Heavy Rain is a game the focuses more on its narrative and “restricts” gameplay around it. It was developed by Quantic Dream and released in 2010 for the PS3. If you’ve played the game, it won’t surprise you that the script was 2,000 pages long.
The game is played in a third-person view as the player explores areas they will make decisions that influence the story. The gameplay of games like Heavy Rain is not alien to gamers; it’s a series of explorable levels followed by intense, quick-time events that pretty much sums up the gameplay.
Heavy Rain didn’t feature any exciting gameplay mechanics; however, the story revolving around the four protagonists and the Origami killer managed to keep me in the game till the end.
The game follows Ethan Mars, a family man who lost a son to a car accident and distanced himself from his family. The narrative kicks off when Ethan’s other son Shaun is kidnapped by the Origami Killer, a serial killer who prefers to drown young boys in the monsoon season’s rainwater.
The gameplay revolves around giving players control of the four protagonists. As players make decisions that influence the story, they will quickly realise that their protagonists aren’t adorned in plot armour; they are just as liable to die because of their negligence or failure to make the right decisions.
As the players progress, they might find themselves invested in the character’s lives, undoubtedly because of the incredible writing. This allows the game to be played repeatedly to get the best final ending where everyone might survive. It’s a more cinematic approach to the game and makes for an investing single-player experience.
So without further delay, let’s take a look at some other games like Heavy Rain.
1. Fahrenheit/ Indigo Prophecy
The same developer as Heavy Rain made Fahrenheit and released it in 2005 for the sixth-generation consoles. The game had roughly the same script length but was developed in just two years; that’s half the development time of Heavy Rain.
The game was praised for everything except the ending to the story and its graphics, which, even for 2005 standards, seem a bit dated but not too ugly not to give it a try today. The writer and director of Fahrenheit also worked on Heavy Rain in an attempt to rectify the problems of Fahrenheit.
The gameplay consists of players controlling Lucas (A possessed felon) and the detectives pursuing him, Carla and Tyler. Similar to Heavy Rain, decisions made by the players will reflect in the ending, of which there are three.
However, the way endings play out is not like Silent Hill; instead, the game changes every detail within the story to make the obtained conclusion seem more organic.
Overall, the game was successful due to the impressive voice-acting and direction, but I have to agree with most when I say the ending leaves a lot to be desired.
2. Beyond: Two Souls
Beyond is perhaps the first game I played that belongs to this interactive cinematic genre. The game features a cast of actors who mo-capped and voiced the characters, and I remember playing this game for the first time on a PS3 and thinking graphics couldn’t get better than this. But, of course, almost a decade later, I am wrong.
The game features Elliot Page (Then known as Ellen Page) as Jodie and Willem Dafoe as Nathan Dawkins; both deliver stunning performances despite the restrictions of the mo-cap technology and the fact that they are two big names in Hollywood. However, they still gave it their best, making the story more impactful and emotional.
The game follows Jodie Holmes, who has a psychic connection with a supernatural entity she calls Aiden. The gameplay is divided between controlling Jodie and her invisible friend Aiden, who has many powers, including telepathy and telekinesis.
The gameplay revolves around players using Aiden’s abilities to overcome any obstacles in Jodie’s way. Sometimes the quick time events can be a bit much, but the story makes it worth it. It’s no Deus Ex when it comes to gameplay none of the games on the list are; however, they focus more on the narrative part, and the gameplay department, unfortunately, takes a hit.
3. Life Is Strange
Life Is Strange was developed by Dotnod Entertainment and released in 2015, followed by a sequel in 2019.
You could call Life is Strange an evolution or progress on the genre, perhaps a better mix of narrative and gameplay, but it doesn’t really work for me.
I can enjoy games like Beyond or Heavy Rain because I am invested in the stories of their characters. If the characters are relatable and their actions make sense, it’s easier to care for them or see their point of view. Unfortunately, life Is Strange fails to invoke any such emotions for me.
Instead, I find myself increasingly infuriated by the characters, even their dialogue is cringy, and I find it highly distasteful. However, all of this is a subjective opinion and perhaps something that doesn’t gel with me.
If anything, its sales reflect that more people enjoy the game; if you enjoyed Heavy Rain, Life Is Strange might be worth giving a shot.
4. Until Dawn
Released in 2015 for the PS4, the game is more or less like Heavy Rain but upgraded for the newer generation of consoles. Until Dawn consists of gameplay mixed in between cinematics, unlike most games that have it the other way around.
The game allows players to control eight characters tasked with surviving on Blackwood Mountain until the rescue at dawn. Players have to explore the area to gather clues that will help piece together the mystery, which I won’t spoil.
The game has a unique mechanic where the game gauges the players’ fears using the decisions they made clues they found and didn’t find and is displayed to the player at the end of each level in the form of Dr. Hill addressing the player directly.
Like Beyond, this game had a star-packed cast and was also listed as a PS move title. For kids who don’t remember, the PS move was Sony’s attempt at making a Nintendo Wii. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for them.
5. Telltale Games
Any of them, seriously. Telltale has mastered this form of gameplay while still focusing on the narrative. The first game from Telltale I ever experienced was The Wolf Among Us, and I was so hooked on that game that I think I beat it in two sittings with a good ending.
Currently, there are enough titles here to keep gamers entertained for days on, with some titles exploring the Batman universe and some exploring The Walking Dead universe.
All games have the same gameplay loop of exploring a specific area that players can use to collect items used to progress and interact with NPCs. Dialogue is vital since that will influence the characters’ actions in the future, best to be nice to everyone unless someone’s asking for it.
There are also action sequences in the form of QTEs, it is possible to lose a fight, and the story will keep progressing; however, some actions might lead to a game over.
6. Alan wake
My first experience with Alan Wake was terrifying; perhaps because of my impressionable young mind, I wasn’t ready for shadow ghosts pouncing on me in the middle of the forest after sunset.
It would take me years to enjoy this classic from Remedy, and in my view, it perfects the balance of cinematic and gameplay by having neither take a hit. Instead, the game paces itself like a plot in TV shows; each episode has its plot twists and sometimes end in cliffhangers.
The game is played in a third-person perspective and doesn’t restrict the player like other titles in the list, allowing players to explore and play at their own pace. Action scenes require players to aim like a traditional third-person instead of opting for Quick-time events making the gameplay more solid and, in a way increasing the players’ immersion.
The game was critically received on release, with people praising everything from voice-acting to graphics and gameplay. Consider checking out Remedy’s other titles, such as Control and Quantum Break, if you enjoy this title.
7. Fallout: New Vegas
While not a cinematic experience New Vegas allows players to influence the story and world around them, it’s the flipside to the cinematic genre, providing an engaging story without sacrificing or restricting gameplay elements.
New Vegas is an Action-RPG set in the first-person perspective that sees the player on a quest to solving the mystery of why someone stole their package and left them for dead in the middle of this post-apocalyptic desert.
Obsidian Entertainment developed the game, and if anyone knows their developers, they know Obsidian doesn’t disappoint when it comes to RPGs; the world is filled with NPCs that make the game come to life and features many NPCs to talk to and take quests from.
While the voice acting or mo-cap might not be as refined as the titles I mentioned early, Fallout is not precisely a cinematic focused game. Instead, it tells its story organically through gameplay and dialogue scenes that are not over the top drama.
I have never been a fan of games that focus too much on narrative; however, once in a while, after exhausting myself from playing competitive FPSs, games like Heavy Rain are like a breath of fresh air.
I have grown more appreciation for the genre over time. With games like Alan Wake, I find a good middle ground, games with a focus on story but allowing players enough freedom that it doesn’t feel restrictive, is, I believe, the best way to go about this genre.