Here are some of the quirkiest stories ever told in RPGs over the years.
Out of all the various kinds of video games, RPGs have become the most synonymous with expansive stories and complex characters.
Whether it be located in a massive fantasy world or a post-apocalyptic wasteland, detailed narratives and complex world-building are at the foundation of every great RPG.
But with that said, many tried-and-true RPGs fall into repetitive narrative arcs or cliche melodrama, and then others are so far outside the realm of imagination that they fall apart completely. Here are some of the quirkiest stories ever told in RPGs over the years.
Combining elements of alternate history with that of Lovecraftian horror, Shadow Hearts' overarching narrative is wildly bizarre. The story follows Yuri Hyuga, who strives to protect a young girl named Alice Elliot from an evil magician. Yes, a magician. The story takes place in an alternative 1914 during World War I, and Yuri finds himself embroiled within WWI's actual conflicts.
But Shadow Hearts' gameplay is as bizarre as its story. During the game's turn-based combat, the player controls Yuri and three other characters with actions in battle strictly reliant on a timed-based clock system known as the Judgement Ring.
Before a character can attack, players must press a button at the correct time to stop a golden hand as it rotates around an ancient clock; if you stop the hand at the correct time, the player's attack will be more powerful. Anyways, the game pretty much culminates in a massive battle against God and apparently is pretty fun despite its disorderly narrative.
This ludicrous RPG was released for free last March as the pandemic kicked into full throttle and will soon be released to Steam once it's "officially" completed. Players star as a physically floppy nameless 3-D avatar in the Juice Galaxy, a mushy, psychedelic world where bizarre monsters and set pieces lurk around its every crevice.
Players must navigate through the galaxy and tackle whatever challenges await them, and that's pretty much it. There are various bizarre weapons and ways to upgrade your player, but it's hard to focus on all of that when every encounter in the game is more absurd than the last.
Lisa: The Painful
Lisa: The Painful
A rugged drug addict named Brad navigates a post-apocalyptic world and discovers a stranded baby girl laid out in its midst. He raises her in secret while fighting against his addiction, but she is eventually found and kidnapped, forcing Brad to rescue her.
The game itself is excellent; as a result of Lisa's dark comedy and compelling story, it has garnered a massive cult following over the years, but what transpires along the way is no doubt strange.
Brad and his friends are all addicted to a drug called Joy that increases a character's power when taken but leads to intense withdrawals. Also, everyone in Brad's party is susceptible to permanent death, except for Brad. But while Brad can't die, he can permanently lose limbs and often has to choose between either losing an arm or a few of his party members. If he loses all his limbs, he remains able only to bite his enemies. As implied by the grotesque gameplay, the story itself has no happy ending.
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
While the premise of this JRPG series isn't all that bizarre, it's the obscure plot twists that make Valkyrie Profile 2 absolutely insufferable. Originally meant to be set a few centuries before the original Valkyrie Profile, players must strive to stop a war from happening between gods and mortals.
But players quickly learn that the game is in fact not happening a few centuries before Valkyrie Profile but instead just within an alternate timeline, which would explain why early on in the game the villain from the original Valkyrie Profile game suddenly joins your party. It turns out, the villain had used dark magic in order to travel through dimensions and try to change history.
The main character of the first game later appears as well, but as a GOD rather than as a man. The protagonist of Valkyrie Profile 1 then joins the protagonist of Valkyrie Profile 2 to take down the villain from Valkyrie Profile 1. Get all that?
The third outing in the popular JRPG series follows a group of high-schoolers as they investigate an alternate time period wherein creatures named Shadows feed on human brains. One of the game's main gameplay aspects revolves around each character's Personas, manifested auras that only appear after a player shoots themselves in the head with a special gun known as an "Evoker." The high schoolers must then use their Personas to stop menacing demons from invading our world.
Tony Hawk's Existential Nightmare
It's difficult to find the words to describe Tony Hawk's Existential Nightmare. Gamers play as Tony Hawk, kind of, as he skates around his neighborhood and nails tricks, kind of.
With keyboard controls similar to that of the timed-response mechanics for DDR, players accumulate points for just skating forward as long as they hit the appropriate keys on time. Tony Hawk flies with eagles into mountains, jumps on top of rooftops, and at one point does so with a buddy. It's a game that can be beaten in half an hour, but it will pull your brain apart along the way.