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Top 10 Episodic Video Games

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Kurt Hvorup Video games and episodic storytelling have proven to be a capable pair. Join WatchMojo.com as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Episodic Video Games. For this list we're strictly taking a look at games released in multiple instalments or “episodes” which contribute to one overarching story – so we have to exclude chapter-based games like “Heavy Rain” and “Alan Wake”. We're also leaving out “Half Life 2: Episode One” and “Episode Two” as the games were never released in full, and we doubt that this will change. Special Thanks to our users "Daniel Fong" "Dangkhoa Nguyenhuynh" "Eric Silver" for submitting this idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Kurt Hvorup

Top 10 Episodic Video Games


Video games and episodic storytelling have proven to be a capable pair. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Episodic Video Games.

For this list we're strictly taking a look at games released in multiple instalments or “episodes” which contribute to one overarching story – so we have to exclude chapter-based games like “Heavy Rain” and “Alan Wake”. We're also leaving out “Half Life 2: Episode One” and “Episode Two” as the games were never released in full, and we doubt that this will change.

#10: “Tales of Monkey Island” (2009)


Blades at the ready and insults prepped for release. “Tales of Monkey Island” had quite the challenge when it was conceived: acting as a fitting continuation of developer LucasArts' acclaimed graphic adventure series, while updating it to work in a five-episode plotline. Fortunately, the game succeeds in finding a balance between tense drama and fanciful escapism in now-veteran pirate Guybrush Threepwood's quest to stop a voodoo pox from spreading. The trademark off-beat humour of yore remains intact, alongside an emphasis on quirky logic puzzles and more than a few quietly heartfelt moments spread throughout.

#9: “Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey” (2014-)


Is this the real life... or is this fantasy? Set to consist of five “Books”, “Dreamfall Chapters” picks up from the bittersweet conclusion of its predecessor “Dreamfall: The Longest Journey”. Little by little it builds up the growing turmoil and mutually fascinating conflicts of its twin settings, the cyberpunk realm of Stark and the magical world of Arcadia. The game also toys with elements of Australian Aboriginal mythology, as well as themes of conspiracy and reality, to deliver a story where player interpretation and introspection is welcomed.

#8: “Game of Thrones” (2015)


Gaming's more than capable of embracing a “you win or you die” mentality, and this is the proof. Telltale Games' six-episode “Game of Thrones” project opted to grant the spotlight to House Forrester, a clan not seen in the TV show but alluded to in the original books. Its use of an established dark fantasy setting and its reliance on choice-based narrative permits “Game of Thrones” to tell an emotionally-poignant tale about loss, betrayal and sheer perseverance. Plus, it offers an alternate perspective on events and characters from the HBO series.

#7: “Resident Evil: Revelations 2” (2015)


A little bit of old, a little bit of new... and no less intriguing for it. “Revelations 2” brings classic heroes Barry Burton and Claire Redfield back from the sidelines, pairing them off with sidekicks as part of its carefully unfolding story. Beside merging the unsettling atmosphere of older “Resident Evil” games with post-”Resident Evil 4” combat mechanics, this four-part game does an admirable job of tackling asymmetrical gameplay. Most of the time, players have control of one combat-savvy character with an affinity for guns and one specialized character useful for exploration or melee battles. Nicely done, Capcom.

#6: “Tales from the Borderlands” (2015)


Catch a ride, won't you? “Tales from the Borderlands” puts players in the dual roles of Rhys, an ambitious employee of Hyperion, and Fiona, a con artist. Each episode provides Rhys and Fiona's distinct perspectives on events, allowing for amusing contradictions and giving players a greater sense of the big picture. More of note, however, is the game's overall embodiment of the black comedy and unusual characters that make the “Borderlands” franchise so beloved. It's a testament to Telltale's writing ability that their usual mix of dialogue-centric adventure game design and player-controlled choices blends so well with this universe.

#5: “Kentucky Route Zero” (2013-)


Though the future is still uncertain, things look good for this indie game. You are Conway, a truck driver sent on deliveries that take him down the strange and mysterious Route Zero of the title. What's disarming is the game's scaled-back approach to graphic adventure design; there are no typical puzzles or obstacles to overcome, with the focus being placed on mood building and the story. Yet this angle serves “Kentucky Route Zero” well, as it lets gamers engage with the game's slowly-unfolding mysteries and tangible atmosphere at their own pace.

#4: “The Wolf Among Us” (2013-14)


Fairy tale creatures and characters in modern New York – that's a hell of a hook. Luckily, Telltale Games uses the premise of the “Fables” comic book to great effect, putting us in the world-weary shoes of Sheriff Bigby Wolf. Its ties to the comic's canon and toying with established relationships is second only to the expert implementation of the 1980s setting, complete with era-appropriate soundtrack. However, it also makes time to build a neo-noir detective story that balances a sense of tension and the need to incorporate player choices from episode to episode.

#3: “Starcraft 2” (2010-15)


A saga begins, reaches its climax and ends in glory. This is the mould set by developer Blizzard Entertainment's “Starcraft 2” trilogy – consisting of “Wings of Liberty”, “Heart of the Swarm” and “Legacy of the Void”. From the story side of things, each instalment adds further nuance to the universe's characters and conflicts, building to an intense and cathartic resolution. Yet the three components of the total “Starcraft 2” experience also deliver on tweaks to the core real-time strategy gameplay, from offering branching mission paths to carefully modifying existing units' abilities.

#2: “Life Is Strange” (2015)


So simple a title, yet so poignant. Square Enix wisely opted to publish this work from game company Dontnod Entertainment, about a photography student named Maxine who suddenly finds she has the power to turn back time. Thus, over the course of five episodes, the player controls Maxine in her efforts to intervene in the lives of her friends and people in her hometown, with awe-inspiring results. Along the way, players are treated to a game where consequences visibly endure, punctuated by a quietly evocative folk music-like soundtrack and interesting twists on standard adventure game puzzles.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Doctor Who: The Adventure Games” (2010-11)

“Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People” (2008)

“Back to the Future: The Game” (2010-11)

“Minecraft: Story Mode” (2015-)

#1: “The Walking Dead” (2012)


Truly Telltale is the modern master of the episodic model. At least, that's our impression having experienced “The Walking Dead”, a five-episode game focused on the relationship between history professor Lee Everett and his young charge Clementine amid a zombie apocalypse. From the increasingly gruelling decisions, to the moral and ethical quandaries raised, to even the complex nature of its characters, everything contributes to this bittersweet tale of survival. The directorial flourish and emotional power behind “The Walking Dead” proved popular enough for Telltale to produce the equally-acclaimed “Season 2”, for which we're thankful. And also a little distraught, but mostly thankful.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite episodic video game? For more sequential Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.

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