Narrative games are my favorite so it was hard to pick. BioShock is among my top hits list, though. The world of BioShock is the crumbling undersea remains of the city of “Rapture” built by a rich elitist to escape the confines, and the rules, of the world above water. As a genre it’s been labeled an “Immersive Sim.” It could be confused for a shooter game but that is only a navigation mechanic.
The game itself is driven by the exploration of the underwater city that is collapsing under the weight of age and ruin after the fall of the society of social and scientific elites that founded it. And, through genetic experiments outlawed on the surface, its “evolved” citizens devolved into the remnant monsters left behind that are so hungry for the chemicals that course through their bodies that they cannibalize one another in order to get more to sustain their genetic enhancements. The story of Rapture, and its founder, is discovered by exploring the sunken tomb of the once magnificent city. Discovering what they learned through their experimentation, what they created in themselves, and the madness they found which splintered and destroyed their society.
Game play is tied to the story from the moment the main character crashes in the ocean and swims to a beacon in the middle of the sea, to his discovery of a way down to this first miraculous then eventually horrifying place. Yes, you have to shoot and puzzle your way through the sections of the city, but this is all driven by the unfolding of narrative which includes the discovery of two rival groups fighting over the control and fate of Rapture and illuminated by discoveries such as audio logs that reveal pieces of the puzzle of how Rapture came into being, who the two groups are, and how the city came to fall. All of this while the player negotiates the rotting and cracking structures as they fail to keep the seawater at bay and threaten to collapse entirely in the midst of fighting through the remnant population.
These are the elements that push and pull the player on through the story, the physical collapse of sections of the city, and the discovery of new information that slowly reveals the story of it all.