has a great story because it's told not just with cutscenes. The chaotic and ironically lonely feel of Shibuya, the character art, the isolated partnership mechanics of the battle system; they all tell the strange tale of Neku and the people who help him learn about his world and himself. And while it dips into the melodramatic, the story remains one of the most gripping and unique crafted last year. The World Ends With You has plot twists, but it doesn't rely on them. It has beautiful moments and sad moments. It puts the players straight into the head of Neku and makes them feel his confusion, anger, and inspiration at the same time he does. What is perhaps most impressive about the story is that none of the new and bizarre characters and settings even feel out of place. The World Ends With You feels like an established universe with only one portable title under its belt, and even with its self-contained, powerful story, it feels like there is so much more waiting to be told.
The story in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is an interesting mix of exposition through the overall plot arc and through character interactions in social links. This gives RPGamers looking for more than just a basic story more depth in terms of being able to decide which characters they want to hang out with, learn more about, and even date. That's not to say that Persona 4's plot isn't outstanding in its own right. Players will be exploring Inaba and beyond in order to solve the case of the mysterious murders that plague the town on foggy days. The setting, plot, and social links bring this story together in a way that's easy to identify with and makes for a fantastic RPG story.
Fallout 3's overarching storyline is a masterpiece by itself, but the game's true genius comes from the way Bethesda allowed the game's story to be experienced rather than watched. Player choice is a key component of Fallout 3's storytelling, creating a game where the player has control over his destiny like never before. Right up to the end, the player can choose many aspects of how the game's story plays out. Throw in massive amounts of NPCs and side-quests, in addition to the exciting main quest, and Fallout 3's story becomes something that has never been done before.
by Tom Goldman, Ethan Pipher, Michael Cunningham