Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game

"The strangest thing about it is, from a cold, critical, non-gushy standpoint, the actual gameplay aspect of Silent Hill is kinda shitty... No, intuitive gameplay isn't Silent Hill's strong point; we're here to get our story on."

Some games feature little more than an Excuse Plot to justify their core gameplay. Some games, conversely, feature virtually no gameplay and focus almost exclusively on storytelling. Then there are games which actually put quite a bit of effort into their story, but the story is nevertheless ignored or overlooked by most in favor of the gameplay.

This is the Opposite Trope of the latter case: games which significantly feature both story and gameplay, but most players, critics, etc. largely ignore the gameplay in favor of its storytelling, characters, setting and so on. There are many reasons why this might happen: sometimes, the game might have an unusually well-constructed narrative but rather samey, unoriginal gameplay; sometimes the gameplay might have significant problems, making the story superior by default; and sometimes it's purely subjective taste.

Story-to-Gameplay Ratio matters here: just as a game must have a significant story focus in order to qualify as an example of Play the Game, Skip the Story, so a game must have significant gameplay focus to qualify for this trope. Visual Novels, Environmental Narrative Games or experimental art games don't qualify for this, as there's little meaningful gameplay to start with (with certain exceptions listed below).

If the developers realize that many players may be playing the game just to experience the story and don't much care for the gameplay, they may offer a special difficulty setting to accommodate them: a Story Difficulty Setting.

See also Play the Game, Skip the Story (which inverts this), Just Here for Godzilla, Excuse Plot, Story-to-Gameplay Ratio and the various Interactive Storytelling Tropes.

Note: Please follow the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment when adding or editing examples. Try, whenever possible, to limit examples to cases where there is evidence that criticism or fan reaction towards the game in question focuses more on the story at the expense of the gameplay, rather than just games where you personally thought the story was better than the gameplay.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Action Game  

  • Asura's Wrath is an example of a game perfectly aware that it is just a glorified cutscene. The gameplay is very simplistic and repetitive, but it isn't the main interest of the game, which is essentially an interactive Anime about an overly muscular six-armed god punching planet-sized monsters in space accompanied by Classical Music. Some of the game's DLC chapters are literally anime shorts with no gameplay more interactive than occasional Quick Time Events.
  • Most of the praise for the Drakengard series has gone to its story, pitch black tone, and memorable cast. The games themselves tend to have extremely poor gameplay, with repetitive and monotonous combat on the ground, and even worse controls during the air missions. This trope was part of the reason NieR: Automata was a collaborative effort with PlatinumGames in an attempt to deliberately avert this and actually have a game in the series with genuinely good gameplay.

     Action Adventure  

  • The earlier entries in the Legacy of Kain franchise were widely praised by critics for both their gameplay and their storytelling (especially in the second entry in the series, Soul Reaver), but the gameplay of each subsequent entry was less and less positively received until by the time of the release of the fifth entry, Defiance, multiple critics said that the only reason to play the game was for its story.
  • It is widely agreed that the whole point of killer7 is the bizarre plot, with the shooting and monster killing being just filler between story points.
  • L.A. Noire almost encourages this, with the game giving the option to skip over difficult shooter scenes if the player has trouble so that they can go back to the Film Noir investigative gameplay that makes the game more popular.

     Adventure Game  

  • The first season of Telltale Games' episodic The Walking Dead game is excellent at being an interactive storytelling experience, and middling at best / terrible at worst whenever it tries to have game mechanics more involved than the occasional Quick Time Event. Occasional Stealth Based Missions and a couple of truly regrettable shooting sequences keep the game just barely outside of the category of "interactive fiction" by a strict definition, but the story is definitely the thing to play it for, not the gameplay. It's telling that later works by the same developer, including subsequent seasons of The Walking Dead itself, largely drop or severely downplay these action set pieces, focusing almost exclusively on story.
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream has what is wildly considered a great story (adapted from the original story with direct involvement from the author Harlan Ellison), but lackluster point-and-click gameplay, relying on a Moon Logic Puzzle just too many times.

     Fighting Game 

  • Them's Fightin' Herds. Most fans of the game are more interested in the world of Foenum and the backstories of the six ungulate fighters than the actual fighting gameplay, especially since both the world and characters were made by the same woman behind My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. This is actually encouraged by the game devs and one of the main reasons behind the creation of the visual lobby mode, where players can explore the world, watch matches, and other stuff even if they are bad at fighting games.

     First Person Shooter  

  • BioShock:
    • BioShock attracted much praise for its story, setting and themes, but also received criticism for its radically simplified game mechanics in comparison to the game's spiritual predecessor, System Shock 2, which were widely perceived as having been intentionally "dumbed down" for the benefit of the console market. It also attracted significant criticism for its heavy use of fetch quests and its Disappointing Last Level. Edge magazine went so far as to describe it as "an uninspired FPS with inspired presentation".
    • BioShock Infinite was similarly received: extensive praise for its storytelling, but criticism for its gameplay, which had been simplified even further from its predecessors. Much like the first BioShock it was also criticized for its Disappointing Last Level. This image illustrates the gradual simplification of the series over time, from the original System Shock to Infinite.

     Interactive Movie  

A term that cropped up in an effort to categorize the type of games Quantic Dream became famous for. Since interactive movies focus on story over gameplay by definition and most of them originate from the same studio, their characteristics are as identical as they fit into this trope: the player basically plays a movie with only marginal and very unobtrusive input, usually in the form of QTEs which non-player observers often don't even notice. The focus absolutely rests on enjoying the compelling story and the games' well-written, professionally voiced and, more often than not, A-list-actor-MoCapped characters. Specific examples include:

     Real Time Strategy  

  • Blizzard Entertainment series are divided between this and Play the Game, Skip the Story. The singleplayer campaigns and lore basically has a completely different fanbase than the e-sports focused multiplayer, to the point that the singleplayer and multiplayer versions have different mechanics. The singleplayer is generally easier than even the computer on skirmish maps, and most of their games have cheat codes for invincible units etc to let players get on with the plot.
  • Homeworld had this issue with its slow pace, 3D mechanics and tricky interface; but the story in the manual was some really good reading, as was the story in the cutscenes.

     Role Playing Game  

  • Most reviewers at the time agreed that the main issue with Siege of Avalon was already summed up in its own promotional tagline: "Played any good books lately?" Its main drawing point was the expansive Low Fantasy storyline, filled with political intrigue and conspiracies, but as an RPG it was somewhat underwhelming.
  • Planescape: Torment is noted for its excellent story, characters, and loads of freedom and roleplaying options, but the combat is not the game's strong point. Luckily you can solve most problems with dialogue options rather than fighting (the entire game has a total of three unskippable fights).
  • Arcanum is another RPG with an excellent story but at best mediocre combat gameplay. The combat can get in the way of the story, as there are a lot more unskippable fights and the fights can be quite hard, especially at the beginning when the player character can die in a few unlucky hits.
  • Darkened Skye is regarded, gameplay-wise, as an underwhelming RPG with shaky controls, poor animation, lots of Hitbox Dissonance, and a significant amount of bugs. The story, however, is the game's highlight, as it's basically the writers' giving a giant middle finger to the executives that told them to make a game about Skittles. Yes, Skittles. They're the source of all magic, didn'tcha know?
  • Most of the Final Fantasy games fit the trope. For some players Random Encounters are the bane of their existence.
    • Final Fantasy IV and VI are both more loved for their memorable story and cast of characters than their gameplay. The fact that they were localized in North America helps a lot too.
    • Final Fantasy VII's gameplay was largely unchanged from the aforementioned predecessors, particularly VI, but it was immensely popular for its story, which most critical praise was focused on, particularly for its early usage of the Playing the Player trope and one of the most infamous Player Punches in the medium.
    • Final Fantasy XIII has, by most accounts, a complex, multi-faceted, and overall expertly-crafted story. The gameplay, however, consists of little more than running down hallways and killing things with a combat system that is basically a stripped-down version of Final Fantasy XII's, to the extent where the game largely plays itself.
  • MOTHER and the other games in the Earthbound series that only came out in Japan are remembered more for their story than for their clunky gameplay and user interface, which were archaic even for its time.
  • The Kingdom Hearts franchise is a curious Crossover between Disney and Final Fantasy, which of course brings legions of fans from both fandoms. Unsurprisingly, these fans tend to play the games primarily to watch their favorite characters rather than for the gameplay, which is solid but unremarkable. The main story and the original characters themselves are also really popular and continue to bring players back, despite a general impression of repetition and shark-jumping among critics.
  • Mass Effect is praised for its deep setting, well-written characters, and extensive lore, but panned for its mediocre combat and poorly-designed inventory system. Many players prefer to set the game to its easiest setting in order to steamroll through the combat without having to pay as much attention to inventory management so that they can enjoy the story and, incidentally, create a save to import into the sequels, which have much-improved game mechanics. The third game in the series even includes a difficulty setting specifically designed to facilitate players who just want to experience the story.
  • The gameplay of OFF is average for an RPG Maker game up through Zone 3 where it starts becoming a lot more frustrating, and almost every boss is a Damage-Sponge Boss with little challenge. However, this is compensated for by the auto option being pretty useful. The real focus of the game is on the story, and to some extent the puzzles.
    • The same can be said about several other RPG Maker RPGs that focus on story, as well as graphics and atmosphere, such as Space Funeral and Ghost Suburb.
  • While Star Trek Online's gameplay gets very repetitive after a while (shoot some ships, beam down, shoot bad guys, beam up, shoot more ships...), the storyline gives continuity for Trekkies on what happened in the Prime universe after the supernova event depicted in 2009's Star Trek.
  • The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series is generally considered to have So Okay, It's Average gameplay by both fans and critics, but they developed a dedicated fanbase due to their suprisingly deep plots by Pokémon standards. Some even considering their storylines better than most of the main series games.
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth is like a few brand-new quality episodes of the show, with some mostly bland gameplay added in. Most of the fun of the battles comes from the hilarity and strangeness of the moves and environmental hazards. The gameplay itself is choosing attacks by-the-numbers without much in the way of strategy, buying new weapons from time-to-time, and equipping them with strap-ons through a clunky menu system. The easiest difficulty allows the player to blow through battles fairly quickly and enjoy the story without needing to configure equipment too often.
  • The gameplay in Albion is... you know, okay. A bit clumsy but playable. But boy can you ever spend a lot of time talking to people to learn about Iskai culture or Dji Cantos philosophy. It's not even the main plot as the world-building that's so focused on. As of this writing, the Wikipedia page for the game consists mostly of a description of the world.
  • Fallen London has been praised by multiple critics for its great, immersive writing and complex world-building — which is the main reason a number of players get frustrated about having to complete repetitive tasks and wait over 3 real-life hours to get another full candle of actions to read more of the game's writing.
  • Undertale may have a pretty unique battle system that combines a turn-based RPG with a Bullet Hell game, but the overworld puzzles are pretty trivial, and even the battles tend to wear thin on subsequent playthroughs. It's the complex plot and characters that keep players coming back for more, along with the one gameplay mechanic the game doesn't tell you about: the game's recording quite a bit more than you'd expect, and this data persists across deaths, soft-resets, and file resets, affecting the course of events. Fortunately, the game's also pretty short, so getting through the more tedious elements doesn't feel as much like a chore, and you can always sit back and watch a Let's Play.
  • Max An Autistic Journey is a look into the mind of an autistic boy first and an RPG second, as significantly more effort is put into showing how autism affects one's daily life than balancing the abilities or providing deep RPG mechanics. Many Steam user reviews praise the story, but note that the gameplay isn't anything special.
  • The most common praise given to Trails Series is its world building. While the main story may be a Cliché Storm depending on players, they put so much detail into dialogues that NPCs have their own life and story arcs developing after major plot points, some of which you can encounter in different chapters and the sequel. Also, when selecting characters to take to certain plot points in the game, different dialogues and responses will occur which either create hillarious moments or give in-depth characterization. The gameplay is interesting but it's not that special compared with other RPGs out there. Some people decide on replaying the game several times or spending 100+ hour into one playthrough just to talk to everyone or bring different party combination for unique dialogues.

    Shoot-em-ups 

     Survival Horror  

  • Silent Hill 2 is often held up as the pinnacle of the series and one of the best examples of the Survival Horror genre. However, most of its acclaim was focused on its story, atmosphere and visual design, with many critics less impressed by its awkward, repetitive combat and nonsensical, unintuitive Moon Logic Puzzles. Interestingly, the game actually featured an option to disable its combat altogether, allowing players to experience the game solely for its story and puzzles.
  • Deadly Premonition is a 2010 survival horror which critics made sure to point out (even overtly negative reviews) that despite the outdated graphics, bad sound effects and broken gameplay, is worth playing to follow a downright bonkers story with the HSQ up on the roof, be it for hilariously clunky dialogue or just plain weird moments.
  • The first two Five Nights at Freddy's games have very simple game mechanics; you flip between static screens and activate a couple of extremely simple controls -security doors in the first game, a mask and a wind-up music box in the second- to avoid one of a small number of ways to die. And yet the game is amazingly tense and atmospheric and the lore is detailed, genuinely interesting and comes with a healthy dose of Adult Fear.
  • The gameplay of Rule of Rose is an intricate, beautifully scored vehicle for the game's story. As a vehicle for actual fun, however, it fails completely and miserably. The protagonist is a young child and fights like one, combat is no more detailed than 'hack at your enemies and try not to die', many of the more powerful weapons are hidden off the beaten track, and most of the gameplay itself consists of unintuitive Fetch Quests which the player will have to delay finishing if they want to find out what the hell is going on. Even the developers seemed to acknowledge this trope: all of the game's climactic moments either don't involve direct combat (such as Jennifer taking down Wendy, which occurs in a cutscene) or combat at all (The Golden Ending path, which is achieved by not responding to Stray Dog's attacks and convincing him to commit suicide).

     Third Person Shooter  

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