In light of developer Don't Nod bringing yet another story-driven RPG to the table (that being Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden), we thought we'd venture back to the studio's origins. Specifically, the projects that were able to cement the Paris-based firm into the tapestry of quality episodic storytelling. From a bird's-eye view, at least, the independent curators have single-handedly managed to flip the script and conjure up some of the most popular and sought-after video games on the planet.
Before Life Is Strange, there was Remember Me, a sleeper hit that, looking at it today, most definitely deserves a second running. But what else has Don't Nod produced that's well worth bringing back into the spotlight? Or better yet, which of its few games are worth playing, in general? Well, here's how we'd rank the studio's best titles, from mildly intriguing, to full-blown replay material.
5. Tell Me Why
In a bid to onboard a direct approach to LGBTQ+, Don't Nod made a decision to feature the first transgender protagonist in a triple-A video game. As a result, Tell Me Why, yet another episodic tale, became something of a poster child for the community, and therefore won over the support of countless individuals and critics alike. Its only slight downfall, however, was the story itself, which, all things considered, just wasn't up to the same level as Don't Nod's former works.
Tell Me Why centers its universe around two siblings, Tyler and Alyson, as they reconnect after ten years to sell their childhood home in a quaint mountain town called Delos Crossing. Tyler, who spent ten years in a juvenile detention center after murdering his mother in self-defence, comes to learn of an ability that lets the two siblings telepathically communicate. With such supernatural powers at their disposal, the two must navigate their childhood home and uncover a series of mysteries that connect to past events. The question you're made to answer is simple: what really happened on the night of Mary-Ann Ronan's death, and how deep is your involvement in it?
Granted, Vampyr might've slipped the radar for a lot of Don't Nod regulars, mostly down to the fact that, well, it wasn't quite like anything the studio had done before. And if anything at all, it was far more RPG-focused, with a heavy helping of stealth, dialogue, and interconnecting story arcs. Unlike Life Is Strange, the vampire-based title steered clear of the linear pathway, and instead opted to let players carve their own blood-soaked narrative. Did it pay off? Meh, in ways, perhaps.
Vampyr puts you in the hollow boots of Dr Jonathan Reid, a post-war veteran who's forced to become a vampire by an unknown entity. As a result, the good doctor must balance out his victims and his patients, using a moral compass to decide who should live long enough to see dawn, and who should be sacrificed to satisfy the ever-evolving hunger that grapples his bottomless stomach. It's your role, then, to call the shots and learn how to survive while also keeping London from succumbing to mass genocide.
3. Remember Me
Don't Nod started out with one goal: to develop an adventure game that dared to factor in something innovative and invigorating. Fast-forward a couple of years, and Remember Me came knocking, which served as the studio's first release under Capcom's wing. Mechanically, it favoured a combo-based combat system, but with a heavy helping of a new blueprint called Memory Remixing, which allowed for players to change outcomes and consequences depending on the scenario. This alone, in all fairness, was enough to put the up-and-coming action-adventure game on the bulletin board.
In Remember Me, you take on the role of Nilin, an Errorist who's tasked with bringing down a surveillance organization called Memorize Corporation, a public firm that allows its patrons to share, swap, and erase memories. With the futuristic Paris on the brink of collapse due to its citizens overindulging in the newfound tech, Nilin must band together with the rebel groups and work to dismantle the hierarchy from the inside out.
2. Life Is Strange 2
Following the barrage of fan mail and desperate requests to see another tale spring to fruition, Don't Nod finally came through with Life Is Strange 2, another episodic journey featuring even more otherworldly powers, comradery, and more heartbreak than Before the Storm. Was it as much of a success as its first instalment? Not exactly. That said, it was a fantastic successor to an otherwise near-perfect original, and an absolute blast to slug through with fresh eyes that longed for a hearty storytelling experience.
Life Is Strange 2 picks up with two brothers, Sean and Daniel, as they aim to cross the United States in search of refuge after a false accusation puts them under the spotlight by the local police. Learning of his younger brothers telekinetic abilities, Sean must not only avoid the law, but also teach Daniel right from wrong. With a potentially dangerous soul hanging somewhere in the middle, it's up to you, the player, to make sure it tilts towards a happier conclusion, and not one that sees the border engulfed in flames.
1. Life is Strange
There's no doubt about it: Life Is Strange is hands down the magnum opus of Don't Nod's portfolio, and arguably the staple that no other spiritual successor could ever dare replicate. The fact is, in spite of its best efforts to reignite the same spark that set the original ablaze, the sequel never quite grasped that same level of excellence. Truth be told, Max's tale in Arcadia Bay brought far more to the table than any other in Don't Nod's book; heart, morals, an alluring sense of mystery, and one that always yearned to be explored from beginning to end.
Life Is Strange follows the story of photography student Max Crawford, a relatively reserved teen who's reluctantly trapped in the small town of Arcadia Bay. When the teen adopts powers that allow her to manipulate time and see into the future, it becomes worryingly clear that the town is on the verge of facing an unbeatable storm. Learning to host and control her powers, Max sets out to put a stop to the drastic conclusion that hangs in the balance.
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? How would you slate the above titles? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.