Video games are the perfect medium for storytelling, as evident by the cinematic-level experiences that are delivered year after year by the industry’s best studios. Our pick for this year’s award may not seem like a story-heavy game on the surface, but it’s one that’s packed with heart, sharp characters, and meaningful themes. The Best Narrative of 2021 goes to Double Fine’s Psychonauts 2.
Psychonauts 2 brings fans of the original game the sequel that they’ve been dreaming of for years. The game is a pure joy to play, but what puts Psychonauts 2 in special standing is its narrative. The game is much more story-driven than your typical platformer, and it works greatly to the game’s benefits.
Tasked with discovering the traitor within the Psychonauts, players once again jump back into the role of Raz. The looming mystery informs so much of the actions and interactions throughout Psychonauts 2, and the game does an excellent job at keeping players guessing until the very end. The dialogue is well-written, and each character has their own unique flair.
One of the most impressive aspects of the narrative in Psychonauts 2 is the fact it also serves to put a spotlight on mental illness. A large chunk of the game sees players diving into characters’ minds via brain levels and making their way through the wonders (and horrors) inside. We meet characters with a variety of mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. It’s a representation of mental illness that we rarely see in gaming, and for that we tip our hats to Double Fine. It even makes it worth putting up with all the teeth.