The Best Narrative category is one that typically involves 2-3 games in a given year that stand out above the rest. 2023 was not a typical year. This year featured tremendous stories. Stories that took us from the furthest depths of space to the nightmares of our own design. Great games that told stories in a wide variety of ways were seemingly released every month. More than that, there were stories for everyone. From the minimalist melancholy of Jusant to the bombast of Spider-Man 2. Whether you craved cinematic exaltation or design your own character arc, the games of 2023 were there for you to build your own experience. With that said, here are the winners of Lords of Gamings 2023 Golden Lance Award for Best Narrative.
Winner: Baldur’s Gate 3
Crafting a good narrative is incredibly difficult in any medium. Creating a narrative that takes player choice into account for multiple outcomes is herculean. Additionally taking into account which party members are present at a given moment is Baldur’s Gate 3. From the beginning, player choice has an impact on how things unfold. Key decisions affect future events and change how other characters view the player. Choices in optional side quests can impact future quests. Party members react to events and have their own storylines to uncover. Player choice can even determine who joins the party. A character could join the party in act 1 and impact future events. That same character could also have to be killed by the player instead. Baldur’s Gate 3 offers a complex, engaging, and adaptive narrative. Second or third playthroughs can feel very different from the first. Few games can match this narrative power, depth, and scope. Thus, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers a narrative worthy of accolades.
Runner Up: Sea of Stars
When I think about best narrative, I think of a compelling story or tale that keeps me on the edge of my seat. The narrative in Sea of Stars kept me enthralled, because of everything that happens. There is violence, betrayal, a little tragedy, and much more. Starting off as a Solstice Warrior which are what the heroes are called and developing the heroes throughout was an amazing ride. The narrative and story kept left me not ever wanting to put my controller down. Sea of Stars is a gem that everyone should experience with an amazing narrative.
Runner Up: Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
A great narrative should have something to say, a point as to why this story needs to be told. In Phantom Liberty and Cyberpunk 2077 as a whole, there’s a question of one’s mortality at the core of everything. Through the strongly written characters, it’s a story that wrestles with what it means to be alive and the fears we hold. It puts on display the lengths each person will go to keep whatever shred of themselves they have left. The world Cyberpunk 2077 is set in sees humanity as a weakness, just another thing for corporations to sell.
When a writer creates a good story, they pour themselves into it. All their experiences and beliefs bleed onto the page, it’s what creates a quality story. You can tell that happened with Phantom Liberty, every story beat has care and reason. The dialogue sequences are expertly crafted and directed to be engaging and engross the character. It’s an extremely intimate narrative for the player and something that other storytelling mediums just can’t achieve.