Digital Literature Gaming List

December 19, 2016

As a combination of the visual enterprise of film and the innovative structure of graphic novels, video games are able to do things with narrative that no other medium has done before. Read more about the transforming landscape of video game narrative in Randy Joly’s article “Video Games: Developing a New Narrative,” and check out the list below for five game recommendations based on their coordinating literary genres. 

For fans of crime noir and mystery novels 

Heavy Rain video game

Heavy Rain

Quantic Dream

There are four main characters you can play as in this game that is a quest to stop a serial murderer who kidnaps boys and drowns them. 

“The story is worthy of Thomas Harris or Jeffrey Deaver, and was created in a 2,000-page script by David Cage, the pseudonym of David De Gruttola, who came to game design by way of music.” – J. Madison Davis, “Is Heavy Rain in the Forecast?,” WLT


For fans of young-adult literature 

Life is Strange

Life Is Strange

Dontnod Entertainment

In this episodic story-driven game that plays like a YA novel, Maxine Caulfield is a photography student who discovers that she can rewind time at any moment. When she foresees an approaching storm that will destroy her town, she must take responsibility to prevent it from happening. 

“I couldn’t resist writing down all the literary references scattered through the game as I eagerly played through it.” – Eric Smith, “A Spoiler-Free, Book Lover’s Guide to Life Is Strange,” Book Riot


For fans of horror novels 

Until Dawn

Until Dawn

Supermassive Games 

This classic terror-in-the-woods horror story was crafted in consultation with scriptwriters and indie horror auteurs Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick. 

“But what I liked most about Until Dawn was the ability to dodge horror tropes throughout the game and turn the typical horror narrative on its head. You can make smart decisions where film characters would have made stupid ones.” – Paul Tassi, “The Until Dawn Ending That Fixes the Problem with Every Horror Movie,” Forbes


For fans of zombie narratives (like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road) 

The Last of Us

The Last of Us

Naughty Dog

In this survival horror video game, the player controls Joel, a man who is tasked with escorting a teenage girl named Ellie across a postapocalyptic United States. The game has been praised for exploration of the human condition and depiction of female characters

The Last of Us is a rousingly well-made, emotionally grueling work of pop entertainment, and a noteworthy synthesis of game design and character-driven storytelling. It is even, in the end, genuinely surprising.” – Kirk Hamilton, “The Last of Us: The Kotaku Review,” Kotaku


For fans of short stories 

Gone Home

Gone Home

The Fullbright Company

In Gone Home, the player controls 21-year-old Kaitlin Greenbriar. She has returned home from a European trip to visit her family in Portland, Oregon, only to discover an empty house with a mysterious note taped to the door. 

“Though more of a story exploration game or a piece of interactive short fiction, Gone Home (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux) weaves its touching story with such deft and narrative grace that it is hard not to be sucked in immediately.” – Steve Mullis, “A Game with Heart, Gone Home Is a Bold Step in Storytelling,” NPR

Jen Rickard Blair is the art and web director at World Literature Today.

Randy Joly is a WLT intern and is an English Writing major at the University of Oklahoma. His interests include fantasy and science fiction novels, poetry, and video games.