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Enjoy The Story, Skip The Game

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"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, and some experimental art games don't qualify for this, as there's little meaningful gameplay to start with (with certain exceptions listed below).note 

Difficulty also plays a role, as this trope most often appears on either extreme. A game that prioritizes story over gameplay may adjust the difficulty so that even an inexperienced player could be reasonably challenged without breaking their immersion in the story, a design choice which would likely alienate hardcore players. Likewise, a much harder game that happens to have an engaging story and/or cast of characters will develop a Periphery Demographic of fans that care about the story or characters, even if they don't have the skills to actually play the game. 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), Better as a Let's Play, Just Here for Godzilla, Excuse Plot, Story to Gameplay Ratio and the various Interactive Storytelling Tropes.

Note: While in principle any game with any amount of story could qualify as an example of this trope, try as much as 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, as opposed to just games where you personally thought the story was better than the gameplay.


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    Action Game 
  • Asura's Wrath is an example of a game perfectly aware that it is just a glorified cutscene. The gameplay's 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.
  • Unlike most of Treasure's output, Silhouette Mirage is surprisingly story-heavy, with lots of dialogue, characters, and plot depth, and a localization by Working Designs. Unfortunately, said localization also rebalanced the difficulty for the worse by making the game more grind-heavy and difficult to play aggressively (since your attack energy could be drained extremely quickly by enemies); the original Japanese version is better, but still had issues in with underdeveloped levels and bosses being easily exploitable, so it isn't regarded as well as Treasure's other run 'n' guns.

    Action Adventure 
  • Batman: Dark Tomorrow had a story co-written by The Batman Adventures scribe Scott Peterson that sure feels like a standard adventure of the Dark Knight, and the cutscenes were the only praised aspect of a game widely bashed for stiff controls, repetitive combat and unhelpful camera angles.
  • Deadpool received mixed reviews, with most complaints directed towards the schizophrenic difficulty, short length, and terrible boss battles. The main thing that drew attention to the game was Deadpool himself, at long last making his debut as the leading man outside of a comic book, where your average Joe finally got to experience all the crass comedy and batshit-lunacy that comes with The Merc with the Mouth.
  • Death Stranding is this in SPADES. The gameplay is so unique and divisive that it's pretty much a 50/50 on whether you'll find it a satisfying, almost meditative experience, or a dreadfully boring slog. Just like many past Kojima games, almost the entirety of the plot is told through non-interactive cutscenes, codec conversations and supplementory reading like in-game emails and articles, so if you're strictly interested in the plot but not the delivery/traversal mechanics, you can watch a cutscene compilation and read all the extra material on the game's wiki, and not really miss much of the story.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has gameplay that is seen as decent at best and mediocre at worst. However, it's generally agreed that the gorgeous visuals, the smart script by noted novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland, and the performances (especially by Andy Serkis, who plays the main character) are what really make the playthrough worthwhile.
  • Gotham Knights (2022) has received a fair bit of praise for the story campaign. A well-done story about the various members of the Bat-Family coming together to protect Gotham after Bruce's death; it features four playable characters that all feel distinct from one another not just in gameplay but also in terms of writing, and a host of iconic Batman villains. However, this is countered by gameplay nowhere as fun as the Batman: Arkham Series, criticized for repetitiveness, padded open-world elements, and poorly optimized performance.
  • Downplayed with Iconoclasts. It is a solid title, gameplay-wise (the bosses in particular steal the show), specially considering it was mostly made by one person. The art and animation are also top notch. However, it does feel stiff and simple compared to other Metroidvania-styled games, and even other games by the developer. The game's main focus, and its greatest feature, is the story, filled with complex characters, surprisingly deep and dark themes, and several genuinely shocking twists.
  • It is widely agreed that the whole point of Killer7 is the bizarre plot, with the shooting, monster killing and inventory puzzles serving as little more than 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.
  • The Last of Us: While the gameplay is perfectly functional, it's considered pretty average and doesn't really add anything new most people couldn't find in a different third person action game at the time. It was the plot and characters that really elevated this game to the cult status it has today.
  • 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.
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect's investigative, adventure game aspects were considered generally well done; the lackluster stealth combat against patrolling wraiths that regularly interrupted said investigative sections was likewise heavily criticized.
  • While the story of Red Dead Redemption II has received unanimous praise for its interesting characters and plot that properly fleshes out events alluded to in the first game, the gameplay has been more divisive. Many players enjoy the gameplay's slow and deliberate pace, which pairs well with the beautifully realized Wide-Open Sandbox and the story's maturity. A few other players think the game is overly obsessed with realism and detail at the expense of being fun to play. Ultimately downplayed, since most critics praised the overall gameplay.
  • Solatorobo: Red the Hunter has serviceable gameplay, but the loop can get tedious rather quickly due to the lack of combat variety and the inconsistent stop-and-go pacing (especially in side quests). The story is universally praised as being the best part of the game, especially the second half, to the point where some sees Solatorobo as more of a glorified Visual Novel rather than the action-adventure game it was marketed as.
  • Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is generally considered the worst game in the Tomb Raider series, due to its buggy gameplay and overall being an unfinished mess of a game, and it received awful reviews at its release. However, it has been since Vindicated by History, as it has been revealed that Core Design were forced to release the game half a year early, and many fans now appreciate the story, which is now praised as one of the best in the series. In a complete reversal, Crystal Dynamics, who were once seen as the saviours of the Tomb Raider franchise, are sometimes criticised for their weaker handling of darker storylines compared to The Angel of Darkness.
  • TRON: Evolution has a good script that serves a great lead to TRON: Legacy. But even if the game has tight and responsive controls and no bugs, the gameplay is troublesome, with repetitive levels, overabundance of bottomless pits, long load times after death, and plodding fight segments that slow the pace of the game suddenly. The biggest issues are the frequent deaths and absolute necessity of upgrading your weapons to avoid dragging out combat.
  • We Happy Few's gameplay is largely just Fetch Quests, gathering tons and tons of useless items, the occasional Stealth-Based Mission, and a monumentally repetitive and clunky combat system, but the story and the characters are very engaging and enjoyable and its themes and setting have garnered near universal praise. Unsurprisingly, Dark Horse Comics and Golden Circle Films have already announced plans to make an art book and a feature length film, respectively.

    Adventure Game 
  • I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream has what is wildly considered a great plot (adapted and expanded upon from the original story with direct involvement and chilling voice-acting from the author Harlan Ellison), but it also possesses lackluster point-and-click gameplay, and also relies on the classical Moon Logic Puzzle just one too many times.
  • The first Mata Nui Adventure Game, commonly known as Mata Nui Online Game, is often said to be the best BIONICLE media for its immersive tone, charming characters, the definitive depiction of the Makuta, fun animations, subtle worldbuilding and cryptic foreshadowing that set up the following decade's worth of stories. No one really talks about the point-and-click gameplay, which is absurdly easy and straightforward apart from a couple minigames and puzzles that might take a few minutes to complete. Most of the game entails traversing landscapes and reading the characterful dialogue. It also has hints that lead nowhere because some quests and plots were cut due to the rushed development.
  • The Neverhood is widely beloved by its fans for being a quirky Cult Classic with loveable characters and an interesting world, but the puzzles can get obtuse and most require you to have some sort of guide on hand.
  • Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is a very short point-and-click that can probably be beaten in about an hour. Maybe three, tops. However, it's a direct sequel to the first Psychonauts and it was the first new story in the franchise in over a decade. It offers worldbuilding as well as new backstory on certain characters.
  • Tales from the Borderlands demonstrates how Telltale's engine fails at action, as its quick-time-event focus can be compared to three FPS games that came before it. It also demonstrates 10+ hours, 5 episode long story with enough humor to fill a page of examples.
  • The memento puzzles in To the Moon are pretty much the epitome of "excuse gameplay", doing little other than provide breaks in the narrative.
  • 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.

    Card Game 
  • While the card-based gameplay itself is contested, the actual story of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is rather interesting with its growing mystery, Sora's All-Loving Hero status being seriously tested at points and introducing several members of Organization XIII that would go on to become highly popular characters. This, combined with the fact that players who dive straight into Kingdom Hearts II will be very confused as to why Sora isn't immediately playable, makes many argue that Chain of Memories' story is at least worth sitting through.

    Driving Game 
  • Most of the interest for the Sega CD version of The Adventures of Batman and Robin doesn't come from its rather repetitive and difficult driving gameplay, but for the fact that the game features 17 minutes of exclusive animated footage done in the style and recorded by the actors of Batman: The Animated Series, effectively serving as a "lost episode" of the show.

    Edutainment Game 
  • Spanish For Everyone has a ridiculous So Bad, It's Good story packed to the brim with implied mature themes, making its cutscenes quite the experience. The gameplay, meanwhile, consists of four bland minigames that don't do a very good job at being fun and teaching you Spanish, which you have to play over and over again to progress very slowly. Watching the story on YouTube makes it a much more bearable experience.

    Fighting Game 
  • Blazblue. While tons of fans completely ignore the story for the gameplay, there are a large portion who become immersed in the game’s incredibly intricate story architected by Toshimichi Mori and its lovable and colorful cast of characters that they end up finding the most enjoyment from watching cutscenes on YouTube.
  • Compared to the sequels, the first Dragon Ball Z: Budokai has relatively shallow and repetitive gameplay. The story mode, however, is a very admirable cinematic recreation of the manga's story from the Saiyan Saga to the end of the Cell Saga that was Truer to the Text than the original anime series, making it a combination of Dragon Ball Z Kai and Mortal Kombat 9 before they were even made.
  • Dragon Ball Fighter Z zig-zags this. It's an extremely fun and well made fighting game, and the story mode is largely well-written, with entertaining character interactions and an original plot featuring an intriguing villain. So, initially, it wouldn't seem to be either this trope or Play the Game, Skip the Story - however, the story mode itself suffers from a tedious, repetitive structure, being overly easy, and generally far too long, meaning that even those who enjoy the game generally just go on YouTube to watch the cutscenes.
  • SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos is seen as a lackluster fighter especially compared to its Capcom-developed counterpart, Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium. For players, its most outstanding element is the pre-battle dialogue; every possible combination of combatants has a unique conversation to go with it, many of which are very entertaining to read. And yes, the game will even acknowledge Mirror Matches, with the resulting conversations lampshading the matchup. Finally, it's worth noting that SNK must have paid big bucks to get this game localized because the translation of all these lines of dialogue is surprisingly spot-on.
  • 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 was 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.

    Hidden Object Game 
  • Criminal Case is a pretty standard Hidden Object Game with limited search locations and rather generic mini-games. However it has a very solid story-telling that multiple Let's Play channels have been created to showcase the game's story.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • The actual gameplay parts of 80 Days are so overshadowed by the quality of the story that The Times named the game one of the best novels of the year.
  • While Where the Water Tastes Like Wine was praised for its charming Awesome Art, moody Gothic Americana/Magical Realism atmosphere, awesome original Blues soundtrack, and engaging stories about the plight of the American underclass and non-whites during The Great Depression, it has also been described as a "walking simulator" with several mechanics that are poorly implemented.

    Interactive Movie 
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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 Star Trek (2009).
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The mechanics aren't anything special, and handles a lot like a clone of World of Warcraft. The game's primary selling point is the eight basic storylines, the Imperial/Republic storylines from levels 50-65, and the Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne arcs, which are all but a single-player campaign. All of these having full voice acting, multiple branches of the storyline depending on player choice, and a unique companion mechanic for PvE.

  • League of Legends features the vast world of Runeterra as setting for imaginative characters and stories, but there's definitely a good portion of lore fans who would not care less for the actual game itself. Beyond the game not being strictly necessary (MOBAs aren't exactly a genre built for maintaining complex storytelling), probably the biggest factor is League's notoriety of difficulty and attracting toxic players, making it rather inaccessible to casual newcomers. Following the release and minor Newbie Boom from the widely successful Arcane, one article came out advising new viewers to search for lore from sources other than League itself, at most suggesting the Legends of Runeterra card game and the Wild Rift mobile port.

    Platform Games 
  • Jak II: Renegade's story and writing are considering top-notch, but the game's notorious difficulty drags it down gameplay-wise.
  • Kirby Star Allies has gameplay that can be seen as lackluster and very easy for the most part, while the story is seen as extremely memorable and possibly the series' best, due to a combination of macabre villains and lore.
  • Consensus on Nefarious is that the game tells a pretty nice, witty story about the classic Excuse Plot of platformers, but from the villain's perspective; but control of the player character is loose, there are a bunch of bugs and glitches, and the stage design isn't that great. To that end, the franchise continued from there on out as webcomics rather than video games.
  • Many of the 3D games (Such as The Sonic Adventure duology) tend to fall here compared to the rest of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. A lot of the gameplay of both games tends to be very divisive due to the Gameplay Roulette making them feel like 3-5 games tacked into one, with even Sonic's gameplay considered somewhat clunky compared to other games. The stories however are some of the most beloved entries in the entire franchise thanks to having significant Character Development, their Darker and Edgier direction that feels like their grew with its older fans, and featuring the debut of several fan-favorite character. In fact, once the series started to focus less on its plot and characters with Sonic Colors (itself being this trope's inverse), is part of what contributed to the series' Broken Base as some fans feel like the plot and characters should prioritized while others feel the gameplay should be prioritized.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Puyo Puyo has a quite a following of fans who care more about the quirky, charming cast of characters and surprisingly deep lore than the gameplay, which is largely agreed to have peaked in 1994 and, barring a few outliers, is consistent enough from a single-player perspective to rarely stand out for better or worse.
    • Puyo Puyo~n is largely praised for going for a more traditional anime artstyle instead of the cutesy art that the series usually embraces, and overall more visual novel-esque presentation. Puyo Puyo~n is also largely derided for being an excruciating, badly-balanced mess of a puzzle game that's geared towards artificially stretching a single-player mode that would normally take 15-30 minutes into a multi-hour affair.
    • Puyo Puyo Tetris is beloved for its story cutscenes and voice acting. Puyo Puyo fans who care more about the gameplay mechanics either "tolerate" the game for being a Newbie Boom or outright dislike it; it's seen as a crossover of two puzzle games whose Player Versus Player modes run on fundamentally-incompatible gameplay philosophies, creating a bias towards Tetris at higher skill levels due to Tetris's garbage blocks not actively disrupting the field like Puyo Puyo's garbage does. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is a Mission-Pack Sequel that gives fans another helping of story and character interactions but, outside of giving Puyo Puyo and Tetris players their own separate online leagues, makes several balance issues worse than they were in the first game.

    Rail Shooter 
  • Rainbow Cotton is a seriously flawed shooter whose poor reception would kill the franchise for two decades, but the game features 20 minutes of fully-animated cutscenes which have decent production values and stay true to the funny, light-hearted appeal of the franchise. Indeed, there wasn't much demand to rerelease the game alongside the rest of the series for its 30th anniversary, mostly because Cotton fans agree you're better off just watching the cutscenes elsewhere.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Eldritch Lands: The Witch Queen's Eternal War's review often praise its story, worldbuilding, and compelling character interactions, but the gameplay is usually considered to be average or worse, on par with a Flash game.
  • 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.

    Rhythm Game 
  • Love Live! School Idol Festival isn't exactly seen as an innovation or refinement of the Rhythm Game genre; many fans are in it for the story segments and hundreds of Costume Porn-laden cards to collect.
  • Persona 4: Dancing All Night has been praised for its storyline, but not as many people enjoy its rhythm gameplay. It doesn't help that a good portion of the playerbase, fans of the Persona series, may be more interested in RPGs than rhythm games.

    Role-Playing Game — Eastern 
  • 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. And now all games onward from Yoko Taro, like the Video Game Remake of Nier, or the mobile game, NieR Re[in]carnation, have made an attempt to match up to the standard that Automata has set for the franchise, with quite successful results! And now, plenty of people are waiting for remakes of the older Drakengard games, so that they meet the same standards as well.
  • EarthBound Beginnings: The story is often stated to be the strongest point of the game, with some even believing it to be better than EarthBound's story, due to the intricate lore, the incredibly close bond between the protagonists, and Ninten's personal stakes against Giygas. The gameplay, on the other hand, is incredibly divisive, with many finding it to be archaic and unforgivingly hard.
  • The Neptunia series is known for its quirky characters and parody-stuffed writing that lampshades every RPG trope in the book with cute versions of your favorite gaming console or franchise as characters. The gameplay in the first game was downright terrible, and even with improvements made in the following titles, the combat is still button-mashy busywork with formulaic dungeons and repetitive sidequests. The first game's resounding success came from the humor and characters, and definitely not from the gameplay. While the series gradually got better about this, the lighthearted story is what fans come back for in each installment.
  • Paper Mario series:
    • Super Paper Mario gets this from quite a lot of players. The story is considered one of the best if not the best in the entire Super Mario Bros. franchise for its deep themes and interesting characters and one of the most sympathetic villains in the franchise. Its gameplay, however, is divisive, with most fans either tolerating it or flat out hating it.
    • The general opinion on Paper Mario: Color Splash is that the writing has high moments of good humor, the setting is creative, and the visuals are Scenery Porn. The gameplay is at best contested, the combat in particular being disliked for being based on consumables, lacking in strategy, and offering little reward for winning battles.
    • Paper Mario: The Origami King, despite the designers going to great lengths to making a battling system better than the one from Paper Mario: Color Splash, wound up with this again, with players and critics alike praising the plot and the new characters, the witty and intelligent dialogue, and the beautiful and creative scenery. However, the battles against common enemies use a mechanic involving sliding rings and lines around a set of polar coordinates seen as out of place, slow, overly complicated, and, like with Color Splash, unrewarding, though opinions are much better when this system is applied to bosses. Hence, the prevailing way people approach The Origami King is to wander around, listening to NPCs and solving puzzles, but avoid as many enemy encounters as possible.
  • Persona 3 has one of the most praised storylines in the series, and fans brought in by later entries are often encouraged to experience it. With the major gameplay improvements of Persona 4 and especially Persona 5, 3's gameplay has not aged well, especially its Manual Leader, A.I. Party approach in a game with Nintendo Hard difficulty.
    • Persona 2 has it even worse. The game's story is frequently called one of the best - if not THE best - plot in the Persona series, and even Shin Megami Tensei as a whole. However, many people are extremely put off by the aged gameplay, to they point they confess of being incapable of getting into it and expressing regret that they won't experience the plot for themselves.
  • Pokémon:
    • Over the years, as the stories have become more complex and the world building has increased, the main series has attracted players who play the Pokémon games for the lore, the characters, and the settings, starting with Pokémon Black and White. When the subsequent generation, Pokémon X and Y, dialed back on the story in favor of exploration and competitive play, these fans were not happy. In response, the generation after that, Pokémon Sun and Moon, became the most story-heavy main series Pokémon games to date, whose backlash from fans of X and Y made it clear that this franchise has both Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game and Play the Game, Skip the Story.
    • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are somewhat unique as far as the main series goes. The games are often considered to have some of the strongest plots and worldbuilding in the entire franchise, but the legion of bugs (fun and otherwise), framerate drops, and general lack of polish tend to discourage fans from actually wanting to play them.
    • The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series is generally considered to have So Okay, It's Average, if not Nintendo Hard, 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.

    Role-Playing Game — Tabletop 
  • Dragonlance was originally a Dungeons & Dragons setting, but is far better known to the general public for the dozens of novels, short stories and comics that use the evocative characters, mythos and world of Krynn than for the game modules set there, which tend to have a middling at best reputation among D&D players.
    • Some of this is due to the stories fully embracing aspects of the 1st Edition AD&D rules into the narrative, which caused problems when later editions emerged. Some examples were Clerics and Wizards being heavily restricted in their behaviors (Wizards were only allowed to use daggers for weapons by the gods themselves), and thus any class that utilized magic other than a genuine priest of the gods or wizard of the Towers of High Sorcery was either non-functional or a renegade to be hunted. This meant Barbarians, Paladins, and Druids had no magical abilities (which made the latter class useless), Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks would be considered renegades to hunt down, and Monks flat out didn't exist. Most of the new player races were used as comic relief in the novels (Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes), and one that wasn't was over-powered (the Irda). Non-player monsters races were heavily culled, thus limiting foes that weren't Draconians or Goblins to be encountered in small groups only if they existed at all. Finally, the original continent of Ansalon was pretty small-sized to fit the narrative of the first three novels and was thus limiting to DMs who wanted to tell original stories. While anything is possible for a creative DM, all of this had the effect of trying to work on a coloring book that was already 75% completed, you only had a small number of crayons to choose from, and half of those crayons were goofy colors you may not want to use anyway.
  • An interesting example with GURPS: while the game doesn't really have a default setting note , its various genre supplement tend to be extremely well-researched and full of information useful for games in that genre regardless of the system used. As such, many roleplayers buy the supplements for the game and use the information therein for their own campaigns using other games, as GURPS itself has a somewhat unfortunate reputation for being a Master of None game that attempts to run all genres of fiction but ends up doing none of them very well.
  • The setting of Rifts, as well as the various other RPGs in the Palladium Games Multiverse, is a very diverse, complex setting that runs on Rule of Cool and being Trope Overdosed. Unfortunately, the game itself is based on the Palladium Megaversal System, a set of rules derived from creator Kevin Siembieda's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons house rules that is a bit of a kludgy, unbalanced mess gameplay-wise. As a result, the general advice from fans is "read the books for the setting info, and then run your campaign using a different system altogether."
    • Finally averted as of 2016 as an official port of Rifts to the Savage Worlds system marries the Rifts setting to an actually playable RPG.
  • Shadowrun is known primarily for two things: its setting being an engrossing combination of Cyberpunk and Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy, and its ruleset being one of the most complex and fiddly of any RPGnote . While the game's complexity is not necessarily bad per se, it's often cited as a major turn-off for prospective players. To cater to these people, Catalyst Game Labs created Shadowrun Anarchy, a lighter-weight narrative game designed to allow players to experience the fluff without the complexity.
  • The Cult Classic RPG Skyrealms Of Jorune, as a game, is a rather uninspired ripoff of RuneQuest that uses d20s instead of d100s. What draws people to the game, however, is its setting, which is a vibrant Planetary Romance world with colorful races and a unique magic system.

    Role-Playing Game — Western 
  • Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion is extremely basic as RPGs go, and especially if you're playing the Nintendo Switch version with its horrendous loading times and numerous Game Breaking Bugs... but the story and dialog are actually pretty good, giving it the feel of an extended and interactable episode of the show.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Like with the above, Dragon Age: Origins is widely seen as one of the best games made by Bioware because of the strong writing, world-building, and the way your player characters race and actions affect almost every detail in the game. Gameplay is seen as one of the weakest areas however, because it uses Dungeons & Dragons mechanics and gimmicks, with semi-MMO elements, resulting in tedious and frustrating gameplay mechanics at times that can bog down many who are less familiar with the mechanics of it. And just like Mass Effect, while the series has improved the gameplay, the story quality has been notably heavily criticized for dumbing down the complexity in favor of just simply being approachable.
  • 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. Some of the biggest criticisms for Mass Effect: Andromeda revolve around how while the gameplay is some of the best the series has to offer, the story and especially characters feel lacking compared to the original trilogy.
  • 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 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.
    • OMORI, in spite of its well received RPG mechanics, is ironically a downplayed version of this precisely because of fans of the more traditional examples of this trope that get into the game that want to go straight to the more story-heavy segments of the game, where gameplay is light.
  • 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).
    • Its Spiritual Successor Torment: Tides of Numenera suffers from the same issue: the story, worldbuilding, art and atmosphere were very well praised (although agreeded that is not as strong as its predecessor). But the combat is still... questionable, noted for begin dull and boring, and just as Planescape Torment you can skip most of it with some good dialogue checks. This was actually a disappointment as some fans expected that with more freedom and less time constrains coming from being self-published by a Kickstarter and coming after 15 years of game design evolution would have developed better combat.
    • Some people joke the other Spiritual Successor Disco Elysium actually solved the problem by not having combat at all, focusing purely on the story.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Not that the game isn't above actively making fun of you for doing so.

    Simulation Games 


    Survival Horror 
  • Cry of Fear has received massive acclaim for it’s story, soundtrack, and top notch horror atmosphere but the gameplay suffers from clunky combat, an extremely restrictive inventory, poorly implemented platforming sections, and frequent Trial-and-Error Gameplay.
  • 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 "Holy Shit!" Quotient up on the roof, be it for hilariously clunky dialogue or just plain weird moments.
  • 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).
  • As per the page quote, Silent Hill 2 is often held up as the pinnacle of the series and one of the greatest examples of the Survival Horror genre (some have gone so far to say that its story is one of the best the medium has to offer). 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 featured an option that rendered the normal enemies such a negligible threat that just about any weapon is a One-Hit Kill and bosses aren't that much tougher, allowing players to experience the game solely for its story and puzzles.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics includes a card game known as Takoyaki amongst the 51 playable games. The game isn't well-liked by many players, other than children, due to the outcome being based entirely on luck. However, it provides some tantalizing trivia about takoyaki (fried octopus balls) every time you complete a round and sound effects of takoyaki being cooked whenever you successfully flip your cards (to simulate flipping takoyaki dough), which has earned it some fans.
  • There is a good portion of the Warhammer 40,000 fanbase that follows the game's background and universe through novels like Ciaphas Cain, video games, RPGs, and lore in the Codices without actually playing the wargame. This isn't surprising, as actually building, assembling, and painting a viable army is an expensive and time-consuming hobby, and the universe is very detailed and intricate, appealing to many who may not have the time, money, or interest to invest in the game.

    Third Person Shooter 

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Fire Emblem, despite being a franchise that on average places more in Play the Game, Skip the Story, has the capacity to be exceptionally well-written when it wants to be... even if this usually is at the cost of good gameplay. To wit:
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War was released in 1996, and to this day it's regarded as one of the, if not the, best Fire Emblem in terms of narrative power. This is due to how the uncharacteristically dark tone of the game, the Decon-Recon Switch that ties the first-generation and second-generation together, some excellent Gameplay and Story Integration as well as the shocking twist of Sigurd, the main protagonist, being executed at the end of the first-gen make it a very warmly-received narrative as a whole. The cost to this was that the game, from a gameplay-perspective, having not aged well and is seen by some as having too poor gameplay to offset the story, with even fans of the game admitting the gameplay is weak. This is due to a sheer amount of Scrappy Mechanics more than anything: doubling being locked behind weapons and skills, absolutely colossal and unintuitive maps that bias the game heavily in favor of mount-users (which can be seen as a point in favor of the game), a poorly-explained marriage system that can potentially gimp your second-gen playthrough if you don't know what to do, as well as no trading feature (which was done for Gameplay and Story Integration reasons, but it can be deeply uninuitive trying to get an item to another character if they have the wrong item). Combine that with the game being hideously unbalanced, heavily dependent on the Arena for optimization and plenty of Game-Breaker characters that wholly invalidate any use to use any others, and you have a game that is very lucky to have such a well-written story, for it alone is what brings people to play the game even in the present.
    • It's less apparent than some other entries, but Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones often elicits this reaction. The gameplay is considered solid but unremarkable, but veteran players are critical of the game for being too easy, while newcomers might not like the lack of quality of life improvements from older games, such as the ability to see all enemies' ranges at once or the option to turn off permadeath. However, the story, while cliched, has an interesting setting and solid characters, especially the main villain, so fans tend have more appreciation for the story than the gameplay.
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is regarded as having one of the best plots in the franchise, particularly the depth of its worldbuilding and how well it sets up plot threads that pay off in the sequel. However, the gameplay is generally regarded less favorably, due to being relatively slow-paced with a high emphasis on the Enemy Phase, and various other Scrappy mechanics.
    • While Fire Emblem Fates is mostly a case of Play the Game, Skip the Story, the Birthright route qualifies for this trope to a certain extent. It has fairly simple and easy maps compared to the other two routes, and is the least challenging route overall, but it's generally considered to have the best story of the three, since some of the more controversial aspects don't come into play in Birthright.
    • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia has received praise for its story, voice acting and characters. On the other hand, some are critical of its gameplay, particularly for the bland map design, outdated gameplay mechanics, and for retaining the more unusual elementsnote  of the original.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Even though the story is regarded by the fandom for being some of the best storytelling and world-building in the series, there has been some criticism of the gameplay. The root of the criticisms come from the Monastery grinding gameplay advancement to a halt without participating in it, the homogenous map design and the samey-feeling nature of the class progression system and its balance. It's very easy to simply class every Physical character as a Wyvern Lord and steam-roll the game, which combined with the other mechanics makes it feel for several the story is the best thing about it by a long shot.
    • While the main story of Fire Emblem Engage falls under Play the Game, Skip the Story due to its relatively simple plot, the exact opposite is in effect when it comes to the Fell Xenologue. Many people have praised the Fell Xenologue for its fascinating story within the Alternate Elyos, but bash the Fell Xenologue for its immensely hard difficulty, especially on Maddening difficulty.
  • While the Sakura Wars games have serviceable turn-based strategy battles, they tend to be fairly easy and, much like Super Robot Wars above, serve as another medium through which to convey the games' stories.
  • It's generally agreed by the Super Robot Wars fanbase that the series is mostly about crossover plots and highly-choreographed attack animations. The strategy gameplay is merely a vehicle to tell said stories and heavily uses balance by imbalance so that players can, for the most part, run their favorites instead of worrying about which units are viable.
    • Super Robot Wars MX received praise for representing a significant Art Evolution, demoting the entirety of the Spotlight Stealing Universal Century Gundam series to supporting characters to make way for Metal Armor Dragonar, having a strong showing of several 1970s mecha series, and featuring RahXephon alongside both of its spiritual predecessors in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Raideen. It also has a trivial level of difficulty even by Super Robot Wars standards. The PlayStation Portable port tries to increase the difficulty by inflating everything's health, which just serves to make the endgame a boring war of attrition.
    • Super Robot Wars W is known for an awesome cast list where nearly every series plays a notable role (the only exception having enough seniority within the series to get a pass), and offers a twist on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED by having the characters from the side story Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray become way more prominent than they are in their own canon. From a gameplay front, not only is more than half of the cast outrageously broken by series standards, but the game is glitchy in a way that works even more in the player's favor.