Lore... Lore is what makes an interesting story into a great one. Lore is what makes fanboys out of players. Lore is what builds a video game's world into something more than a button masher. Lore is what compels players to dig deeper into a game to find out new information that a casual playthrough will not reveal. If you have yet to guess it, lore is what we will be looking at today.
These seven games may not be the only games with great storylines; however, these games had the ambition to do more than just present us with a face-value story. They are games that have given us interesting stories, or maybe just interesting gameplay, but have also snuck in some interesting little factoids about the game's world that players have to rather unlock or search for in order to learn.
Like the great mythopoetic authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis, these games have created immersive worlds that are interesting on the surface, and yet they still have much more to present for the ambitious Easter Egg hunter or completionist.
Without further ado, let's take a look at these 7 great games with impressive worlds fueled by lore!
Bioshock has some interesting lore... for those who are out to look for it. While the lore in this game isn't particularly "hidden", it does require you to look for it in the form of audio diaries. What is hidden, however, is the backstory of Rapture and Columbia. Everything from the fall of Rapture, to the development of vigors and plasmids are all revealed through these audio diaries. This is simply something that could not be done without awkward plug-ins to the main story.
Metroid Prime Trilogy
Those who have read my Metroid Prime Rewind Review will know that Metroid Prime is great for lore. Similar to Bioshock, Metroid Prime feeds lore to players through the use of the Scan Visor. This allows players to pretty much learn anything they could possibly want to know about anything they see.
What does this animal do to survive? Scanning...
How does this plant live in magma? Scanning...
How much health does this energy capsule heal? Scanning...
I wish I was exaggerating, but Metroid Prime pretty much lets you scan everything. The best part is that Retro Studios put a serious effort into explaining the existence of absolutely everything in the game, something that most Metroid games leave up to the player.
Furthermore, the scans also allow players get information on the planets themselves. By scanning dead aliens (or humans) as well as scriptures and so on, Samus has access to the entire backstory of each game - sometimes including info from past titles.
Blizzard Entertainment Universes
Blizzard is an interesting company when it comes to lore. While each universe has its distinct genre, their worlds are carefully thought out. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Blizzard was the pioneer of commercial fantasy and sci-fi in video games when it comes to lore.
Take for example World of Warcraft. Originally starting as an RTS game, Warcraft has managed to captivate the masses with bundles upon bundles of deep lore. Almost every single character you meet in the RTS or MMO games have relationships to at least two other characters, and those characters can have even further relationships to others. With enough perseverance one could possibly link a random NPC to the Lich King. Towns and kingdoms have rich backstories as well, with some dating back to the earliest games in the series.
Starcraft similarly has great backstory behind its characters, and its planets. Everything has a purpose, and it is a prime example of mythopoeia gone wild. Even units have their backstories, and while the backstory might not be about Joe Doe doing this or that, every unit has a purpose for its existence from the Zergling to the Terran Goliath.
Diablo has also made sure that each game fits in with the last installment, sometimes retconning details such as the Warrior from the first game being the Dark Wanderer from Diablo II. Similar to Warcraft's web of characters, the Dark Wanderer can be linked to King Leoric, who can be linked to Diablo and so on.
All of these games have spawned entire wikis filled with hundreds of entries, the likes of which take days to read through. With Heroes of the Storm acting as a non-canon mash-up of all Blizzard heroes, I would not be at all surprised if somebody found a way to prove the game is actually canonical. Maybe they could start with Diablo in Starcraft II, Tauren Marines, or the Hydralisk found in Warcraft III?
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
While most of its lore isn't exactly "hidden" per se, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask does a good job of sparking speculation in its players. The reason? Even by fantasy standards, Majora's Mask is a mindbend that makes no coherent sense without looking at the game through a literary lens.
Take for example the "Link is Dead" theory. Just like the name implies, the "Link is Dead" theory surrounds the possibility that Majora's Mask is actually a game about a dead Link. After venturing into the Lost Woods without a fairy, Link is turned into a Stalfos, for this is the fate of all Hylians who venture through its labyrinth. This theory has been supported from various fronts, ranging from Ocarina of Time's Link being the Hero's Spirit from Twilight Princess, to the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief symbolized by each region, to even the reused character models that are prevalent throughout the game.
Another theory that is popular with Majora's Mask surrounds the origins of the mask itself. Some theorists have considered the possibility that Termina is not a separate world, but rather a form of the Twilight Realm. According to this theory, Majora's Mask may have been created by the Twili before their banishment to the Twilight Realm.
The theories aside, Majora's Mask also hides a lot of its lore in the game itself. For example, due to the game's constant revolving around three days, Majora's Mask ensures that players cannot discover all the lore in one playthrough. By traveling to different areas at different times of day we can learn everything from the results of Anju and Kafei's love, to Romani being put into a stupor by Cremia during their final hours so she will not feel the pain. The game's dark undertones cast a shadow over many of its themes and backstory, forcing players to constantly reset the clock to find out more.
Some readers might be confused as to why Pokemon made this list, but there is method to my madness.
Let's start with the basics: Pokemon literally gives you a book of lore at the very start of the game. In fact, your job as a Pokemon Trainer is to acquire more lore, so that the professor of lore can have more lore to share with other professors who are discovering lore. Is that too much of a mouthful? Well let's simplify it: your Pokedex is the guide to the Pokemon universe.
That's right. Your job this entire time as a Pokemon Trainer was to do exactly what Bioshock was doing with its audio books: gather lore. The Pokedex is perhaps one of the most interesting lore books in the history of gaming in that it provides information on every single creature you capture, and each installment of the series provides players with something new. What is even more interesting, however, is that the Pokedex - particularly in the older titles - has some very dark secrets about Pokemon.
For example: did you know that Duskull gets kicks out of watching children cry? Or how about that Yveltal pretty much kills everyone the second it dies? How about that the Pokemon world itself is actually Earth? We can find this out through Delibird's Pokedex entry where it tells us that it helps people climb Mount Everest!
A lot of backstory is told through NPCs and books as well. Through the lore we can discover that our rival in the 2nd generation of Pokemon was actually the son of the Team Rocket Leader, Giovanni. We also learn in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire that the 1st through 3rd generations of Pokemon take place in an alternate universe, explaining the reason why the remakes exist. The amount of stashed away world lore combined with the Pokedex makes the Pokemon series' world seem deceivingly simple.
The Elder Scrolls Series
The Elder Scrolls is the Lord of the Rings of the gaming world. With 6 games under its belt, and almost 10 expansion packs shared among them, The Elder Scrolls is perhaps one of the largest video games in terms of world building.
Skyrim alone has some of the most interesting lore in its two main quests: the battle between man and dragons, and the battle between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks.
With the battle between man and dragon you have an entire political background ranging from the dominance of man by dragon, and the eventual uprising with the aid of the Dragonborn. Then you have the link between The Blades - a group who acted as royal guards in Oblivion - and an ancient society of dragon slayers.
Meanwhile, with the Stormcloaks and the Imperials you learn a lot about the political landscape of Cyrodil. Gone are our impressions of the Imperial Legion being this team of "good guys", and in comes the image of the Legion being a bunch of oppressive power mongers. The flipside, however, is that the Stormcloaks are a bunch of radical racists who want nothing more than to liberate Skyrim of anyone who is not of nordic descent.
If that's not enough for you, how about you take a look at the hundreds of books in the Elder Scrolls series? I'm not talking about physical books, I'm talking about in-game texts. These books range from harlequin romance and erotica, to holy texts and scientific knowledge of the world. For example, did you know that Nirn - the name of the world in The Elder Scrolls - is a geocentric planet? That means that the sun and the stars orbit the planet. On top of that, night is not a result of the lack of sun, but rather the blackness is the plain of Oblivion itself blocking out the heavens. Cool, huh?
Like Majora's Mask, The Elder Scrolls has also cultivated its own groups of theorists who have argued everything from who the true gods are, to whether or not the "Dragonborn" is the same person in a different body each time.
For its impossibly complex backstory and sizable collection of lore, as well as its ability to spark the minds of theorists, The Elder Scrolls series could possibly take the spot of being the greatest game for lore in history.
Five Nights at Freddy's
Those of you who have been on the internet anytime between August 8th, 2014 and the present day knew that this game would be in this list, and for good reason. As if the millions of let's play videos, and the hundreds of Five Nights at Freddy's themed music tracks weren't enough, the mad speculation and theory building behind the game's lore puts this game on top.
Five Nights at Freddy's does everything a horror game should: scare people with a mix of suspense and jumpscares, make the protagonist relatable (i.e.: you working in a part-time job), and provide a sinister backstory behind what is otherwise nothing more than your everyday killer.
Perhaps the best part about this game is that the lore is near invisible. Through the calls with the "Phone Guy" we learn almost nothing about why these animatronics are after our blood, the only obvious one being that we supposedly look like an endoskeleton outside of its suit. However, by looking at magazine clippings on the walls, or playing hidden minigames in the sequels, we learn that Freddy & Co. are possessed by the spirits of dead children. What's more, a security guard killed them, known to fans as the "Purple Guy".
Sort of makes us wish our protagonist didn't take up the first security guard job that showed up, huh?
As much as I would love to rant on about all the crazy theories surrounding this game, there's no better place to look for them than online. If you want to learn more about this game's lore, the Five Nights at Freddy's Wiki, or the Game Theorist series on the Five Nights at Freddy's lore are great places to start.
And there you have it, 7 great games for those of us looking to get immersed in a whole library of lore!
This is where I turn it to you guys: what games would you have added to this list? Do you disagree or agree with what's already here? Do you play games that have great lore even if they are lacking in gameplay? Leave your suggestions and opinions in the comments section below!