Naughty Dog’s creative director Neil Druckmann has announced he wishes to raise the bar to force game developers to realize that mediocre storylines simply do not cut it in modern games. Even with games like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, and Xenosaga all having deep and thought-provoking storylines, those are all created overseas in Japan. He wants developers to learn how to tell a story in a game, and involve the actors to get a believeable performance.
In addition, he called out reviewers who were quite content with praising average storylines and storytelling which he believed was having an impact on the industry. Personally I disagree with that, as average storylines are slammed heavily in most reviews I read.
Neil said that Naughty Dog tries to push things, but games that are genuinely straightforward fun but lacking in story getting praise for their storyline can be disheartening.
When asked about The Last of Us, he said that it was going to be a love story with a father-daughter-like relationship. He himself called it corny and probably unappealing to most gamers, but they want to try their hand at the genre because nobody is getting into it.
He clarified that not every game needed a huge storyline with a massive cast or an elaborate universe with transcendant beings like the Xenosaga series which spans three huge games, but that if you wanted a game that ran heavily on the narrative, you need to know how to tell that narrative.
I myself have read through countless visual novels from Japan which have very deep and complicated storylines, and I’ve also played the Xenosaga and Metal Gear games. However there are very few Western games I’ve played that tell a fantastic story to that level. It’s a shame really.
I would say Mass Effect is one Western game that tells a great story, also spanning three hug games.
I miss the plethora of Japanese RPGs that used to be huge hits here. There haven’t been any in the last few years except for Final Fantasy XIII, or so it seems.
You should look into what Nippon Ichi and Atlus get their hands on, they’re the only true JRPG developers these days.