RTS Games With a Good Story?


New member
Jul 17, 2012
008Zulu said:
Command & Conquer series (but not number 4) had a cool story to it, and to a lesser extent the Red Alert spin off series.
This is, actually, exactly what I was thinking. Homeworld are great contributions and Dawn of War plays off of a very deep and vast universe. WC3 is an obvious one, but like it's been said already, is not a particularly good story. Starcraft's story wasn't bad, but wasn't partiularly engaging compared to DoW or even the C&C series.


New member
Oct 15, 2011
warcraft series
starcraft series
command and conquer 3

command and conquer red alert 1 (the rest of the red alert series gets very VERY silly), although good luck trying to get that game to run (GOG probably your best bet)....

homeworld series i suppose, although it lacks a lot of emotional depth as everyone has a super serious Mr.roboto voice at all times, even when like a billion puppies die.


New member
Dec 29, 2009
i liked the story of starcraft and, to a slightly lesser extent, starcraft 2. though to be fair, those are the only rts games i could tolerate enough to play the whole way through...real time strategy just isnt fun for me


New member
Feb 11, 2010
I'm gonna go with World in Conflict, it's pretty well written, and one of the characters actually has fantastic character development.


Do the buttwalk!
Mar 11, 2009
Soviet Heavy said:
Anything by Relic, really. Homeworld 1 + 2 as always, but I'd also recommend the Dawn of War series.

It has great examples of integrating story and gameplay, and even meta commentary. The poorly received Soulstorm was made a plot point in Chaos Rising, as it's disastrous quality was turned into an actual disaster in the story which drives the motivations of Cyrus.
Teeheehee, that made me laugh when I was playing the game.

OT: Yeah, quoted for truth. Might take you a while to play the Dawn of War series, seeing how it spans two core games and five expansions, but it's a fine example of RTS storytelling.

Also, Warcraft 3 + expansion, as well as Starcraft + expansion and Starcraft 2. Unlike The Dawn of War games which are set in a previously established expansive literary canon spanning well over 100 novels, these Blizzard games were so influential they did it the other way around and spawned their own respective literary canons, which I believe does say something about the story aspect being worthy of a little academic attention. :)


New member
Sep 28, 2009
Sins of a Solar Empire has good lore and depth, but nothing actually in-game. It is all about the player's imagination, the game gives you the introduction and you write the rest.


New member
Mar 14, 2011
Thaius said:
Bostur said:
From a video game perspective a lot of the classic RTS games have that. Starcraft, WC3, several of the C&C games. From a litterature perspective video games generally don't come with that kind of storytelling. There are a few exceptions but that often makes them bad games due to linearity.

The storytelling is so dependant on what the players put into it, that an external point of view will miss most of it.

From an analytic perspective even the best storytelling of any game will struggle to reach the quality of the average action movie.

Draech said:
The whole point of games is that they require input so to have a pre-written story may seem counter to the medium itself.

Now because the story is generated through gameplay it wont have the storylines, chars and thematic depth, but I think it is worth bringing into your mix just for it having a more "game" approach to storytelling.
I'll have to disagree on this note. You both seem to be talking about the concept of emergent storytelling, which is a valid concept (and is studied near the end of the first semester of this course), but is in no way the only--or even most important--way in which video games effectively tell their stories.

You're taking an approach to video games as an art form that essentially excludes any sort of art that isn't specifically centered around interaction. But interaction isn't the only thing video games can do, it's just the unique thing of which they alone are capable. If you center a medium's entire artistic merit around it's unique properties at the expense of others, suddenly a film should be judged by its visuals alone, and dialogue would be viewed as entirely extraneous. Animation would be about nothing more than how unrealistic and surreal it can look, regardless of story or writing (which would automatically put Ren and Stimpy as inarguably artistically superior to anything Pixar has ever made). It really doesn't work.

When it comes down to it, as much as I love the "pure interaction" type of storytelling you are talking about here, and as much as I do enjoy a game that gives me a high level of interactive freedom, the best uses of interactivity I've ever seen are placed within a linear narrative in order to heighten its impact. If you haven't yet, play Bioshock, then look up some articles specifically regarding the way it played with player control during the big plot twist reveal. That was absolutely brilliant interactive storytelling. The guy I quote below mentions Bastion, which features a sequence near the end that Yahtzee praised for good interactive storytelling (and with good reason; it really is a powerful scene). And the aforementioned Beyond Good and Evil has a final boss that is nothing short of genius in terms of having the protagonist's psyche reflected in the gameplay itself. Interactivity and linearity are in no way mutually exclusive; the best interaction on an artistic level is often that which uses the player's involvement to increase the impact and emotional/intellectual depth of the story.

Naeras said:
I was going to say "Bastion called and would like to talk with you". Then I remembered about 15 other good games that tell stories that are either on par with good storytelling in other media, or tell stories that you couldn't actually tell in other media.

Gameplay or story don't exclude each others; in fact, they should complement each other if possible. Finding examples of that isn't hard.
See, this guy gets it. Also, Bastion is in the second semester of the course. Because it's amazing (not to mention easily accessible on both Windows and Mac).
I would expect a game to make some use of the gameplay to help the narrative, just as I would expect a movie to make use of the visuals. There are some games where the two aspects clash, and other games where the two aspects move on parallel tracks and never really meet. Bastion is a game where I love the storytelling but find that the gameplay actually hinders it. In Bioshock I find the storytelling poorly integrated with the game because what is told through audio tracks have little relevance to what the protagonist experiences. In this cases it feels like a movie where the sound track tells a different story than the visuals. I have always thought that System Shock 2 was better at doing what Bioshock attempts to do. SS2 uses sound bites as ambience instead of relying on them for narrative.
Both Bastion and Bioshock spend a lot of effort to tell things instead of showing them. Optimally I feel that games should let the player play the story instead of telling it, but of course it's not possible all the time.

Two games that I think have an outstanding integration between interactivity and directed narrative are Alan Wake and Grim Fandango. Both titles are on the border of what can even be considered a game, but that doesn't make them any worse as stories of course.

One way to use gameplay is to let the feelings that the player experiences through gameplay supplement the narrative. This will be very effective when the game is played, but if the narrative is taken out of its context it will often feel bland. Many shooters make use of this, and Valve are excellent at this specific effect.

Alpha Centauri uses small bits and pieces of disjointed narrative and joins it together through gameplay. WoW used to have a similar approach. Both games rely on the player to deliver the narrative.

What I tried to say in my first post was that if narrative and gameplay supplement each other well, the narrative will feel bland when observed without the gameplay. Just like watching a movie without sound. That makes a typical analysis difficult because it will in most cases focus on traditional means of narrative methods, in that case games usually fall short compared to novels or movies.

Now I apologize if I make little sense, it's a tricky subject to discuss in a second language. :)


New member
Apr 13, 2010
Homeworld would be my pick for an RTS, very good, especially with the secondary fluff material it comes with.

Alpha Centauri is great as a turn-based strategy game, very good especially for how well it built the setting.


New member
Aug 6, 2009
The obvious ones you're going to get are Warcraft 3 ROC/TFT and the Starcraft series. Most of the rest of RTS's aren't especially story based, though. That's not quite the main appeal. Most people play RTS's for the ability to create massive armies and mess with the other team's base. That's not to say a good story in an RTS is useless; I think one of the reasons the Total War games are so popular is that you get to invent the story purely through your own actions.


New member
Sep 6, 2009
l0ckd0wn said:
Homeworld are great contributions and Dawn of War plays off of a very deep and vast universe. WC3 is an obvious one, but like it's been said already, is not a particularly good story. Starcraft's story wasn't bad, but wasn't partiularly engaging compared to DoW or even the C&C series.
Waiting for Homeworld to come out on GoG, can't find it at my locals.

The Warcraft Saga had a good story for a foundation. But with World of Warcraft, they retconned so much of it that it doesn't know what it wants or what it is.

The DoW story was pretty cool, standard fare for the 40k universe tho. Be interesting see where it's going after the events of Retribution.


New member
Apr 10, 2011
008Zulu said:
Waiting for Homeworld to come out on GoG, can't find it at my locals.
From what I understand the original game works on win7 so you can still grap a cheap copy off amazon.

Homeworld Cataclysm which is my favorite is the one thats pricey. HC and H2 though good can't hold a candle to H1's story though


New member
Apr 7, 2010
Thaius said:
Tomorrow I start my teaching job. One of the classes I'm insanely excited to be teaching is Video Games as Literature (the study of video games as a storytelling medium). I have a pretty good setup for the course, I think, but I have one friend who constantly laments the fact that I have no RTS games in the course. The reason I didn't include any is pretty simple; I have never (in my admittedly limited experience with the genre) played an RTS with a story worth studying in a literature course. Not even close. I've barely ever even heard story mentioned in relation to the genre; with very few exceptions, the mechanics and strategy seem to be all that matter.

But I certainly would be interested to see if there is an exception to this perceived rule. So then, Escapists, tell me: are there any RTS games with genuinely interesting storylines, interesting characters, and thematic depth?
May I ask what your current set of games is just out of curiosity? And I'm going to have to go with Warcraft 3. Arthas's story was pretty compelling and I liked the interactions between Thrall and Grom.


New member
Mar 5, 2008
Aetherlblade said:
So what games were picked? I'm kinda curious about that now.
This discussion is for future iterations of the class; I already have this year planned out. I haven't had too much experience with RTS games, and I'm not going to try to teach on a game I haven't played. So I'll play some of the recommended games over the course of the school year, and I'll see if any of them really qualify. Then I may integrate them later on.


New member
Jan 26, 2013
Well, I may be half-a-year late here, however I think I know the RTS game most suitable for this occassion:

Total Annihilation: Kingdoms
made by Cavedog Entertainment in 1999

as well as its expansion pack:

Total Annihilation: Kingdoms - The Iron Plague
made by Cavedog Entertainment in 2000

Its story is being told via beautifully animated images with rich vocabulary and also with some poerty included. Moreover, the story itself is indeed awesome.
These YouTube links sum it up better:

Hope I was helpful. :)

Johnny Novgorod

Bebop Man
Apr 10, 2020
I don't know if anybody mentioned this, but: GrimGrimoire. Groundhog Day meets HOGWARTS.