As video game consoles have become more powerful and graphics have gotten more realistic, the lines between games and movies have begun to blur, especially with some game directors who are great a cinematics. No longer are we moving boxy pixelated blobs across the screen like in the days of the Atari. Now we have dynamic cameras, motion-captured animations, voice acting, and a bigger focus on story than ever before.
Here are five of our favorite games that have the scope and feel of blockbuster films.
1. Heavy Rain
Probably the most underrated game on this list is Heavy Rain, a cinematic spectacle that helped push the adventure game genre into new territory when it launched in 2010. This dark thriller follows a father as he tries to prevent his son from falling victim to a demented serial killer. The story is endlessly compelling, with one plot twist after another pulling players toward one of many possible conclusions.
Many parts of the story are malleable, so your actions have consequences that play out as the plot barrels forward. If you fail to save someone at a key point, that character is dead for good. If you like movies like Seven and Zodiac, you’ll love Heavy Rain.
2. The Last of Us
Games don’t get much more movie-like than The Last of Us, a cross-country adventure that follows a man and a teenage girl as they fight for survival against hordes of zombie-like creatures and violent militias. It’s a bleak story set in a broken-down apocalyptic setting, but the characters are so good that they give players a reason for hope. Can they save the world? Is the world even worth saving? You’ll have to play the game to find out.
3. Mass Effect
Every bit as epic as classic sci-fi works like Star Wars and Star Trek, the Mass Effect trilogy brings its own unique flavor to the space odyssey genre. With a library full of lore backing it up, the story of Commander Shepherd and the race to save the universe would feel right at home on the big screen. It certainly helps that the game looks just like a movie, with the camera cutting between characters as they talk and act. And when the action happens, you’re right there with them. The only difference between Mass Effect and a movie is that here you’re the one calling the shots.
4. The Walking Dead: Season One
The TV show The Walking Dead is so dark and brooding, you might not expect to see a similar story being told in the form of a cartoon. That’s pretty much what this brilliant game does, though, and it pulls it off without a hitch. Hand-drawn or not, this game features likable characters and excruciating choices as you fight to stay alive in a zombie-infested world. With an unmistakable film-inspired presentation, this game tells the heartbreaking story of Lee and Clementine as they seek out Clementine’s parents. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters. Chances are, they won’t be around for long.
5. Dead Space
It wouldn’t be hard to make the case that the Dead Space trilogy is the best horror gaming experience of the past console generation. These games put you through the ringer time and again as you fend off an army of terrifying beasts in outer space. They also have you do things like insert a needle into your eye, which is equally horrifying whether you succeed or fail.
The cinematic scenes come one after another in Dead Space, whether you’re running from an army of many-limbed creatures or gliding silently through space like in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s dark, scary, riveting stuff that anyone who likes horror movies should play.
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