As an entertainment medium, video games put you in direct control of the protagonist. You’ll often have an active hand in determining their choices, dialogue, actions, and the direction of a game’s narrative.
Whether their stories are linear or are much more open-ended, video games let you experience a narrative first-hand. Since video games are an interactive medium, they can also tell their stories in innovative ways that movies or TV shows can not.
For example, great games use detailed environments to tell stories. Other games scatter notes, voice recordings, and text logs so you can piece together what happened yourself using fractured details.
In today’s guide, we’ll be going through the best story-rich games on Switch, with those from excellent traditional storytelling to more creative methods, ensuring all titles have narrative at the core of their gameplay.
Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition
Fallen London is an interactive text-based narrative game you can experience on your browser. The atmospheric game lends its gloomy universe to Sunless Sea, and the gameplay is as oppressive as its dark themes.
Assume control of a Zee captain (sea captain) in charge of your own Zubmarine. The game’s setting takes place in a massive dark underground ocean, where one small misstep can draw an eldritch monster to take down your crew—or drive them to insanity.
Sunless Sea’s writing is phenomenal, bringing their signature ominous stories that detail their ruined world. Yet, the story is also personal to your journey since the narrative depends on where you choose to explore in its open world.
Moreover, you’ll choose your win condition early in your run, which means that the core narrative will revolve around that. Sunless Sea is an excellent horror-themed RPG that will force you to make hard decisions, making it one of the best story-rich Switch games.
Oxenfree is a point-and-click adventure game that boils down to a teenage coming of age story wrapped around a supernatural mystery. The game is able to discuss the character’s societal issues while keeping you engaged in the plot.
You’ll play as a teenage girl, Alex, on a weekend trip to a nearly abandoned military island with her friends. She also brought Jonas, her new stepbrother, to meet her friends.
Her group of friends learned of a rumor that specific radio frequencies are tied to the supernatural. They decide to test the theory, and accidentally opens a dimensional rift. It is up to Alex and Jonas to save their friends and escape the island.
Oxenfree’s dialogue system is a refreshing take on the genre. Alex’s dialogue choices appear as speech bubbles above her head, which the player can choose within a time limit.
The conversation flows more realistically because they can interrupt each other, or even choose to remain silent. What you choose and when you say it also affects Alex’s relationship with the core cast.
Additionally, Oxenfree can be replayed a second time because of its New Game Plus mode. On your second playthrough, there are minor changes which can affect the overall narrative.
While Oxenfree contains horror and the supernatural, the crux of the narrative is the shaky relationships of the characters.
Ever so often, a video game is so evocative, beautiful, and emotional that it becomes art. Gris is one of those rare instances, and is also one of the best story-rich games on Nintendo Switch.
Gris—which is Spanish for Gray—is a powerful story about grief. It stars a young girl who recently lost her voice, trapped in a colorless, crumbling world. That’s all I’ll say about the plot since it is best experienced blindly.
Although Gris contains no dialogue, it more than makes up for it with its stellar handcrafted audio-visual experience. The game’s striking art style confidently carries the story while supplemented with its moving soundtrack.
Gameplay-wise, Gris is a light puzzle-platformer that feels great to control. There are some optional challenges and secrets you can find to reveal more about the protagonist’s story.
Grief is such a poignant and overwhelming emotion that, oftentimes, it feels like there’s no right way to express it. Gris understands and empathizes with that; its silent story might help you vocalize repressed emotions.
The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Edition
Gamers looking for story-rich Switch games could even try visual novels. As an entertainment medium, visual novels enhance a traditional novel with evocating visuals and audio, as well as including light interactivity.
The House in Fata Morgana is a gothic visual novel revolving around a cursed mansion. The fairly long story spans nearly a thousand years of jealousy, insanity, tragedy, and other dark themes.
The story begins when your unnamed character wakes up in a ruined mansion with their memories gone. A maid loyal to the residence will help you recover your memories by exploring the mansion’s past.
Dreams of the Revenants Edition also includes a prequel story, a voiced sequel story, and several short stories. The House in Fata Morgana is a remarkable piece of fiction that fully utilizes its medium as a visual novel.
To The Moon
To The Moon is a short game all about its narrative that’s profoundly emotional and melancholic. In its run time of about four hours, you’ll go through a story dealing with themes of love, loss, and regret.
Play as Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene, two specialists who operate a complicated machine that allows clients to re-experience their life with full freedom to make new choices. The downside is the machine creates alternate memories, which will prove confusing for a person; thus, it is only used for clients on their deathbeds.
To The Moon centers around one such client named Johnny, whose last wish is to go to the moon. Using the machine, the duo will go through Johnny’s life, witnessing his most traumatic memories and understanding his life’s greatest tragedy. But more important, attempting to make things right, even if it’s only in his mind.
Additionally, To The Moon has amazing music that is diegetically connected to the story. It’s one of those games that are best placed in one sitting to fully immerse yourself.
Firewalk is a walking simulator that takes place in a breathtaking snapshot of the Wyoming wilderness. Over the course of six hours, the game will take you on an immersive ride of emotions with themes of mystery, anxiety, and a bittersweet romance.
The game puts you into the shoes of a man named Henry, who volunteered as a fire lookout to distance himself from a shaky marriage. You’ll mostly talk to your supervisor, Delilah, over a pocket-sized radio.
Firewatch uses a timed dialogue feature where you’ll have to choose your response within a set time limit. Henry and Delilah’s back and forth is the crux of the narrative. Their conversations feel natural, insightful, and develop the more they get to know each other.
Firewatch starts slow and relaxing as you take Henry on his everyday tasks of maintaining the forest. However, when the game takes a turn for the worst, the relaxing forest suddenly becomes a dangerous place to be alone.
Firewatch is one of the best story-rich games on Switch because of its short but immersive experience. Henry’s isolated soul-searching encounter will be a relatable episode for many people.
From the developers of Bastion and Hades, Transistor is an isometric sci-fi ARPG set in the futuristic city of Cloudbank. This game has great gameplay and a cryptic story that will slowly unfold as you progress further.
The game lets you assume control of a famous opera singer, Red, who is currently under attack by robotic enemies called the Process. The titular Transistor is a futuristic great sword that was meant to eliminate Red during her show.
A man sacrificed himself to save her, causing the Transistor to download his consciousness, voice, and Red’s voice too. The events of the game pick up right after this incident and follows the pair searching for the group responsible for the attack.
Since Red is a singer, music plays a vital role in her story. The game’s voice acting is also excellent, truly selling the character’s emotions. Additionally, Transistor has stunning visuals and award-winning graphics.
Red’s adventure will take you across the city of Cloudbank, where you’ll often come across groups of hostile robots to fight. Transistor uses a mix of real-time and paused combat to great effect.
The combat system is very deep and it allows players to express their play style. Functions are unlockable abilities that can be used in different ways. For example, they can serve as passive effects that modify other Functions.
Transistor is a brief but replayable game that will keep you invested in its gameplay and story. Everything works so well in this story-focused Switch game.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn is a unique detective game where players will unravel what happened to an empty merchant ship once filled with passengers. The monochromatic and ominous art style also helps to sell that something went horribly wrong.
Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person puzzle game that takes place within the merchant ship, The Obra Dinn, owned by East India Company. The ship went missing out at sea, and mysteriously returned five years later with no one on board.
You’ll play as an insurance investigator tasked with finding out exactly what happened to every person—how they died, who did it, what happened, etc. Aiding you is an enchanted pocket watch that can glimpse into the last few moments a person met their demise.
The game doesn’t hold your hand, and it is entirely up to you to uncover what exactly happened to the merchant ship.
Sharpen your deduction skills and test your logic to find out why Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the best story-rich games on Switch.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is a polarizing entry to this list since you’re enjoyment correlates to whether or not you can relate to struggles of the main character. The people who will relate to the narrative will find the game is extremely impactful and hits all the right notes.
The game stars Mae Borowski, an anthropomorphic cat who dropped out of college. She recently returned to her mundane hometown hoping to reconnect with her old friends. However, life isn’t the same as she left it.
Night in the Woods is an adventure game with light platforming and tons of diagetic minigames. Gameplay reflects Mae’s aimless daily routine, as you’ll have to find the objective of the day yourself.
The game is an almost painful look into the normalcy (and oftentimes boring) nature of everyday life. Mae’s emotional state varies a lot, cycling from anxious to hopeful to defeated and many more.
All the characters are complex and interesting, serving as accurate portrayals of people you’ll commonly meet in your life. There’s an emotional touching narrative in all these personal instances as well as Mae’s slow journey of self-discovery.
Eventually, a worthwhile mystery comes to the town, and it’s up to you to solve it. Night in the Woods is an extremely impactful story for nostalgic and melancholic players.
Due to the repetitive nature of roguelike games on Switch, it can be difficult to tell a cohesive story. However, Hades is able to tell a compelling story that uses the internal logic of the roguelike genre.
Play as the son of Hades and prince of the Underworld, Zagreus, on a mission to ascend and escape to the surface. Zagreus hopes to accomplish two goals with his challenging task: find out what happened to his mother and join his relatives on Mount Olympus.
Hades is a hack and slash roguelite game where you’ll fight your way out of the Underworld. As Zagreus was trained by the legendary warrior Achilles, you’ll use a variety of mythological weapons with alternate playstyles.
Furthermore, the Olympian gods will assist you in your journey by granting boons, temporary buffs that enhance or alter your abilities. These boons can be combined with others to create some truly devastating combos.
Where Hades truly shines is in its extended conversations that take place over multiple instances. Conversations flow more naturally since characters can stop whenever the topic has reached its conclusion.
Hades will keep you coming back because of its addictive gameplay and interesting cast of characters. It is one of the best story-filled games on Switch and definitely deserves all the awards it received.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher video games were based on the popular fantasy books of the same name written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt follows the adventures of renowned monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia, on his journey to find his adopted daughter, Ciri.
Geralt of Rivia lives in a dark, depressing world where both monsters and evil humans make life dangerous for mankind. It’s best to take your time and immerse yourself, as you’ll meet many characters with rich stories to tell during your journey.
Witcher 3 is one of the best story-rich Switch games because of all the handcrafted quests featured in the game. These quests range from shorter tasks to several hours-long quest chains.
Additionally, the game often gives you impactful choices that have immediate or long-term effects. Some of these quests will even affect the outcome of other quests. It’s refreshing that these stories aren’t isolated and woven into the world at large.
The gameplay also helps immerse the player into the world by letting you perform actions that make sense to a Witcher. For example, Witchers have a vast knowledge about monsters, and you’ll have access to that to determine their abilities and weaknesses. This will make you go out into the world and gather ingredients to brew potions and poisons.
Witcher 3’s overarching narrative, Geralt’s personal journey, and all the entertaining side quests make this an engaging open world to unravel. It’s an immensely popular game for a reason and you owe it to yourself to give it a fair shot.
Paradise Killer is an over-the-top high-concept whodunit story that is dripping with style, personality, and an engaging mystery.
The setting of Paradise Killer is what drives the central plot. Paradise is a mystical island that appears every few thousand years.
There’s an elite council of alien beings known as the Syndicate, who attempt to make the island a utopia. They hope that doing so will revive their ancient fallen gods.
After the entire council dies, you’ll play as an exiled detective named Lady Love Dies, brought back to investigate what happened. You’ll have to explore the last iteration of the island while interrogating the residents.
Paradise Killer is a hallmark definition of an open world detective game. At any point, you’re free to condemn any of the characters in the game.
However, to truly unravel the mysteries of the character’s and the island, you have to put your sleuth skills to the test. Paradise Killer is a title that showcases the strength of non-linear narratives in video games.
Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero throws away conventional storytelling and is much more concerned with capturing surreal feelings. As a result, this is one for fans of magical realism stories like 1000 Years of Solitude.
The game is a point and click adventure game that will engage with its meandering but insightful conversations. Kentucky Route Zero also has an eye for visual language, often leaving you in awe with its breathtaking setpieces and purposeful cinematic framing.
You’ll play as a seemingly normal truck driver, Conway, out on a delivery run with his dog. The game begins with the pair at a gas station asking for directions for their current delivery.
What happens next is a series of dreamlike sequences that don’t make sense from a logical standpoint. However, if you immerse yourself in it and give it a fair shot, it will immerse in its melancholic and tragic world.
Out of all the games on this list, Kentucky Route Zero gave me a sudden cathartic release of strong emotions. There are many ways to interpret the themes, and it is an easy game to recommend to players who prefer stories with a lot of room for interpretation.
Disco Elysium surprised the whole gaming world with its unconventional gameplay and intelligent writing. Suffice to say, this masterpiece hit all of its marks, and it’s a commercial, literary, and artistic success.
You’ll take control of an eccentric cop coming down from a hangover of apocalyptic proportions. So much so, that he’s given himself amnesia and conveniently forgot all the bad actions he’s done to the small town.
Also, there’s a body hanging behind for days that you were supposed to bring down. Alongside your new partner Kim Kitsuragi, you’ll investigate the culprit of the murder, while engaging in meandering conversations with the citizens of Revachol.
Disco Elysium is a classic RPG that borrows some of its key elements from tabletop RPGs. Expect to customize your detective from a wide array of skill trees for the former. As for the latter, expect some of these skill checks to fail or succeed on the whim of a dice roll.
The best part of Disco Elysium is their take on the traditional skill trees. Instead of leveling up stats like strength and dexterity, you’ll be putting points into personality attributes. For example, Authority gives the player-character a more imposing aura, and he’s adamant in pushing your status as a cop on others.
Furthermore, these attributes are actual personalities who will often chime in with their thoughts, observations, and advice. The dialogue choices and actions your cop can perform will depend on what traits you choose to take.
Disco Elysium has stellar writing, often heavily leaning into esoteric and deeply political topics.
Adding the fact that the narrative changes based on your attributes make this an easy selection as one of the best story-rich games on Switch.