I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of story-driven games, but even I can’t deny some are truly special; the same can be said for a game’s lore. Whether it’s a grim and dark future of war or fantasy-filled worlds, some games have so much depth and intrigue that even those (like me) who hate stories and lore can’t help but enjoy and appreciate their worlds. These are 6 of the best games to play for lore and backstory, even if you hate heavier games. These are in no particular order and range across a few genres and settings.
6. Dragon Age
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3
Let’s start with a classic medieval fantasy game, shall we? In this series of RPGs, players create their hero and journey across the continent of Thedas, with each game telling its own unique story whilst also fitting into a larger and detailed world.
The game’s plot is already a beefy one, but the additional content takes an already robust world and builds it out in so many ways. Nearly every aspect of this fantasy series has lore or background story attached to it and is incredibly deep. Being a fan of fantasy put Dragon Age on my radar early and while it’s certainly a good RPG, it’s the amount of detail and content in the world that kept me around.
Through its many codex entries and exploration, you’ll learn of the blights that ravaged the world, the history of the world’s politics, religions, and its incredibly diverse range of races and people. All this and a few books and novels add countless bits of information that expand this world in great detail.
When I first saw this series, it seemed pretty standard fare fantasy on the surface, but beyond that initial impression lies a far more interesting world. Learning each race’s history, like the elves’ racial prejudice or side quests that explored the mythology of the land were some personal highlights for me. Once you begin to dive in a little deeper, It becomes clear how much time and effort went into making these fantasy epics stand apart from their competition. Fans of fantasy epics should check out this series if you fancy all things dragon, magic, and great worldbuilding.
5. Bethesda games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3
This one is a bit broad, but it’s for a good reason. Across its franchises like Fallout and Elder Scrolls, Bethesda has proven time and time again that they know how to create a rich and vibrant world.
Bethesda created a huge world that’s full to the brim with information and detail with the Elder Scrolls. Across its 5 single-player games and an MMORPG, they have created multiple regions, each adding and interconnecting into a long and storied history. There are plenty of books, documents, and quests, all which feed into the wider world, making it easy to fully engross yourself in the game’s various settings and kingdoms.
If sci-fi is more your thing, Fallout explores an alternate timeline with plenty to discover. Different areas of the United States in the aftermath of the great war, events and history that led to the destruction of the world through a plethora of journals, notes. Along with a few novels and tabletop games, it makes for a rather dense world to get immersed in; Fallout: New Vegas being a particular standout of the series.
Great world-building and stories are easily what the studio excels at, even if their games aren’t top-tier. Often I can find myself continuing to play these games purely for the world, setting, and the great amount of lore and background they have to offer. Additionally, both have communities that add their own unique stories through mods and expansions that add even more to these worlds.
Whether it’s a sci-fi apocalypse or knights and monsters, Bethesda is a studio you should pay close attention to. They may not always make the best games, but they certainly know how to create a rich universe.
4. Death Stranding
Platforms: PC, PS4
Okay, this entry is to be expected given it’s a Kojima game.
Much like Kojima’s other games, Death Stranding is full to the brim with a fascinating and confusing story all at once. It’s the literal hundreds of lore notes and documents that make the world come alive. Each piece often contains a ton of information that builds both the characters and the world. Through these, you’ll learn theories of Death Stranding, the ghost-like Bt’s, and this world’s complex history.
The unique world was what sold me on this game. With just how much all its little details and nuanced stories and lore intrigued me, it couldn’t help but keep going. Reading every new file or message I got as I progressed would sometimes raise more questions than answers. Even so, it still kept me coming back and making my own theories and ideas more so than any game I’ve played in recent memory—all whilst touching upon its themes in clever and unique ways.
Though it should be said, it’s not for everyone. At times it can be a lot of information that frankly sounds like gibberish. But for those who want a unique experience, then Death Stranding should be top of your list.
3. The Witcher 3
Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS5, PS4, PS3
I couldn’t rightly make a list on lore without including this absolute gem.
Based on a series of novels, The Witcher 3 is pretty much a masterclass in worldbuilding and lore. Everything in this game is explained and explored in a ton of detail. There is so much to explore that it’s easy to get completely lost in the game’s setting. You’ll be able to discover every monster’s traits and characteristics, regions with entirely unique stories, distinct features, and a ton of characters through side quests.
Not to sound too gushy, but I can’t think of another game with such great lore and mythology. Every single piece of information I found or learned felt important. I’d often spent my downtime just reading through the bestiary and character profiles, learning more about the world. But what makes Witcher special is the quality of its side quests. I’ve never experienced a game where its side quests contain so much detail, with each feeding to the region’s story and being told in detail with great writing that made it a genuine pleasure to learn and discover.
Not to mention it’s both interesting and helpful, teaching you how to fight monsters or prepare you for your dealings within the world. I honestly couldn’t stop myself from reading every piece of new tidbit I found and I imagine many other players feel the same.
I could be here forever talking about this RPG classic. You just have to play it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
2. Warhammer 40K/Age of Sigmar
Platforms: Tabletop, PC, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3-5, Mobile
This entry is a pretty hefty one; that’s putting it mildly.
Games Workshop has managed to grow both versions of this tabletop juggernaut into huge franchises filled to the brim with lore and mythology. Spanning across multiple formats, these franchises are overloading with intricate and detailed lore that spans decades. Both versions offer completely unique experiences and are equally interesting to explore.
Age of Sigmar has the classic feeling of fantasy inspired by the likes of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and medieval Europe. It’s got gods, plague, magic, and all that classic fantasy you would expect. 40K, on the other hand, takes place in the far future of war that spreads across the stars.
Over the years, I’ve dipped in and out of this hobby and reviewed a few of its games. I always find these worlds easy to get invested in; Partly thanks to the frankly insane amount of source material they have. Huge sagas such as the Horus heresy is a prime example of the great storytelling and lore that has gone into this franchise.
The last few years have been especially good, with new animations and games delving into unexplored areas of the universe’s lore. This includes the Hive worlds that have given the franchise a boost in both popularity and quality. All of which have been great and welcome additions from this longtime fan and observer. Necromunda: Hired Gun being the newest entry to pique my interest.
There is so much to explore with this entry. It’s honestly worth every moment of your time if you fancy exploring this multimedia behemoth. Trust me; it’s worth the effort.
Anyone who has played any entry to this series knows it’s one filled with backstories.
Starting with the RTs classics, Warcraft established a rich mythology and a world that was filled with incredible characters and stories, eventually leading into one of gaming’s longest-running MMOs, World of Warcraft. Now entering its 17th year, this franchise has had heaps of additional content and lore added to its gigantic universe. Alongside its already pretty dense storylines within each of its eight expansions, you have novels exploring characters’ histories and lives, detailed accounts of hundreds of events, animatics, and a film (not a particularly good one, mind you).
I returned to WoW last year, and even during my 10-year hiatus, I often kept up to date with what was happening in Azeroth. It would be fair to say that not all aspects of this series’ lore are great. But despite some weaker pieces of story, this series has continuously produced new additions to its history. There are still new additions being made that explore established characters like the new novel Sylvanas. I’d recommend reading up on Arthas, who is easily one of WoW’s most interesting characters.
I’ve no doubt this game will continue to evolve its lore. The newest expansion, Shadowlands, has some potential to seriously shake up the universe like we haven’t seen in a while. It’s quite an investment, but one that is worth it.