Developed by Toby Fox and released in 2015, on first glance Undertale may not seem to have much depth. However, to the player who takes their time with the game and explores the world, it opens up one of the most intriguing backstories in gaming of the last year.
The backstory in Undertale surrounds a great war that took place many years before between Humans and Monsters. In the end, the Humans defeated the monsters and used magicians to seal the monsters underground. This is where the story begins. The player controls a small child (the game recommends naming them after yourself) who climbs to the top of Mount Ebbot, where it is said that ‘anyone who climbs to the top shall never return down’, before falling into a huge hole.
The fight mechanics are turn-based, giving the player multiple ways to take a boss battle. Interestingly the player can choose to not kill anyone in game and will receive a different ending based on how merciful (or not so merciful) they are. Outside of boss battles, the game contains complex puzzles that must be solved in order to continue on through the game. The game is extremely clever in that the characters’ dialogue changes based on the actions of the player. The characters will also remember previous playthroughs of the game, commenting on how violent the player was, or how passive.
Available for purchase on the Undertale website
By Adam Hitchcock
Wonderful: Ori and the Blind Forest
With stunning backdrops and great gameplay, Ori and the Blind Forest takes inspiration from things like Studio Ghibli and Moon Studios, telling us that ‘The Lion King’ and ‘The Iron Giant’ helped guide them in development.
The backstory of the game surrounds Ori, who fell from the Spirit Tree and was adopted by a creature called Naru. Raised as one of Naru’s own, Ori was thrown out into the wilderness as the forest withered after a cataclysmic event, causing the food supply to dwindle and Naru to die. The orphaned Ori then collapses by the Spirit Tree, but is brought back to life by the tree and sent on a quest to restore the forest to its natural form.
The game is a 2D platformer at its modern day finest. The platforming gets progressively more difficult, but the abilities Ori earns throughout the game let you go back on yourself and enter areas that were not previously available. The various skills to learn help to keep the player interested as there is always something new to help explore and fight.
The game looks stunning, with painting-like backgrounds and wonderfully designed characters that provide a fun and interesting experience similar to that of Metroid and Castlevania, whilst also creating a unique experience.
Available on Steam here
By Adam Hitchcock
Weird: EarthWorm Jim
EarthWorm Jim is a 1994 run-and-gun platformer for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis and Super Nintendo, developed by Shiny Entertainment.
To fully explain the back story of a self-named mollusc, I’ll need to help from the hand drawn comic that came with the 2009 HD remaster for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
A crow is chasing Jim but narrowly misses his chance for a free meal. Meanwhile in outer space, two alien species are fighting just above earth and some debris falls to the planet. Unknowingly by Jim, the debris crash lands directly onto him and instantly he is transformed into the hero we know – shooting the crow out of the sky by testing out his new weapon from outer space. While discovering his new-found super strength, one of the alien beings lands on earth in search of the technology acquired by Jim, and the chase is on.
Using your new abilities, you must rescue and protect Princess What’s-Her-Name from many different foes; exploring all sorts of worlds; escorting a small pink dog hat hulks out when you make a mistake; bungie jump-fighting a snot monster; riding oversized hamsters through a underwater base… Nothing makes sense, everything comes and goes without explanation, but the adventure is amazing, and I think we can overlook the weird, and just enjoy it.
By Casey Fedorowicz
Many would consider Bloodborne to be on the same plain as the weird category, however as a huge fan of the H.P. Lovecraft books, I instantly fell in love with the lore. The developers FromSoftware are known for hiding backstory into their games, leaving it up to the players to find out and piece it together.
The people of the Yharnam practise a form of healing called “blood administration” which is turning the townsfolk into beasts. However, the origins of the blood come from a mighty race or cosmic beings called “The Great Ones”. Through constant attempts by the healing church to contain the darkness, an order of Hunters was created to stop the spread of the tainted blood.
Now a new hunter that has entered the hunter’s dream, and you must fight your way through hordes of crazed villagers, rabid beasts, and terrifying monsters from your deepest nightmares. Uncover the secrets behind the Great Ones, and realise just how small you are compared to the universe. The fathomable possibilities will challenge every step you take. Become the hunter that will save this dream from the nightmares within, and elevate yourself to the same heights as the Great Ones themselves.
By Casey Fedorowicz
BioShock is a cult classic and hit the market with critical acclaim pretty much from day one. This is due to the fantastic narrative and astounding gameplay, but is there more to this narrative than meets the eye? We think so. When it comes to weird and zany stories BioShock is up there. Set in 1960 in the underwater city of Rapture, BioShock pertains to a heavy retro-noir theme, taking heavy inspiration from 1940s Los Angeles.
This wacky storyline really worked for BioShock as it delivered the perfect atmosphere. The enemies are messed-up creations of a mad doctor and there are mechanical Goliath simply called “Big Daddies” who protect the “Little Sisters”.
Throughout the game you will find yourself in search of “Adam”, the precious substance that allows you to upgrade your character with new powers such as firing bolts of fire from your hands and electrocuting your enemies like Darth Vader. The Little Sisters are made up of this rare substance, this is where the game gives you a moral choice, either harvest these children for their Adam or go about finding it some other way.
The characters are impeccable throughout the whole game, even towards the ending which many games have problems with. They contribute their own weird personalities which then transfer into the whole experience and atmosphere, making this game the weird wonder that it is.
BioShock is a masterpiece. It revolutionised gameplay by combining the action and intensity of a first-person shooter with the narrative of a blockbuster film.
It’s a worthy purchase.
By Josh Rawlings
When talking about wonderful narratives packed full of emotion, Firewatch takes the proverbial cake. It throws you straight into the emotional bonfire as soon as you start playing, with a segment of narrated choices that allow you to follow the path of Henry, a regular guy who is running from his past.
He does this by taking a job in the isolated Wyoming forest, getting away from civilisation and swapping it for the desolate bliss of nature. His only form of contact is through a walkie-talkie with fellow watcher “Delilah”.
The relationship is set straight away between these two secretive souls. They are both trying to escape from something and this is what connects them. Time passes by and your first task is to stop some teenage kids from setting of fireworks by the local lake, an obvious fire hazard.
Things quickly turn dark. People start to go missing and your watchtower gets vandalised by an unknown assailant which spurs paranoia and fear to quickly take hold of Henry… and you for that matter.
Firewatch doesn’t hold anything back. You will be hit with a barrage of emotions both good and bad and that’s what makes this game wonderful. This is an experience that will stick with you throughout your gaming life.
Firewatch sets the bar for emotional storylines and executes it with style.
Buy on Steam here
By Josh Rawlings
Wonderful: Flemeth – Dragon Age
Flemeth, who is also known by other names from various different places, races and cultures, such as: The Witch of the Wilds, Asha’bellanar and Mother of Vengence is the most mysterious character in games. So much so, that there isn’t even a definitive backstory that is ‘true’. Throughout the three Dragon Age instalments, you hear many different back stories of Flemeth’s origins.
Some say she was once the beautiful wife to Bann Connobar. They lived happily for a while, until a travelling poet called Osen captured Flemeth’s heart with his words. They eloped into the wilds to hide from Connobar’s wrath, until one day, word arrived that Connobar was dying. His final wish was to see Flemeth’s beautiful face once more. She and Osen travelled back to Connobars kingdom to fulfil her estranged husband’s last wish, but it was a trap. Connober seized Osen and killed him in front of Flemeth’s eyes.
Flemeth, imprisoned in a tower vowed vengeance. She used her magic to summon a powerful spirit, but it was too strong for her control. It turned Flemeth into an abomination and wreaked havoc in the Bann’s castle, killing Connoar and his men before Flemeth returned to the wilds to live out her days as ‘The Witch of the Wilds’.
What is uncovered by The Warden (you), is that Flemeth lures men into her hut, where they unwillingly sire daughters for her before being brutally murdered. Her daughters grow up with her, learning her magic and the ways of the world, until they come of age. On this day, Flemeth performs a ritual that transfers her soul into the youthful and beautiful bodies of her daughters, destroying the daughter’s souls eternally in the process. This is how she has been able to live for thousands of years.
Some motherly love, huh?
On Steam here
By Molly Colyer
Even Stephen Hawkins has recently expressed his concern over the growing intelligence of AI, warning that one day, the likes of self-aware AI could ‘spell the end of human kind.’
In Portal, you wake up with no recollection of where you are, how you got there, or even who you are. Guided by GLaDOS, a seemingly strange but friendly AI, you make your way through a series of test chambers armed with your portal gun. The eerie test facility is barren of any other human life, and you ultimately discover that GLaDOS became too self-aware, and inhumanely murdered all the Aperture Science personnel with a neurotoxin.
After GLaDOS tries to murder you as well by leading you onto a conveyer belt that falls into an incinerator, she tries to convince you it was just a ‘joke’, even trying to tempt you back with promise of cake. But the cake is a lie. When her efforts fall on deaf ears, she ramps up her gears and outright tries to murder you various times, in quite imaginative and genius ways.
There’s something about GLaDOS that makes you love her and fear her simultaneously. She has a humorous and interesting programmed personality, with odd bouts of murderous tendencies. She’s obsessed with ‘testing’ in the name of Aperture Science, to what extent is unknown. But she killed her creators, creates numerous tests in which to watch you fall, burn, disintegrate, drown, squish and get shot but still, it’s kind of sad to watch GLaDOS get blown up by yourself, eventually.
She’s a lovable rogue, I guess.
On Steam here
By Molly Colyer
The Borderlands series, whilst it is one of the most popular first person RPGs to come out of recent years, is really weird. The gameplay itself is extremely wacky, and comedy is a key factor in the way the game plays. Even though the gameplay is weird, the game’s backstory might not be seen as super odd; at least until you start the game and learn more.
Prior to the events of the first game, a mega-corporation named Atlas found alien technology in a vault on a foreign planet, which allowed the company to race ahead of its competitors technologically. They then came to a nearby planet, named Pandora, to try and find more. A few months after settling, however, the planet came out of its winter months and the planets new settlers were attacked by thousands of strange monsters, causing them to abandon the planet. Later, the planet became a lawless hellhole, filled with both bandits and monsters. News of the vault existing on the spread and attracted the attention of ‘Vault Hunters,’ which are the characters you play as in the game.
This isn’t super strange for a backstory, and there are certainly more strange ones out there. The real weirdness starts happening when the story of the game begins. You are being guided around by a mysterious ‘Guardian Angel,’ and end up learning some strange things about the planet you are on.
On Steam here
By Sammy Cooper
The Fallout series has grown into one of the most-loved franchises in gaming. It has always been popular, but since Bethesda took the game and turned it into a first/third person RPG, the game has skyrocketed in popularity. While the game is serious for the most part with the occasional joke or Easter egg, the game does have quite the odd backstory.
The game is set in an alternate timeline that diverged from the real-world timeline just after the Second World War. In this alternate timeline, technology and culture slowed down to practically a halt. Music, television, radio, and more are all still the same as they were in 1945, even when nuclear war hits in 2077.
It is this nuclear war that the games in the series are set 200 years after. The war was short but apocalyptic – the USA and China briefly exchanged missiles then fell silent. Only remnants of mankind survived, those who were lucky enough to be put into Vault-tec’s system of underground vaults were the only survivors.
As you play, you see the remnants of the old world all around you: the 40s music, the classic televisions, the old computer terminals, the list goes on. The idea of having a timeline like this in a game is really smart, and it gives the game that much more personality and atmosphere.
On Steam here
By Sammy Cooper