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The world doesn’t always revolve around just your main character. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our top 10 video game franchises with the best lore.
For this list we’re considering lore as key elements and details of a video game’s world or history that make it feel as rich, vibrant, and alive as our own. Regardless of whether or not you, the player, actually interact with these story elements, they play a massive role in shaping the world that you’ll experience. We’re only focusing on franchises that originated as video games, so don’t expect to see games that started out as films or novels, like Star Wars or The Witcher.
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#10 "Deus Ex" (2000-16)
Dropping players into a dystopian future where corporations influence every aspect of day-to-day life, the environments on display here are scarred with the history of VersaLife’s manufactured plague, with scarce cures available only to the rich, subservient elite. Scattered around are books, magazines, and news reports covering everything from small events like earthquakes to bigger, more influential aspects like research into mechanical augmentations, rampant terrorist activity, and even experimentation on babies. No, it’s not a happy story, but everything comes together to create a vibrant world where daily struggles are just a part of life.
#9: “StarCraft” (1998-2015)
Delving deep into the history of its three warring alien races and leaving very little unexplored, Blizzard’s RTS is set in a world as complex as space itself. Issues like the Xel’Naga’s creation of the Protoss and Zerg races, the Terran’s expulsion from Earth and into the Koprulu sector, and the creation and destruction of the Overmind all play an important role in shaping the universe and factions that inhabit it. Whether it’s about the Primal Zerg, or different Protoss cultures like the Tal’darim or Khalai, the universe is overflowing with stories and conflicts that shape the planets you’ll encounter.
#8: "Fallout" (1997-2015)
The world may have been blown away in the Great War of 2077, but it wasn’t always that way. In an alternate timeline where the USSR is still kickin’ and where China remains deeply communist, the tension and ensuing power struggle between major countries is incredibly detailed. With the launching of nukes, the spread of evolutionary viruses that riddle the world with mutants, and sad diary entries of people just struggling to survive in the aftermath, the lore of Fallout is heartbreaking and eerily rooted in societies greatest fears: war, disease, and total destruction.
#7: “Metal Gear” (1987-2018)
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War and following the split of the influential Philosophers into global superpowers, the billions of dollars the group left behind drives nations to exploit and destroy their own people and double cross their agents in a bid for power. Even as their influence falls, the corruption of shadow organizations like the Patriots or the rise of Private Military Companies take up the cyclical struggle, stretching their conflicts throughout the world and undermining any efforts for peace, making it a volatile and dangerous place.
#6: “Halo” (2001-17)
From the Forerunners and their Halos dealing with the parasitic Flood, and netting themselves fanatical religious followers, to the High Prophets manipulating the Covenant’s beliefs to gain power, the universe surrounding the series is brimming with life thanks to its complexity. The civil war on Earth between the UNSC and Secessionist Union, the Covenant’s own Great Schism, and the genetic manipulation at the root of the Spartan program demonstrate just how hotly contested space was even before the outbreak of interplanetary war.
#5: "Dark Souls" (2009-16)
All good things come to an end, even in Lordran. With the waning of the Age of Fire, power hungry groups like the Darkwraiths fed on humanity while the rise of the Hollow curse kept them from dying. Every attempt to rekindle the flame has failed to bring back the glory days, leaving the world a worn-out, broken place by the time you set foot on your adventure. The actions of people throughout history had a lasting impact on the areas you visit, like the Abyss or Blighttown, leaving behind items and small details hidden in the architecture. These serve to connect you to these moments from a bygone era, making them that much creepier and lifelike.
#4: "The Legend of Zelda (1986-)
Like a piece in a puzzle, each game in the series is an eternal battle between good and evil over the Triforce, the ancient wish-granting relic imbued with the power of the three goddesses. You can defeat evil as often as you want within each installment, but every time you visit you’ll realize that Hyrule itself will always be afflicted by its presence. From the relatively prosperous Skyloft to the Great Sea, the world is consistently filled with songs, stories, races, and landmarks that show off the ravages of time and will have you hunting down the key to placing it within the timeline.
#3: "Mass Effect" (2007-)
Space might be the latest and greatest frontier for humans, but it’s old news for races that have a very long history of conflict and shaky alliances, like the Krogan or Turian. It’s thanks to these relationships, along with the mysteries like those surrounding the extinct Zeioph, that the universe feels like it developed organically. The all-consuming Reapers lurk in the background, getting their start with the Leviathans, and later exerting their influence throughout space before time was even recorded.
#2: “The Elder Scrolls” (1994-)
The continent of Tamriel contains within it thousands of years of history, and with each main game in the series taking place centuries apart, you’ll get to be fully immersed in its evolution. While you’ll experience some of it through the plots of each game, there are hundreds of tomes to collect detailing the histories of everything from the ancient races like the Nedes, to the Barenziah, and even to Skyrim’s civil war. Whether it’s important information or not, here is a world as deep and fleshed out as our own, with towns, folk songs, and legends. All of these details paint a picture of the shared political, economic, and military past of the troubled continent.
#1: “Warcraft” (1994-)
With tens of thousands of years of detailed history and in-game records of everything from Archimonde’s War of the Ancients to the Burning Legion’s repeated invasions, Azeroth is so richly embedded with lore that towns and even minor NPC’s have their own stories and daily lives, helping to connect you to this chaotic world. Cities like Stormwind celebrate their histories with statues of heroes, each with their own full fledged biographies. The ancient forces you read about and eternal struggles between the Horde and the Alliance are so beyond your control that they’ll continue shaping the world long after a new batch of heroes has risen up to replace you.